This week was retrospective here at the Paste Music office, as we tallied up our 50 favorite albums of 2017. You can read the complete list here, from JD McPherson all the way to…you’ll have to read to find out! But of course we also made time for some new music, including a new gem from Charlotte Gainsbourg (pictured above) and some trademark weirdness from Ty Segall. We talked to Noel Gallagher about the solo life, and we dug into our unmatched vault of live music for some amazing Police footage. Catch up with Paste’s favorite albums, songs, live performances and feature stories of the past week.
Charlotte Gainsbourg: Rest
On her new effort, Charlotte Gainsbourg opens up and tells her story, spurred by the sadness and anger she felt after the 2013 death of her sister, Kate Barry, who fell from the window of her Paris apartment. For the first time, Gainsbourg writes most of her own lyrics, veering between French and English as she memorializes her sister, celebrates her iconic father Serge Gainsbourg (who died in 1991) and, through her kids, laments the ever-quickening passage of time. Along the way, she incorporates children’s playground games (“Ring-a-Ring o’ Roses”) and traditional wedding vows (“Deadly Valentine”), and she gets an assist from none other than Paul McCartney, who wrote and plays on the very McCartney-esque “Songbird in a Cage.” Sonically, Rest is helmed by the French DJ SebastiAn (aka Sebastian Akchoté) who aims for a cinematic quality on the album’s electro-pop tracks. —Ben Salmon
South African singer Xenoula (aka Romy Xeno) moved to the UK as a teenager and started making music as a way to communicate her feelings about the culture shock she experienced. Her debut full-length was produced by Sam Dust, aka LA Priest, who collaborates with Kiwi pop chameleon Connan Mockasin on a strange lite-funk project called Soft Hair. Dust brings a similar sort of slanted funk-pop feel to Xenoula, blending in some global flavor to reflect Xeno’s cosmopolitan background. The beat that drives “Chief of Tin,” for example, feels tribal and subdued, like a skittish set of gulps. This provides ample room for sounds to warp and whoosh around, with Xenoula cooing breathily in the spaces between. By comparison, “Luna Man” is almost garish, with its assertive beat, bright synths and her more forceful vocal. —Ben Salmon
Steve Earle: El Corazón Reissue
spent the first half of the 1990s battling drug addiction and legal troubles. During the second half of that decade, however, he bounced back with one of the hottest album streaks in recent history. Armed with new experiences and new perspective, he wrote, recorded and released nothing but folk-rock bangers from, including 1996’s El Corazón, which was released on vinyl for the first time on Black Friday. At 12 tracks and a fat-free 45 minutes long, it documents Earle not only at the height of his powers, but also at the golden point of his journey from left-of-center country-rock dude to enlightened cosmo-folk guru. The album’s most poignant moment is its closer, “Ft. Worth Blues,” a tribute to Earle’s mentor, Townes Van Zandt, who died on the first day of 1997. Pairing pretty fingerpicking with a quiet droning sound, Earle sketches out a sort of posthumous travelogue for his friend. —Ben Salmon
Field Music: ‘Count It Up’
Back on Nov. 7, the British art-rock duo Field Music announced that their sixth studio album, Open Here, would be released Feb. 2 via Memphis Industries. On Tuesday, they shared the first single, “Count It Up.” The song uses a deceptively fun Devo-esque synth lead and strutting cadence to soundtrack a series of entitlements that the listener should consider when taking stock of his or her privilege: “If you can go through day to day without the fear of violence, count that up / If people don’t stare at you in the street because of the color of your skin, count that up / If your body makes some kind of sense to you, count that up.” —Matthew Oshinsky
Ty Segall: ‘The Main Pretender’
“Bang, bang, blammo!,” or so Ty Segall and co. write on Bandcamp, where the prolific rocker released a new song called “The Main Pretender.” Segall says the song “aims to cull the herd by focusing its sights on a greatest common multiple of our society—people who just can’t see the forest for the head up their ass!” OK. “The Main Pretender” starts out with a screeching sax line and lurches into a garage rocker of vintage Segall taste. —Hannah Fleming
Ilyas Ahmed: ‘Passing Lines’
Pakistan-born experimental musician Ilyas Ahmed has created a quiet stir in Portland recently through sensuous compositions that cloak his vocals and guitar melodies in waves of effects. Over his last couple of solo releases, Ahmed has been coming out of the ether a bit, pushing his vocals further to the front and opting for cleaner, more direct sonics.That’s certainly the case on his upcoming album Closer To Stranger. The tracks that aren’t heatsick instrumental interludes are downright soulful, with Ahmed laying on the Fender Rhodes and steady backbeats. The video for “Passing Lines,” directed by Stephen Slappe, puts the music up against a quick-changing backdrop of gauzy home movie footage from what looks like the ‘70s. —Robert Ham
Midland, a trio of friends based in Dripping Springs, Texas, has lured a swelling fanbase of old-school country lovers by fusing touches of ‘70s California country and heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics to a foundation of Texas dive-bar grit.
Jessica Lea Mayfield
On her latest album, Sorry Is Gone, Ohio-bred songstress Jessica Lea Mayfield creates a manifesto for living apology-free. Chronicling an abusive marriage, she manages to find great beauty in the pain and betrayal, making her most melodic, soulful album to date.
Texas native Danielle Bradbery got her start in a very public way—she won Season 4 of NBC’s The Voice as a 16-year-old country wunderkind with a pocketful of traditional country songs. Now 21, she has returned wiser, more confident, and less country on new album I Don’t Believe We’ve Met. A hard-earned sense of freedom is evident on pop-centric songs like “Hello Summer” and “What Are We Doing,” both of which incorporate elements of pop and R&B.
The 50 Best Albums of 2017
By anyone’s account, 2017 has been an exhausting year—a stretch of time that, thanks to unending upheaval and the barrage of often bad news, has felt about three times as long as normal. At a time when we may feel worn down by the reactionary reversal of social and cultural progress, when we wince at every news alert that blinks on to our smartphone screens, these are the artists we need to hear, the ones who urge us to keep moving forward and inspire our minds and bodies with the simple art of a song. Here are the 50 best albums of 2017, as voted on by the Paste Music team. —Paste Music
Noel Gallagher: Flying Solo and Hoping Liam Is ‘Having the Shittiest Time of His Life’
It’s not that Noel Gallagher is secretive about his songwriting, but the former Oasis bandleader has never particularly enjoyed parsing the ins and outs of his often meticulous work. This time, however, it’s different. He’s just turned a sage-like 50, and for his third effort with his group High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon?, he’s so forthcoming that he’s bordering on effervescent. The album “has some songs that are really joyous experience, and they’re very uplifting, and there are some songs about girls, some songs about how beautiful the world is, and some songs that are cautionary tales—messages to my kids. So I’d say that the overriding experience of it is joy. And hope.” But Noel is still Noel, and he’s got plenty to say about his kid brother Liam, the state of politics, and why he funds all his own music. —Tom Lanham
Watch The Police Bring Down the Capitol Theatre in 1980
One of the great connectors between punk and new wave, The Police owned the early 1980s with their eclectic, energetic sound. On Nov. 29, 1980, the trio hit the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J., on the Zenyatta Mondatta Tour to promote their album of the same name. They were at the apex of their brief career, with breakout debut album Outlandos d’Amour in 1978 and 1979’s chart-topping Reggatta de Blanc earning them some serious chops. Watch rare footage of The Police performing “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and other hits 37 years ago this week. —Claire Greising