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

Featuring Moses Sumney, Vegyn, Andy Shauf and more

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

This week we were met with one of those pesky Arctic blasts. Parts of the Northeast and Midwest were buried in snow, while temperatures hit freezing in Alabama and even Florida. It was no beach day here in Atlanta, either, where the winds were so fierce and cold my jacket may as well have been made of tulle. It was really, really cold everywhere. Thankfully, I have other news from this week to share with you that has nothing to do with the weather report or the impeachment hearings (which sent late night hosts into a tizzy). That’s right—we’re here to discuss the music news! In the last seven days, Lucy Dacus released a devastating new song called “Fool’s Gold” as part of her 2019 EP, Andy Shauf shared a witty new single and Moses Sumney (pictured) announced a forthcoming double album. Also, it was announced Thursday that goddess-among-women Alicia Keys will return to host the Grammy awards for the second year running, and Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson sang “Rainbow Connection” together, which was adorable. Go turn the speakers and the thermostat up, then enjoy all the best new music, and music news, from this week.

BEST ALBUMS

Vegyn: Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds

You’ve probably heard Vegyn before whether or not you realize it. The 25 year-old London-based producer born Joe Thornalley first jumped into the cultural consciousness in 2016, producing a handful of tracks on both of Frank Ocean’s albums from that year, the underrated, elusive Endless and the game-changing Blonde. That relationship—whose nightclub and USB-sharing origins sounds like a narrative from Blonde itself—has remained fruitful; Vegyn is a co-host on Ocean’s Beats 1 show, Blonded Radio, and a DJ at his recent PReP+ parties in New York. At this point, I’m inclined to say that that’s enough about Frank Ocean. But it’ll be hard for Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds, Vegyn’s debut record, to escape Ocean’s shadow. Like Blonde, this is an album obsessed with creating something uniquely of its time. Like Endless, its electronica simmers and rarely boils over. Like both, the album revels in immaculately juxtaposed textures. Every time you’re reminded of a specific moment on either of those records—the beatswitch on “Nights,” for example, or the plucky guitar melancholy of “Slide On Me”—you’ll invariably realize that Vegyn produced those. Maybe the question is how much of Vegyn’s own shadow is he trying to outrun. —Harry Todd

Lucy Dacus: 2019

Time may be a construct, but it’s a pretty damn tireless one. It doesn’t stop when a family member dies, when you move to a new city or when a depression spell hits. The unending flow of time is overwhelming, a riptide that sweeps us under and threatens to drown us as we realize that, fuck, 2019 is almost over and we are on the precipice of a new decade. It’s like what Steve Miller so astutely once taught us: “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” To counter this, man created holidays to demarcate time and give us a reason to look around and remind ourselves where we are in this continuous cycle of seconds and days and years. Lucy Dacus, always a melancholic and incisive observer of the human condition, puts her own spin on these special days with 2019, her eclectic collection of holiday songs. With three original tracks and four covers, Dacus simultaneously examines and celebrates New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Taurus Season (with a nod at Mother’s Day), Fourth of July, Bruce Springsteen’s birthday, Halloween and Christmas. —Clare Martin

BEST TRACKS

Andy Shauf:Try Again

On “Try Again,” Shauf finds himself “somewhere between drunkenness and chivalry,” as he uses his charming storytelling style to describe a surprise interaction with his ex. His lightly sung reflections describe his character as self-conscious—attempting a bad British accent, holding a smile a little too long—and as the night continues, he realizes this reunion has caused dormant emotions to resurface. In the end, Shauf resigns himself to the strange experience, singing, “I make a silent toast to the things that I do and don’t miss.” Despite the dejection, the song conjures a cheerful atmosphere with energetic riffs breaking up each verse. —Hayden Goodridge

Hoops:They Say

Hoops’ groovy comeback track foregrounds Keagan Beresford’s array of retro synths and Kevin Krauter’s deft bass playing, de-emphasizing the band’s trademark washed-out guitars for the most part. The result lands halfway between Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” and Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead,” with a carefree Krauter singing, “They say / the very best in life is free / No need to compromise a thing / so, baby, wipe those tears away.” It’s good to have Hoops back.—Scott Russell

Moses Sumney:Virile

“Virile” is a term used to describe a male with a strong sexual attraction—something that Sumney has no problem conveying through his vocal and physical performances. The song opens with a strange wail from the singer before a gleefully plucked harp begins the movement. “Virile” is undoubtedly spiritual, with a focus on the connection between earth and the body: Sumney sings, “And I realize now / That none of this matters / ‘Cause I will return / The dust and matter.” The song displays opulent orchestration, with harp, flute, piano and vocal harmonies intermingling in a smooth, symbiotic bliss. —Hayden Goodridge

THE PASTE PODCAST

The Paste Podcast #32: Leslie Odom Jr., The Week in Music

This week, Leslie Odom Jr.—the actor and singer best known for originating the role of Aaron Burr in the Hamilton original Broadway cast—visited the Paste Studio in New York City to sing us a few songs with his five-piece band. The Grammy and Tony award-winning vocalist recently released his first full album of original solo material, Mr. He treated us to three songs from the album: “Go Crazy,” “Under Pressure” and “Cold.”

Also, Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson and assistant music editor Ellen Johnson discuss some of the week’s best new music releases, which include albums by Michael Kiwanuka and FKA twigs, plus songs by Best Coast and Lucy Dacus.

Listen below, or better yet, download on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify or the new app from our podcast partner Himalaya, and subscribe!

