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

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The past week saw the highly-anticipated return of rock stalwart Beck with the announcement of his new album Hyperspace, the vast yet intimate Beyoncé documentary Homecoming, as well as two thought-provoking Paste interviews with Irish artists—one with fresh-faced, literary post-punks Fontaines D.C. and another with former Frames frontman and veteran singer/songwriter Glen Hansard. The Paste Studio had another busy week with performances from Anna Tivel, The Coathangers, The Mystery Lights, Coheed and Cambria and more. Plus, the latest episode the The Paste Podcast featured an exclusive live performance from Americana singer Maggie Rose and her sizable band (plus a conversation with the cast and crew of Teen Spirit, which follows a young contestant on a pop-music competition show, and a discussion with Paste’s Josh Jackson and Shane Ryan on the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere). Dive into some of Paste’s favorite albums, songs, performances and features below.

BEST ALBUMS

Wand: Laughing Matter

Wand’s music lets the soul wander before kindly accompanying it back home, and their fifth full-length Laughing Matter is another worthy side-by-side trot. Laughing Matter follows the Los Angeles rock outfit’s sky-high 2017 LP Plum and shapeshifting 2018 EP Perfume. While early releases from these Drag City mainstays were characterized by sludgy neo-garage and fuzzy stoner psych, their latest offerings conjure far too much slippery wonder to warrant concise categorization. Wand take risks and thrive on contradiction—their heady guitar embellishments keep you on your toes, and their surreal imagery simultaneously makes you feel insignificant and a pivotal part of the cosmos. Laughing Matter is intoxicating for a number of reasons. Their often opaque lyrics are a strangely touching and immersive experience, and lead vocalist Cory Hanson delivers them with a benevolence that will allow you to trust fall into his snug, fluttering coo. Wand’s affection for nature is evident, and there’s both a foreboding sense that something is slipping from grasp and a blissful acceptance of the changing of the seasons. Laughing Matter’s improvisational jams, winding outros and emotionally crushing melodies result in perhaps their most realized record yet. —Lizzie Manno

Lizzo: Cuz I Love You

Lizzo  loves you. The rapper/R&B singer’s new album Cuz I Love You is one of the year’s most anticipated, and after a round of deliciously catchy singles, it’s finally here. Lizzo has a lot of love for you—and everyone—but she learned to love herself first. A self-titled “Bop Star,” Lizzo writes songs that preach reckless, unapologetic self-love, the kind of admiration most of us have a hard time giving anyone, much less ourselves. But for Lizzo, it’s second nature. The songs on Cuz I Love You emit positivity, energy and pure joy. “Good As Hell” was just the beginning. With Cuz I Love You, Lizzo has solidified herself as a necessary figure in music, one who’s keen to say exactly how she feels. Not only can she belt like Alicia Keys, she can rap like Missy Elliott (her hero who also appears on the album). On “Like A Girl,” Lizzo sings she “woke up feelin’ like I just might run for President / Even if there ain’t no precedent.” She’d have my vote. —Ellen Johnson

BEST TRACKS

Beck:Saw Lightning

Beck announced a brand new album out later this year titled Hyperspace and a new single, “Saw Lightning.” It’s a raucous, noisy track that features glitchy electronic percussion and Beck’s signature slide guitar. Beck wrote and produced the song with Pharrell Williams, who contributes drums, keyboards and backing vocals. No release date has been set for Hyperspace just yet, but it’s expected to arrive via Capitol Records sometime in the coming months. —Adam Weddle

Grand Vapids:Disjecta

Athens, Ga., rockers Grand Vapids shared the first single from their new album Eat the Shadow (out on July 12), the follow-up to their 2015 debut Guarantees. “Disjecta” (Latin for “scattered”) is focused in its stirring, understated rock melodies, but its isolated musings frantically struggle to stay afloat. It’s a divulgence of intense emotions surrounding the breakdown of a romantic relationship and the much-needed self-discovery that follows, and despite their song’s utterly forlorn nature, Grand Vapids build beauty out of lonely sentiments and dusty, lo-fi rock tones. —Lizzie Manno

