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

Stop, take a deep breath and just let the hypnotic “Harmony Hall” riff rock you into a sweet, springtime slumber. Welcome to Paste dot com, where we’re pressing pause on Vampire Weekend discourse (but not on “Harmony Hall”) to talk about the rest of this week’s new music. Seattle favorites Tacocat gifted us a record that, according to our critic, sounds like “rainbow sherbet and friendship bracelets.” On the other hand, one of New York City’s brightest bands, Charly Bliss, swerved the sophomore slump and unleashed a frenzy of pop-rock perfection on their second album, Young Enough. Elsewhere, we wrapped up coverage of last weekend’s Shaky Knees festival and slurped up new singles from Alex Cameron, Carly Rae Jepsen and Shaky performers IDLES. Whether you detest Father of the Bride’s spray-cheese melodies and corny lyrics or vibe deeply with its summer-spritz-of-a-tracklist, we think you’ll like the music we’ve rounded up below. Now get listening.

BEST ALBUMS

Charly Bliss: Young Enough

Recording an excellent debut album is mostly a blessing, of course. But there’s some curse involved, too, in that you have to figure out how to follow it up. That’s not easy to do. Usually, it means refusing to stagnate, lest you be labeled a one-trick pony. So you must try to record a set of songs that showcase some artistic growth and aesthetic ambition, but at the same time, you don’t want to stray too far from what worked so well the first time out. On their second album Young Enough, Charly Bliss navigates these various pressures and pitfalls without overthinking them. The hotly tipped New York City combo broke through nationally in 2017 on the strength of its debut album Guppy, a perfect—yeah, I said it—10-track blast of sweetly serrated pop-rock supercharged with punky energy and plentiful hooks. Two years later, Young Enough introduces new moods and textures without tamping down the band’s irrepressible likeability. There is unquestionably a centerpiece song on Young Enough, and that’s the title track, which clocks in at 5 minutes and 20 seconds long—an epic by this band’s standards. It’s time well-spent: slow-burning, dynamic, emotionally resonant and representative of Charly Bliss in 2019. Here, you can hear how the synthetic sounds better contextualize Hendricks’ desperate words by drawing out their meaning and feeling rather than running roughshod over them like Guppy’s rollicking arrangements. In doing so, they also open up a promising path forward for the band. That sophomore album challenge? Charly Bliss nailed it. —Ben Salmon

Tacocat: This Mess Is A Place

For an album called This Mess Is A Place, Seattle band Tacocat have never sounded more polished. Whether that’s a step forward or backward for the group is a matter of personal preference, but time is certainly shaving away the punk outfit’s rougher edges, revealing a shinier, clearer sound. The album’s poppy sound and Nokes’ singular voice, which launches from throaty depths to soaring peaks, keep things effervescent and upbeat while also chipping away at the systems that bind us. Tacocat expertly sing about everything that makes life difficult for us in this day and age, but the album is not so specifically referential to our time that it’ll be outdated in a matter of months. The closing track, “Miles and Miles,” is an anthem fit for any time when we need to be reminded of how far we’ve come, with a lovely little nod at Washington’s state motto in the lyrics (“by and by” in the song, or “alki”). These are some of Tacocat’s longest songs to date, another indication they are moving slowly towards the pop end of the spectrum and further away from punk. However, there’s still plenty that draws on their older sound, particularly “Little Friend,” an ode to pets that’s just as headbanging as tracks from NVM and Lost Time. This Mess Is a Place is exactly the kind of album we need in 2019. It sounds like rainbow sherbet and friendship bracelets. It eschews irony and defeatism. It calls us all to build a brave, colorful new world together—and have one hell of a good time doing it. —Clare Martin

