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The Week In Music: The Best Albums, Songs, Performances and More

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The shortest month of the year has come to a close and suddenly, we’re two months down and 10 more to go in 2019. As the days wildly flew by, this past week didn’t skimp on great new music releases. Emily King’s Scenery brought bright bops and scintillating sonics and The Claypool Delirium’s South of Reality kept us on our toes with their wonky genre-bending instrumentation. We also witnessed three big album announcements, each with impressive lead singles—Kevin Morby’s ambitious concept album and double LP Oh My God, rising Aussie singer/songwriter Hatchie’s debut LP Keepsake and Big Thief’s cryptically-titled third full-length U.F.O.F. Finally, we counted down our favorite LPs of the past month, the best breakup albums of all time and the albums we’re looking forward to in March. Check out Paste’s handy dandy weekly music roundup below.

BEST ALBUMS

Emily King: Scenery

The kudos Emily King has accumulated in her career qualifies her for star status. It’s an impressive list, one that includes a 2007 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album and, in 2012, the Holly Prize honors for songwriting. Still, as her shimmery sound suggests, she leans more on subtlety and nuance rather than the kind of flash that generally draws attention these days. Three albums on, she’s honed a blend of subtlety and sensuality to create a style that’s often as elusive as it is enchanting. Granted, that description does suggest a certain contradiction, and indeed, King’s hushed vocals are clearly a counterpoint to the propulsive rhythms that underscore the songs. It’s an ideal yin and yang: “Blue Light,” “Forgiveness” and “Remind Me” create a kind of tension between her tactile singing and the buoyancy of her melodies. It’s worth noting that King composes all her own songs, and Scenery, her third full-length, reflects a marked maturity. The vulnerability that’s implied in King’s calming vocal caress is remarkable in a way, especially when compared to the brazenness that accompanies much of what seems to pass for pop music these days. The skill she shows elevates her above much of the competition, imbuing her with a decided level of class and credence. King wears that crown well. —Lee Zimmerman

The Claypool Lennon Delirium: South of Reality

Hearing two musicians of distinct sounds play to their sensibilities under one banner, all the while avoiding cross-fertilization between their father projects, is an awesome thing. Les Claypool, bass god, rebel, and inveterate eccentric, and Sean Lennon, methodical, pop folk musician, and, yes, child of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, have very pronounced personalities. On paper those personalities clash; on the records they’ve made together under the banner of The Claypool Lennon Delirium, 2016’s Monolith of Phobos and now their latest, South of Reality, they harmonize. The music treads away from self-seriousness; neither Claypool nor Lennon could be called businesslike or humorless. Everything they do, they do tongue firmly in cheek. At the same time, they have big ideas, and those big ideas demand articulation through music on an equally big scale. South of Reality has that scale. It’s also idiosyncratic to an extent that makes gauging it akin to a carnival ride. There’s showmanship to The Claypool Lennon Delirium, which, given the veteran talent of its chief members, is unavoidable; their union can only lead to high caliber art. But it’s challenging music, especially for newcomers to their sound. What makes the challenge rewarding is the elasticity of their work, giving the record a sense of scope that underpins the gonzo array of aesthetics they’ve sewn together here. South of Reality, ultimately, is a great album, but more importantly, it’s a great adventure. —Andy Crump

BEST TRACKS

Kevin Morby:No Halo

Kevin Morby has made a momentous announcement this week, unveiling Oh My God, a double album described in a press release as “a grandiose director’s cut of his biggest statement to date, epic in scope as well as sound.” Due April 26 on Dead Oceans, the City Music follow-up’s first single is “No Halo,” also out now with an accompanying music video. “This one feels full circle, my most realized record yet,” Morby continues. “It’s a cohesive piece; all the songs fit under the umbrella of this religious theme. I was able to write and record the album I wanted to make. It’s one of those marks of a life: This is why I slept on floors for seven years. I’ve now gotten the keys to my own little kingdom, and I’m devoting so much of my life to music that I just want to keep it interesting. At the end of the day, the only thing I don’t want is to be bored. If someone wants to get in my face about writing a non-religious religious record? Thank god. That’s all I gotta say.” —Scott Russell

