The 15 Best Songs We Heard in May
"Collard Greens," Schoolboy Q
Photo by Marco Torres Schoolboy Q at Warehouse Live in March
If you enjoy beats that conjure images of huddled, bouncing basketball teams moments before tip-off, you'll enjoy "Collard Greens." If you also enjoy raps about having game, money and weed, you'll return for a second helping. And, if you want to hear Schoolboy Q's Black Hippy mate Kendrick Lamar drop profane rhymes in Spanish, you probably like tons of pepper sauce on your greens.
Schoolboy Q's been serving this up since last year, but I got my first taste only last month; can't believe I was missing out on this soul food. But, if you were too, try it out 'cause This Is It. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
"Eastern Steamship Line," Richard Dobson
Photo by Danny Clinch/Courtesy of Nonesuch Records The Black Keys
I shipped out of Galveston on commercial vessels for a year or so in my idle youth, and Sergio Webb's "Eastern Steamship Line" catches the laid-back life of a Galveston sailor as perfectly as any tune I've ever heard. It has the jaunty madness of a sailor tearing it up on the beach before the next ship sails. Puro South Texas. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
"Fever," Black Keys
It's just catchy and soulful. The Black Keys are effectively at stadium-rock status, yet have managed to remain relevant and spirited. On a side note, some promotion of their new album Turn Blue involved them circulating a recorded prank-calling of their label. And there were celebrity rivalries. Anyway, I'm liking this song, like many of their others. ALEXA CRENSHAW
"Get the Load Out," the Jayhawks
Universal is in the middle of reissuing the Jayhawks' catalog, throwing some attention back on the Minneapolis band who were onetime contemporaries of the Replacements and Husker Du but have outlasted those groups many times over. Eventually the Minneapolitans' wistful folk-rock made them key players in the alt-country scene, though sometimes unfairly dismissed as lightweights by critics who preferred the louder likes of Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown. Even still, the Jayhawks come on like prime Crazy Horse on "Get the Load Out" -- a B-side from 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass, as rescued on the expanded version of 2009's Music From the North Country anthology -- proving they could land a few punches of their own. CHRIS GRAY
"Hard Out Here," Lily Allen
Can we now add Lily Allen to the canon of great British satirists? It's okay if she's not as classic as Chaucer or Orwell, she's got more Twitter followers than either one. "Hard Out Here" aims at glass ceilings, double standards, objectification and the unrealistic body-image demands that plague the modern woman.
The song's video is a clever take on misogyny in the music industry and proves that Lily can't twerk like Miley. But, as she reminds, there's "no need to shake my ass for you, 'cause I've got a brain." Chaucer and Orwell were okay, but we need Lily Allen's keen eye and biting words more than theirs in 2014. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
"Heaven Knows," The Pretty Reckless
I was driving to work after a restless night when I first heard The Pretty Reckless' "Heaven Knows" on the radio. I couldn't quite place Taylor Momsen's voice, but it brought Joan Jett to mind. I found myself smiling and nodding along to the beat, and even jotted down a few lyrics at a stoplight to simplify finding the song later. Pretty Reckless is another act that I'd never quite familiarized myself with, but this new single might just be the spur I need. MATTHEW KEEVER
Photos by Abrahan Garza Morrissey at Beaumont's Julie Rogers Theater last month
Since Morrissey's early-'00s career renaissance, he's pursued a very specific sound. "Istanbul" is really no different; just yet another example of Morrissey's standard rock song format over the last decade. The formula works, though.
Between that funky bassline, the driving guitar riff, and Moz's typically impassioned vocals, this single stands out as one of the strongest out of any of his four comeback records so far. COREY DIETERMAN
"July Blues," Joe Ely
Maybe this is two months early, but at this point it's just a matter of degrees anyway. The mercury sizzles on this cut from 2007's Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch, where Ely pushes out words like "it's too hot for snakes" and "my baby's sucking on ice cubes that ain't even there" at a pace that matches your average ceiling fan in a 1950s noir film. In other words, it's too hot for anything but sin and seduction. Not helping one ounce is David Grissom's electric guitar, which is so sultry you can see the notes coming off his axe in waves. Send the kids outside to play for a spell. CHRIS GRAY
List continues on the next page.