The Week In Music: The Best Albums, Songs, Performances and More

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The Week In Music: The Best Albums, Songs, Performances and More

Finally, it’s officially fall, and this week brought us a big ol’ leaf-pile-sized heap of great new music. We were treated to new tracks from Jeff Tweedy (along with a solo album announcement), Molly Burch and indie rock’s newest power duo, Jay Som and Justus Proffit. We’ve also been listening to Richard Swift’s striking posthumous release and Mutual Benefit’s latest album. A whole bunch of talented folks occupied the Paste Studio this week, including Hatchie, Scott Sharrard and Illuminati Hotties. Finally, we enlisted the great Brandi Carlile to interview her childhood hero, Amy Ray, about Ray’s new album. Catch up on all this and more below.

BEST ALBUMS

Richard Swift: The Hex

After singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and indie-rock uber-producer Richard Swift died in July, his family announced, among other things, that he had been working on new music, that said new music had been planned for release in November, and that they hoped to share it with the world sooner than that. Given the typical timeline for getting an album out into the world via an indie label, a planned November release means Swift had almost certainly put the finishing touches on the music he was making before he passed away. Which means The Hex—surprise-released by Secretly Canadian—may very well be Swift’s final fully formed artistic statement. —Ben Salmon

Mutual Benefit: Thunder Follows The Light

Thunder Follows The Light, the ninth album from Jordan Lee’s project, Mutual Benefit, serves as a still point, a breath of sanity, a meditation. It’s the rare album that manages to soothe and calm without burying its head in the sand—like a guided meditation through the reality of living in today’s world. Ambient, folky and gorgeously arranged, the orchestral elements and Lee’s rumination on heavy-hitters like our collective past and future, internal and external strife, apocalypse and hope never feel overwhelming. —Madison Desler

BEST TRACKS

Jeff Tweedy:Some Birds

“Some Birds” finds Tweedy up to his old Uncle Tupelo tricks once again. The rusted alt-country of No Depression has, throughout the years, alternately been Tweedy’s boon and bane—some of Wilco’s best work occurred when he was running as far away from roots rock as he could. But when he’s on his own, that naturalistic style of songwriting feels, well, natural. —Justin Kamp

Jay Som and Justus Proffit:Invisible Friends

“Invisible Friends” is the second single from the duo’s forthcoming collaborative EP Nothing’s Changed, following the title track’s release in August. Where the title track was a buoyant, folk-ish jaunt that found the pair dipping their toes into distortion, “Invisible Friends” finds them basking in waves of fuzz and swanky bass grooves that sound like the good old days of arena rock. “Melina (Duterte, aka Jay Som) and I wanted this song to sound really big,” Justus Proffit said in a statement. “This song is kind of Oasis inspired. Every two-count of the song, there is a note hit on the keyboard that was inspired by Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine.’ We generally just wanted a groovy ‘90s rock song.” —Justin Kamp

Molly Burch:Candy

“Candy,” is introspective and defiant, depicting Burch’s battle with her own self-confidence. It’s all give-and-take between the jangly lead guitar and Burch’s warm, jazzy vocals, painting the singer-songwriter as both feminine and in-charge. “I wrote “Candy” after a long conversation with my dad on the phone, where I had been just walking around getting out a lot of my self doubt and creative anxieties. It may sound like I’m talking to a past love, but it’s really meant for that voice in my head that tells me a negative narrative,” said Burch in a statement. “Anxiety can be so addictive—the cycle of it, the relief after you’ve spent time worrying about something that turns out fine. I felt like writing about all of this because it’s a significant part of my waking life, but all wrapped up in a sweet pop song.” —Emma Korstanje

BEST PERFORMANCES

Illuminati Hotties

On their Facebook page, Illuminati Hotties’ genre description reads “post-naptime burrito-core.” Jokes aside, the L.A. band’s jubilant rock would probably pair well with Mexican foods of all varieties, but not so much a midday nap. The group, whose only permanent member is longtime studio musician Sarah Tudzin, released Kiss Yr Frenemies, Tudzin’s first record under the moniker, in May. Tudzin, along with her band, stopped by Daytrotter this week to play a few songs from the record including ”(You’re Better) Than Ever,” “Shape Of My Hands,” “Cuff” and “Paying Off the Happiness.” —Ellen Johnson

Scott Sharrard

Best known for his collaborations with Gregg Allman, guitarist and songwriter Scott Sharrard released his new album, Saving Grace, on Sept. 21. He appeared in the Paste Studio this week to shred with his band and play three tracks: “High Cost of Loving You,” “Saving Grace” and “Bad News.”

