Slate music: October Spotify playlist for Slate Plus members.

Slate Staff Pick the Best Songs From October

Slate Staff Pick the Best Songs From October

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Oct. 30 2014 6:03 PM
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Listen to Our October Music Roundup

Your autumn playlist to put on repeat, exclusively for Slate Plus members.

Photo illustration by Ellie Skrzat. Photos by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for iHeartMedia, Fiona Goodall/Getty Images, Brad Barket/Getty Images for Time Warner Cable, and Jerod Harris/Getty Images for BET.
Taylor Swift, Run The Jewels, Drake, and Tinashe.

Photo illustration by Ellie Skrzat. Photos by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for iHeartMedia, Fiona Goodall/Getty Images, Brad Barket/Getty Images for Time Warner Cable, and Jerod Harris/Getty Images for BET.

Slate’s Brow Beat team covers the latest pop music daily, from David Bowie to Chance the Rapper to James Blake. Slate’s critics dig into the state of music: Carl Wilson’s album reviews; Chris Molanphy’s in-depth Billboard chart analysis on Brow Beat; Slate pop critic Jack Hamilton’s sharp Cultureboxes. And in October, Dee Lockett interviewed El-P and Killer Mike, the minds behind of one of rap’s best duos, Run the Jewels. (We also highlighted other classic hip-hop albums that should get all-cat remixes.) Also, Slate video producer Chris Wade edited an entertaining (and surprisingly insightful) visual history of U2’s Bono posing like Jesus for 34 years.

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 that you might’ve missed on Slate, but staffers will share a few favorites we might not have covered—yet.

Ex Hex – “Radio On”
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Look, of course it's great news that Sleater-Kinney is back. But another fringe benefit of Sleater-Kinney’s reunion, it seems, is the existence of Ex Hex. After all, Mary Timony founded Ex Hex after Wild Flag, Timony's supergroup with Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, called it quits—in part, it seems, so that Brownstein and Weiss could re-form Sleater-Kinney. And Ex Hex's debut album Rips is great—crunchy and tuneful and extremely fun to listen to. Enjoy this sample, but buy the whole thing. —Dan Kois, culture editor

Grace Mitchell – “Always and Forever”
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At just 16, Grace Mitchell combines vocal maturity with lyrical depth in her lush October EP Design. The breezy, romantic strains of “Always and Forever” on Design stand out as perfectly pitched for autumn. It is the ’60s post-summer love song updated: Choruses of “faded leather, perfect weather, always, forever” have the pithy evocation of a bygone season reminiscent of midcentury American vocal pop—the Cascades’ “Rhythm of the Rain” (an autumn hit back in 1963) came to mind for me— but Mitchell’s “you might be super shady, but so am I, so I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine” is distinctly contemporary. —Boer Deng, editorial assistant

Vince Staples – “Hands Up”
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Vince Staples is one of California’s most talented up-and-coming rappers and his debut EP, Hell Can Wait, is one of the year’s best rap projects. I have no idea whether Staples wrote “Hands Up” with the death of Mike Brown in mind—it does reference the deaths of DeAngelo Lopez and Tyler Woods—but its relevance to the ongoing tension between protestors and police in Ferguson extends beyond just the title. This is a menacing No I.D.-produced exposé on police brutality that does not mince words. It’s “LAPD know they ain’t ’bout shit” closing line is just a morsel of what Staples has to say. —Dee Lockett, editorial assistant

Tinashe – “All Hands on Deck”
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With Beyoncé dominating R&B’s center stage with her window-shattering roar, a lot of this year’s up-and-comers are carving out their own space by whispering quietly on the wings. My favorite of these mellower young singers is Tinashe, who had the sleeper R&B hit of the summer with “2 On.” Nothing on her debut album Aquarius quite reaches the intoxicated heights of that song, but “All Hands on Deck” aims highest and comes closest, complete with producers Stargate and Cashmere Cat doing their best DJ Mustard impression. —Forrest Wickman, staff writer

Childish Gambino – “Secret Track/3005 Pt. 2”
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I’m pretty sure I picked another Childish Gambino song last time, but the “3005 Pt. 2” hidden track on the STN MTN/Kauai mixtape is my fave of this month by far. He actually managed to take one of my favorite songs from last year (his original “3005”) and make it even better with a more immersive remix and new lyrics that include a brief allusion to “Always Be My Baby.” —Aisha Harris, staff writer

Les Sins ft. Nate Salman – “Why”
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Toro y Moi’s dance-based side project Les Sins arrives in early November, but with the album streaming on NPR, “Why” featuring Nate Salman is a fun, groovy standout. Does this mean the album’s title, Michael, is a tribute to the King of Pop? It’s hard to believe otherwise. —Courtney Duckworth, culture intern

Kindness ft. Robyn – “Who Do You Love?”
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Kindness, the solo project of Adam Bainbridge, is an artist I’ve slept on for way too long. So I finally decided to dive into his work this year with his new album, Otherness, and I’m so glad I did. It’s a sprawling collection of jazz and ’80s-disco-influenced tracks, and, for me, the highlight is the album’s magnetic Robyn-featured track. This is now the second song named “Who Do You Love?” from 2014 that I can’t get out of my head (the other being YG and Drake’s collaboration). It’s slice of synth-pop heaven that sounds so timeless it could’ve appeared in Flashdance. —Lockett

Meek Mill ft. Lil Boosie – “Fuck U Mean”
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I'm not going to choose this song. I'm not going to choose this song. Oh my God, I can't stop listening to this song. A four-minute epic of dystopian charisma, this maniacal, bone-rattling, ludicrously riveting collaboration between Philly's Meek Mill and Baton Rouge’s Lil Boosie doesn't get stuck in your head so much as maraud through your consciousness like a Visigoth in a Range Rover. This is headphone music at its finest, unsafe for work or polite society in general. Luckily, both are overrated. —Jack Hamilton, pop critic

