The 15 Best Songs of August 2022

We’ve already delivered our picks for August’s best albums, but what about its best individual tunes? At the top of Paste Music’s collective mind was the latest single from Alvvays, off their forthcoming first album since 2017, as well as the Tomberlin-featuring lead track from John Rossiter’s next Young Jesus release, a surprise collaboration between serpentwithfeet and Moby, and more. These 15 tracks were the ones that stuck with us most this month—don’t let any of them pass you by.

Listen to our Best Songs of August 2022 playlist on Spotify here.

The 1975: “Happiness“

The one and only 1975 have found “Happiness,” the latest single from their forthcoming album Being Funny in a Foreign Language (Oct. 14, Dirty Hit). “Happiness” is our second preview of Matty Healy and company’s Jack Antonoff-produced Notes on a Conditional Form follow-up after lead single “Part of the Band,” which Paste ranked among July’s best songs. Speaking to Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1, Healy said, “‘Happiness’ is like … there’s literally loads of us in the room on that track. Locked eyes … it doesn’t really have much structure. It came through like jamming. And we haven’t done that in years.” You can feel that rhythm-driven immediacy in the finished product: “Happiness” is five minutes of ebullient dance-pop, a bass- and keys-driven jam—complete with multiple sax solos—in which Healy sounds reborn into his purpose, singing, “I’m happiest when I’m doing something that I know is good / That’s happiness for me.” —Scott Russell

Alvvays: “Easy on Your Own?“

The long-awaited return of Alvvays continues to be one of this summer’s most pleasant surprises. Their latest single “Easy on Your Own?” is our second preview of Blue Rev (Oct. 7, Polyvinyl), the band’s first new album in five years. Alvvays shared Blue Rev’s opener “Pharmacist” upon its announcement last month, and in August followed up with the album’s second track, “Easy on Your Own?” It’s another brisk blast of the band’s signature dream-pop sound, with complex textures not previously found in their discography. Molly Rankin’s vocals sit lower in the mix than usual, entering alongside synth buzz and forceful low end before buzzing glide guitar envelops her voice a la My Bloody Valentine. When her singing does burst through in the choruses, it hits like a ray of sunshine through the clouds, even though her lyrics (where discernible) describe a long-term relationship so damaged, it might not be worth saving. The song shudders to a stop in under three minutes, another concise stunner seemingly designed to reward repeat listens. —Scott Russell

Dazy: “Rollercoaster Ride“

Richmond, Virginia-based rocker James Goodson, aka Dazy, signed to Philadelphia indie label Lame-O Records and shared a new two-song single, “Rollercoaster Ride b/w Peel,” with a video for the A-side track. The release follows Dazy’s March collaboration with Militarie Gun, “Pressure Cooker,” which we hailed as one of the year’s best songs (so far). Recorded at home, then mixed and mastered by Justin Pizzoferrato at Sonelab (Dinosaur Jr, Pixies, Wild Pink), “Rollercoaster Ride b/w Peel” finds Goodson up to his usual tricks, packing a hefty checked bag’s worth of noise-pop hooks and guitar fuzz into a pair of compact personal items. Clocking in under two minutes, “Rollercoaster Ride” is as fleetingly exhilarating as its namesake, with bright acoustic guitar- and drum machine-driven verses sandwiching choruses replete with live-wire riffs and cheery mellotron. —Scott Russell

Field Medic: “i think about you all the time”

Field Medic, i.e., Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Kevin Patrick Sullivan, shared the second single from his forthcoming album grow your hair long if you’re wanting to see something that you can change (Oct. 14, Run For Cover Records). “i think about you all the time” is a jangly folk-pop ode to the insidiousness of addiction, in which Sullivan reimagines his struggles with sobriety as a torch song about longing to lose himself at the bottom of a bottle. Between its bright instrumentation and Sullivan’s unrelenting vocal hooks, “i think about you all the time” is sure to lodge itself in your head one way or another. Over a drum machine beat and cheery acoustic chords, Sullivan sings, as if to a long-distance lover, “I think about you often / When I close my eyes / You tumble like an acrobat / through my dreams at night.” Gradually building out the track with a melodic bass line, banjo backing, distorted electric guitar flourishes and tambourine, Sullivan keeps the song’s energy unerringly upbeat in spite of the living hell it belies, the kind of feat Field Medic makes seem so easy whenever he pushes “record.” —Scott Russell

