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

Welcome to the one-stop shop for cleansing your mind, ears and soul of “ME!” After weeks of littering her social media accounts with clues, Taylor Swift finally dropped the video for her new single, a truly vapid collaboration with Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie, thusly leading us into the hellish #TS7 era. But, thankfully, we’re not here to talk about that sonic/visual travesty. We’re here to tell you about all the great new music from this week! This fine stretch of April brought a rush of excellent new albums, including a career-best from Kevin Morby, a fantastical slice of rock ‘n’ roll lore from The Mountain Goats, a dystopian pop dreamscape from Ireland’s SOAK and one of the weirdest, loveliest singer/songwriter efforts this year from Aldous Harding. This was also a big week for all of us here at Paste, as we joined forces with Noisetrade.com, a streaming platform where artists and authors can upload their works, which can then be downloaded by fans for free. Read more about that exciting news here, then join us in soaking up all of this week’s best new tunes, performances, albums and writing about it all. Find everything below.

BEST ALBUMS

Kevin Morby: Oh My God

Kevin Morby has always been a channeler of the divine. The enigmatic singer/songwriter has won over audiences far and wide with the languor of his folk-tinged rock ‘n’ roll, summoning angels, devils and saints in his lyrics while folding in the enchantment of folk tales, the grandiosity of nature and the benevolence of a love that can withstand everything from grazed knees to deep heartache. Morby’s latest album (2017’s City Music) was a near-concept record centered on the paradox of a bustling New York City landscape and lush bucolic expanses. His fifth solo album and first double LP, Oh My God (out on April 26 via Dead Oceans), sees Morby at his most intentionally conceptual—examining religion from a secular lens. Oh My God came out of a certain sense of desperation and a period of personal and shared turmoil. Back in 2016 when many of these tracks were composed, Morby was going through a breakup, Trump was elected President, a series of mass shootings in America had sunk everyone’s spirits, and to top it all off, Morby was living in Los Angeles, where massive wildfires were raging. One form of consolation people turn to when the weight of the world begins to slowly crush the human psyche is religion. Morby doesn’t subscribe to any particular organized religion, but he finds endless beauty in its capacity to move people. While Oh My God is technically in the universe, it’s not of it. Morby is one of modern rock ‘n’ roll’s finest raconteurs, and his bold new concept album now belongs to the universe in a time when brushes with the divine seem fewer and farther between. —Lizzie Manno

The Mountain Goats: In League With Dragons

“It never hurts to give thanks to the local Gods/you never know who might be hungry,” John Darnielle sings in “Younger.” Thank the Music Gods for the Mountain Goats, who gift us with yet another elegant and elaborate album with In League With Dragons. If you told me that John Darnielle was Warren Zevon’s secret son, I would absolutely believe you. His voice is breathy, his lyrics wry and his phrasing deceptively simple. But what the Mountain Goats really excel at are their orchestrations: lush and complex but never overwhelming. There’s an element of fantasy all over the album, from the tabletop battlefield of “Younger” (“It never hurts to give thanks to the navigator/even when he’s spitting out random numbers.”) to “Clemency for the Wizard King,” light and airy and breathy and sweet and sincere and as if Tenacious D’s “Wonderboy” was written as a serious rock song. But it’s not just a concept album for nerds. There are noir influences as well, including “Waylon Jennings Live!” which paints a fabulously funny portrait of a man who is either a spy or an international drug lord or maybe the legend himself. The album ends with the prog-lite “Sicilian Crest,” proving that, once again, the Mountain Goats are unafraid to go a little weird in order to stretch and bend between genres. With 16 albums behind them, it would be easy to repeat themselves and crank out another dull routine. But Darnielle and company have more respect for their audience than that, producing an album with the potency to draw in new listeners and give thanks to those already in their company. —Libby Cudmore

BEST TRACKS

FKA twigs:Cellophane

FKA twigs has returned with her first new song in over three years, “Cellophane.” The song comes with a breathless, ethereal new video directed by frequent Björk collaborator Andrew Thomas Huang. “Cellophane” is one of FKA twigs’ most personal tracks to date, dealing with a period in her life when she felt she had to rebuild herself from scratch. “Throughout my life I’ve practiced my way to being the best I could be,” she says in a statement. “It didn’t work this time. I had to tear down every process I’d ever relied on. Go deeper. Rebuild. Start again.” The stunning video accompanying the track finds twigs pole-dancing, falling through space and eventually being buried in pink mud. She trained for months in advance with pole choreographer Kelly Yvonne to learn the impressive acrobatics she performs in the video, taking to Twitter on Wednesday to thank Yvonne and Huang for their help. —Adam Weddle

