So much has happened since August, when we last checked in. The sweltering summer days have given way to crisp fall air, and we're even vibing pumpkin spice lattes this year as we look for any and all reasons to feel good. What has remained constant is the stream of new music—and frankly, it's chaos. In case you missed it, Vin Diesel released a single, "Feel Like I Do," which somehow is even more surprising than the 2006 photo that resurfaced of him sporting a full head of hair. Kanye West went on a tweeting spree, sharing nearly 100 pages of his own record contract, in an attempt to offer transparency about predatory deals. (Thanks to the painstaking work of VICE staffer Drew Schwartz, we have concluded that Kanye's deal is actually pretty good.)
if all that wasn't hectic enough, Tory Lanez responded to Megan Thee Stallion's claims that he shot her in the feet last July by releasing DAYSTAR, a 17-track project that denies those allegations. After months of silence, Lanez's decision to release an album like this—the same week that the police who killed Breonna Taylor walk free—serves as yet another upsetting example of Black women's pain being exploited for profit. But even if Lanez doesn't deserve our attention, there are plenty of artists who do, including amazing new tracks from Mozzy, Julianna Barwick, SZA, Fleet Foxes, Moneybagg Yo, THEY., Nothing, and Deftones. We know it's been an exhausting month, so we've done you a favor and curated 25 of the best songs that dropped in September.
“FANCY” is the second single off Amaarae’s forthcoming project, The Angel You Don’t Know. Channeling the confidence and soft falsettos of singers like Donna Summer and the infectious percussion of West Africa’s Alté scene, Amaarae makes music that is timeless and consoling. Having grown up between Accra, Atlanta, and New Jersey, Amaarae has crafted an experimental sound that she describes as Afro-fusion, harnessing her unique approach to disco and R&B. “FANCY” was produced and co-written by London’s KZdidit and released alongside a vibrant music video directed by David Nicol Sey. It's a track about ascending, from an artist who is floating gracefully into her destined state of global superstardom. —Jaime Silano
In February, Brent Faiyaz's Fuck The World spent a lot of time interrogating relationships but was also extremely critical of life's tough questions. Fans of Faiyaz enjoy when he talks shit, as he does often, with the spirit of a rapper. "Dead Man Walking" finds the Maryland native bragging about diamonds dancing on his ear to the tune of "Toosie Slide" and $30,000 hotel rooms. Faiyaz shares why he's able to live this life on the hook: because he can. Critics often draw parallels between Faiyaz to the male vocalists of the genre's 90s heyday, and the new single is bound to draw more comparisons. Interpolating Notorious B.I.G's "Sky's the Limit," Faiyaz's tone feels like the second coming of Slim from 112, who sings on the hook. But, Faiyaz makes it edgier: "Spend what you wanna, be what you wanna be/ A young stunna til I D-I-E." —Kristin Corry
Brent Faiyaz, "Dead Man Walking"
Some dingdongs are still out there trying to make nü metal revival happen, and it's our job as responsible citizens to stop them. (If you squint really hard, you can actually see that Woodstock '99 was when we entered the Bad Timeline, and it was all Korn and Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock's fault.) But Deftones, a certified Good Band™, were unfairly pigeonholed into this miserable category for far too long. Real ones know that their particular breed of atmospheric, experimental metal is emotionally complex and ever-developing, and hot on the heels of the 20th anniversary of their opus White Pony, their new single "Genesis" is in many ways a return to their Around the Fur-era sound, with those same roaring vocals and pounding drums that reeled us in back when we had our chain wallets. It feels like a long-delayed sequel to "My Own Summer (Shove It)," a forever fan favorite that captures the angry suburban roar of Deftones at their best. Chino Moreno may be 47 now, but somehow he still sounds young, energetic and pissed—and, of course, there's still plenty to be pissed about. —Hilary Pollack
Before he put out his surprise fiddle-centric LP Long Violent History, Kentucky country singer Tyler Childers shared a video explaining his intentions for the release, imploring his largely white fanbase to empathize with the Black Lives Matter movement. "These are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and cousins, mothers and fathers—irreplaceable threads within their family fiber, torn from their loved ones too soon with no justice. And they're demanding justice, same as I expect we would," he said. The title track on the otherwise instrumental album makes his stance clear. He draws on his experience being a white man born in Hickman, Kentucky and sings, "But it ain't never once made me scared just to be / Could you imagine just constantly worryin’ / Kickin' and fightin', beggin' to breathe?” It’s a powerful statement from one of country's most promising voices, and Childers rightfully doesn’t care if it alienates a part of his fanbase to get his point across. —Josh Terry
