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

Everyday I or someone I know says the phrase “What even is time?” As the weeks roll on with little to no deviation from this strange new normal (New Abnormal? The Strokes may have been onto something there…), time feels like an imaginary structure. Dinner can happen at 10 p.m. and drinks at noon—there are no rules in quarantine! Thankfully, there are some constants—like music!—that have been keeping me sane, etc. This week was a good one in that department, as today we’re finally receiving the full Petals For Armor project from Hayley Williams, plus an eerie new album from Choir Boy. This week we also celebrated Star Wars Day, videogame soundtracks and the best collaborations of quarantine. Now go forth, and may you find the completion to your weekend soundtrack.

BEST ALBUMS

Hayley Williams: Petals For Armor

After her decade-long relationship and highly publicized divorce with New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert, the now 31-year old Hayley Williams took to her solo work as a way to open up about her struggles with mental health and romance. While Williams used Paramore’s later efforts as an opportunity to express herself without the constraints of sticking to their original pop-punk roots, Petals For Armor feels like a true liberation made not out of frustration, but out of realization. The opening track “Simmer” uses vocal loops and delicate percussion to create a tense yet atmospheric introduction to this new world that Petals For Armor builds. Williams pushes the limits of her vocals as she dances between sensual whispers and expertly constrained high notes. It’s a humble reintroduction to her in many ways, showcasing her true range. Throughout Petals For Armor, I could not help but feel enamored with Williams all over again. Her vulnerability is not slathered in metaphors, nor is it too plain for assumptions. On her solo debut, Williams forgoes all expectations to create an experimental and multifaceted picture of pain as she opens up a new door into a new decade of her life. It’s an earnest reflection of her life and evolution in the spotlight, which she has been in since she was 16. Petals For Armor is the bridge she built into her own womanhood, and maybe we can learn something from it. —Jade Gomez

Choir Boy: Gathering Swans

Gathering Swans is Choir Boy’s sophomore album, following 2016’s Passive with Desire, where we were introduced to singer Adam Klopp’s alarmingly sincere vocals, which are legitimately difficult to describe without the overused adage “voice of an angel.” Klopp impressed on the debut, but on Gathering Swans he is absolutely hypnotizing. Tracks like opener “It’s Over” and single “Nites Like This” prove his worth as one of the best vocalists working. His voice is on full display, keeping the record afloat through even the most experimental tracks. The highlight of Gathering Swans is the buoyant, sparkling single “Complainer.” Klopp sings, “But it’s not that bad, I never really had it worse, I’m just a complainer,” a feeling many of us understand when we stop to realize we’re actually doing just fine. Relatable lyrics paired with bright synths and a post-punk bassline make this song joyous and dance-worthy, bringing to mind other unexpected beacons of positivity— the IDLES effect, if you will. The story goes that, while growing up in Ohio, Klopp was called “choir boy” as a dig, for what could be read as intense jealousy for his inimitable vocals, while also poking fun at his religious upbringing. But Klopp reclaimed the epithet, and rightfully so. If Gathering Swans shows us anything, it’s that Choir Boy deserve praise, not mockery. —Annie Black

BEST TRACKS

Christian Lee Hutson:Get The Old Band Back Together

L.A.-based singer/songwriter Christian Lee Hutson this week shared the third single from his forthcoming debut album Beginners, set for release on May 29 through ANTI-Records. The single, “Get The Old Band Back Together,” comes in tandem with a music video depicting children showcasing various talents on stage through a home movie lens. It also features cameos from Phoebe Bridgers, Conor Oberst and Sharon Silva. “Get The Old Band Back Together” is the last single ahead of the release of Beginners and follows the singles “Talk” and “Lose This Number.” —Natalia Keogan

Nation of Language:The Wall & I

Synth-pop trio Nation of Language this week shared their latest single, the slick yet cacophonous “The Wall & I,” from their forthcoming debut album Introduction, Please, out May 22. Earlier this month, Paste named the record one of our most-anticipated albums of May. The Brooklyn-based band have so far shared the singles “Friend Machine,” “September Again,” “Tournament” and “Rush & Fever” this year ahead of the release of Introduction, Please. While this marks the band’s first album, Nation of Language have been releasing impressive singles for the past couple years, with 2018’s “Reality” landing on Paste’s Daily Dose almost exactly two years ago. —Natalia Keogan

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever:Falling Thunder

Melbourne-based band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever this week shared the third single off their sophomore record, Sideways to New Italy, out June 5 on Sub Pop. The song, “Falling Thunder,” is accompanied by a music video shot by friend of the band Jamieson Moore, composed of iPhone vacation footage she took while on vacation in Sicily, Sardinia and the Aeolian Islands. “Our friend Jamieson Moore shot the footage of Sicily, Sardinia and the Aeolian Islands on her phone while on vacation last year,” says frontman Tom Russo in a statement. Sideways to New Italy follows the band’s 2018 debut album Hope Downs. So far, the band has shared the singles “She’s There,” “Cars in Space” and now “Falling Thunder” from the forthcoming album. —Natalia Keogan

The Paste Happiest Hour

This week we caught up with Robyn Hitchcock, KT Tunstall and more. Watch every episode—future and past—on our YouTube page.

