Songs You Need In Your Life: February 2024
Our rolling list of this month’s essential new tracks.
Songs You Need In Your Life: February 2024

The FADER's Songs You Need In Your Life are our picks for the most exciting and essential new music releases out there. Every day, we update this page with new selections. Listen on our Spotify playlist or hear them all below.


Sega Bodega: "Set Me Free, I'm an Animal"

Like all noteworthy musicians who experiment with club music, Sega Bodega balances the visceral with the ineffable. “Only Seeing God When I Come,” a standout track from the Chilean-Irish producer’s 2021 album, positions one of the most beautiful, smooth instrumentals of the 2-step revival next to lyrics that could have been written by an anguished monk amid self-flagellation. Alongside contemporaries like Arca and Caroline Polachek, Sega Bodega transmits a deep and perfect longing from within the folds of digital creations that keep us guessing. “Set Me Free, I’m an Animal” veers into the realm of folktronica, yet another new angle to the Sega Bodega sound. The distant memory of an acoustic guitar is strummed over hazy dream-pop percussion as Sega Bodega’s voice jumps between a frayed pixie’s keening and a giant’s sonorous growl. The song’s loping pace matches its overriding concern: control, and how we obtain it. Like a leash, the power of “Set Me Free” is found in its tension and release. — Jordan Darville

Mo Troper, "The Billy Joel Fan Club"

Anyone who has ever felt embarrassed over their encyclopedic knowledge and passion for a subject will find comfort and vindication in Mo Troper's latest lowkey hit. This perky ode to stumbling upon a kindred spirit is sugary sweet while keeping a tight grip on the specifics that make it stand out. "No wonder we get along, We both like 'Goodnight Saigon,' Troper sings at one point. Falling in love is easy — falling for someone over Billy Joel's 1982 anti-war song is something else. You've got to treasure those people and keep them close. — David Renshaw

Nabihah Iqbal: “Sunflower (Sijya Remix)”

Excluding its bonus track, Nabihah’s new tape comprises remixes of four tracks from her most recent album, Dreamer. Iqbal, who was born in London to Pakistani parents, gave the reins to her most trusted South Asian contemporaries for these reworks, and each took a different approach to their assignment. On Sijya’s “Sunflower” remix, the New Delhi-based audiovisual artist strips Iqbal’s initially lush arrangement down to its skeleton — even Iqbal’s vocals are stretched thin and pushed back in the mix — and adds booming sub-bass, clangorous industrial percussion, and ghostly synths. Most remixers are content to add a soft imprint on their raw material, or expose a side of it that was initially obscured. But Sijya reimagines “Sunflower” entirely, transforming it into something altogether stranger. — Raphael Helfand

Knocked Loose: "Blinding Faith"

Bryan Garris of Knocked Loose takes aim at the hypocrisy of religion on his band's gargantuan new single, "Blinding Faith." The first release from You Won't Go Before You're Supposed To, out on May 10, pounds its fists with a searing rage as Garris calls out the "circle of snakes" who look to launder their otherwise impious behavior with a weekly check-in with God. It's a seething mixture of forceful drums and guitars that rain down like boulders from a mountain top. Haunted and breathless, Knocked Loose are imperious in their refusal to fall in line. — David Renshaw

Tara Jane O’Neil: “Curling”

Tara Jane O’Neil’s new song sounds like regrowth. After her home in Ojai, California was burned in the devastating Thomas Fire of winter 2017–18, O’Neil built a studio in its ashes and recorded “Curling” during year one of the pandemic. The track opens on a tropical drum-bass-synth groove that builds for nearly a minute before the first verse begins. When O’Neil’s voice enters, it’s soft but self-assured, as clear-eyed and purposeful as the instrumental undergirding it. “In this lonely world / What a lovely curl / Shake out a pearl / Hold it on your tongue,” she sings in an even, unwavering tone that’s subtly complicated by a slightly offset backing vocal. Fuzzy guitar power chords enter the mix for a hook that dissolves into an unintelligible chant. Then, in its last minute, the song winds down as methodically as it began, completely unrushed in its deliberate fade to black. As the lead single from her first solo studio album since the blaze that took her house, it’s a powerful statement of intent. — Raphael Helfand

Shabaka: “End Of Innocence”

The lead single from Shabaka’s debut solo LP, Perceive its Beauty, Acknowledge its Grace, is a short but quietly expansive sound sculpture. Jason Moran’s somber piano chords provide a solid base, while Nasheet Waits and Carlos Niño’s percussive contributions are more textural finishes than backing rhythms. Shabaka’s doleful clarinet, however, is the song’s centerpiece. Moving languidly through the marble, it molds effortlessly to contours only he can see. — Raphael Helfand

Anastasia Coope: “He is On His Way Home, We Don’t Live Together”

Since the release of her 2021 debut EP Seemeely, Anastasia Coope has been a mysterious figure hovering at the edges of downstate New York’s avant-folk scene. Her new single, arriving with the announcement of her signing to Jagjaguwar and the impending release of her first full-length, is as hushed and eerie as her previous output, but its slow build toward a sort of shadowy lushness is better planned and executed than anything else she’s dropped to date. Coope repeats the track’s titular phrase in echoing self-harmony for the song’s first 75 seconds over a mirrored piano melody that’s ever-so-slightly warped, soon phasing far out of sync with her ephemeral vocal lines. From there, her delivery dissolves into a more whispery register but engages in the same shifty gymnastics, this time with a new phrase: “Told me off, you must realize that I am younger.” This time, she cuts herself off much more quickly, transitioning to a state of ecstatic echolalia that’s undisturbed by the jarring entrance of the fuzzed electric guitar that brings the song to its juddering finale. The whole affair is over in less than three minutes — a small, strange entree that turns the stomach at first but ultimately leaves it satisfied. — Raphael Helfand