Four Tet: “Mango Feedback”

Kieran Hebden, who releases electronic music under a variety of aliases, returned this month with two new Four Tet tunes, “Mango Feedback” and “Watersynth,” featuring artwork by Jason Evans. Make sure not to miss the latter, either, but the former track is our favorite of the two, an upbeat dance jam that grabs you with bright immediacy. A shuffling club beat underpins a resonant mandolin (or something like it) riff, as Hebden juxtaposes electronic and organic sounds in unlikely harmony, while squelching bass notes and regally sustained synths create more meditative pockets in the music. Later, screeching feedback builds, then releases pressure, slingshotting the listener right back into that mando hook. “Mango Feedback” is engaging all the way through, yet mutates in subtle ways as it progresses, like the sonic representation of someone following a train of thought and surprising even themselves with the twists and turns they take. —Scott Russell

Julia Jacklin: “Be Careful with Yourself”

Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin has shared one last single ahead of her third album PRE PLEASURE, coming this Friday (Aug. 26) on Polyvinyl Record Co. “Be Careful with Yourself” is out now alongside a visualizer shot by Rick Clifford, and edited by Clifford and Jacklin herself. There’s been quite a bit of buzz around Jacklin’s new album, and the effortlessly lovely “Be Careful with Yourself” will only toss more fuel on the fire. Electric guitars softly sway back and forth between two chords, like two people who simply can’t quit each other, while a steady low end and bright, yet unassuming riffs maintain the chorus-less track’s insistent momentum. Jacklin’s heartfelt singing and songwriting are the show’s true stars: “Please stop smoking, want your life to last a long time / If you don’t stop smoking, I’ll have to start, shorten mine,” she croons, depicting a love she’d choose over life itself. There’s a warmth and generosity to the song that feeds the soul—Jacklin’s narrator so can’t imagine a future without their lover in it, she’s prepared to micro-manage their life if it means they get to spend it together, and she conveys that all-encompassing care in such a way that even you, the listener, feel loved. —Scott Russell

Magdalena Bay: ”All You Do”

Ahead of a new deluxe reissue of their acclaimed debut album Mercurial World, Los Angeles-based duo Magdalena Bay are back with their first new material of 2022. “All You Do” is a few degrees removed from Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin’s usual electro-pop sound, with acoustic guitar, live drums and nimble bass leading the way, and sweeping, film score-worthy strings elevating its choruses. Over cheery strums, Tenenbaum depicts a never-ending quest for fulfillment, cooing, “I only drink when I’m drunk / Can’t fall asleep on my own / I only wanna have some fun / Let the party never end.” It’s only late in the game that the danceable synth-scapes we associate with Magdalena Bay make their way into the song’s spotlight—and only after you push “replay” that you realize they were there all along. —Scott Russell

Mamalarky: ”It Hurts”

Los Angeles-based four-piece Mamalarky are back with another preview of their forthcoming sophomore album Pocket Fantasy, coming Sept. 30 on Fire Talk. The latest single from the band’s follow-up to their 2020 self-titled debut, “It Hurts” follows “Mythical Bonds” (which found a fan in David Byrne) and “You Know I Know.” Where its predecessors were bright and electric guitar-driven, “It Hurts” is more gentle and contemplative, with flowery keys and finger-plucked acoustic guitar adorning its placid percussion. Livvy Bennett is caught between romantic longing and self-conscious meta-criticism, crooning, “I know it’s bad timing but I need you very badly / And it seems that you can’t give that much,” only to catch herself: “I’m capitalizing off of my own emotion / It’s something that I do too well.” Amid the song’s soft psychedelia, Bennett finally confronts the reality of having suspended her heartache in amber—the thought that “It Hurts” will outlive the breaking bond that inspired it—singing, “I will exist only as sound to you.” —Scott Russell

