The 15 Best Songs of October

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The 15 Best Songs of October

October was full of great albums—and great singles, too. Though not all the artists on this list released a full-length record in the past 31 days, they, too should be highlighted for soundtracking the month. October started out strong with the “Comeback” from Sharon Van Etten and only got better from there: new tracks from Girlpool and Beach House arrived, along with stellar tunes from newer faces like Honey Lung and Whim. We rounded up all our favorite new tracks from the month, as chosen by the Paste music staff and ordered by date of release. Listen to them all below.

1. Sharon Van Etten:Comeback Kid
Oct. 2

“Comeback Kid,” the first single off Sharon Van Etten’s forthcoming album Remind Me Tomorrow, is the sound of glimmering street lights flitting by on a nighttime power-drive, a thoroughly darker and more driving sound than her work on Are We There. Where that album found Van Etten reveling in the slower moments of transit, “Comeback Kid” feels like something more urgent, a flight in which there’s no time to enjoy the ride. The lyrics give weight to this feeling of escape: “I’m the runaway,” Van Etten sings over heavy synths and a motoring drumbeat. “Don’t look back / watch me run away,” she commands during the chorus. —Justin Kamp

2. Kurt Vile:One Trick Ponies
Oct. 4

“One Trick Ponies,” the third single from Kurt Vile’s new album Bottle It In, is a classic roots-rock jaunt, with Vile showing off on harmonica, piano, guitar and vocals, and features from Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa and Farmer Dave Scher. The song finds him back in Waking on a Pretty Daze form, the thick guitar tone and animated vocals sounding more like that landmark release than anything from his recent work. But Vile is Vile, and his style does not falter. He’s cool as a cucumber, even when he’s ripping it. “One Trick Ponies” has his signature low-key complex lyricism, with lines like, “and we was tripping out ‘cause we needed a way out / and all them other crystalline mystic rationalizations,” somehow managing to sound like the most unruffled one-offs ever. —Justin Kamp

3. Courtney Barnett:Small Talk
Oct. 4

“Small Talk,” an outtake from Barnett’s 2018 album Tell Me How You Really Feel sounds a lot like most songs on the LP: an expansive, vamp-based affair with sunny choruses. Barnett’s hook-writing has only gotten sharper as time goes on. Where her early work would have been satisfied to let the interlocking organ/bass line groove ride for the entire runtime, here she injects an immediately felt, warmly rendered chorus of group singalongs. Her lyrics are, as always, sharp as a tack. She takes the title seriously, regaling us with the shaggiest of shaggy-dog stories about whatever seems to float into her mind. “I’ve got a brother, Blake / he’s four years older than me / and I guess he always will be,” she sings, somehow managing to be both hilarious and weirdly philosophical. If she never got into business as a musician, Barnett could roundly kick all of our asses at this writing thing. —Justin Kamp

4. Girlpool:Where You Sink
Oct. 9

Girlpool shared a pair of gorgeous new songs, “Lucy’s” and “Where You Sink,” ahead of their North American tour with Porches. It’s the duo’s first new crop of songs since their Dev Hynes-produced single “Picturesong” was released in February. “Lucy’s” and “Where You Sink” share a subdued, thrumming beauty that is anchored by the band’s signature vocal harmonies. Co-vocalists Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker each get their moment to shine, with Tividad’s ghostly cooing giving “Lucy’s” a haunting weightlessness, and Tucker’s weightier vocals propelling “Where You Sink” onward and upward through layered guitar arpeggios. Of “Where You Sink,” Tividad said the song “explores our fixations on characters in our lives and the projections we create … It’s about loving someone who you don’t really get the chance to know fully because their time is spent trying to get out of their own head, further from reality.” —Justin Kamp

5. Oh Pep!:Your Nail And Your Hammer
Oct. 16

“Your Nail And Your Hammer” follows two previously released singles, “Hurt Nobody” and “What’s The Deal With David,” from Oh Pep!’s new LP, I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You…. Where the former track is a winking take on relationship banter (not to mention an absurdly fun mandolin mash-up), “Your Nail And Your Hammer” is more serious: “Cold little heart breaks apart / With your nail and your hammer.” But the song’s facade is anything but icy—a catchy melody and etched twinkle warm the track right up. Oh Pep!’s Olivia Hally, who writes most of their lyrics, said of the song, “This was of a fleeting encounter where my imagination flared, prompted weeks later by some song titles I had written on my wall.” —Ellen Johnson