ZelooperZ: “Smearious”

For a rapper who projects a mercurial, unhinged persona, ZelooperZ’s release rate is remarkably consistent. He’s dropped 10 aesthetically varied, consistently excellent albums in the past eight years, and built a reputation as a galvanizing guest feature, though his talent for stealing shine from his hosts may have lost him some opportunities. On “Smearious,” he sounds as energized as ever, rapping gleefully over a rare klezmer flip from Dilip. “Bitch, this sear too smearious / Lil’ bit dazed and phased, she too delirious,” he raps on the second hook, swapping the placement of the “m” from “smear” to “serious” with a wink before riffing irreverently on the rhyme scheme. “All this birthday cake, don’t know what day of the year it is,” he continues, building up to his sleazy coup de gras, “She say her mouth still work when she on her period.” — Raphael Helfand

Slic: “Nave”

“Quiero regalarte una canción” (“I want to give you a song”), Slic sings at the start of “Nave,” their first-ever Spanish-language single. Born in Caracas and now based in Brooklyn after significant stays in Miami and western Massachusetts, their music — “Nave” included — tends toward the extraterrestrial, their airy vocal lines decaying as quickly as they attack over glittering, metallic synths that feel just as ephemeral but continue to tingle the spine long after they dissipate. Far from existing in a vacuum, though, these songs draw steely rain from the hazy clouds of deep house and slippery techno that have hovered on the horizon of popular dance music for decades. On “Nave,” elements of Latincore — a new class of digitally native electronic music inspired by the sounds of the South and Central American diaspora — add warmth to the wintry mix, illuminating a softer side of Slic’s persona. “Le subo el volumen a esta canción / Pa que sin darte cuenta se meta en tus pasos” (“I turn the volume up on this track / So without evening noticing it gets into your steps”), they sing, expressing rare vulnerability in the hope that their message will seep into the subconscious of whoever hears it, even if only in passing. — Raphael Helfand

Babymorocco: "Automatic"

Babymorocco is an amateur bodybuilder and party boy provocateur from London whose music conjures the adrenalized spirit of EDM-pop from its neon-splattered grave. "Automatic" is an addictive and hilarious love in the club anthem where the only person Babymorocco has fallen for is himself. "Gravity can't pull you down 'cos you're hooked on me," he sings as he dodges the attention of sycophants and fawning supporters as he makes his way between the VIP section and the smoking area. Synths buzz like pneumatic drills while he describes his swag as being "enigmatic, organic, dynamic," proving that it's always 2012 somewhere. — David Renshaw

Treanne: "Please"

21-year-old Treanne sings with a world-weariness beyond her years on "Please." The simply-constructed song, just the Kansas City resident and her guitar, is rich in its content; a story of obsession, manipulation, inner strength, escape, and regret. There's plenty of air in Treanne's delivery but the words reflect the smothering feeling of an oppressive relationship: "You can’t hold on to what’s not yours," she sings with a mixture of steel and compassion. "Love me today, tonight you’ll be gone." — David Renshaw

Prefuse 73: “The End Of Air”

Guillermo Scott Herren has put out more than two dozen projects under his preferred moniker Prefuse 73 since the turn of the millennium (not to mention his many releases using alternate aliases). “The End of Air” — the third single from his forthcoming album New Strategies for Modern Crime Vol​.​1 — is a panoramic ride through a surreal cityscape of horns, flutes, synths, and keys, mainly motored along by shuffling, steady percussion. In the absence of the drums, though — most notably at the start, midpoint, and end of the song — the view becomes more ominous, like stepping out of a crowded subway car onto an empty platform before daybreak. (“I wanted to channel [New York’s] surreal landscape, where crime has become a strange form of entertainment and journalistic distraction, into sound,” Herren explains in a press release.) Like the city at night, “The End of Air” can be a tense space to occupy. But beyond the dark corners of decrepitude, there’s endless beauty to be found in the life force teeming behind the cracks in the stark edifices of concrete, steel, and stone. — Raphael Helfand

Josh Johnson: “Free Mechanical”

The lead single from Josh Johnson’s sophomore solo sax-and-pedals LP, Unusual Object, strikes a thrilling balance between the sumptuous comfort of its textures and harmonies and the unruly anxiety of its rhythms. Layering single sax notes into complex but calm and comfy chords, he quickly unsettles the waters, glitching and phasing his composite creations before some light percussion arrives to give the proceedings some sense of normalcy, allowing him space to solo a little. The pulse remains restless, stretching and compressing as new timbres enter and exit, but “Free Mechanical” somehow never loses its forward momentum, striding briskly (if unevenly) across the finish line in just over two-and-a-half minutes. — Raphael Helfand

Young Jesus: "Brenda & Diane"

After the original lineup of Young Jesus dissolved in 2021, leaving bandleader John Rossiter as the sole remaining member, the project’s music began to conspicuously lean into the plusher edges of its experimental indie rock. 2022’s Shepard Head did away with the angular sounds in favor of alt-R&B, jazz, and house, and yet Rossiter’s voice was still capable of a potent energy: that of a tortured siren bellowing from the heart of a forgotten chapter in Americana pop. “Brenda & Diane,” the new single from Young Jesus’ upcoming album The Fool, relies on the power of Rossiter’s vocals to help craft a charging pop ballad with a few ‘80s signifiers and a totally timeless spirit. Rossiter tells the tale of two people on the lamb — the stakes are heavy, but the highway spans to infinity, as they drive “in a car full of cash, / credit cards, and / that reckless abandon.” Rossiter sings with a conviction that’s so passionate and despairing, it could be his own story — Jordan Darville

