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

In what was technically a short week, we definitely had our fair share of bombshell music releases and news. Rather than parse through the more distressing developments, we thought we’d highlight the bright spots. Two huge singles dropped this week from indie-folk veteran Waxahatchee and Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and thankfully both lived up to the hype. Plus, we received exceptional albums from artists who are likely new to you—Parisian rock band En Attendant Ana and folk supergroup Bonny Light Horseman. As we gear up for new music from My Chemical Romance, we ranked their most underrated songs, and we also celebrated the upcoming 15th anniversary of Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning with a tribute. Enjoy all that and more in Paste’s weekly music roundup.

BEST ALBUMS

En Attendant Ana: Juillet

It only takes a few seconds of their single “In / Out” to realize that En Attendant Ana have something special. “Shred” isn’t a word you’d normally associate with jangle pop, but it can definitely be used to describe the chiming, pummeling riff that’s sprinkled throughout the Parisian band’s single. Margaux Bouchaudon’s vocals evoke Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier and Alvvays’ Molly Rankin—she was practically genetically engineered to sing perfect, hyper-melodic dream pop. It would be unfair to dub them a dream pop outfit—they tap into avant-pop, post-punk and college rock with similar ease. With their second album Juillet, they subvert listeners’ perception of them on nearly every track. “From My Bruise to an Island” is a soothing, horn-led ambient piece, “Flesh or Blood” is incisive post-punk at its best and “Words” drops a warped synth interlude alongside wailing brass. They approach familiarly blissful indie-pop (“Do You Understand?”) with as much care as they do their more complex, off-kilter moments. It’s rare to find such thoughtfulness in a record so unabashedly tuneful. —Lizzie Manno

Bonny Light Horseman: Bonny Light Horseman

What is a “bonny light horseman” anyways? Formally, it refers to the nimblest, most handsome rider in the calvary, but here it’s also the name of an age-old folk ballad. The song dates back to the early-1800s Napoleonic Wars, which carried on extensively with England during the era when Napoleon I wore the French crown. Irish, English and even American printers picked up the tune during that time, and since then leagues of folk singers, like Mary Ann Carolan, Nic Jones and Siobhan Miller, have covered it through the ages. Now there’s a new version of the song like you’ve never heard it before (maybe even because you’ve never heard it before) sung by a trio of modern folk/rock titans. The tune’s nomenclature is also what this group has decided to call themselves: Bonny Light Horseman, comprised of Anaïs Mitchell, Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman (a producer who’s worked with Hiss Golden Messenger, Bob Weir, Josh Ritter and The National, among many others), released their self-titled debut album, and it’s a gold mine for historical musical references and twinkling folklore that feels familiar, but is often something entirely new. Bonny Light Horseman is a project where the past and present blur seamlessly, the old and the new dancing a soft, sly jig. —Ellen Johnson

BEST TRACKS

Waxahatchee:Fire

Katie Crutchfield, the brain behind indie folk-pop act Waxahatchee, shared news of her forthcoming album. Saint Cloud is set for release on March 27 via Merge Records, her fifth solo album as her moniker Waxahatchee. Lead track, “Fire” is as strong as it is vulnerable, with triumphant, quiet drums that serve as a battle cry for Crutchfield’s newfound determination in sobriety. —Austin Jones

Hayley Williams:Simmer

Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams released a music video for her first solo project since her co-founding of the pop group in 2004, and the first taste of her forthcoming solo debut Petals for Armor, coming May 8. “I’m so ready and so incredibly humbled to get to share this project,” says Williams in a statement. “Making it was a scary, empowering experience. Some of my proudest moments as a lyricist happened while writing Petals for Armor. And I was able to get my hands a little dirtier than usual when it came to instrumentation.” —Natalia Keogan

Ellis:Fall Apart

The Toronto-based bedroom-pop artist Ellis announced that her debut LP Born Again will be out April 3 via Fat Possum Records. The announcement was made in tandem with the premiere of the first single off the album, “Fall Apart,” and its accompanying music video. Ellis is the moniker of Linnea Siggelkow, who is a lifelong musician but only really found her voice in her 20s. She is the daughter of a piano instructor, and bought her first guitar at age 12; but her relationship with Christianity proved to be a difficult path to navigate, fueling much of the creative process behind Born Again. —Natalia Keogan

BEST PERFORMANCES

Kevin Krauter

Indiana-based singer/songwriter and Hoops bassist Kevin Krauter visited the Paste Studio in Manhattan to perform songs from his forthcoming album Full Hand, out on Feb. 28 via Bayonet Records. Full Hand follows his 2018 debut Toss Up, a nine-track collection of tuneful, reassuring guitar pop. Krauter performed four tracks from Full Hand in this session: “Surprise,” “Full Hand,” “Patience” and “Pretty Boy.” Paste featured “Pretty Boy” on our list of (Unofficial) Songs of the Summer 2019, and Scott Russell praised the song’s “mesmeric guitars and breathy vocals” as well as Krauter’s “deceptive degree of dynamism.” —Lizzie Manno

The Wood Brothers

Fans of late ’90s/early 2000s southern rock and folk-rock are already fully aware of The Wood Brothers. Their new album Kingdom In My Mind, a follow-up to 2018’s Grammy-nominated One Drop of Truth, arrives today, and it could be their best release in a while: Their plucky, bluesy style of southern rock sounds fresher than ever here. —Ellen Johnson

