The Week in Music: Paste’s Favorite Songs, Albums, Performances and More

Featuring Courtney Barnett, Jess Williamson, La Luz, Nation of Language and more.

Music Features
The Week in Music: Paste’s Favorite Songs, Albums, Performances and More

With the studio on spring hiatus, this week at Paste was focused on features and new music releases. We unleashed the second installment of our tongue-in-cheek new series, Guilty Non-Pleasures, which playfully tackled another rock canon classic. We also examined the relationship between DIY bands and social media, and relished in new tunes from Courtney Barnett, Jess Williamson, and La Luz. Here’s everything you might have missed.

Jess Williamson: Cosmic Wink
On her third album, singer-songwriter Jess Williamson is a giant, throbbing valentine, so taken by her new romance that she has become tenderness itself. “Love is my name now / Love, darling” she coos at the top of “Love On The Piano.” It’s a far cry from where she left us with 2016’s Heart Song, a stormy, brutally beautiful collection of prose about gnarled matters of the heart. —Madison Desler

La Luz: Floating Features
Dreams are an essential element of Floating Features, which achieves a far more lush, glowing production than La Luz’s previous records, 2015’s Weirdo Shine and 2013’s It’s Alive. “Mean Dream” is breezy indie rock with vivid and bizarre imagery, while “Lonely Dozer” is a spaghetti western-stomper featuring a wayward protagonist who is “alone inside at night.” Shana Cleveland makes impressive use of surrealism in lyrics for songs like “The Creature,” a grim and gorgeous ballad, and “Greed Machine,” which playfully casts the idea of being broke (the eternal musician struggle) as a classic movie villain, constantly lurking around the corner to get you. “Oh no, not again!” Cleveland sighs. “Just when you thought you’d got ahead/ It always finds you where you live.” —Loren DiBlasi

Sarah Louise: Deeper Woods
On Deeper Woods, Sarah Louise fully finds her voice. Literally. It is as much a vocal album as a guitar album, and Louise’s voice is a ideal complement to her six-stringed wizardry, only heightening the beauty and deepening the mystic vibe of her songs. Louise’s voice is a versatile thing; strong and resonant on the low end, suffused with emotion on the high end, constantly sliding up and down between the two. She’s an impressive singer, especially for someone known as a guitar player.—Ben Salmon

Courtney Barnett: ‘Sunday Roast’
A press release describes Courtney Barnett’s album-closing “Sunday Roast” as “an ode to friendship and the simple pleasures of sharing a dinner with loved ones.” Barnett’s atmospheric guitar playing and soft, heartfelt vocals result in a sweet and serene song, as the Australia native sings words of encouragement and acceptance: “I know it’s been a long week / And now you’re takin’ your time / Some kindness goes around / Some kinda backfires / It’s all the same to me.”—Scott Russell

Nation of Language: Reality’
Nation of Language’s new single is a punchy electro-pop tune with singer Ian Devaney lamenting the monotony of life (“He’s sick of waiting for the sound of something more / That’s the only certainty”) and the surreal nature of reality (“Reality is nothing to me / Where I won’t be as hopeless as I seem / Some kind of waking dream”). —Lizzie Manno

The Districts: ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’
In February, Philadelphia indie quartet The Districts released a limited-edition 7”, “Nighttime Girls,” backed by b-side “Soft Auxiliary,” via their Bandcamp page. This week, they returned with a bracing cover of Joy Division’s post-punk landmark, “Love Will Tear Us Apart. The cover is accompanied by video with a series of flashing images of scientists performing ominous experiments. Districts frontman Rob Grote adds a more animated take on Ian Curtis’s famous deadpan while the band fills the anthem with a warmer indie-rock sound that Districts fans will recognize in an instant. —Lizzie Manno

Guilty Non-Pleasures: Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports
Some people say they can’t meditate. I can’t listen to Brian Eno. I do like ambient music, in general, and don’t get me wrong: Here Come the Warm Jets, his pop debut of 1973, has some jams on it. When I say I can’t get into Brian Eno, I mean I fail to appreciate Ambient 1: Music for Airports, which amounts to flunking Ambient 101. I mean, it’s titled Ambient 1. I have failed to appreciate it repeatedly and consistently. Every few years I put it on just to see, and almost immediately tune it out. Since it turned 40 this year, I tried again recently with the same results as always. After I tune it out, I get annoyed with myself. Then I get annoyed with him. —Beverly Bryan

DIY Bands Can’t Quit Facebook Even If They Want To
If you live in a music city like New York, Facebook remains the best place to find out where and when the bands you like are playing. From booking house shows (“dm for address”) to national tours, it’s as essential as ever for DIY bands, even as it loses its grip among young users. Whereas established artists—like Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt, who announced to her more than 540,000 followers last month that she would be deleting her Facebook page over “grave concerns” about its “negative impact”—have the luxury of walking away, many emerging musicians are too tangled up to cut the cord.—Loren DiBlasi

Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell on How She Became a Better Songwriter
As Wolf Alice continue to rise here in the states, they’ve also reached ever higher peaks at home, playing their biggest headlining show to date at London’s 10,000-capacity Alexandra Palace last November. The band, led by 25-year-old singer Ellie Rowsell, came on quick back in 2015 with their Mercury Prize-nominated debut, My Love Is Cool, with memorable alt-rock anthems like “Moaning Lisa Smile” and “Bros,” offering a compelling mix of sometimes gritty, sometimes pretty rock and lyrics full of blissful, romantic naiveté. But if their debut record was the innocent, self-conscious teenage girl who wants to fall in love and escape her dull hometown, sophomore record Visions of a Life is the wiser, cooler young woman who still believes in love but doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her.—Lizzie Manno

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