BEST PERFORMANCES

Our Girl

British trio Our Girl stopped by Paste’s Atlanta Studio to perform songs from their debut album Stranger Today, out now via Cannibal Hymns. Our Girl are currently touring the U.S. with The Japanese House, and they popped into our Atlanta HQ to perform three songs: “I Really Like It,” “In My Head” and “Two Life.” Lead vocalist and songwriter Soph Nathan also discussed the origins of the band and filming their video for “I Really Like It” in her living room. Completed by drummer Lauren Wilson and bassist Josh Tyler, Our Girl’s tender lyrics and steamy guitar squalls are an incredibly effective paradox. —Lizzie Manno

Lady Lamb

Lady Lamb (the New Hampshire-born, Brooklyn-based Aly Spaltro) stopped by the Paste Studio in Atlanta on Wednesday following a show with New Pornographers on Tuesday night. Spaltro and her band are currently touring behind the fourth Lady Lamb LP, Even in the Tremor, which arrived in April on Ba Da Bing Records. Watch the session below. Spaltro performed three songs from the record: “Little Flaws,” “Deep Love” and the title track. She has a very affecting voice that fills the whole room, especially when belting loud but introspective lyrics like “The future kills the present if I let it,” which she repeats during the powerful title track. The album is thoughtful yet concise, packed with restless indie rock songs that occasionally toy with synths and soul. Playing alongside Spaltro were bassist Jeni Magana, drummer Derek Gierhan and keyboardist Katie Von Schleicher, who Paste named The Best of What’s Next in 2017. —Ellen Johnson

FEATURES

The 50 Best Indie Rock Albums of the 2010s

Indie rock isn’t a genre easily defined, especially in the context of the 2010s. “Indie” is a word that once simply implied independent music, aka music that was created by an artist who isn’t signed to a major label—or maybe any label at all. But now “indie” is more widely used to signify a certain sound. Even so, the records on this list are far from uniform in style. Here you’ll find everything from Madrid garage rock to pop-tinged dance rock to rollicking folk, but they’re all indie in spirit. Some artists on this list, like Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend, graduated long ago from independent labels, but they still—believe it or not—fly under the radar when it comes to the larger sphere of pop music. You can find other artists, like The Beths and Weyes Blood, still playing clubs. Meanwhile, Bon Iver collaborated with Kanye West in the 2010s, and Courtney Barnett landed on Barack Obama’s 2018 playlist. This is all to say that indie rock is a relative term that fluctuates from year to year. But it’s some of the music we love most here at Paste, the guitar music made by underdogs, the modern rock classics made by unlikely heroes. With so much change happening constantly in the music industry in the past 10 years, this list could’ve looked a thousand different ways. But these are the indie rock albums we loved the most, as voted by the Paste staff. —Ellen Johnson & Paste Staff

The 20 Best Live Acts of the 2010s

“I walked off you / And I walked off an old me / Oh me, oh my I thought it was a dream,” Maggie Rogers sings on her breakout hit “Alaska.” The pop singer was referring to a trip she took to the titular state, but the feeling you get when seeing her perform the song live—and any of the artists on this list—could easily be described as such. We seek out live music because concerts have the power to heal us, to make us forget the nasty past and dance (or walk) off our shame and heartache. And there was plenty of collective pain and trouble (as well as joy and celebration) to sort through this decade. A good show can very often feel like a dream, or church, even if you’re not spiritually inclined. You may leave a Florence + the Machine show trying to contemplate how it’s possible that this singing angel is actually of this earth, or maybe you’ve walked away from an IDLES show with a 30-foot high, even though you’re completely sober. It’s nearly an indescribable feeling, but we took a stab at it anyways and rounded up our favorite acts of the 2010s and thusly attempted to package those feelings into words. So here are the best acts we saw in the past 10 years, as voted by the Paste staff. —Ellen Johnson & Paste Staff

Iceland Airwaves Will Inspire Even the Most Cynical Music Festival-Goers

Major music festivals often feel like a practice in fakeness. There’s a delusion of having a life-altering night with friends, all while sporting the hottest trends of the season, washing down fruity cocktails and posing for unconscionably smiley group photos. In reality, music festivals usually entail some combination of the following unfortunate events: babysitting your friend who decided to get way too high, dodging giveaways of corporate-branded tchotchkes that you definitely don’t want to carry around, zigzagging through labyrinths of crowds, trying to get drunk without spending a small fortune, squatting over a porta potty in the dark and choosing from musical offerings that are virtually the same from year to year and across festivals. Iceland Airwaves doesn’t try to sell you on this insane fantasy of frolicking and manufactured bliss. It offers something much better: a progressive festival experience in a picturesque, one-of-a-kind city with a lineup so mindfully curated that you’ll leave with everything you wanted and more. Airwaves has been held in Reykjavík since 1999, and it adopts the South By Southwest model where shows take place across the city’s venues, all within walking distance from each other. The 2019 lineup consisted of half Icelandic and half international artists, plus a 50/50 gender split, and the result was a group of diverse performers who were either long-established names, rising stars or well-kept secrets. —Lizzie Manno

The Curmudgeon: New and Old Masters of the Mississippi Blues

Driving through northern Mississippi, one is immediately struck by how empty and how poor the area is. One can drive for miles along the state highways and see only a handful of small houses and farms amid the tall walls of pine trees. And yet from this underpopulated, underemployed corner of the American South came a version of the blues that sparked much of the nation’s most original music. And recent albums from the North Mississippi Allstars and Jimmy “Duck” Holmes proves this music is still throwing off sparks today. —Geoffrey Himes

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