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The 15 Best Songs of July 2019

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July marked the welcome return of five indie mainstays—Angel Olsen, Wilco, DIIV, Vivian Girls and Chastity Belt—but there were plenty of newbies who put out great new tunes as well. Among the many acts we vibed with this month were Dolly Valentine, Ducks Unlimited, Honey Lung, Young Guv and Black Country, New Road. Plus, we heard show-stopping numbers from country supergroup The Highwomen, Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and garage rocker Ty Segall. Scroll down to hear 15 of Paste’s favorite tracks from July, listed alphabetically by artist.

1. Angel Olsen: “All Mirrors”

Angel Olsen’s new album All Mirrors is described as getting “its claws into you on both micro and macro levels,” a creeping feeling obvious on the album’s first cut. “All Mirrors” is big—a blustering, imposing arrangement of grim strings, sweeping synths and oscillating percussion. —Savannah Sicurella

2. Black Country, New Road: “Sunglasses”

“Sunglasses” begins as a slow, minimal punk groover, marked by frontman Isaac Woods’ spoken-word observations, each evoking someone or something on the brink of breakdown. Things start to crumble as the emotional burden that Woods slowly unravels with each line becomes too heavy to bear, resulting in vocals and horns that both shriek for dear life. “Sunglasses” is concerned with harsh normalcy, personal inadequacies and superficiality, and Black Country, New Road capture life’s absurdity and cruelty in a ghastly post-punk odyssey. —Lizzie Manno

3. Blood Orange: “Benzo”

“Benzo” is classic Blood Orange, a subtle mix of soft drums, muted horns and Hynes’ lovely tenor. It also pairs surprisingly well with the short video, in which the frequent Solange collaborator plays a cellist performing for a Versailles audience. Sprinkled in with the traditional Marie Antoinette imagery (powdered wigs, flowing lace, etc.) are decidedly modern touches: empty cartons of Chinese food, scrolling digital signs and a notable lack of white faces. —Drew Novak

4. Brittany Howard: “Stay High”

“Stay High” is as gentle and stripped-back as what you imagined Howard’s solo work would sound like. Easy acoustic strumming, warm, unembellished percussion and what truly sounds like a toy piano put Howard’s stunning bluesy vocals at the forefront. There’s no big chorus or blaring, thundering instrumentals à la Sound & Color; “Stay High” is smooth and bright—another easy entry point into the rest of the musician’s forthcoming solo project. —Savannah Sicurella

5. Chastity Belt: “Ann’s Jam”

Chastity Belt’s new album opener “Ann’s Jam” features the feminist rockers’ signature electric riffs, tinges of lo-fi sounds and nostalgic, introspective lyrics. “We were driving South in your parents’ car singing aloud to scratched CDs,” Julia Shapiro sings, “feeling meaningful, thinking this is a start and it’ll go on.” —Marissa Matozzo

6. DIIV: “Skin Game”

“Things have to get worse before they can get better” seems to be DIIV’s M.O. for the band’s forthcoming third album (and first since 2016’s Is The Is Are), Deceiver. And prerelease track “Skin Game” is an excellent first taste before the album’s Oct. 4 release via Captured Tracks, mixing weighty guitar riffs and a hook of slick vocals for a cathartic peek at personal pain. —Drew Novak

7. Dolly Valentine: “Michigan, 1997”

Tinkling wind chimes are the first thing you hear on “Michigan, 1997,” a stunning walk down memory lane and the debut single from Dolly Valentine, aka Leslie Schott of dream pop duo Holy Golden and your new favorite singer/songwriter if you still miss Free Cake for Every Creature. Like Katie Bennett, Schott sings every lyric like it’s a secret, hushed and with care. Illuminati Hotties’ Sarah Tudzin produced the song, which also features warm harmonies courtesy of fellow friendly folk-star Field Medic and impressive whistling by Molly Lewis. —Ellen Johnson

8. Ducks Unlimited: “Get Bleak”

Featuring guest vocals from Laura Hermiston of fellow Toronto band Twist, “Get Bleak” is a jaunty slice of C86 indie-pop. The song pokes fun at the wishful thinking that simply moving to a new city will fix your problems, and it also sulks in that reality. “You flew across an ocean to / Get bleak,” sings lead vocalist Tom Mcgreevy against chunky guitar plucks. —Lizzie Manno

9. The Highwomen: “Crowded Table”

The new (but long-teased) supergroup/collective/movement led by Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires have shared the second single from their album, a harmonic ballad about family—or, at least, whoever it is you go home to—and inclusivity that will probably make you cry. “Crowded Table” was written by Hemby, Carlile and Lori McKenna, and if you’re a fan of those three ladies and their respective brands of earnest lyricism, we’re betting your heart is going to swell when you hear this tender tune. —Ellen Johnson

10. Honey Lung: “Nothing”

Opening with light acoustic strums and sedating, backwards guitar whooshes, “Nothing” strikes like quicksilver with a guitar riff for the ages. Besides the riff’s obvious stickiness, the juxtaposition between the tender and the blistering is what makes this track a winner. Lead singer Jamie Batten’s vulnerable lyrics, trustworthy lead vocals, and gentle xylophone touches coalesce with layers of supercharged, hooky guitars. —Lizzie Manno

11. Ty Segall: “Ice Plant”

“Ice Plant” is Segall at his most sparing. Gone are the fuzzy freak-fests and instrumental meltdowns; here are the airy vocal harmonies. Shannon Lay, the newest member of the rotating Freedom Band, duets with Segall on the track. Her voice is a lovely match for Segall’s, together imbuing the repeated refrain “Let your love rain down on me” with a disarming affect. Simple percussion and pianos bookend the song, which is otherwise entirely vocal. —Harry Todd

12. Vivian Girls: “Sick”

Dream pop heavyweights Vivian Girls have come out of the woodwork to announce Memory, their first new album in eight years. Their newly unveiled first single “Sick” is a frenzied, strong return to the band’s familiar jangle pop instrumentation, fleeting, twisting harmonies and dark lyricism. —Savannah Sicurella

13. White Reaper: “Real Long Time”

With whammied electric guitars, arena-ready vocals and an organ-led bridge, “Real Long Time” sounds so familiar, you’ll be singing along by the end of your first listen. That’s not a knock—the track is immediately catchy, with every member of the five-piece given a chance to soar above the rest in the groove-locked cut. —Harry Todd

14. Wilco: “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)”

Perennial alt-rock favorites Wilco just want to feel joyful. Is that so much to ask? In 2019’s dire, dreary political climate, maybe it is. Maybe we should risk our individual happinesses to better our community; maybe there’s a way to materialize that joy into political action. That’s the central tension in the band’s new song, “Love Is Everywhere (Beware),” the lead single from their newly announced 11th album, Ode to Joy. —Harry Todd

15. Young Guv: “Patterns Prevail”

On “Patterns Prevail,” the new song from Young Guv, singer Ben Cook suggests that maybe we should just relinquish ourselves to the poetry of the universe. “I can hear the whispers baby / All these secrets drive me crazy / Colours shift between the shading / I can see patterns prevailing,” he whispers during the song’s vibrant and warped conclusion. The track is a swirling delight, combining fuzzy production with warm melodies that sounds like an 8-track was left to melt in the summer sunlight for a few hours. —Harry Todd

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