It’s almost the end of the year, which means our favorite songs and albums of 2019 have already been voted on and published. But the best music of the year can literally drop at anytime, so it’s worth staying in the loop rather than getting whisked away by Christmas music and the fear of a new decade. Today (Dec. 13) saw the release of notable new albums from Free Nationals, Duster and Harry Styles, and this week brought great new singles from Phoebe Bridgers, Field Music and Thyla. Dive into all the music highlights from the past week below, including our list of Best Music Videos of 2019.
Free Nationals: Free Nationals
Anyone wondering what Free Nationals sound like on an Anderson .Paak record can just listen to an Anderson .Paak record. But to truly understand what the band is all about, Free Nationals, the band’s first album on their own terms, is a good place to start. Stepping out of .Paak’s shadow feels risky, which isn’t to say that .Paak necessarily overshadows his band, but rather that name association can be a yoke around the neck for artists with their own creative aspirations. Free Nationals, to listeners who are familiar with .Paak, could simply be received as a .Paak-adjacent project rather than the wholly separate work it’s intended as. The operative word is “could.” Whether Free Nationals are a known quantity to the individual or not, their record feels like an arrival: The qualities they’ve adopted from collaborating with .Paak melt and reform into a piece unique from said collaborations. Put another, blunter way, Free Nationals is too confident, too refined, too self-assured to be boiled down to something as simple as “an album by Anderson .Paak’s band.” This is music to groove to, to sway to, possibly to make love to depending on the mood and moment one plays it in. Maybe Free Nationals don’t expect people to spontaneously procreate while their record streams in the background, but there’s really no way they didn’t intend it to be as sensuous and steamy as it is. —Andy Crump
Phoebe Bridgers (feat. Fiona Apple and Matt Berninger): “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night”
Phoebe Bridgers has dropped an updated rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “7 O’clock News / Silent Night” featuring Fiona Apple and The National frontman Matt Berninger—continuing a Christmas tradition that started in 2017 with her release of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Last year, she teamed up with Jackson Browne for a cover of “Christmas Song.” In this song, Berninger takes on the role of the newscaster who reads relevant news articles on Trump, abortion and Amber Guyger’s murder of Botham Jean while Bridgers and Apple harmonize the “Silent Night” parts. All profits from the recording are being donated to Planned Parenthood, as inspired by the Berninger-co-founded 7-inches For Planned Parenthood project. —Rachita Vasandani
Brighton dream pop group Thyla have released another cut from their forthcoming second EP, Everything at Once, out next year on Feb. 7. Plagued with guilt and uncertainty, “December” finds frontwoman Millie Duthie reeling from personal turmoil and trying to put the pieces back together while the wound is still raw. “How does it feel to look the other way / I should’ve been there / Maybe I’m still afraid,” Duthie sings about someone she’s let down. The spacey rock track ebbs and flows with grace, and when it quiets, you can hear the hushed tremble in her voice as if on the brink of tears from an impactful memory that’s just resurfaced. —Lizzie Manno
Field Music: “Beyond That Of Courtesy”
Field Music have shared the latest historical vignette as part of their forthcoming concept album Making A New World. The single, “Beyond That of Courtesy,” looks at the French women’s suffrage movement after World War I and travels forward through time to comment on its continued influence on women in power. As a stylistic break from its two preceding singles, “Beyond That of Courtesy” takes Field Music out of their familiar realm of danceable new-wave and into one of jagged contemplation. Opening with a peculiar drum rhythm making use of an array of claps and dings, the song launches into a churning progression of complementary noises. Sustained guitar strums create an ambient tension, while a pronounced bassline keeps the song pressing onward. —Hayden Goodridge
THE PASTE PODCAST
Listen to Robert Randolph on The Paste Podcast Episode 35
The Paste Podcast is hosted by Paste co-founder and editor-in-chief Josh Jackson. The weekly podcast covers music, movies, TV and everything else you can find at PasteMagazine.com.
Robert Randolph on the lap steel is one of the Music Wonders of the World. He stops by the Paste Studio in New York to perform four songs for us and talk about his latest album, Brighter Days.
Listen below, or better yet, download on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify or the new app from our podcast partner Himalaya, and subscribe!
