Here are my favorite tracks from November 2019. This Thanksgiving, my wife and I watched the Dennis Quaid home invasion thriller The Intruder (5 stars) while the bird was in the oven. I referred to it as The Hand that Rocks the Quaid-le, and she laughed. I am so thankful for her. I can’t fathom my luck.
1. Jessie Ware – “Mirage (Don’t Stop)”
Club music tends to bludgeon. But in Jessie Ware’s hands, it caresses. “Last night we danced / And I thought you were saving my life,” she sings with gentle confidence on “Mirage,” as the irrepressible bass line whisks our inhibitions away.
2. Earl Sweatshirt – “East”
Most rappers are content to rap over beats. Earl Sweatshirt raps through mazes. On “East,” it’s a drumless, three-second accordion sample lifted from a song by Egyptian crooner Abdel Halim Hafez. As Earl raps about all he’s lost – his phone, his girlfriend, his grandma – he somehow never loses his way.
3. Ozzy Osbourne – “Under the Graveyard”
Ozzy Osbourne’s voice has a troubled, mournful quality that has elevated even the dopiest of lyrics. And on this impeccably produced power ballad – his first single in nine years – our 70-year-old Prince of Darkness shows us he’s absolutely still got it. Pondering the finality of death, in a voice that can still sound stunningly forlorn.
4. Coldplay – “Cry Cry Cry”
Chris Martin dabbling in doo-wop might sound like the first idea Coldplay should’ve erased from their brainstorm whiteboard this album cycle. But this is a band who wrote a song called “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” and made it slap. So of course, “Cry Cry Cry” is an adventurous little ditty about romantic loyalty, its swaying Flamingos melody buoyed by vinyl hiss and Chipmunk harmonies.
5. NLE Choppa – “Forever”
This skyrocketing Memphis rapper celebrated his 17th birthday with a love song. “I got some trust issues / But I trust you,” he sings, the weight of the admission floating away in a haze of human chemistry and catchy organ chords.
6. Lauryn Hill – “Guarding the Gates”
Ozzy wasn’t the only legend flexing his muscles in November: 21 years after her first (and only) solo studio album turned the world on its ear, Lauryn Hill emerged on the soundtrack to Lena Waithe’s film Queen & Slim, with a jaw-dropping, six-minute R&B epic. As harpsichord notes declaratively ring, Hill sings about society’s expectations and the anxieties they bring, eventually finding freedom in another: “You can laugh at me / But I’m in love.”
7. Wiki (feat. Lil Ugly Mane & Denzel Curry) – “Grim”
What better subject for a sneering, ominous New York rap song than the cold indifference of the Grim Reaper? “Will it be late at night or in the early morning? / Either way, slurpin’ forties out in purgatory.”
8. Haim – “Hallelujah”
They might be from California, but Haim’s finger-picked ballad about spiritual bonds and crushing losses is well within sight of those snow-covered hills Stevie Nicks sang about.
9. Red Death – “Sickness Divine”
This DC hardcore band goes full 1986 Metallica on “Sickness Divine,” regaling us with a clean, melodramatic intro, which makes the subsequent skull-rattling riffage hit even harder.
10. Kacey Musgraves (feat. Troye Sivan) – “Glittery”
Kacey Musgraves has written indelible love songs using metaphors as trite as butterflies and rainbows. So who better to write us a new, hopelessly romantic Christmas carol?