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


Lloyd Wayne: "Saviour"

London's Lloyd Wayne used to operate under the name Compton White and released music that veered between trap and industrial on the underground label Tri Angle. "Saviour" arrives with a name change to accompany a complete artistic makeover, with Lloyd Wayne delivering breezy and melodic guitar-driven pop a world away from the sub-woofer shaking aesthetics of the "bass music" scene in the mid-2010s. Wayne has worked with Westerman in the past and there are echoes of his lush, unspooling approach to songwriting in "Saviour." It stands on its own two feet, though, with panpipes and synthesizers lending the whole thing a slightly wobbly air to offset Wayne's pained desire for the attention of someone to "carry me away." — David Renshaw

Agriculture: “Living Is Easy”

The title track of L.A. four-piece Agriculture’s next project, Living Is Easy, is seven minutes of guitar-led, white-knuckled “black metal.” Already quite upbeat for its nominal genre, the song explodes into the utter ecstasy the band are constantly seeking near the two-minute mark, a reaction catalyzed by a stadium solo with a melody more fit for a Civil War battlefield than a Metallica concert. As the track continues, the band play a supercharged game of self-oneupmanship, inducing in the listener a state of non-stop catharsis. (Be sure to watch the killer song’s music video, co-starring Chat Pile.) — Raphael Helfand

Yaya Bey: "chasing the bus"

Every day we choose what we invest our time in, and few things are more satisfying when we decide to ditch something – or someone – undeserving of our days. There’s a line on Yaya Bey’s new single where the degree to which she relishes the dismissal of a former flame bubbles into her cadence: “I swear to God, you gon’ feel it in your bod-ay-ay / When I leave you behind to go and part-ay-ay.” Her voice seems to play hopscotch with the words, taking the unspoken invitation of the song to stay awhile and revel in its silken, soul-bar jam. It’s an offer that’s hard to refuse. — Jordan Darville

John Glacier: "Money Shows"

John Glacier is a shapeshifting artist whose dextrous lyricism has sounded equally enthralling on ambient electronica and direct from the New York rap underground. On her latest single the London-based artist looks backward to the sparse and uncompromising post-punk sound to air her thoughts. Produced by Kwes Darko and featuring additional vocals from Eartheater, the spaces between the dubby guitars on "Money Show" are filled with wordplay ("Leave like the summer trees") and stark confessions ("Long days 'cos I talk about pain"). The accompanying video appears to shed some light on the trickier lyrics, showing Glacier in contrasting situations at home and in the glamorous world of fashion and music she has been adopted into. Proof, perhaps, that versatility doesn't necessarily breed comfort, "Money Shows" puts that unnerving feeling front and center. — David Renshaw

Squid: “Fugue (Bin Song)”

A longtime fan favorite from Squid’s frenetic live set — returning to North America in early February with support from Water From Your Eyes — “Fugue (Bin Song)” has now been committed to wax. The studio version, recorded by the Bristol band with prolific London producer Dan Carey and re-mixed by Tortoise’s John McEntire, captures the intensity of a Squid show with contrapuntal guitars and siren-like supplemental strings that bristle like the onset of an anxiety attack, even before Ollie Judge’s razor-sharp drumming and sinisterly charismatic vocals enter the fray. The sum of these elements, dashed through with an unhealthy dose of disorienting stops and starts, is something dangerously close to post-punk perfection. — Raphael Helfand

Khadija Al Hanafi: “You Know I Got That / Won’t Stop Callin”


Khadija Al Hanafi’s Slime Patrol 2 dropped unceremoniously on New Year’s Day. The sequel to her 2020 debut LP arrived after a year that saw the forward-thinking footwork producer arrested in the U.S. and deported to her native Tunisia, but it burns with the energy of someone who doesn’t plan on losing focus anytime soon. “You Know I Got That / Won’t Stop Callin” is three tracks stuffed into one and disguised as two. The tricked-out Mii Channel music of “You Know I Got That” is followed by an interlude of smooth jazz guitar over stretched-out choral synth pads and slick drum machine fills, bookended by booming vocal samples a la DJ E. But the track’s coup de gras is its final third (“Won’t Stop Callin”), in which Al Hanafi flips a passage from the first verse of Dej Loaf’s iconic “Try Me” over drums so kinetic it’s impossible not to move to them — even at your desk on a Tuesday afternoon, for instance — which, of course, is the prerequisite for any elite dance track. — Raphael Helfand

DJ STEPDAD: “dads can’t step”

Brooklyn-based producer DJ STEPDAD, who sunlights as Bandcamp Daily ambient columnist Ted Davis, has dropped a four-track tape titled time to figure things out. The EP kicks off with a cover of The Radio Dept.’s “Heaven’s On Fire” that features Davis’s first-ever vocal performance on tape. But track two, “dads can’t step,” is the project’s clear standout. Subtly buzzing sub-bass, spacy synth chords, and city-pop ARP melodies — all undergirded by a trickle of quiet static — make for five minutes of near-perfect ambient house. — Raphael Helfand

YhapoJJ: “hope ulike me”

There’s something instantly gripping about half-mumbled, half-whispered, lightly-Auto-Tuneful bars delivered in a low vocal register above a soulful beat. It’s part of what makes Keef and Kanye’s “Nobody” (2014) so much more compelling than Chance and Noname’s “Lost” (2013), despite their use of the same guitar sample. On “hope ulike me,” postmodern Huntsville, Alabama-born rapper YhapoJJ scrambles sentences that seem to ooze out of him like plasma over a sublimely simple beat from feardorian, centering a pair of twinkling arpeggios over the IV, I major-seventh synth chords that seemingly appeared behind every viral slow jam of the mid 2010s. The formula isn’t entirely original, but it’s executed beautifully here, activating a secret dopamine pathway into the brain’s nostalgia center with effortless efficiency. — Raphael Helfand

Sega Bodega: "Deer Teeth"

"Deer Teeth," the latest solo single from regular Shygirl and Caroline Polachek collaborator Sega Bodega, is a deathly and pitch-black stream of consciousness. "Keep me down with all your deer teeth," the Irish producer sings through a digital filter. From there his focus remains on the morbid, with hunted prey, rapid aging and being buried six feet under all making its way into the ghostly production. A string section offers a brief moment of beauty in the middle eight before the hypnotizing beat returns and it all turns into digital dust. A fitting metaphor for such macabre thoughts of the afterlife. — David Renshaw

