The Week In Music: The Best Albums, Songs, Performances and MorePhoto by Graham Tolbert Music Features The Week in Music
This past week brought plenty of pop culture hoopla via Taylor Swift’s new album and the latest edition of MTV’s VMA Awards, but there was plenty of other music news worthy of our attention. Ezra Furman released his most raw, piercing record to date in the form of Twelve Nudes, Black Belt Eagle Scout quickly followed up her impressive debut with another new LP, TOOL released a new album which is bound to split opinions and Whitney dropped their much-hyped second chapter with Forever Turned Around. Plus, you can and should dive into great new tunes from Cigarettes After Sex, SASAMI and Stone Irr and Paste Studio sessions from Vintage Trouble and Pearla. Scroll down to get your weekly Paste music fix.
Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes
Like a lot of people, Ezra Furman has been alarmed by the “broken world,” as he calls it, that has emerged over the past few years. It shows in his music. Though the Oakland singer has long channeled his disaffection into his songs, he’s never done it with as much immediacy as on Twelve Nudes. Furman’s latest is the rapid-fire follow-up to his 2018 album, Transangelic Exodus, and in many ways, it’s the jagged flip-side. Though Transangelic Exodus was also a reaction to the regressive shitstorm swirling outward from Washington D.C., the album had a certain polish. By contrast, Twelve Nudes has a punk edge that is chaotic and raw, made in a hurry with a first-thought, best-thought sensibility that sprays psychic shrapnel in every direction. It’s also catchy as hell. Though Twelve Nudes is certainly a political album, it’s rooted in Furman’s emotional reaction to politics, which makes these 11 songs more personal than polemical. It’s a brash come-on from a singer with enough confidence to say what’s on his mind, and the talent to express it in songs you want to listen to over and over. Twelve Nudes is loud, sometimes sarcastic, often pointed and invariably entertaining. The album is the work of an artist with a keen sense of his own capabilities, and it’s a fitting soundtrack to a world in turmoil. —Eric R. Danton
Whitney: Forever Turned Around
Whitney’s debut album, Light Upon the Lake, came out on June 3, 2016. It was the kind of record perfectly suited to early June, its sunny guitar riffs personifying the promise of summer: the parties, the road trips, the romances. The now indie classic began with an ode to loneliness on “No Woman,” but it quickly transitioned into something more hopeful, the search for golden days on the open road in a “trash heap two-seat” with nowhere to go. The duo, made up of Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, reveled in the unknown and found happiness in spontaneity. In contrast, Forever Turned Around, the Chicago band’s follow up (which finally sees the light of day today, Aug. 30) embodies the very end of summer. That auspicious romance didn’t quite work out the way they had envisioned it when pulling out of the driveway—it’s now dissolving right in front of them. Lyrics like “You’re still a friend of mine while you’re drifting away” (“Friend of Mine”) or “Tears are falling one by one / I can feel you giving up” (“Giving Up”) have replaced the wide-eyed optimism of their debut. Forever Turned Around is the reality to Light Upon the Lake’s expectation—summer is over and with it, the fling that defined it. —Steven Edelstone
Cigarettes After Sex: “Heavenly”
Cigarettes After Sex’s new song was “inspired by the overwhelming beauty I felt watching an endless sunset on a secluded beach in Latvia one summer night,” says frontman and guitarist Gonzalez, whose whispered vocals snake their way through syrupy synths, gleaming guitars, throbbing bass and gently tapped percussion. “This is where I want to be,” Gonzalez sings, “where it’s so sweet and heavenly.” —Scott Russell
Stone Irr: “All We Want Anymore”
“All We Want Anymore” has everything you’d want in a classic pop song—the dizzy, the dreamy and the grand. Stone brings bright vocal harmonies and everything but the kitchen sink—lush string arrangements, waves of rippled guitars, both happy-go-lucky and melancholy keyboards, distinctly vintage drums and horns that shout “hurrah” during the grand finale. It’s a must-hear for fans of the California pop songs of yesteryear and crushingly beautiful songs that play when the end credits roll. —Lizzie Manno
SASAMI: “Take Care”
The video for “Take Care” starts out pleasantly enough—Sasami wakes up in a rowboat floating across calm blue waters. As grainy shots of the artist lying in the boat flash by, the scene gives the impression of a vintage film memento. She sings the lines, “You don’t need my help anymore / I tried to show up at your door.” But soon enough, Sasami starts to let out some hostility, tagging a wall with black spray paint and then, well, beating the living hell out a car with a baseball bat. Finally, we see her lighting a shrine of personal effects on fire in the desert and screaming at the burning pyre. —Hayden Goodridge
THE PASTE PODCAST
This week on The Paste Podcast, Paste’s Josh Jackson and Allison Keene discuss their love for Netflix’s new series The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance, and they’re joined by the show’s writing team of Jeff Addiss, Will Matthews and Javier Grillo Marxuach, who offer a behind-the-scenes look of the making of one of our favorite shows of the year. Podling justica!
Also, The Regrettes stop by the Paste Studio in New York to play a song from their latest album, How Do You Love?.
