January came and went in the blink of an eye, and I think the fantastic music had something to do with it. I mean, when you have something as catchy as Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama’s new song, your days are bound to fly by. Earl Sweatshirt also has the ability to lull listeners into a hazy trance, and you can always wake yourself up with some Bambara or Gang of Youths. Time flies when you’re having fun, and your friends at Paste are here to bring you tunes that can help you escape. Revisit some of your favorite tunes and find some new ones below.
Listen to our Best Songs of January 2022 playlist on Spotify here.
In press materials for Bambara’s latest mini-LP Love on My Mind, Reid Bateh recalls being influenced by famed New York club photographer Nan Goldin, whose candid photographs of the city’s colorful underground has remained an aesthetic landmark decades on. “Birds” is their version of a quick, washed-out snapshot of big city sensuality. Bateh’s throaty vocals and swanky guitars echo dimly lit clubs as he sketches out a hazy, hyper-stylized memory of fleeting intimacy birthed from the loneliness of isolation. It’s cinematic and sensual with a hint of despair, as Bambara crafts an exciting brand of noir-punk in a world desperate for a good show. —Jade Gomez
The eighth (!) single released from Big Thief’s highly anticipated double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, “Simulation Swarm” might have felt like overkill if it weren’t so mesmerizing. A previously unreleased track that has been a live staple for the band, the song is driven by a positively hypnotic tangle of acoustic guitar and bass, with James Krivchenia’s percussion doing just enough to reinforce its insistent groove. A verse-heavy arrangement gives Adrianne Lenker plenty of room to unspool evocative lyrics like, “Once again, we must bleed new / Even as the hours shake / Crystal blood like a dream true / A ripple in the wound and wake.” Her meaning is elusive throughout, but feels informed by a lifetime of experiences, and the song’s refrain of “I wanna drop my arms and take your arms / And walk you to the shore,” which rubs elbows with a thrilling Buck Meek lead guitar line, is as beautiful and mysterious as anything Big Thief have released. —Scott Russell
Ahead of her sixth studio album, Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon has shared “Remembering Me,” our final preview of Pompeii before its Feb. 4 release on Mexican Summer. In a statement, Le Bon describes “Remembering Me” as “a neurotic diary entry that questions notions of legacy and warped sentimentalism in the desperate need to self-mythologise.” Her vocals float over fluttering synths and a hypnotic mixture of electric and acoustic guitars as she evokes the human predisposition to delusion—the stories we tell ourselves to feel larger than life. “Louder than empty rooms / Face down in heirlooms,” Le Bon sings over longtime collaborator Stella Mozgawa’s drums, her self-image’s shadow lengthening with each word while the instrumentation around her distorts like a Dali painting. —Scott Russell
With everyone trying their hand at hyperpop and PC music, it’s only fair that two of the most prolific innovators in the genres collaborate. A few months after the announcement of Charli XCX’s highly anticipated CRASH (March 18, Atlantic), the English singer-songwriter unleashed “Beg For You” with multi-genre extraordinaire Rina Sawayama. The two frolic through a drum and bass-influenced romp with acoustic accents, ultimately leading up to a repurposing of the ‘00s classic “Cry For You” by September. As Charli expands the manufactured pop-star persona that she channels on CRASH, “Beg For You” adds a melancholy facet to the tragic tale, echoing the heartfelt songs of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera’s youth. —Jade Gomez
Philadelphia post-hardcore titans Circa Survive released the EP A Dream About Love in 2021, and the band explored dreamier, airier sounds as frontman Anthony Green laments a crumbling world. This week, the band announced the follow-up, A Dream About Death, out Feb. 4 via Rise Records. The announcement arrived with the EP’s opening track “Electric Moose,” which finds Circa Survive testing their own limits with electronic elements and vocal manipulation. The trip-hop-inspired production is a drastic change from the guitar-driven rock that the band is tied to. Green’s soaring vocals channel the song’s tragic story of domestic violence as he commands, “Don’t lay your hands on me.” —Jade Gomez
Denzel Curry recently announced his forthcoming album Melt My Eyez See Your Future (TBA, Loma Vista). Lead single “Walkin’” does a lot without all the bells and whistles. The soul sample and folky guitars morph into a lush, minimalist beat as Curry reminisces on how far he’s come. Then, everything cuts out, leaving the vocal sample to hop onto new territories, with Curry switching up his flow effortlessly, slowly rising into the spitfire flow he’s become known for. It’s Curry at some of his best, as he ushers in a new era with Melt My Eyez.—Jade Gomez
Earl Sweatshirt makes music for himself, and his latest album SICK! is a testament to how therapeutic his solo path has been for him. On album standout “Vision,” featuring Detroit rapper Zelooperz, the two reflect on loneliness, brought on by both the pandemic and life changes. Earl alludes to the dissolution of Odd Future (“I did some dirt with the clique / Went and got cliqued by myself”) and his fear of those around him dying, and Zelooperz’s hypnotic verse surrounds his desire for a deeper connection to help him enjoy the lulls of life. Aided by Black Noi$e’s swirling piano loop, “Vision” is a chillingly beautiful lesson in loneliness and vulnerability. —Jade Gomez