Maxo Kream: "Bang The Bus"

One of Maxo Kream’s greatest assets as a rapper is how comfortable he sounds on just about any style of beat he’s tried. He recently headed down to Florida for a dreamy collaboration with Luh Tyler just after tearing through Memphis with Key Glock; now, he’s trying on plush sample drill cloud-rap courtesy of producer evilgiane, and it fits him like a chinchilla coat. On the song, however, he’s not entirely suave: over a clipped sample of Frou Frou’s “Let Go,” Maxo raps through sexual frustration (“She got me waitin', it's been two weeks / I could have been fuckеd bout ten freaks”) and paints the picture of a sexy party in a sprinter van. I would never have imagined that a song that appeared on the Garden State soundtrack could ever be associated with something this hype. — Jordan Darville

Megan Thee Stallion: "Hiss"

It’s been a few days since “Hiss” dropped, and the initial shockwave of the diss track’s landing left the entire internet lost for words, including one of its targets. After a weekend’s worth of reflection (and one very lukewarm response), it’s safe to say that “Hiss” is the best diss track since “The Story of Adidon,” and arguably surpasses it in terms of technical skill, force of impact, and sheer stakes. Whereas Pusha T’s song was petty in the classic rap tradition — an attempt to end someone’s career just because you don’t like them for vague, undefined reasons — on “Hiss,” Megan is defending her reputation. She raps with the kind of fierceness of a cornered predator while maintaining an unconcerned air, tossing off artfully crafted allusions to her opps that can be either immediate or require a little research, doubling the punch upon subsequent listens. To the song’s greatest credit, though, it transcends the specifics of who Megan is targeting and why, rejecting mere gossip fodder for something more universally cathartic. — Jordan Darville

Spaced: "Landslide"

Buffalo-based hardcore band Spaced race through the speedy riffs and joyful bounce of "Landslide" like they, too, are slipping off the edge of a cliff. A sludgy breakdown in the middle only acts as a brief respite before the band once again succumbs to the gravitational force and dives headfirst into another round of chanted vocals and unbridled catharsis. — David Renshaw

Fabiana Palladino: "Stay With Me Through The Night"

"Stay With Me Through The Night" was written after the end of a long-term relationship and is about adjusting to there no longer being another person in your life. Palladino softens her self-lacerating lyrics about feeling unmoored and being bad at recognizing her own flaws with a funk-laced tune that nods to Chaka Khan and Patrice Rushe. There's more than a hint of Jessie Ware's sophisticated disco material at play here, too. The raw emotion stands out above the smooth basslines and percussion though, as Palladino pleads "What can I do to make you stay with me through the night?" The song will appear on her self-titled debut, due for release on April 5 via Paul Institute/XL Recordings. — David Renshaw

1010benja: “H2HAVEYOU”

Listening to 1010benja induces (in me, at least) a puzzling cognitive dissonance. His music sounds like a lot of music that I very much don’t like, and yet, somehow, I like his music very much. “H2HAVEYOU” — the first new single he’s shared since dropping his second EP, Three Times, in 2021 under his erstwhile moniker, 1010benja SL — centers the sugary titular refrain, “Happy to have you,” repeated ad nauseam in technicolor, multi-tracked harmony with melismatic, Auto-Tuned (or Auto-Tune emulating, at any rate) vocal runs gushing out over the top. These runs are so persistent and over the top that a colleague of mine who asked to remain anonymous likened the sound to Eamon. Still, against all odds, 1010benja makes it work. He pulls off the trick via the verses, in which he rhymes “Greasy Ms / We See em / GCL” and “BBL / CCL / Flow your scale” in a tone that evokes early Smino but bristles with a specific yet elusive anxiety, adding equal amounts of individuality and un-self-seriousness to the mix. Thusly, he pulls the song back from the precipice of cringe for a narrow win that’s all the more exciting for its proximity to epic failure. — Raphael Helfand

The Smile: "Bending Hectic"

Thom Yorke, Tom Skinner, and Jonny Greenwood’s sophomore album as The Smile culminates on its penultimate track, the eight-minute vehicular self-slaughter anthem “Bending Hectic.” The latest addition to Yorke and Greenwood’s considerable car-crash canon, the track begins in balladic reflection and ends in Ballardic chaos. In the song’s first half, Yorke sings a full octave below his preferred falsetto register as punctuated plumes of percussion, detuning guitar, and orchestral strings blossom and decay behind him. As the song’s momentum picks up and its narrator’s suicidal resolve sharpens, though, Yorke’s voice rises in pitch and a steadier pulse develops. “I’m letting go of the wheel,” he sings before a massive, Scott Walker-esque string swell floods the instrumental, giving way to a sludge of power chords, heavy drum fills, and screeching feedback. — Raphael Helfand

Malice K: “Radio”

Malice K is very good at what he does. Like 2022’s “Changes” (also a Song You Need), his new track “Radio” harbors several hackneyed cliches — “Radio plays my favorite song,” “I’m trying hard to be someone else, but / Someone else is already taken” — but follows them up with clever, pithy lines that are themselves twists on old tropes but still somehow make the more straightforward ones feel fresh and poignant again (“My life’s a cup, one drop away from spilling over,” “I’m only seven days away from one-week sober,” and “I never needed you, please come over” in the former case; “So I hit my head, I hit it, so hard and hope that something / Breaks and I can just start over” in the latter). From the lyrics to their hyper-annunciated, breathy delivery, the half-arpeggiated acoustic strums to the string swells that rise up behind them to saturate the mix, “Radio” could easily feel trite or arch in our post-irony epoch. But Malice K manages to walk the tightrope between these pitfalls with a striking clarity of purpose, never tipping too far in either direction. — Raphael Helfand

gglum: “Do You See Me Different?”

