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

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

October already? Pumpkin month snuck up on us, but its first week brought with it a crisp breeze of new music. This week, Sharon Van Etten made her triumphant return, signaling the forthcoming arrival of her first album in nearly five years, Remind Me Tomorrow, with a new single, aptly titled “Comeback Kid.” In other news, we were treated to new songs from both the masterminds behind 2017 duet album Lotta Sea Lice, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett, as well as new tracks from Blue Ranger and Old Man Canyon. Valley Queen and Royal Canoe stopped by the Paste Studio in New York, and we served up features on Americana abroad, Justin Vernon’s many musical outlets and the best verses in rock. Dig in to all of it below.

BEST ALBUMS

Hello June: Hello June

Hello June’s vocalist/guitarist Sarah Rudy and drummer Whit Alexander, who met in their shared apartment building in Morgantown, W.V., don’t tarry on their very first album—within the first few bars of “Mars,” they already appear as a poised musical force. Like The Cranberries and other heroes of sweeping ‘90s guitar rock, Hello June are adept at drawing maximum emotion from just a few simple riffs. They manage to make vast, planetary ponderings feel like a devoted promise: “As soon as you hear / that there’s life up on Mars / that there’s more out there,” Rudy sings. “I’ll catch a plane / Or I’ll walk there.” “Mars” is a tough act to follow, but the following seven songs spill out in equally-compelling musical moments. —Ellen Johnson

HAERTS: New Compassion

One could picture New Compassion’s standout tracks playing both as club anthems and, stripped down, as campfire singalongs. The title track builds around jangly guitars, a shaker and a tambourine. Channeling the upbeat classic rock of Tom Petty or George Harrison, the song becomes a rallying cry for personal resilience, repeating the mantra “new compassion” and the phrase “And I’ve been feeling the call so I walk the walk.” Like other songs “Fighter” and “Sign,” “New Compassion” documents an effort to balance ambition with self-care, particularly in a relationship whose power dynamic does not favor the speaker’s wellbeing. Whether the “you” here refers to an unkind lover or an unsupportive record label, the message works either way: You wronged me, I clung to you too long and I’m fighting to assert my own self-worth. —Annie Galvin

BEST TRACKS

Sharon Van Etten:Comeback Kid

“Comeback Kid,” the first single off Sharon Van Etten’s forthcoming album Remind Me Tomorrow, is the sound of glimmering street lights flitting by on a nighttime power-drive, a thoroughly darker and more driving sound than her work on Are We There. Where that album found Van Etten reveling in the slower moments of transit, “Comeback Kid” feels like something more urgent, a flight in which there’s no time to enjoy the ride. The lyrics give weight to this feeling of escape: “I’m the runaway,” Van Etten sings over heavy synths and a motoring drumbeat. “Don’t look back / watch me run away,” she commands during the chorus. —Justin Kamp

Blue Ranger:Saving a Beauty

Saving a Beauty follows Blue Ranger’s debut album Actual Food, released on Bandcamp and cassette in 2016, and frontman Josh Marre explains in the band’s bio that he wants their latest to serve as an artful, yet accessible introduction. The album’s title track offers a first taste of Josh Marre and company’s attempts to strike this balance, inviting the listener in and showing them the way to someplace meaningful. If the song’s dovetailed acoustic guitars—bolstered by Marre’s twin brother Evan’s legato bass notes and Matt Griffin’s deliberate drumming, with sparing piano accents from Kenna Hynes—aren’t enough to draw you in from the get-go, Josh Marre’s vocals open on a sweetly reassuring scene, the flicker of a tenuous connection: “It’s been a cold one, shivering / you had a rough go, you ok / I asked you.” —Scott Russell

