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The 15 Best Songs of February 2019

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From rap to rock to folk, February delivered a mixed bag of great new tunes from faces new and old. This month, musical vets Kevin Morby, Big Thief and Carly Rae Jepsen made their anticipated returns, and newcomers like Stella Donnelly and Hatchie shared singles from their forthcoming albums. Check out our 15 favorite tracks of February 2019 below, listed by release date and as chosen by the Paste Music Staff. For the best songs of January, go here.

1. Ex Hex:Tough Enough
Feb. 4

Earlier in February, Ex Hex released the music video for their new song “Tough Enough,” the opening track from their forthcoming album It’s Real, due out March 22 from Merge. The riff-forward DIY sound from the Ex Hex trio in “Tough Enough” finds its match with the video’s fuzzed-out, basement-show setting and apocalyptic conflict. As they riff around its low-scale flash, it’s apparent the power trio’s ability to utilize the noise around them is the true star of the video. The band explain in a statement that the single is “all about three-dimensional power chords interplaying with whammy dive bombs. It’s a song about turning on your tough switch and forging ahead through whatever storms are happening around you ’cause you have no choice.” —Montana Martin

2. Wand:Scarecrow
Feb. 5

“Scarecrow” picks up where the understated psychedelics of Wand’s 2018 EP Perfume left off with its rippling guitar line, downtempo rhythms, sparse piano and frontman Cory Hanson’s benevolent coo. Wand have always excelled at pretty, somber ballads, so if they decide to fill out the rest of their forthcoming LP (Laughing Matter, out April 19 via Drag City) with a similarly quiet and majestic take on their transcendent sound, it should make for a soothing listen. —Lizzie Manno

3. Charly Bliss:Capacity
Feb. 6

Charly Bliss have announced the release of their second full-length album Young Enough, due out May 10 on Barsuk Records. They shared a video for the album’s lead single “Capacity,” directed by Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast. “Capacity” has all of the band’s signature power-pop sound, but this time it appears to be pointed more towards major-key synths than the punk fervor of their debut record Guppy. The video for “Capacity” depicts the band members as robbers who have a falling out after completing a heist. Adam Kolodny served as director of photography for the video and Zauner edited it. —Adam Weddle

4. Fontaines D.C.:Big
Feb. 7

Following the release of singles like “Too Real” and “Chequeless Reckless,” both from Irish band Fontaines D.C.’s forthcoming debut album Dogrel, “Big” is a brisk, snappy post-punk tune with the heart of a lion. You shouldn’t write off frontman Grian Chatten’s speak-sing vocals—he packs just as much gritty ardor into his impassioned, poetic proclamations as throaty punk howlers. Speaking about the Molly Keane-directed video, the band commented, “We felt that great ambition was a sickness, and we got Grian’s 11-year next-door neighbour to say it to you all because he’s got the presence of a hundred frontmen.” — Lizzie Manno

5. Versing:Tethered
Feb. 13

Seattle four-piece Versing are living proof that college radio—in their case, Tacoma’s KUPS—continues to serve as a breeding ground for bands and music nerds alike. This month, frontman Daniel Salas, guitarist Graham Baker, drummer Max Keyes and bassist Kirby Lochner shared “Tethered,” the first single off their forthcoming Hardly Art full-length debut, 10000. The track is “about how people are tied together,” Salas says in a statement. “It’s a reminder of the interconnectedness of humans, to people who make excuses for not doing the right thing.” That specific message, and the sentiments of Versing’s songwriting, in general, feel meant for our dark and dismal political times. —Clare Martin

6. Lizzo:Cuz I Love You
Feb. 14

Body-positive bop star Lizzo has assembled a legion of loyal followers, and for good reason: Infectiously funky beats, catchy hooks and an unapologetic stage presence (which includes playing the flute while twerking) are just a few things to adore. Lizzo added yet another item to that list, debuting the addicting new title track from her forthcoming album Cuz I Love You—just in time for Valentine’s Day head-banging. The track wastes no time in sweeping the listener off their feet, cutting in with a soulful, wailing chorus that showcases a vocal prowess not previously seen from the singer. Crashing big-band instrumentals catapult you from one verse to another with a sound that’s full, grandiose and not at all unlike the swelling symphonic brass of Nina Simone’s equally addicting 1965 hit “Feeling Good.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lizzo song without a myriad of quotable quips, and verses rapped over dance-y jazz club-esque piano supply exactly that. —Lindsay Thomaston

7. Palehound:Killer
Feb. 19

It may be the middle of winter, but “Killer” is what Halloween-themed playlists have been wishing for. Dreamy, plucked guitar sequences invite the listener into the portrait of a walk home alone, down a sidewalk by the woods where the moonlight cuts through just enough to make you second-guess flickering shadows. Steady drums and a creeping, sinister bass slink in, ensnaring your attention before Palehound’s Ellen Kempner’s mesmerizing voice is heard crooning lines like, “Just because I feel the devil in your bed / doesn’t mean it’s you.” Wailing, howl-like riffs carry out the ominous dreamscape to a spine-tingling finish. —Lindsay Thomaston

8. Tierra Whack:Only Child
Feb. 21

Tierra Whack’s “Only Child” is the rapper’s first new music since the release of the “full-length” audiovisual album Whack World, one of Paste’s favorite rap albums of last year, which clocked in at a compact 15 minutes. As for what’s next for the breakout Philadelphia rap artist, Whack told Apple Music, “Being a female in music I just, I want everybody to, all the women to come in, and we huddle up and we work together and we help each other. You know, I’m willing to dim my light so that somebody else can shine because we all have to find our inner lights, and shine in one world.” Listen to the contagious “Only Child” below, as many times as the day will allow. —Montana Martin

