The month's best music: Beck, Cardi B, Zomby and more

In a new series, the Guardian rounds up the 50 songs you need to hear each month in playlists across all major streaming services

Welcome to a new monthly feature on the Guardian, where we round up the best 50 songs from the previous month and stick them in a beautifully sequenced playlist for you (available on streaming services Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music). We’ll also pick out the 10 biggest, most zeitgeist-squatting tracks from it below – this month there’s everything from psychedelic dance-rock by the Horrors, to Latin pop from J Balvin, to glacial dub techno by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe.

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Beck – Dear Life

In the wake of his Grammy-winning heartache album Morning Phase, has Beck pulled an emotional U? Bright anthems Dreams, Wow and now Dear Life mark his departure from a melancholy chapter – but perhaps only sonically. Beyond the funk guitars, drunken piano and surging chorus on Dear Life, there’s existential angst oozing from its lyrics. “How long must I wait, before the thrill is gone?” he asks on this typically obliquepop track.

Beck Composite: n/a

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Justin Bieber & Bloodpop® – Friends

He may be displaying all the signs of popstar meltdown: – cancelled tour dates, a constant series of paparazzi run-ins, rumours he’s starting his own church – but Justin Bieber continues to dominate the global charts with almost disquieting certainty. This new track with production outfit Bloodpop® rides a Dancing on My Own-style electro bassline and fairly shamelessly lifts the key and intonation from Bieber’s own Sorry – but his breathy boyband vocals and melodic gifts remain addictive.

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Cardi B – Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)

August’s success story was Cardi B, whose withering Bodak Yellow finally reached the US top three having been released in June. The former gang member, stripper and reality TV star could have easily ended up as a rap game curio, but this track could put her alongside Nicki Minaj in the pantheon of hip-hop scorn. We don’t know what “blood shoes” are – but we want a pair.

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The Horrors – Something to Remember Me By

Possibly the best song yet by the gothic rockers. A Chicago house pulse powers it along, but the chorus swirls with inky psychedelic effects – cascading synth arpeggios, jumbo jet rushes – as Faris Badwan sings a perfect top line. It’s the kind of marriage of dance and rock culture that so often feels leaden, but when it works is truly euphoric.

Charli XCX
Charli XCX Composite: n/a

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Charli XCX – Boys

The nearly-woman of pop has another stab at the big time, everything buffed to a sheen and hanging in perfect equilibrium. The witty “tsunami” line may have mysteriously disappeared, but it’s still the most elegant song ever made about having an insatiable horn.

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French Montana feat. Swae Lee – Unforgettable (Latin remix feat. J Balvin)

One of the year’s best songs gets a new chorus from J Balvin, the Colombian pop star whose Mi Gente is currently doing a Despacito and ruling the global charts – he twines his expressive, declarative vocals beautifully around the sad reggaeton shuffle. French Montana meanwhile crops up again on the playlist with A Lie, requiring industrial amounts of Auto-Tune to help him sing, backed by white-septumed crooner the Weeknd and father of waviness Max B.

French Montana
French Montana Composite: n/a

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Zomby – GASP!

The mysterious masked man of British underground dance has done his best to annoy everyone with his prickly Twitter manner and – to these ears – often sophomoric productions. But this return is gripping, a 4/4 industrial rave jam with the eighth beat knocked beautifully off course.

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Steven Wilson – Permanating

Bravo to Wilson, who has managed to reach the upper echelons of the album chart despite no one knowing who he is – a conundrum he pondered in our interview with him. Despite being thought of as prog, Permanating is proof that he, like Keane, is actually a master of the piano-driven Radio 2 toe-tapper.

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Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – Audoghast

Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe is an enduring voice in the US underground, producing everything from math rock to ambient to vocals in sci-fi blockbuster Arrival. He’s had a banner month, appearing on the cover of the Wire, playing a string of astonishing live shows where he pumped maximal techno out of a modular synth and releasing not one but two albums. Audoghast, from Two Orb Reel, is a bit of dub techno that spreads out as slowly as a jar of Marmite held upside down.

The War on Drugs
The War on Drugs Composite: n/a

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The War on Drugs – Pain

The Philadelphia band fronted by songwriter Adam Granduciel step up to a major label for their new album A Deeper Understanding, and its highlight has a befitting grandeur. Shorn of a chorus, the vocal line searches through a gorgeous selection of guitar tones as a pair of solos shine a light; the giant melody that finally coheres after nearly five minutes is heart-stopping.

Let us know know what tracks you’ve been enjoying in the comments below.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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