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 past week brought albums from some of today’s musical juggernauts. Carly Rae Jepsen delivered more of her dynamic, therapeutic pop, The National perfected their elegant, somber rock and Tyler, The Creator, alongside a star-studded list of collaborators (Frank Ocean, King Krule, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Playboi Carti and more), created a bold, glitchy new breakup LP IGOR. Throw in new singles from Stef Chura (featuring Will Toledo), Jarvis Cocker and Husky Loops and Paste Studio performances from Penny and Sparrow and Nick Waterhouse, and you have all the ingredients for a great week in music. Dive into all this, plus music features on Charly Bliss, Pile, the inaugural KAABOO Texas festival and more, below.

BEST ALBUMS

Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated

Since we’re living in a post-Emotion world, it’s hard to remember a time when Carly Rae Jepsen wasn’t regarded as an accomplished pop icon. But before the sexual torment of “Emotion,” the sweet rush of “Gimmie Love” and all those “Run Away With Me” saxophone memes, Carly Rae Jepsen was, to most, “Call Me Maybe” and nothing more. Following that “wish in the well” come true in 2012, 2015 became her moment, and Emotion the pop album to save them all. Now in her 30s, going on four years since Emotion’s summer 2015 debut, Jepsen is perhaps even more the music media darling and pop culture mainstay. And while we’ve never really looked to her for lyrical profundity, she’s always been savvy when it comes to pure feelings, making her fourth LP Dedicated another beacon of emotional intelligence, and Jepsen a straight-A student of pop history. Dedicated is about relationships, but it’s also an examination of self. She sashays from one romantic identity (single, heartbroken, in love) to another, but as the record beams on, it becomes clearer they’re all one in the same—a trinity. If the bar for Carly Rae Jepsen—and maybe even 2010s pop as a whole—is the intellectual pop perfection of Emotion, then Dedicated falls only a little short, landing somewhere between effortless earworm territory and therapeutic ecstasy. —Ellen Johnson

The National: I Am Easy to Find

For all intents and purposes, Matt Berninger is a New Yorker. He’s been there long enough to write about the city with authority. So when he sings “You were never much of a New Yorker / It wasn’t in your eyes,” alongside This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables on the title track of The National’s new album, I Am Easy to Find, he knows what he’s talking about. But for the first time in quite a while, Berninger went back to his hometown of Cincinnati on “Not in Kansas,” I Am Easy to Find’s keystone track. Instead of writing about his negative memories of the place (“I never married but Ohio don’t remember me” he sang on 2010’s “Bloodbuzz Ohio”), he experienced firsthand how both he and the Midwest had changed, particularly since the election of Donald Trump, launching into a full and abstract stream of consciousness about his journey home. From the plucky and frenzied guitars on lead single “You Had Your Soul With You” to the pulsating percussion of fan-favorite “Rylan” to the dazzling orchestral strings on album closer “Light Years” (another track that could be argued as one of The National’s best to date), I Am Easy to Find doesn’t radically change the formula they developed over the past couple of releases, but it nearly perfects it, resulting in a record as elegant as the suits Berninger routinely wears onstage. —Steven Edelstone

BEST TRACKS

Stef Chura:Sweet Sweet Midnight

Stef Chura released another new song ahead of her forthcoming album Midnight, this time with support from perennial indie favorite Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest. “Sweet Sweet Midnight” is a steady build of a song, starting with a thumping drum beat, and slowly adding an infectious guitar riff and understated keyboards before ultimately giving way to all-out wails from the duetting singers. The song follows the narrative of moving on from a dear friend’s death, but rather than being mournful, “Sweet Sweet Midnight” relishes the dreamtime visits from those gone from this mortal plane. —Harry Todd

JARV IS…:MUST I EVOLVE?

JARV IS… is the new project of Jarvis Cocker, the frontman of English rock band Pulp, and they dropped their new song “MUST I EVOLVE?” through Rough Trade Records. In an unusual move, the single will only be available for purchase at live shows because JARV IS… is “primarily a live experience,” per a press release. Cocker launches into seven minutes of pulsating, hypnotic rock as he opens with the question, “MUST I EVOLVE?” before an eerie choir answers with a series of “yes’s,” traced along a pounding drum beat. — Christine Fernando

Husky Loops:Everyone Is Having Fun Fun Fun But Me

“Everyone is Having Fun Fun Fun But Me” is taken from the Italian-born, London-based trio Husky Loops’ debut album, I CAN’T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH, out on August 16 via Danger Mouse’s 30th Century Records. Featuring contributions from friend and collaborator Fred Gibson (Charli XCX, Plan B), “Everyone Is Having Fun Fun Fun But Me” pairs pumping trip-hop beats, icy, electro vocals and lush atmospherics for the perfect grooving, post-night-out downer. It’s for the early hours of the morning when you’re gazing out the window, still awake after a night that was supposed to be life-affirming, but instead felt stale. —Lizzie Manno

BEST PERFORMANCES

Penny and Sparrow

Indie-folk pair Penny & Sparrow, aka singer/songwriters Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke, have a new album on the way later this summer. It’s called Finch, and it’s out Aug. 2 via Thirty Tigers. The duo stopped by the Paste Studio on Monday to play the first single from that album, “Eloise,” as well as “A Kind of Hunger” from 2017’s Wendigo and a beautiful cover of John Denver’s “Annie’s Song.” Please excuse us while we gently weep into a cup of coffee. —Ellen Johnson

