The Week In Music: The Best Albums, Songs, Performances and MorePhoto by Cameron McCool Music Features The Week in Music
It’s been a big week at Paste’s new headquarters in downtown Atlanta. This week we hosted our first two live sessions at our snazzy new studio—Atlanta rock veteran Kevn Kinney of Drivin N Cryin and Brazilian psych band Boogarins. We’re also launching a series of new videos and podcasts, including a new YouTube show titled The Week in Music to accompany this regular Paste music column. You can watch the very first episode below, hosted by Paste’s assistant music editors and writers of this fine column, Lizzie Manno and Ellen Johnson. Speaking of other great new music content, this week we received new albums from (Sandy) Alex G and Devendra Banhart, plus new tracks from Angel Olsen, Sports Team and Foxes in Fiction. Scroll down to read the best of Paste’s music section and watch the first episode of The Week in Music.
(Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar
At the southern tip of Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood, there’s an imposing structure on the Delaware River that somehow looks equal parts parking garage, hospital and convention center. The building is none of these things, but it’s just as overwhelming as each one of them. It houses SugarHouse Casino, a dystopian abyss of colorful images leaping forth from slot machines and laser-bright ceiling lights hovering over card tables where gamblers can earn $150 in blackjack, lose it and swear off gambling forever (which may or may not have happened to this writer). Philly resident (Sandy) Alex G’s newest album, House of Sugar, his third for storied label Domino (and eighth or ninth overall, depending on who you ask), is named for this casino. As unsettling as its namesake, the newest record from Alex Giannascoli at times improves on the inscrutable, circuitous experimentation of his Domino debut, Beach Music. At other times, it refines the accessible but still characteristically sauntering country-lite of Rocket, his masterful second album for the British indie label. In other words, House of Sugar sounds like a middle ground between the two albums that preceded it. —Max Freedman
Devendra Banhart: Ma
Devendra Banhart has been an enigma since he first performed onstage 20 years ago. His lyrics frequently border the absurd, while his music takes so many twists and turns it’s no wonder he became the supposed leader of the freak-folk genre in the mid-2000s. But fast-forwarding to 2019, Devendra Banhart is returning with Ma, a surprisingly straightforward and touching new album, his first since 2016’s Ape in Pink Marble. It’s frequently beautiful, occasionally sung in different languages (three songs in Spanish and one in Portuguese) and represents perhaps his best work of the decade. Ma explores the concept of motherhood, but also addresses his childhood in now-crime and recession-ridden Venezuela. It all leads up to album finale “Will I See You Tonight?,” a stunning collaboration with the legendary Vashti Bunyan, one of the most gorgeous songs you’ll hear all year. —Steven Edelstone
Angel Olsen: “Lark”
“Lark” is stunning in its dynamism, opening in the broken-hearted calm before a cathartic storm of overwhelming strings, thundering drums and Angel Olsen’s ever-emotive voice. The singer-songwriter weaves in and out of numerous distinct phases across the song’s six minutes and change, each of them mesmerizing—she looks back on a painful end while bound for a new beginning, singing, “Hiding out inside my head, it’s me again, it’s no surprise I’m on my own now / Every time I turn to you, I see the past, it’s all that lasts and all I know how.” —Scott Russell
Sports Team: “Fishing”
The guitars on “Fishing” are hopped-up with giddy excitement as frontman Alex Rice employs jolly rock ‘n’ roll theatrics and wears a playful smirk. Sports Team’s music is by friends and for friends—a frisky riot with an enjoyment level inversely proportional to the number of tipsy, ride-or-die pals who join in. Rice sings over bouncy guitars, “We go out with our friends / And we sit by the Thames going fishing / I don’t need no conversation, please.” —Lizzie Manno
Foxes in Fiction: “Rush to Spark”
“Rush to Spark” features fittingly bright guitar as Warren Hildebrand describes his experiences with psychiatric medication. Having found the right treatment, he feels a “gentle symmetry inside”—but one that can’t hold off the distorted negative thoughts permanently. Warren Hildebrand calls it a song about “understanding that mental illness is going to be something that you’re going to have to deal with and maintain for the rest of your life,” and “the stress and tension that you unintentionally (or intentionally) can put on your own life and lives of people around you when you’re experiencing episodes caused by your illness.” —Amanda Gersten
THE PASTE PODCAST
From the brand-new Paste Studio ATL in downtown Atlanta, this week’s Paste Podcast features the TV Power Rankings from Paste TV editor Allison Keene. Listen in to see how your favorite shows fared this week—and to discover a few new favorites worth your TV time.
Plus host Josh Jackson interviews Drivin N Cryin’s Kevn Kinney, who plays us a couple songs of the legendary Atlanta band’s first album in a decade, Live the Love Beautiful, along with an acoustic spin on the title track of their first album Scarred But Smarter, released 31 years ago.
Drivin N Cryin’s Kevn Kinney was the first guest to play a session at Paste’s new Atlanta studio. Kinney performed a couple songs from the legendary Atlanta band’s first album in a decade, Live the Love Beautiful, along with an acoustic spin on the title track of their first album Scarred But Smarter, released 31 years ago. “I’m thrilled that we’re launching with an Atlanta musician—Drivin N Cryin was one of the first local bands I fell in love with as a kid growing up in Atlanta’s suburbs,” says Paste editor-in-chief Josh Jackson.
