This week’s best new music spans everything from the soaring, beautiful pop of Mitski and the smooth funk of Jon Cleary to the cathartic, distorted rock of Our Girl and the rough skater punk of Fidlar. This week also saw the loss of one of the best and most influential voices in the history of popular music: Aretha Franklin. Get caught up on the week in music below.
There are a lot of unhappy people in the songs on Mitski’s new album. Some of them are Mitski herself, but not all. Belying the usual assumption that any woman who writes first-person lyrics is singing about herself, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter has said that many of the songs on Be the Cowboy are experiments in writing fiction. Let’s call it a successful experiment. Whether she’s singing about herself or creating stand-ins that feel just like real people, Be the Cowboy shows why she is fast making herself into one of the most interesting songwriters of her generation. —Eric R. Danton
Brighton, U.K. trio Our Girl’s debut album Stranger Today is the perfect gift for the listener that loves a good musical dichotomy. Fronted by The Big Moon’s Soph Nathan, the band exudes the sweet and tender meets heavy and formidable sound of groups like the Pixies and My Bloody Valentine with their cathartic, thoughtful pop/rock and distorted shoegaze and grunge. As much as the term “grunge” has been thrown around to describe the band, it doesn’t fully account for the beauty and richness of Nathan’s songs and guitar playing. —Lizzie Manno
If “Grow in a Ghost” was a focused punk lean-in, “Untitled (LA)” is the more kinetic of the two tracks, a winding, energy-packed rocker. Bolstered by a hurried bass line and the L.A. anecdote born of Crutchfield’s lyrics, “Untitled (LA)” signals a productive fellowship between members Crutchfield, guitarist Kyle Gilbride and drummer Jeff Bolt. —Ellen Johnson
Are You High?
It’s the exact brand of 40-drinking, skate-punk, crunchy guitar-riffing sort of debauchery for which we’ve come to know and love FIDLAR. The lyrics are short and simple so you can still sing-scream them while you’re flailing in the pit—if you can remember “Hello / Goodbye / Are you high?” you’ll be good to go. The track also comes with a music video that is equal parts so-so quality concert footage and DIY editing. —Noemi Griffin
New Orleans funk musician Jon Cleary stopped by the Paste Studio to promote his new record, Dyna-Mite, out now on FHQ Records. The accomplished keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist performed three new songs from his latest album: “21st Century Gypsy Singing Loving Man,” “Dyna-Mite” and “Frenchmen Street Blues.” —Lizzie Manno
Kentucky singer-songwriter Tomberlin released her debut album, At Weddings, earlier this month via Saddle Creek. Tomberlin performed four tracks from the record in the Paste Studio: “Any Other Way,” “You Are Here,” “Seventeen” and “I’m Not Scared. —Lizzie Manno
The Queen Is Dead. Long Live the Queen. Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)
The 20th century witnessed a long parade of brilliant female American singers: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Bessie Smith, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, Celia Cruz, Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price, Renee Fleming, Patsy Cline, Miranda Lambert, Mahalia Jackson, Janis Joplin and more. But Aretha Franklin was the greatest of them all. —Geoffrey Himes
What Made Kiss Fans Lick It Up?
What if the question of whether Kiss is a shitty band or the embodiment of the fist-pounding, flamboyant silliness that puts the id in rock’s idiom is beside the point? Instead, let’s stipulate that the reason Kiss is the biggest American brand in the history of rock is precisely because they’re a shitty band. —Michael Salfino
While Traditional Modern Rock is Soul-Searching, Post-Punk is Thriving
Indie rock still has tons of great bands, if you know where to look, but you still may feel disillusioned with the genre and want to listen to something different, even if only for the afternoon. Luckily, there’s one rock subgenre to sink your teeth into that consistently impresses and has secretly flourished: post-punk. Just look at the subgenre’s leading characters, particularly the up-and-comers. —Lizzie Manno