Happy Friday! Feel like the week has passed you by without any great music to listen to? Fear not. With stellar new releases by This Is the Kit, Offa Rex, Steve Martin and Ariel Pink, plus great live performances in the Paste Studio and some killer feature stories, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a look at what we loved this week.
Sheer Mag: Need To Feel Your Love
Over the past couple years, Sheer Mag have run one of the tightest ships in music. The Philly rock quintet released three 7” singles in three years—each with four songs, grainy black-and-white punk-flyer cover art and a retro band logo. They named these EPs I, II and III, then compiled them into a self-titled 12-song LP. Now comes the first official full-length, which finds Sheer Mag trying to navigate the leap from underground heroes to rock ‘n’ roll rat-race runners. The record is built on twin pillars: Guitarist Kyle Seely’s wellspring of gritty riffs and licks, which sound like they were unearthed from a late-’70s time capsule but somehow never got old, and Tina Halladay’s vocals, imbued with a combination of tenderness and tough talk that doesn’t come along too often. This is one of the best guitar-rock bands going right now. —Ben Salmon
This Is the Kit: Moonshine Freeze
Kate Stables has always had a band backing her up—three wonderful LPs precede this latest effort—but the cast of collaborators she’s gathered for her newest album allows her to employ new arrangements and access deeper emotions. With reputable figures such as legendary producer John Parish (PJ Harvey, Perfume Genius) and The National’s Aaron Dessner (who produced TITK’s previous album, Bashed Out) offering their support, Moonshine Freeze is the peak of an uphill path Stables has traced since her earliest recordings at the turn of the decade. —Max Freedman
Lo Tom: Lo Tom
Lo Tom comprises scene veterans David Bazan (Pedro the Lion, Headphones) on vocals and bass, Jason Martin (Starflyer 59, Bon Voyage) on guitar, TW Walsh (The Soft Drugs, Pedro the Lion) on guitar and background vocals, and Trey Many (Velour 100, Starflyer 59) on drums. With a melodic pedigree that’s rooted in the guitar-heavy, alt-roc ‘90s and also shaped by the glossed-up, genre-shifting ‘00s, Lo Tom cranks out a surprisingly modern sound that simultaneously flirts with and fights against its own nostalgia. —Will Hodge
According to not-so-ancient lore, Pickwick wrote, recorded and scrapped dozens of songs for their sophomore LP before making LoveJoys with in-demand Seattle producer Erik Blood, best known for his work with hip-hop acts Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction. Blood’s fingerprints are all over the album: the big fat low end, the dreamlike echoes, the digital current that courses through these 10 tunes. The band wastes no time in signaling its new direction, as opening track “Turncoat” features a rubbery funk lick that sounds like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” turned inside out and a roller-coaster chorus that makes good use of frontman Galen Disston’s powerful falsetto. —Ben Salmon
Pioneer 11: “Ha”
Pioneer 11’s new material shows remarkable growth, with deeper groove and spacier atmospherics galore, as you’ll hear when their debut LP, Gravitorium, drops in early 2018. Until then,they’re is teasing us with an EP of cover tunes called Calibration. It’s a collection that nods to the artists that inspired the duo to start making music, including the gangsta rap great Juvenile, whose 1998 song “Ha” is given a new but loving interpretation. —Robert Ham
Ariel Pink: “Time to Live”
Ariel Pink is prepping a new album, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, the third under his own name and first since 2014’s pom pom. The second single, “Time to Live,” feature’s a big ‘80s beat and scrapes of lo-fi vocals beneath treacherous waves of synth noise. When the chorus emerges, it’s a burst of sudden clarity for Pink, whose Ian-Curtis-meets-Jay Reatard baritone grounds the proceedings: “We must be vigilant when struggling in this world / you cannot die you have to live, that’s what it’s for.” —Matthew Oshinsky
Steve Martin: “Caroline”
“Caroline,” the first single from The Long-Awaited Album, combines the two things we have come expect from Martin over the years, going back to his comedy days: great banjo picking and clever storytelling. Taking the role of a jilted lover, Martin sings, “If you ever find another please don’t put a post on Facebook / I would rather think I was a deep regret you can’t resolve / If I have a drink with someone I will tell her all about you / That will be the big mistake that will make on my first date with Caroline.” —Matthew Oshinsky
Scars on 45
English rockers Scars on 45 stopped by the Paste Studio on Monday and checked every box we offered them, playing a new song, an old song and a cover. First came an acoustic rendition of their hit “Crazy for You” (no, not that one) from their 2014 album Safety in Numbers; next, a newly arranged version of Cyndi Lauper’s classic ballad “Time After Time”; and finally, the forthcoming single “Teenage Superstars,” which is sure to have you feeling nostalgic for the late ‘90s. The group’s stripped-down performance showcased Danny Bemrose and Aimee Driver’s well-crafted, catchy hooks and strong vocals.
