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Ten great songs already released this year

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Ten great songs already released this year

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst performing in San Diego on March 10.

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst performing in San Diego on March 10.

Julianna Ress

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst performing in San Diego on March 10.

Julianna Ress

Julianna Ress

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst performing in San Diego on March 10.

by Julianna Ress and Spencer White

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In its third month, the music of 2019 is already a scattershot. New voices are finding their footing, old favorites are making admirable returns to form and collaborations across genre — and generation — are flourishing.

From heartbreak to flexes and from apathy to exuberance, the last year of the decade has already cultivated influence from the rest of the 2010s and looked forward to what’s to come. Here are 10 great songs released so far this year, selected by Arts and Culture Editor Julianna Ress and Staff Writer Spencer White.

 

Julianna’s Picks

“Only Child,” Tierra Whack

Coming off the critical success of her excellent 2018 record “Whack World,” a 15-track collection of one-minute songs paired with a surreal, brightly-colored album visual, Tierra Whack’s momentum hasn’t let up. Her recent single “Only Child” is one of the most simultaneously poignant and clever rap songs in some time.

“You must be the only child / Because you’re so stingy,” she psychoanalyzes an ex, grasping for an explanation for his actions. Then later, with a raised but trembling voice, she prays for him to change: “Darling, I’ve been calling on God for you.”

Her voice pierces and warbles, shifting with the sprawling emotions in the wake of a breakup. At times a kiss-off anthem, at others a descent into heartbreak, “Only Child” is as compelling and intricate as Whack’s vision of rap.

 

“Heads Gonna Roll,” Jenny Lewis

Indie icon Jenny Lewis’s first solo album since 2014, “On the Line,” is set for release later this month, and “Heads Gonna Roll,” one of the first singles from the record, finds the singer returning to her common motifs crafted with her experiences of real-life loss in the past five years.

After the five-minute track follows Lewis’s search for meaning among scattered memories, the song’s best moment comes at the very end, when she reckons with a coping mechanism: “We’re gonna drink until they close / and maybe / a little bit of hooking up is good for the soul.”

 

“Nights Like This,” Kehlani (featuring Ty Dolla Sign)

Few can articulate digital age heartache like R&B singer Kehlani. On “Nights Like This,” a cut from her latest mixtape “While We Wait,” she’s contemplating hitting up an ex. She stops herself, because she knows she’s been here before — late night, a few drinks deep, wondering where a relationship went wrong — and wonders why she still has the impulse after she’s been shown how these decisions end up.

“On some nights like this, I just wanna text you, but for what?” she asks. “You gon’ say you want me, then go switch it up.” “Nights Like This” is reminiscent of Drake’s “Marvin’s Room,” with a little more wisdom and restraint.

 

“Juice,” Lizzo

Minneapolis rapper Lizzo is one of the most infectiously joyous artists of the moment. Her single “Juice,” off her upcoming record “Cuz I Love You,” combines retro funk with her trademark flair for self love.

The gleeful, faux indignation with which she boasts, “Heard you say I’m not the baddest b—h, you lie,” is one of the song’s peak moments of jubilance, and Lizzo’s charisma is electric. In a perfect world, “Juice” would be on every radio station, where it belongs.

 

“Dylan Thomas,” Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst

Indie staples of past and present, Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst’s collaborative effort “Better Oblivion Community Center” is one of the best albums of the year so far. Single “Dylan Thomas” is full of quips like “So sick of being honest / I’ll die like Dylan Thomas / A seizure on the barroom floor,” exhibiting the succinct excellence of their combined songwriting chops.

On an album full of exemplary songwriting, “Dylan Thomas” is most indicative of Bridgers and Oberst as kindred spirits, delivering lines about conspiracy and brainwashing with a tongue-in-cheek wink.

 

Spencer’s Picks

“Only Human” Four Tet/KH

When Four Tet started playing this song in his DJ sets, and other DJs from all over the world started playing it as well, it quickly became the song of last summer that no one knew about. Fast forward to 2019, and the Nelly Furtado sample that the song is based around finally clears.

This song could destroy any dance floor, and when Four Tet recently headlined the Hollywood Palladium, he played the song twice, speaking volumes to the impact it’s already had. With the help of Furtado’s words from 2006, Four Tet reminds everyone that being a human being is just fine.

 

“Got to Keep on,” The Chemical Brothers

The Chemical Brothers making their return this year is already good enough, but when the band came out with this song, it brought a little bit more optimism in a rather dreary and rainy 2019.

It has bright chimes and a thumping bassline to keep anyone smiling on the dance floor, and sampling the famous monologue from “Blade Runner,” especially in the year the movie was based, is a total achievement in itself.

 

“2021,” Vampire Weekend

It’s been six years since Vampire Weekend has had new music. Since then, the band has lost an important member in Rostam Batmanglij, but gained several new ones.

A few of the singles from its upcoming double album “Father of The Bride” are incredibly short in length, but if Vampire Weekend become the jam band they are destined to be, especially after seeing the band improvise the way it did over the summer, I could see “2021” and others on the album becoming songs that have no defined length in a live setting.

 

“Where’s the Catch?,” James Blake featuring Andre 3000

In a star-studded album full of amazing features, no one steals the spotlight from the immensely talented James Blake quite like the Outkast mastermind does on this song.

Andre 3000 always delivers, even nowadays when his output is not nearly as prolific as it used to be, and no one can nail the dark moody tone of this track as effortlessly as these two do.  

 

“Inside My Head,” Audiojack

This song’s hook, “There’s something going ‘round inside my head,” is extremely infectious —  it’s an earworm of huge proportions.

DJs have already adopted the song into their repertoire, and considering the way it sweeps the floor, its clear its a special track from the Ibiza-based duo.

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