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

Music Features The Week in Music
Share Tweet Submit Pin
The Week In Music: The Best Albums, Songs, Performances and More

Though April proved to be a fruitful month for new music, things really start to kick into gear in May. This week, Paste rounded up our favorite albums from April and a list of big-name albums that we’re looking forward to this month, including The National, Carly Rae Jepsen and Vampire Weekend. This Friday (May 3) already provided some great releases in the form of Big Thief’s third full-length U.F.O.F. and the debut album from Philadelphia noise-pop outfit Empath. This week also brought Paste Studio sessions from Rhiannon Giddens (whose album there is no Other is out today) and The Bright Light Social Hour, plus compelling new singles from Matt Kivel, Daughter of Swords and Dumb. The newest episode of the Paste Podcast features a performance from Norwegian pop singer Aurora, which you can listen to here. Check out the weekly briefing from the Paste music section below.

BEST ALBUMS

Big Thief: U.F.O.F.

New York indie-folk outfit Big Thief have been touring constantly for four years in conjunction with their first two full-lengths—2016’s Masterpiece and 2017’s Capacity—and their third album U.F.O.F. was largely informed by their relentless touring schedule and the band’s heightened personal and musical synergy. Some of the songs were recorded just hours after they were written, while others were “perfected moments of dynamic feedback and spiritual, rhythmic togetherness.” As a result, the album contains even more vapors of supernatural beauty than their two previous releases. U.F.O.F. also includes new versions of “From” and “Terminal Paradise,” both originally written and recorded for Big Thief vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s 2018 solo album abysskiss. —Lizzie Manno

Empath: Active Listening: Night on Earth

Philadelphia four-piece Empath aren’t your everyday noise-pop band. They masterfully and curiously juggle bubblegum pop sweetness, ear-splitting noise guitar tornadoes, off-kilter synths and ambient nature sound effects. Last year’s cassette EP Liberating Guilt and Fear made Paste’s list of the 10 Best EPs of 2018. They intentionally overwhelm with discordant noise-punk rumbling and charm with tuneful pop melodies. Their highly-anticipated debut album, Active Listening: Night on Earth, contains mystifying weirdo symphonies that defy all previously existing musical states of matter. —Lizzie Manno

BEST TRACKS

Matt Kivel:radiance

Singer/songwriter Matt Kivel shared a new single, “radiance,” taken from his forthcoming album, last night in america, out on May 10 via Cascine. Kivel has been releasing music under his own name since 2012. He’s put out four solo albums over the years—Double Exposure in 2013 on Olde English Spelling Bee, Days of Being Wild in 2014 on Woodsist, and Janus and Fires on the Plain, both released in 2016 on Driftless. With a minimalist foundation of hushed vocals, a gentle drum machine and gusty synths, “radiance” pairs ambient folk-pop with the good-natured acceptance of life’s inevitable yet resplendent gear-turning. —Lizzie Manno

Daughter of Swords:Dawnbreaker

Mountain Man’s Alexandra Sauser-Monnig is stepping out on her own with her debut solo album, titled Dawnbreaker (out June 28 on Nonesuch Records), also her first full-length under the Daughter of Swords name. “Dawnbreaker” is an airy acoustic dream rumbling with chords so warm and inviting you’ll want to sink into them like a bath. Sauser-Monnig, who wrote many of Dawnbreaker’s 10 tracks while anticipating the dissolution of a relationship, sees life mirrored in nature, likening herself to “a white rose,” “red hawk,” “hollow reed” or even “just a leaf” at different points in the song. —Ellen Johnson

Dumb:Beef Hits

Vancouver four-piece Dumb shared their new single, “Beef Hits,” taken from their forthcoming album Club Nites, out on June 7 via Mint Records. This saxophone-laced punk tune is equipped with a snotty lyrical shrewdness and crystalline production style to counteract the band’s scrappy energy that can’t be curtailed. There’s a sense of detachment from Franco Rossino’s matter-of-fact vocal stylings, but their lyrics couldn’t be more in the thick of things as Dumb throw a few punches at the utter shenanigans of modern late-night social happenings (“You’re only here to improve your public face”). —Lizzie Manno

BEST PERFORMANCES

Rhiannon Giddens

Aside from their circular bodies, the banjo and the frame drum don’t look much alike. But listen to the two together, and you’ll find they’re related—and not all that distantly. You’ll hear both throughout there is no Other, the new album by banjo ace Rhiannon Giddens (of Carolina Chocolate Drops fame) and collaborator Francesco Turrisi, an Italian multi-instrumentalist. “There is no Other” is one of three songs the pair played during their Paste Studio session, sandwiched by “Wayfaring Stranger” and Little Margaret.” Throughout the album Giddens examines—and condemns— “othering,” while also working with Turrisi to break down sonic barriers between different musical influences from all over the world. The album, out today (May 3), is a striking campaign for connection that exquisitely blends European, Arabic, African American and Mediterrean sounds. —Ellen Johnson

