Best New Albums: This Week’s Records to Stream
Featuring Bully, Rufus Wainwright and moreMusic Lists New Albums
Paste is the place to kick off each and every New Music Friday. We follow our regular roundups of the best new songs by highlighting the most compelling new records you need to hear. Find the best albums of the week below, from priority picks to honorable mentions.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK | Bully: Lucky for You
“It’s unattractive for me to burden you with shame,” sings Alicia Bognanno about halfway through Lucky For You, her fourth album as Bully. She shouts the line with the kind of exhaustion and straightforwardness that we come to expect from Bully. With 2020’s Sugaregg, Bognanno turned her band into a solo project and pushed onward with a blurry collection of cathartic, tired songs. Three years later, Bognanno picks up where she left off with Lucky For You, another strong collection of anthemic post-grunge that doubles as Bully’s poppiest record so far. But this album’s catchiness runs contrary to Bognanno’s strongest suit, which is writing about varying forms of disappointment. Bognanno has always been an expert at pairing her chagrin to fuzzy rock songs, but Lucky For You likely has some of her most muscular tunes yet. In the explosive, shouted chorus of “Hard to Love,” the catchy bass lick of “How Will I Know,” and the pummeling drum intro of “Days Move Slow,” Bognanno clearly wants the smoldering, crunching textures of this record to ring out in the listener’s memory. Between images of black holes, shades of blue, and pledges to “never get fucked up again,” the most memorable thing here is her intensifying honesty and lyrical dexterity. Bognanno’s writing for Bully has always sat atop the balance of visceral and ephemeral. On Lucky For You, that tightrope balance is a beautiful achievement. —Eric Bennett
Ben Folds: What Matters Most
It’s been eight years since we’ve had a studio album from Gen X’s own piano man Ben Folds. What Matters Most is another collection of bittersweet stories set to catchy pop melodies. Folds is a master of balancing wry humor with moments of vulnerability and honest emotion. “Exhausting Lover” brings an affair with a stranger at a truck-stop to life like a Broadway scene. Strings on the next track seem to match the title, “Fragile,” before Folds digs into the dysfunction of the relationship: “And just when I’d had enough, and I thought I might leave / Rather than hurt you, I’d let you hurt me / Something so fragile about you / It’s how you get away with what you do.” “Kristine from the 7th Grade” takes that marriage of tender music and biting lyrics further, as Folds sings about an old friend who posts angry right-wing memes on social media (“The anger, the all caps / And all the pseudoscience / The misspellings, they must be on purpose / We went to a good school, Kristine”). The album’s highlight, though, is “Winslow Gardens,” an instant Ben Folds classic about the rapid passage of time. —Josh Jackson
Gal Pal: This and Other Gestures
For nearly six years after the release of their debut Girlish, LA rock band Gal Pal remained mostly quiet, with the exception of 2019’s EP Unrest/Unfeeling. Today, they’re back with a bang: This and Other Gestures, a deep-dive into the sprawling internal landscapes of band members Emelia Austin, Nico Romero and Shayna Hahn. Replete with scorching guitar tracks, intimate samples and dreamily distorted vocals, Gal Pal’s sophomore endeavor is colorful and complex. The band’s continued effort to move beyond boundaries and expectations—sometimes, they note, their own—shines through sonically and lyrically. —Miranda Wollen
McKinley Dixon: Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!
Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? is about an entire ecosystem crafting its own optimism in the wake of surviving together. The progression is natural, earned and celebratory. But to achieve optimism, you have to first grieve through the cyncism and fatalities that come before it. Five years after the death of his homie Tyler, Dixon is still learning how to cope with that absence in his heart. On the track “Tyler Forever.” he raps: “Propelled forward by vengeance, penchant for taking yo’ pendants / Accountability process is loaded in them extensions / We done fixed on ascending, my boys might break through the roof / Y’all become killers all of a sudden when you find dusty loops.” Dixon’s songs are not figments of the past so much as they are considerations of the present and the future, depictions of how each soul around him continues to get by in the place they came from. He considers how he will continue to hold them and make their voices loud and true and generous under the sun’s, the cops’ and the system’s calamitous weight. It is not the work of a king, but the stenography of someone—born on street corners that bent inwards into gentleness at the first crack of summer sun—who has found enough language to chronicle survival. And who is the architect of a kingdom if not the tongue that dared to name the crown? —Matt Mitchell
Rufus Wainwright: Folkocracy
Rufus Wainwright is, at heart, a performer. It’s as easy to imagine the king of 2000s baroque pop on a Broadway stage as it is to picture him plucking at an old guitar on a creaky New England porch. In Folkocracy, his 11th studio album, Wainwright marries those two versions of himself using a mix-’n’-match variety of folk songs with the help of a bevy of family, friends and fellow musicians. The collaborations range from off-kilter takes on 19th-century sea shanties to bright, triumphant celebrations of Neil Young and The Mamas and the Papas. The work is Wainwright’s 50th birthday gift to himself, and it reads as such. It’s the pure definition of a “passion project,” unlikely to achieve massive commercial success or push very hard at the musical outlines one might draw around Wainwright at this point in his career. Folkocracy is, for the most part, soft and sweet—a tribute album to his complicated upbringing under folk legends Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrible. Bolstered by his collaborators, Wainwright toys with the margins of the folkocracy, spanning war cries to lamentations to love ballads. It is a worship album for the very notion of folk itself, and an exploration of where it has gotten him thus far. —Miranda Wollen
More Notable Releases Today: Avenged Sevenfold: Life Is But a Dream…, Beach Fossils: Bunny, Ben Folds: What Matters Most, Ben Harper: WIDE OPEN LIGHT, Buckcherry: Vol. 10, Cowboy Junkies: Such Ferocious Beauty, Gal Pal: This and Other Gestures, Generationals: Heatherhead, Gringo Star: On And On, Jack Johnson: In Between Dub, Jake Shears: Last Man Dancing, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Council Skies, Protomartyr: Formal Growth in the Desert, RVG: Brain Worms, Sophie Ellis-Bextor: HANA, Tanya Tucker: Sweet Western Sound, The Aces: I’ve Loved You for So Long, The Alarm: Forwards, Tommy Stinson: Wronger