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The 15 Best Songs We Heard In July

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"The Clarity," Sleep After 11 years out of the game, you might wonder if stoner-metal band Sleep has lost a step. Thankfully, their new ten minute masterwork of the genre, "The Clarity," shows that they have not. Think of this like the metal version of Dr. Dre's Detox.

You never thought Sleep would emerge from their post-marijuana haze to ever record again, and when they did, you could hardly believe your ears. Yet here it is, and unlike the still as-yet-unreleased Detox, it's real and it's spectacular. COREY DIETERMAN

Classical 91.7 Lately, I've been going through my car radio and comfortably landing on Classical 91.7, especially on my drive from work. I'm not especially into classical music, but I've found that station feeling either as something clockwork orange, or as simply a relaxing forefront to driving. To my knowledge, this station did cut its Houston staff, which wasn't cool, though its music selection does remain engaging. ALEXA CRENSHAW

"Everybody's Something," Chance the Rapper Hip-hop is boring as hell lately. Not many artists are doing anything new or original or interesting. Enter Chance the Rapper. He has a completely unique flow, and is one of the most creative lyricists on the scene. "Everybody's Something" is a brilliant showcase of his skills. SELENA DIERINGER

"Honeymoon Avenue," Ariana Grande Let the snide, music snobbery commence, if it must, but I can't stop listening to this song. I reject the idea we must be dismissive of all kids' TV stars' musical pursuits. If it worked for Drake and JT, it should work for Grande, too, who has a four-octave range.

This auto-themed cut from Yours Truly allows her to zoom from a hushed, wistful idle to some rumbling vocal horsepower. More efforts like this and the sometimes unwarranted and silly stigma of being a child actor will be nothing but a speck in the rear-view mirror. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

"Jealous (I Ain't With It)," Chromeo Good summer songs make listeners want to shake it. Chromeo makes ridiculous. over-the-top synth-pop throwbacks laced with white-boy funk, and "Jealous" is a particular gem. Throw it on before you go out to get amped up, and again when you get home to close out the night with some impromptu living-room dancing. SELENA DIERINGER

"Just One of the Guys," Jenny Lewis "Just One of the Guys" is Lewis' first single off of The Voyager, her first solo album since 2008's Acid Tongue, and Lewis uses every second to remind us of the power she welds when it comes to writing a hit. But she doesn't just walk back onstage lightly.

Instead, she returns with lyrics that are tongue in cheek, and telling of a reality many women face when they choose the childless road less traveled. It also helps that the music video, which features the likes of Kristen Stewart and Anne Hathaway, is just as painfully clever as the song. ALYSSA DUPREE

"The Lord's Favorite," Iceage Though a new album has yet to be announced, the Danish punk act has released a new song that reveals a new side of theirs. With a little rockabilly flair added to their signature sound, singer Elias Bender Ronnenfelt paces himself through a nearly five-minute track that relies heavily on sex appeal. It may not be their usual sound, but it's one I wouldn't mind hearing them expand on. ALYSSA DUPREE

Now recording their third effort, Iceage have once again reinvented themselves, having abandoned their original post-punk sound and their revamped hardcore sound for a new rockabilly-inflected take on punk. These guys refuse to be pinned down, which is what I love so much about them.

Their newest effort is just as vital and exciting as their more hardcore tracks yet the music plays like a fucked-up version of Johnny Marr, with front man Elias Bender Rønnenfelt desperately crooning along with his fractured vocal chords. COREY DIETERMAN

"Rapt," Karen O It isn't so much that I love this song, but I love Karen O, and I'm excited to hear what the rest of her solo work will sound like. This debut single is off of her debut solo album, Crush Songs, and is expected to release September 9. Even if this album turns out to be a bit of a sop, I'm still going to be excited to hear anything she makes. ALEXA CRENSHAW

"Red River," Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Boy is it hard to pick just one tune from Tom Petty's new album, Hypnotic Eye. It's much less of a piece than its predecessor, 2010's blues-oriented Mojo, much closer in spirit to unfairly underestimated '87 grab bag Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), and probably in the top third of the Heartbreakers' 13-album catalog.