Nick Hakim: “Happen”

Washington, D.C.-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Nick Hakim has announced a new album, Cometa (Spanish for “kite”), coming Oct. 21, and shared the video for lead single “Happen.” The follow-up to 2020’s Will This Make Me Good features collaborations with DJ Dahi, Helado Negro and Arto Lindsay, while Alex G and Abe Rounds contribute piano and drums, respectively, to the mesmerizing “Happen.” Our first preview of Cometa reveals a new twist on Hakim’s sound, eschewing his usual psych-soul slurry in favor of a more purposefully constructed composition. A simple chord progression, steadily strummed on acoustic guitar, and Rounds’ looped drums serve as the framework for Hakim’s hushed vocals: “The sweetest angel fell into my world / She gives me reason, was lost for a damn long time / She pours honey down my throat / We stay up all night, I watch the sun scan her body / and just let it happen.” You can hear fingers moving across a fretboard and the pops of Hakim’s consonants, but the track is at its most atmospheric in the choruses—Hakim’s chants of “let it happen” ping-pong from one end of the mix to the other, with a distant organ hum eventually revealing itself as choral vocals. Hakim’s celestial imagery renders the preciousness of his life-changing love on an interstellar scale, with piano and pedal steel elevating the track ever further into the stratosphere. —Scott Russell

Rachika Nayar: “Tetramorph”

A standout from Brooklyn-based artist Rachika Nayar’s new album Heaven Come Crashing, the nearly 10-minute “Tetramorph” is an entrancing combination of post-rock and ambient electronics. Its title means, roughly, “something that has four forms”—this offers us a roadmap to the track itself, which Nayar somehow manages to hold together as its immersive instrumentals shift shape again and again, evoking both dreams and nightmares along the way. Central to “Tetramorph” is the give and take between Nayar’s oceanic guitars, a la Explosions in the Sky, and thrumming synth and drum machine, which combine to conjure a dark beauty. “I remember being in high school and listening to ‘Impossible Soul’ by Sufjan Stevens. That song is a journey that can take you through so many realms and spit you back out,” Nayar told Paste of the song’s inspiration. Someday, perhaps future musicians will say the same of her “Tetramorph.” —Scott Russell

serpentwithfeet feat. Moby: “On Air“

The unlikely pairing of serpentwithfeet and Moby present “On Air,” the former’s new song released via the latter’s new label. Only the second release on Moby’s Always Centered at Night, the ethereal “On Air” is accompanied by a video co-directed by Moby and Mike Formanski. The song plays to the strengths of both artists, pairing serpentwithfeet’s singular voice with Moby’s lush production. Luminous piano lays the foundation for “On Air” before handclaps and serpentwithfeet’s scene-setting vocal (“7 a.m. and the sun is hidden”) propel the song forward. Distant, dragging percussion maintains its momentum into its swelling, string-accented choruses, in which serpentwithfeet declares, “It’s been a minute since I’ve seen you smile / But I believe in us, somehow,” his vocal hook amplified as rhythmic echoes. —Scott Russell

Sonnyjim & The Purist feat. MF DOOM and Jay Electronica: “Barz Simpson”

It’s not everyday you see a new posthumous MF DOOM verse surface—it’s similarly uncommon for Jay Electronica to hop on a song. That makes “Barz Simpson,” our first preview of Birmingham, U.K., rapper Sonnyjim and London producer The Purist’s forthcoming collaborative project White Girl Wasted, awfully rare indeed. Over a sample flip that’s all jazzy flute and throwback funk wah-wah guitar, Sonnyjim and his heavyweight collaborators turn in nonchalantly acrobatic verses, putting on a clinic that makes Purist’s beat feel particularly regal. DOOM sits at the center of the track and does DOOM things—at one point, he reflects wistfully on what’s important in life, then menaces a snitch in the space of a single couplet: “Most precious things in life, you can’t bring back / Use your thinking cap, that’s what happens when you sing, rat,” spits the man in the mask. (Sonnyjim and Purist asked DOOM for 16 bars before his death in 2020, and got an entire verse back days later.) “Barz Simpson” feels like a victory lap for Sonnyjim and The Purist, even prior to the rest of White Girl Wasted’s release. —Scott Russell

