With Paste Music’s top albums of September already in the books, it’s now time to put last month’s individual songs under the microscope. You may think the two go innately hand-in-hand, and to some extent, that’s true: Songs by Alex G and Björk do appear here. But the rest of this list features September tracks that stood out to us even from amid a sea of new singles, including major statements by Weyes Blood and Wednesday, as well as another enchanting new Nick Hakim tune. Ease into Paste Music’s favorite songs of September below.
Listen to our Best Songs of September 2022 playlist on Spotify here.
It might be easy to assume that God Save the Animals results from Alex Giannascoli embracing religion, though he insists the connection isn’t there. Within many of these new songs, though, is a tangible sense of reverence. From the narrator of “No Bitterness” saying with an audible smile that he takes inspiration from a child’s sense of wonder, to the faithful operator in “Mission,” these stories explore our loyalty to ourselves, to the forces in our lives, and to each other. That last one is the heart and soul of “Miracles,” the record’s most impressive offering, and one of the strongest to date for Alex G. We see a couple looking back at their past together and facing the unknown challenges the future may bring, but doubling down on their faith in each other, a dynamic beautifully described in one verse; “You say one day / that we should have a baby / Well, right now baby / I’m struggling, we’ll see,” followed by another, a quick changing of the mind; “You say one day / we should have a baby / Well, god help me / I love you, I agree.” —Eric Bennett
Algiers feat. billy woods and Backxwash: “Bite Back“
Atlanta-based quartet Algiers “Bite Back” on their first new single since 2020, featuring underground hip-hop heavyweights billy woods and Backxwash. The band break new stylistic ground on the six-minute statement track, keeping an eye on unchecked, insidious forces over a darkly twitchy, yet sprawling instrumental, and layering in their collaborators’ distinctive verses for maximum effect. “Shit’s been so real the past few years, we really needed to grow our community of collaborators and make solid the bonds we’ve always felt, particularly with rap heads,” said Algiers multi-instrumentalist/producer Ryan Mahan in a statement. “And to have the two best rappers around, billy woods AND Backxwash, on the same Algiers-produced track? Pinch me, for real.” —Scott Russell
Alvvays seem to have wistful, yet rocking tracks built into their band’s DNA. “Belinda Says” is so wide as to be almost cinematic—it has a key change, for god’s sake. Like a train, it accelerates toward you, then blows past just as you think it will hit you in the chest. The guitar part makes all the room it can for itself, while Molly Rankin calls over it, “Paradise and I find myself paralyzed / Knowing all too well, terrified / But I’ll find my way.” As a song, it is the most pleasant blur of slight terror that I have ever experienced. It swaddles you in slight anxiety, keeping you at peace with the state of confusion. It’s a song ready for the larger audiences Alvvays have amassed over the five-year buildup to their latest album Blue Rev, out Oct. 7. As always, the band keep their sense of humor, calling the song a “new [lamb] for the cultural volcano” and a “sweet slurp of alcopop dedicated to the girls wiping tables.” If that’s not compelling, then what is? —Rosa Sofia Kaminski
If I may quote an unusually eloquent YouTube comment, “Bill [Callahan] has us all in the palm of his hand.” The oaken-voiced Drag City singer/songwriter makes mesmerizing music seem easy, as most recently heard on “Coyotes,” the lead single from his forthcoming album YTILAER (Oct. 14). Gentle acoustic guitar abuts wandering piano and smoky electric riffs, the instrumental equivalent of a campfire fizzling out at dawn. Meanwhile, Callahan creates a lyrical mosaic of nature, time, survival and togetherness, all revolving around “A dream of a coyote / Watching over you and me.” The song moves slowly through all these eternal ideas, Callahan’s full-band backing lending the force of ages to his meditative songwriting, and finds itself, finally, in a place of unconditional love. —Scott Russell
“Ancestress,” Björk’s epitaph for her mother, the Icelandic activist Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir, is easily the best of Fossora’s grief songs. Across seven devastating minutes of strings, volcanic mini-beats, occasional gongs and vocal arrangements developed in collaboration with her son, Sindri Eldon Þórsson (who also contributes vocals), she honors the love her mother poured into her without overlooking her less agreeable traits. When she sings, “She invents words and adds syllables,” stretching out the last word as if reaching into the afterlife, you get the sense she sees this in herself. When she sings, “The doctors she despised / Placed a pacemaker inside her,” you instantly see the difficulties she faced while helping her mother survive. It’s a tremendous achievement in the balance among lyrical economy, vivid storytelling and generous orchestral-electronic arrangements that defines Björk’s best work. —Max Freedman