Hatchie

Australian singer-songwriter Hatchie released her debut EP, Sugar & Spice, in May, and she’s been kicking up quite the shimmery storm ever since. Earlier this month, she played two festivals back-to-back, and she’s currently playing a sold-out string of tour dates with Alvvays and Snail Mail (what you might call an indie fan’s dream lineup). Before supporting that bill at a trio of shows at Warsaw in Brooklyn, N.Y., Hatchie carved out time to play a set in the Paste Studio, and her starry session is guaranteed to make your day brighter. —Ellen Johnson

FEATURES

Brandi Carlile Interviews Amy Ray About Her New Solo Album, Holler

Brandi Carlile joined her childhood idols The Indigo Girls on tour the first time back in 2007. That marked the beginning of a friendship and a series of collaborations over the years, so it was no surprise that Amy Ray asked Carlile to sing on her brand new album, Holler, due out this Friday. Ray’s first solo albums explored her love of rock and even punk, but her latest digs into her Southern roots, continuing the country feel of 2014’s Goodnight Tender, with guests who also include Justin Vernon, Vince Gill and Derek Trucks. We asked Carlile if she’d interview Ray for us about the new record. She came prepared; all I had to do was listen in. What follows is nearly an hour-long conversation with two of roots music’s best singer/songwriters.—Josh Jackson

10 Great Appalachian Albums

Appalachia is home to a natural abundance as well as a cultural one. While the mountainous region stretching from southern New York to the northern tips of Georgia and Alabama is heralded for its earthly wonders—the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains and the coinciding Appalachian Trail among them—it’s also rich with artistic heritage. Inspired by African, European, Scottish and Irish influences, Appalachian musicians first emerged at the turn of the 20th century, claiming instruments like the banjo, fiddle, dulcimer and guitar and mastering folk ditties representative of the working class. From harbingers like the Carter Family and Dock Boggs all the way up to modern artists like River Whyless and The Avett Brothers, musicians born of the Appalachia make excellent folk music steeped in generations of tradition.—Ellen Johnson

How Ben Folds Beat the Internet in 2008

By 2008, album leaks were considered inevitable. Labels not only prepared for the worst, they wholeheartedly expected it, strategizing more about how best to mitigate the negative aspects of a leak rather than to prevent it altogether. Sites like MediaFire, Megaupload, The Pirate Bay, DC++, what.cd, and many more became forces to reckon with as a random, anonymous person could blow up an entire album marketing plan with a single upload.
These leaks changed the way labels did business, sometimes—as was famously the case with Bjork’s 2015 album Vulnicura—forcing them to move up the record’s release date months ahead of when it was originally scheduled. In mid-2008, piano-pop legend Ben Folds found himself in the same situation months ahead of his third solo full length, Way to Normal.—Steven Edelstone

Forgotten Giants: Willie Dixon – The Poet Laureate of Chess Records

In 1953, Willie Dixon was just an office assistant at Chess Records, an up-and-coming indie blues label on the South Side of Chicago. His duties ranged from playing upright bass on sessions to packing up the resulting records for shipment and sweeping the floor. He was always pestering people about the songs he wrote in his spare time, but no one paid him much mind. Some folks knew he’d been one-third of the Big Three Trio, which had recorded for Columbia in the late ’40s, but their brand of sophisticated jump blues was outdated now, eclipsed by the rawer blues of new arrivals in Chicago from Mississippi such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.—Geoffrey Himes

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