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10 Best Songs So Far 

Wednesday, Jul 13 2016
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Whitney
"No Woman"

With its breathy, falsetto vocals and lilting guitar melodies, Whitney could be the love-child of the Bee Gees and Bon Iver. Created from the ashes of another band — Smith Westerns — this 1-year-old septet from Chicago knows how to make tranquil, folky Americana ditties that are the sonic equivalent of Pendleton blankets, potted succulents, and home-brewed ales drunk out of Mason jars. Typical hipster motifs like cans of PBR and dorky baseball caps make appearances in the song's music video, but, hey, at least the band isn't from L.A. or Brooklyn. That would be too cliché. Jessie Schiewe

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Mitski
"Your Best American Girl"

Over a guitar riff reminiscent of Weezer's "Only in Dreams," rising Brooklyn-based artist Mitski penned the perfect anthem about not fitting in. To clear up confusion about the soft-rock jingle, Mitski took to Facebook. "I wasn't thinking about any of that when I was writing it," she wrote, referring to publications' speculations that she was trying to "stick it to 'the white boy indie rock world.' " In the song, Mitski sings, "Your mother wouldn't approve of how my mother raised me / But I do, I finally do," proving that this is a song about love and acceptance more than anything else. Steven Edelstone

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Sean C. Johnson
"Home"

Blame it on the hypnotic guitar chords, the celestial background harmonies, or Sean C. Johnson's smooth, buttery voice, but going home never sounded so appealing. Johnson, an Oklahoma City native and one of the few male vocalists keeping neo-soul alive, knows how to craft melodic jams out of sensitive subjects. "Home" is only the latest example, but he's done it time and again in past projects, like "Mountains" (which is about depression) and "No Flex Zone," his remix of Rae Sremmurd's ode to working hard. In a time when most male vocalists — think Trey Songz, Chris Brown, and Miguel — stick to songs revolving around sex, women, and more sex, Johnson is a breath of fresh air. JS

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Tacocat
"Talk"

It's impossible to scroll through Twitter without encountering a thinkpiece written by a boomer chastising millennials for their generation-wide smartphone obsession. That's not, however, the message in Tacocat's "Talk." Though penned by a quartet of millennials, the garage-pop track is a level-headed plea for analog intimacy. Bassist Bree McKenna sets the tone with a moody bassline while frontwoman Emily Nokes offers a few human alternatives to double-tapping each other's pictures on Instagram. Suggestions include dancing, rearranging the living room furniture, and having the kind of conversations that last well past 2 a.m. Put your phone on silent and crank it up. Elle Coxon

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Beyonce
"Sorry"

Is there a more empowering song for females — or, really, anyone — who have been cheated on? I'm going to say there isn't. Famous for sparking the whole "Becky with the good hair" debacle, "Sorry" is both a paean to inner strength and a reminder to stick to your guns and "tell him, 'Boy, bye.' " Message aside, it's also an impressive showcase of Beyoncé's multi-faceted vocal chops — as if you didn't already know — with transitions from belted lyrics to spoken-word lines to warbling in an operatic soprano. Then again, any song that encourages listeners to put their "middle fingers up" automatically deserves to be on this list. JS

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Madeline Kenney
"Signals"

Madeline Kenney is one of Oakland's best-kept secrets. Her hazy, dream-pop creations are often swirling in reverb and analog fuzz, melding perfectly with Kenney's athletic, versatile voice. "Signals" is the lead track off of her recent EP of the same name, giving it an atmospheric start that is the sonic equivalent to floating in a bed of clouds. In addition to singing and songwriting, Kenney is a guitarist and pianist, as well as a newly signed artist to Toro Y Moi's label, Company Records. If you're a sucker for chillwave, keep an eye and ear on Kenney. JS

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Anderson Paak
"Come Down"

Like Hitman before him, Anderson Paak's contributions to Dr. Dre's Compton: A Soundtrack could have been the most we would ever hear from him. After all, who knows what Hitman has been up to since guesting on Dre's 2001? Fortunately for Paak, his guest spots on Compton were just the prelude, not the main act. On his new album, Malibu, Paak is rightfully center stage, most notably on his funkalicious cut "Come Down." Building off a snaking bass and producer Hi-Tek's inclusion of the Israeli national anthem in the background, "Come Down" is a skilled proclamation from one of hip-hop's most promising voices. Zack Ruskin

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Big Thief
"Real Love"

The way "Real Love" by Big Thief starts, you have no idea how it'll end. The first time I heard the Brooklyn group's debut album, Masterpiece, I had it on in the background, but all of the sudden, midway through "Real Love," a gripping song about the horrors of domestic violence, my ears perked up. It feels weird to call a guitar solo "emotional," but there's no other way to describe it. For such a lyrically heartbreaking song, the solo feels triumphant, picking up speed only to collapse from exhaustion later on — making for the best 45 seconds in music this year. Steven Edelstone

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Drake featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR
"With You"

The highlight of Drake's fourth album, Views, "With You" is a fairly straightforward ditty, following the chorus-verse-chorus formula, but its simplicity is key. With a tropical backbeat and marimba-punctuated melody, this bubbly song is yet another successful collaboration between Drake and fellow Canadian singer PARTYNEXTDOOR (who is also signed to Drizzy's OVO Sound label). PARTYNEXTDOOR's unusual, off-key cooing pairs well with Drake's smooth vocals and lyrics about longing and loyalty. And, like any Drake song, there's a sprinkling of mopey, emo lines, like "Mixing vodka and emotions" and "Dry cry cause I'm hopeless" that make it hard not to chuckle. JS

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Toresch
"Comida Para Todos!"

"Comida para todos!" So goes the eponymous refrain of my favorite song from my favorite album of 2016 (so far), German duo Toresch's Essen Für Alles. Sung by Mexican-born, German-based vocalist Viktoria Wehrmeister atop jagged, mechanical, piston-like beats from Detlef Weinref — the man behind Düsseldorf's freewheeling Salon des Amateurs DJ collective, also known by the painfully brilliant alias Tolouse Low Trax — "Comida Para Todos" is a contemporary song of resistance, and a paean against inequality. Industrial music hasn't sounded like this since the days of Cabaret Voltaire. Chris Zaldua

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