The Week In Music: The Best Albums, Songs, Performances and More
New Jay Som, a surprise Missy Elliott EP, #TaylorSwift7 and morePhoto by Lindsey Byrnes Music Features The Week in Music
You pulled yourself away from Taylor Swift discourse long enough to read this column, so let me start by saying “Welcome!” and “You’ve come to the right place!” From this point forward, I promise not to mention the words “Lover,” “Jack” or “Antonoff” (but I can’t promise you I’m not listening to “Cruel Summer” on repeat in the privacy of my own home). Today also brings a ton of other new releases, so many that we couldn’t fit them all in our 10 Albums to Stream Today roundup (we squeezed as many as we could!). In addition to those 10, there’s also a surprise new Missy Elliott EP out today, a charming new country record by Esther Rose and a proto-punk/soul mashup in the form of Seratones’ POWER. Whew! You better get streaming. In the past seven days, we were also graced with the return of roots-rocker Grace Potter, a new Clairo feature and Paste studio performances from Devon Welsh, Kate Bollinger and Queen of Jeans. There’s so much music and so little time, so please enjoy this condensed version of the last seven days in music.
Jay Som: Anak Ko
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in Jay Som’s case, her latest LP’s album art is entirely representative of what you’ll find inside. A girl blithely dances on an edge alone in front of a beautiful, dusky sunset, suspending herself in a pose, just as Anak Ko floats and drifts from start to finish, seemingly aimless yet entirely driven with purpose. Melina Duterte’s second full-length record is an exploration in growth as an artist and as an adult, as she discovers how to boldly navigate change and progress. While this record does nothing to necessarily challenge the listener, Duterte yanks us into her world from the first, sharp, hypnotic notes of the opening track, “If You Want It,” openly calling someone out: “I see you clearly / You dance around and fuck with us / A feigned intention / Well no one needs to feel your light,” she sings. While Duterte brings in several of her contemporaries to assist on this record, she opens the album working completely on her own, reminding us of the subdued, solitary power of her last record, 2017’s Everybody Works, Paste’s #1 album of that year. There’s a confidence on Anak Ko found only in personal development, something that Duterte, now aged 25 and living in Los Angeles, has embraced. —Annie Black
Sheer Mag: A Distant Call
Few bands have recently sparked as much ire in the music world as Greta Van Fleet. The group has rightfully been criticized for essentially ripping off Led Zeppelin and wearing kids’ Halloween hippie costumes. Their 2018 LP Anthem of the Peaceful Army attempted to be the sort of flower power (and yes, they literally have a song of this name) call-to-arms that their idols specialized. While insanely popular, GVF has the uncanniness of a wax figure, replicating music from the past without any soul. Completely counter to that is Sheer Mag. Their sound is undeniably inspired by the hard rock and glam metal of yesteryear; the four-piece is continually compared to Thin Lizzy and Cheap Trick and any number of late ‘70s/early ‘80s rock gods. Sheer Mag actually breathe life into their retro sound, in large part because of vocalist Tina Halladay’s neon-edged voice. Listening to them makes you want to don a pair of leather pants and maybe—just maybe—grow a mullet. But Sheer Mag have a specificity that clearly roots them in the present, makes them relevant and puts their message in context, Their debut album Need to Feel Your Love referenced the Stonewall Riots and White Rose activist Sophie Scholl, two extremely vital movements to today’s current politics. They are not merely attempting to recreate the past, but use both musical and social history to frame contemporary issues. —Clare Martin
Mura Masa feat. Clairo: “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again”
“I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again” opens as a subtle acoustic number with warped synths and Clairo’s velvety vocals, but slowly evolves into a glitchy dance track with electric guitar flourishes. Mura Masa’s production know-how and genre-hopping abilities always keep listeners on their toes, and this new single opens an exciting gateway into indie-dance music. —Lizzie Manno
Molly Sarlé: “Twisted”
“Twisted” is the third in a series of singles from Sarlé’s forthcoming album Karaoke Angel (out Sept. 20 on Partisan Records), which was written and recorded over the span of three years and as many places, from a trailer in Big Sur to home in North Carolina to a studio in Woodstock, N.Y. “Twisted” is like what the sung part of Catholic mass would sound like if it weren’t in Latin and actually left every member of the congregation feeling full of love, ready to let it spill out over everyone they know. The lyrics read like one long sentence, but there’s nothing stiff about these words—they don’t belong on a page. “Who says there’s anything with being Twisted?” Sarlé sings over a lone guitar. “Still I’m trying to keep it straight / Trying not to get lost in judgement or hate of / Those who I have deemed to be useless.” —Ellen Johnson
Grace Potter: “Love Is Love”
“Love Is Love” is tried-and-true Grace Potter. Featuring a gospel choir and Potter’s dynamite vocals, the song is confessional yet comprehensive. With all its gusto and feeling, it’s the kind of song that’ll stop you dead in your tracks—that’s the power of Grace Potter. It was also the first song Potter wrote for Daylight, and she says the experience was so jarring she nearly stopped the process right then. —Ellen Johnson
THE PASTE PODCAST
This week on The Paste Podcast, Pete Yorn join us in the Paste Studio in New York to play a few songs from his brand-new album Caretakers.
