The Week In Music: The Best Albums, Songs, Performances and More

RTJ4's right-on-time arrival, anti-racist resources & more

Music Features The Week in Music
Share Tweet Submit Pin
The Week In Music: The Best Albums, Songs, Performances and More

We watched history unfold this week, and as protests erupted around the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we witnessed police brutality on a terrifying scale—at rallies against police brutality. This was painful to watch, and while the natural reaction would be to lose hope, Americans haven’t lost hope. We’re still showing up to protests daily, even after all four cops involved the murder of George Floyd were charged, because there is so much injustice still to be dealt with (not least of which is the fact that the cops who murdered Breonna Taylor in her home have still not been charged). Change is coming! This week at Paste we gathered some resources for how to be an actively anti-racist ally, lists of Black musicians who are singing about their own fights against racial oppression and more Black artists you should support on Bandcamp today during their fundraiser. Meanwhile, Run The Jewels shared their hotly anticipated fourth album a few days early, and it proved to be the heated soundtrack that we need for this moment. In the midst of national chaos, we also rounded up the best albums and songs of May, because even though it feels like the world is crumbling around us, music is still there to hold us up. Find all this and more below.

BEST ALBUMS

Run The Jewels: RTJ4

This week, rap duo Run the Jewels released their first album in four years, RTJ4, and due to the present explosive tension in America, they decided to share it two days early. “Fuck it, why wait?” they said in a press statement. “The world is infested with bullshit so here’s something raw to listen to while you deal with it all. We hope it brings you some joy. Stay safe and hopeful out there and thank you for giving 2 friends the chance to be heard and do what they love.” The album, which features appearances from Mavis Staples, Pharrell, 2 Chainz, Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de La Rocha and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, spans themes of systemic oppression and personal struggles, and though that’s nothing new for the group, these songs hit especially hard right now. Killer Mike and El-P wrote and recorded the album back in 2019, but many social media users were so shocked at its prescience that they speculated whether the album was amended after the tragic killing of George Floyd and subsequent nationwide protests. —Lizzie Manno

Hinds: The Prettiest Curse

There should be a law requiring Hinds to release all of their future albums during the summer season in perpetuity. Grant that their latest, The Prettiest Curse, drops this week out of a sober respect for the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a reschedule from its original April 3 date. Also grant that the tone baked into every Hinds record, from 2016’s Leave Me Alone to 2018’s I Don’t Run, pairs perfectly with warm, sunny days spent driving on beachside highways with the windows rolled down, even when they’re singing about loneliness, breakups and the neverending quest for hugs and cuddles. Hinds’ usual fuzzed-up rock aesthetic bridges the gap between The Prettiest Curse and I Don’t Run nicely. The latter plays strictly in the mode of garage rock. The former reads mostly the same, but occasionally brightened with layers of pop. Effervescence is a key ingredient in all their music, but The Prettiest Curse’s bubbliness is more pronounced, the froth that shapes the band’s rising to the surface in a slightly broader coating. It’s not unusual for musicians to try updating their sound with outside influences and unexpected genres, but too often the experiment falls apart; the unfamiliar elements clang against the details that give the group character, like eating chocolate cake baked with carob. Not so with The Prettiest Curse. Hinds—Carlotta Cosials, Ana Perrote, Amber Grimbergen, and Ade Martin—have a strong grip on their musical identity, and they’re not keen on a makeover. —Andy Crump

BEST TRACKS

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever:Cameo

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever this week shared their fourth and final single ahead of the Melbourne band’s new album, Sideways to New Italy, out now. The new track, “Cameo,” starts off focused on the sparse combination of singer Francis Keaney’s voice and guitar, but quickly builds to showcase the band’s maximalist indie-pop production with swirling guitars and a driving rhythm coalescing around Keaney’s lyrics. “This is a love song. It’s about reaching through time portals,” said Keaney in a statement. “The lyrics were pieced together over about a year like a little puzzle. I found the first pieces in Rushworth, and the last pieces in Darwin.” —Jack Meyer

Bob Mould:American Crisis

“American Crisis” is the first single from Bob Mould’s next album, Blue Hearts, which will be out on Merge on Sept. 25, and it absolutely sounds like a song from 2020. Written and recorded earlier this year, it’s a scabrous, pissed-off screed against the “fucked-up USA” we’re living in. And although its creation predates the coronavirus lockdown and the protests against racism and police brutality that are currently happening in all 50 states, it’s impossible to not think about all the unrest of the last few months, and the ever-expanding anti-American policies of Trump and the GOP, while listening to “American Crisis.” — Garrett Martin

NZCA:Prisoner of Love

British synth-pop crew NZCA Lines have released a new song titled “Prisoner of Love.” This is their third single from their forthcoming record Pure Luxury, which arrives July 10 via Memphis Industries. The track is extravagant, sporadic and imbued with disco, showcasing grandeur as well as notes of anxiety and the apocalypse. Of the song, frontman Michael Lovett said, “This song is about the cycle of heartbreak and dependency within a relationship that isn’t working, a constant motion of being pushed away and sucked back in. —Danielle Chelosky

The Paste Happiest Hour

This week we caught up with Sondre Lerche and Pokey LaFarge. Watch every episode—future and past—on our YouTube page.