Ella Smoker is only 21, but she’s written an album about looking back on a difficult adolescence (The Garden Dream, due out March 29). On “Do You See Me Different?” Smoker’s hazy and whispered delivery is complimented by Kamal, a fellow U.K.-based purveyor of big feelings at modest volume. Here, they trade delicate verses about faltering relationships and the search for belonging. — David Renshaw

Bnny: “Good Stuff”

“Good Stuff,” the lead single from Bnny’s sophomore album One Million Love Songs, is a breakup song. Rather than dwelling on the pain of lost love, though, Jessica Viscius looks back on the good times. “I still remember the first time you said you loved me / Texted me at 2 a.m. from across the country,” she sings in a gritty alto over fuzzy power chords and a slow-marching kick-snare. “I still remember the first time that it felt real / Oh, to love again, to feel.” It’s an emotional opening, but the tension dissipates on the song’s dreamy hook as the drums and guitar pick up the pace, launching into a playful trot. “I’m hangin’ on to the sunshine / I’m hangin’ on to the next time,” Viscius sings, the specks of sadness that gathered around the edges of her voice during the verse falling away completely as she enters a higher register. “Yeah, I’m hangin’ on to the good stuff / Yeah, I’m hangin’ on to my big love.” — Raphael Helfand

Jane Penny: “Messages”

“Messages” is the solo debut by Jane Penny of the terminally pensive Montreal synth-pop group TOPS. Penny stays in a similar musical lane here, gliding languidly over a shimmering ’80s backdrop while singing about a text that never arrives. “Look to the stars, find out what it means to be free,” she sighs as the notifications that fill her screen only add to the disappointment. — David Renshaw

Jim White: “Names Make the Name”

Jim White has played drums for a striking number of indie rock darlings — Cat Power, PJ Harvey, Bill Callahan, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Mary Margaret O’Hara, et al. — and contributed to transcendent experimental creations as a third of Dirty Three, half of Xylouris White, and a quarter of a new group led by saxophonist Zoh Amba (also featuring Steve Gunn on guitar and Shahzad Ismaily on bass) that’s been making the rounds in New York of late. On “Names Make the Name” — the lead single from the 62-year-old Australian artist’s debut solo album, All Hits: Memories, coming March 29 via Drag City — a brooding collage of percussive elements cascades across the surface of a slowly denaturing low drone until, around the two-and-a-half-minute mark, a warped keyboard sample peeks out through a crack in the mix and then disappears as quickly as it came. — Raphael Helfand

Joe Wong: “What Have You Done?”

The kitschy orchestral arrangements that undergirded the glut of “middle of the road” music saturating ’60s and ’70s radio have been largely disdained for the past half-century by the gatekeepers of “high art.” But, when tempered by creative ingenuity, they’ve helped create some of the best songs ever (see Scott Walker’s first four albums). Joe Wong captures a bit of that magic — albeit with a few contemporary twists — on “What Have You Done.” With sumptuous production and idyllic acoustic guitar from the incomparable Mary Timony providing the wings, Wong’s baritone croon soars to chamber-pop heaven, selling improbably ornate lyrics and even a familiarly goofy men’s chorus cameo in the hook by committing to the grandiosity of the moment. — Raphael Helfand

glass beach: "cul-de-sac"

The indie rock album of the year to beat so far is plastic death, the long-awaited sophomore effort from L.A.’s glass beach. The math-pop quartet have an impossibly layered sound that reveals itself deeper the more you listen, and the vibrant mood that prevails across the latest project makes it an easy one to return to — even in the saddest moments, a smile can be heard not too far beneath. “Cul-de-sac” evokes a bittersweet nostalgia for the suburban upbringing that creates zombies: “Every single day, circling a cul-de-sac / Alligator eyes staring out of storm drains / Walking in your wake, circling the refrain / 'I know it's not gonna last.'" Escape may be crucial, but the invisible thread pulling glass beach back provides a potent source of tension in every anxious finger tap of the fretboard. — Jordan Darville

Reyna Tropical: “Cartagena”

Following a recent pivot from duo form to the solo project of Mexican-born, Texas-raised singer-songwriter-guitarist Fabi Reyna, Reyna Tropical is creating with decisive clarity. “Cartagena,” the lead single from her forthcoming project Malegría, replicates the atmosphere of its titular Colombian seaside city with a sweet guitar refrain that’s buoyed by a blend of bouncy drum machine and hand-slapped percussion, a breezy bass line, and other subtle, sun-drenched ephemera that conspire to summon a beach scene in the listener’s subconscious. At the center of it all, Reyna’s multi-tracked vocals ride the mix with the easy confidence of an experienced surfer in the barrel of a slow-rolling wave. — Raphael Helfand

Nate Sheible: “small and horseless”

The opening piano chords of “small and horseless” immediately bring to mind Aphex Twin’s haunting piano lament “Avril 14th.” But where the mid-Drukqs classic drifts through several tonal and emotional states, the newly released closer from Nate Scheible’s forthcoming album, or valleys and — slated to be the inaugural LP from the new D.C.-based label Outside Time — explores a single moment in time. Resisting harmonic development, the new song is a slow, steady zoom-in on a frozen memory, revealing its most granular details. A twinkling organ drone creeps in early on and settles, carrying the track to its unassuming endpoint just before the two-minute mark, followed by 20 seconds of silence. — Raphael Helfand

Georgie & Joe: "Student"

"I got a song that’ll make you dance" goes the chorus of U.K. duo Georgie & Joe's charmingly straight-forward "Student." The simple synth riff and deadpan vocal delivery feel decidedly post-PC Music, though the Bullion-produced song never settles on one consistent mood long enough to be so easily pinned down. No soon as the club thrills of the chorus are waning does an ethereal dream-pop verse kick in. It's as unpredictable as it is refreshing. — David Renshaw

No Windows: "Song 01"

No Windows are teenage duo Morgan Morris and vocalist Verity Slange. Their upcoming EP Point Nemo, due on May 3, is named after the most remote spot on earth and serves as a metaphor for feelings of loss and isolation. "Song 01"showcases Slange's wounded and bittersweet vocals, with the delicate edict "Too gentle I don’t fight" sticking out amid the squall as Morris turns the track from a polite indie-folk song into something a little more epic and windswept. — David Renshaw

Lord Spikeheart feat. Saionji BBBBBBB: “TYVM”

