Slate music: September Spotify playlist for Slate Plus members.

Slate Staff Pick the Best Songs From September

Slate Staff Pick the Best Songs From September

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Sept. 30 2014 11:42 AM
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Listen to Our September Music Roundup

Hot tracks from a cooler month, exclusively for Slate Plus members.

Photo illustration by Ellie Skrzat. Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for iHeartMedi, Courtesy of XL Recordings, Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Philip Lim.
Childish Gambino, Sbtrkt, and Banks.

Photo illustration by Ellie Skrzat. Photos by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for iHeartMedi, courtesy of XL Recordings, and by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Philip Lim.

Slate’s Brow Beat team covers the latest pop music daily, from Kendrick Lamar to TV on the Radio to Prince. Slate’s critics dig into the state of music: Carl Wilson’s album reviews; Chris Molanphy’s in-depth Billboard chart analysis; Slate pop critic Jack Hamilton’s sharp Cultureboxes. And in September, Slate contributor William Weir paid tribute to the mostly gone but never forgotten fade-out in pop music, and Alfred Soto highlighted the brilliant women of R&B who aren’t getting nearly enough attention. Meanwhile, Slate’s L.V. Anderson exposed the anti-feminist trend in “All About That Bass” singer Meghan Trainor’s work.

But if you love music, you want more. To help, we’re creating a monthly Spotify playlist exclusively for Slate Plus members. Here, we’ll not only catch you up on the best songs you might’ve missed that month on Slate, but staffers will share a few favorites we might not have covered—yet.

Childish Gambino – “Sober”
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I’ve listened to this song more than a dozen times or so since I first wrote about it, and it just keeps getting better. I love hearing Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) throw himself fully into singing, and the production is sick. —Aisha Harris, staff writer

Sbtrkt ft. Denai Moore – “The Light”
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This song will make you fall in love with Aaron Jerome, better known as the masked London producer Sbtrkt. And that’s because this latest release from his new album is his best, poppiest song to date—one that sounds unlike anything he’s ever done. The structure is simple: Over a linear piano-driven melody (enhanced by Sbtrkt’s click-clacky flourishes), criminally overlooked British soul singer Denai Moore repeats the song’s mesmerizing chorus (“Tell me, am I the only one/ Getting lonelier and losing love in my heart”). It’s a spellbinding composition I only hope can find some life on American radio. —Dee Lockett, editorial assistant

Annie Lennox – “I Put a Spell on You”
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OK, so Annie Lennox’s cover of “I Put a Spell on You”—part of her new American songbook project titled Nostalgia—may not be the best version of the tune that I’ve ever heard, but I’m thrilled to hear her take it on, along with the rest of this repertoire, nonetheless. Lennox has long been my favorite anti-diva diva, and her sensuous, melancholy glances at these classics are sure to make a fine soundtrack to autumn. —J. Bryan Lowder, assistant editor

Tennis – “Never Work for Free”
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The first single off the duo’s third album, Ritual in Repeat, is addictive in its peppiness. It feels like many a Haim song, which is a good thing—namely you want to bounce around your apartment singing it at the top of your lungs into a hairbrush. —Miriam Krule, assistant editor

Banks – “Someone New”
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When California singer Banks popped up on music blogs last year, many tried to market her as a dark and mysterious alt-R&B type. It’s a fair assessment: Most of the songs on her debut album Goddess are awash in Lil Silva, Shlohmo, and TEED’s brooding synth-heavy production. But it’s not entirely representative of Banks’ sound. In fact, Banks is strongest on songs like “Someone New” when she’s not competing with those bells and whistles. Over a simple acoustic melody she evokes a Sara Bareilles vibe, detailing a breakup with devastating lines like, “I promise one day I’ll come back for you.” —Lockett

Run the Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
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As a confirmed cranky old person who stopped closely following rap and indie rock about the time that cold, mopey, crystalline faux-’80s sounds started taking over both genres (I blame Drake), it is appropriate that, to make this selection, I listened to a number of different songs recommended by my more plugged-in music-listening friends, disliked almost all of them, and settled on “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” the second single from Run the Jewels’ upcoming sophomore album. It’s threatening, adrenaline-pumping, and emotional—in other words, it sounds like what good music used to sound like before everyone started taking molly and listening to minimalist synthesizer blips. —Ben Mathis-Lilly, Slatest editor

Big Sean ft. E-40 – “I Don’t Fuck With You”
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Part of me wants to ignore this song. It’s really little more than pathetic whining from Big Sean about his failed relationship with ex-fiancée Naya Rivera (of Glee fame). But, it’s also Kanye West’s second time producing alongside L.A.’s DJ Mustard—the first being on Rick Ross’ “Sanctify”—and more proof that, as a production duo, they complement each other’s style seamlessly. This song marries one of Mustard’s signature G-funk strip-club beats—originally meant for Justin Bieber—with Kanye’s incredible ear for timeless records (the song samples D.J. Rogers’ “Say You Love Me”). Throw a killer E-40 verse into the mix, and you’ve got a straight-up banger. —Lockett

Tweedy – “Low Key”
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I’m a sucker for family acts—see previous selection of a husband-and-wife duo—in this case it’s father and son: Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and his teenage son Spencer. My favorite off their album Sukierae, named after their wife/mother, is the very low-key “Low Key.” —Krule

Jessie Ware – “Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe”
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It wouldn’t be a monthly Slate Plus playlist without a new Jessie Ware song. This is her third consecutive appearance on this list, which should tell you all you need to know about how fantastic her new album will likely be. This one’s a sizzling Miguel co-written gem that even Ware herself admitted got her all hot and bothered while recording it in the studio. I don’t blame her. It’s a sexier tone than what we’re used to from Ware (“Do I want you at all?/ OK, just a bit, I hate to admit”) and it has me begging for a Miguel/Jessie Ware collaborative album. —Lockett

Ariana Grande – “Break Your Heart Right Back”
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On paper, this song shouldn’t work. Part trap beat, part Whitney-style 808 cowbell, part Nile Rodgers disco guitar, and part Ariana Grande’s featherweight voice drifting above it all— it should be a mess. (And to be honest, the lyrical concept kind of is.) But one of this year’s best magic tricks is that at 0:35 when Diana Ross comes in, it all clicks together. The song came out in August, but it’s that moment I’ve been coming back to all month. —Forrest Wickman, staff writer

Chris Brown ft. R. Kelly – “Drown in It”
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Yeah, I know: Two of the most reprehensible men in music on one track together. That should be grounds enough to automatically dismiss it. But, alas, this is one of the sexiest songs I’ve heard all year—and that’s including Jeremih and Shlohmo’s lusty EP—and a collaboration I can’t believe took this long to happen. I mean, we’re talking two of R&B’s most NSFW artists trading verses about “touching your spot.” Just add this to your bedroom playlist, and thank me later. —Lockett

Seinabo Sey – “Pistols at Dawn”
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Seinabo Sey has consistently blown me away ever since I first heard the young Swedish singer’s massive vocal range last year on a song called “Younger.” Her latest single, “Pistols at Dawn,” demonstrates the quality that strikes me most about Sey’s work: Her voice, as she passionately sings “We could have it all/ A world of our own” then brings it down to her deeply rich lower register on the verse, sounds like it’s made from the finest silk. Seriously. She’s one of the best female vocalists in the business, and you’ve probably never even heard of her. Let this exquisite song introduce you. —Lockett