Lightning Bug: "December Song"

On "December Song," the first single from Lightning Bug's new album No Paradise, vocalist Audrey Kang invokes the myth of Persephone as she writes about a low period in her life. The Greek goddess of the underworld's angst for her missing daughter becomes a metaphor Kang uses for the vanishing of her spirit. Her calm, soothing delivery acts as a landing mat as she sings "I’ll grow branches supple and strong for you to climb," putting a proverbial arm around her own shoulder. The breezy acoustics that start "December Song" give way to uplifting strings as things proceed, adding an extra boost to this patient and humane acknowledgment that all things pass. — David Renshaw

Hatis Noit feat. Armand Hammer: “Jomon” (Preservation Rework)

billy woods, E L U C I D, and Preservation are three of the most versatile, unpredictable artists working in hip-hop today. The two Armand Hammer MCs sound right at home rapping over Japanese vocal artist Hatis Noit’s Gagaku-influenced, multi-tracked siren song, lightly restructured by Pres to secure a little space for their rhymes within her all-consuming self-chorus. The third and most ambitious in a series of remixes — following one each from William Basinski and Matthew Herbert — shared in advance of the re-release of Noit’s 2022 album Aura and first-ever U.S. tour next month, it’s an explosive cross-cultural and -stylistic collaboration that feels unforced and immediate. — Raphael Helfand

Mercury feat. Niontay: "Jelly"

Listening to Mercury rap, you can get the feeling that she records all her voices the first thing in the morning after a rager, when her throat is filled with sleep and the battle scars of last night’s partying. Her new song “Jelly” features some of her most locked-in bars yet — the haggard timbre of her voice is still there, but she taps into a breathlessness as she delivers a celebration of all kinds of indulgences. “Spread her out like some jelly on some bread,” she raps on the hook, a slight and mischievous smile audible through the speakers. 10K affiliate Niontay matches the energy in his dim-lidded and furious bars, full of charisma and matter-of-fact menace. — Jordan Darville

Nourished By Time: "Hand On Me"

The lead single from Nourished By Time’s Catching Chickens EP is a sprightly cut that feels both shorter and longer than it actually is. On the one hand, its mesmeric but speedy pulse makes it fly by. On the other, NBT packs it so full of ingenious, instantly classic melodies, harmonies, and textures that the track’s sub-four-minute runtime feels implausible. “Have you never loved somebody?” he asks, his magnetic, velvety baritone blanketed by a panoply of sumptuous synths. “I’m always in a memory,” he sings later, “And I think I might be crazy / ’Cause I felt a hand on me.” — Raphael Helfand

Heavee: "Make It Work"

Like most prominent footwork producers, Heavee broke into the scene with Teklife, releasing his debut project WFM on the genre-dominant Chicago label. Since then, however, he’s paved his own path, making bare-bones tracks more in the vein of RP Boo than in the Rashad/Spinn/Earl tradition. His forthcoming record Unleash drops next month on Kode9’s London-based Hyperdub label, which has hosted projects by Rashad, Spinn, and DJ Taye in the past but largely releases other variants of electronic music. For its second single, “Make It Work,” Heavee reimagined his 2020 Teklife track of the same name — “one of [Kode9’s] personal favorites,” he tells The FADER — replacing the original vocal sample with his own voice and stripping the production down to its essentials. While still very much a juke joint, the redux also centers elements of the stark, pounding techno that’s more characteristic of his new label’s output. — Raphael Helfand

Manuka Honey feat. Safety Trance and La Favi: “I Like It”

A prodigious talent at mutating dembow and cumbia into her own twisted and compelling vision, Manuka Honey can give sinister vibes a natural home on the dancefloor. Safety Trance is somewhat of a kindred spirit: his final boss reggaeton helped transform Arca into an unlikely underground star of the genre with searing collaborations on her KiCK album series as well as the blown-out viral single “El Alma Que Te Trajo.” Manuka and ST have a meeting of the minds on “I Like It,” and they collide in a new age-inflected techno arena that feels both familiar to their respective works and distinct. La Favi’s vocals have an ambiguous deviance to them, somewhere between lascivious and heartbroken — they’re a powerful reminder that anywhere can be a bedroom if you’re horny enough, even a club. — Jordan Darville

Chenayder: "For One Last Time"

"For One Last Time" is a bittersweet break-up anthem, the kind of song to play while waving goodbye to a situation that deep down you know is on course for disaster. The indie pop meets U.K. garage production acts as a bubbly and sweet backing for Chenayder's insecurities as she worries over a partner who she knows is playing games. There's an unvarnished immediacy to the lyrics as if they were written through tears on the walk back from the break-up chat. "Something' I couldn't get off my chest," she sings, composing her thoughts and taking the higher moral ground. "I mean, I wish you the best." — David Renshaw

Zeyne: “Ma Bansak”

The new single from Zeyne is a heady blend of Arabic pop tradition with shadowy R&B production currently favored on the Hot 100 chart. The Palestinian-Jordanian singer emerges from the rubble of a collapsed romance, her voice mournful amongst a gently ornate production where strings rub against techno-coded subbass and a fascinatingly sparse kick drum rhythm that seems to mimic the patterns of her broken heart. — Jordan Darville

Say Lou Lou: “Wong Kar-wai”

Miranda and Elektra June Kilbey-Jansson craft meticulous, dream-adjacent pop. On their first single of 2024 and just their fourth since the release of their sophomore album Immortelle in 2018, they pay tribute to world-renowned Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, who’s spun some of history’s most resonant love stories over the past 35 years. Like its titular director’s work, the song is perfectly paced, its production building on an understated foundation of acoustic guitar arpeggios with a trip-hop synth and a drum machine beneath Anna and Elektra’s vocals (sung in near-seamless unison) until the floodgates open on a cathartic showstopper of a chorus: “I want love like Wong Kar-wai / Red Walls, Mirrors, Gemini / Drive me to another life, and / Give me love like Wong Kar-wai.”