6. Honey Lung:Export the Family
Oct. 17

“Export the Family” is Honey Lung’s second single for London indie label, Killing Moon Records, and it follows the raucous, grungy single “Sophomore” and their debut EP, Kind Of Alone. Early next year, the band will also feature on a limited edition vinyl with New York label Kanine Records. “Export the Family” is both vulnerable and cacophonous, creating a thick cloud of emotion and noise via whooshing guitars and oscillating synths. Like another one of their singles, “Stuttering Mind,” this track proves lead singer Jamie Batten’s grimy vocals connect just as deeply when he’s reaching for uplifting, anthemic rock as they do when he’s digging for gravelly punk commotion. Honey Lung have consistently churned out hyper-melodic rock with heart and bite and this new cut is no exception. According to the band, the song was written and recorded in a week and they added that it’s “a track that we felt strongly about since its inception.” —Lizzie Manno

7. Becky Warren:Carmen
Oct. 19

Country singer/songwriter Becky Warren is not afraid to tell difficult stories. On her sophomore LP, Undesirable, she shines a spotlight on the homeless and impoverished populations in her hometown, Nashville, Tenn. She spent time chatting with street corner vendors and families looking for housing, and though her songs don’t explicitly fly like informational flags, the narratives feel so real and burst with humanity. While the video for single “Carmen” is a fun, arcade-themed adventure that’ll shake loose memories of playing Pac-Man at the pizza parlor, the song’s story is another of Warren’s emotional tales, but certainly one of the lighter ones on the record. “Carmen” isn’t Pac-Man; it’s a “two-person game,” a love song about making things work. “Some day we’re gonna make ends meet,” Warren sings. “I’m gonna find a little blue house / We’ll peel potatoes on a couch someone left on the curb.” It sounds more like sludgy Southern-rock-meets-folk-pop than syrupy songwriter fare, like if Carrie Underwood jammed out with She & Him, which makes it a seriously fun listen. —Ellen Johnson

8. Beirut:Gallipoli
Oct. 22

Beirtut frontman Zach Condon said the band’s forthcoming new album, Gallipoli, came to him after rediscovering his Farfisa organ, the instrument on which he wrote much of 2006’s Gulag Orkestar and 2007’s The Flying Club Cup. While the organ stayed at his home in New York, Condon began to spend more time in Berlin, eventually moving there to live full-time, which led to an exodus through the streets of Gallipoli. It’s that combination of nostalgia and new experiences that courses through the song “Gallipoli.” Condon’s unique brand of baroque pop is alive and well, full of joy, wonder and invention in equal measure. It shuffles like the religious procession Condon and company shadowed that fateful day in its namesake city. The flugelhorn rises, the timpani rolls and, of course, the Farfisa, too, fluttering along behind the whole thing, a reminder of where the band has come from. It’s a testament to how much has changed, and how little at the same time. —Justin Kamp

9. Grapetooth:Blood
Oct. 24

Grapetooth’s “Blood” is the fourth single from their forthcoming debut self-titled album, out Nov. 9 on Polyvinyl. “Blood” joins previous singles “Trouble” and “Violent” in the ranks of soon-to-be party-soundtrack mainstays. It feels like a cut from the opening to an ’80s coming-of-age flick, and we mean that in the best possible way. The chorus is all gang-vocal shouts and spiky synth figures, while the verses feel expansive, like a sunset-lit drive rendered in pastel pinks and blues. Given the band’s penchant for bizarre, vintage-inspired music videos, we imagine we might see something resembling that for “Blood” soon enough. —Justin Kamp

10. Beach House:Alien
Oct. 23

“Alien” is a B-side off Beach House’s new seven-inch single also featuring “Lose Your Smile,” from their latest album 7. “Alien” is proof that Beach House can dip their toes into just about any genre they want and come out with their dreamy melodies intact—in this case, they don the guise of shoegaze. At times, it sounds remarkably like My Bloody Valentine’s landmark Loveless, and it works incredibly well. The spacey wanderlust of Beach House has always seemed to be in the same neighborhood as the dreamscapes of shoegaze, especially Victoria Legrand’s vocals, which so often manage to be both background and foreground. —Justin Kamp