Old Man Canyon:Good While It Lasted

While the warbly, wobbly synth stylings of “Good While It Lasted” are cut from the same cloth as bands like Mild High Club or HOMESHAKE, Old Man Canyon injects a bit of sun-streaked mystique into the proceedings here. The choruses are brilliant, sunrise-hailing things that lift Jett Pace’s vocals out from the haze of the verses into shimmery, synth-backed reveries. He comes across as a wandering prophet at times, offering scripture that is alternately confusing and comforting. “You’re anxious all the time but so is everybody else,” he sings. “You used to tell me all your dreams / Now you’re just staring at the screen.” —Justin Kamp

BEST PERFORMANCES

Valley Queen

L.A. rockers Valley Queen make searing, fuzzy rock music, but lead vocalist Natalie Carol brings a warbling folk sound to their debut album Supergiant’s shreddy wails. The result is a soulful, comprehensive roots-rock record. From the textured ballad “Ride” to the raucous “Boiling Water,” Supergiant is a flexing of musical muscle from start to finish, a burning-hot ode to the massive star for which it’s named. The band stopped by the Paste Studio in New York City on Tuesday (Oct. 2) to play three slower, spacier tracks from Supergiant: the jeweled pairing, “Gems and Rubies” and “Highway Pearls” and the melodic “Two of Cups.” You can space out, chill out and jam out to this session, and you can watch the entire thing below. —Ellen Johnson

Royal Canoe

Canadian indie-pop band Royal Canoe paddled into the NYC Paste Studio this week to perform three tracks from their forthcoming new album Waver, out Jan. 25 via Paper Bag Records. First they tackled “Rayz,” the lead single from the album, which will be the full-length follow-up to 2016’s Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit. Then they performed two yet-to-be-released tracks, “77-76” and “Peep This.”

FEATURES

All of Justin Vernon’s Bands For the Past Two Decades, Ranked

Justin DeYarmond Edison Vernon, known by many as Bon Iver, is the multi-talented singer/songwriter/producer/instrumentalist who took the world by storm with the July 2007 release of For Emma, Forever Ago. But only the most devoted fans are likely aware of every band Vernon has been involved with since Mount Vernon’s debut album We Can Look Up, released 20 years ago, and there’s a lot of impressive music ready to be discovered. Just last month, Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner released a debut eponymous duet album as Big Red Machine. We’ve ranked all the projects that are part of Vernon’s explorations in music across time, mood and genre. —Cayla Bamberger

10 Great Rock Songs With Better Verses Than Choruses

Choruses, by design, are usually intended to be the catchiest, most memorable part of a song. Conversely, verses often get a bad rap for being the song’s biggest snooze fest in comparison to its chorus, bridge, solo or pre-chorus. However, verses, unintentionally or not, frequently end up outshining the song’s chorus. We’ve compiled a list of 10 classic and modern rock songs where this supposed subversion of verses and choruses occurs. With choruses that range from mediocre to pretty damn good, check out these 10 tracks with fantastic verses. —Lizzie Manno

A Tale of Two Cities: Illinois’ Pygmalion Festival Straddles Campus Culture and Community Arts

Pygmalion seemingly expands its focus every year to include as many different cultural activations as it can. During the three days I spent at the festival, a dichotomy emerged between residents and students in terms of what aspects they found most interesting. Pymgalion’s great dilemma, and ultimately its great triumph, comes from navigating this dichotomy and emerging with something that appeals to both the University of Illinois and its surrounding communities, if not always in equal parts. —Justin Kamp

How Americana Has Taken Root In Europe And Australia

The global reach of music of all stripes isn’t out of the ordinary, with the growing ubiquity of streaming services and social networking. But this new wave of folk, bluegrass, and traditional country artists and festivals popping up throughout Europe and Australia feels like echoes of previous movements like the British Invasion, when acts like The Animals and Rolling Stones adopted American blues and R&B. This international interest in Americana is hitting peak levels currently, but it isn’t necessarily a huge outlier. Both U.K. and Australian listeners have often spotted the connections between their country’s traditional folk music with U.S.-born roots music. —Robert Ham

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