The 20 Best Paste Studio Sessions of 2018

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The 20 Best Paste Studio Sessions of 2018

The Paste Studio in New York City had its fair share of magical musical moments in the past year. With hundreds of musicians from all walks of life loading in and out of those studios, we witnessed the unifying, uplifting power of music in many forms. We had performances from plucky rookies, buzzed-about up-and-comers and seasoned veterans, and from just about every genre you can think of. Whether it was the smoky blues of Fantastic Negrito, the teary-eyed folk of Tomberlin or the headstrong indie rock of Soccer Mommy, we saw a lot of performances that gave those of us in the Atlanta office the urge to spring out of our desk chairs and hop on a high-speed jet to NYC. Paste is excited to share our 20 favorite Paste Studio sessions of 2018, listed by session date below. If you enjoyed these sessions, you can subscribe to our podcast, Live at Paste Studio, where you can hear staff-selected sessions each week, or subscribe to our YouTube channel for daily sessions.

Haley Heynderickx

Feb. 9
This year, Portland-based singer/songwriter Haley Heynderickx released her debut LP, one of Paste’s favorite albums of 2018. The record, I Need To Start A Garden, is every bit as whimsical and wonderful as the title would have you believe. Two parts folksy warbler and one part electric-guitar noodler, Heynderickx wades her way through three of Garden’s best tracks during her Paste Studio session: “No Face,” “Jo” and “Oom Sha La La.” I Need To Start A Garden boasts the roots of something very beautiful, indeed. —Ellen Johnson

Soccer Mommy

Feb. 22
When Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison strolled into The Manhattan Center in February for her Paste Studio session, she probably had no way of knowing her first major LP, Clean, would put her name on the map just a month later. But since then, and thanks to her confessional brand of searing rock, Allison has achieved indie elite status, and Clean landed high atop our list of the best albums of the year (number four, to be exact). During her studio session, Allison performed two songs from Clean, “Your Dog” and “Still Clean,” plus a track from her 2017 conglomeration Collection, “Allison.” —Ellen Johnson

Bettye LaVette

April 9
Soul survivor Bettye LaVette visited the Paste Studio in New York to perform music from her new release, Things Have Changed, a collection of Bob Dylan songs that is the furthest thing one could imagine from a conventional “covers album.” Stripping these 12 songs of their original structures and sometimes even their words and meanings, then rebuilding them from the ground up with contributions from guitarist Keith Richards, bassist Pino Palladino and producer Steve Jordan, LaVette makes them unmistakably her own. Some, like “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “It Ain’t Me Babe” are musically unrecognizable. Others, like “Mama, You Been on My Mind,” are detached from their original lyrical contexts and filtered through her own experience. Asked what she was looking for as she scanned Dylan’s catalog for songs to reinterpret, LaVette said, simply, “Me.” “Everybody seems pretty satisfied with whatever he presents, but I’m like him: I complain about everything,” she said of Dylan. “Maybe his appeal for me is that he complains constantly like an old woman, and I am an old woman, and I complain constantly. So we kind of have a match.” —Matthew Oshinsky


April 13
When INHEAVEN announced their breakup earlier this month, I was crushed, but the old saying rings true—“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” The British rock quartet’s 2017 self-titled debut album was the perfect collision of dream-pop sonics, fuzzy, rage-filled punk and the exclusively teenage dynamic where every single emotion is heightened to the point of explosive euphoria or devastating despondency. The band’s two co-lead vocalists, James Taylor and Chloe Little, popped into the Paste Studio along with their guitarist Jake Lucas to perform their final, standalone single, “Sweet Dreams Baby” and songs from their album. While the hazy sonics of “Sweet Dreams Baby” don’t appear in this acoustic form, its heart-rending escapism is still felt here. “Drift” and “Stupid Things” also tap into the heart and soul of their stirring, original electric versions. —Lizzie Manno

Half Waif

April 16
Brooklyn-based electronic trio Half Waif, led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Nandi Rose Plunkett, released their latest album, Lavender, earlier this year via Cascine. The band stopped by the Paste Studio for an intimate session that featured three gorgeous album tracks: “Lavender Burning,” “Torches” and “Silt,” the latter of which Plunkett called her “favorite” on the record. Lush and layered, Lavender is an album about connection— both lack of it, and the ties that bind us to the people in our lives. Plunkett’s lyrics— most of which were written on tour— reflect feelings of isolation and longing. “I miss New York, and that’s the loneliest feeling/To be on a road and not know where it’s leading,” she sings on opening track “Lavender Burning.” —Loren DiBlasi