Eleven albums into a sparking, chart-topping career, Australian singer/songwriter Kasey Chambers has lost no steam whatsoever, incorporating elements of soul and roots rock into her interpolation on American country music. Her new double-record, Dragonfly, debuted at No. 1 down under, and features duets with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Keith Urban and Foy Vance. Watch Chambers and guitarist Brandon Dodd perform the title track from her 1999 debut, The Captain, as well as two songs songs (“Ain’t No Little Girl” and “Hey”) from Dragonfly at the Paste Studio on Tuesday.
Pokey LaFarge—the name of both the group and its fearless leader—brought their genre-defying sound to Paste Studios on Wednesday, showcasing an updated pallet that supplements dustbowl blues and jazz with ‘60 soul. LaFarge (pictured top) kicked things off with the rockabilly “Good Luck Charm,” off of the new record Manic Revelations. Next came their seductive, horn-laden ode to traveling abroad in Spain, “Goodbye, Barcelona,” from 2015’s Something In the Water. And finally, the soul singalong “Better Man Than Me.”
The 30 Best Punk Cover Songs
While surveying the ferociously fun punk covers landscape to compile a proper best-of list, there are a few things that become immediately apparent. First, the 1980s seem to be the decade that is most ripe for the original source material to be covered. Second, punk bands love covering The Beach Boys: punk mainstays like the Ramones, Pennywise, the Descendents, the Queers, Shonen Knife and the Vandals have all rammed the sun-kissed sounds of the quintessential ‘60s rock band through an amped-up, down-stroked punk filter. Third, in some exceptional cases, the cover versions eclipse the original, as with The Clash’s “I Fought The Law,” Social Distortion’s “Ring of Fire” and pretty much every Ramones cover. —Will Hodge
Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield Gets Candid on Out in the Storm
When Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, released her last record, Ivy Tripp, in 2015, she called the album a gas, and her release before that, 2013’s Cerulean Salt, a solid. On Friday she releases her fourth full-length via Merge Records, Out in the Storm, but it may not symbolize a physical state of matter like her earlier works. On this record, Crutchfield becomes a scientific element—explosive, volatile and uncontrollable. She proclaims on the coincidentally titled “Silver,” “If I turn to stone/The whole world keeps turning/I went out in the storm/And I’m never returning.” —Natalia Barr
The Story Behind the Surge in Vinyl Film Soundtracks
The resurgence of vinyl as a hot commodity for fans of music has, like every format, had its ups and downs. Sales of these platters are on the rise, up 26 percent from the year before according to the analytics company BuzzAngle Music, providing a nice shot in the arm for indie stores and online retailers.One of the more surprising outcroppings of the new vinyl economy has been the demand for soundtrack releases. Over the past five years or so, a number of boutique labels have emerged, re-releasing the scores and soundtracks from a wide array of films, often pressed to colored wax and housed in lovingly designed new packaging. —Robert Ham