9. Julia Jacklin:Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You
Feb. 22

“Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You,” what Jacklin says is her favorite song on her excellent new album Crushing (even though “that changes everyday”), is a revelation. Studded with bluesy, cathartic guitar solos, it’s a song about being trapped in comfort, about chasing a sun you know is going to set anyways. “Don’t know how to keep loving you,” she sings. “Now that I know you so well.” But, again, as on the rest of the album, Jacklin marches fearlessly ahead, through the pain, the loneliness, “into the darkness, or is it the light?” This is one of those songs that leaves me wondering, “How does she get on stage every night and bear her whole, entire soul?” —Ellen Johnson

10. Hatchie:Without A Blush
Feb. 26

Last year, Australian singer/songwriter Hatchie released her debut EP Sugar & Spice, a plush, saccharine sea of dream-pop as sweet as it sounds that earned her a spot on our best new artists of 2018 list. Now, Harriette Pilbeam is preparing to release her anticipated debut full-length LP. This month, she announced Keepsake is out June 21 on Double Double Whammy, and the news arrived with the lead single, “Without A Blush,” plus a ’90s-inspired accompanying video. Grunge meets glam in the “Without A Blush” video, which has a darker edge than anything Hatchie’s done before, as if her sweet syrup hardened to a twinkly tar. “You and I were destined to fall apart,” she sings over spikes of electric guitar and droning synths. —Ellen Johnson

11. Big Thief:UFOF
Feb. 26

Brooklyn’s Big Thief announced their third album, U.F.O.F., alongside its lead single and title track. The band’s characteristically gorgeous new single “UFOF” finds frontwoman Adrianne Lenker bidding a hushed farewell to a strange but not unwelcome visitor: “To my UFO friend, goodbye, goodbye / like a seed in the wind, she’s taking up root in the sky,” she sings, considering the connections between the cosmic and the earthly, the supernatural and natural. There’s an evanescence to Lenker’s lyrics (“Just like a bad dream / you’ll disappear”) that matches the track’s fleeting beauty—its rolling, fingerpicked guitars and tender rhythm section are here and gone, like a passing shadow. —Scott Russell

12. Carly Rae Jepsen:Now That I Found You
Feb. 27

Hear ye, hear ye: Our dear Canadian queen Carly Rae Jepsen released two new stellar tracks via School Boy/Interscope Records, and both songs are hypnotic, love-fueled and beat-driven. “Now That I Found You,” produced by the collective Captain Cuts (comprising Ben Berger, Ryan McMahon and Ryan Rabin of Grouplove), is a modern club banger while “No Drug Like Me” is a synth-heavy, rumbling slow burn with an intoxicating chorus. “’Now That I Found You’ is about the high you get when a new love starts to change your life,” Jepsen said. “It’s like the rush, rush, rush is better than any drug.” —Annie Black

13. Kevin Morby:No Halo
Feb. 27

Kevin Morby made a momentous announcement last week, unveiling Oh My God, a double album described in a press release as “a grandiose director’s cut of his biggest statement to date, epic in scope as well as sound.” Due April 26 on Dead Oceans, the City Music follow-up’s first single is “No Halo.” “This one feels full circle, my most realized record yet,” Morby continues. “It’s a cohesive piece; all the songs fit under the umbrella of this religious theme. I was able to write and record the album I wanted to make. It’s one of those marks of a life: This is why I slept on floors for seven years. I’ve now gotten the keys to my own little kingdom, and I’m devoting so much of my life to music that I just want to keep it interesting. At the end of the day, the only thing I don’t want is to be bored. If someone wants to get in my face about writing a non-religious religious record? Thank god. That’s all I gotta say.” —Scott Russell

14. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever:In The Capital
Feb. 27

“In the Capital” has the same glossy, youthful sheen that’s easily distinguishable on past Rolling Blackouts hits like “French Press” and “Talking Straight.” It comes as the first new music the Melbourne five-piece has put out since their debut album Hope Downs was released in June 2018. “I first had the idea for the melody and some of the lyrics when I was swimming,” said Rolling Blackouts’ Fran Kearney of the track’s creation. “It’s taken a while to finish the song, to make it feel like the initial feeling. I can’t neatly describe it, but something like connection despite distance. I was thinking about transience and water and death and big cities and fishing towns and moon river.” —Adam Weddle

15. Stella Donnelly:Tricks
Feb. 27

Australian artist Stella Donnelly previously released two songs off her forthcoming debut album Beware of the Dogs: “Old Man,” thumbing her nose at men in power, and “Lunch,” which explores life on the road with carefree wistfulness. “Tricks” feels like an upbeat, winning combination of the most recent two tracks, spinning together the wit of “Old Man” and the breeziness of “Lunch.” It’s a sunny single with an appropriately summery video to match. Directed by Nick McKk and Julia Jacklin (who recently played songs off her latest record Crushing in the Paste Studio), the camera follows Donnelly as she dances through Melbourne and disdainfully regards the flannel-clad douche-bro following her around the city’s lush streets. He’s a literal embodiment of the “racist Australian pride” the video’s accompanying press release says the track pokes fun at. —Clare Martin

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