Where Wong Kar-wai’s films often end in heart-wrenching ambiguity, though, “Wong Kar-wai” wraps up all its loose ends in a neat three minutes and 18 seconds with a crystalline climax and an immaculate denouement. The track’s tidiness will probably preclude it from the BFI’s 2032 top 100 list, but there’s a strong case to be made for short songs — and films, for that matter — that succinctly execute exactly what they intend (no shade to Jeanne Dielman, of course), leaving their audience with the satisfying sense of an ending. — Raphael Helfand


“We can go bar for bar or we can race for pink slips.” ALLBLACK confidentiality tosses out his verses with a clipped rhythm, but he’s not afraid to get a little goofy either, busting out a little karaoke rendition of the chorus from Rose Royce’s “Ooh Boy,” which West Coast rap heads might recognize from its interpolation on Candyman’s playfully flirtatious “Knockin’ Boots.”Nadine Smith, from the February 16 edition of Rap Blog

Maria Chiara Argirò: “Closer”

Argirò began her musical life as a classically trained pianist and has journeyed to become an electronic songwriter, moving from her native Rome to London and establishing herself as an in-demand collaborator and solo artist. The crisp, deep-house-inspired synths that undergirded the jazzy motifs on her 2022 album Forest City return on “Closer,” the title track of her upcoming album. “I built myself a little boat / I like to take it out alone” she sings in the opening, her voice pitched and shifted into a frazzled, uncanny cousin of AutoTune. The spacious production of the track’s first two-third reflect Argirò’s search for solitude, but the orchestration rises towards the climax, energized by her plea for connection: “There’s not a soul for miles around / But still I feel you close to me / Come closer.” — Jordan Darville

Squarepusher: "Wendorlan"

Speaking about his upcoming new album under his longstanding, boundary-pushing electronic alias Squarepusher, Tom Jenkinson said that life under the pandemic had given him new perspective. “[It was] a remarkable time partly for the viscerality of its terrors, but also because of its novel, eerie, sublime silence,” he said. “Wendorlan,” his first single from the project, feels like a nuclear launch in the battle against that silence. For just over six minutes, Squarepusher unleashes a pulverizing flood reminiscent of Rephlex’s triumphant heyday, when it felt like music could turn a brain into a circuit board through sheer force of BPM alone. In spirit, the song resembles an animal caught in a trap, attempting to saw its own leg off with vinyl copies of rare breakcore white labels. — Jordan Darville

Fatboi Sharif & Roper Williams: “Something About Shirley”

Fatboi Sharif and Roper Williams sounded formidable on 2020’s Gandhi Loves Children and outright extraterrestrial on last year’s Planet Unfaithful. But their latest collaboration, “Something About Shirley,” is a different beast entirely. A 10-minute track that’s not quite a song but not exactly an album either, its liminal format allows the rapper-producer duo to roam far beyond the bounds of modern hip-hop, sailing into ominous, uncharted waters. Sharif introduces us to Shirley via a slanting thicket of references: In just the first two short verses, we hear nods to Dylan/Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer, the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide, and Sun Ra, who’s pictured “opening for Satan at the Bowery Ballroom.” Sharif’s voice, a powerful baritone somewhere between Method Man and billy woods with a cold, is a completely captivating instrument. But the real dark magic goes down in its absence, where Williams conjures dark environs far too jarring to function as ambient interludes. These rough textures underscore a hysterical 911 call from a young girl struggling to describe what sounds like domestic violence; slurred insults shouted as if at a bouncer who’s just kicked the drunkest girl out of the club; a white-knuckled, claustrophobically looped funk groove; a preacher exorcizing R. Kelly’s demons; and a chorus of glossolalia clipping into nightmarish static. — Raphael Helfand

Lime Garden: "Pop Star"

British band Lime Garden released their debut album One More Thing today and the song I have had on repeat is "Pop Star." It's a perky earworm of a track written about feeling destined for bigger things, even when reality serves up constant reminders to get back to work. Chloe Howard sings about the little frustrations in her life, running low on funds, her skin breaking out in a rash, and tries her best to daydream her way out of her humdrum situation. "I don’t wanna work my job," she cries. "Cause life is fleeting and I’m a pop star." It's a simple if fanciful idea sure to appeal to anyone striving for swap the everyday for something a little more glamorous. — David Renshaw

mary in the junkyard: "Ghost"

"Ghost" is an intense and haunting song about a supposedly happy subject; making new friends and expanding your circle with insight and understanding. Produced by XL Recordings boss Richard Russell, the London trio's latest single is filled with a gothic energy, Clari Freeman-Taylor's bandmates howl like wolves between her gloomy confessions while their guitars echo like they're being played in a cavernous tomb. The whole thing then steps into an extra gear, exploding into a flaming resolution as Freeman-Taylor matches the delivery with a chorus of "ooh"s and "wooh"s. Sometimes words aren't enough and you just have to give in to the forces that surround you. — David Renshaw

bbymutha: "go!"