Nairobi-based screamer Martin Kanja (a.k.a. Lord Spikeheart) first made cross-continental waves as half of the Kenyan-Ugandan grindcore duo Duma, whose explosive, self-titled debut LP crash landed via Nyege Nyege Tapes in 2020. “TYVM” is the lead single from his first solo album, The Adept, the inaugural release from HAEKALU Records — a label dedicated to Africa’s “ heaviest and darkest sounds” — with promised features from Brodinski, Backxwash, Fatboi Sharif, and more. The new song is a thrashing industrial cut, with Kanja’s possessed barks and hellacious roars set to a bruising beat by Japanese producer Saionji BBBBBBB that attacks from all angles, a siren-like synth soaring down from the upper reaches of the audible spectrum while uppercut kicks and warped sub bass rush up from below to mutilate your subwoofers. — Raphael Helfand

YG Teck: "Bomb"

"Never in my life could I have imagined DJ Drama shouting ad-libs over a Baltimore club flip of “Thong Song,” but it’s a disarmingly effective pairing, as Drama functions as both hype man and wingman to Teck’s seductions." — Nadine Smith, taken from the January 19 edition of Rap Blog.

Lutalo and Claud: "Running"

"Running," a collaboration between indie-pop artists Lutalo and Claud, was written about a strained relationship between a parent and child but could well translate to anyone who has ever felt ignored. "I used to break my back in two / to get a single look from you," Lutalo sings over crunchy guitars and perky synths. Claud's voice sits beneath their collaborator, not so much complimenting but underlining the hurt at the center of the song. Resolution for the pair comes in the form of outgrowing the negligent force holding them back. "Are you still running?" they sing, the path in front of them rolling out onto the horizon. "Try and catch me if you can." — David Renshaw

Jlin feat. Philip Glass: “The Precision of Infinity”

Released alongside the announcement of her first full-length album in more than half a decade, Jlin’s newest single finds the Gary, Indiana-born composer-producer in elite form. The track features restrained bursts of keyboard from minimalist master Philip Glass, but these feel more like accompaniment than centerpiece next to the snarls of drums and bass that tumble around them. Even in its quietest moments, “The Precision of Infinity” sounds ready to explode. — Raphael Helfand

Ruth Goller: “Below my skin”

The lead offering from Ruth Goller’s forthcoming album SKYLLUMINA is a strange, searching single that makes me feel like I’m trapped under a microscope slide. Goller’s multi-tracked but unadorned vocals and the scratchy, uneven refrain of harmonic tones she strings together on her electric bass quake with unresolved tension, and the clusters of percussion and electronics from Tom Skinner (The Smile, Sons of Kemet) that slither beneath her seem engineered to induce trypophobia. — Raphael Helfand

Tomato Flower: “Saint”

“Saint” is an unruly parade of ideas jammed into a small package, a trick a lesser band than Tomato Flower would have trouble pulling off. The Baltimore four-piece enter on a flurry of drums from Mike Alfieri and bass (Ruby Mars), with a dissonant chord from Austyn Wohlers’s electric guitar finishing off the uneven lick in abrasive fashion. The group falls almost into step after a few repetitions of the riff, with Jamison Murphy’s jangling acoustic guitar joining the fray, and the group alternates between these two modes (with some significant variation) for the majority of the track before seeing themselves out on a dreamy skronk-jazz refrain. Instrumentally, the song feels like a fast ride down a mountainside in an old car whose wheels might fall off at any moment. But Wohlers’s placid vocal line sounds totally unphased throughout the run, from its jittery opening notes to its nervously confident finish. — Raphael Helfand

Elijah Maja: "Gentle & Jeje"

Elijah Maja is a British/Nigerian musician from south London whose new album, Chariot, is out on February 22. The album features production from King Krule and Joy Orbison among others but it is a lilting and glitchy beat by redLee that ushers in the tender "Gentle & Jeje." Maja sings seductively in a mix of English and Yoruba, whispering lines like "clutch me, touch me, and leave" as he melts into the track. He makes his intentions clear throughout, floating between tender mystique and explicit anticipation. — David Renshaw

Smerz: "My Producer"

The heady days of electroclash get a new coat of gloss on the new single from the shapeshifting Norwegian pop duo. Taken from their upcoming EP ALLINA, a six-track project that tracks a fictional flash-in-the-pan popstar’s brief experience with fame, “My Producer” operates as both a satire of pop convention and a genuine embrace of them. The lead vocals are winkingly hypersexual, the irony audible in the opening lyrics: “You’re my producer baby, I’m the star / You say ‘Sing it for me,’ I say ‘Your beat is hard.’” Of course, with a stripped-down instrumental, reminiscent of early Peaches in its searing and urgent danceability, there’s going to be something genuinely sexy to the song, too. — Jordan Darville

Devon Welsh: "You Can Do Anything"

A lot of great music offers a metaphorical hand and helps guide you through the travails of life. Very rarely, however, are those artists imposing a Terminator-style scenario from which they plan to save you. Devon Welsh, formerly on Majical Cloudz, has landed on the concept for his new album Come With Me If You Want To Live and "You Can Do Anything" is its uplifting first single. A barrage of melodramatic synths and electronic drums create the perilous vibe any great action flick needs while Welsh's voice, deep and moving even when he sings about burning wrecks, offers an affirming reminder that very little in life is truly impossible. — David Renshaw

Joy Orbison: "flight fm"

It’s a special thing when an electronic music producer creates songs that simultaneously demand to be savored with headphones and blasted recklessly through two-story-tall speakers. Joy Orbison continues to occupy such a space on “flight fm,” his first new song of 2024. It’s dominated by a monolith of a subbass that casts its descending obsidian tones like bombs for nearly the song’s entire runtime — it’s not hard to imagine feeling this thing deep in your chest on the right sound system. Occasionally the bass’s timbre becomes more ragged, like it’s been doused in leftover nuclear reactor water, and that’s one of a wealth of details that helps the song demand close attention. Even if you’re dancing your ass off. — Jordan Darville

Astrid Sonne: "Boost"

Danish composer Astrid Sonne once released a live EP made up of juxtaposing audio files from two different cameras used to film a performance in Berlin. In contrast to such a high concept work, her upcoming album Great Doubt represents her pop moment. The album, due on January 26, is the first to feature Sonne's voice and finds her working in more traditional songwriting modes. "Boost" is an instrumental but one that builds into something foreboding and a little unsettling as the dazed synths and woodwind instrumentation glide into one another. It feels aligned with the claustrophobic vibe Tirzah operates in, as well as the stomach-churning peaks of John Medeski's The Curse score. Music to unsettle and calm the nerves in equal measure. — David Renshaw

