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The 15 Best Songs We Heard in May

Schoolboy Q at Warehouse Live in March
Schoolboy Q at Warehouse Live in March
Photo by Marco Torres

"Collard Greens," Schoolboy Q If you enjoy beats that conjure images of huddled, bouncing basketball teams moments before tip-off, you'll enjoy "Collard Greens." If you also enjoy raps about having game, money and weed, you'll return for a second helping. And, if you want to hear Schoolboy Q's Black Hippy mate Kendrick Lamar drop profane rhymes in Spanish, you probably like tons of pepper sauce on your greens.

Schoolboy Q's been serving this up since last year, but I got my first taste only last month; can't believe I was missing out on this soul food. But, if you were too, try it out 'cause This Is It. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

The Black Keys
The Black Keys
Photo by Danny Clinch/Courtesy of Nonesuch Records

"Eastern Steamship Line," Richard Dobson I shipped out of Galveston on commercial vessels for a year or so in my idle youth, and Sergio Webb's "Eastern Steamship Line" catches the laid-back life of a Galveston sailor as perfectly as any tune I've ever heard. It has the jaunty madness of a sailor tearing it up on the beach before the next ship sails. Puro South Texas. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

"Fever," Black Keys It's just catchy and soulful. The Black Keys are effectively at stadium-rock status, yet have managed to remain relevant and spirited. On a side note, some promotion of their new album Turn Blue involved them circulating a recorded prank-calling of their label. And there were celebrity rivalries. Anyway, I'm liking this song, like many of their others. ALEXA CRENSHAW

"Get the Load Out," the Jayhawks Universal is in the middle of reissuing the Jayhawks' catalog, throwing some attention back on the Minneapolis band who were onetime contemporaries of the Replacements and Husker Du but have outlasted those groups many times over. Eventually the Minneapolitans' wistful folk-rock made them key players in the alt-country scene, though sometimes unfairly dismissed as lightweights by critics who preferred the louder likes of Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown. Even still, the Jayhawks come on like prime Crazy Horse on "Get the Load Out" -- a B-side from 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass, as rescued on the expanded version of 2009's Music From the North Country anthology -- proving they could land a few punches of their own. CHRIS GRAY

"Hard Out Here," Lily Allen Can we now add Lily Allen to the canon of great British satirists? It's okay if she's not as classic as Chaucer or Orwell, she's got more Twitter followers than either one. "Hard Out Here" aims at glass ceilings, double standards, objectification and the unrealistic body-image demands that plague the modern woman.

The song's video is a clever take on misogyny in the music industry and proves that Lily can't twerk like Miley. But, as she reminds, there's "no need to shake my ass for you, 'cause I've got a brain." Chaucer and Orwell were okay, but we need Lily Allen's keen eye and biting words more than theirs in 2014. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

"Heaven Knows," The Pretty Reckless I was driving to work after a restless night when I first heard The Pretty Reckless' "Heaven Knows" on the radio. I couldn't quite place Taylor Momsen's voice, but it brought Joan Jett to mind. I found myself smiling and nodding along to the beat, and even jotted down a few lyrics at a stoplight to simplify finding the song later. Pretty Reckless is another act that I'd never quite familiarized myself with, but this new single might just be the spur I need. MATTHEW KEEVER

Morrissey at Beaumont's Julie Rogers Theater last month
Morrissey at Beaumont's Julie Rogers Theater last month
Photos by Abrahan Garza

"Istanbul," Morrissey Since Morrissey's early-'00s career renaissance, he's pursued a very specific sound. "Istanbul" is really no different; just yet another example of Morrissey's standard rock song format over the last decade. The formula works, though.