FEATURES

A Resource Guide For Active Anti-Racism

The horrific killing of George Floyd is only one in a long line of tragedies due to police brutality and institutional racism. As protests break out across the country, knowing how to best support black lives and take a stand against police brutality is imperative. Although the Minnesota Freedom Fund and the George Floyd Memorial Fund have been making the rounds on social media and gaining the most traction, there are many other grassroots organizations that are also actively working to fight for justice and support black lives. In this time and always, it is not enough to be quietly non-racist; we must be actively anti-racist or else we are complicit. We must educate ourselves on active anti-racism, mobilize and work to divest in systems that institutionally oppress black lives. Here is a list of educational resources, black liberation organizations, petitions and more that we encourage you to look into. Please consider donating if you are able—if you are not, there are other ways to engage as well. —Lia Pikus and Danielle Chelosky

5 Roots Artists Who Sing About Racial Injustice & Oppression

Make no mistake: Black people are responsible for the genesis of nearly every form of American pop music—hip-hop, country, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, the blues, soul, disco—and more often than not, they don’t get their due credit (as this Vice piece rightly makes loud and clear). Another genre in which Black Americans have always played a huge role is folk and Americana. Acoustic roots music has long been used as a form of protest, and, still today, these artists are using their instruments and voices to protest racial injustice, speak out about racial issues and educate people about oppression. This list is far from exhaustive, but it’s a sampler of sorts of folk artists working today, in 2020, who use their music as a most powerful tool of protest. There is so much all of us—and particularly non-Black people—can be doing right now to support the Black Lives Matter movement, fight against racial oppression in this country and stand in solidarity with the protestors in cities across the U.S. Whether it’s donating, signing a petition, showing up to protest, sharing resources far and wide, making space for and amplifying Black voices or just instigating productive conversations with your own family friends, there is a role for each of us right now. Something we can all do, whether or not we have the means to contribute to the movement financially or the ability to protest in person, is listen to Black voices and work to become actively anti-racist. Here are five artists with powerful messages. —Ellen Johnson

The 8 Most Searing Lyrics on Run the Jewels’ RTJ4

Run The Jewels’ new album, which features appearances from Mavis Staples, Pharrell, 2 Chainz, Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de La Rocha and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, spans themes of systemic oppression and personal struggles, and though that’s nothing new for the group, these songs hit especially hard right now. Killer Mike and El-P wrote and recorded the album back in 2019, but many social media users were so shocked at its prescience that they speculated whether the album was amended after the tragic killing of George Floyd and subsequent nationwide protests. Run the Jewels made an album that our grieving, angry country desperately needed, and in honor of its brilliance, we’re sharing some of its most biting lyrics. There’s so much great, nimble wordplay on this album, but we wanted to shine a light on the socially-conscious lines that should be scrolled on protest posters and shouted on the streets. —Lizzie Manno

8 Outspoken Political Hardcore Bands to Listen to Right Now

Hardcore is a genre rooted in politics. Its very sound echoes the energy of a rebellion, and every show has fans swinging their bodies around and screaming like there’s a riot going on. There are a lot of bands whose activism and reckoning with justice is year-round, not just during the time of another tragedy, and it’s important to support them. In a way, listening to them is a method of radicalizing yourself, whether they’re screaming about the consequences of capitalism, the ethics of a police state or the injustices that happen in America everyday. Here are some of the best politically-charged hardcore bands around right now. —Danielle Chelosky

13 Irish Acts You Need to Know in 2020

Six decades ago, Irish music didn’t stray much outside trad or show bands, aka well-known cover bands. Sure, they won the Eurovision song contest consistently with saccharine ballads, but the scope of Irish music left something to be desired. In 2020, artists from the Emerald Isle are simply bursting at the seams with their sonic diversity. Folks may think of Ireland as a homogenous island, filled with people in paddy caps and thick woollen sweaters, but they couldn’t be more wrong. From the thriving hip-hop scene to beloved post-punk groups, there’s a little something for everyone once you dip your toe into the Irish scene. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are 13 must-listen acts hailing from the Isle of Ireland. —Clare Martin

Also in Music