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

If you haven’t been paying attention to any new music during lockdown, you’ve missed quite a bit. However, you shouldn’t be intimidated to dive back in—even if you just dip your toes—because there’s a good chance you’ll find something that you’ll be listening to long after this quarantine is over. To get you started, here are some of our favorite new albums and songs from the past week, which happens to feature some of our all-time and recent favorites: Perfume Genius, Jason Isbell, The Beths and more. Scroll down for more of the music that moved us this week.

BEST ALBUMS

Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Perfume Genius is best known for centering his queerness in his experimental pop, but Mike Hadreas has also long explored how our bodies betray us. On 2014’s name-making Too Bright, his body was a “rotted peach,” and even the iconic, out-and-Capital-P-Proud protagonist of breakout single “Queen” was “cracked, peeling, riddled with disease.” (Hadreas has been vocal about his struggle with Crohn’s disease.) On 2017’s career-best Too Bright follow-up No Shape, he sang about death not as a feared end, but as liberation from our fragile, unreliable biological shells. When Hadreas took up modern dance last year, it seemed like a deliberate step to reclaim his body: To turn your movements into art is the polar opposite of feeling “rank, ragged, skin sewn on sheets.” His effort to overcome the body-brain gulf is more apparent than ever throughout No Shape follow-up Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, on which Hadreas loses control of not just his body, but his heart. As ever, his voice and music contort and warp in tandem with his anatomy. —Max Freedman

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Reunions

Jason Isbell isn’t the kind of guy you’d think of as haunted, but he’s surrounded by ghosts on his new album. Some of them are the literal shades of people he (or his narrators) once knew who are gone now. Others are figurative: past selves, maybe, lingering in the shadows that memory casts. Together, they’re the spirits that comprise Reunions, Isbell’s latest LP with his band the 400 Unit, and the follow-up to his 2017 release The Nashville Sound. It’s not surprising that Isbell would find himself in the company of spectres. It’s a function of getting older and realizing how much you, and the world around you, have changed over time, of discovering that parts of life that once loomed large in your mind aren’t as big you seem to remember. Isbell turned 41 this year, young enough that his formative years still seem closer than they really are, and old enough for the Alabama-born singer to have discovered that taking the longer view helps ease the sting of all those hard-learned lessons that can pile up in early adulthood. That is, if you’re lucky enough to come through it with your wits intact and with enough perspective to see the journey as something more than a bumpy ride over rough terrain. Isbell has both smarts and perspective, and each seems to increase a little bit more from one album to the next. He’s always been an empathetic songwriter with a distinctive willingness to see the world from a point of view other than his own. Like any good storyteller, Isbell creates characters, and he has a storyteller’s ability to bring them to life by infusing them with enough of his own experiences, be it sobriety or fatherhood, to make their struggles and small triumphs resonate. —Eric R. Danton

BEST TRACKS

The Beths:I’m Not Getting Excited

New Zealand indie rockers The Beths shared the second single from their forthcoming sophomore album, Jump Rope Gazers, out July 10 through Carpark Records. The single, “I’m Not Getting Excited,” is accompanied by a music video that utilizes stop-motion animation interspersed with footage from the band during the first month of quarantine. —Natalia Keogan

Ohmme:Selling Candy

Ohmme, the moniker of Chicago duo of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, shared the third single from their forthcoming album, Fantasize Your Ghost, out June 5 on Joyful Noise Recordings. The latest single, “Selling Candy,” is composed of six harmonized lines repeated by Cunningham and Stewart before the song concludes with a cacophony of colliding sounds. —Natalia Keogan

Honey Lung:Big

London quartet Honey Lung shared “Big,” the third single from their forthcoming EP Post Modern Motorcade Music, out on May 29 via Big Scary Monsters (American Football, Beach Slang). “Big,” which comes with an accompanying video directed by Timothy Casten, is the most understated cut of the bunch so far, but it’s a case study in the power of subtle, blooming melodies. —Lizzie Manno

The Paste Happiest Hour

This week we caught up with Shakey Graves, Erin Rae and more. Watch every episode—future and past—on our YouTube page.