Hatchie:Without a Blush

Last year, Australian singer/songwriter Hatchie released her debut EP Sugar & Spice, a plush, saccharine sea of dream-pop as sweet as it sounds that earned her a spot on our best new artists of 2018 list. Now, Harriette Pilbeam is preparing to release her anticipated debut full-length LP. This week, she announced Keepsake is out June 21 on Double Double Whammy, and the news arrived with the lead single, “Without A Blush,” plus a ’90s-inspired accompanying video. Grunge meets glam in the “Without A Blush” video, which has a darker edge than anything Hatchie’s done before, as if her sweet syrup hardened to a twinkly tar. “You and I were destined to fall apart,” she sings over spikes of electric guitar and droning synths. —Ellen Johnson

Big Thief:UFOF

Brooklyn’s Big Thief announced their third album, U.F.O.F., alongside its lead single and title track. The band’s characteristically gorgeous new single “UFOF,” meanwhile, finds Lenker bidding a hushed farewell to a strange but not unwelcome visitor: “To my UFO friend, goodbye, goodbye / like a seed in the wind, she’s taking up root in the sky,” she sings, considering the connections between the cosmic and the earthly, the supernatural and natural. There’s an evanescence to Lenker’s lyrics (“Just like a bad dream / you’ll disappear”) that matches the track’s fleeting beauty—its rolling, fingerpicked guitars and tender rhythm section are here and gone, like a passing shadow. —Scott Russell

BEST PERFORMANCES

TEEN

New York City’s TEEN brought their eccentric, arty synth-pop to the Paste Studio this week to promote their forthcoming album Good Fruit, out today (3/1) via Carpark Records. Good Fruit is their fourth studio album and their first self-produced record. Comprised of three sisters—Teeny, Lizzie and Katherine Lieberson—TEEN make music that’s more vibrant than most. Their urgent grooves, heady vocal harmonies and off-kilter synth escapades are immediately felt, zapping listeners with their laserbeam-like arpeggios and transporting them into a deep, rapturous psychosis. TEEN performed three glistening tracks—”Putney,” “Ripe” and “Pretend”—all from their new album. —Lizzie Manno

Greyson Chance

Back in 2010, a 13-year-old singer and pianist named Greyson Chance stumbled into overnight sensation after a clip of him performing Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” went viral. It has since been viewed more than 60 million times and led to Chance’s debut album, Hold On ‘Til The Night, which arrived in 2011. Now, after two EPs (2012’s Truth Be Told, Part 1 and 2016’s Somewhere Over My Head), Chance is finally returning with a follow-up full-length. portraits is set to arrive March 15 on AWAL, and Chance is now on tour supporting his new music. He carved out time to stop by our studio in New York City to perform three tracks from portraits: recently released single “shut up,” a song Chance wrote in the Tel Aviv airport as he was preparing to leave Israel, plus two unreleased tracks—”lakeshore,” the last song on portraits, and “stand,” what he says is “an ode to where I’m from and my family.” —Ellen Johnson

FEATURES

The 30 Best Breakup Albums of All Time

While Valentine’s Day and its host month February are presumably about love and feeling it/showing it/making it whenever and wherever you can, this gray, dreary month can feel a little lonely if you’ve recently weathered a breakup. Thankfully, February 2019 also brought us a slew of great new breakup albums (Martin Frawley’s Undone at 31, Julia Jacklin’s Crushing and, yes, even Ariana Grande’s thank u, next), just in time to help those of us feeling a little broken block out the swarm of pink and red, flowers and candy. Those albums got us thinking about our other favorite breakup albums, those records we turn to when music is the only thing that numbs the pain. These are the albums in your record collection that might prompt a chorus of “Who hurt you?”s from friends and family. And, to be fair, “Are you okay?” seems like an appropriate question if you’re exclusively listening to The National after a breakup. But these albums aren’t for when you’re okay. They aren’t the get-up-and-go records for cheering you up when you’re sad. These are the albums in which you can wallow. So crawl under a blanket, fetch a bucket of ice cream and crank up Lorde’s Melodrama until you can’t hear your own thoughts. This is a safe place to sob. —Ellen Johnson & Paste Staff