Los Angeles blues rock and R&B outfit Vintage Trouble returned to the Paste Studio to perform three tracks: “Pelvis Pusher,” “My Whole World Stopped Without You” and a cover of Elton John’s megahit “Rocket Man.” “Pelvis Pusher” is a bonus track from the Encore edition of their 2011 debut album The Bomb Shelter Sessions, and “My Whole World Stopped Without You” is taken from 2018’s Chapter II – EP I. The band released the second part of Chapter II this past summer, the aptly-titled Chapter II – EP 2, which was influenced by “the hip-gyrational soul dance songs of the band’s adolescent years, to the revolutionary poetic and powerful protest music of the 60’s and 70’s,” according to a press release.
Brooklyn folk singer/songwriter Nicole Rodriguez, who records under Pearla, is prepping the release of her debut EP Quilting & Other Activities, out Sept. 6 on Egghunt Records. Rodriguez performed four new songs in the Paste Studio this week: “Forgive Yourself,” “Quilting,” “Washing Machine” and “Somewhere.” The 23-year-old musician’s vocals marry folky twang with silky pop and nurturing psych.
This August some folks went back to school, others returned from summer vacations and we listened to a lot of music. Huge names like Young Thug, Taylor Swift and Bon Iver released albums with deep cuts we’ll be listening to for ages, while some of our indie favorites, like Jay Som, Whitney and (Sandy) Alex G, dropped stellar singles from their new records. Find all our favorite songs from August 2019 here. —Paste Staff
Alright, Taylor time is over. Lana Del Rey is back today with her first new album since 2017’s Lust For Life, and we have much to discuss. There’s no time to chat about any other pop albums, except for, of course, the new records out today from 2000s heroes Natasha Bedingfield and Sheryl Crow. Now those, we have time for. In other release news, indie acts Black Belt Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts (not related) and Parsnip all have new albums out today, as does the inimitable rocker Ezra Furman. We can also finally get our hands on the long-awaited new album from Chicago duo Whitney. Hear all the best new music out on Aug. 30. —Ellen Johnson & Paste Staff
The first line of Marika Hackman’s 2015 debut album reads: “Oh I am bold / As brass posing as gold.” It’s a clever and self-deprecating declaration, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. The 27-year-old English solo artist’s recent third album Any Human Friend (out now on Sub Pop), solidifies Hackman as one of the boldest singer/songwriters around. There’s never a dull moment on her latest LP—if you’re not hearing a perfectly charred guitar riff, you’re getting a nugget of astute romantic wisdom, a pirouetting synth line, an insight about sexuality you’ve been too afraid to express, an emotive pitch-shifted vocal loop or any number of tools in Hackman’s ever-expanding musical repertoire. Hackman has always been an artistic shapeshifter. Her 2013 EP That Iron Taste dove into enigmatic electro-folk, her 2015 debut full-length We Slept At Last brought rich folk-pop and her 2017 follow-up I’m Not Your Man radiated searing indie-rock with a decidedly candid nature. Now equipped with several years’ experience and a dedicated fanbase, she remains reliably unpredictable. Her new album is full of peculiar synth-rock and take-it-or-leave-it lyrics about queer female sexuality, armed with universal human truths and a twinge of humor. —Lizzie Manno
The story of Jeff Buckley’s Grace is as old-fashioned as it gets: Get really good at playing live shows, get a residency at a local coffee shop and hope to God people actually show up. With a voice like his, one that’s essentially unrivalled throughout music history, it’s no wonder why those initial shows drew such a big audience, completely through a word-of-mouth campaign. Limos from major labels in Midtown started showing up in Lower Manhattan, as their executives wanted to just get a glimpse of the stunning talent they’d heard whispers about from their cooler friends and employees. Jeff Buckley was a star, plain and simple, one who seemed completely different from his own era of post-grunge contemporaries. This past Friday (Aug. 23), Columbia/Legacy Recordings reissued Grace for its 25th anniversary, highlighting a timeless album for a new generation of listeners. It comes with unreleased songs and four live sets, providing a snapshot in time as Buckley was en route towards becoming one of the best artists of his generation, more confident with each live show. In honor of the reissue celebrations, we decided to take a stab at choosing his 10 best songs, an introduction of sorts to one of the most prodigious talents of the ’90s. —Steven Edelstone
As a wise man once said, the years start coming—and they don’t stop coming. It’s been 20 years since 1999, a truly weird and wonderful year for music, especially singles. MTV’s Total Request Live (aka TRL) dominated the music industry, which was defined by a new era of music video craze, high-profile personalities and pop music generally having the upper hand. Two years earlier, during her infamous 1997 VMAs acceptance speech, industry antagonist Fiona Apple called the music world “bullshit.” In 1999, she found herself with another hit on her hands. Boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC were pushing a new brand of inescapable slippery pop, while their female counterparts, like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, flew solo with help from rising pop masterminds like Max Martin. TLC and Destiny’s Child were radio hitmakers who ushered in a new chapter of R&B girl group domination. Meanwhile, the golden age of ’90s indie rock was winding down, but had another masterpiece up its sleeve in the form of an album called Keep It Like A Secret. Albums were still relevant, but singles were the lifeblood of artists in the making, which is why we decided to recap the best songs of 1999. Here are our picks, as voted by the Paste Staff. —Paste Staff
The forthcoming Labor Day weekend means many things: a day off, the unofficial end of summer, no more white pants or shoes, bad barbecue playlists, the start of college football and, most importantly for us, the chance to reminisce on another month of great music. August brought a haul that included a bedroom pop artist’s ascent to stardom, the welcome renaissance of singular artists like Bon Iver and Sleater-Kinney and a killer new indie-rock album. Find all our favorites from this month. —Paste Staff