It starts off so light you’re almost afraid to breathe, the guitar strings picked like they might break. And then the typical gravitas of folk supergroup Bonny Light Horseman kicks in, with their simple melodies emphasized by beautifully drawn out notes and bittersweet harmonies. It always feels like they’re singing you a tale passed down through many hands, at the same time as it feels incredibly personal. In this track, this rings particularly true, with the opening lines, “I was named after my father, in a long line of nobodies.” With this story covering multiple generations, the song does feel like its wingspan stretches throughout time. A sweeping and desolate picture is painted; the instrumentation is simple and not overcrowded, yet still full, producing a wide-skyed feeling. You can feel the band coming together and holding each other up through their instruments. It’s one of those catchy ballads that sweeps you with melancholy, yet begs you to press rewind as soon as the track comes to an end. Produced by band member Josh Kaufman, this is the fifth and final single off the band’s their forthcoming album Rolling Golden Holy, out Oct. 7 via 37d03d. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski
Kaleidoscopic indie-pop act The Go! Team are back with a follow-up to last year’s Get Up Sequences Part One, coming Feb. 3, 2023, on Memphis Industries. Lead single “Divebomb” is out now to light a fire under your day. Punchy piano and blown-out guitars lead the way on “Divebomb,” a pro-choice protest song that showcases 19-year-old Detroit rapper IndigoYaj. The emcee raises her voice to underscore the importance of doing exactly that: “I’ve got the viewpoint and I’m taking aim now,” she raps over The Go! Team’s characteristically vibrant instrumental, which is later accented by police sirens and the whistle of falling bombs. Few bands could make taking a fierce stand for reproductive rights sound so fun. —Scott Russell
Somehow, Meg Duffy (the artist behind the project Hand Habits) will have you singing along in your bedroom to the terrifying grips of time on this latest track. Building the sound with a slide guitar at the base, their song has a nearly pop feel with gratifying moments of release to jam out to. “I’ve seen the greatest weapon / Of all time / It’s time itself,” Duffy cries, yet they give themselves over to this with notes of underlying joy. Featuring Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn on backing vocals, and released via artist-run recording company Psychic Hotline, this is a project made in collaboration with friends, and feels driven by such a passion. There’s a relentless drive to the chorus, something that won’t stop going through your mind hours after your last listen. Winking at fear, Duffy seems to take it in stride, crumbling at time’s feet while finding the fortitude to write a song about it all. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski
There’s something special about your first real dance party, that exhilarating immersion in music that both physically and mentally moves you. Jamie xx taps into that experience with “KILL DEM,” a new track inspired by his memories of attending London’s Notting Hill Carnival as a teenager—built on a sample of Jamaican dancehall artist Cutty Ranks, the song honors the Carnival’s Caribbean flair, with bright acoustic guitar and hand percussion adding a layer of breeziness to its forceful synth and bass pulse. The xx’s sonic architect juggles these elements with the expertise of someone with a lifelong passion for songcraft, which shines through without ever calling attention to itself. “KILL DEM” is only the third track Jamie xx has released since his acclaimed 2015 solo debut In Colour, but with each new dance jam he releases, including 2020’s “Idontknow” and April’s “LET’SDOITAGAIN,” our hopes get a bit higher. —Scott Russell
Louis Cole’s latest single feels like someone struggling to get out of their bed in the morning, then spending a few minutes jumping up and down on it, finding joy in spite of themselves. The Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist’s latest Quality Over Opinion (Oct. 14, Brainfeeder Records) single pairs delightfully funky instrumentation with lyrics that appear dark, until you spot the light shining in around the edges. Cole does it all on the song, handling drums, synth bass, keys and vocals, with Henry Solomon (saxophone), Rob Sheppard (flute), Jon Hatamiya (trombone) and Aidan Lombard (trumpet) backing him on brass. The quintet’s Stevie Wonder-esque instrumental is an ebullient backdrop to Cole’s candid consideration of depression (“Time moving / Nothing stays the same / But I’ve been in this same shirt for so many days”), which he defies with every breath: “I hear nothing callin’ out my name / That’s OK / Here I am, fuckin’ answering anyway,” he croons in the prechorus, bringing you along as he dances his way toward “A little light, yeah, up ahead.” —Scott Russell