Young M.A: "Watch (Still Kween)"

Despite critical and commercial success, Young M.A has never received a suitable level of acknowledgement for her triumphs. Even prior to her 17-month hiatus from music that ended last month with “Open Scars,” M.A and her shadow over N.Y.C’s rap scene were treated as flukes, as tricks of the light. On her new song “Watch (Still Kween),” M.A is operating at a similar level as she did at her peak, but her extended break from music amid personal and health issues creates the context of a comeback. The struggles and hurdles she detailed so finely in “Open Scars” become part of a broader, flex-heavy tapestry on “Watch,” her boastful presence matching the twinkling beat from Mike Zombie bridging the brashness of drill and the AraabMuzik’s rave-inspired melodies. “I’m back in my Hefty, the money like ‘Come and collect me,’” M.A raps, sounding more eager to deliver than she has in a long time. — Jordan Darville

Kim Gordon: "BYE BYE"

Modern rap is really noisy, and Kim Gordon is an underrated pioneer of the sound. As a member of the Sonic Youth side project Ciccone Youth, she stepped up to the mic for “Making The Nature Scene,” a skronky song with the temperament of a malfunctioning fax machine taken from their one-off project Whitey Album. And of course, there’s also the 1993 Sonic Youth/Cypress Hill collab “I Love You Mary Jane,” a song from that seminal document in the development of rap-rock, 1993’s Judgement Night soundtrack. So in context, her new single “BYE BYE” is part of a lineage. Recorded with Justin Raisen for her upcoming album The Collective, “BYE BYE” is styled in the mold of Playboi Carti’s Opium label, tapping out nuked 808s over flayed synths and noise guitar shredding. It’s far from a loosie from A Great Chaos, though, shifting and evolving under its weight as if spurred by Gordon’s deadpan recital of different products, her presence made all the more ominous when a door-ajar sound becomes the lead melody. As rappers search to redefine rock stardom, Gordon is offering a path forward simply by reasserting her pedigree. — Jordan Darville

dollyw00d1: "I could have gone to CalArts"

"...two and a half minutes of icily-processed shit talk that would fit neatly on a Chief Keef mixtape, complete with gunshots and adlibs." — Vivian Medithi, taken from the December 12 edition of Rap Blog.

Helado Negro: "Best For You And Me"

Helado Negro’s songs are rivers that seem to flow from a singularly tranquil source. They’re deeply emotional affairs, but Roberto Carlos Lange delivers them so calmly that it can be difficult to feel anything but at peace while they’re playing. “Best For You and Me,” the third single from his forthcoming album Phasor, is a perfect example: There’s a deep pain behind lines like “Mom’s asleep, dad’s not home, it’s what’s wrong / And I’ll go outside, looking at the moon away too long.” But sung in Lange’s subtly tuneful voice over comforting piano keys and a subdued drum beat, with silky falsetto hums shining down from above, the song ebbs and flows like a gentle tide. — Raphael Helfand

TiaCorine feat. Luh Tyler: "Yung Joc”

Despite their 13-year age gap, TiaCorine and Luh Tyler are kindred spirits on the mic. On “Yung Joc,” the 30-year-old Winston-Salem rapper and the 17-year-old Tallahassee phenom meet halfway, but not in Atlanta. Instead, they each bring their own distinct flavors to Oronday’s cloudy beat. It doesn’t hurt that, although their flows are totally distinct, they rap in virtually the same register, giving the transition between their verses a surreal sense of seamlessness, like moving from one room to another in a dream. — Raphael Helfand

Deela: "Lagos"

Deela is currently based in London but she shouts out her birthplace on "Lagos," a granite-tough ode to stacking cash and taking no prisoners. On the mic Deela is an uncompromising presence, hitting dismissive bars about her opps ("Watching you fight for a bone. That's looking tight, looky I got me a meal ") with ease. She packs enough charisma to always make sure the boastfulness sounds assertive and when she says she is "versatile just like potatoes," it shows she can throw in the occasional unpredictable moment. Fun, flashy, and self-assured, Deela is the perfect ambassador for her hometown. — David Renshaw

EvilGiane feat. xaviersobased & Nettspend: “40”

Surf Gang leader EvilGiane’s one-off collabs almost always hit: from the unreleased “Sights” with A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti, to the extremely released “The Hillbillies” with Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem, to “40,” a new one-minute speed run featuring two explosive, rising talents. xaviersobased and Nettspend each contribute a discrete verse about the wonders of underage drinking over Giane’s playful drill beat, the silliness of which makes it clear everyone involved is just kidding about all that stuff. The rappers both hold a Hennessy bottle in the video (and Nettsepnd drives a car), but one can safely assume this is a Nathan For You situation, in which the young men are allowed to own the alcohol but can’t actually consume it until they turn 21. — Raphael Helfand

Loukeman: "Ride"

Listening to Loukeman gives me a similar feeling to certain moments in the vast discography of Clark. Like Clark’s recent LPs Cave Dog and Sus Dog, both of Loukeman’s full-lengths — 2021’s Sd-1 and the just-released Sd-2 — have the emotional depth of diary entries transformed into electronic music productions. Genres aren’t sonic touchstones as much as life events that Loukeman reflects on, tries to make sense of, then assembles into songs that weave a picture of personhood. It’s most exciting when Loukeman pulls from the dancefloor, as on “Ride.” The sound of rave and jungle history being deconstructed in real-time, “Ride”'s percussion verging into glitch territory as the song leans heavily on the breathy sighs and entreaties of distant vocals — as well as a palatial, very Clark-esque arpeggio — for its unplaceable and undeniable soul. — Jordan Darville

C Turtle: "Shake It Down"

London band C Turtle have been releasing music for a few years now, slowly transforming from an introspective and somewhat noodling DIY act into something more ferocious and primed for a breakout. "Shake It Down," their latest single, has a delightfully manic edge, with Cole Flynn Quirke's unhinged chorus offsetting Mimiko McVeigh's deadpan, not-quite-rapped delivery. There are shades of both Wet Leg and Pixies here, no doubt, but "Shake It Down" is its own creation, a bracing jolt from the indie rock underground. — David Renshaw

