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

November is upon us, which means the music year is steadily beginning to wrap up and releases are slowing. But you’d never know that by the looks of this week: A stream of great new tracks arrived thanks to Deerhunter, Thundercat, Stove and more. We listened to new albums from Robyn and Erin Costelo (plus all our favorites from October), and we jammed out to some spooky tunes on Halloween. We welcomed Madeline Kenney to the Paste Studio and Odetta Hartman to Daytrotter, plus we rounded up the best songs of October in more end-of-the-month coverage. Check out all the week’s highlights below.

BEST ALBUMS

Robyn: Honey

No one serves up catharsis quite like Robyn. Whether you need to hysterically sob or gleefully and blissfully “move your body” across a dance floor, the Swedish pop diva’s Honey is there to satisfy. Remarkably accessible, Robyn’s long-awaited follow-up to her Body Talk trio is the purest purge. It baptizes you with tears or sweat or both, bidding the promise of a deep cleanse. The only faucet necessary is a pair of headphones, or—better yet—a team of pulsing, surround-sound speakers. Honey dives right in with the heartbreaking-yet-lustrous “Missing U,” the record’s first single and a truly prismatic display of discoteca synth. “Human Being,” follows it, building on disjointed ’80s dance beats as Robyn pleas, “Don’t give up on me now.” Thumping groove-track “Because It’s In The Music” is a testimony to the power of disco and dance, and it will shake you to your very core, whatever “it” is for you. Honey is a near-flawless dance pop album. It doesn’t need political or cultural commentary to assert relevancy; in Robyn’s deep understanding of human emotion and what moves us, Honey feels dire all the same. Release through dance has long been a tactic wielded by humankind, but rarely has it felt this inclusive, kind and positively radiant. —Ellen Johnson

Erin Costelo: Sweet Marie

Two albums in, Erin Costelo seems destined to establish herself alongside the top tier of today’s most expressive soulful singers. It’s a quick ascent to be sure, especially since her debut album Down Below, The Status Quo was released only two years ago. Nevertheless, given its flood of rave reviews and the anticipation for what would follow, this Canadian chanteuse clearly has the craft and charisma needed to sustain her momentum. For the most part, Sweet Marie maintains a more nocturnal ambiance, a sound that’s well in keeping with a jazzier inclination. Smooth and supple, her voice manages to create an emphatic impression simply by manipulating the mood, veering from sensual and suggestive one minute to playful the next. The upbeat appeal of “All In Your Head,” with its bouncy rhythm, Stax-style organ and soaring brass, adds a decidedly dazzling appeal, while the bluesy inflection of “Hands on Fire” asserts Costelo’s confidence as a torch singer of creedence and conviction. Likewise, the pulsating piano framing “Epilogue” adds an emphatic energy to the proceedings. then there’s “My Love,” a song which emerges from a slow build to a triumphant refrain to become one of the standouts of the set overall. —Lee Zimmerman

BEST TRACKS

Deerhunter:Death in Midsummer

Built around an incessant, looping harpsichord figure, “Death in Midsummer” feels at first both endless and featureless. Deerhunter’s recent mysterious Instagram videos, actually b-roll from the song’s music video, were fitting teasers, with their focus on lonely figures walking down lonelier desert highways. The song feels much the same way at first, almost oppressive in its simplicity. It of course unfolds, like all Deerhunter songs do, into an origami bloom of rhythms and textures, but the focus remains on endlessness. If the question possessing the band is “Why hasn’t everything already disappeared?” (their forthcoming album’s title) then they offer no easy answers on “Death in Midsummer.” There’s no affirmation they can, no easy justification for continued existence. “Some worked the hills / some worked in factories / worked their lives away,” frontman Bradford Cox croons over a hurdy-gurdy stomp. “And in time / you will see your own life fade away.” Things are disappearing, the song posits. The great tragedy is that they don’t all disappear at once. —Justin Kamp

Thundercat feat. BADBADNOTGOOD and Flying Lotus:King of the Hill

Thundercat’s new track, “King of the Hill,” is from a forthcoming Brainfeeder tenth-anniversary compilation, Brainfeeder X, out Nov. 16. The compilation will be spread across two volumes—one is retrospective, with the other made up of unreleased tracks. If Brainfeeder X compiles both past and future in one package, then “King of the Hill” does something similar in microcosm. The inimitable falsetto and jazz-fusion sonics have become Thundercat staples in recent years, instantly recognizable call-signs for the inscrutable bassist. The collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD brings slight tweaks to the formula—a laid-back live drum track here, some clipped clavinets there. The future isn’t radical. It’s a series of minor changes. Or as Thundercat puts it in a statement: “You know, Ups & downs, strikes & gutters.” —Justin Kamp

