As March heats up—not that it’s getting any warmer—the new music keeps on coming. This week, we reviewed great new records by Brandi Carlile, The Breeders (pictured above) and Soccer Mommy, and spun new tracks from Sade (!), Half Waif and serpentwithfeet. In the studio, we hosted blues titans Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, surf-rockers The Zephyr Bones, and more. And we tallied up the Best albums of 1978 and the 25 greatest frontwomen of all time. Catch up with Paste’s favorite albums, songs, performances and features of the past seven days.
Brandi Carlile: By the Way, I Forgive You
This year, Brandi Carlile is back with her best album since The Story, and maybe her best yet. It’s called By the Way, I Forgive You, and it features cover art by one of those Avett brothers, photography by Pete Souza (who documented the Obama White House), string arrangements by the late, legendary Paul Buckmaster, and production by Shooter Jennings and country producer du jour Dave Cobb. That Carlile remains the center of gravity in this star-studded universe is a testament to her considerable talents. —Ben Salmon
The Breeders: All Nerve
The best examples of The Breeders’ familiar garage-pop on All Nerve are songs like “Nervous Mary,” a tense and insistent rocker that opens the album on (bowling) pins and (white-hot) needles, and “Skinhead #2,” whose sparse verses nicely contrast its short-but-sweet choruses. Lead single “Wait In the Car,” a propulsive tangle of tumbledown guitars and Kim Deal’s inscrutable poetry, contains one of the album’s best (and most relatable) lines: “Taking a nap,” she sings, “‘cause strategy’s for punks.”—Ben Salmon
Soccer Mommy: Clean
“I was wasting all my time on someone who didn’t know me,” Sophie Allison sings in the first verse of “Blossom (Wasting All My Time).” It’s the kind of thing you can’t remember if you realized in hindsight, or a part of you knew it all along—the subtle production and the warm strums of the acoustic guitar allowing your mind to drift. “Scorpio Rising” starts out sounding like an updated version of Big Star’s “Thirteen,” before taking a sudden turn when Allison’s young Romeo changes his mind and goes for a girl that In “Flaw,” the end is her fault, though she doesn’t want to believe it. “I choose to blame it all on you/’Cause I don’t like the truth,” she sings, her clear and unpolished voice fittingly going slightly flat.—Madison Desler
Half Waif: ‘Torches’
Half Waif, the Brooklyn-based synth-pop trio made up of Nandi Rose Plunkett, Adan Carlo and Zack Levine, will release their Cascine Records debut, Lavender, on April 27. The latest taste of Lavender is today’s “Torches,” an evocative and elemental balancing act between freedom and comfort.“I know somewhere to my left is an undying coast / I think of it in the night when I know I need it most,” Plunkett sings, taking solace in the distant presence of vast and calming waters while she traverses a world of fire and blood. “I see the way the landscape burns / Upturned by the violence / Are these torches meant to fill the unending silence?” she wonders, her delicate voice complemented by a skittering beat and pulsing synths. —Scott Russell
Sade: ‘Flower of the Universe’
Best known for smash-hit albums like 1984’s Diamond Life and 1985’s Promise, Sade’s previous most recent release was her 2010 album Soldier Of Love. It was revealed earlier this month that A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay had enlisted Sade to appear on the soundtrack to her new Disney film. “Flower Of The Universe” is a somber acoustic ballad with Sade delivering her warm, soulful vocals with just as much passion and emotional honesty as ever. —Lizzie Manno
serpentwithfeet: ‘bless ur heart’
“bless ur heart” opens with spare, resonant piano chords before giving way to a far more mesmerizing instrument: Josiah Wise’s voice, rendered a haunting hum by his effortless vibrato. The artists considers whether his art will be understood: “When I give these books away / will my ink betray me?” he sings. “Will my stories resist wings and grow feet? / And convince men that I’m boasting?” In the video, directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, Wise performs in a gorgeous and ornate theater, dancing with a miniature moon and filling the space with his music. —Scott Russell
Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite
Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite are set to release their second album as a duo, No Mercy in This Land, on March 30, with a batch songs at once soaked in the earliest traditions of blues music and written for modern times. “It’s all there—nothing’s left out,” Musselwhite said during the duo’s performance this week at the Paste Studio in New York. “It’s the blues, it’s got the feeling, but it’s in a new package—brand new, 21st century, right-now, accessible to everybody.”
The Zephyr Bones
The Zephyr Bones, originally from Chile but now based in Barcelona, play lo-fi surf-rock that recalls hazy summer memories. The band recently released a new single, “The Arrow of Our Youth,” from their debut record Secret Place. The track’s first love-themed video Danny Trejo (who unfortunately didn’t appear in this session).
Ella Vos first started writing songs while pregnant with her first child. After her son was born, she suffered from postpartum depression, which helped shape the themes on her debut pop record, Words I Never Said. Ella played three songs for Paste, including “White Noise,” inspired by the white noise fan in her son’s nursery.
The 25 Best Frontwomen of All Time
Compiling a list of history’s greatest frontwomen isn’t easy, not just because what makes one performer “better” than another is almost totally subjective, but because it’s difficult to define what exactly a “frontwoman” actually is. Tina Turner burst from the confines of her partnership with husband Ike Turner to become a solo superstar, and that’s mainly how we think of her now: less a frontwoman and more her own woman. Same with Patti Smith, who once fronted the great Patti Smith Group but has released most of her albums under her name only. (Basically, if, like Smith, Turner and Joan Jett, their name was the group’s name, we excluded them from this list.) Mary Timony has fronted not one but four awesome, fringe-y bands over the past 25 years, each a catalyst in its own way. All of these women are extraordinary, but none of them are included here. In ranking music’s 25 greatest frontwomen, we weighed factors including range, style, artistic achievement, impact on future generations, and the popularity of both the frontowman and her band(s). What all these women have in common is that without them, music history would look a lot different, and a lot worse. —Loren DiBlasi and Matthew Oshinsky
The 30 Best Albums of 1978
In 1978, Keith Moon played his last show with The Who, while The Rolling Stones returned to form with Some Girls. Blue-collar roots rock sold millions of records thanks to Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen. Funk fans got their first annual festival in Chicago, “One Nation Under a Groove,” just a month after the death of Parliament-Funkadelic singer Glenn Goins at the age of 24. Eddie Van Halen would inspire a generation of would-be guitar gods. Kraftwerk would quietly continue laying the ground work for an electronic revolution. And a handful of punk stalwarts would look to the looming ‘80s with a sense of pop adventure that came to define the radio hits of the next 10 years. —Josh Jackson and Paste Music Staff
Why Is the World So Eager to Watch Fergie Fail?
It’s only been a few years since Fergie was the face of the world’s most ubiquitous pop group, the strong woman brashly fronting a trio of men. Now, with the Black Eyed Peas working to rebuild their artistic credibility with the gritty, politically charged throwback single “Street Livin’,” the term “Fergie-less” is flying around almost as a badge of that credibility, as though her long tenure with the group had bogged them down rather than help lift them to global fame. And the world seems to be playing along. Why?—Loren DiBlasi