The Bright Light Social Hour

Back in February, Austin psych rockers The Bright Light Social Hour released their third full-length album, Jude Vol. I, produced by Chris Coady (Slowdive, Beach House, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and recorded at Sunset Sound. The band played stripped-down versions of four tracks from their new album—”Give to Me Words,” “Lie To Me (Große Lüge),” “My Boy” and “Darling You.” —Lizzie Manno

FEATURES

30 Years On, The Stone Roses’ Debut Album is Still Singular

Four years and two bassists after their abysmal debut single, The Stone Roses released their classic self-titled debut album, unleashed 30 years ago this week, an LP that’s about as close as any band has ever come to beaming and buoyant rock ’n’ roll perfection. The Stone Roses weren’t musical progenitors, but they fused their influences in a way that might fool the average listener into thinking they were. They took the chiming Rickenbacker folk-pop of American bands like The Byrds and blended it with Britain’s burgeoning acid house music, subversive politics, psychedelic funk and The Kinks’ poppy knack for depicting English summers. Often credited with spearheading the “Madchester” dance-rock scene, The Stone Roses didn’t embody its psychedelic pill-swallowing rave aesthetic to the extent that peers like Happy Mondays did—the Roses were a different breed altogether. —Lizzie Manno

The 10 Best Albums of April 2019

We could be jumping the gun, but here at Paste we’re pretty sure we heard some of the year’s best albums this month. Kevin Morby dropped his career-best, as did Weyes Blood, and, otherwise, we heard an onslaught of great new rock music: Wand casted a winding psych spell, Washington D.C.’s Priests seduced Kansas with searing satire and Fontaines D.C. (from Ireland, not D.C., mind you), poeticized punk on their debut Dogrel, then proceeded to play The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. We can’t help but wonder if they’re the first Irish punk-rocker upstarts to do so?! Anyways, April really delivered. Don’t miss these 10 fantastic records from the last 30 days. —Paste Staff

The 10 Albums We’re Most Excited About in May

May is packed with more show-stopping album releases than any month of the year so far. We can finally wrap our ears around highly-anticipated albums from The National, Vampire Weekend, Carly Rae Jepsen and Big Thief, plus exciting debut albums from Empath and ALASKALASKA and promising sophomore LPs from Charly Bliss, Kedr Livanskiy and Bedouine. Check out 10 of the albums we’re most excited to hear in May, listed by release date and as chosen by the Paste Music Staff. —Paste Staff

15 Bands to See at Shaky Knees 2019

In the seven years since its inception, Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Festival, happening this weekend (May 3-5), has quickly evolved to become one of the best rock showcases in the South, if not the whole country. Not only is it on our list of the year’s best lineups (not for the first time, either), it’s also happening at Central Park right here in Atlanta, Ga., about 15 minutes from the Paste HQ. So you could say we’re pretty excited to see some of our favorite artists right now—like Soccer Mommy, Lucy Dacus, Maggie Rogers and IDLES—in addition to veterans like Tame Impala, Tears For Fears and Beck, in our backyard. For those also attending the festival, we’ve created this guide with some can’t-miss acts, many of them playing early in the day on smaller stages. So get there early, y’all (this is Georgia, after all), and follow along with us on the site, Twitter and Instagram throughout the weekend for updates on all the action. —Paste Music Staff

The 10 Best Kevin Morby Songs

Exploring Kevin Morby’s discography is like taking a road trip. The Kansas City, Mo., native (and current resident) often establishes a sense of place in his music—he has an album for New York (City Music), L.A. (Singing Saw) and what feels like every prairie, mountain and river in between. After playing in Brooklyn bands the Babies and Woods, Morby began his solo career with 2013’s Harlem River. In the years since, he’s released three more full-length albums containing some of the best folk-rock material this side of The Crane Wife. His latest, however, floats high above them all, somewhere near, but perhaps not in, the heavens, where God may (or may not) abide. Oh My God is a religious concept album for worshippers and nonbelievers alike, and it’s already being pronounced Morby’s best work to date. In time with this almighty arrival we decided to journey through Kevin Morby’s catalogue and pick out some of his most interesting, beloved and beautiful songs. So buckle up, roll down your windows and take a drive along the Harlem River, through the music of the City and even into the divine. Here are 10 of our favorite songs by one of rock’s most resourceful road warriors. —Ellen Johnson