Nick Waterhouse

Los Angeles singer/songwriter Nick Waterhouse is known for his melding of classic American rhythm and blues, jazz and soul, and he has previously collaborated with acts like Ty Segall, Leon Bridges, Allah-Lahs, Jon Batiste, Ural Thomas, and Boogaloo Assassins. Waterhouse released his fourth album—a self-titled LP—via Innovative Leisure earlier this year, which embraces rip-roaring rockabilly, jazzy R&B and bouncy garage rock. In support of the release, Waterhouse came into Paste’s NYC studio to perform three songs from it: “Song for Winners,” “Black Glass” and “Wherever She Goes (She Is Wanted).” —Lizzie Manno

FEATURES

KAABOO Texas: A Bizarre Festival Weekend in Arlington

For the inaugural year of a music and comedy festival, it’s difficult to guess what the audience might be in for. KAABOO Texas, which took place May 11-13 in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium, is the third festival in the KAABOO brand, which aims to “appeal to the five senses” between music, art, culinary demonstrations, comedy, and health and spa treatments. It joins KAABOO Del Mar and KAABOO Cayman, but because of its location, smack dab in the middle of Texan suburbia, it didn’t quite seem to have the inherent luxurious undertones of its more breezy counterparts. The lineup at KAABOO Texas was far from cutting edge, but the crowd it accumulated didn’t seem to mind. This was not a festival like Desert Daze or Austin City Limits where the schedule draws audible gasps and diehard fans, but rather a festival where attendees are meant to relax and enjoy the entire experience, staying right in line with KAABOO’s “five senses” ideology. KAABOO Texas has a lot of potential, but there wasn’t much excitement around it on the grounds. I talked to three couples during my time in Arlington and of the three, two of them won their tickets via contests, and the other got comped tickets through work. I was not purposely looking for people there for free, but unless I have excellent odds, it seems like there might have been trouble with ticket sales. This festival has potential for its future, but they have a lot of growing to do if they choose to continue. From what I saw, it is unclear if there will be a second KAABOO Texas. —Annie Black

The Curmudgeon: The Lessons of Laurel Canyon

The title track of Joni Mitchell’s 1970 album Ladies Of The Canyon describes three women. They lived in Laurel Canyon, up in the Hollywood Hills, along a mountain gorge that had long been a bohemian refuge not far from Sunset Strip. In the late ’60s, folk and rock ‘n’ roll musicians began moving into the cheap cottages on the dead-end streets branching off Laurel Canyon Boulevard. There was a lot of sex and drugs going on, but we’ll leave those stories to the anthropologists. What endures from that time is a particular kind of music, a sound still practiced today by artists from Molly Tuttle and Weyes Blood to Jenny Lewis and Patty Griffin, from Josh Ritter to Dawes. It was a musical reaction to the urban, street-corner masculinity of most rock ‘n’ roll before 1970. By contrast, the Laurel Canyon Sound was rural, domestic and feminine—even when created by Browne, CSNY and Souther—full of introspective lyrics, twangy wood instruments and pillowy vocal blends. —Geoffrey Himes

Pile on the Focused Confusion of Their New Album, Green and Gray

If you’ve found yourself at a show in a grubby Boston basement in recent years, you’ve probably heard of Pile. People in that corner of the world speak of the band with the kind of reverence usually reserved for hometown legends like Pixies or the Lemonheads. They’ve been the subject of entire albums by their peers and countless homemade t-shirts. But the cult of Pile has developed almost entirely separate from the band over the course of their decade-long career, and on their latest album Green and Gray it sounds like they might have grown past their status as Boston’s DIY mascot. Frontman Rick Maguire and his band have fought hard for their success, touring relentlessly for years and coming back from each tour a little older to a city that was a little bit different. That feeling of transience only accumulated over time, and when Maguire returned to Boston after touring Pile’s last album A Hairshirt of Purpose, it felt like those roots he’d relied on weren’t all there anymore. —Adam Weddle

The Healing Powers of Charly Bliss’ Invigorating Pop

The most rewarding pop songs are often the ones that mend. For every flirty “Call Me Maybe” there’s a heartbreaking “Dancing On My Own,” for every exultant “Shake It Off” a sob-worthy “Supercut.” They’re all choice dance songs, but when the crying and jiving blur, the opportunity for emotional repair is even more tangible. Eva Hendricks, Charly Bliss frontwoman and unabashed pop music fan, knows this connection between tears and sweat all too well. It’s all over the New York City band’s second album, Young Enough (out now on Barsuk Records), a supercharged sampling of power-pop that sounds like a well-attended Bushwick rager but cuts deep like an especially timely “Modern Love” column. “My two greatest emotional releases are crying and dancing, and I wanted this album to just feel like a huge relief,” Hendricks says during a recent call. “Like you’ve been through a ton of shit, but now you’re kind of like, ‘Fuck, I’m with my friends. I’ve got to let it out and blow off steam and freak out. Just get this out of my system and scream and act like a freak.’ That’s kind of how I hope people would hear it and respond to this album.” —Ellen Johnson

The 15 Best Music Documentaries on Netflix

Music documentaries can do two things (or some combination of the two): over-inflate the mythical nature of music’s most interesting stories, or shed a light on important truths about the music that has shaped our world, straight from the mouths of people who made it or who were in their inner circles. If you’re a fan of music or the documentary as an art form, you can delve into 15 of the best music documentaries currently streaming on Netflix, listed below. For more of Paste’s lists of best Netflix movies, check out our recently-updated lists of the 50 best documentaries and the 100 best movies currently available on Netflix. —Lizzie Manno & Paste Staff

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