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

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

This week (April 13-17) belonged to Fiona Apple and Fiona Apple only. Rarely have we heard an album that matched the needs of the present moment like this one. Even though it takes the cake as the musical moment of 2020 so far, it’s our obligation to remind you that other music came out as well—Every 15 times you listen to Fetch the Bolt Cutters, remember to mix in something else. This week also saw fantastic new releases from Rina Sawayama, Pure X, Courtney Marie Andrews and more, plus we splurged over The Tallest Man on Earth’s The Wild Hunt, which turned 10 this week, and we also got existential and political via lists of our favorite end-of-the-world songs and radical working class songs. Dive into it all below.

BEST ALBUMS

Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fiona Apple engages our minds like no one else. Like every record before it, her latest album Fetch the Bolt Cutters taps into both the repulsive and the revolutionary. Apple has never been one to deliver approachable melodies or catchy choruses—she repeatedly serves us the abnormal, in all its twisted glory, with minor chords and off-kilter rhythms, often constructed with everyday objects rather than musical instruments. As a woman who lives mostly secluded from society and releases music so rarely, she’s frequently the object of speculation and even sexualization (see: the late ’90s). She doesn’t like to do what is expected of her. She’s said as much. So it’s funny that Fetch the Bolt Cutters is exactly what so many expected it to be: brilliant. In a surprise to probably no one, Fiona Apple is now five for five. Over the last 25 years, she has made five albums that have all—in due time—ascended to holy text status, even if it took some longer than others to come around to her genius. Her most recent, the staggeringly good The Idler Wheel… arrived in 2012. Before that: Extraordinary Machine, in 2005. But Apple isn’t just sitting on these songs during the long gaps between albums; she’s buffing them to perfection. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is finally here, and it’s another miraculous case of bottled lightning. Listening to Fiona Apple is often like bearing witness to a prophet speaking in tongues. It can be difficult, at times, to make out what exactly she’s getting at in any given verse, but there’s an overwhelming sensation that what she’s singing is vastly important. In Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ case, these psalms beam clearer than ever before. —Ellen Johnson

Rina Sawayama: Sawayama

We’ve been inching towards an early Max Martin-esque maximalist pop revival for several years now, between artists like Liz, Kero Kero Bonito, Holiday Sidewinder, and, in a strange way, 100 gecs, but Sawayama solidifies the notion that bubblegum pop is back, fully self-aware and ready to conquer. With the help of longtime-producer Clarence Clarity, Rina Sawayama modernizes a sound made famous by Britney Spears, *NSYNC and all who reigned supreme on Casey Kasem’s weekly Top 40 countdown around the turn of the last millennia. More importantly, however, she upholds the integrity of the genre, gently reminding us why we all, deep down, truly love pop music. Right off the bat, Sawayama is powerful. The first three songs are insanely dynamic, stringing together two vibrant pop songs (the first about standing up on your own, the second about excessive wealth) into what can only be described as Gwen Stefani-meets-nu-metal. As far as the meaning of this record goes, Sawayama sums it up herself in a recent interview: “The album ultimately is about family and identity. It’s about understanding yourself in the context of two opposing cultures (for me British and Japanese), what ‘belonging’ means when home is an evolving concept, figuring out where you sit comfortably within and awkwardly outside of stereotypes, and ultimately trying to be ok with just being you, warts and all.” —Annie Black

BEST TRACKS

Retirement Party:Runaway Dog

Chicago pop-punk trio Retirement Party have announced the details of their new album, Runaway Dog, out on May 15 via Counter Intuitive Records. Title track and lead single “Runaway Dog” grapples with the temporary loss of inspiration and motivation, but singer and guitarist Avery Springer sounds as formidable and catchy as she ever has. “I won’t, but I think they told me so / I will never pave the road that I want to,” Springer sings over perky, zippy guitars. —Lizzie Manno

Courtney Marie Andrews:Burlap String

Singer-songwriter Coutney Marie Andrews shares the latest single from her forthcoming album Old Flowers, the beautifully melancholy “Burlap String.” The single is accompanied by a music video, featuring Andrews hiking a nature trail, picking flowers and laying in fields as the sun eventually sets. —Natalia Keogan

