It feels like November ended before it even began. But, alas, December is staring us squarely between the eyes, which means holidays, a barrage of end-of-the-year lists and the year 2019 are just some of the many things we’re about to be hit with. But before we clad ourselves in holiday-party sparkles and make a beeline for the gift wrap aisle, let’s pause to look back on the best music from the last week of November. You may have noticed the recent drop-off in releases, but we’ve still been treated to a wealth of great new music: Jeff Tweedy’s frist solo album of new material is out today (Nov. 30), and we think it’s a hit. We also got stellar new tracks from Sharon Van Etten, whose new album Remind Me Tomorrow is due out in January, British trio JAWS, and Merge Records power duo Mike Krol and Allison Crutchfield. Last but certainly not least, we debuted our picks for the 50 best albums of the year (!), the 15 Philly bands you need to know in 2018 and the best music books of the year. Check it all out below.
It’s hard to imagine another sophomore album that not only made a powerful initial impression but at the same time, marked such a stunning farewell. At the time of its release, some 50 years ago, Cheap Thrills proved to be a bombshell and the breakout record for Big Brother’s dynamo of a lead singer, Janis Joplin. Though only seven songs long, it became Joplin’s ultimate tour de force, the standard by which she would be judged for the remainder of her brief career. It was also inevitable that it would also mark her final effort with the group, given the fact that her talent was simply too overwhelming to be contained within the confines of any single ensemble. Nevertheless, the record not only became one of the biggest selling albums of 1968, entrenched at number one for eight consecutive weeks, but a recording destined for immortality when, in 2013, it was enshrined in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. Now reissued as Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills—the name the band had originally intended but which was ultimately rejected by Columbia, their record label—this sprawling reissue essentially rewrites history courtesy of a two-disc set featuring 30 tracks, all but five of which are previously unreleased. Some may argue that the original version of Cheap Thrills ought not be overshadowed, and that is a valid point. After all, it was the record that gained the group its notoriety and made Joplin the star she was destined to be. Still, it’s fascinating to peer into its early origins as deciphered by the early attempts to pull it together. —Lee Zimmerman
Jeff Tweedy: WARM
In his new memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Jeff Tweedy describes the songs on his first proper solo album of original material as “some of the most direct, personal and autobiographical that I’ve ever written.” That’s quite a statement from a guy who has spent the past 25 or so years working out his innermost feelings through music. Still, the 11 tunes on WARM do feel less oblique than much of Tweedy’s work, the bulk of which has come fronting Wilco. If he’s more direct, he’s also less outwardly demonstrative. The jagged edges and scalding musical eruptions of Tweedy’s younger selves have boiled down into something quieter and more insular. His instinct for melody has grown more nuanced, with parts that seep in slowly rather than popping in your face like a string of firecrackers. It changes the impact of his words: dark sentiments lurk within a lot of Wilco songs, but you often have to go looking for them through diversionary layers of sound. Tweedy’s latter-day material exerts a different kind of pull, drawing listeners in close for the confidences he offers in a murmur unobstructed by the musical arrangements. Is the exchange of restless turmoil for quietly focused introspection a worthwhile trade? Depends. For Wilco fans who never really got over the big hooks and sonic clamor of Summerteeth, probably not. For listeners who have taken pleasure in Tweedy’s continuing evolution, WARM is a gift. “For a while now, the primary way I’ve kept my songwriting feeling honest to me is to imagine I’m singing only to myself, pretending no one else is listening,” he writes in Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). It feels like a privilege to hear Tweedy’s songs when he lets them out into the world. —Eric R. Danton
Sharon Van Etten: “Jupiter 4”
“Jupiter 4” is the second single from Sharon Van Etten’s forthcoming album Remind Me Tomorrow, out Jan. 18, 2019, through Jagjaguwar. Where her first single “Comeback Kid” felt brash and bracing, full of dark synths and pounding bass, “Jupiter 4” feels dark in a different way. It’s built on queasy synths and horror-movie drones courtesy of producer John Congleton, with Van Etten’s voice alternating between enveloping and ethereal. The video, directed by Katherine Dieckmann, takes that mood and runs with it, creating a haunting atmosphere that doesn’t feel all that far off from, say, those art-horror movies A24 has been pumping out. —Justin Kamp
JAWS: “Driving At Night”
“Driving at Night,” from Birmingham, U.K., trio JAWS’ forthcoming album The Ceiling, is a soaring jangle-pop tune à la Beach Fossils or Wild Nothing, and its rumbling ardor perfectly mirrors the untouchable high of cruising at nightfall, anthems blaring on the car stereo and the wind gently kissing your skin. The song captures the fleeting nature of euphoric memories you wish you could bask in forever. Though it’s not a glaring reinvention of the band’s sound, they’re able to consistently boil down feelings of young-adult bliss and inadequacy into compelling indie-pop vignettes. JAWS Frontman and guitarist Connor Schofield says of the new single, “‘Driving at Night’ follows the general theme of the record. I wrote it while thinking a lot about my hometown of Birmingham and I think it sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the record.” —Lizzie Manno
Mike Krol feat. Allison Crutchfield: “I Wonder”
This week, Mike Krol released “I Wonder,” featuring his Merge labelmate Allison Crutchfield of Swearin’. It’s the second single from Krol’s forthcoming album Power Chords, due out Jan. 25, 2019, via Merge Records. “I Wonder” is a scuzzy, sugar fuzzball of a love song—or, according to Krol, more of a breakup song. “’I Wonder’ was an attempt to write an apologetic breakup song, rather than the ‘It’s all your fault’ route I normally take,” Krol said in a statement. “I wanted to write something that was more mature in approach following a mutual breakup, or one that maybe stung at the time but years later you can admit it was for the best and wish that person well.” —Justin Kamp
Brooklyn-based Phony Ppl released their second full-length album mo’za-ik in October, and they brought their signature undefinable sound—which leaps from R&B to hip hop to roots-rock in a flash—to the Paste Studio on Monday, Nov. 26. From the new record, they played “somethinG about your love” (not a typo!), “Cookie Crumble” and “Before You Get a Boyfriend.” Their session was high-energy and loads of fun.
