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

The music world spent the last week occupied with the 2019 Grammys and the fallout from Ryan Adams’ sexual misconduct allegations, which reinforced the ideas that female empowerment and #MeToo are both conversations and efforts that need to continue to take place. As far as knockout music releases from the past week, we heard an absolute powerhouse single from Lizzo’s highly-anticipated forthcoming album Cuz I Love You as well as a sweet and punchy collaboration between Liz Cooper and Okey Dokey. Album-wise, we dug recent records from Rustin Man (Paul Webb of Talk Talk) and Yann Tiersen, plus we filmed standout Paste studio sessions with Gin Blossoms and Field Medic. As we process a whole range of emotions stemming from recent music headlines that rightfully make us want to throw things, why not take some time to decompress and enjoy the best that music had to offer from the past week, compiled below.

BEST ALBUMS

Rustin Man: Drift Code

Depending on the song, and even on the verse, Rustin Man’s Paul Webb either sounds like an Appalachian mountain man singing through diastema or David Bowie, not the combination anyone might expect but surprisingly the combination we all deserve. The idiosyncratic aural read on Webb’s new album, Drift Code, arriving a staggering 17 years after Out of Season, his 2002 collaboration with Beth Gibbons, is key to its spirit. His music feels right at home both on Earth and in outer space, an ode to British folk washed in reverb and wrapped in cosmic peculiarities. The sounds and styles comprising Drift Code’s aesthetic should clang against each other on paper. Funneled into the ear they blend, but the blending takes patience to acclimate to. It’s an odd listen, not an easy listen, which isn’t to say that it’s hard to sit through, either, just unexpected. If one style especially anchors Drift Code, it’s folk, but Webb, in keeping with its constantly fluctuating character, uses his various influences to move it forward. Folk is perhaps the most human of musical genres, or at least the one that bears the strongest connection to age-old and universal human experiences, from heartbreak to oppression, all in service to creating cohesive documents of cultural traditions. As our cultures evolve, so too does folk music. It was always destined for the stars. Webb’s work takes it one step closer to getting there. —Andy Crump

Yann Tiersen: ALL

Like almost everything in this world, music tends to be categorized and confined to a specific niche. It could be rock, rap, blues, country or R&B, but once it has its label, then the chances are that it will be locked into it going forward. It’s only natural of course; with the wealth of choices people are offered these days, it becomes the most feasible way of processing the information and providing a quick description. ALL, the French-bred artist Yann Tiersen’s ninth album to date, is, like his earlier outings, similar in sound to a soundtrack that would accompany a documentary on the Discovery Channel, although in truth, it’s simply the manifestation of Tiersen’s love of the environs of Eusa, the island where he lives and records. His connection to nature provides the album’s central theme, and while the lyrics, such as they are, are sung in languages other than English, the meditative mood provides a tranquil tapestry throughout, all expressed within a mellow and melodic afterglow. Ultimately, categories don’t really matter much, given the fact that these soothing and assuring tones provide an oft-needed respite from the onerous onslaught of today’s mostly dire and distressing news. Escapism is increasingly needed in these turbulent times, and with ALL, that remedy is realized. —Lee Zimmerman

BEST TRACKS

Lizzo:Cuz I Love You

Body-positive bop star Lizzo has assembled a legion of loyal followers, and for good reason: Infectiously funky beats, catchy hooks and an unapologetic stage presence (which includes playing the flute while twerking) are just a few things to adore. Lizzo added yet another item to that list, debuting the addicting new title track from her forthcoming album Cuz I Love You—just in time for Valentine’s Day head-banging. The track wastes no time in sweeping the listener off their feet, cutting in with a soulful, wailing chorus that showcases a vocal prowess not previously seen from the singer. Crashing big-band instrumentals catapult you from one verse to another with a sound that’s full, grandiose and not at all unlike the swelling symphonic brass of Nina Simone’s equally addicting 1965 hit “Feeling Good.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lizzo song without a myriad of quotable quips, and verses rapped over dance-y jazz club-esque piano supply exactly that. — Lindsay Thomaston

Versing:Tethered

Seattle four-piece Versing are living proof that college radio—in their case, Tacoma’s KUPS—continues to serve as a breeding ground for bands and music nerds alike. Now, frontman Daniel Salas, guitarist Graham Baker, drummer Max Keyes and bassist Kirby Lochner are debuting “Tethered,” the first single off their forthcoming Hardly Art full-length debut, 10000. The track is “about how people are tied together,” Salas says in a statement. “It’s a reminder of the interconnectedness of humans, to people who make excuses for not doing the right thing.” That specific message, and the sentiments of Versing’s songwriting, in general, feel meant for our dark and dismal political times. —Clare Martin