FEATURES

The 15 Best Grammy Album of the Year Winners

The Grammys are hardly the indicator of what music was critically adored in a particular year. The Recording Academy is made up of approximately 21,000 musicians and music professionals, but only about 12,000 of those are eligible to vote, per a Billboard report. The process to become an eligible voting member is three steps and seemingly complicated, just one of many issues plaguing the Academy. The Grammys have historically shut out women and hip-hop artists, and while a diversity task force was implemented last year, that doesn’t seem to have helped much: The Academy is now fully embroiled in another scandal as CEO and President Deborah Dugan was ousted after just six months in her position, just a few days before this year’s ceremony on Sunday Jan. 26. There is a lot of unrest and information to make sense of, but for now, we’re taking a walk through Grammys history before the 2020 event. Despite all the times the Grammys have gotten things wrong (never forget Bruno Mars’ win for 24K Magic over Kendrick Lamar. Shudder.), they occasionally reward the album that is most worthy. Here are those times. —Ellen Johnson

From Hadestown to Bonny Light Horseman, Anaïs Mitchell Turns Old Stories into New Art

Back in 2010, one of my favorite albums was a folk-rock opera from a relative newcomer Anaïs Mitchell—an epic tale featuring Greek gods set in the post-Apocalyptic south, starring Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, Greg Brown and Ben Knox Miller. But Hadestown was written as a musical and performed on stage years before it became an album—a journey that came full circle when it landed on Broadway last year, dominating the Tony Awards with eight wins and 14 nominations. The Broadway version hews pretty closely to the original vision with a cast that includes Reeve Carney as Opheus, Eva Noblezada as Eurydice, Amber Gray as Persephone and André De Shields, who steals the show as Hermes. But while shepherding Hadestown’s 14-year journey, Mitchell remained active in the folk scene, releasing three follow-up solo albums and collaborating with other musicians like Sheryl Crow and Rosanne Cash. Her newest project, Bonny Light Horseman, is another collaboration—this time with Fruit Bats frontman Eric Johnson and Josh Kauffman, who’s played with a number of different artists including Josh Ritter and Bob Weir. The trio has reworked several centuries-old songs for an eponymous album, out now on 37d03d Records. We caught up with Mitchell via email on all her various projects. —Josh Jackson

Why Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning Still Matters

From the first sip of water on “At the Bottom of Everything,” we’re invited into an intimate, unsteady world. That’s the effect of Conor Oberst’s voice—tremulous and trailing alongside melody, the vulnerability bleeds through. This song opens Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, which turns 15 on Saturday, Jan. 25. Although it was released alongside the experimental Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, I’m Wide Awake firmly cemented itself as an essential, individual piece of the mid-aughts indie canon. Oberst’s music extends the legacy of artists like Elliott Smith, combining whispery, emotion-wrenched vocals with diary-esque lyrics that straddle traditional folk and harsh rock. By combining hallmarks of both genres, I’m Wide Awake comes across both cutting and gentle, honest and surreal. As much as it followed traditions developed by Smith, Daniel Johnston, and even Bob Dylan, it also advanced the genre with its own intimacy, uncanny lyrics, and genre-twisting. A series of anti-war anthems surrounded by desperate love songs, the album resonates today because it captures a time eerily resonant to our own. —Caitlin Wolper

The 10 Most Underrated My Chemical Romance Songs

Whatever grouchy critics and snide contrarians thought of them in their mid-2000’s heyday doesn’t matter anymore. It’s pretty much accepted canon at this point that My Chemical Romance are one of the most significant rock bands this side of the millennium. And as yesterday’s teenagers become today’s arbiters of acceptable nostalgia, that sentiment isn’t going anywhere soon. Last December, the New Jersey band announced their long-awaited return since breaking up in 2013, and it felt like one of the most cataclysmic moments in recent rock history. After a decade of eyebrow-raising reunions, this was the first one that felt like it really mattered for millennials and Le Wrong Generation Gen Z kids who weren’t of-age during their Top 40 years. The band have continued to tease 2020 live dates, and they’ve also shared a snippet of new music. For lifelong MCR fans, their reunion presents an excuse to revisit their discography and reassess their merits. However, in lieu of another list reshuffling the order of their generally-accepted best songs, this one attempts to shed light on some of the most underrated and overlooked tracks throughout their four full-lengths. These might not be the most exemplary MCR songs, or the ones you’d show someone who’s unfamiliar with the band. But for fans—casual and serious—looking for a brief guide to some of their most essential deep cuts, this list is for you. —Eli Enis

30 Legendary Artists Who Never Won a Grammy

Institutions like the Grammys and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are superficial and full of deeply problematic nonsense. We know that less than 10 percent of Rock Hall inductees are women, and in recent news, the Grammy organization reportedly has rampant corruption, sexism and racism. Corporate, black tie award shows aren’t why anyone picks up a guitar or microphone. But much like the Oscars, even fans who recognize these realities find it hard not to get swept up in the dramatic unveiling of the annual Grammy winners, losers and snubs. So whether you’re glued to the screen, watching the ceremony each year or sitting out entirely for any number of reasons, it’s worth revisiting the long list of legacy artists who have done just fine without any golden phonograph-shaped trophies. Many of the artists whose snubs are particularly shocking are from the ’60s and ’70s—back when the Grammys had far fewer categories, so it’s technically easier to win a Grammy now. A good chunk of these artists have been given Lifetime Achievement Awards, but that’s not exactly as satisfying as being recognized during your prime among fellow nominees. Here are 30 legendary artists who have never won a Grammy. —Lizzie Manno

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