BEST TRACKS

IDLES:Mercedes Marxist

Though taken from the sessions for their most recent record, Joy as an Act of Resistance, this latest song from IDLES feels distant from the more hopeful messages of the band’s acclaimed 2018 record. After ramping up with chugging, distorted bass lines, frontman Joe Talbot declares in his signature gravelly tones, “Forgive my crippled head / Our revolution’s dead.” Despite the power and fury dripping from every word, the song feels like the aural equivalent of a tiger pacing around the trapping pit in which it’s fallen. —Clare Martin

Alex Cameron:Miami Memory

Alex Cameron has released a new single titled “Miami Memory,” a steamy bit of baroque pop that explores Cameron’s relationship with the city of Miami and his girlfriend Jemima Kirke. It comes with a vibrant, lustful new video directed by Cameron himself that also stars Kirke and Cameron’s sax player Roy Molloy. —Adam Weddle

Carly Rae JepsenToo Much

“Is this too much?” Carly Rae Jepsen asks breathlessly over and over again in her latest single. Our answer? A resounding, “No, never.” “Too Much” has been released just ahead of the Canadian pop star’s fourth studio album, Dedicated, which is out on May 17 via School Boy/Interscope Records. On this latest track, Jepsen sounds like she’s simply bursting with emotion as she wonders if she’s thinking, drinking and loving too much over a bouncing drum machine beat. In a culture where describing someone as “a little much” is a not-so-subtle dis, CRJ refreshingly revels in exuberance. —Clare Martin

THE PASTE PODCAST

Nick Hornby, Gin Blossoms

For Episode 8 of the Paste Podcast, we’re joined by author Nick Hornby, famous for books like Fever Pitch and Juliet, Naked and their subsequent film adaptations. We chat with Hornby about his next project, State of the Union. In 10 10-minute TV episodes for the Sundance Channel, the show stars Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd as a struggling couple who meets in the pub each week before their marital counseling appointment. We also hear an in-studio performance by Gin Blossoms, who treat us to 1993 hit “Hey Jealousy” (first recorded for their 1989 debut Dusted). Listen below, or better yet, download on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify or the new app from our podcast partner Himalaya, and subscribe!

BEST PERFORMANCES

Heather Woods Broderick

After a decade touring with singer/songwriter vets like Damien Jurado and Sharon Van Etten and two studio efforts of her own, Heather Woods Broderick returned last month with a new record, Invitation, out now on Western Vinyl. She switched between piano and guitar during her Paste Studio session on Monday, playing three tunes from the record, including the haunting “Nightcrawler.”

Lee Fields

Fifty years into his music career, Lee Fields is still shining. The funk and soul singer released It Rains Love, his fifth album as Lee Fields & The Expressions, on April 5 via Big Crown Records. Fields stopped by the Paste Studio in New York City to perform three tracks from his latest record—“It Rains Love,” “Will I Get Off Easy” and “You’re What’s Needed In My Life.” Fields cites thinkers like Diogenes, Shakespeare and L. Ron Hubbard as inspirations for his new album, which according to a press release “soundtrack[s] his dream of a world soaked to the bone in the unequaled compassion that’s prevailed through his 50 years of marriage and counting.” —Lizzie Manno

FEATURES

The 10 Best Acts We Saw at Shaky Knees 2019

Another Shaky Knees has come and gone, and on the other side of the weekend we find ourselves a little sleepy, slightly dehydrated and completely content after 72 hours of live music at Atlanta’s Central Park. One of the best rock festivals in the country, Shaky Knees consistently brings in noteworthy big names and up-and-comers alike, and the 2019 lineup, one of the year’s best, was no exception. We got there early to catch folks like Julia Jacklin and Lucy Dacus, and headliners Tame Impala, Beck and Cage the Elephant capped off each night with stellar, career-honoring concerts. It was a weekend full of meaningful moments, the best of which we’ve included in our recap here. Read about all our favorite acts, listed in alphabetical order, and keep an eye out for the 2020 lineup. Until next year, Shaky Knees! —Paste Music Staff