Between that funky bassline, the driving guitar riff, and Moz's typically impassioned vocals, this single stands out as one of the strongest out of any of his four comeback records so far. COREY DIETERMAN

"July Blues," Joe Ely Maybe this is two months early, but at this point it's just a matter of degrees anyway. The mercury sizzles on this cut from 2007's Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch, where Ely pushes out words like "it's too hot for snakes" and "my baby's sucking on ice cubes that ain't even there" at a pace that matches your average ceiling fan in a 1950s noir film. In other words, it's too hot for anything but sin and seduction. Not helping one ounce is David Grissom's electric guitar, which is so sultry you can see the notes coming off his axe in waves. Send the kids outside to play for a spell. CHRIS GRAY

List continues on the next page.

 

Jack White at FPSF last weekend
Jack White at FPSF last weekend
Photo by Jim Bricker

"Lazaretto," Jack White I'm sure I'm not the only person who cranks the hell out of "Lazaretto" whenever I hear it. Certainly I'm coming off a good high from FPSF, where I had the fortune of watching White perform his newest track live. But even without that opportunity, the single is cut so raw and powerful it makes the listener feel like it's a live performance even when listening to 94.5. Hooray for legitimate rock and roll. SELENA DIERINGER

"Let's Debt Free," Travis James & the Acrimonious Assembly of Arsonists Folk-punk time moves slower than regular time. There's no "New Release" recommendations on Spotify directing brave listeners to acts like Phoenix troublemaker Travis James, so this 2012 song just became part of my consciousness last month. It was worth the wait. James and his assembly normally deliver their "post-traumatic folk" with acoustic instruments, but they plugged in for this 2012 EP of the same name.

Doesn't matter because he still sings with nerve-fraying urgency, which only intensifies too-smart-for-you lyrics like "It's a crowded car of common clowns clowning around/ Painting smiles over frowns and fucking faking/ Escaping mistakes of their own making."Since Spotify won't alert you, be on the lookout for the James gang's newest, Overdressed & Under Arrest, later this year. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

"Paint it, Black," Rolling Stones I recently stumbled upon a live recording of the Stones performing this song shortly after its release, which was at what I think was their peak fervor. It was said to have been originally cut as a comedy track until that sitar riff was stressed. ALEXA CRENSHAW

"Rude," Magic! I was stuck in traffic on 45 (shocking, I know) the first time I heard "Rude" on the radio. Suddenly all the morons around me who were visibly texting, putting on makeup, or simply driving like assholes melted away. A listener can't help but gently bob his or her head and hum along with a melody that is so effortlessly chill.

Magic! has that kind of white-guy reggae vibe that can be found on Sublime records and college campuses; it's like an aural Valium, perfect for a Houston commute. Not to mention a refreshing change from the monotony on today's dial. SELENA DIERINGER

The 15 Best Songs We Heard in May
Photo courtesy of Force Field PR

"Streaker," TOBACCO In a recent Reddit AMA, TOBACCO described his own music as "meatstep." As someone who doesn't typically enjoy electronic music, this guy is on a whole other level, crafting creepy and abrasive sounds that make you unsure whether to dance, rock out, or run away in terror.

His live shows are something to be seen because of the level of artistic craftsmanship in the videos he plays, and the music video for "Streaker," directed by Eric Wareheim, is no different. The caustic backdrop of the music is employed as the soundtrack for a short film that is like something out of David Lynch's worst nightmares. COREY DIETERMAN

"This Moment With You," Jim Mize I'm a sucker for deeply sad love songs, and Mize jabs the knife straight into the aorta for the death shot. "I'm in deep, the walls are steep / I drift into this dream I hold to remain in this moment with you." I don't know who the woman is Mize is singing about, but she cut this man far, wide, and deep. He'll never be over it. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Chvrches at FPSF last weekend
Chvrches at FPSF last weekend
Photo by Jim Bricker

"We Sink," Chvrches Until Free Press Summer Fest last week, I was unfamiliar with the band Chvrches. But by the end, I had added the group to my list of new acts to watch, having been blown away by their performance and the energy they summoned from the crowd. Their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, has since been on near-constant rotation on my Spotify account. "We Sink" was my favorite song of the Scottish trio's performance last Saturday afternoon, and I was glad to hear that the album version is also strong. MATTHEW KEEVER

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