Announcing her long-awaited sophomore album on Valentine’s Day, bbymutha illuminates us on the finer points of her romantic attachment style. Stretching out over a spiky instrumental, she’s alternately menacing (“You can leave but you can’t go / Better not ever catch you out here fuckin’ with these hoes”), unhinged (“N***as love to play, if I’m crazy I’m supposed to be / Daddy was a jealous guy, what the fuck you want from me?”), vulnerable (“I be needin’ kisses in the morning, cuddles in the evening”), and wryly horny (“I’m tryna fill up the hole in my heart and the hole in my pussy too”). Never one to shy away from sharing the gritty intimacies of her personal life, she ups the ante here with the toxic VDay card the world probably doesn’t deserve but absolutely needs. — Raphael Helfand

Goat Girl: "Ride Around"

Goat Girl have always had an appealing awkwardness in comparison to their more straight-laced London indie rock peers. Their 2018 self-titled debut album was studded with fantastical allusions and songs about death and alienation; 2021's On All Fours added synths to their gothic cowboy sound, but there was still venom dancing alongside their shimmering garage rock. "Ride Around," the first taste of the forthcoming Below The Waste, charts the quest to dig deeper into people's psyche. Singer Lottie Pendlebury, searching for something beyond small talk, pleads for someone to "Tell me stuff I didn't know, Take back all the undergrowth." It's in that same mulch that Goat Girl's music feels most at home. "Ride Around" is another fine addition to their sonic shrubbery. — David Renshaw

MIKE & Tony Seltzer: “R&B”

The first drop from the newly reunited New York rapper-producer duo MIKE and Tony Seltzer is the type of syrupy slow jam best played through car speakers with a sizable sub in the trunk. After a chopped-and-screwed passage introducing the instrumental’s key elements — a blown-out, rattling 808 kick-snare and a pleading siren synth — the beat speeds up, and MIKE enters with a relaxed flow that sits comfortably in the pocket and never steps out. “I could make a dollar stretch, make a dollar slim,” he raps, posted up in a park during peak leaf-peeping season next to a vintage Oldsmobile in the song’s music video, looking totally at ease in a backward beret and tinted shades. As on his latest masterpiece, Burning Desire, MIKE’s bars sparkle with levity, a welcome counterpoint to the grief that’s undergirded so much of his catalog. — Raphael Helfand

Meshell Ndegeocello: “#9 Venus The Living Myth”

The lead single from Red Hot & Ra - The Magic City — the latest Sun Ra tribute album to be announced by the AIDS non-profit organization Red Hot — is a stealthy spin on Ra’s “Rocket Number 9,” burning slower than the original and skipping its adherence to a brisk, Big Band Era pulse, instead abandoning its orbital path and accelerating into oblivion. The six-and-a-half-minute saga features stellar alto sax from Immanuel Wilkins and Marshall Allen, the 99-year-old titan who’s led Sun Ra Arkestra since Ra left Earth in 1993 (Allen also plays his EWI on the track). Renowned musical multi-hyphenate Meshell Ndegeocello — the project’s curator and co-producer — takes Ra’s place on keys and sings along with four additional vocalists and spoken word poet Dan Bunny, while Kojo Roney and Rashaan Carter stretch the limits of the term “rhythm section” on drums and upright bass, respectively. — Raphael Helfand

Chanel Beads: “Idea June”

Chanel Beads is the project of Shane Lavers, but “Idea June” features his bandmate Maya McGrory on lead vocals, her lyrics lapping at the edges of the surreal as she sings, “I think I’m glued onto your back now.” At the core of the song is the idea of romance and illicit danger, specifically where the two crossover. “Troublemaker I’m knocking on your door,” she sings as metallic guitars clatter around her and strings underscore the adrenaline rush of breaking a taboo. It’s a woozy daydream of forbidden options and ill-fated decision making. — David Renshaw

Jessica Pratt: “Life Is”

Jessica Pratt’s first song in five years is an upbeat forward march into the unknown, a musical representation of undirected ambition whose tone belies an undercurrent of skepticism in the lyrics. Pratt’s delivery is as cheerful as the triumphant drums, bass, and strings that undergird it — production that’s likened in a press release to the orchestral excess of ’60s pop hits like The Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” — but her words are ever-so-slightly out of sync: “Time is time and time and time again / And what would you say if you can’t get out of here?” she sings. “Time is time and time and time again / To make your escape you’ve captured the captor’s fear.” — Raphael Helfand

Blue Ranger: “Step Line”

The amount of resilience one needs to find love is undersold. In the vast majority of books and movies, the soon-to-be happy couple are simply placed next to each other and the laws of attraction do the rest; it’s not surprising that this fictional narrative has found its way into our real-life perceptions. “Step Line,” a new song from Blue Ranger (the New York-based band of Pinegrove guitarist Josh Marré), acknowledges the difficulty and accepts it, transforming a search for connection that’s been scarred by apps and expectations into a happy quest. Opening with a cloud of electronics before landing in a pasture of gently-plucked folk, Marré drifts from hazy domestic scene to interior landscape. The song’s climax outlines the stakes, and how Marré’s joy for the journey for love is protecting his heart: “I know enough to play a game / That I can’t win / I can’t wait.” — Jordan Darville

RiTchie: “RiTchie Valens”

RiTchie’s debut solo single outside Injury Reserve (now By Storm) is tongue in cheek but stylistically inventive. After an introduction to the song’s baroque beat and its two central vocal samples — the Auto-Tuned melismas “RiiTchieee” and “Why would you n***as do this to me” — RiTchie launches into a screed against haters and frauds, framed in rhetorical questions followed by the satirically sung refrain, “Let me know.”