Diving Deep into Distraction with John Darnielle

For most, a Mardu Magic: The Gathering deck, good old-fashioned noir movies, and semi-concept albums have little in common. For John Darnielle, frontman of The Mountain Goats, these things have everything common; each, in their own way, feed his obsessive creative drives. And as he feeds each individual obsession, each feeds into the other. Take, for instance, the announcement for The Mountain Goats’ new album, In League with Dragons: In January, the band participated in a live-stream Facebook and Twitch.tv event to spill the beans on the record’s release, hosted by the good magicians at Wizards of the Coast. It’d be easy to connect-the-dots regarding Darnielle’s source of inspiration and conclude the album is simply a reaction to his hitherto unknown fondness for Magic and Dungeons & Dragons. Of course, the truth is knottier than that, and Darnielle isn’t too keen on casting In League with Dragons’ conception in concrete. “That’s for the reader to judge!” he says of how his current geek fixations tie into the album’s origins; frankly, to hear him gush about Magic, and RPGs, and his music is to understand that the influences comprising the Mountain Goats’ latest are woven together on a molecular level. —Andy Crump

Our Girl Just Want to Hold You Tight

It’s both scary and comforting to know that other people are all we have. To that end, Soph Nathan, lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter of British rock trio Our Girl, makes sure to hold her loved ones close. The Brighton-formed and London-based Our Girl released their debut album, Stranger Today, last August and played their first American shows a few months before at Austin’s SXSW. Not only does their album teem with a benevolent, symbiotic connection to others, but it also backs up Nathan’s cred as one of Britain’s unsung guitar heroes. Nathan also plays guitar in the Mercury Prize-nominated band The Big Moon, currently hard at work on their second full-length. In between recording, I met up with Nathan at the Paste HQ to chat about Our Girl’s standout debut LP. —Lizzie Manno

Rhiannon Giddens: Defiant in the Face of “Othering”

“Know thy history. Let it horrify you; let it inspire you,” Giddens wrote ahead of her 2017 solo LP, Freedom Highway, which contained songs based on slave narratives and stories from the Civil Rights movement. Her next project, a 2019 record with supergroup Our Native Daughters, which linked Giddens’ banjo with those of Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russel, saw a similar mission statement, taking a confrontational look at American history told from an undeniably black, feminist perspective. This time, on her newest endeavor, the album there is no Other (out now on Nonesuch), Giddens, along with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, tracks the movement of people—and their music—across cultures and centuries, particularly in regards to their respective areas of expertise: Giddens knows inside and out the African American influence on roots, acoustic and old time music; for Turrisi, it’s a deep knowledge of Arabic music and its imprint on Europe and beyond. The album is grounds for a smaller world, a beautiful narrative convincing us of our similarities, not our differences. If Giddens’ 2017 note works as a sort of preamble for consuming her art, there is no Other is of the “inspire” wing. —Ellen Johnson

Lucy Dacus on Mothers, Body Image and the Magic of Taurus Season

Lucy Dacus is an emotional, musical and lyrical force of nature. Paste named the Richmond, Va. singer/songwriter’s second album, Historian, our favorite album of 2018. A few months ago, Dacus announced a holiday-themed song series titled 2019, which will be released as a physical EP later this year. It’s comprised of originals and covers tied to specific holidays, each released around their respective dates: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day (and Taurus season), Independence Day, Bruce Springsteen’s birthday (Sept. 23, a holiday in its own right), Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s. So far we’ve heard two cuts from the EP, which has been in the works for two years now: a cover of Édith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” for Valentine’s Day and an original titled “My Mother and I” for Mother’s Day. Paste caught up with Dacus to chat about the forthcoming holiday EP and specifically, the two songs that have been released so far. During our phone call, Dacus was on her Richmond front porch, commenting, “It’s a perfect day. It’s like if a kid was supposed to draw a nice day, that’s what today looks like in Richmond.” —Lizzie Manno

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