Amen Dunes on His Majestic Breakout Album Freedom

It’s strange when you see yourself in a piece of art. As a music listener, there are moments when an artist helps you better understand yourself, despite never brushing shoulders with them in real life. You never laid on a leather couch, pouring your heart out while the songwriter sat next to you, scribbling on a clipboard and pensively probing the question, “And how do you feel about that?” And yet, they are somehow able to reach you on an emotional or aesthetic plane in a way that can be difficult to articulate. You might not be able to pinpoint a specific lyric or portion of the vinyl groove that projects a mirror image of yourself, but there are waves of familiar comfort radiating throughout—almost as if you’ve heard it in a past life. That’s exactly how I felt about Amen Dunes’ latest album, Freedom (my favorite full-length album of last year and Paste’s #11 pick for the Best Albums of 2018). Melding subliminal classic rock, woozy psych-folk, invigorating grooves and a quavering, supernatural vocal tone, Freedom is in a category all its own. —Lizzie Manno

Sleaford Mods Make A Clear Departure On Eton Alive

The quick progression and growth in the work of Sleaford Mods, the grime-punk duo from Nottingham, England, has been one of the more remarkable storylines of the past decade. Ever since producer Andrew Fearn joined forces with vocalist/lyricist Jason Williamson, the pair have rapidly evolved and improved in both of their chosen arenas. The former’s approach to beats has taken his rattletrap beats, built from overdriven bass lines and drums that sound as if they were constructed from plywood and tin, into a more club-ready headspace. Tunes like “Drayton Manored” from 2017’s English Tapas and “Kebab Spider,” the first single from their recently released new album Eton Alive, reveal the influence of house music and warm tones that feel inviting rather than bludgeoning. Williamson has responded in kind. His speak-singing vocal manner is still omnipresent, spitting out wound up, often hilarious rants on the ugly state of British politics and the struggles of everyday Britons. But through Eton and the self-titled EP the group released last year, the 48-year-old has shifted into singing—apparently inspired by a love of ‘80s and ‘90s R&B—and his lyrical tone feels more resigned and tired. Paste spoke with Williamson recently as he sat in his kitchen in Nottingham about the sound of Eton Alive, the decision to self-release the new album and the present state of the music scene in his native England. —Robert Ham

The 10 Best Albums of February 2019

Welcome to end-of-the-month coverage at Paste dot com where we’ve determined winter is long, February is short and music is still good. This brief month once again made good on the promise of lots of great new tunes in a short amount of time, bringing us superb new records from Texas, Australia and beyond. From the Lone Star State, Robert Ellis released his flashy flirtation with the keys, Texas Piano Man, and Ryan Bingham returned with his first studio album in four years, American Love Song. Aussie singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin offered up a breakup album for the ages in the form of Crushing, and California experimentalist Chrystia Cabral shared her second album as SPELLING, the transportive Mazy Fly. Emily King dazzled on her enchanting LP Scenery, and French composer Yann Tiersen escaped to nature’s most tempting nether-regions on the elusive ALL. All that and more is gathered here. So without any further fuss, here are the best albums of the month—alternatively, 10 artists you can listen to instead of Ryan Adams. —Paste Staff

The 10 Albums We’re Most Excited About in March

After an exceptional haul of January albums and a slew of great February records we’re still digesting, it’s time to get our hopes up about what’s to come this month. March will see the release of debut albums from Australian singer/songwriter Stella Donnelly, British pop quartet Indoor Pets, Los Angeles lo-fi rocker SASAMI and London-based guitar-soul artist Nilüfer Yanya. We’re also set to receive albums from some big names we haven’t heard from in a while like former Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis and Oxford indie-rockers Foals. Scroll down to read about the ten LPs we’re most excited about in March plus a breakdown of additional notable releases, all listed by album release date. —Paste Staff

Durand Jones & the Indications Look Ahead on Their New Album American Love Call

Nina Simone, one of the most iconic voices in soul music, civil rights, jazz and beyond, once said, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” That’s the quote Durand Jones cites when I ask him about the variety of songs on American Love Call, his band’s (Durand Jones & the Indications) sophomore album out today on Dead Oceans and the Ohio soul label Colemine Records. But Simone isn’t the only soul legend Jones, guitarist Blake Rhein and drummer Aaron Frazer reference during our call. These guys know their stuff—they also mention Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield, all artists who—like the Indications—wrote powerful songs both political and personal. Soul music has, since its genesis, been a cultural watchdog, a musical promotion of social justice and equality. But there’s also the one thing that seeps into every aspect of life and culture, no matter who’s in office or what the calendar says: love and relationships. —Ellen Johnson

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