The votes for the best Paste Studio sessions from June came back especially varied. Our writers, staffers and interns swooned for the sweet sounds of folk singers like Julie Byrne and Joan Shelley, but also fell for Dashboard Confessional’s irresistible emo nostalgia and Steve Earle’s Outlaw Country. But positive vibes and political notions won out as the best sessions from this a hot and weary June. These are the five sessions you need to watch right now.
When Ani DiFranco visited the Paste Studio back in November 2016, three days after the presidential election, the room felt bleak. Shock had yet to subside, heads were down, and even the sanctuary of music felt marginal and useless compared to new questions and concerns about our country’s future. DiFranco returned to Paste last month to mark the release of her 20th studio album, Binary, and play us some tracks from the record. Along the way, she talked about how she was feeling compared to that last performance. In one word, she said: “Hopeful.” Check out three songs from Binary—“Alrighty,” “Zizzing” and the title track—in her latest session below. —Natalia Barr
Nicole Atkins’s newest record, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, isn’t out until July 21, but the singer recently paid a visit to the Paste Studio and played us three of its songs. It’s a transitional record of sorts for Atkins, recorded after a move to Nashville and, among other things, a decision to quit drinking. But you can hear her newfound vitality throughout the album, especially on the three tracks she performed last month—“Brokedown Luck,” “Listen Up” and the title track. —Bonnie Stiernberg
From the moment Michael Franti entered the Paste Studio on a recent afternoon, it was impossible not to catch his contagious, positive energy. Of course, the 51-year-old singer, poet, and leader of Spearhead was actively spreading it around. In between soulful renditions of songs from his most recent album, 2016’s SOULROCKER, as well as the hit “Life Is Better With You,” from 2013’s All People, Franti talked about his charity, Do It For The Love, his tips for staying positive during trying times, and the role of protest music today. —Katherine Logan
The years following high-school graduation can be tumultuous, but for the guys in Hippo Campus, who formed at the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists in St. Paul, Minn., four years ago, life seems as comfortable and fun as ever. The four-piece, which was featured as a Best of What’s Next back in 2015, showcases a nimble pop-rock sound that recalls Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot. When they visited the Paste studio, they cracked some jokes and performed three new tracks, “Way It Goes,” “Western Kids” and “Boyish” off their debut LP, Landmark. —Natalia Barr
Country trio Lady Antebellum’s new record finally arrived last month after a three-year break from recording—the longest of their nine-year, eight-album career. The band left Nashville to write and record Heart Break, migrating to a house in the Hollywood Hills and uniting at a writers’ retreat in Florida. At the Paste Studio, last month, the trio was in vintage form, with two acoustic guitars, three voices and a new batch of stories to tell. Below, watch Lady Antebellum perform “Somebody Else’s Heart,” “You Look Good” (with horn accompaniment replicated by Kelly), and the title track from Heart Break. —Matthew Oshinsky