And Paste TV editor Allison Keene talks about this week’s best TV, including the second season of Netflix’s Mindhunter.
Philadelphia rock trio Queen of Jeans visited the Paste Studio to perform songs from their new LP If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid. Guitarist/vocalist Miri Devora and bassist Mattie Glass performed stripped-down versions of two new album tracks, plus a cover of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag.” “Bloomed” is marked by Devora’s ribbon-like vocal flutters and Glass’ leisurely, low-toned guitar twinkles, while “Only Obvious to You” has a similarly waltzy flow. To close, they completely transformed “Teenage Dirtbag” into something much more elegant and heartfelt. —Lizzie Manno
Former Majical Cloudz frontman and now solo artist Devon Welsh visited the Paste Studio this week to perform songs from his new LP True Love, out on Oct. 11 via his own label You Are Accepted. After releasing four albums with Majical Cloudz, including two with Matador Records, the band split up in 2016, and Welsh released his debut solo album Dream Songs last year. Welsh performed three songs in the Paste Studio, all from his new album: “Somebody Loves You,” “Uniform” and “Dreamers.” His billowing synths, crushing strings and subtle percussion are striking on their own, but Welsh’s rich vocals are his guiding light, always building a robust emotional tension. With his new record, Welsh set out to deconstruct societal preconceptions and redefine love and masculinity. —Lizzie Manno
When Sam Hall was 18, he fell in love. “We kind of started seeing each other as an accident,” he says, audibly grinning over the phone. “It wasn’t planned.” Neither were the 300 songs that he scrapped on the journey to creating his latest album as Ghost Orchard. But here we are, three years later, with the exquisite new record Bunny. Hall has been making music as Ghost Orchard for several years, most recently collected in 2016’s lo-fi, hazy Bliss. Months after that album came out, two seismic shifts altered Ghost Orchard’s sound: He started dating the partner that would inspire Bunny, and he made the jump from analog recording to digital, moving his sound from murky, acoustic songs to hip-hop inflected, stream-of-consciousness confessionals that’ll have you swooning in the lazy summer sunlight. —Harry Todd
I have to bite my tongue when friends boast about their favorite rock musicians—whether they be old-timers like Jimmy Page, jam-banders like Trey Anastasio or indie-rockers like Johnny Marr. I have to stop myself from saying, “They’re all nice players, but I listen to jazz, so I know what real skills are.” I can’t say that; it would be obnoxious. I don’t want to throw cold water on their enjoyment. On the other hand, I can’t in good conscience agree with them. Because, in fact, even the best rock players lack the skills of jazz musicians you’ve never heard of. So I just shut the hell up and smile enigmatically. I was reminded of this when I was at the Newport Jazz Festival in early August and heard In: Common, a quintet so obscure that its only album was released by a tiny London label. All five members were virtuosos, but Matt Stevens was constantly altering the chords in each composition to make them denser and tenser even as his tone grew harsher in response. This was instrumental music of a high order, and it was only possible because Stevens and his comrades had a larger palette to work from, because they could go beyond the few dozen chords and handful of meters that rock uses. Does this mean that jazz is a superior genre to rock or that jazz musicians are more talented than their rock counterparts? No. It merely means that jazz musicians have more advanced instrumental skills. Why? Because a higher level of technical expertise is expected just to enter the field and so aspiring jazz players—in school and/or on their own—train to clear that higher bar. Musicians will always work to become as good as they must to succeed in their chosen genre. —Geoffrey Himes
Music books help us understand historical and cultural context, decode complex emotions and transport us to scenes that we never experienced firsthand. As we approach fall and back-to-school season, you might want to keep your summer reading list going or even pick up a book for the first time after several months of relaxing in the sun. The upcoming season is an incredible stretch for music memoirs, lyric collections and other various art books. We’re awaiting memoirs from three exceptional artists—Liz Phair, Patti Smith, and Tegan and Sara—a cookbook from Questlove, an oral history of French rockers Phoenix, lyric collections from Joni Mitchell and Iggy Pop, plus much more. Here are 10 notable music books to pick up this fall. —Lizzie Manno & Ellen Johnson
Everything about Lillie Mae is unexpected. A sought-after fiddler and Nashvillian for nearly 20 years, she’s undoubtedly a country singer. But if you turn on her new album, Other Girls (out now on Jack White’s Third Man Records) expecting only twang and heartbreak, you’re in for a real surprise—and treat. Other Girls blends the dark and suspicious with the hopeful and assured. A mix of glassy Americana, charcoal country and majestic indie-folk, Other Girls tingles with traditional elements like mandolin and, of course, Lillie Mae’s rockstar fiddle. But it also fits right in on a label roster that leans indie-rock. Paste spoke with Lillie Mae on album release day, and she was quite candid, but still had this enigmatic quality. A vivid storyteller, sometimes she’s more Sheryl Crow (like on the fiercely independent yet tender “Some Gamble”), and other times she’s as dark as Sylvia Plath (“Crisp & Cold” is a forlorn poem come to life in the Wild West). Other Girls is unlike any other country record you’ll hear this year. Here we discuss the making of that album, Lillie Mae’s history with the fiddle and the softer side of Nashville. —Ellen Johnson