FEATURES

Perfume Genius Talks Physicality, Classic Rock and the Power of Contradiction

Mike Hadreas has only just woken up when I call him, but he pours his heart into everything he says. Hadreas makes music as Perfume Genius—easily one of the most compelling and boundary-pushing pop artists of the past decade. He just released his fifth album, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, via Matador Records, and it’s his dreamiest, most carefree record to date. By the time 2017’s Grammy-nominated No Shape (possibly his greatest work up until that point) arrived, it was no surprise that Hadreas had become a full-fledged star—breaking the chains and unleashing a desire-filled art-pop album to die for. Hadreas might be forced inside like the rest of us are now, but he hasn’t been sitting still since No Shape. In fact, he was quite literally doing the opposite. Hadreas teamed up with choreographer Kate Wallich and The YC company for a collaborative dance project called “The Sun Still Burns Here,” which toured around the country and featured both Hadreas and his longtime musical and real-life partner Alan Wyffels. Inspired by the transcendent physicality of dance, Hadreas began work on his next album, and that reverence to beings and the material world is all over the LP. Set My Heart On Fire Immediately also contains his most overt rock star moments to date, with “Describe” being its most fuzzy and earth-shaking. While waiting for his next truly great album to drop, Hadreas finds himself listening to music from his teens—Low, Radiohead and Kate Bush—and still talking about music and the feelings behind it like they’re the only things in the world. Read Paste’s full chat with Hadreas about dancing, anxieties, This Mortal Coil and why he enjoys being a classic rock trojan horse. —Lizzie Manno

Buscabulla: The Best of What’s Next

Two hours away from Puerto Rico’s capital of San Juan, Aguadilla is a haven for both crystalline Caribbean waters and perfect northwest swell surf breaks. Most of the city’s 60,000 people have been there for generations. It’s in stark contrast to the concrete-paved streets and subway commuter hum of Brooklyn, where Buscabulla’s Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle lived for a decade and began to thrive as artists. Now, back in Puerto Rico, the pressure of building the band while working day jobs and raising a child in one of the most expensive cities in the world has eased. Their 2018 move effectively marked their pivot into making music full-time, and on May 8 of this year, they released a debut full-length album in Regresa (Ribbon Music). Written and recorded by Berrios and Del Valle entirely in Puerto Rico (with additional production and mixing by Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly), it reflects their journey, consciousness and culmination of the music Buscabulla was destined to make. —Adrian Spinelli

The 20 Best Jason Isbell Songs

Jason Isbell is widely considered to be one of the best songwriters working. And when he’s playing with his band the 400 Unit, he’s also arguably one of the fiercest forces in rock music. But very often his best songs aren’t the roaring rock numbers (but those are great, too—the man doesn’t really have a stinker anywhere in his discography): They’re the tender, intimate stories crafted from both real-life experiences and mined from Isbell’s overactive imagination. They’re also frequently all-encompassing summaries of the human condition, or, more recently, something bordering on protest music. Each of his solo albums, 400 Unit records or songs written with his first band The Drive-By Truckers, is a masterclass in narrative. The musician and ace bandleader is lauded across the music industry and the country at large for his skills as a lyricist and singer. But, being from Alabama, there’s a certain pride in knowing Isbell keeps things close to home. He’s a country singer at heart. Right up there with Nick Saban and Hannah Brown, he’s one of America’s favorite and most trusted Alabamians (even if he does call Nashville home now). While his 2013 solo album Southeastern is considered to be his biggest splash (and, depending on who you ask, his best output), Isbell has a catalogue full of intimate, beautiful, dependable music. I’ve not yet found an album of his that I don’t want to frequently return to. —Ellen Johnson

What Our Staff Is Listening to This Week

If you haven’t exhausted your list of music you were planning to check out during quarantine just yet, we’re impressed. But in case you have, we’re here every week to provide a handful of recommendations to spark creativity and hopefully bring you joy and comfort beyond mere distraction. Here’s a list of seven things that our staff has been listening to this week. —Paste Staff

The 30 Canadian Artists You Need to Know in 2020

If the sole Canadian artists you listen to these days are limited to Drake, Carly Rae Jepsen, Arcade Fire and The Weeknd, we want to change that. Canada has a number of rich music scenes and is home to some of the continent’s most exciting up-and-coming musicians. Over the years, Paste has shared some of our favorite new artists from places like New Zealand, the U.K., Atlanta and New York City, but we think it’s long overdue to round up the new Canadian artists we love. Perhaps best known for Neil Young, Rush and Celine Dion, Canada is a hub of multicultural, creative artists and music festivals, and there’s no shortage of fresh-faced talent. Music discovery is especially important at a time when so many musicians have lost income and the opportunity to introduce themselves to new listeners at shows, so let’s just pretend that Paste has put together a festival showcase of 30 new Canadian acts, and each of these musicians are performing just for you in the contents of this article. Here’s a wide variety of the country’s buzzy new music, listed in alphabetical order by artist, and if you hear something you like, please consider purchasing their music or merchandise. —Lizzie Manno

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