It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since the death of Sharon Jones, the soul heroine and fearless leader of The Dap Kings. This week at Paste, we took some solace in Soul of a Woman, the final, posthumous album by Jones and her band. We also loved the new record by Gun Outfit, and dove back into our R.E.M. obsession with the expansive Automatic for the People reissue. Elsewhere, we talked to David Crosby about the touring life at age 76, and considered the future of rock ‘n’ roll in a guitar-less landscape. Catch up with Paste’s favorite albums, songs, live performances and feature stories of the past week.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Soul of a Woman
Though Soul of a Woman was never intended to be a posthumous release for the mighty Sharon Jones, it stands as both a fitting epilogue for an unlikely career and a comprehensive farewell to a multifaceted star—one who burned unbelievably bright. Courageously recorded with her beloved Dap-Kings between treatments for the pancreatic cancer she succumbed to last year, Soul of a Woman offers up a piece of everything that made Jones a powerhouse up to the very end. The first side of the album represents her carnivorous live performances—the stomping, sweating, unrelenting force of the stage presence that often got her called the “female James Brown.” The second side slows things down, exploring her ability to grind out pure emotion. —Madison Desler
R.E.M.: Automatic For The People (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
R.E.M.’s eighth full-length is not a record in dire need of reevaluation. Among the Georgia quartet’s legions of fans, it already holds a special place. This was the record that reaffirmed listeners of R.E.M.’s depth as songwriters and musicians as they cast shadows on the already moody, acoustic-based sound that marked the previous album, Out of Time. Moments of levity (“The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” and “Man On the Moon”) and righteous anger (“Ignoreland”) cleared the sinuses but otherwise, the tone of Automatic is marked by doughy pressure and woozy beauty. The remastered version of the LP brings that to the fore as well as emphasizing the skin-tingling intimacy of Michael Stipe’s vocals throughout. —Robert Ham
Gun Outfit: Out of Range
Punks gone country. They take all kinds of forms: lightning-fast thrashgrass band. Gravel-throated, neck-tattooed troubadour. Social D-indebted twang-rock hybrid. Gun Outfit are from the West, but they take a different—and unique—angle on this concept. As always, the band’s sound on Out of Range is driven by the languid voices and lysergic guitar playing of Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith, who trade off both duties throughout. Vocally, Sharp speak-sings a la Lou Reed (or, more precisely, Silver Jews’ David Berman), while Keith’s spectral intonation gives these songs a needed leavening agent. Their guitars both seem permanently set somewhere between jangle and jam, with the distortion turned down and clean tones as far as the eye can see. —Ben Salmon
Bjork: ‘Blissing Me’
The second single released from Björk’s forthcoming album, Utopia, “Blissing Me,” comes with a single-shot video of the Icelandic heroine dancing. The lyrics seem to halt with Björk’s breathless coos, the melody lengthening and building in intensity as “two music nerds” fall in love by exchange of MP3s, “falling in love to a song” (Björk actually holds out her hands several times to imitate texting). We are at once transported back to high school and also to an apex of pure emotion. —Hannah Fleming
Screaming Females: ‘Deeply’
Marissa Paternoster’s vocals in Screaming Females’ “Deeply” are far from screaming. The track finds her in a state more vulnerable than normal, nestling her voice in a comfortable cloud of fuzz (sans her usual wild guitar riff) that hovers over a steady percussive march. The newest cut from the Females’ recently announced forthcoming album All at Once comes accompanied by a lyric video featuring Paternoster painting the lyrics on the exterior of The Black Sheep Cafe in Springfield, Ill. —Lisa Nguyen
Mavis Staples: ‘Ain’t No Doubt About It’ (Feat. Jeff Tweedy)
If All I Was Was Black, released this week, marks Mavis Staples’s third album-length collaboration with Jeff Tweedy, and its new single—the first to prominently feature Tweedy—is a wonderful showcase of their chemistry. In the face of a tumultuous country beset by racial strife and political division, Staples and Tweedy are fighting back the only way they know how: not with anger or anxiety, but with love and togetherness. “Ain’t No Doubt About It” is a heartwarming duet, with the pair trading verses about the power of friendship to push away worries. —Scott Russell
After more than three decades as one half of the iconic folk duo Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers has finally struck out on her own with her solo debut, Murmuration Nation. For a self-professed introvert, that’s a scary step, but also an invigorating one. While there are songs on the record that wouldn’t be out of place on an Indigo Girls release, others venture into completely new territory, anchored by R&B, funk and jazz rhythms. At Paste, Saliers returned to her roots with a gorgeous acoustic performance.
Angus & Julia Stone
This Australian sibling act has shot up the charts Down Under with a dreamy if melancholy take on Laurel Canyon hippie folk. On their new record, Snow, the Stones have adopted a fully collaborative songwriting process for the first time in their career. The album lands comfortably in the Stones’ road-tested formula: warm, enveloping backdrops for chillier emotions, with new-wave guitars, synth trimmings, and sturdy pulses running through every song.
Cody Simpson & the Tide
Cody Simpson is a pop star—but he’s not what you think. After being discovered on YouTube as a teenager and shuttled straight into big studios and opening slots for the likes of Justin Bieber, Simpson slammed on the breaks, splitting from his major label. His new EP, Wave One, is a personal record, unencumbered by outside influence, with a new emphasis on instrumentation and songwriting. Also, the guy can absolutely shred on guitar.
Is It Really Rock ‘n’ Roll Without Guitars? Yes, It Is.
It’s tempting to conflate the diminished role of guitars in pop music with the decline of rock ‘n’ roll. Since the turn of the century, when hip-hop and dance-pop took over the singles charts, the six-string instrument has been displaced by synthesizers, samplers and drum machines on hit-driven radio. In such an environment, is it still possible to make rock ‘n’ roll for a broad audience? Yes, it is. The music on new releases by three huge pop-rock acts—LCD Soundsystem, St. Vincent and Arcade Fire—wouldn’t work without the tension between pre-programmed machines and live instruments, between the sound of social engineering and the sound of personal pain. —Geoffrey Himes
The 10 Best Rock Bassists of All-Time
Content to hang in the background and always ready to provide support, bassists live a long step from the spotlight, rarely getting the acclaim or credit shown a singer or guitarist. Even in the rhythm section, they tend to cede the crowd’s awe and appreciation to the drummer. In rock ‘n’ roll, it can be the netherworld of live performance. With that in mind, it’s time to invite the bassists to center stage by recognizing 10 exceptional players who weren’t content merely to stand and serve. Exceptional soloists, each in their own right, they extended their instrument’s parameters and made it an essential element in each of their ensembles. —Lee Zimmerman
David Crosby: Long Time Gone, Long Road Back
At 76, with a kidney transplant behind him and his trademark walrus mustache still in place, David Crosby continues to make records and embark on lengthy tours, living the professional life of a musician a third his age. Indeed, he’s hit a creative spurt recently, releasing three albums in the past four years, including the new Sky Trails. “At my age,” he says, “it’s really hard. But it’s also the only thing I’ve got.” —Lee Zimmerman