Sleater-Kinney ft. Miranda July – “Bury Our Friends”
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“Featuring Miranda July,” I know, I know, but seriously, Sleater-Kinney is back. —Kois

Caribou – “Our Love”
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Canadian polymath Dan Snaith has been a quiet, consistent MVP of millennial electronic music: in the early ’00s as Manitoba, last year in his crate-digging side project Daphni, and most fruitfully as Caribou—his main gig since 2005. During that time, Caribou albums have twice been cited for Canada’s elite Polaris Music Prize (shortlisted for 2010’s Swim, winning for 2007’s Andorra), and Caribou’s 2010 deep-house classic “Odessa,” one of Pitchfork’s top tracks of the decade, is the trippy-EDM track that won’t quit, popping up in car ads and probably every dance mix I’ve made for the last four years. And Our Love, Caribou’s first album since 2010, doesn’t disappoint. The title track is affectionately reminiscent of the old-school Detroit techno classic “Good Life” by Inner City. Its mesmerizing and spooky concept video follows an old woman in an unbroken shot through a giant house. Which is as good a metaphor for Caribou’s music as any—the beats may skitter and thump, but Snaith’s music builds a heartbeat pulse that’s cavernous in its scope. —Chris Molanphy, music critic

ILoveMakonnen ft. Drake – “Tuesday (Remix)”
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Drake may have come out with three new songs just last week, but in my mind, his best new track of the fall remains his “Tuesday” remix with Atlanta singer and rapper ILoveMakonnen, which finally got its own music video earlier this month. If Kanye’s “Runaway” toasts “the jerkoffs/ that’ll never take work off,” “Tuesday” is the perfect work-hard-play-hard jam for when they finally do—maybe after logging some hours over the weekend, and preferably on a Tuesday. —Wickman

Kiesza – “No Enemiesz”
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If you don’t immediately recognize the name Kiesza, trust me, you’ve likely seen the brilliantly choreographed video for her song “Hideaway” that’s gone viral. I originally thought she’d be nothing but a one-hit wonder, but there’s much more to Kiesza’s repertoire than I’d considered. On her debut album, Sound of a Woman, she recalls the style of house music that dominated the radio for a time in the ’90s—the album even includes a cover of Haddaway’s “What Is Love.” To be honest, I love all the songs on this album equally, but given that “No Enemiesz” is the next single—and has an equally well-choreographed video to match—I figured it’d be smart to put Slate Plus readers on to the song early before it blows up. —Lockett

Robert Plant – “Rainbow”
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Though Robert Plant’s new album, Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, was released in September, I hadn’t heard any of its tracks until Plant’s appearance earlier this month on the Colbert Report, during which the musician offered Colbert a joint before launching into his new song “Rainbow.” Critics of Plant have long scoffed at the New Age-y sensibilities he has long nurtured, and they are on full display here: “Found a lucky charm/ I dressed it up with love” are the opening lyrics; the music video is more or less along the same fantastical vein. But Plant’s fidelity to his Celtic/Welsh/mystical influences has kept his music from being relegated to the realm of easy-listening. —Deng

Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Never Catch Me”
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Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar are cultural and personal heavyweights, but I wouldn’t have put them together until “Never Catch Me,” off FlyLo’s new album You’re Dead. The piano riff and kinetic beats are characteristic FlyLo, but they take a back seat to let Kendrick tear through a deft verse, making this a true collaboration. —Duckworth

Taylor Swift –“Blank Space”
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Are you a Taylor Swift hater? Welcome! This is the song for you. Tired of being stereotyped as a two-faced “psycho” who’ll break your heart only to write a song about it afterwards, Swift has made her apparent second single—a guaranteed smash—about just that stereotype, with her playing the part with an audible eye-roll the whole time. (Ask her about this caricature in an interview, and she’s more to the point: The self-proclaimed feminist will rightly tell you it’s “very sexist. No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says it about Bruno Mars. They’re all writing about songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love life, and no one raises a red flag there.”) It’s a sharp bit of criticism delivered with a self-deprecating sense of humor, and—with its slow-building beat and wall-to-wall hooks—it’s one of the very best songs on the jam-packed 1989, my favorite album of the year so far. —Wickman

Baauer ft. AlunaGeorge and Rae Sremmurd – “One Touch”
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If all you remember about Baauer is his ubiquitous (and terrible) “Harlem Shake,” then let his latest be your introduction to his versatile style. I don’t know how he did it, but on “One Touch” he’s managed to combine the lush synth-pop of England’s AlunaGeorge and the trap rap of Mississippi duo Rae Sremmurd (you know them from “No Flex Zone”) to make a song that sounds like it’d be just as at home at a rave as it would on the Billboard charts. In other words, it’s a gem with probably the best Dragon Ball Z reference you’ll ever hear. —Lockett

Run the Jewels - “Early”
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Killer Mike and El-P’s work together on Run the Jewels wasn’t as political as their work together on Mike’s instant classic R.A.P. Music (which El-P produced), but the duo’s approach changes somewhat on Run the Jewels 2. Perhaps it’s because they’ve decided RTJ is no longer a mere side project, or perhaps it’s because of what happened this August in Ferguson, Missouri. It’s Ferguson that comes to mind when you listen to “Early,” which has Mike recounting a tragic tale of rapidly escalating police brutality. In the track’s saddest touch, El-P closes out by rapping about just how routine such scenes are. As he sums it up in the closing couplet: “Heard a kid plus pops watched cop make girl bleed/ Go to home, go to sleep, up again, early.” —Wickman