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

Somehow, it’s almost July. The end of this week also means the first week of summer has come to a close, but it’s not the type of summer we were hoping to have. Despite a pretty bleak backdrop, there are still plenty of exuberant new sounds to help lift our mood—namely, new albums from HAIM, Arca, Bad Moves, Pottery and more. This week also brought enlivening new songs from Samia, Jónsi, Sprain and many more. If you need a mood booster, scroll down to sample some of our favorite music from the past week.

BEST ALBUMS

HAIM: Women In Music Pt. III

Danielle begins the third HAIM LP by bemoaning the city that built them. “Los Angeles, give me a miracle,” she sings after a flurry of saxophone starts the song. “I just want out from this.” She continues into the chorus as her sisters Alana and Este join in on backup, singing “These days I can’t win.” The City of Angels is also the city of sweaty, broken dreams, as any struggling actor, screenwriter or regular-person-stuck-in-traffic can tell you. Even Danielle—primary songwriter for the trio—who was born, raised and primed for rock stardom in the sprawling city clearly can’t stand it some days. Danielle’s depression, which she has attributed to the struggles she and her partner/producer Ariel Rechtshaid faced upon his testicular cancer diagnosis in 2016, informs some of WIMPIII’s most specific and heartfelt lyrics. But her sisters’ struggles are just as important. Alana remembers her best friend who passed away at 20, while Este’s life has been full of ups and downs since her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis during her freshman year of high school. They all lean on each other, and that love is perhaps loudest in stirring folk number “Hallelujah.” Though outwardly carefree, WIMPIII finds HAIM exploring darker and more serious matters than ever before, which is one reason why it’s their most complete and forward-thinking release yet. Many of these songs find Danielle, Alana and Este flat on their backs, but it’s never long before they’ve returned to their default position: upright, strutting confidently through the streets of L.A. and life itself. —Ellen Johnson

Arca: KiCk i

In Arca’s world, playfulness has long intertwined with terror, rigidity with fluidity, human existence with cyborg life, abrasiveness with gentleness. These contrasts have defined Alejandra Ghersi’s earliest co-productions for Kanye West and FKA twigs, her unnervingly misshapen first solo recordings and album covers, her later co-production and co-writing alongside Björk and her 2017 self-titled left turn of slow-as-molasses, Spanish-language torch songs. Ghersi’s unparalleled artistic versatility was on full display at last year’s immersive five-night Mutant;Faith experience at Manhattan performance art space The Shed. The unpredictable series—among her first performances since she began transitioning—involved stripper pole theremins, mechanical bulls and a lack of setlists. The Shed’s artistic director later called Ghersi “a glimpse of a future I hope for.” As she says on “Nonbinary,” the taunting-then-thrashing android missive that opens her new album KiCk i, “I do what I wanna do when I wanna do it.” Mutant;Faith culminated in a video shoot for “Time,” KiCk i’s second track. In the video, Ghersi and her partner, Carlos Saez, embark on a winkingly devilish Manhattan romp that fits the song’s soft, warm heartbeat of alluring come-ons and hints at KiCk i’s myriad advances to what the Arca project even is. KiCk i is Ghersi’s first proper album post-transition (her 62-minute “single” from February is loosely related to KiCk i), and with her fully realized self comes ceaseless risk-taking, fully imploded boundaries and plain old joy. This is Arca’s most overt embrace of pop, her first album with guests, and her most spontaneous, lively, and even fun album. And all of those things are one and the same. —Max Freedman

BEST TRACKS

Samia:Fit N Full

Up-and-coming artist Samia has announced her debut album, The Baby, and has released a new single, “Fit N Full,” with an accompanying music video directed by Martin MacPherson. The single is an indie rock splash of sunshine with Samia’s dazzling vocals accentuating the track’s lush instrumentation. A summer anthem that tackles the issue of body image, “Fit N Full” is one of Samia’s most upbeat releases to date. —Lia Pikus

Sprain:Worship House

Los Angeles noise quartet Sprain announced their debut LP As Lost Through Collision, out on Sept. 4 on The Flenser, and they unleashed the killer lead single “Worship House.” “Worship House” is a shoegaze-infused post-punk journey with clear influence from inventive ’90s acts like Slint. Still, the band find ways to stay distinct—their haunting instrumentals are mixed with explosive feedback and blood-chilling screams. —Danielle Chelosky

Jónsi:Swill

Jónsi Birgisson—frontman of Sigur Rós—has announced his first solo album in a decade, Shiver, out October 2 via Krunk. A new single “Swill” came out this week with an intense video, and it follows “Exhale; from earlier this year—his first solo music in over a decade. The track is an immersive electro-pop adventure, and the video showcases the musician’s appreciation for striking visual art. —Danielle Chelosky

