The Best Songs of October (2019)
by Steven Spoerl
October held a lot of surprises, a few new singles sprinkled among their ranks. From resuscitated projects to fast follow-ups to fascinating departures, the month seemed to be as rich as any in 2019. Nine of those tracks made a sizable impression as the month wound on, making waves right up to the end. While it’s literally impossible for one person to consume every song that comes out on any given day, hundreds earned consideration for placement here but the ones that made the cut here made the cut for a reason. Enjoy.
1. illuminati hotties – ppl plzr
Last year, illuminati hotties broke out in a big way, landing in several Best Of lists. Now, riding the wave of that success, the band sounds emboldened, evidenced by the relative fearlessness of “ppl plzr”. While they’ve excelled at maximizing dynamic composition, “ppl plzr” takes that trait to another level, finding illuminati hotties at their most engaging. Whether simmering at a slow boil or flowing over with unchecked aggression, “ppl plzr” is proof that illuminati hotties are only getting better as they go.
2. Failed Flowers – Broken Screen
Not too long ago (but an eternity ago in terms of media cycles), site favorites Fred Thomas and Anna Burch teamed up to co-front an excellent basement pop band called Failed Flowers. With Burch and Thomas’ solo careers both taking off and finding success, Failed Flowers got pushed to the background but the band’s now offering listeners a peak at their final stages via a Slumberland single. “Broken Screen” is the A-side and finds Thomas biting into a characteristically sardonic narrative that’s buoyed by the band’s jangly sensibilities. A perfect addition for a release that will ensure the project goes out on top.
3. Timothy Heller – Not Even For You
“Not Even For You” starts off at a slow pace, working its way to something bigger. At every pace, the song remains mesmeric, going a long way to ensure Timothy Heller is a name that doesn’t slip from the mind. A mid-tempo slice of psych-inflicted indie pop, “Not Even For You” impresses on multiple levels. A complete work that indicates the band’s mastery of dynamics, identity, and composition, “Not Even For You” stood tall as one of October’s most unexpected surprises.
4. Emily A. Sprague – Mesa
Florist mastermind Emily A. Sprague has been going on solo journeys quite a bit as an artist lately. Both as an ambient artist — one who recently toured with William Basinski — and even under the Florist guise, which was stripped back to just Sprague for Emily Alone. “Mesa” finds Spague occupying ambient terrain once more, conjuring up a lush, melancholic dreamscape that floats along at a glacial pace. A song that only ever stops unfurling as it winds down, “Mesa” is as lovely as anything that’s been released in 2019.
5. The Whiffs – Shakin All Over
A scruffy throwback power-punk number, The Whiffs’ “Shakin All Over” is one of many songs that uses retro styling to push a classic setup into modernity. Falling somewhere between Dark Thoughs and Sheer Mag with the pop sensibility punched up to the max, The Whiffs have landed on something instantly likable and surprisingly memorable in “Shakin All Over”. A winsome, punk-minded triumph from a band that sounds as if it’s been around forever but is only just getting started.
6. Dead Soft – Trimmer
Dead Soft have come surging back to life in 2019, releasing a handful of towering behemoths. “Trimmer”, a four minute, shit-kicking, shoegaze-driven monster is just the latest but it captures a band that’s not only found its voice but a confidence in that voice. The gas pedal’s been driven down to the floor and the band seems acutely aware of the kind of chaos that action always invites. Then again, it’s probably hard to care about much else when the songs that are getting written sound this good.
7. Alice Bowman – The More I Cry
For years, Alice Bowman has been writing and releasing gorgeous, understated songs. “The More I Cry” may just be the songwriter’s finest. A ’50s throwback ballad, the song’s production perfectly accentuates the sound as Bowman’s breathy vocals float along the ether. A song of loss, longing, and heartache, “The More I Cry” is yet another song that convincingly mines past styles to effectively prove their effectiveness and worth in today’s musical landscape. A beautiful turn from one of today’s more fascinating songwriters.
8. Potty Mouth – Favorite Food
Earlier this year, Potty Mouth released SNAFU, a record that acted as a form of catharsis for the band, who had to navigate their way out of industry hell to return to full power. While that record was as excellent as anything the band’s put out to date, they hit a new high with their latest single, “Favorite Food”. Guitarist/vocalist Abby Weems nearly sounds reborn, guiding the band to a sound that has significantly more bite than their previous releases without sacrificing any part of their established musical identity. It’s a small but noticeable evolution for one of today’s best pop-punk bands.
9. Jeff Rosenstock – Ambient 7
Most people aren’t going to know Jeff Rosenstock for the songwriter’s ambient work, which is fair, especially in the face of a celebrated career as a punk artist. Yet Rosenstock’s talents as an ambient composer seem set to demand greater attention. “Ambient 7” finds Rosenstock in full ambient mode, delivering a shockingly beautiful drone work that seems to echo Stars of the Lid and nearly hits the 7 minute mark. Vexing and immersive, “Ambient 7” sounds like the work of a practiced ambient artist, which may be yet another road for Rosenstock to seize if the mood ever strikes. If that day never comes, at least “Ambient 7” will always be out there, gently beckoning for a return.