Stove:Stiff Bones

The sophomore album from Connecticut fuzz-rockers Stove, ’s Favorite Friend (not a typo!), finds them seeking refuge in art: The album was written and recorded after songwriter Steve Hartlett and drummer/vocalist Jordyn Blakeley had both recently lost loved ones, and the resulting songs reckon with “grief and the sometimes harsh realities of time passing,” per a press release. That search for catharsis plays out in “Stiff Bones,” on which Hartlett’s rueful yowls, Blakeley’s powerful drums and an onslaught of washed-out guitars push through upheaval to find peace. “When you try to play it off / as if your heart is truly soft / You gave away / and slave away / Alone is how you want to be / so lonely’s what you’ll feel with me / and everyone / not anyone,” Hartlett and Blakeley sing as one. —Scott Russell

BEST PERFORMANCES

Odetta Hartman

Last Friday, Oct. 26, experimental folk artist Odetta Hartman stopped by the Daytrotter studios for a session, which you can watch below. She bounced through four songs from her new album Old Rockhounds Never Die—the spooky almost-a-title-track “Old Rockhounds,” shivery stomper “You You,” plucky banjo number “Misery” and the rambling ranch poem “Cowboy Song”—plus two older tracks, “Batonebo” and “Dreamcatchers.” But the most impressive part of her set wasn’t the amount of songs she played, it was the amount of instruments she wielded. Hartman started the session with a bass, then switched to the violin for a blazing string solo, then finished out on the banjo. The sounds ranged from jittery to soulful to grimy—but never boring. Hartman is a hot-blooded performer and deft instrumentalist. —Ellen Johnson

Madeline Kenney

Earlier this month, Madeline Kenney released her sophomore LP, Perfect Shapes, just a year after making her debut with Night Night at the First Landing. On Perfect Shapes, she explores an entirely new melange of sounds: dizzying synths, warbling pedal effects and fuzzy guitar swarm and sway, giving the record the feeling of a deep-soak. On Wednesday, Oct. 31, Kenney, along with a host of those aforementioned pedals (at least seven, it appears), stopped by the Paste Studio in New York City to play a few tracks from the new album. To finish her set, she treated the internet to a chill-inducing cover of Sharon Van Etten’s “Our Love,” from 2014’s Are We There. Watch her entire session below, or cut to 13:22 to hear “Our Love.” —Ellen Johnson

FEATURES

Willie Nelson Is the World’s Most Prolific Octogenarian

Willie Nelson  is old enough now that many of his friends are gone, which has given him something to consider. “I don’t want to be the last man standing,” Nelson, 85, sings on the title track to Last Man Standing, one of two albums he has released this year. After a beat, he finishes the thought: “Wait a minute, maybe I do.” If he is the last man standing, he’s making the most of it. Most musicians have long since slowed down by the time they reach Nelson’s age—if they get that far. Nelson, by contrast, has released 13 solo studio albums since 2008, plus a bunch of compilations, collaborations and live releases. Yet Nelson’s late-career output also features three albums of original material, much of which he wrote himself after a decade of working primarily as an interpreter. It’s hard to imagine that an artist just starting out could have the longevity, to say nothing of the success, that Nelson has—40 million records sold, a dozen Grammys and the love and respect of his peers—while doing things his own way. In other words, keep those albums coming, Willie. —Eric R. Danton

The 10 Best Albums of October 2018

With year-end list season fast approaching, October saw the release of several standout albums that could very well end up on those best-of lists. One of the most anticipated pop releases of 2018 arrived in the form of Robyn’s Honey—her first LP since 2010’s Body Talk. Another fierce veteran female artist, Cat Power released Wanderer—her first album in six years. John Lennon’s classic 1971 LP Imagine was remastered and reissued for a new six-disc set. Plus, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker unexpectedly dropped her second solo release, abysskiss, one of the most beautiful acoustic records you’ll hear this year. —Paste Staff

10 Essential Slow-Burn Albums

At first, some albums can seem like a pretentious mess with seemingly a million different ideas and sounds floating around at once. They might even still sound that way after many listens. But miraculously, there are albums that fully reveal themselves to listeners only after multiple listens. Often, slow-burning records contain multiple layers of sound that require slow processing and analysis. They may seem inaccessible or be experimental in nature, necessitating previous exposure to lush, avant-garde or unique music in order to appreciate them for what they are. Other times, slow-burner albums aren’t necessarily experimental, but their melodies take more time to soak in than something more simple and instantaneous or their lyrics warrant close reading and interpretation. Here are 10 albums that were slow-burners for me. You may have loved some at first listen and given up on others immediately, but I’d recommend these for any vinyl collection or for fans of music that takes time to bloom into fruition. —Lizzie Manno

The 10 Albums We’re Most Excited About in November

As we reach the calendar’s penultimate month, the year’s music releases are becoming more spare. October seemed to burst with new albums around every corner, while November will usher in considerably less. Still, quality over quantity, right? Though the coming month will see less album releases, the records that are arriving have us at Paste feeling excited. The long-awaited next album from Anderson.Paak is finally about to make its debut, plus we’re getting a new record from country heroine Rosanne Cash, a posthumous soul album from Charles Bradley, the first Smashing Pumpkins album in 18 years and more. Read on to see which albums Paste writers are most excited about in November. —Paste Staff

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