FEATURES

The 20 Best Post-Punk Albums of 2020 (So Far)

In a year full of album release delays, it feels a bit weird to share best-of lists at the halfway point of 2020, but it seems like post-punk LPs—as opposed to the big pop, rock or hip-hop releases of the day—were largely unaffected. Whether it’s the danceable rhythms, razor-sharp social commentary or mind-bending guitars, post-punk helped us process today’s extremely tumultuous circumstances. Whether we’re talking about the new wave side of things (Nation of Language, Choir Boy), punk and jangle pop fusion (En Attendant, Primo!) or gothic gloom (Bambara, M!R!M), these records helped us escape and return to our lives with a renewed vigor. Post-punk has been kind to us in 2020, so we’d like to tip our hat to the highlights. Here are our 20 favorite post-punk albums from the year so far, listed in alphabetical order. —Lizzie Manno & Paste Staff

The Irresistible New Pastime of Collectively Crying to Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers is part of the zeitgeist now. There’s no doubt about it: She’s now graduated from critical darling to beloved music personality on the brink of pop culture recognizability. Liking Phoebe Bridgers is like being caught up on all the best b-list HBO shows, watching A24 movies or reading Jia Tolentino: It’s cool. When I first heard Bridgers, it was at the tail-end of 2017, following the release of her adored debut album Stranger in the Alps. Her song “Smoke Signals” landed on many year-end lists, and I remember myself and a group of musically like-minded friends growing attached to the album while studying for finals. We interviewed her for my college newspaper in the library basement and attended her 50-capacity show in a now-shuttered club in Birmingham, Ala. She had people’s attention, but no one really knew who she was. Cut to almost three years later, and she has two acclaimed supergroup projects in her rearview and a devout social media following with hundreds of thousands of fans to match. She has toured and/or collaborated with indie giants like The National, Lord Huron and The 1975, not to mention her own teenage idol, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, who started a project with her called Better Oblivion Community Center. Her career is technically still in its infancy, but she’s already in the early stages of doing what so many indie artists continually struggle to do: cross over to mainstream popularity. She’s obviously not topping Billboard charts or opening for Post Malone, but she’s making a name for herself as one of the foremost songwriters of her generation, gaining a Wilco-like reputation with one foot in the indie world and one outside of it. Maybe you don’t listen to her personally, but your friend probably does. Maybe her new album Punisher isn’t really your thing, but you always like her tweets when they pop up on your feed. Your parents don’t know who she is (or they just think she and Phoebe Waller-Bridge are one in the same), but your cool cousin wore her t-shirt to Thanksgiving. —Ellen Johnson

Sault’s Album-of-the-Year Contender Embodies Black Excellence and Justified Fury

“The revolution has come (out the lies!) / Still won’t put down the gun.” This is the first line of Sault’s new album Untitled (Black Is). It’s time to amend your album-of-the-year lists, because the album of the Movement has arrived—and every second of it is glorious. Last year, a mysterious soul group named Sault arrived out of nowhere with two albums, titled 5 and 7. No one knew the identities of its musicians, and the albums were released on an independent label, but they drew rapturous acclaim. 5 and 7 were feasts of rhythmic and exuberant Afrobeat, soul, funk and R&B—the songs are passionate, radiant, radical and rooted in rich Black musical traditions (which by extension, are the same roots of most popular genres). They were unexpected triumphs, but after releasing two albums in the same year, one might’ve figured they would go silent—at least for a little while. But last week, something incredible happened—they surprise-released another album, Untitled (Black Is). On June 12, they posted a square image of a Black power fist on socials with the caption: “We present our first ‘Untitled’ album to mark a moment in time where we as Black People, and of Black Origin are fighting for our lives. RIP George Floyd and all those who have suffered from police brutality and systemic racism. Change is happening…We are focused.” The languid synthesizers on “Eternal Life,” the fury-filled shared vocals on “Stop Dem,” the jazzy guitars on “This Generation” and the skittering beats on “Black” make up a rich tapestry of soul, funk and gospel music. While there are nods to Motown, these aren’t your parents’ classic soul records—you’re hearing the eccentricities, voices and personalities of today and tomorrow. —Lizzie Manno

What Our Staff Is Listening to This Week

Have you exhausted your music playlists or record collection during quarantine? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Our staff listens to so much music that we could easily overwhelm you with dozens of recommendations, so instead, we just want to share the few things that are primarily consuming our attention. This week, that means two surprise-releases—one from buzzy soul group Sault that arrived last Friday and another from newly-reunited shoegazers Hum—plus a 2019 pop favorite in Caroline Polachek’s Pang and more. Here’s a handful of weekly staff picks. —Paste Staff

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