Welcome to SPIN‘s Singles Mix! The SPIN staff has rounded up their favorite, must-hear tracks for your personal playlists. Collecting the finest from guitar-picking Northwesterners, avant-banjo-playing New Yorkers, Atlanta hip-hop heroes, and more, these are the songs you need to know right now.
Braille, “The Cat’s Gone Nuts” (FoF Music)
An oddball cut to be sure, matching Burial-like percussion swoops with burbling Crystal Castles synths and Graceland-esque backing “sha-na-na-na“s, before the Chet Faker-like vocal enters to add something like pop coherence to the track. It’s all the more intriguing for its curiosity, one you’ll listen to a second time just to make sure you heard it right the first, and one which eventually creeps its way into your subconscious like oncoming dementia. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
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Empress Of, “Water Water” (Terrible/XL)
Lorely Rodriguez knows something about forward motion, perhaps learned from cut-above tourmates like Jamie xx and Florence + the Machine, but either way, her synths on “Water Water” burble up with a new clarity, striking like guitar chords made of time-stretched sound-blobs, while an ominous disco kick drum threatens to flip the table. There’s even somewhat of a mini-drop that pumps the beat up to a catchier and tenser state. “You’re just a heart to hold,” she admonishes, and the music points an accusatory finger in turn. — DAN WEISS
Erik Hassle, “No Words” (RCA)
Everything about “No Words” screams hit. There’s a bit of an “Uptown Funk” snare that wavers as the reedy-voiced Swedish singer tries desperately to convey the ways a woman makes him feel without — he claims — finding the right words. The genius of “No Words” is the way it inverts its very message, delivering verse after verse of lyrical poise the likes of which would make most on the receiving end blush. All that and a killer melody to boot? Start laser-printing its Song of the Summer plaque yesterday. — BRENNAN CARLEY
Odetta Hartman, “Dreamcatchers” (Self-Released)
Falling somewhere between mid-’00s freak-folk, banjo blues, and Mumford (but not too Mumford) stomp-clap, New York’s Odetta Hartman lets the music guide her in this kookily lo-fi, totally off-kilter country twang-a-thon. — RACHEL BRODSKY
OG Maco featuring Quavo, “Good Gracious” (Quality Control Music)
Atlanta rapper/Vine phenom OG Maco teamed up with Migos member Quavo to remember their roots and be thankful on “Good Gracious.” Instead of being complemented with Maco’s signature angry snarl, the song’s sparse piano and minimal drums come with Auto-Tuned croons about becoming famous and staying humble. Quavo takes the first verse, rhyming about Migos’ inception out of adversity: “We was family before they called us a gang / Fifty brothers, all road runners / Lost half to the chain gang / we had to cool out, had to change lanes.” No one can tap-dance around a deconstructed trap beat quite like Maco, and this is another in a long line of songs that will (maybe) set him apart from just being the “U Guessed It” guy. — CONNOR O’BRIEN
Ratatat, “Cream On Chrome” (XL Recordings)
It’s been five years since Ratatat last came out with new music (2010’s LP4,) but “Cream on Chrome” shows that the Brooklyn duo hasn’t lost a step. The way they drip their signature syrupy, warped guitar riffs over a smooth, laid-back beat is sublime, as they bury a subtle sense of unease underneath chilled electronic tones. It’s about as polished and refined as you’re gonna hear from them, but it’s still got plenty of that innate, hard-to-pinpoint Ratatat weirdness. — JAMES GREBEY
Ryn Weaver, “The Fool” (Mad Love/Interscope Records)
Every bit a Passion Pit song with the wonderful integration of Weaver’s unbelievably limber vocal acrobatics —the sign outside her recording studio should read, “Enter here and watch the Incredible Wavering Woman achieve death-defying feats of vocal prowess and control!” — “The Fool” serves as the first real taste of what the quirk-pop singer can really do. Lyrics that could’ve drowned in buttery schmaltz instead flick pretense aside; Weaver’s a woman very much in control of her own message. Imperfections and all, take “The Fool” or leave her, this is a song worth its weight in spades. — B.C.
Sage the Gemini featuring Trey Songz, “Guantanemera” (Self-Released)
Sage struck radio gold with his dance-floor-ready Flo Rida collaboration “G.D.F.R.,” but “Guantanamera” slows the rapper’s down to Migos-level sludge, letting his lyrics stand for judgment as much as his beats. RiFF RAFF finally gets that “tip-toeing in my jaw-dins” shout-out he’s probably been tweeting about too. Songz himself gets to show off some little-seen rapping chops, in addition to his usual hickory howl. “Guantanamera” isn’t as Top 40 friendly as Sage’s last one, but it’s a standout all of its own. — B.C.
Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles, “Itching Around” (Suicide Squeeze)
Shana Cleveland? More like John Fahey, judging by that gently rhythmic guitar-picking. In her latest solo single, the La Luz frontwoman demonstrates her genre versatility (her primary project specializes in dark surf-pop) with a vaguely aimless tone — comparable to something by, say, fellow wandering guitarist Kurt Vile. Keep crafting sandcastles, Shana. — R.B.