The 15 Best Songs of September 2019

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The 15 Best Songs of September 2019

The past month in music was ruled by heavy-hitters like The Highwomen, Angel Olsen and Sturgill Simpson, but some fresher faces made their mark too, like Corridor, Kate Teague and Sports Team. Featured below are memorable new tunes, song-of-the-year contenders and, possibly, your favorite track you’ve never heard. Dive into our 15 favorite songs from September, as chosen by the Paste music staff and listed alphabetically by artist. Listen to the Spotify playlist right here.

1. Angel Olsen: “Lark”

“Lark” is stunning in its dynamism, opening in the broken-hearted calm before a cathartic storm of overwhelming strings, thundering drums and Angel Olsen’s ever-emotive voice. The singer-songwriter weaves in and out of numerous distinct phases across the song’s six minutes and change, each of them mesmerizing—she looks back on a painful end while bound for a new beginning, singing, “Hiding out inside my head, it’s me again, it’s no surprise I’m on my own now / Every time I turn to you, I see the past, it’s all that lasts and all I know how.” —Scott Russell

2. Brittany Howard: “Georgia”

On Alabama Shakes albums, the lovers in the stories were often “boys” and “girls,” but “Georgia” is explicitly about Howard’s childhood crush on another girl. It sounds like a deep exhale. “Something about that song just makes me teary to this day, because it’s just a story of holding things in,” Brittany Howard told Paste. “But they’re good things like love, most beautiful thing we got, but holding it in, not letting it be released, saying, ‘No, somebody told me it’s bad to love somebody this way. I can’t possibly do that.’ But it’s so innocent, so pure and so beautiful. And ‘Georgia’ is the time for that love to just shine, and just come out and be noticed and be seen and be appreciated. So every time I’m performing that song, man, it just has a really special place in my heart.” —Ellen Johnson

3. Cate Le Bon & Bradford Cox: “Secretary”

Cate Le Bon and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox have banded together for a fourth installment of indie label Mexican Summer’s Myths series. Le Bon and Cox completed their seven-track contribution, Myths 004, in just one week. Along with the EP announcement, Le Bon and Cox have released the lead single, “Secretary,” which explores office-worker malaise. With her languid voice over plinking keys, warm strings and backing vocals that vie for your attention, Le Bon creates a world of her own—before it shifts, suddenly and seamlessly, to stark spoken word from Cox. —Amanda Gersten

4. Chelsea Wolfe: “Deranged For Rock and Roll”

“Deranged for Rock & Roll” follows suit with the other singles it joins for Wolfe’s new record, Birth of Violence, showing an apparent step in the direction of subtlety. Gone are the nightmarish riffs and howls of 2017’s Hiss Spun, and replacing them is something that’s closer to folk than metal. The main component of Wolfe’s new sound is the acoustic guitar, which she carries with her through the video for “Deranged for Rock & Roll.” While the song begins with light strumming under Wolfe’s reverb-tinged voice, a swelling of feedback opens the song up into a slow, dark ballad. —Hayden Goodridge

5. Corridor: “Domino”

“Domino” opens with chipper, call-and-response guitars bookending the mix, which are soon joined by propulsive percussion and the band’s subtle, inviting harmonies. But eventually, those irresistible melodies fall away, subsumed by a hard-charging, Krautrock-like instrumental break that wrests the song away as in a demonic possession—like an artist seized by inspiration, the self consumed by the act of creation. When Corridor snap effortlessly back into the groove at song’s end, it’s almost a relief—we’re faced once more with a hyper-melodic Dr. Jekyll, singing, “The morning was after me / And the day was taking its toll on you / It’s lined up just like dominoes / You open the door and you walk back in.” —Scott Russell

6. Danny Brown: “Best Life”

After several live performances this summer, Danny Brown takes a more reflective stance on his turbulent past on “Best Life.” Atop crackly strings, another eccentric beat courtesy of Q-Tip and what sound like nostalgic Motown samples, Brown shares how it feels to be on the other side of the relentless grime and crime of “Dirty Laundry.” Remembering a time when he was headed for “death or jailhouse,” he vows to live his best life: After all, it’s the only one he’s got. —Amanda Gersten

7. The Highwomen: “If She Ever Leaves Me”

Of The Highwomen’s 12 graceful, all equally important tracks, several bring new content to the country table. “If She Ever Leaves Me,” a meeting-of-the-minds between Carlile and album guitarist Jason Isbell, isn’t necessarily the first gay country love song ever written, but it’s certainly the first to be heard by as many people as will consume this album. —Ellen Johnson

