Words by Brian LaBenne
Every month Off Shelf contributor and Best Song Ever Podcast host Brian LaBenne brings you the best singles of the month and puts together a playlist for your enjoyment. Below you’ll find five highlighted songs that stood above the rest, which is followed by the entire playlist. Please follow our Spotify account so you don’t miss any future playlists!
Romantic, Mannequin Pussy’s last album, was a punk revelation. Clocking in at just over 17 minutes over the course of 11 songs it was immediate, ferocious and emotional as hell. Fans have been anxiously awaiting what they would follow it up with for the past few years and finally they are readying the release of their Epitaph debut. Drunk II is the first taste from the new album and it is a complete surprise, while also making total sense. At four minutes and twenty eight seconds it’s nearly twice as long as the longest song from Romantic and it is also a bit more subdued; however, their guitars ring true and the songwriting is as emotional as always. It’s hard not to tear up and identify with the lyrics: “Everyone says to me / Miss you’re so strong / But what if I don’t wanna be.” This is an exciting step in a bit of a new direction.
Big Thief go full on twang with the beautifully written folk song Cattails. In a crowded field of great singles from the upcoming Big Thief album, Cattails clearly stands out and is probably the best of the bunch. U.F.O.F. is their third album, following 2017’s fantastic Capacity as well as last year’s solo album from singer Adrianne Lenker, this seems to be a strong statement from a young band that is really starting to hit its stride. Cattails is a beautifully rendered song that at once sounds as if you’re in the same room with Adrianne and at times overwhelms the senses with flourishes of instrumentation.
As a founding member of the rap boy band BROCKHAMPTON, Kevin Abstract has been incredibly busy over the past few years. Releasing four albums under the BROKHAMPTON moniker, as well as two solo albums in the same time frame, it’s safe to say that Kevin Abstract is currently one of the most prolific rappers making music. Over the course of a few weeks he trickled out a few songs at a time, finally culminating in the full length album ARIZONA BABY coming out just last Friday. This album finds Kevin Abstract going all over the map stylistically but no song quite nails everything together like Joy Ride. Beginning with Chance the Rapper-esque horns and auto-tuned out vocals the song only picks up more steam as it goes along transforming into what sounds like a lost Outkast that was recorded for Stankonia. Kevin Abstract continues his winning streak here and is such a unique voice in a crowded field. Make sure you don’t miss this one.
Just last year singer songwriter Hatchie took the indie music world by storm with her debut EP Sugar & Spice. It was a dreamy shoegazey pop album that was equal parts hypnotizing and catchy as hell. Keepsake is Hatchie’s upcoming full length debut and after a flurry of singles it’s safe to say that the buzz is only going to grow. Our very own Best Song Ever Podcast featured the previously released single Without a Blush and in the episode discussed how Hatchie recorded a song that she felt was maybe too poppy before realizing that she can really do whatever she wants for her debut album. Stay With Me is the aforementioned pop song and it is really a expertly crafted electro-pop song. Steeped in 80s synths and drum sounds this song will have you dancing on your own well into the melancholy night.
The most recent episode of the Best Song Ever Podcast features Daylight Matters, the first single released from Cate le Bon’s upcoming album Reward, as well as a discussion on the creation of the album. Cate le Bon was secluded on a mountainside in Cumbria and she would write and perform songs by herself on a piano. Cate says of the albums creation “There’s a strange romanticism to going a little bit crazy and playing the piano to yourself and singing into the night,” which definitely comes through in the music. Although these recent songs are Cate le Bon at her most accessible, there is a beautiful madness to them as well. Home to You is at once nostalgic and foreign. It circles around itself and gets stuck in several different grooves throughout its runtime. It really is perfect music to go a little bit crazy to.