At 27 years old, Richmond, Virginia’s own Fly Anakin has become one of the most exciting new rappers alongside his friends and peers such as Pink Siifu, Big Kahuna OG, Nickelus F and more. On Tuesday, Anakin announced his debut album Frank, which arrives March 11 via Lex Records, with the release of “No Dough,” produced by none other than Madlib. “No Dough” is a perfect display of Anakin’s captivating lyricism and delivery, weaving in and out of Madlib’s eclectic and chaotic collage of sound that he has become known for. Clocking in at just under two minutes long, the track flexes the New York-tinged ruggedness in Anakin’s breakneck raps as he reflects on his past, present and future. —Jade Gomez
On Jan. 11, Irish quintet Fontaines D.C.;—Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan III (bass guitar), Grian Chatten (vocals) and Tom Coll (drums)—announced the third album in what a press release termed their “triumvirate.” The follow-up to their 2019 debut Dogrel and 2020’s Grammy-nominated A Hero’s Death, Skinty Fia is out April 22 on Partisan Records. The band’s announcement was accompanied by the video for lead single “Jackie Down the Line,” a grungy strummer with shades of Nirvana. Over rumbling bass and acoustic guitar chug, Chatten sings from the titular figure’s cruel perspective, delivering fatalistic promises of pain (“I will hurt you, I’ll desert you / I am Jackie down the line”) and looking out only for number one: “What good is happiness to me / If I’ve to wield it carefully?” he muses. The track finds Fontaines D.C. at their darkest and hookiest alike, a formidable combination. —Scott Russell
The hype is real for Gang of Youths’ forthcoming album angel in realtime, and they outdo themselves on the soaring new single “in the wake of your leave.” Featuring backing harmonies from the Auckland Gospel Choir and percussion contributions from various drummers of the Cook Islands, the song is a loving tribute to the confusion that arises in the wake of death. “So as you canyoneered from our world upwards / And the angels took their place / I was the loser at your funeral / No emotion conveyed,” sings frontman David Le’aupepe. The song explodes into blissful harmonies and thrilling highs despite the somber subject matter, as if Le’aupepe is sending the song into heaven. —Jade Gomez
Junk Drawer describe themselves as “kitchen sink psych post-punk krautrock-worshipping indie rock” on their Bandcamp page, and the Belfast quartet are right on the nose. Their latest single “Tears In Costa” does not hold back on theatrics, and vocalist Stevie Lennox shines as he encompasses the effortless grandeur of everyone from David Bowie to The Waterboys’ Mike Scott. Their warm, fuzzy indie-rock edge makes for a familiarity that does not sound stale. Junk Drawer is an apt name for their hodgepodge of influences, but is not an indicator of their quality in the slightest. —Jade Gomez
Toronto-based musician Scott Harwood has been releasing compelling art-pop under the moniker Scott Hardware since 2016, and is now gearing up to release his third full-length album, Ballad of a Tryhard. The project’s lush second single “Watersnake” finds him staring down the foe he compares to the titular animal, all while backed by a sea of breezy guitars and soaring strings, which propel his voice forward. “Take the snake from the water please,” he begs as angelic backing voices carry the sentiment over dense layers of instrumentation, making it sound more like a demand than a plea. What appears to be a beautiful haze of overlapping melodies quickly reveals itself as a warning with weight behind it. Between this track and lead single “Summer,” Hardware makes a compelling case for what he calls his aim to create a “reimagination of experimental adult contemporary.” Few things released under the banner of adult contemporary have sounded as intricate as this. —Elise Soutar
Multi-disciplinary artist Shamir is gearing up to release his forthcoming album Heterosexuality on Feb. 11 via AntiFragile Music. Produced by Strange Ranger member Hollow Comet, the album was recently featured on Paste’s Most Anticipated Albums of 2022 list. “Reproductive,” Shamir’s latest single, opens with slick R&B vocals and ‘90s-alt guitars as his voice touches thrilling highs. Shamir wades through the pressure of breaking generational curses, as he sings “I’ll make sure the evil ends here with me/ If it’s the only thing I do” over the hypnotically repetitive pitter-patter of drums. It’s an ode to the uglier side of healing and acceptance, and it’s wholly necessary. —Jade Gomez
Alongside Philadelphia punks Soul Glo’s announcement of their forthcoming album Diaspora Problems, out March 25 via Epitaph, the band has also shared the album’s first single “Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future)).” The song is an intense hardcore punk jam in the vein of Bad Brains and Black Flag, titans of the genre in the 80s and 90s. Frontman Pierce Jordan’s vicious spitfire lyrics clash in a chaotic fusion with groovy bass and breakneck drums as he launches a scathing critique of the disposability of Black art, with people finding value only after these creators die. “Like, I can get touched before I get to really speak / Would you be surprised if I died next week,” Jordan questions, as the band rages on in necessary fury. —Jade Gomez
Singer/songwriter Sarah Beth Tomberlin, best known simply as Tomberlin, is back with her first new material since 2020. Her new single “idkwntht” (short for “I don’t know who needs to hear this”) is out now, featuring guest vocals from Told Slant’s Felix Walworth. “idkwntht” is a spare, yet lovely indie-pop tune that pairs folksy acoustic guitar with jazzy keys and horns. Tomberlin and Walworth trade gentle vocals over the former’s fingerpicking and the latter’s electric bass and drums, while Philip Weinrobe’s una corda piano, Shahzad Ismaily’s electric guitar, Stuart Bogie’s tenor saxphone, and spoken-word recordings all flit in and out of the mix. Over a timeless set of chords known as the ‘50s progression, from which the chorus-less track never deviates, Tomberlin encourages whoever may be listening to express themselves through song so that others might find solace in their sounds: “I don’t know who needs to hear this / Sometimes it’s good to sing your feelings / And every time I open my mouth / Hope something halfway helpful falls out.” —Scott Russell
Listen to our Best Songs of January 2022 playlist on Spotify here.