TOLEDO: “Flake”

Brooklyn-based duo Dan Álvarez de Toledo and Jordan Dunn-Pilz, who record and perform as TOLEDO, are back with two more singles from How It Ends (Sept. 23, Grand Jury Music), their forthcoming debut album. “Flake” and “What Happened to the Menorah?” are accompanied by visuals created by Matt Hixon. The surefire standout of the two tracks, “Flake” is a lush indie-folk strummer that lands like a shot to the heart. The titular flake is the narrator’s father, who always ends up hurting his child, whether by his blood or behavior: “Everything wrong with me lands where you are,” TOLEDO sing, an indictment laced with as much sadness as anger. The duo find catharsis at the crest of each chorus, harmonizing, “I fuckin’ hate your guts right now”—it’s only by expressing this pain that they can find a way to carry it. The song swirls through its crescendo, twangy guitars and thrumming bass masking TOLEDO’s enjoined voices as they resolve to protect themselves from further suffering: “And I could take the hand that you’re reaching out / But you’d only disappoint / You did it then / You’ll do it now.” —Scott Russell

Wild Pink feat. Julien Baker: “Hold My Hand”

Wild Pink are back with another preview of their forthcoming fourth full-length ILYSM, coming Oct. 14 on Royal Mountain Records. The album’s tender, twangy second single “Hold My Hand,” featuring Julien Baker, was inspired by an experience Wild Pink bandleader John Ross had while battling cancer—an ordeal the band reckon with at length on the follow-up to their acclaimed 2021 LP A Billion Little Lights. “I wrote that song right after my first surgery, about lying on the operating table where a member of the surgical team held my hand right before I went under,” Ross recalls of the heartfelt “Hold My Hand” in a statement. “It sounds kind of arbitrary, and like it shouldn’t have been as impactful as it was, but I felt very comforted and wanted to capture that loving feeling in the song.” The finished product is a quiet storm of emotion, with Moore’s arpeggiated piano figure and Dan Keegan’s brushed drums as its slow, but steady heartbeat. Ross strums an acoustic guitar and sings at just above a whisper, wondering, “Wherever I go when I go down / Will you be there when I come around again?” It’s only then that Baker joins her voice to his (on “To hold my hand”), a musical representation of the simple, but beautiful act of human togetherness that saw Ross through such fraught uncertainty. Moore’s piano and sustained lap steel eventually come to the forefront, like morning’s first rays of sunshine. —Scott Russell

Young Jesus feat. Tomberlin: “Ocean“

John Rossiter’s rock project Young Jesus has risen again, announcing a new album, Shepherd Head (Sept. 16, Saddle Creek). Our first preview of the album is the mesmerizing “Ocean,” in which the band’s past and present collide: Former Young Jesus members Marcel Borbón Peréz and Peter Martinez (their original drummer) perform the song’s harmonic bass line and programmed percussion, respectively, while Sarah Beth Tomberlin lends her voice to Rossiter’s. The pair consider Shepherd Head’s core themes over this understated, yet rich instrumental, as Rossiter contemplates, “God is just the ocean where I’m lost / ‘What is loss?’ a moon responds / Love is of the questions I ask God.” There’s a sense of cosmic scope to the track, as well as everyday earthliness (Rossiter layers footsteps and leaves crunching into the track as texture), but what ultimately pervades it most is a sense of preternatural calm. “Go / Give your life unto the weave / To the fabric and the seam / To the drift of what you’ll be,” Rossiter and Tomberlin urge, as if in worship of the unseen forces that govern all, not in spite of their unknowability, but because of it. The track’s climactic lyric accepts all of life’s highs and lows—”the grip and the release”—and condenses them into a single instruction: “Walk a fragile path to peace.” —Scott Russell

Listen to our Best Songs of August 2022 playlist on Spotify here.