Lucy Dacus:My Mother And I

Lucy Dacus has released another new track from her 2019 holiday songs series, this one titled “My Mother And I” in honor of Mother’s Day and Taurus Season. Dacus said of the new track’s thoughtful take on genetics and the tender balance of self-image in a statement: “Being adopted has encouraged me to consider what mothers pass on through blood and body, and what they impart in the way of socialization and context. We—daughters, and all children—easily inherit the shame and fear of our mothers, but also the pride, self-assurance, and lessons of love.” —Montana Martin

Marika Hackman:i’m not where you are

“I want the power in my music to come from lyrics and melody rather than trickery of the brain,” Marika Hackman told Paste back in 2015, just before the release of her full-length debut We Slept At Last. Fast forward four years and one more album, and the singer-songwriter continues to live up to this promise on her latest single “i’m not where you are,” all about “breaking up with people, or self-sabotaging relationships,” as Hackman explains in a statement. Between her sultry, languorous delivery and synths that are at once toe-tapping and melancholic, the English artist once again crafts a powerful melody with lyrics that reveal a fraught emotional underbelly. Hackman adds that “i’m not where you are” meditates on “[t]hat feeling of not trusting one’s emotions because you can’t seem to get to the same place as the other person. On the surface, it seems like an arrogant ‘everybody falls in love with me’ kind of song but it’s actually incredibly lonely, introspective and self-deprecating.” —Clare Martin

The Paste Podcast

Josh Ritter

One of Paste’s 100 greatest living songwriters, Idaho native Josh Ritter, joins us in the Paste Studio in New York to perform four songs and talk about his brand-new album Fever Breaks. Host Josh Jackson is also joined by Paste movies editor Dom Sinacola for a discussion of the five best movies in theaters right now.

BEST PERFORMANCES

Hayes Carll

Hayes Carll, writer of smart, funny, no-frills country songs, followed his commercial breakthrough KMAG YOYO with this year’s excellent What It Is, a plainly stated take on the tomfoolery of today viewed through the eyes of one regular joe. There’s a surveying of stakes on What It Is, as well as a whole lot of heart. Carll visited the Paste Studio this week to play three songs from the record: “I Will Stay,” “If I May Be So Bold” and “Times Like These.”

Damien Jurado

Damien Jurado   released his 14th album and first for Mama Bird Recording Co. earlier this month, In the Shape of a Storm. To coincide with the release, Jurado popped into the Paste Studio to perform three tracks from his new LP—”South,” “Newspaper Gown” and “Where You Want Me To Be.” Jurado described his first single, “South” as “a collage of sorts, or collection of snapshots, that center around two characters. One could even presume me, or me as an alternate self. Dark, isolated and slightly menacing in tone for a waltz number.” Following last year’s The Horizon Just Laughed, Jurado recorded these 10 new songs over the course of an afternoon in California, and this LP is his sparsest to date—featuring just Jurado’s voice, acoustic guitar and Josh Gordon’s occasional high-strung guitar tuned Nashville style. —Lizzie Manno

FEATURES

A Guide to the Best American Music Festivals in 2019

Hands up if you’re ready to spend $12 on domestic beer and watch all your favorite bands perform on the same patch of ground. With Coachella behind us, it’s officially festival season, which means it’s time to pull out your calendars, checkbooks and sunblock and figure out which fest is best for you. We’re hoping to make that decision a little easier with this nifty guide breaking down some of the summer’s most delightful (or at least most intriguing) lineups. We’ve included all the info you need to know—date, location and the most exciting acts on the poster—and organized it all by region, so you can plan a road trip to a festival nearby if a flight to Tennessee for another year of ‘Roo isn’t in the cards. We’ve done our best to include festivals that are diverse in terms of genre, gender and geography, so we hope whether you’re a folk fan from San Francisco or a rock fan from Rochester there’s something here for you. —Paste Staff