Okey Dokey and Liz Cooper:Modern Chemistry

Valentine’s Day cynics, rejoice: Nashville artists Liz Cooper and Okey Dokey have crafted both a love song and an anti-love song in one. “Love me, woo me,” Cooper sings, “But only ‘till tomorrow.” Its title, “Modern Chemistry,” might be a little too long for a candy heart message, but this tune is a delightfully realist take on romance. This marks the second collaboration between soulful guitarist Cooper and Aaron Martin and Johny Fisher of experimental psych-rock group Okey Dokey. Last month, they released the comical video for the single “Winnebago.” That track is more nostalgic, where “Modern Chemistry” is very much of this moment, even with its old-time doo-wop sheen. Cooper’s character in the song is hesitant, “like a bull in a china shop, stumbling through the motions.” Martin’s, however, is in it for the long haul: “I’d hate to lose you now / I’d have to write the formula down.” In the end, though, is this potential relationship just an experiment? “Mixing up emotions, watching it blow up in front of me,” Cooper sings. It remains a mystery. —Ellen Johnson

BEST PERFORMANCES

Gin Blossoms

On Tuesday (Feb. 12), ‘90s hit-makers Gin Blossoms stopped by the Paste Studio in New York City on their day off from touring. During their session, they cracked open a few Pabst Blue Ribbons and played one song from their 1992 album, New Miserable Experience (fan favorite/radio hit “Hey Jealousy”), plus “Competition Smile” from 1996’s Congratulations I’m Sorry and “Face the Dark,” from last year’s Mixed Reality. But before calling it a day, they delivered a cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” from the rock band’s 1995 album The Bends, a track frontman Robin Wilson has had on heavy rotation the last few months. “It’s just been fresh in my head, and I just threw it out there and the guys just shrugged and said, ‘Yeah, why not?’” Wilson said of the iconic tune. —Ellen Johnson

Field Medic

Field Medic debuted two new songs live at the Paste Studio in New York City from his forthcoming album fade into the dawn, due April 19 from Run For Cover Records. The stripped-down, three-song session featured accompaniment from a slightly functional boombox and the full charm of Kevin Patrick’s art-forward, indie-rock project for the debut of his new tracks “hello moon” and “songs r worthless now,” as well as previous Daily Dose pick “henna tattoo.” —Montana Martin

FEATURES

The 2019 Grammys Best Dressed List

The 2019 Grammys were a big night for women in the music industry. It almost felt like the Grammys were dedicated to them, with stellar performances by Brandi Carlile, Cardi B and Kacey Musgraves, as well as a massive tribute to Dolly Parton. It was a welcome surprise after last year’s unfortunate misstep by The Recording Academy’s departing president, Neil Portnow—if you don’t remember, he said women in the industry need to “step up.” That was quite the unnecessary and unwarranted dig in the #MeToo era, and women both in and out of the industry have certainly not forgotten it. What wasn’t a surprise but still as welcome as ever this year were the looks served by the award show attendees and performers. It’s standard to bring your best to the Grammys, and while this year there were no looks as iconic as J-Lo’s green silk dress in 2000, there was plenty to look at and a ton to admire. Here are the top looks at the 2019 Grammy Awards. —Annie Black

2019 Grammys: The Recording Academy Tried Stepping Up Their Game

Spencer Kornhaber over at The Atlantic predicted that one body in particular would rule the 2019 Grammys: women with guitars. His forecast could not have been more spot-on. Despite rap and R&B dominating the major category nominees, as those genres have for years now, that fearless, reckless mob of guitar-slinging ladies triumphed last night. A teary-eyed, humble Kacey Musgraves won Album of the Year for her untouchable masterwork Golden Hour. She also beat out the likes of Chris Stapleton, Dan + Shay and Brothers Osborne to take home trophies for Best Country Song, Solo Performance and Album. St. Vincent, often an indie outsider, won the Grammy for best rock song. H.E.R., who also had nominations for Album of the Year and Best New Artist, delivered a star-making solo performance of “Hard Place,” just after snagging the award for Best R&B album. Brandi Carlile sung an anthem for the ages. Musgraves, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and more joined Dolly Parton in a moving tribute to the country legend. Women without a doubt owned the night. —Ellen Johnson

The Best and Worst Performances of the 2019 Grammys

You don’t need me to tell you that women reigned supreme at the 2019 Grammys. A whole host of newbies, veterans and legends performed tributes, medleys and original songs that made the crowd swoon and dance and made folks watching at home drop their jaws to the floor. Paste broke down the performances at the 2019 Grammys that stuck out to us, for better or worse, including Janelle Monae, Jennifer Lopez and Post Malone with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Check out the full list of 2019 Grammy winners here. —Lizzie Manno

