The Best Music of September: NPR Staff Picks : All Songs Considered Every month, we ask the NPR Music staff: What's the one song you couldn't escape? What's the one album to which you'll return all year?

Songs featured in this episode:

• Ada Lea: "hurt" from one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden
• MUNA (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers), "Silk Chiffon"
• Little Simz: "Standing Ovation" from Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
• Mon Laferte: "Nothing Else Matters" from The Metallica Blacklist
• Sun-El Musician (Feat. Simmy), "Higher"
• Jon Hopkins: "Sit Around the Fire (Feat. Ram Dass & East Forest)" from Music for Psychedelic Therapy

Follow the #NowPlaying blog for the NPR Music staff's favorite new songs.

The Best Music of September: NPR Staff Picks

The Best Music of September: NPR Staff Picks

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Clockwise, from top left: Little Simz, MUNA, Sun-El Musician, Jon Hopkins, Mon Laferte, Ada Lea. Courtesy of the artists hide caption

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Courtesy of the artists

Clockwise, from top left: Little Simz, MUNA, Sun-El Musician, Jon Hopkins, Mon Laferte, Ada Lea.

Courtesy of the artists

Every month, we ask the NPR Music staff: What's the one song you couldn't escape? What's the one album to which you'll return all year? In September, we explore Ada Lea's personal history map, danced to MUNA, gave Little Simz a standing ovation, marveled at Mon Laferte's Metallica cover, took a moment of solace with Sun El-Musician and meditated to the music of Jon Hopkins.

Follow the #NowPlaying blog for the NPR Music staff's favorite new songs.


Ada Lea: "hurt" from one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden

Alexandra Levy describes her sophomore release as Ada Lea as a personal history map of the city of her home city of Montreal. That map unfolds into songs that feel like a collection of short stories, thanks to Levy's knack for scene-setting details and descriptions of emotionally complicated situations; while the tone can shift from brooding to playful to confessional, it's held together by Levy's singular voice. The album begins at a New Year's Eve party ("damn") and ends some time later with "hurt," where our narrator is on the highway, headed home, filled with both indecision and, ultimately, acceptance — a beautiful testament to the record's journeying spirit. —Marissa Lorusso

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MUNA (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers), "Silk Chiffon"

MUNA has embraced themes of gender and sexuality since the trio began making music in 2013. Its latest single, "Silk Chiffon" featuring Phoebe Bridgers, is perhaps the culmination of these ideas packaged in a sweet, lighthearted ode to a crush. Aptly titled, the song whimsically expresses the feeling of wearing someone like a heart on a sleeve. "Silk Chiffon" is MUNA's first release after signing to Phoebe Bridgers' label, Saddest Factory, whose usual melancholy contributes a layer of unexpected sweetness. With its almost-bubblegum lyrics and an endearing intro that seems like a nod to Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me," MUNA's "Silk Chiffon" is not only a song for a lover, but one that embraces queerness and femininity. In short, this one's for the girls. —Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

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Little Simz: "Standing Ovation" from Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

After receiving widespread critical acclaim for her third studio album, GREY Area, Little Simz (born Simbiatu Abisola Abiola Ajikawo) skyrocketed into fame — seemingly overnight despite holding her own in the English rap and R&B scene since 2010. Now, the British-Nigerian rapper's latest release — an endlessly cinematic and addictive listen by the name of Sometimes I Might Be Introvert — delves into Ajikawo's tense relationship with validation as a musician-writer. The mind of a writer is a precious, hidden space and standout track "Standing Ovation" finds Ajikawo confronting the fact that with more success comes more interiority mining. Built from a sample of Talib Kweli's "Never Been In Love," the lush, Inflo-produced song features triumphant horns among a patient (even halting) orchestra and brash, in-your-face verses from Ajikawo; she demands the recognition she deserves while contemplating the purpose and subsequent consequences of external validation. —LaTesha Harris

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Mon Laferte: "Nothing Else Matters" from The Metallica Blacklist

Boasting effortless power and true feminina flair, Mon Laferte's Spanish cover of Metallica's legendary "Nothing Else Matters" captures the soul-filled essence of the original track with a completely authentic, Mon-tinged approach. The Metallica Blacklist was released with a whopping 12 different covers of "Nothing Else Matters," but Mon's arrangement stands out as wholly unique: Spanish guitar and strings, paired with Mon's powerhouse vocals and ever-present passion, make for a direct translation of the gripping energy of the original in a completely new language. —Anamaria Sayre

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Sun-El Musician (Feat. Simmy), "Higher"

Sun-El Musician's "Higher" is a beautiful piece of Afro house that reflects what the South African people have been through over the past 18 months. The country's just now coming out of its third wave of coronavirus infections and, earlier this summer, there were extremely violent protests that resulted in the loss of more than 300 lives. This isn't your typical dance song; it's more of a moment of solace that reflects where South Africa has been and where it needs to go and where it will undoubtedly end up. There are very few lyrics to "Higher," but the words that Simmy sings are incredibly moving. ​—Otis Hart

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Jon Hopkins: "Sit Around the Fire (Feat. Ram Dass & East Forest)" from Music for Psychedelic Therapy

In November, Jon Hopkins will put out a record that's part ambient, part neoclassical and part something else entirely. It's got a descriptive title: Music for Psychedelic Therapy. The title suggests that you're supposed to listen while you take psychedelic drugs, but you don't need them in order for this record to slow you down, expand your mind and help you think, relax and explore. This month, Hopkins released an eight-minute track from the album called "Sit Around the Fire." It's glacial and beautiful, anchored by the spoken words of the late spiritual teacher Ram Dass. And, look, if it reminds you of something you'd hear in a yoga studio, so be it. It's genuinely meditative, calming and relaxing — capable of lowering the listener's blood pressure in a real and meaningful way.—Stephen Thompson

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