11. Whim:Mouths
Oct. 23

Singer/songwriter Sarah Isabella DiMuzio, who records under the alias Whim, is gearing up to release a new full-length LP on Fluff and Gravy Records sometime next year, the first song from the forthcoming record is a siren call that begs the listener to use their “mouth” and make their voice heard. “Mouths” surfaces as a bouncy, riffy guitar tune, but listen carefully, and you’ll find DiMuzio is making a strong statement on top of all that shine. It’s a catchy indie-rock anthem arriving just in time for the midterm elections, which is a great time to make one’s voice heard. “What is this silence about?” DiMuzio sings. ”’Cause we are the people who shout.” “Mouths” sounds like the spirited soundtrack to a bipartisan effort to encourage voter registration. DiMuzio reminds us that it’s okay to be a little unsure, as long as you use your voice when it becomes imperative to do so. “Everyone has doubts when they’re screaming out into the void,” DiMuzio sings. —Ellen Johnson

12. Indoor Pets:Being Strange
Oct. 24

Previously known as Get Inuit, Indoor Pets sound like classic Weezer trying their hand at bubblegum pop, or Pixies dropping a pop-punk record. You’ll be surprised to know that frontman Jamie Glass’ voice isn’t manipulated with Autotune and he didn’t suck helium from a balloon—those high-pitched harmonies are the real deal. If Indoor Pets were around in the ‘00s, “Being Strange” would’ve spread like wildfire in the U.S.—blasting out of car radios, shopping mall speakers and skate park boomboxes, and with a video all over MTV. That’s not to say that Indoor Pets don’t bring anything different to the table. You’d be hard pressed to find many bands naturally singing like Glass, unironically basking in candy-coated pop hooks while still shredding power chords. —Lizzie Manno

13. Cass McCombs:Sleeping Volcanoes
Oct. 30

Cass McCombs has always had a way with rambling, his husky, troubadour-ish voice making even his most aimless songs feel compelling. “Sleeping Volcanoes” is surprising because of how urgent it sounds, how propellant and jumpy. These are all relative terms, of course—McCombs’ voice doesn’t jump or break. But there’s a sense of hurry in his delivery that wasn’t there before. When he sings, “Help me Armageddon / Help me Armageddon,” it sounds like squeezing off a last-minute prayer before dropping into some nameless expanse. McCombs says in a statement that the song is about “people passing each other on the sidewalk unaware of the emotional volatility they are brushing past, like a sleeping volcano that could erupt at any moment,” and that nervousness about the people walking the streets of this country is not only deeply felt, but deeply relevant, especially now. —Justin Kamp

14. Matt Maltese:Less and Less
Oct. 30

Matt Maltese’s piano-centric, self-described “Brexit pop” sound is marked by his baritone croon, songs of love and heartache, post-modern gripes and velvet-cloaked metaphors of apocalypse. His lounge-style piano, bouncy guitar licks and cheery brass are tried and true—a solid, classic counterpunch to whip-smart lyrics firmly rooted in the present. His latest single “Less and Less” is one of the most somber, understated numbers on his recent album Bad Contestant, as it chronicles a couple’s gradual growing apart with smooth vocals, elegant keys and chorus-like backing vocals. Maltese comes to the conclusion that even fond, nostalgic memories brought upon by familiar scenes aren’t enough to heal a relationship meant to end. The video was directed by Maltese’s longtime collaborator Sam Hiscox, who also created the visuals for another album track, “As The World Caves In.” This new video tells the story of two people who live under the same roof, but are dealing with inverse feelings of heartbreak and closure. —Lizzie Manno

15. Sunflower Bean:Come For Me
Oct. 30

Earlier this year, New York City-based trio Sunflower Bean released their excellent sophomore LP, Twentytwo in Blue, and now they have an EP called King of the Dudes arriving Jan. 25, 2019, on Mom + Pop. Its first track, “Come For Me,” follows Twentytwo in Blue’s lead: it’s restless rock ’n’ roll, though it’s a bit groovier than, say, “Burn It,” the LP’s riotous opening number. It’s danceable, but it’s not fluffy—frontwoman Julia Cumming releases the song’s lyrical interrogations in a fiery blast. “Do you really wanna waste my time?” she asks. “If you do, then do it right.” “This song was inspired by inner strength, power and sexual freedom,” said the band in a statement. “In 2018 there is no time to waste and no time for shame. This song is a declaration of that. ‘Do you really want to come for me? Do you really want to waste my time?’ The song is a dare, a threat, and a beckoning.” —Ellen Johnson