“This shit like pullin’ teeth / You thinkin’ all that heehee haha’s really gettin’ through to me?” he begins, his voice twisted in a mocking grimace. “N***a that’s news to me / I’m a grown-ass man out here, man, you really think I’m losin’ sleep?”

An incisive hook follows the verse, including the killer line, “They screamin’ (“RiiTchieee”) like I’m / Ritchie Valens, yeah that n***a still valid, bro.” Then the verse returns from a bit further back in the mix before fading out eight bars in, letting the beat ride for roughly the same length as it does in the intro. Despite its many moving parts, “RiTchie Valens” wraps up neatly with five seconds to spare before the two-and-a-half-minute mark, achieving a satisfying sense of symmetry. — Raphael Helfand

Jess Ribeiro: "Everything Is Now"

"Everything Is Now" is a quietly radical song written about escaping the city and embracing a quieter way of life. "The River is calling me away, like some sort of game," Ribeiro sings as a proverbial laptop is closed, notifications are turned off forever, and an alternative begins to feel tangible. The peacefulness found away from the concrete hustle is reflected in the rolling percussion, warm acoustic guitar, and delicate saxophone trills that sit under Ribeiro's calming voice. It might just be the delicate nudge required to make a big change in life. — David Renshaw

mui zyu: “everything to die for”

Returning with her first new music in a year, Eva Liu follows her excellent debut album as mui zyu, Rotten Bun For an Eggless Century, with an unhurried, atmospheric jam. “everything to die for” simmers slowly — its central, simple but slightly bent four-chord progression strummed out on an acoustic guitar that’s flanked by an ambient drone and a wonderfully warped keyboard melody. Liu’s lyrics and delivery, however, are succinct and devastating. “We’ve got everything to die for / Everything to die for / So try to hang on / And thank God if you want to,” she sings in the hook, apparently speaking to a lover who she still sees as worth saving despite past dishonesties. “Everything to die for / Everything to die for / Thank God if I want to / Thank God for you.” — Raphael Helfand

Beyoncé: "16 CARRIAGES"

The announcement of Act 2 of Beyoncé’s Renaissance during the Super Bowl helped shed light on a possible direction for the series’ second album. Act 1 was a celebration of ballroom culture, rave and disco; Act 2 looks to be inspired by country music. Taken together, the revival at the heart of Renaissance isn’t confined to one genre. Rather, it reflects a broad stroke of music created by Black Americans. “16 CARRIAGES,” released along with “TEXAS HOLD EM,” is the bridge into Beyoncé’s next era. The song is embossed with elements of country music traditional to modern, including a twangy acoustic guitar loop, a crate-shaking stomp in place of a kick, and Beyoncé’s world-weariness and focus on the divine. But unlike on the banjo-led “TEXAS HOLD EM,” these are allusions more than full-on immersions. “16 CARRIAGES” is the sound of Beyoncé testing the waters, and she displays a mastery without losing her core. If that’s the lasting lesson of the Renaissance series, it’ll do more to cement Beyoncé’s legacy than any Grammy ever would. — Jordan Darville

So Totally: "Distinct Star"

"Distinct Star" is the first new single in a few years from Philly band So Totally, whose pop-leaning take on shoegaze is fast becoming the de facto sound of indie rock in 2024. The band have been plugging away for a little while now, though, and will release their new album, Double Your Relaxation via Tiny Engines on May 10. "Distinct Star" is a dream-like mix of chiming guitars and droning atmospherics, with Roya Weidman's vocals given a haunted edge by the howls provided by her bandmates buried deep in the back of the mix. By the time the rip-roaring middle eight arrives everything ascends to new heights, a blast of fire through the foggy line of sight. — David Renshaw

JT: "Sideways"

"...two minutes of imperturbable shit talk, delivered in a lithe purr over thudding 808s." — VIvian Medithi, from the February 9 edition of Rap Blog

Erika de Casier feat. They Hate Change: "ice"

Erika de Casier is one of pop music’s preeminent, joyful architects: it’s impossible to listen to a song of hers without feeling like every element was placed with intention. The latest single from her upcoming third studio album captures how skillfully de Casier approaches homage. Imagine, the song asks, if I collided the slinky beats of The Velvet Rope with Big Boi and Ma$e in their respective primes? The result is a showcase of why de Casier’s turn-of-the-millenium aesthetic is anything but stock, and feels far more vibrant and lived-in than anything you’re likely to hear on the radio. — Jordan Darville

Homeshake: "CD Wallet"

Explaining the concept of a CD wallet to a 19-year-old in 2024 probably makes you sound like someone recalling their first TV being wheeled into the house in time for the moon landing. And yet, for some (OK, elder millennials) carrying a case of shiny discs wherever you went was a definitive part of being connected to your favorite music — streaming services will never be able to replicate the feeling of listening to an album repeatedly mainly because you paid $20 for it and it's one of the only things you brought with you on holiday. All of this reminiscing is, in short, to say that Toronto's Homeshake has an excellent new song looking back at his teenage years. "CD Wallet" is crunchy and a little ugly with references to self-doubt and dreams of a different life plucked straight from Pete Sagar's adolescence. Gone are the days of CD singles, but Homeshake's latest deserves more than tossing onto the pile of digital detritus. — David Renshaw