Here Petty's crew adds a CCR-ish riff borrowed from their Mudcrutch years (or the 2008 Mudcrutch album) to a chorus that is all about the Jeff Lynne days of Into the Great Wide Open, while dropping all kinds of voodoo slang he doesn't really need to kickstart the Heartbreakers' career into high gear again. Talk about mojo: Petty's hypnotic eye will look down into your soul all right. CHRIS GRAY

"Suck My Heart Out With a Straw," The Fauntleroys Ivan Julian rips out a rocker that sounds like ? and the Mysterians channeled through a line of coke in the CBGB's bathroom. According to Julian, the music is a leftover from his days in the Voidoids. It's a gusty blast of New York rock, but it's the post-breakup meltdown howl that really puts this one over the top.

Sung from the point of view of a dumped guy who has just been visited by his shrink, Julian screams, "She left the bill on the bed/ She left the pill on the bed." But it's his deranged, repetitive shriek, "You sucked my heart out with a straw," that will ring in your head for days. Why does such pain put a smile on my face every time I hear it? Been there, done that? WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

List continues on the next page.

"Telephone," Lady Gaga Pop songs that contain unwitting anachronisms have always been a secret hobby; an example that readily comes to mind is Tommy Tu-Tone's "Jenny (867-5309)," a relic of the days of looking for casual hookups in bathroom stalls rather than on Tindr. On "Telephone," some clueless would-be suitor has the audacity to call Mama Monster -- as in actually trying to reach her by voice -- leading to the highly amusing line, "I cannot text you with a drink in my hand." If that wasn't embarrassing enough, then Beyonce shows up to set this poor bastard straight.

Listen close enough to the frothy disco-synth mix of this 2010 No. 3 hit and you'll hear an actual dial tone that used to mean a a person's land line was off the hook; i.e. he or she didn't want to talk to you. Wait...do people even say "off the hook" anymore? CHRIS GRAY

"Vietnam War Blues," the Oblivians I have to thank my compadre Matt Black for turning me on to the Oblivians' first album, May 1995's Soul Food. He directed me to the Compulsive Gamblers' industrial-strength cover of "Telstar," one of those surf/psychedelic instrumentals that had a run on radio back in the day, which led me to click on another YouTube by the Gamblers' successors, the Oblivians.

This barnburner, a cover of Houston's own Lightnin' Hopkins' tune, snagged all of my brain matter. Po' Lightnin' understood very early that inner-city blacks would mainly be fighting that war, and he was certain it was another scam by Whitey. These Memphis boys' version sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis on a joyride in a cement truck. Deliciously dangerous. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

"Where We Are (We Belong)," Lucas Jack Let's say your music collection is largely an accumulation of male ivory ticklers, organized in chronological order from Fats Domino and ending with Jamie Cullum. Who's the next addition to place alongside Elton John and Randy Newman?

I submit Lucas Jack for your consideration From right down I-10, this San Antonian's Sun City album is fine work. This track appears a third of the way through and is jaunty and alive in a way that recalls Ben Folds' "Army" or Billy Joel's "Movin' Out." The influences are apparent, but never overwhelm his own thing, which is really good playing, singing and songwriting. If you know piano men, you should know Jack. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

"Worry Doll," The Fauntleroys This new EP collaboration featuring Alejandro Escovedo, Ivan Julian (Richard Hell's Voidoids), Linda Pitmon (Miracle Three, Baseball Project), and Nick Tremulis (Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra, Candy Golde) is a rip-snorting rocker of an EP, Under the Pink Pony.

On "Worry Doll," Tremulis lays down his usual Chicago-Greek hipster vibe, shouting out in the intro "I saw the True Believers, they were smokin' on the corner of A Street/ They were waitin' on the weather, but you know that chick is always late." Tremulis goes on to invoke Jasper Johns and "a 45 machete wrapped in blue chiffon." Punk as it gets these days, with playing that will put bruises on your face. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

"You Can Have the Crown," Sturgill Simpson A country song hasn't grabbed me this immediately since Little Big Town's "Pontoon" two years ago, but "You Can Have the Crown" is about as far away from that one as Nashville is from Sturgill Simpson's hometown of Jackson, Ky. If you're curious, that's 80 miles away from Pikeville, Dwight Yoakam's birthplace, and close to absolutely nowhere.

Anyhow, Simpson has a superb new album out called Metamodern Sounds In Country Music that will doubtless top more than a few country-minded critics' year-end lists, and when he performed "Life of Sin" on David Letterman last month, it also led me to "Crown," from last year's High Top Mountain. A juiced-up Waylon reboot as funny as it is dead-on about a dead-end life, it's exactly the kind of working-man's honky-tonk you just assume they don't make anymore right up until someone does. CHRIS GRAY


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