The Curmudgeon: Musical Tourists and Musical Travelers

There is a crucial difference between tourists and travelers. Tourists are on vacation; they’re vacating their usual roles in life to get some rest and relaxation. They want to be amused by their new surroundings, but they don’t want to get too involved. And there’s nothing wrong with that; we all need some R&R from time to time. Travelers, by contrast, are not leaving work behind; they’re bringing it with them to a new location. They’re traveling, in fact, in hopes that new circumstances will stimulate new and better production. They need to be involved with their new surroundings. This is as true of musicians as of anyone else. Musical tourists may be more likely to enjoy their trip, but musical travelers are more likely to accomplish something of value. The former may expect to snap up inspiration from an exotic locale like cheap souvenirs, but if they think that will substitute for their own lack of motivation and work ethic, they’re almost always disappointed. Travelers who bring their own ideas and discipline with them are more likely to create a give-and-take dialogue with their destination and create something worthwhile. —Geoffrey Himes

Record Time: New & Notable Vinyl Releases (April 2019)

Record Time is Paste’s monthly column that takes a glimpse into the wide array of new vinyl releases that are currently flooding record stores around the world. Rather than run down every fresh bit of wax in the marketplace, we’ll home in on special editions, reissues and unusual titles that come across our desk with an interest in discussing both the music and how it is pressed and presented. This month that includes a collection of jazz classics, the latest from an emo mainstay and a lot of Record Store Day releases. —Robert Ham

Take a Journey Inward to SOAK’s Grim Town

Her second album under the SOAK ID, Bridie Monds-Watson’s Grim Town makes a noticeable departure from the washed pop-rock of her 2015 debut, Before We Forgot How To Dream, which she released at just 18. Since then, she’s won Ireland’s Choice Music Prize and received a Mercury Prize nomination. A native of Derry, Northern Ireland, now residing in Manchester, Monds-Watson takes a good hard look at her home, emotional health and transition to adulthood on Grim Town, all while fashioning for herself—and the listener—a dark new universe where all manner of internal unrest rules. But Monds-Watson doesn’t leave the listener in an emotional ditch. Grim Town, which holds a bold new sonic palette of explosive pop and dark production, is a journey underground and back up to the light again. It’s an album about growing up, finding happiness and fostering relationships—including one with yourself. We chatted with Monds-Watson about her new sound, growing up in Derry and visiting Grim Town. —Ellen Johnson

Every Time I See the Backstreet Boys Something Terrible Happens

I’ll be straight with you: the last time I saw the Backstreet Boys live in concert was September 10, 2001. And while we’re on the subject I’ll be honest with you a second, sadder time: to try and make up for it I saw the Backstreet Boys again on 4/20 in Las Vegas this year. I’m not saying I have a pathological fear my seeing of the Backstreet Boys causes large-scale disasters, but I’m not saying it doesn’t. Let’s go over a few things. The Backstreet Boys were not “the one Justin Timberlake was in,” nor are they still famous, making them the perfect candidates for a Vegas show. They were the first 1990s boy band of note to have a truly global impact but never had a breakout star—the PG “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” boys to the hornier, less committed NSYNC-ers that were way less Christian and sometimes, gasp, thrust their crotches at the screen during music videos. Now the Boys are all over 40 save for original teen frontman Nick Carter, and it’s more clear than ever at their Las Vegas just-the-hits show that they are, in fact, five grown men from Orlando trying their best to dance. There are skits (skits!) that could have used some punching up. The set list is more or less identical to the show I saw on that fateful night in 2001, fresh into fourth grade with tickets my mom had put on her credit card for my birthday. —Jamie Loftus

Simon Bonney Explores His Past, Present, Future On A New Compilation

As comfortable and content as he sounds when we recently spoke with him, things weren’t always so simple for Simon Bonney. Through the ‘80s and early ‘90s, he scraped by, making music with his post-punk band Crime & The City Solution (one version of the group made a brief on-stage appearance in Wim Wenders’ 1987 film Wings Of Desire; another contributed to the much-loved soundtrack of that same director’s Until The End Of The World). After that band’s dissolution, he and his wife, musician Bronwyn Adams, moved to the U.S. and let the roots music of his newfound home infect his own songwriting over two marvelous but underappreciated solo recordings, 1992’s Forever and 1995’s Everyman. But things stalled out soon after he recorded a third solo album and he put music on the shelf for a while to support his family. While another version of Crime & The City Solution briefly came together earlier this decade, Bonney’s purposefully kept himself out of the grind of the modern music industry. But he’s about to pop his head back aboveground this month with a run of shows performing alongside Mark Lanegan and the forthcoming release of Past, Present, Future, a fantastic collection that pulls tracks from his two previously-issued solo albums and a few tunes from his unreleased record, Eyes Of Blue. —Robert Ham

Also in Music