KT Tunstall

Jun. 27
Veteran Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall came into the Paste Studio to promote her sixth album, WAX, and she delivered on the stomping, bluesy energy that she’s been heralded for. Following 2016’s KIN, WAX is the second of her proposed trilogy of albums, which embody one of three components—mind, body and soul. WAX represents the body and is about “our complex relationship with physicality,” so naturally it’s also an electric rock record that triggers toe-tapping and head-nodding. Tunstall performed three tracks in the Paste Studio—the first being an alternate version of her new album track, “The Healer,” which, according to Tunstall, “brought something out in me that felt like it had been a bit dormant.” She also played a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” which she also formally recorded with Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Thunderpussy’s Leah Julius. She released a politically-inspired video to go with the cover and she said of the track, “It’s sad that it’s such a relevant song still for people all over the world who are now galvanizing to stand up for what they believe in, and it’s working.” —Lizzie Manno

Erin Rae

July 16
Erin Rae, a rising Nashville starlet who released one of our favorite country albums of 2018, stopped by the Paste Studio in July, just a month after the release of that record, her full-length debut Putting on Airs. Rae possesses both the laid-back wisdom of a folk singer and the sparkly twang of classic country stars like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. She brought a spoonful of that aura to the studio when she performed three tracks from Putting on Airs: “The Real Thing,” “Like the First Time” and “Putting on Airs.” —Ellen Johnson

Lori McKenna

July 19
Paste’s Eric R. Danton wrote that “Every Lori McKenna album has at least one song that will make you cry,” and her latest, The Tree, is a three-hanky listen. You’ll want all three of those tissues for McKenna’s Paste Studio session, during which she played a trio of standout tracks from The Tree: “A Mother Never Rests,” “Young and Angry Again” and “People Get Old.” Young or old, angry or happy, you’ll feel something when you listen to McKenna’s lyrics. —Ellen Johnson


Aug. 13
Sarah Beth Tomberlin (aka Tomberlin) made one of the saddest records of the year and also one of the most promising debut albums of 2018 (it clocked in at #13 on our list of best debut records of the year.) She released her first LP, At Weddings, via Saddle Creek, which featured her self-described “sad bangers”—painfully confessional, acoustic songs with occasional synth flourishes. With an attentive eye and a warm embrace, Tomberlin’s voice is delicate and sympathetic as she touches on topics like self-doubt, religion, abusive relationships and other sensitive emotional predicaments. Among the four tracks she performed in the Paste Studio is her woozy, slightly-altered version of “Seventeen” and the devastatingly sad yet empowering “I’m Not Scared.” —Lizzie Manno

Fantastic Negrito

Aug. 27
Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz released his second full-length album, Please Don’t Be Dead, under the Fantastic Negrito moniker, this past year. Paste’s Eric R. Danton wrote of the album, “It’s a passionate and pointed collection of songs with a sly sense of humor and a certain lived-in wisdom.” Like many of the most powerful roots and blues musicians, he’s definitely had his fair share of hardship and that pain comes across in his vocals, however he’s experienced some high points as an artist. He won a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Blues Album with his 2016 debut album and he’s been nominated for the same category with Please Don’t Be Dead. Dphrepaulezz came into the Paste Studio with his band to perform four songs from his latest album. He opened with “Plastic Hamburgers,” which is as soulful as it is gritty and locked into a smooth groove, and he closed with “A Cold November Street,” a dogged, gospel-tinged tune with a distinctly cosmic aura. —Lizzie Manno

Cory Wong

Sept. 20
Vulfpeck collaborator and all-around goofball Cory Wong released his second solo LP in August, a follow-up to 2017’s Cory Wong and the Green Screen Band. It’s called The Optimist, which seems an appropriate title for music so effortlessly cheery. Wong and his talented crew swung by the Paste studios in New York City in September to play three tracks from the record, but their set morphed into a full-blown jam session, complete with plenty of bandmate banter and jazzy undertones. —Ellen Johnson

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