Fat Dog: "All The Same"

Fat Dog approach punk with a sardonic recklessness that immediately recalls the early days of Viagra Boys. Like VB’s Sebastian Murphy (and the vocalists of so many punk bands before him), Fat Dog frontman Joe Love attacks the microphone with an audible sneer. “You’re all the same to me,” he repeats emotionlessly in the hook of their second-ever single, but he can’t contain his rage for long; his voice contorts into a snarl as he delivers the final line of the chorus, “And the seed goes on,” which is followed by an ecstatic synth and guitar lick. Unlike VB, who flesh out their militant rock arrangements with Oskar Carls’ skronky sax, Fat Dog have a penchant for the grandiose. “All The Same” is propelled by a menacing techno rhythm in the drums and bass, but it’s at its best when that beat bursts open to reveal orchestral swells, industrial electronics, and, according to a press release, “eagle noises” (these are surprisingly subtle but not too hard to find if you know what you’re looking for). Though not as epic in scope as the band’s seven-minute debut single “King of the Slugs,” the new track’s punchier three-minute runtime trims the fat, making its soaring highs all the more exciting. — Raphael Helfand

Prize Horse: “Further From My Start”

Prize Horse make rock music within the tonal framework of grunge but with the majestic scope and crushing punishment of death metal. It’s an intriguing balance, and achieved convincingly on “Further From My Start,” the second single from the Minneapolis band’s upcoming album Under Sound. Vocalist Jake Beitel wears the song’s heaviness like a cilice, its despondent melody and enveloping distortion underlining his desperate plea for progress. As the song grows into a mushroom cloud of noise, the urgency becomes undeniable. — Jordan Darville

gyrofield: “Ones and Somehows”

A Faint Glow of Bravery, the new project from drum and bass producer gyrofield and one of my most anticipated projects of the month, comes out January 12. During the first listen of her single “Ones and Somehows,” what drew me in was the superficial chaos: all at once there was subbass wobbling in an alien language, R&B-tinged vocals pleading, and drums doing the most. It kept me gripped. But what brought me back was the sincerity at the heart of it all, the channeling the moments when dancefloors become key players in our lives rather than just the background setting. Whether that’s compositional skill or pure kismet, “Ones and Somehows” has it. — Jordan Darville

KÁRYYN: "Anthem For Those Who Know"

Syrian American producer and vocalist KÁRYYN first started writing songs a decade ago after losing two family members to bombing in Aleppo. On "Anthem For Those Who Know" she continues to offer a message of peace in an increasingly violent world. Co-produced by Hudson Mohawke, the icy and electric ballad places KÁRYYN's vocals to the front and frames her cry in HD clarity. "We will not be silenced ever," she sings with the defiance of someone with nothing left to lose. It's a dramatic and overpowering sentiment, with any degree of cliche batted away with a magnetic fearlessness. — David Renshaw

Bodega: "Tarkovski"

In his 1979 sci-fi classic Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky depicted a journey to "the Zone," a location in which your innermost desires can come true. NYC band Bodega year for a similar trip on their playfully chaotic new single "Tarkovski." The title also includes a nod to the winter sport and gives a hint at how seriously the band are taking themselves on the lead single to their upcoming album Our Brand Could Be Yr Life (due on April 12). Think of this as less of a philosophical quest for true meaning and more of a playful ode to going a little off-piste. — David Renshaw

They Hate Change: "Wallabies & Weejuns"

The way they tell it, rap duo They Hate Change used their time touring in support of their club-ready 2022 album Finally, New as a global networking event. The pair, who produced the entirety of their debut themselves, were picking up producers and collaborators between shows and sleepless nights in discount accommodation. Their new EP Wish You Were Here, out on January 26, features work with south London's Wu-Lu and Odd Future affiliate Vritra among others they met on their travels. "Wallabies & Weejuns," meanwhile, arrives via studio time with Manchester-based 96Back, whose playful and wide-ranging sound has made him one of the most unpredictable figures on the U.K. underground. Together they have created a propulsive and slippery tune destined to be played on repeat. Vonne Parks and Andre Gainey go back to back, trading breakneck bars, impressively keeping pace with a fizzy beat that bursts out of the speakers like Sonic The Hedgehog zooming through a warehouse at 3 a.m. To some musicians travel represents a creative brick wall. They Hate Change are using it as fuel right now. — David Renshaw

HiTech feat. Juan Michael OG: “Gasoline”

The tri-brained Detroit beat machine that is HiTech has struck again with a brief, action-packed new single titled “Gasoline.” With an assist from like-minded rapper/producer Juan Michael OG — who hails from nearby Ypsilanti, Michigan — they set a chopped vocal sample to frenetic drums, raindrop keys, and, later on, a percussive effect somewhere between a record scratch and a wet fart. — Raphael Helfand

Yodashe: “MRKTPLC”

London-based singer-producer Yodashe has a potent mix of chops and vision. She makes unsettled songs that squirm like Rorschach inkblots through the ear canal toward a primal place in the reptilian brain. With “MRKTPLC,” she takes a shot at digital streaming platforms across the globe, switching from dance-pop to synth-punk to darkwave and regions beyond in defiance of algorithmic categorization. It’s a glitchy whirlwind that’s as fun for a human to experience as it will be for a machine to parse. — Raphael Helfand

That Mexican OT: "02.02.99”

“Johnny Dang,” That Mexican OT’s breakout, Billboard-charting 2023 hit, was a certified Houston slapper celebrating how grills have become synonymous with the city’s rap culture. On his new single “02.02.99,” OT introduces us to the man behind the diamonds. His birth name is Virgil, and he’s willing to get his hands dirty but not so eager to suffer fools: “Told my choppa that the only thing we got is just each other,” he raps over a horrorcore beat with synths tinted red from a blood moon. “I’m the type that needs the walls up when I’m bowling ‘cuz I’m gutter.” Its effectiveness as a character study is clear from a simple transcription, but only by listening to it can you get a sense of OT’s charisma, wrapped into his words like a Cuban link. — Jordan Darville

Frances Chang: “Ya A Mirage”