The Paper Kites
Australian indie-folksters The Paper Kites breezed into the Paste Studio on Thursday, Nov. 29, to play some tunes from their new album, On the Corner Where You Live, which dropped in September, and from its companion record On the Train Ride Home, which was released in April. The Paper Kites, who you may remember from their twinkly, emotional debut hit single “Bloom,” sound like they record their albums in the forest: Gentle, whimsical and earthy, On the Corner Where You Live is quietly affecting. In the studio, they played “Flashes” from On the Corner, plus “Arms” and the title track from On the Train Ride Home.
The 50 Best Albums of 2018
Yes, the album is still relevant in 2018. Even as we become more likely to stream playlists or shuffle the works of an artist on Spotify, it’s worth taking a look at music as an artist intended, a package of tracks, sequenced with care, offering a snapshot view into a singular creative endeavor with a long history—the LP. This year’s list of best albums was voted on by Paste’s staff, music writers and tireless interns. As always, Paste’s Best Albums of 2018 reflects the specific and varying tastes of its voters—lots of indie rock and singer/songwriters with a smattering of country, hip hop, soul and whatever genre you want to call Lonnie Holley. We’ll release an updated list with our reader’s favorites, so send us your top 10 albums to firstname.lastname@example.org by Dec. 1. —Paste Music Staff
The 15 Philadelphia Bands You Need To Know in 2018
It comes as no surprise that the music scene in “The City of Brotherly Love” is inclusive, tight-knit and diverse. Philly, though it boasts strong ties to punk and R&B, welcomes exports from all over the country across genres who move to the city for its thriving music community. Philadelphia is famously the birthplace of groups like The Roots and Hall & Oates, but today it’s renowned for its live music scene, which, from the looks of it, is extremely healthy. Touring bands flock to Philadelphia to play venues like Union Transfer, The Filmore and the more dive-y Boot & Saddle, and there’s local music, too, happening all week long. In the last 10 years or so, punk and, specifically, indie rock have exploded in Philadelphia: Kurt Vile, along with Adam Granduciel, founded rock group The War on Drugs there in 2005 before launching his solo career, and other veterans like Dr. Dog, Modern Baseball and Japanese Breakfast, plus beloved niche acts like Swearin’ and Low Cut Connie, all hail from Pennsylvania’s largest metropolis. So rock has a history there, but hip hop, R&B and experimental outfits have a stable home in the city, as well. We rounded up 15 on-the-rise bands and artists from Philly who should be on your radar, if they’re not already. Read on for our Phavorites from Philly: —Ellen Johnson
Coldplay’s New Documentary Reminds Us Why They’re Rightly Loved and Hated
Arena-rock giants and frequent butt of jokes Coldplay are drawing even more eyerolls than usual thanks to their most recent lackluster releases and, perhaps most offensively to some, a collaboration with The Chainsmokers. But it’s easy to forget that at one point, they put out stunningly beautiful Radiohead-adjacent work like Safety EP and Parachutes, the chilling, piano-driven A Rush Of Blood to the Head and, however kitschy their French Revolution attire, the rich alternative-rock empire of Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends. With their massive, two-year A Head Full of Dreams world tour wrapped up and rumors that the quartet are to start recording again next year, what better way to rake in more cash than dropping a career-spanning documentary just before the holidays? The documentary, also titled A Head Full of Dreams, was made by their longtime friend and collaborator Mat Whitecross who met the band in 1996 and has been filming them ever since. Though the film largely evades the tough questions, the sequences of the not-yet-world-famous band and their recent arena concerts are easily the most affecting. Your opinion on the remainder of the film rests on which of the three categories you fall into—if you think they always made “bedwetter music,” if you think they’ve made stone-cold classic records up until 2008 or if you think their new album is going to bring about world peace with fireworks and their hopeful pop/rock.—Lizzie Manno
The 2018 Music Book Gift Guide
Over the holidays, you might want to read about something a little more light-hearted than the impending Mueller investigation, just how bad global warming really is or the rise of fascism across the globe, so why not pick up one of these great music books from the past year? Music books contain some of the best on-the-road stories, tales of music folklore, obscure album references and general musical nerd-outs. Whether you need a holiday gift for the music lover in your life or you’re looking for another book for your own reading list, here are 10 enjoyable music-related works from the past year. —Lizzie Manno & Ellen Johnson