Two Door Cinema Club
Two Door Cinema Club brought their sharp indie rock to the Paste Studio to celebrate the release of their new album False Alarm, out now via Glassnote Records. The Irish rockers performed three tracks: “Once” from their new album, “Next Year” from 2012’s Beacon and “What You Know” from 2010’s Tourist History. Also during the session, the band shared their love for Talking Heads and went off on a tangent about traditional wedding anniversary gift milestones.
Lou Reed played changes as if he were reluctant to let the harmony resolve; he was more likely to go to the minor sixth than to ever return to the one. It was as if the lack of resolution reflected a life without lasting satisfaction, as if the lack of resolution would keep the listener—and himself—in suspense about what might happen next. It was a hypnotic sound that many admiring musicians adopted as their own. David Bowie’s early, guitar-oriented singles had that sound, and Bowie repaid the favor by producing the only top-100 single of Reed’s career, “Walk on the Wild Side.” Alejandro Escovedo embraced Reed’s six-string style so thoroughly that he wrote a song called “Velvet Guitar.” The Modern Lovers, the Feelies, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Television and many more borrowed that brittle, mesmerizing guitar riff. Even this year, 50 years after The Velvet Underground, the band’s third album, introduced “Candy Says” and “Pale Blue Eyes,” Reed’s guitar sound is fueling the rise of two terrific new rock ’n’ roll bands: Fontaines D.C., an Irish quintet currently touring the U.S. in support of its 2019 debut album, Dogrel, and the Nude Party, an American sextet now on the road to showcase its eponymous 2018 debut album. —Geoffrey Himes
Emotional immediacy and off-kilter experimentation don’t always go hand in hand, but achieving both has never been an issue for Alex Giannascoli. The Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter who records under (Sandy) Alex G makes music that resonates deeply, no matter how far he leads you into his limitless musical funhouse. Garbled guitars, pitch-shifted vocals and askew keyboards are right in his wheelhouse, but he can just as easily hammer out an acoustic ballad to end all acoustic ballads. What unites Giannascoli’s songs are his sixth sense for melody and the weight he captures with songs that often resemble sketches. On House of Sugar, his latest full-length, Giannascoli was tasked with following up his two best albums and decided to push himself further into bold songwriting and evocative lyricism. Giannascoli actualizes this vision through trust, an essential component of his long-standing appeal. His voice is approachable and distinctly trustworthy, and his lyrics draw listeners’ loyalty and vulnerability, even though he uses vague storytelling. Equally important is Giannascoli’s trust that listeners won’t only come along for his unconventional ride, but take the ride repeatedly to map out his wonky instrumentals and find each subsequent listen more absorbing than the last. —Lizzie Manno
The Closner sisters are not dramatic people. But there was a moment, a few years ago, when a rare bout of drama threatened to upend everything. Well, not everything—Joseph’s next album, a follow-up to the sister-trio’s breakout 2016 LP, I’m Alone, No You’re Not, and subsequent EP, 2017’s Stay Awake, was already 90% written at the point of this debacle. And family is family, after all. It would take a whole lot of drama to damage those ties. But still, there were deep-seated feelings, little things that had been brewing beneath the surface for years, that finally bubbled up. And on the other side, Joseph are stronger than ever. Good Luck, Kid, the album that was 90% done before the “Fight” in “Fighter” occurred, is finally out in the world, and it’s the biggest, boldest, most realized thing Joseph (who named their band after a small Oregon town after starting the project in 2014) have ever released. They pulled pop-minded producer Christian “Leggy” Langdon (Meg Myers, Charlotte OC) for the project, a far cry from the airy folk of their 2014 debut Cloudline. The hooks here are hookier, the choruses are louder and the energy is all-around more charged-up. It’s a formula that will serve them well at their already jubilant live shows. —Ellen Johnson
When beginning work on his newest album, Devendra Banhart wanted to write a few songs from an insect’s perspective. It wouldn’t have been completely out of character for the Venezuelan-American songwriter, who’s frequently been referred to as one of the leading figures in the “freak folk” movement of the 2000s, to explore how good it must feel to sit on a petal. He’s assumed an animal’s persona before—just listen to “Duck People Duck Man,” from his Megapuss side project from 2008. His mind usually drifts towards the most surreal places one could imagine (he mentions writing from the perspective of “a socialite or an alligator with a protracted anus”). But after trips to Kyoto, Japan and Caracas, Venezuela—where he spent the formative years of his childhood and where his brother and many other family members still live—he knew this album would be different from the ones he’s written in the past. He had to be more concise than ever before, even if that unfortunately meant, “There just wasn’t room to write some silly song pretending I’m a flea that lives on head cheese under the Eiffel Tower.”’ “The situation [in Venezuela] is so dire, so heavy, so apocalyptic that there wasn’t even room to almost make up a character or write a song from this particular perspective,” he explains. Both his insider and outsider perspectives on the situation inform virtually every song on Ma, out today (Sept. 13). —Steven Edelstone