“Ya A Mirage,” the third single from Brooklyn singer-songwriter Frances Chang’s forthcoming album Psychedelic Anxiety, is a bad-love anthem whose mood swings mirror the peaks and valleys of a rollercoaster relationship. The track is a parade of tenebrous styles (stuttery freak-folk, fuzzy psych-rock, weepy synth-pop) that moves in stops and starts, evoking a seismic affair in which boundaries and expectations shift and rub against each other like tectonic plates in an earthquake. “This song really encapsulates my idea of romance — in its most toxic, foolish, theatrical form," Chang explains. "It’s about pining and pain, ups and downs, vacillating between anger and forgiveness, blame and acceptance, and trying to find solid ground amidst the tumultuousness of heartbreak.” — Raphael Helfand

Eem Triplin: "stephanie"

Eem Triplin’s love songs display the steely distrust of someone well beyond the Johnstown, Pennsylvania-born MC’s 22 years — the skepticism of a reformed romantic who’s been burned too many times. More accurately, he writes songs about love —the tainted kind, to be even more precise — cutting through the cute stuff to air his grievances with former partners over deceptively smooth instrumentation. His new song “stephanie” is the platonic ideal of an Eem Triplin track, a sober reflection on an ex who was never really his, rendered all the more cutting over a beat from Sauron and Imitation Therapy that lulls the listener with its textured polyrhythms but leaves space for Eem’s most lethal bars to strike. — Raphael Helfand

Buck Meek: “Beauty Opens Doors”

One of two new singles released by the country-folk singer-songwriter and Big Thief guitarist, “Beauty Opens Doors” is a work of deeply resilient presence, an appreciation of how love’s glow can outshine the fluorescent fog of the outside world. “Embracing by the light of a dollar store,” Meek sings, “Four aces cleaning up from the night before / You asked, ‘Why is it that beauty can't be forced?’" The collage of twanging guitars and fluorescent electronics has a similar wandering spirit, jumping here and there on the destination to deeper feeling. — Jordan Darville

Erick the Architect feat. George Clinton: “Ezekiel’s Wheel”

Flatbush Zombies producer/rapper Erick the Architect is dropping his debut solo LP in February, and its third single, “Ezekiel’s Wheel,” is an exciting sign of what’s to come. The song’s ambitious premise — an allegorical exploration of the biblical tale of Ezekiel’s wheel — is personified by its godlike guest artist, Parliament-Funkadelic patriarch George Clinton, who adds esoterically inspiring spoken-word vocals to the track’s outro. Following two metaphor-laden verses from Erick that snake through a psychedelic soul-sampling beat like wheels within wheels, Clinton hops on to remind us to “do the best you can, and then funk it and fly on.” In a press release, the renowned funk scholar-practitioner discusses his first meeting with the Architect at a photo shoot. “We instantly clicked,” he recalls. “Dude's got that next funk!” — Raphael Helfand

VIP Skylark: "Im da man"

“Im da man” opens like a blast of radioactive fallout straight to the face, its misty kicks and woodwind melodies nasty enough to spur an unwanted cellular mutation. VIP Skylark emerges from the haze with a glowering flow that only gets more nimble as the song progresses, flexing his mob ties and how emboldened his new money has him feeling. It’s the perfect opening theme for your 2024. — Jordan Darville

Pissed Jeans: "Moving On"

On their last album, 2017's Why Love Now, Pennsylvania offered up absurdist depictions of the patriarchy, images of work-based aggression, and sleazy pick-up lines, skewering them with their trademark scuzzy guitars. It sounds like their new album Half Divorced, due on March 1, is shaping up to be similarly barbed but a little more inward-looking. "Half Divorced has an aggression within it, in terms of saying, I don’t want this reality," frontman Matt Korvette says in a statement. The first signs of this rejection comes via "Moving On," a song that cuts deep to the core while brightening up the layers of distortion that have defined the sound of previous Pissed Jeans albums through perky guitar tones and anthemic vocals. "Cheesing into my cameraphone, Pretending that I’m not alone," Korvette offers up, something between a snide taunt and an admission of complicity. "Life’s the first thing that we all postpone." It's a bracing reminder that, when progress is the goal, there is nowhere to hide. — David Renshaw

DJ Wesley Gonzaga: “Mega a Cura Antidepressiva.”

"A woozy chop of Rihanna’s 'Umbrella' crawls through a murky stream of vocal effects before Gonzaga joins the pop star in a distorted duet: to the tune of Rihanna’s hook, he starts to sing “favela-ela-ela,” taking something universal and making it distinctly local, a tribute to the inventiveness of a culture that’s crafted its own new language from the leftover scraps on hand." — Nadine Smith, taken from the Jan. 5 edition of Rap Blog

1999 WRITE THE FUTURE feat. Eyedress: "rUN tHE FaDE" featuring Eyedress

It's not quite clear who or what 1999 WRITE THE FUTURE are at present, with their label 88rising only referring to them as a "new music collective" in press materials. "wide-ranging" might be a good word to add to that mix. Prior to working with Eyedress on this song they dropped the laid back and jazzy "MiNt cHoCoLaTe" with BADBADNOTGOOD, Westside Gunn, and Conway The Machine. "rUN tHE FaDE" leans into the woozy and distorted sound that Eyedress has spent the best part of a decade building for himself, creeping slowly from a stoned clamber to a jet-fuelled shoegaze crescendo. The latter half is pleasingly heavy, a wave of distortion to get the blood pumping. The video also features a suitably manic cameo from comedian Tim Robinson, to boot. — David Renshaw

Youth Lagoon: “Football”

The characters in Trevor Powers’ new Youth Lagoon track, “Football,” are surviving, not thriving: There’s Donnie, whose “face is wearin’ thin like an old shoe sole”; Mary, whose faith is similarly thin, so thin that she’d “fuck the preacher if he only paid enough”; and Momma, who’s “turned to dust” and is “on the train tracks waitin’ for the blood to rush.” In the middle of it all, there’s Trevor, chiming in over unassuming piano accompaniment with the simple request that these troubled souls refrain from unloading their pent-up emotional ammunition on him. Instead, he says, save it for “another person who caught the football,” maybe, if it’s not too much to ask. — Raphael Helfand

Mary Timony: “The Guest”