Tyler Childers, “Long Violent History”
On the second half of a very dense Detroit 2, "Don Life'' opens up with a quote about people gawking at athletes for their multimillion-dollar salaries: "Well, if that's the case, that athlete must be worth—to his owners—billions of dollars." It's a fitting snippet for a time when Sean's label boss is taking on the music industry. Produced by Hit-Boy, the fast-paced song samples Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," and would sound right at home ringing through the rafters of an empty NBA arena. The track also features an exceptionally sharp assist from Lil Wayne, dropping golden-era Weezyisms like "Told my shrink that life is crazy / He said, 'Life is crazy.'" —Ashwin Rodrigues
Big Sean featuring Lil Wayne, "Don Life"
This is some dreamy change-of-the-season music from Madison indie rock band Slow Pulp, who have been rolling out singles off their forthcoming album Moveys, slated for release October 9 via Winspear. “At It Again” is a change of pace from the first two dreamy, downtempo songs off the album. Emily Massey’s vocals make all Slow Pulp’s songs sound like knowing lullabies, but this one has a sense of space and alarm. It is about falling into unhealthy behaviors and feeling out of control while orbiting around old pain and patterns. Listen to “At it Again” while taking respite from over-analyzing every move you make and take a walk to escape the peril of your own imagination. —JS
Slow Pulp, “At It Again”
Last week, Toosii released Poetic Pain, his new project which features songs with collaborators like Lil Durk ("Nightmares") and Summer Walker ("Love Cycle"). For those unfamiliar with the Syracuse-born, Raleigh-raised rapper, he lays out much of his ethos on the project's opener, "Sinners Prayer." Toosii's delivery is melodic and flashy at times, like the Johnny Dang grills he name drops, but he quickly urges you not to conflate that with his character. "They think I'm pussy 'cause I sing a lil bit / Bitch, I'm dangerous," he sings on the track. The song explores the dichotomy between prayer and the moral code of the streets. Searching for repentance gets a lot harder when you're on guard daily. —KC
Toosii, "Sinners Prayer"
Melbourne experimental outfit Tropical Fuck Storm is making music to steer the imagination towards what happens outside of space and time. TFS is the latest experiment from Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin of blues punk band The Drones, who recruited Melbourne musicians Erica Dunn (MOD CON) and Lauren Hammel (High Tension) for the band. They’ve released two incredible albums of brooding psychedelic punk under TFS. “Legal Ghost” is a menacing six-minute song that drifts into celestial chaos in its last 90 seconds. Tropical Fuck Storm is the product of four of Australia’s boldest rock musicians letting their affinity for havoc and distortion take the wheel. —JS
Tropical Fuck Storm, “Legal Ghost”
Saba is quietly Chicago’s most talented rapper. His full-lengths 2016’s Bucket List Project and 2018’s Care For Me leaned heavily on introspection and mortality, the latter of which was influenced by the death of his friend and collaborator John Walt. His output since then has included the boisterous Pivot Gang LP You Can’t Sit With Us, and now he’s back with a pair of solo singles. Whereas the moody “Mrs. Elsewhere” continues the brooding trend of his earlier oeuvre, the other track “Something in the Water” is breathlessly confident and confrontational. He enlists Denzel Curry on the song to talk about the ills of the music industry, with Saba rapping, "Contract, contact bullshit make you realize you been shorted, yeah,” before stating that, "I just set a target, I need a milli' in my wallet, yeah.” It’s an uncharacteristically braggadocious line from the rapper, but if his companion statement to the song—in which he says "I don’t really care to be understood right now in the same way that I think I did in the past''—proves anything, we should get used to his newfound boldness. —JT
Saba feat. Denzel Curry, “Something in the Water”
Masego is feeling cabin fever just like the rest of us. "Passport" is an ode to the thrill of international travel, which, six months into quarantine, currently feels like nothing but a fantasy. "And I don't wanna think about / Where we'd be if we stayed / That same route every day," he sings. (Yeah, no kidding.) Here, Masego is relishing in the moments of learning Japanese on the street, and turning off his phone to take in new experiences. With the world paused until who-knows-when, the first single ahead of his highly anticipated EP is the three-minute cure to our pent-up wanderlust. —KC
You may not know Joe Wong's name, but if you watched Netflix's 2019 hit series Russian Doll, you have heard his music. Since the early aughts, Wong has been working as a musician, composer, and now podcast host, starting off in the experimental rock band Parts & Labour and composing scores for Master of None, Adult Swim, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, and other impressive projects. Last week, he released his first solo album, Nite Creatures, a sharply produced collection of deeply personal psych-pop songs that feel like the perfect soundtrack for a 70s pool party or desert sunset. The title track is a golden stroll through a lush, orchestral landscape of vocal harmonies, horns, and twinkles, showing off the melodic sensibilities that prove he's long been ready to go it alone. —HP
