It was a short week thanks to Labor Day, but there was no shortage of great music to dive into in the early days of September. We loved the new records by The National, Alvvays and Living Color, grooved to new songs by Rostam and Brittany Howard’s Bermuda Triangle, and welcomes Lukas Nelson, Filthy Friends, Mike Stern (among others) to the Paste Studio. Catch up with our favorite albums, songs, live performances and feature stories of the past five days.
Neil Young: Hitchhiker
Expectations don’t often live up to reality. Fortunately, that’s not true of Hitchhiker, Neil Young’s most recent archival release. Like two of his other great “lost” records, Homegrown and Chrome Dreams, it has become the subject of great speculation and more than a little impossible-to-live up to rock mythology. Hitchhiker captures Young in peak creative form. Recorded in one sitting on the night of Aug. 26, 1976, at a studio in Malibu, the album showcases 10 solo acoustic songs, many of which later became fan favorites to be featured on albums such as American Stars and Bars, Decade, Comes a Time, Rust Never Sleeps, Hawks and Doves and Le Noise. —Doug Heselgrave
Alvvays haven’t lost their knack for writing concise indie-pop songs that rival the best of Camera Obscura or Belle & Sebastian. By adding a warm synth sheen for their sophomore release, the Toronto-based quintet manage to somehow make their jangly guitars seem even lusher. They’ve achieved what every young band strives for most fail to achieve, striking the middle ground between attempting to avoid making the same record twice and wanting to evolve and change their sound. —Steven Edelstone
Living Colour: Shade
On Living Colour’s first album in eight years, the darker, more industrial overtones that hampered 2003’s Collide-O-Scope and 2009’s The Chair in the Doorway have dissipated, giving way for the kind of Lower Manhattan funk-metal moves that made early singles like “Desperate People” and “Type” such monster jams of their day. It’s a delight to hear the longtime lineup of Corey Glover, Vernon Reid, Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun firing on all cylinders in both rhythm and riffage on such searing cuts as opening number “Freedom of Expression (F.O.X.)” and the Afropunk stomper “Glass Teeth.” —Ron Hart
San Fermin: ‘Asleep on the Train’
Brooklyn chamber-pop San Fermin put out their third album Belong, in April. But they have no shortage of music to share. Now you can hear one of the b-sides, “Asleep on the Train.” Says frontman Ellis Ludwig-Leone: “The intro starts with kind of train whistle sound, and then the sax and violin come in with this chugging sound that inspired the lyrics to the song. The lyrics are inspired by late nights on the subway, all flickering fluorescent lights and post-party depression.” —Lisa Nguyen
The title track from the ex-Vampire Weekend member’s forthcoming debut solo record, “Half-Light” is an elegant ballad that enlists Kelly Zutrau of the band Wet. Says Rostram: “After I recorded the piano and my voice, I sat down at the drum kit and sketched in a beat. Then I picked up the bass and added acoustic guitars. The next thing was the fuzz guitar. I worked quickly and didn’t think too much about anything as I was recording it. This is how I made music as a teenager with a four-track.” —Lisa Nguyen
Bermuda Triangle: ‘Rosey’
This super trio features Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard alongside Nashville indie-folk artists Jesse Lafser and Becca Mancari. The ladies’ first single, “Rosey,” is a Lafser original about the acceptance of a breakup, featuring harmonies that are bound to make your heart melt. Sweet and gentle guitar strums complement Lafser’s flourishing voice, blending to create a beautifully emotional track. —Lisa Nguyen
Nigerian-German singer Ayo is well known around the world. Now it seems she will be receiving the credit she’s due in America. Her self-titled fifth album is led by the silky, sultry single “Paname.” Sung partially in French and partially in English, the two-and-a-half-minute “Paname” floats gently like a boat along the Seine, bubbling from its serenity only by the funky wah pedal-laden guitar riff. —Hilary Saunders
PASTE STUDIO LIVE
We were thrilled to have the latest and greatest supergroup in our Midtown studios on Thursday when the fivesome of Filthy Friends stopped by. Comprising singer/guitarst Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), guitarist Peter Buck (R.E.M.), drummer Linda Pitmon (Minus 5), bassist Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) and guitarist Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks) played three songs from their debut album, Invitation, as well as one non-album track.
Fusing literate Texas songsmiths like Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and of course his father, Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson and his band, The Promise of the Real, released their new self-titled on Aug. 25 after a decade on the road playing behind Neil Young. On Wednesday, Nelson visit Paste solo to play three beautiful songs on his guitar.
The superlative jazz guitarist hasn’t let a freak injury to his right hand stop him from shredding. With a pick literally glued to his fingers, Stern blew his way through three songs with his his quartet. Guitar aficionados of every stripe will not want to miss this masterclass.
The 15 Albums We’re Most Excited About for September
Green Day may have sung about waking up when September ends, but here at Paste, we’re excited that September’s just beginning. There’s so much good music slated to come out this month, from the 15 listed here to old favorites and runners-up like Deer Tick and The Lone Bellow. Settle in because September’s looking strong for new releases, especially in rock, pop and electronica, from the National to Moses Sumney. —Hilary Saunders
Exclusive: Living Colour’s Vernon Reid Talks Racism, Trump and Shade
One of the alternative era’s most flexible bands, Living Colour have long been renowned for their scorching riffs, propulsive rhythm section and social conscience. They haven’t released a new record since The Chair in the Doorway in 2009, just as Barack Obama was settling in as president in what was then called “post-racial” America. Eight years and two terms later, they return with Shade. We talked with guitarist and bandleader Vernon Reid about modern racism, Donald Trump, hip-hop, Elvis, and getting the band back together. —Saby Reyes-Kulkarni
In the Processed World of K-Pop, Gifted Songwriters Finally Begin to Emerge
K-Pop, which often distills the familiar boy/girl-band formula down to its most prepackaged elements, has grown into one of the most commercially successful styles of music in the world. Western audiences are quick to mock the “idols,” as pop stars are called in Korea, for being lip-synching models. But K-Pop has seen a dramatic change over the past five years. Just as American stars like Beyonce have raised the bar for artistic achievement in pop, more Korean artists are writing and producing their own songs, and playing instruments. —TJ Kliebhan