A Special Evening with The National

It’s a peculiar thing that The National are this big. Their members debuted an exhibit at the Guggenheim this week and have another video installation set to premiere at the Met next month. Their “intimate” New York concert to showcase their new Alicia Vikander-starring short film, titled I’m Still Here, and album, I Am Easy to Find, out May 17, took place Monday at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan, the kind of venue an indie band wouldn’t dare dream to play, an almost-3,000 capacity room that typically hosts aging classic rock bands (Steely Dan usually plays every fall, while Bob Dylan has made a habit of booking multiple nights there over the last handful of years) and the occasional stand up set from Jerry Seinfeld. How did this dour, morose and perpetually drunk band from Brooklyn get here? —Steven Edelstone

Musician & Dennis Quaid Superfan Taylor Janzen Interviews the Actor About His First-Ever Album

You probably know Dennis Quaid, the actor. Depending on who you are, you’ll remember him from The Parent Trap (Nick Parker), The Rookie (Jimmy Morris), dozens of other titles and/or his stint as Ellen DeGeneres’ outrageous prank partner in the early 2010s. What you may not know about Quaid is his other passion: music. The actor and musician has been playing in his band Dennis Quaid & the Sharks, made up of Tom Mancillas, Ken Stange, Tom Walsh and the Kingbees’ Jamie James, for about 20 years now, and last November, they finally released their first album: Out of the Box. A special Record Store Day edition of the album is out now on vinyl. You also may or may not know Taylor Janzen, a singer/songwriter from Winnipeg, Canada, who made a splash at this year’s SXSW and caught our attention thanks to her emotionally vivid songs and fierce love for all things Gilmore Girls, her cat and—you guessed it—Dennis Quaid. We asked Janzen, whose forthcoming EP Shouting Matches (which actually contains a song called “Dennis Quaid”) is out May 3, to interview Quaid about his new album, influences and favorite artists (some of whom may surprise you). Their conversation has been edited for length. —Ellen Johnson

Kevin Morby On His Boldest Album Yet, Oh My God

Kevin Morby has always been a channeler of the divine. The enigmatic singer/songwriter has won over audiences far and wide with the languor of his folk-tinged rock ’n’ roll, summoning angels, devils and saints in his lyrics while folding in the enchantment of folk tales, the grandiosity of nature and the benevolence of a love that can withstand everything from grazed knees to deep heartache. Morby’s latest album (2017’s City Music) was a near-concept record centered on the paradox of a bustling New York City landscape and lush bucolic expanses. His fifth solo album and first double LP, Oh My God (out on April 26 via Dead Oceans), sees Morby at his most intentionally conceptual—examining religion from a secular lens. —Lizzie Manno

Someone Great Is an Okay Indie Movie with a Stellar Indie Soundtrack

Netflix’s Someone Great plays out like the visual version of Lorde’s “Supercut.” The song, which is also cleverly placed in the film and promptly re-entered the U.S. iTunes charts last weekend following its release, recounts a magical relationship after the breakup. But instead of surveying the wreckage, Lorde presses play on the good times. “All the moments I play in the dark / Wild and fluorescent, come home to my heart,” she sings. Someone Great’s Jenny (played by Gina Rodriguez, world’s most likeable actress) finds herself in a similar situation. After landing her dream music writing job with Rolling Stone, she and her boyfriend of nine years, Nate (acted by a very hunky LaKeith Stanfield), call it quits, fearing they won’t survive a long-distance relationship split between New York City and Jenny’s future home, San Francisco (In case you were curious, Netflix knows the Rolling Stone offices relocated from California to NYC in 1977—the discrepancy is a nod to Almost Famous). The pulsing pop tune from Lorde’s 2017 album Melodrama plays while a literal “Supercut” of Jenny’s and Nate’s relationship flashes before our eyes—Instagram posts, Facebook messages, texts, emails and exchanges with Jenny’s two best friends, Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise) serve as an intro to a film about reminiscing, reconnecting with friends and, ultimately, moving forward on your own. For the next 90 minutes, the supercut plays on as Jenny, Blair and Erin embark on one more wild escapade in the city together. Wrapped up in the 90 minutes of shenanigans, flashbacks and celebrity cameos is a music fan’s dream soundtrack. —Ellen Johnson

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