Joe Wong, "Nite Creatures"
Ty Dolla $ign is the King of Hooks, which is why he can repeat "hit different" nine times on the chorus of SZA's long-awaited single and make it sound substantial. SZA takes a page from his effortlessly cool disposition and drapes a veil of nonchalance over the details of her less than ideal 'situationship.' Where Ctrl was punctuated with moments of frazzled energy, "Hit Different" acknowledges that there's no need to fret over what never had a solid foundation at its start. "Declining, quicker than we started / Evidence we misaligned," she sings. It's almost as if the TDE singer walks into these situations knowing that they'll make for juicy song material. —KC
SZA featuring Ty Dolla $ign, "Hit Different"
This posse cut marks the latest in an extremely prolific year for the Griselda artists. The best songs from the group appear on tracks like these: grimy, with pared-down sounds. (See: "Sunday School," "George Bondo," or "DR BIRDS.") On this track, producer Beat Butcha builds the song around a haunting and simple chime loop. Conway opens the track with raps about increased wealth and influence: A cop undervalues his Porsche by $40,000, and notes a "lotta albums are suddenly startin' to feel a lil more Griselda-esque." A fitting bar on an album titled From King To A GOD. —AR
Conway the Machine featuring Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn, "Spurs 3"
“Icon in Your Eyes” is a dreamscape of Hollywood, in a space somewhere between Dolly Parton, The Shangri-Las, and Broadcast. Brooklyn-based singer Rodes Rollins writes Americana pop songs that take dusty, psychedelic turns. Her approach to rock n’ roll is transcendent and nostalgic, calling on old Western elements and vintage riffs. Like some of her kindred indie rock and folk contemporaries Weyes Blood and Meg Remy of U.S. Girls, Rodes Rollins writes songs that evade time and that are not traceable to any one era in music. Her new album Dissociation is a glowing display of her potential as a songwriter and a poet. —JS
Rodes Rollins, “Icon in Your Eyes”
Summer is officially over, but "Wasted Energy" still carries the pum pum short spirit of the reggae riddim Alicia Keys is singing on. The backyard parties might be over (and really never started, thanks to COVID), but so is the relationship Keys details on the track. "Too many times, you turned a blind eye to the way I feel / You're the reason I'm numb," she sings. The R&B veteran isn't afraid to acknowledge that she invested way too much time in a one-sided situation, only to find herself depleted by the end. Tanzanian artist Diamond Platnumz appears briefly at the end, and his verse penetrates the soul even if you don't understand Swahili. —KC
Alicia Keys featuring Diamond Platnumz, "Wasted Energy"
Do we have permission to relax right now? If you, like so many of us, are having trouble shutting off your brain and letting your worries float off in the breeze like fuzzy little dandelion seeds, you should probably check out Julianna Barwick's entire discography, but especially her latest album, Healing Is a Miracle. The LA-based composer and producer makes music that is as gentle as sinking into a hammock, as comforting as a warm breeze on an autumn night, primarily achieved by layering translucent, ASMR-whispery vocals into gorgeous compositions. Through her music, Barwick truly is a healer; listen to this song with your eyes closed, and you might just be granted a few moments of blissful respite from all the noise. —HP
Julianna Barwick, "Healing Is a Miracle"
It's been just two years since Nothing released their third full-length album, Dance on the Blacktop, but so much has happened since. Funny enough, the typically grungy Philadelphia band has actually taken an upbeat turn. On "Say Less," which opens with a sample from "The Happy Wanderer," we find the Philadelphia spacewalking metal-gazers following a different path of 90s-throwback alternative rock, this time melding the radio-anthem appeal of Oasis (no coincidence, since the lyrics reference "a mourning glory story") with a danceable beat, all while maintaining those characteristically kaleidoscopic guitars. The result is a track that feels fresh but familiar, and most of all, huge—even a little bit "Everlong." It's an exciting preview of Nothing's ambitious future, one that truly breathes new life into some of our favorite sounds of the past. —HP
Nothing, "Say Less"
21st Century Blues, the latest album from veteran rapper NE$$ (Weekend Money, A-Alikes), is written like a collection of memoirs. The album is rich with complex rhyme schemes and abstract beats that paint a dystopian picture of youth and rushed maturity. Ne$$ has been penning the heartbreaking stories of systemic racism and police and state violence his entire career. He always finds distinct and distorted beats to work with. The instrumentals on this album, crafted by UK producer Baby J, are lo-fi and jarring, with out-of-tune strings that sound like fuzzy samples of distant blues songs, yet they are entirely his own sounds. “Somethin’ Outta Nothin’” is a complex trail of honest thought from a consistent voice in underground hip hop. —JS