Ayanna: "Girlfriend (London Girls Mix)"

R&B has long been an under-appreciated and neglected genre in the U.K. At last year's Brit Awards, bizarrely, zero R&B artists were nominated in the Best Pop/R&B Act category. Despite these setbacks, songwriters and vocalists in the scene continue to carve their own lane. This London Girl's remix of Ayanna's "Girlfriend" gathers together three of the most promising new vocalists in the city right now. The spirit of the original, written from the point just before a relationship becomes official, remains with Ayanna's mellow verses aided by a similarly loved-up Mnelia. It is Tamera who pushes through the pillowy vibe, though, adding a little grit with her smoked-out voice as she asks, "How you got a baddie all blushing?" It's a celebratory moment for three artists who don't need outside validation to show their worth. — David Renshaw

Beth Gibbons: "Floating On A Moment"

There’s an uncanny logic moving through “Floating On A Moment,” the first song from Beth Gibbons’s upcoming solo album Lives Outgrown. The Portishead singer-songwriter’s first-ever solo single both feels like a natural extension of the direction her band was taking on 2008’s Third — away from trip-hop and towards a more ornate, eerily acoustic route — and something that couldn’t have been predicted. Here, Gibbons introduces a more fantastical domain, populated by harpsichords, xylophones, and choirs of children singing in her inimitable and ghostly key; her voice is still a marvel of tension, with its notes still sounding perpetually on the verge of catching in her throat. But its translucence does not equal gloom: “Floating On A Moment” is a song about resilience, presence, and gratitude in the face of mounting uncertainty: “It just reminds us,” Gibbons sings, “That all we have / All we have is here and now.” — Jordan Darville

ScHoolboy Q: "Blueslides"

Hard times make strong people, but sometimes strong people don’t make it through hard times. ScHoolboy Q’s five-year hiatus from rapping didn’t come as much as a surprise — his interview with Charlamagne ahead of the release of 2019’s CrasH Talk showed someone who was beaten down by the rap industry for different reasons, all equally legitimate. There was his confusion over why getting the best reviews of his career in 2016 for the Blank Face LP didn’t translate to sales, as well as his lingering trauma over the sudden, tragic passing of his close friend Mac Miller. CrasH Talk didn’t give Q the mainstream breakthrough he needed, and when we saw him in public over the next five years, it was mostly for golf. Who could say for sure if rapping was still in the cards for him?

Fortunately for us, it is. “Blueslides” is one of two songs Q has released as a reintroduction, and it’s the best of the pair for its raw appraisal of Q’s recent years. He lets the beat’s jazzy instrumental breathe before launching into a few bars of luxury raps all wrapped in Q’s signature sneer. Then, there’s a space of silence in his verses save for a few ad-libs, as if a layer is getting pulled back and we’re traveling into Q’s history. “Better climb outta that hole before you fuck up your blessings / Before you realize that it’s over with and start to get desperate” Q sighs, a different and deeper momentum in his voice. The things keeping him down — a friend’s death from drugs, people using him for money, and his own self-doubt — contribute to his depression: “Been a prisoner in my own house, I don’t know if they noticed / I done broke down so many times, next time it gon’ catch me.” It’s easier to have gratitude for the struggle when you’re far removed from it and relishing the fruits of your endurance. On “Blueslides,” ScHoolboy Q chooses a harder, messier, and more honest route. — Jordan Darville

Nemzzz: "L's"

Manchester-based Nemzzz has spent the last few years steadily climbing the U.K. rap ladder, showcasing his assured flow on breakout hits like "2MS" and "Nemzzz Type Beat." His debut mixtape, Do Not Disturb, is due on March 15 and "L's" is the first taste of the project. Like much of the music that got him to this point, Nemzzz sounds unhurried in a way that pulls you in close. He raps slowly and with confidence, backing his wordplay with a puffed-out chest and steely determination. He talks about memories of growing up without money ("I was broke thinking about Heathrow") and how his success has made luxury feel normal ("When I take a flight don’t post.") He amusingly compares an ex's mood to Sexyy Red's music when he wants her to be a little more peaceful, like a Jhené Aiko song. At its core, though, "L's" is about searching for something real. Money and millions of followers might fill the room with new people but it doesn't mean they know anything about you. Nemzzz is revealing more about himself as he grows. That's encouraging to see. — David Renshaw

Laetitia Sadier: “Who + What”

Like Laetitia Sadier’s best work with Stereolab, the opener from her next solo album works like a landscape puzzle, solving itself in real time. It starts out with some scrappy bits of sky and grass around the border, slowly finding footing as the pieces begin to fill in. A rather amorphous organ gets its edges sanded by a synth bass, while a choir provides harmonic pieces that slide into each other effortlessly. Sadier’s voice, of course, is the guiding force behind the operation, a searching yet omniscient entity that asks the song’s central question and answers it with more puzzles to be solved in the future. — Raphael Helfand

The Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter: “Satan Your Kingdom Must Fall Down”

Kristin Michael Hayter’s turn away from the maximalism of her Lingua Ignota project toward austere liturgical works has produced some truly terrifying music. Her take on the traditional gospel song “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” — most famously covered by Robert Plant in 2010 — is characteristically modest, self-accompanied on a piano with bells and chains draped across its strings to produce a ghastly rattling effect. In this intimate arrangement, the ear has nowhere to hide from the intensity of Hayter’s voice, a precise yet quavering instrument rubbed raw by emotion. When it cracks or warbles well outside the song’s prescribed melody, it genuinely feels as though an otherworldly presence has entered the mix; whether it’s celestial or demonic is unclear. — Raphael Helfand