FEATURES

10 of the Best Star Wars References in Music

Star Wars is as much a part of the collective American consciousness as national sports leagues or Tom Hanks. Whether you’re a ride-or-die fan, a casual appreciator or an active avoider of the Star Wars universe, you probably have an opinion on it, and news flash: You’ll never be able to escape it. Since Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, a whole new slate of films and TV shows have arrived, giving new generations all the more reason to love (or hate) the stories and characters that first attracted widespread devotion decades earlier—and they’re not showing signs of slowing down any time soon (Just this week it was announced that Taika Waititi will direct a feature-length Star Wars film). In honor of Star Wars Day (May 4, aka “May The Fourth Be With You”), we decided to list a few of the best Star Wars moments in popular music. Like many of our niche lists here at Paste, this is by no means a comprehensive list of every Star Wars-mentioning song out there, so, please, don’t be offended if your favorite Weird Al Yankovic number didn’t make the cut. This list also excludes music from the actual Star Wars franchise, so while we’d be content to dance around all day to the absolute banger that is the cantina song, you won’t find it here. So, block out any disturbances in the Force and tune into these 10 Star Wars-honoring songs and albums, listed in no particular order. —Ellen Johnson

The Best Videogame Soundtracks of All Time

As great as they might sound in concert or on our turntables, it’s impossible to separate the best videogame soundtracks from the games they were made for. You can’t hear the strains of a Zelda or Final Fantasy without immediately thinking of fantasy lands like Hyrule and Spira, and the adventures and relationships you forged there. Music is such an important part of creating a game’s mood and personality, and it’s so powerful that I’ve enjoyed otherwise bad games based solely on a great soundtrack. None of the games below fit that category—they’d all be worth playing even if the only music they had was “Yakety Sax”—but every single one of them has been elevated and improved by its music. Before we dive in, let’s explain a few things. We’re only considering original scores and soundtracks—nothing licensed, so no famous pop or rock songs. These are works of music created specifically for the games in which they appear. Secondly, we easily could’ve made up this list using installments from only four or five different series, so we’ve lumped all of those into single entries. So that’s one entry apiece for Zelda, Final Fantasy, Mario, Metroid, and other games that otherwise could’ve dominated this thing. Finally, we aren’t ranking anything. This whole list is in alphabetical order, from Animal Crossing to VVVVVV. Feel free to rank ‘em however you see fit in your own mind. —Garrett Martin and Paste Games Writers

The Curious Case of The Strokes’ New Album, Which Has Already Aged Gracefully

One group of major-label rascals who chose to release their album on time as opposed to waiting out some of the COVID-19-induced constraints that have been placed on the music industry is The Strokes. Their latest album, The New Abnormal, arrived with an average amount of fanfare on April 10—average at least in the context of this band’s colorful trajectory. They released Room On Fire in 2003, two years after charming with their debut Is This It, only to find that critics weren’t interested in hearing more of the same. Three more albums followed in its path, each receiving something varying from a yawn to a head-scratch to a slam from critics. All the while, enthusiasm among fans didn’t dwindle. And as the years have passed, each of Is This It’s successors have aged with varying degrees of grace. It wouldn’t be so hard to find critics and fans who appreciate the rowdy energy of Room On Fire (that includes this writer), or even the experimental quirks in Comedown Machine (which is often considered the worst of the bunch). A new Strokes album doesn’t mean what it used to mean. We don’t expect to be blown away, right away. It’s taken years for some people to get on board with certain Strokes albums, but for some reason, it’s only taken a few weeks for music fans to warm up to The New Abnormal. —Ellen Johnson

The Best (And Worst) Collaborations of Quarantine So Far

Since we’ve all been social distancing, quarantine has brought on lots of boredom, and therefore lots of new projects. Maybe you’ve taken up a new crocheting habit, or perhaps you’re coaxing a loaf out of that sourdough starter in your pantry, or maybe you’ve even developed a new exercise routine. Some celebrities may have more resources than the rest of us, but they’re not exempt from making underwhelming content, either. Some independent artists have continued to put out great art despite being unemployed or experiencing a loss of income right now, while some celebrities have used their resources to make fans happy—and even made some exceptional content in the process. But there have been some stinkers, too. Here we’ve gathered some of the best—and some of the worst—collaborations to unfold during social distancing. In this list, we’re primarily looking at collaborations among artists and entertainers that have been released during and/or made primarily during the ongoing pandemic. Maybe these songs/numbers aren’t all directly correlated to the coronavirus outbreak, but it’s safe to say Grimes’ and Elon Musk’s baby does not qualify. So from Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion to that infamous “Imagine” number, here are the best (and worst) collaborative releases from quarantine so far. —Ellen Johnson

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