Canadian indie-folk singer/songwriter Leif Vollebekk stopped by the Paste Studio in Manhattan to promote the release of his new album New Ways, out now on Secret City Records. Vollebekk performed three songs, all from his new LP: “Transatlantic Flight,” “Blood Brother” and “Apalachee Plain.”
The Joy Formidable
Following the release of their commemorative 10-year edition of their debut EP A Balloon Called Moaning, Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable visited the Paste Studio to play a selection from that release, a Christmas song and a cut from 2018’s Aaarth: “Y Golau Mwyaf yw’r Cysgod Mwyaf,” “My Beerdrunk Soul is Sadder Than a Hundred Dead Christmas Trees” and “Caught on a Breeze.”
The 23 Best Music Videos of 2019
2019 was a stunning year for visuals in music. Artists like Thom Yorke and The National didn’t just release award-worthy music videos—they released striking short films, in Yorke’s case with the help of Netflix. Yorke also joined rock band HAIM in being two artists to work with Phantom Thread director Paul Thomas Anderson this year. Some artists, like Weyes Blood and Blood Orange, self-directed their own video projects, while others, like Better Oblivion Community Center and Stella Donnelly, enlisted their peers to direct mini films (Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner and Julia Jacklin, respectively). All this collaboration made for an especially interesting year for music videos. Check out our favorite 23 from 2019. —Paste Staff
Switched On Pop Hosts Charlie Harding & Nate Sloan Tell You Why You Should Care About Pop Music in New Book
When you hear “Call Me Maybe,” the smash 2012 hit by Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen, what do you hear? Garbage? Repetition? Annoyance? Perfection? For longtime musical collaborators Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan, hosts of the popular Vox music podcast Switched on Pop and recovering music “snobs,” the inescapable song-of-the-summer was a door to the big, wide world of pop. Switched on Pop, now in its fifth year of production, beautifully and unpretentiously picks apart the best (and occasionally, worst) songs on charts past and present, offering their rabid listeners a rare understanding of what some music fans might consider to be throwaway commercial entities. Keeping in mind the bodies of people who are most likely to cherish certain strands of pop music—women, racial minorities, the LGBTQ+ community—Sloan and Harding take great care in helping us understand why pop music sounds the way it does, and why pop music is important in your life, no matter who you are. Thanks to popular demand, Harding and Sloan are transforming the best of their beloved podcast into reading material. Their handy new book, Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why It Matters, will hit shelves this Friday (Dec. 13), and it contains 16 studies of pop songs and coinciding theoretical concepts from the last 20 years. —Ellen Johnson
The 2019 Gift Guide for Music Lovers
Amazon and Spotify are raking in enough money these days, so instead of giving more of your hard-earned paycheck to those behemoths, why not purchase these products for the music lovers in your life? This list features various gadgets, books and merchandise for all price ranges, from speakers and headphones to cookbooks and band t-shirts, and here you’ll find the perfect Christmas present or stocking stuffer. Check out this curated list of 13 music-related gifts that are perfect for the holidays. —Lizzie Manno & Ellen Johnson
Allison Moorer: Telling, and Singing, the Whole Story
You think you know the Allison Moorer story—the tragic murder-suicide of her parents, the dual rise of her and her sister’s careers, the stunning talent and sometimes explosive personalities, the multiple marriages. But there’s so much more you don’t know. There’s so much more, in fact, that Moorer had to simultaneously write and release a new album and a memoir to set the record straight. The chemistry experiment works, and Blood the album (the memoir shares the same title) is one of the best of Moorer’s career. She sat down with Paste recently to discuss all the stories. —Michael Dunaway
Kevin Morby, Paul Janeway, Lucy Dacus & More On Their Favorite Albums of the 2010s
In October, we released our list of the best albums of the 2010s. In that rundown of 100 albums, there’s music of all kinds—rap, rock, pop, folk, punk, electronic and so much more. So it should come as no surprise that the artists who made those albums have even broader tastes. We reached out to artists who are featured on our Best Albums of the 2010s list and asked them to tell us about their personal favorite music of this long, wild, beautiful decade. You can read their answers below, plus a special introductory essay from Kevin Morby, whose album City Music landed at #73 on that list, about his favorite album of the last 10 years, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Push the Sky Away. —Paste Staff