Banditdamack: "MVP"

"Thumping G-funk beats bring the West Coast flavor, but creepy-crawly piano lines keep everything a little on edge, as Banditdamack raps like his Spidey-Sense is tingling: subdued, but never too comfortable, always watching for the heat around the corner." — Nadine Smith, from the January 5 edition of Rap Blog

Cash Cobain: "Dunk Contest"

Cash Cobain raps like he’s taken every sex pill that’s kept behind the counter at your local gas station: he’s a horny gremlin hopped up on some illicit energy that destroys the body while freeing the soul. For his new song “Dunk Contest,” the New York rapper and producer recites the names of his ongoing situationships and what he likes best about their connection (spoiler: it’s having sex with them). There’s an endearing poetry to how every third bar starts with the name of a different girl, and how Cobain’s double-time flow boosts his feeling of enthusiasm. What really sells the song, though, is the beat, a cut of the R&B-inflected drill Cash works so well in that’s been run through a high-pass filter. The hi-hats are extra crispy and the bass is nearly non-existant, giving the song a raw quality that matches the freestyled vibe of the lyrics. — Jordan Darville

Torrey: "Bounce"

"Cut it all off" is the message at the center of "Bounce," a fuzzy and lush song from San Francisco indie rock band Torrey's upcoming self-titled album. The precise meaning behind that direction is open to interpretation, though siblings Ryann and Kelly Gonsalves say the song, a fine addition into the increasingly busy pop-gaze scene, is about discovering even the most outwardly happy-seeming people have issues burning underneath the surface. Sometimes a reminder that everyone is feeling bad all the time, delivered with plenty of reverb and echo ideally, is the only thing you need to hear. — David Renshaw

Burial: "Boy Sent From Above"

It’s been a long time since Burial shared music that bearhugged his memories and mournings of yesterdecade’s underground raves. His Antidawn EP from 2022 stripped the drums away to let his foggy, incandescent melodies shine; Streetlands, released the same year, went even further, veering into ambient territory (though the compositions seemed to want to evoke its own dreamlike sense of space than soundtrack existing ones). If last year’s “Unknown Summer” saw Burial testing the waters of club music again, “Dreamfear / Boy Sent From Above” is a swan dive into the deep end, each twist and shift made with peerless grace. “Boy Sent From Above” is nearly 13 and half minutes long, evoking in duration and spirit the pirate radio broadcasts from London that have long since been silenced. While the song feels like Burial is returning to something, there’s no shortage of the new in “Boy Sent From Above,” most notably in the strains of Eurodance that make their way in — you’ll hear it in those Spandex-colored synths around the fourth moment, and most clearly in the ending’s rap, delivered over a pummeling hardcore beat. — Jordan Darville

BADBADNOTGOOD: "Take What's Given"

BADBADNOTGOOD add a little classic soul to their sound, recruiting Houston-based vocalist Reggie Helms Jr. on their new song “Take What’s Given.” The Canadian group have always had a vintage quality to their music and that shines through stronger than ever here with a perky bassline complimenting wistful keys and a horn section that illuminates everything around it. It is Reggie’s pipes that shine the most, though. Offering simple life lessons aimed at bringing warmth into the world (“your medicine is better when it’s kept”), he delivers a much-needed fuzzy glow that radiates more and more with every listen. — David Renshaw

DJ Dayeh & MC Bibi Drak: “As Mais Top"

In São Paulo, Brazil, where the producer reigns supreme, DJ Dayeh is at the forefront of bruxaria, one of baile funk’s most twisted tendrils. “As Mais Top,” one of three singles released with the announcement of a new NTS compilation of the city’s sounds, opens on strings, a siren, and rolling static, with a vocal recreation of a kick-snare entering soon thereafter. After a DJ/MC tag that sounds like a haunted lullaby, the track kicks into gear, with Bibi Drak’s bars maneuvering through the debris of sub bass, whistles, and high-pitched laughter that follow. As in most of the bruxaria pantheon, the track’s powerful pulse is achieved in the absence of traditional drums; instead, Dayeh uses the long-stewing materials in her cauldron — negative space perhaps being the most important of all — to evoke the sense of punishing percussion. — Raphael Helfand

8485 feat. blackwinterwells and Murrumur: "ANTHROPOL"

8485's new EP software gore contains some of the most abrasive music the experimental pop songwriters has ever made, miles away from the nostalgic frontiers of her breakout EP plague town or even last year's introspective rave Personal Protocol. "ANTHROPOL" is a descendent of Black Dresses — black metal screams claw for dear life against nu-metal guitar stabs and synths that seem to come from machines designed by David Cronenberg. And like the much-missed Toronto band, 8485 is interested in big, scream-worthy moments that hook you like Pinhead's chains. It's the kind of song that's begging to burst your ear drums — Jordan Darville

Ovrkast feat. Navy Blue: "January"

Maybe you stumbled out the gate a little bit at the start of 2024. That's OK! "January," the new collaboration from Ovrkast and Navy Blue released at the end of the year's first month, is a song with the right balance of confidence and soulful hype that can make the first of the month feel like a new beginning in the deepest sense. The chemistry the rappers displayed on 2021's "Face" has only deepened as the rappers have developed their respective skills. It's more kinetic, too — when the beat switches to a sludgy, slowed-down version, Ovrkast and Blue trade bars seamlessly in one of the more dazzling displays of lyrical doubles this young year has seen. — Jordan Darville

Songs You Need In Your Life: February 2024