Pure X:Middle America

Austin, Texas rockers Pure X have announced their first album in six years, a self-titled LP out digitally on May 1 and physically on July 3 via Fire Talk Records. Today, they’ve also shared its two lead singles “Middle America” and “Fantasy.” “Middle America” and “Fantasy” both tap into the languid, distorted sounds that fueled their rise, falling somewhere between warbled slowcore and dreamy heartland rock. —Lizzie Manno

FEATURES

The Paste Staff On Our Favorite End of the World Songs

Humans are fairly resilient. While we face simultaneous crises—climate change, an impending economic depression, a global pandemic, human rights abuses, etc. —we’re not technically expecting a mushroom cloud or the extinction of our species in our very near future. There’s no reason to build a doomsday shelter, stock up on astronaut food or learn how to use a crossbow—at least not yet. But in times when we feel like there’s little hope, it’s immensely cathartic to hear songs from people who also have vague feelings that the end is nigh. Ever since cave drawings were a thing (and possibly even before that), people have been depicting cataclysmic events in their art, so songs about the end of the world are a natural extension of that. While we rounded up some of the most notable apocalyptic songs a few years back here, we decided to poll our staff for their own personal favorites, and given the present circumstances, it felt right. —Lizzie Manno & Paste Staff

The Wild Hunt Turns 10: How The Tallest Man On Earth Changed Indie-Folk For The Better

Last week, Kristian Matsson, the Swedish folk singer/songwriter who records as The Tallest Man On Earth and has been frequently noted as Bob Dylan’s eerily similar successor, did what many artists are doing these days: He live-streamed a concert from home. For Matsson, though, this livestream wasn’t just a stab at curing mid-quarantine boredom—it was a celebration of one of his defining albums. Matsson performed The Wild Hunt, his sophomore LP released on April 13, 2010, from start to finish on Friday. The YouTube session now has more than 65,000 views, and viewership during the actual stream reached 8,000 at one point—including viewers from all over the world, leaving comments in more languages than I could count. Matsson has a broad fanbase, but The Wild Hunt in particular has steadily acquired new fans and has aged especially gracefully over the last decade. Following his debut album Shallow Grave in 2008, Matsson was invited to tour with indie-folk lord Bon Iver, giving him a larger platform on which to debut The Wild Hunt. With the rise of artists like the aforementioned Justin Vernon, Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes and even Mumford & Sons, indie folk was becoming a more popular, full-fledged genre. By spring of 2011, Mumford & Sons had two songs on the Billboard Hot 100; that same year, Bon Iver’s self-titled album peaked at number two on the albums chart. Matsson would never see that kind of mainstream attention, but The Tallest Man On Earth tapped into folk’s roots in a way the others didn’t. —Ellen Johnson

15 Radical Working Class Anthems

There’s a new American labor movement afoot, and it’s about time. Fast food workers, Amazon employees, meat packers, shipyard workers, sanitation workers, bus drivers and low-wage workers in other industries are demanding financial relief and an improvement in working conditions due to the recent coronavirus outbreak. Some have walked out. Some have gone on strike. Whole Foods workers even called for a nationwide “sick-out.” After decades of increased corporate corruption, deregulation and reckless greed, a large chunk of the American workforce, particularly low-skill and blue collar workers, has now found itself on the brink. So global pandemic aside, things weren’t rosy before. While the cost of many lives will never be worth any societal and economic improvements we potentially make as a result of this crisis, it’s more than worthwhile to try and fix our systemic problems, which have become even more magnified. We’re unsure when it will be safe to hold mass demonstrations, but we can at least keep our eyes on the prize and make sure our outrage does not subside. In order to keep our consciousness blazing, we thought we’d share 15 incredible songs that embrace working class interests and radical left-wing politics. Dive into these gems from rebels like Jimmy Cliff, Billy Bragg, Judy Collins and more. —Lizzie Manno

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