All the 2019 Grammy Winners Who’ve Performed at Paste

We’ve written extensively about this year’s surprisingly entertaining Grammys. Now we want to share some of our favorite performances by this year’s Grammy winners in the Paste Studio. Before they were taking home statuettes, they were performing at one of our recording spots. You can see all our Paste Studio videos on our YouTube channel (Please subscribe!). Congrats to the following artists on their 2019 Grammy victories. —Josh Jackson

The 30 Best Albums of 1979

Forty years ago, America was filled with tube tops and harness boots, the Atari and the Walkman. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the U.K. elected Margaret Thatcher. The snowboard was invented in 1979, as was the modern superhero movie with the release of Superman. In music, it was the year of the Disco Demolition, when Chicago shock jock Steve Dahl blew up a crate full of dance music, declaring the death of disco, but like his beloved rock, it would prove more resilient than he hoped. Donna Summer had three of the Billboard top 20 songs of 1979, alongside acts like Chic, The Doobie Brothers, Gloria Gaynor and, of course, The Village People. Yes, 1979 was the year of “Y.M.C.A.” But disco was only a part of the music scene in 1979. Post-punk and New Wave were in full blossom with boundary-pushing albums from Talking Heads, B-52’s, Joy Division and Gang of Four. Michael Jackson was turning his Motown roots into music for the masses with Off the Wall, and artists like Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Funkadelic, Emmylou Harris and Neil Young were all exploring new sounds. There was great music coming from every corner of the musical landscape, though most of it was ignored by pop radio at the time. We’ve compiled the best albums of 1979, voted on by Paste’s music writers and editors. These are the albums that have endured these last 40 years and, in many cases, helped shape the next generation of musicians. —Josh Jackson and Paste Music Staff

The 15 New British Acts You Need to Know in 2019

In February 1964, four young lads from a port town called Liverpool flew to America from the U.K. to perform their happy-go-lucky pop songs, and America was never the same. There’s a certain romance when British musicians invade American shores for the first time with their starry-eyed ambitions and their fresh, new sounds. After Paste’s 2018 list of exciting new British bands, which featured acts like Shame and Honey Lung, Paste is ready to share our class of 2019. We listed 15 of our favorite new British acts, in alphabetical order, that have us giddy with anticipation for their potential success this year in America and beyond. —Lizzie Manno

Hayes Carll: It Is What It Is and It Ain’t What It Ain’t

Hayes Carll’s 2011 album KMAG YOYO was his commercial breakthrough, rising to #12 on Billboard’s Country Album chart. As he toured behind that album, his confidence grew with the size of the crowds. For a memorable show at Threadgill’s Beer Garden in Austin, he fronted a crackerjack sextet as he belted out his country-rock singalong, “Stomp and Holler,” with all the swagger the song required. With his light-brown hair parted in the middle and a sparse beard framing his jaw, he wore a blue work shirt and a sly grin. That grin made it clear that his tongue was in his cheek when he complained that it was “Hard Out Here” on the road. The smile seemed more genuine when he exclaimed that he was living the “Drunken Poet’s Dream.” It seemed as if he were on the cusp of stardom, but in reality his world was falling apart. His marriage was collapsing, and he was developing unhealthy habits on tour. It would be more than five years before he released his next recording, and by then all his commercial momentum was gone. On the other hand, Lovers and Leavers was his most ambitious and impressive project yet, tackling subjects such as divorce, fatherhood, self-medication and mortality with sobering smarts. “Good While It Lasted” is as devastating a song of loss and acceptance as you’re likely to hear. Before he could get to the point of releasing his new album What It Is, out today (Feb. 15), he had to solve three challenges. —Geoffrey Himes

The Curmudgeon: Ray Davies—Preserving Old, Rural Ways as a Kind of Rebellion

Sometimes the most radical act is resisting the new and preserving the old. This cuts against our assumptions that progress is all about discarding established forms and replacing them with alternate structures. We assume that this is true not only of our politics but also our personal relationships, daily life and especially our music. The Kinks’ Ray Davies saw through this solipsism back in 1968, when his band released The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. The London quartet, which had pioneered heavy-metal power chords on singles such as “You Really Got Me” and working-class rabble-rousing on singles such as “Dead End Street,” were now championing the commons that sit in the center of most English villages and the Tudor houses and swinging-sign pubs that surround each green. —Geoffrey Himes

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