8. Kate Teague: “Sweetheart”

Kate Teague makes her cutthroat message clear through her dreamy vocal delivery that she’s under the emotional jurisdiction of no one—and intends to keep it that way. “Sweetheart” emits a wonderful discord between the uncompromising stance Teague takes against being patronized and the blissful dream-pop that floats along behind her. She’s described the song as “a reflection on work experiences I’ve had with men,” and her voice, while alluring, is flared with an agitation that’s revealed with the mantra of “I can frown if I want to” in the song’s chorus. —Hayden Goodridge

9. Perfume Genius: “Eye in the Wall”

“Eye in the Wall” is a sprawling, ambient, near-nine-minute selection from The Sun Still Burns Here, Perfume Genius’ new “dance and music performance collaboration” with Seattle-based choreographer Kate Wallich, set for an October debut. “‘Eye in the Wall’ is the part of the piece where we lure you in and spit you out,” Wallich says. “A tornado of body, time, space, transformation and deterioration. It’s like pulling the Death card when you already knew what needed to end.” —Scott Russell

10. Soccer Mommy: “lucy”

“lucy” (here referring to the fallen angel Lucifer à la Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly) opens with spidery, effects-heavy guitars scuttling across the mix, all relentless melody, but with an unsettling edge. Meanwhile, a cucumber-cool Sophie Allison warns of “the root of all evil in a person with shiny eyes,” both personifying and assessing her moral decline; she recognizes that she’s being toyed with and seduced by darkness, but can’t break away. “Succumbing to evil / I thought I could never be,” Allison sings, “I look in the mirror / and the darkness looks back at me.” —Scott Russell

11. Sports Team: “Fishing”

The guitars on “Fishing” are hopped-up with giddy excitement as frontman Alex Rice employs jolly rock ‘n’ roll theatrics and wears a playful smirk. Sports Team’s music is by friends and for friends—a frisky riot with an enjoyment level inversely proportional to the number of tipsy, ride-or-die pals who join in. Rice sings over bouncy guitars, “We go out with our friends / And we sit by the Thames going fishing / I don’t need no conversation, please.” —Lizzie Manno

12. Sturgill Simpson: “Make Art Not Friends”

It’s difficult to describe the genius of Sturgill Simpson’s daring new album Sound & Fury: Is it a trailblazing rock effort, a quasi-country action film or a sludgy version of the synthiest parts of the Stranger Things soundtrack? All three, if you ask me. And the pinnacle of this supercharged endeavor is “Make Art Not Friends,” the new national anthem for introverted creative types. I’m a certified extrovert, but this song still makes me want to retreat to a dark studio and make something out of clay. Sturgill also sums up our collective exhaustion, hinting at the inevitable climate disaster as well as the political firestorms we witness every damn day: “Looking out the window at a world on fire,” he sings. “It’s plain to see the end is near.” Sigh, it doesn’t get much grimmer than that, but at least we still have art. —Ellen Johnson

13. Tegan and Sara: “I’ll Be Back Someday”

“I’ll Be Back Someday,” resurrects the pop-punk of 2002’s If It Was You and pairs it with an effervescent power-pop hook. (The song’s roots, of course, stretch back even further, to the sisters’ early punk band, called Plunk.) The result is so thrilling you wonder how the Quins have managed to keep the song a 20-year secret. In the album’s teaser trailer, a shaky early recording of “I’ll Be Back Someday” is superimposed with grainy home video of the gawky teens. The song suddenly transforms into its modern-day iteration. It’s a triumphant sort of time-lapse—present-day Tegan and Sara are very much grown up, gay and alive. —Zach Schonfield

14. Vagabon: “Water Me Down”

“Water Me Down” is another percussion-heavy, largely electronic track, in which Vagabon, aka Laetitia Tamko, merges the dense and the airy in service of a song about the weight of other people’s expectations. “Never meant for all of this / Never meant for you to love / Never meant for you to trust,” Tamko intones, pairing her rich vocals with feathery keyboards. “Water Me Down” is about freeing yourself from someone who wants too much and waters you down in the process, and in the new visual Tamko fittingly shows us a totally unforeseen side of herself. “I wanted to flex a muscle I haven’t shared yet,” she says in a statement: “dancing.” —Amanda Gersten

15. Wilco: “Everyone Hides”

“Everyone Hides” is the second single off Ode to Joy after “Love Is Everywhere (Beware),” and it zigs where that song zagged: Where “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” galvanized the listener to fight back against complacency, “Everyone Hides” acknowledges that stepping up is scary. Sometimes, each of us just wants to shy away, stepping instead into an imaginary world we wish we lived in, even if we lose ourselves there. The new single’s deftly synchronized instrumentation, too, evokes the concept of concealing one’s true self—it’s as if all the song’s elements are standing in single file and all we can see is one shape, a unified whole with countless layers of identity folded in. —Scott Russell

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