The 5 Best New Songs We Heard This Week: Courtney Barnett and Natalie Prass

Despite the debut of much-discussed collaborations from Rihanna, Paul McCartney, and Kanye, and Big Sean, Drake, and Kanye again, I’ve got to give this week to a batch of damn promising solo singer-songwriters, including Courtney Barnett and Natalie Prass. From Barnett and Prass to Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and Torres (who both released great new songs this week) to Jessica Pratt and Waxahatchee, the new music I’m most excited about right now is coming from young women leading their own bands and channeling their personal experiences into song.

Courtney Barnett — “Pedestrian at Best”

Courtney Barnett’s new song, the first released from her upcoming debut LP, matches up lyrically with the best of her past work, paired together as The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. The Australian singer-songwriter has no problem turning her clever pen on herself, admitting her inability to move past the anxiety phase of having professional expectations thrust upon her. But it’s her lines that put others in their place — “I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you very funny” — that are matched by her feedback-laced, Breeders-esque riffs here on “Pedestrian at Best.”

Natalie Prass — “It Is You”

Natalie Prass, the Nashville singer-songwriter whose ’70s-soaked country-soul debut out this week has garnered a substantial amount of mostly warranted buzz, has a song at the end of her album that has me wondering if she’s a Belle, an Aurora, or a classic Snow White type. Besides showtunes, I can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed a song I’d delight in categorizing as Disney princess swag. Capping off an album about how miserable and misunderstood she feels in love with a swooning fantasy leads me to believe that Prass remains, despite the emotional debris she and a full orchestra detail in ways comparable to Dusty Springfield, a hopeful romantic.

Programm — “Like the Sun”

The two styles straddled by Toronto band Programm — post-punk and shoegaze — are both genres defined by their distinct guitar tones. Yet it’s the competition of percussion, both live and programmed, that comes to define the quartet’s dark, slightly industrial debut single, “Like the Sun.”

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Andy Butler feat. Richard Kennedy — “You Can Shine”

In a statement that accompanied the release of “You Can Shine,” Hercules and Love Affair leader Andy Butler astutely noted that “house [music] is often soulful but you very rarely hear a big gospel-inflected voice paired with booming, doomy techno.” He really goes for the pairing here, on the uplifting title track from his upcoming two-song EP, and the results recall a more ambitious take on Disclosure’s collaborations with Mary J. Blige and Sam Smith.

Diet Cig — “Harvard”

Who doesn’t like a punk song that takes the piss out of a stuck-up ex’s new Ivy League girlfriend? If it wasn’t already evident from Diet Cig’s dreamy diss track “Scene Sick,” “Harvard” clinches it: bitterness sounds like a party when this New Paltz, New York duo gets their claws into it. Diet Cig’s Over Easy EP is out Feb. 24 on Father/Daughter Records.