Ne$$, “Somethin’ Outta Nothin’”
Tampa, Florida might be a hot spot for tourists, but the locals of East Tampa are forging their own buzzing rap scene separate from the city's attractions. On his latest track, Taleban Dooda is brimming with the rambunctious energy that comes with being 18. "Dis Dooda" might as well be an introduction course for creative writing, because the teen has got his similes on lock. Our favorite line is equal parts childish and cryptic: "Who wanna die? Y'all can get picked like a booger." It's not as tongue-in-cheek as Biz Markie's 1988 "Pickin Boogers," but it gets the job done. —KC
Taleban Dooda, "Dis Dooda"
It’s hard to choose a highlight off Untitled (Rise), the second masterful LP of 2020 from the mysterious U.K. collective Sault, because it’s such an undeniably cohesive and consistent collection of songs. Like its predecessor Untitled (Black Is), these tracks are supremely soulful, funky, and resonant, with lyrics that deal with racism, police brutality, and resilience. But the biggest gut-punch comes in the deceptively spritely piano closer “Little Boy.” The metadata on the song file says the track was written by singer Cleo Sol and producer Inflo. On the track, a vocalist who sounds like Sol sings, “Little boy, little boy, when you get older / You can ask me all the questions / And I'll tell you the truth about the boys in blue.” Later on, she sings, "Pain won't go away, God has chosen us / One day, you'll find out, God is one of us.” —JT
Sault, “Little Boy”
OFLO is an independent songwriter and producer from the Bay Area making magnetic pop songs that are equal parts Mac Dre and Mariah Carey. She wrote and produced all the songs on her debut album Temporary, a collection of West Coast flows and sweet, bouncy pop melodies. While some of OFLO’s best records are her most minimal (Thank You), her debut album is full of hypnotic vocal production and multi-layered arrangements. “My Way” is a standout track with a strong and sticky hook. —JS
OFLO, “My Way”
The first words frontman Robin Pecknold sings on “Sunblind,” the second track from Fleet Foxes’ transcendent surprise fourth LP Shore, are “for Richard Swift,” a tribute to the beloved producer and musician who died in 2017. On that song, he also lovingly references recently passed musical icons John Prine, Bill Withers, and David Berman, as well as Judee Sill, Elliott Smith, and Arthur Russell. It’s the most earnest contemporary love letter to music in recent memory, without sounding corny in the slightest. Pecknold sings of borrowing "a Martin or Gibson” and going out to “swim in deep American Water with dear friends,” referencing the Silver Jews record of the same name. The maximalist arrangement splits the difference between the dense and cavernous songs on 2017’s Crack-Up and the choral folk of the band’s 2008 self-titled debut, and it’s a stunning mood-setter for their most gorgeous full-length yet. For an artist who’s carved out a distinct sound of his own since Fleet Foxes’ Sun Giant EP, it’s refreshing to hear Pecknold so explicitly shout out his musical influences. —JT
Fleet Foxes, “Sunblind”
Mozzy can always be relied upon to release a project with weight. The Sacramento rapper’s albums possess a careful duality; they simultaneously uplift the spirit with smooth West Coast hits and paint cathartic pictures of struggle and heartbreak. Mozzy released Beyond Bulletproof in May, and he is back just four months later with 14 new tracks on Occupational Hazard. His delivery is rapid; he makes music out of necessity. “Heartbroken” reveals some of Mozzy’s most vivid and emotional lyrics on the album, and the hook is perfectly handled by Quando Rondo, one of the most striking voices in rap out of Savannah, Georgia. —JS
Mozzy and Quando Rondo, “Heartbroken”
One thing we love about R&B duo THEY. is their ability to sing whatever is on their mind. They've made Noisey's Best R&B Songs of the Summer list twice for their penchant for turning raunchy lyrics into easygoing melodies. The duo enlists rap veteran Juicy J for a verse on "STCU," a song about what happens when chemistry and spontaneity collide and condoms are nowhere to be found. Judging by "STCU" and "All Mine," a single released last month, their upcoming project The Amanda Tape is shaping up to be X-rated. —KC
THEY featuring Juicy J, "STCU"
We miss the days when remixes were almost better than the original songs. But, Moneybagg Yo gives us a glimpse of that nostalgia with a star-studded remix to "Said Sum," featuring City Girls and DaBaby. Each verse gets a little more arrogant than the last: JT boasts about a G-Wagon, DaBaby gloats about his ability to steal someone's girl, and Miami practically runs through an inventory of her jewelry collection. Moneybagg Yo, who is the unofficial ringleader on the track, has a closing verse that is the sum of all the parts that came before his own. Still, money is the only frequency that can be heard by the Memphis rapper. —KC