Nick Hakim is no stranger to highly intimate music, and his latest single “Vertigo” does not break the pattern. The song’s hazy thrum holds you close, with the folk-soul musician once again showing his affinity for a touch of psychedelia. It is the second single released in the buildup to Hakim’s latest album Cometa, to be released via ATO Records on Oct. 21. The album as a whole serves as an exploration of floating love. “The key is to find that extremity of love for yourself,” Hakim says in a statement. “It’s about growing into someone you want to be; it’s about finding pure love within yourself when the world around us seems to be crumbling.” Opening with a rhythmic, muted guitar, and surrounding you with Hakim’s echoing vocals, “Vertigo” suspends the listener, asking them to trust in this out-of-body experience. The lyrics emphasize, “Spinnin’, fast as hell can’t tell if it’s me or the room that’s moving.” And the music video released for the single definitely drives this point home. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski
This gentle, lightly glittering new release from Rozi Plain instantly sits just beneath your skin. The soft instrumentals and patient builds leave the song feeling almost ambient, and ensure a softness present throughout the blue-tinted track. The track feels like a conversation between friends or lovers behind closed doors, a moment of disagreement that you perhaps weren’t supposed to catch. Plain shares, “Mainly it’s thinking about how easy it can be to unknowingly make decisions on behalf of other people, thinking you might know what’s best or right for a situation where as maybe it’s just what was easiest for you.” This is the first single released off Plain’s newly announced album PRIZE, out Jan. 13, 2023, via Memphis Industries. Like sliding into a lake for a quick swim, and without a splash all of a sudden finding your body in a whole new environment, “Agreeing for Two” submerges you. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski
Imagine trying to weave a spiderweb with your voice, and you’re close to arriving at a Skullcrusher song. Singer/songwriter Helen Ballentine (aka Skullcrusher) has released a new single “It’s Like a Secret,” and it’s just as heartbreaking and heart-filling as you’d expect. Her voice is full, yet very delicate, and there is not much accompaniment besides dreamy, airy guitar. This is the third track released off her forthcoming debut album Quiet The Room, out Oct. 14 via Secretly Canadian, and as the title might suggest, it really does feel like Ballentine is imparting something vulnerable and close to her heart to you. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski
Asheville, North Carolina, quintet Wednesday have a new label, Dead Oceans, and a stunning new single and video, “Bull Believer.” The eight-and-a-half-minute track actually stitches two distinct song concepts together, “Bull” and “Believer,” as if challenging the listener to connect their seemingly disparate emotional dots. With its guitar-harmonic flares and quiet, coiled tension, “Bull” feels something like a spiritual successor to Sonic Youth’s “Bull in the Heather”—at least at first. In the second verse, while Karly Hartzman traces the cyclical heartache of caring for someone in the throes of addiction (“Comfort fools us into faith / Then fate pulls us away again”), MJ Lenderman and Xandy Chelmis suddenly unleash explosions of distorted guitar and lap steel, respectively, as if attempting to tear the song apart. Hartzman soon bridges the gap between the song’s two phases—literally referencing a bridge on either side of the shift—as “Believer” swerves into subdued shoegaze strums, images of lightning-split skies and makeshift roadside memorials steering the song from anger into sadness. Between its first two verses, the song shakes, as if sobbing. Margo Shultz and Alan Miller’s steady low end and Lenderman’s probing riff accompany Hartzman into her memories of teenage angst, but it’s the vocalist’s emotional catharsis, buoyed by the band’s waves of crashing noise-rock, that takes over the track as she quotes Mortal Kombat with increasing intensity: “Finish him.” Eventually, her words dissolve into full-throated screams, as if Hartzman is exorcising a lifetime of pain. —Scott Russell
After a breadcrumb trail of teasers, we can finally officially confirm that Weyes Blood is back, baby. Sub Pop will release the Natalie Mering project’s latest album, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, on Nov. 18, and its opening track and lead single “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” is out now. The track is one of 10 that “shed light on the meaning of our contemporary disillusionment,” as Mering writes in an extensive letter accompanying the album’s announcement, describing 2019’s Titanic Rising as “the first album of three in a special trilogy.” Our first preview of its second chapter, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” is a sweeping call for kindness and unity amid unimaginable upheaval, which is another way of saying it’s the exact song we need right now. “Living in the wake of overwhelming changes / We’ve all become strangers / Even to ourselves,” Mering observes over stately piano, percussion and strings, later wondering, “Has a time ever been more revealing / That the people are hurting?” The choruses’ choir-like backing vocals and harp flourishes further make “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” as soul-stirring as it is soul-soothing. —Scott Russell
Listen to our Best Songs of September 2022 playlist on Spotify here.