The second single from legendary rocker Mary Timony’s forthcoming album Untame the Tiger is a straightforward take on a simple concept, executed to perfection. “The Guest” is a one-sided conversation between Timony and loneliness. (“You were the only one who never left me alone,” she jokes early on.) This tongue-in-cheek but still touching dialogue is ushered in by tasteful pedal steel and set to immaculate country-rock instrumentation, evoking Gram Parsons while adding some astute contemporary twists. Following an inspired guitar solo, Timony pivots briefly to a self-reflective mode, analyzing her relationship with loneliness rather than speaking to the condition directly — “Am I driven to emptiness, or does it just come to me?” she asks, “When all I wanna do is feel the light shining through me” — but she quickly switches back: “I wanna leave you behind,” she sings emphatically near the end, her voice warping into a higher register as she finally confronts her tormentor. — Raphael Helfand

Infant Island feat. Greet Death: “Kindling”

“Kindling” begins in a state of gauzy bliss, with Greet Death vocalist Harper Boyhtari’s translucent voice drifting over their bandmate Logan Gaval’s echoing fuzz guitar. About halfway through, however, the song descends on a dime into Infant Island’s extreme metal nether realm. Daniel Kost’s annihilating screams barely rise above the explosive force of his band’s instrumental, barreling forward to the beat of Austin O’Rourke’s propulsive drumming. But just as “Kindling” seems ready to pitch over the precipice into pure chaos, the thrashing dissipates and the band reenters the eye of the maelstrom. Once again, we glide into Greet Death’s celestial zone, leaving all earthly preoccupations miles below. — Raphael Helfand

Finnoguns Wake: "So Nice"

"'So Nice' is about a crazy night out where things get a bit topsy-turvy and people’s true colors are revealed,” Tim 'Shogun' Wall says about "So Nice," the new single from his latest band Finnoguns Wake. You might remember Shogun from his time fronting the excellent Royal Headache and his journey from the brash malcontent that fronted that band to the comparatively blissed-out force that carries "So Nice" is an intriguing development. Finnoguns Wake are their own entity, however, and sit in that curious pocket of punky bands sprinkling a little Oasis into the pot with anthemic results. Their debut EP Stay Young is due on January 26. — David Renshaw

Clyde Carson: "Saucin"

Clyde Carson’s new EP A New Year boasts a seriously impressive selection of beats that never keeps the rap veteran’s Bay Area origins too far from its sound. There’s the mafioso-tinged hyphy of “Comme De Garcon,” the decadently ‘80s R&B of “Slick,” and the menacing fiddle-led bounce of “Waiting For The Drop,” but “Saucin” stands out immediately thanks to its relative chaos. Strings fit for a French aristocrat’s candlelit ballroom open before deeply distorted kicks and synths send the instrumental from enchanting to intriguing. For good measure, an eagle’s cry is repeated throughout, and if you listen closely, you’ll catch a frog ribbiting. The absurdity only compliments Carson’s flexing — if you can’t believe what you’re hearing, the song implies, imagine how he feels when he looks in the mirror. — Jordan Darville

CEO Trayle: "4 And A Quarter"

An artist keenly aware of the value in his authenticity, CEO Trayle opens his new song with an account of getting a record deal, the best way he knows how: “They told me ‘sign for four and a quarter,’ but I want a nicklebag.” His raspy flow flips between amused and indignant as he puts distances between himself and the frauds, putting their schemes on blast in vivid detail (my personal favorite: paying someone to be their date to a club only for her to call her boyfriend after the night is through). He’s as concerned as ever with the snakes eager to stymie his journey to the top, but as “4 And A Quarter” demonstrates, he knows what to watch out for. — Jordan Darville

Lunchbox: "Usual"

New Jazz, a collection of sci-fi party jams from Harlem-based rapper and producer Lunchbox, was one of 2023's most bracing releases from the rap underground. His latest single, "Usual," keeps the vibe going with Auto-tune slathered vocals and gummy synths offering lift-off to cosmic locations (well, the moon). The track only runs for 90 seconds but a minute and a half is enough time to convince everyone that Lunchbox is going interstellar. — David Renshaw

Snõõper: “for yr love”

Snõõper’s emphatically quirky approach to sharp-edged garage rock on their excellent 2023 debut LP, Super Snõõper, elevated them to a more interesting plane than most of their Nashville contemporaries. They continue the trend with “for yr love,” a retro, almost surfy groove that threads the rare needle between Donovan and Donna Summer. The track could easily descend into pastiche in less imaginative minds, but Snõõper imbue it with an off-kilter, rushed intensity that gives it a chaotic edge while somehow simultaneously holding the whole whirlwind together. — Raphael Helfand

The Lemon Twigs: "My Golden Years"

Retro '60s fetishists The Lemon Twigs follow-up their 2023 album Everything Harmony kick off the new year with a fresh single. The tight, interlocking harmonies that define brothers Brian and Michael D'Addario's best work are once again present but "My Golden Years" adds an uninhibited element to their formula, with Michael's impassioned lead vocals cutting through the jangle-pop guitars. The result is infectious, with the band sounding like they now favor feelings over faithful homage. — David Renshaw

A.G. Cook: “Silver Thread Golden Needle”

Given that A.G. Cook’s game-changing experimental pop label PC Music wrapped up in 2023, it would make sense for him to feel a constant state of emotional overflow. I’d imagine he’d have a deep sense of appreciation for his supporters, the artists he worked with, and the early morning raves when everything they did together made the most sense. And while there’s relief, too, in finally shedding a skin no matter how comfortable it is, the anxiety of new beginnings is unavoidable. A sense of conflicted euphoria pervades “Silver Thread Golden Needle,” a 10-minute new song from Cook released on January 1, 2024. It kicks off with the furious, alien-transmission drums that have become a PC Music signature, though the overlaid arpeggios would have the quality of a lullaby if the BPM was a bit slower; later, bursts of harsh noise interrupt and overwhelm gently cooed, prismatic vocals. The song’s most poignant moment comes at around 6 minutes in with a section that feels like a tribute to Cook’s friend and collaborator SOPHIE — industrial-adjacent drums thump out a club beat and a brightly morphed voice forms its own language and grammar. — Jordan Darville

Songs You Need In Your Life: January 2024