NOTS:Floating Hand

Memphis, Tenn., post-punk trio NOTS shared a new track from their forthcoming album 3 titled “Floating Hand.” The second single from 3 is a dizzying exploration of the ways in which our connection to reality can be frayed by constantly putting on an act and leading a performative life. It kicks off with an infectious bass line and vocalist Natalie Hoffmann’s chanting lyrics before descending into a whirl of drums and droning synths. —Adam Weddle

BEST PERFORMANCES

Anna Tivel

Portland singer/songwriter Anna Tivel released her fourth studio album, The Question, today (April 19) on Portland’s own Fluff & Gravy Records. Tivel shared three songs from the record during a Paste Studio session on Tuesday, opening her session the same way she begins her album, with its captivating title track. Tivel’s detail-oriented compositions reveal mini universes complete with their own complicated characters and storylines, each of which is embroidered with some distinct sonic embellishment—in the case of “Anthony” and “The Question,” the exquisite strings arranged by multi-instrumentalist Shane Leonard. In the studio, however, Tivel opted to perform those three songs alone with her guitar, and it’s not surprising they hold up in a solo acoustic setting. —Ellen Johnson

The Mystery Lights

Brooklyn rock outfit The Mystery Lights are set to release their second studio album, Too Much Tension! (out on May 10 via Daptone’s rock subsidiary, Wick Records), the follow-up to their 2016 self-titled debut LP. The band stopped by the Paste Studio in New York City to perform four tracks from their forthcoming album—“I’m So Tired (of Living in the City),” “Someone Else is in Control,” “Watching the News, Gives Me the Blues” and “Traces.” On “I’m So Tired (of Living in the City),” they mesh starkly scintillating synths, classic punk-pop guitars and wired lead vocals. It’s the perfect rock ‘n’ roll collision of peppy and creepy—throw this track on at a birthday party at a swamp at dusk. “Someone Else is in Control” exudes a punky paranoia, “Watching the News, Gives Me the Blues” slowly lurks with swagger and “Traces” is squawky surf at its best. —Lizzie Manno

FEATURES

Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Legacy of Leon Russell and J.J. Cale

Three of the most prominent shapers of the Tulsa Sound have died over the past six years: J.J. Cale in 2013, Leon Russell in 2016 and the Tractors’ Steve Ripley just this past January. And yet, when I visited Oklahoma in March, the Tulsa Sound was still thriving, buried beneath national attention in the town’s barrooms and dancehalls. And that’s good news, for the city’s laid-back brand of rock ’n’ roll, boasting equal measures of hillbilly twang and gospel soul, has been one of the most fertile and enjoyable regional sounds of the past half century. One can make a convincing case that British guitarists Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler built much of their careers on the Tulsa Sound. Just compare Clapton’s solo work and Dire Straits’ hit singles with Cale’s 1971 debut Naturally and see if the resemblance doesn’t jump out at you. Clapton, at least, has gone out of his way to acknowledge the debt, declaring in his autobiography the Cale is “one of the most important artists in the history of rock, quietly representing the greatest asset his country has ever had.” —Geoffrey Himes

The Best Moments of High Water Festival 2019

High Water isn’t just a music festival. It’s a celebration of the capital-S South, a region rich in tradition, culture and personality. And the event curated by Charleston’s own Shovels & Rope takes special care in assuring all three of those elements are well-represented. Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, the married musical pair behind Shovels & Rope, have hosted the music and food festival for three years now at Riverfront Park in North Charleston, and this year’s event not only highlighted some of the best and most exciting acts in roots and rock (Mitski, Jenny Lewis and Shovels & Rope themselves among them), but also artists of a different variety: southern chefs, sommeliers, brewers and bakers. The festival is still in its infancy, but Hearst and Trent, along with lots of help from those aforementioned makers, have already accomplished the ideal balance of music and experiences—no easy feat in festival planning. This weekend we sat family-style at the Pass the Peas brunch event on Saturday morning and broke bread with total strangers. We shared Lagunitas brews at The Porch, a little corner of the park stocked with respite-ready rocking chairs. We watched Texas-born headliner Leon Bridges rock the crowd into bliss with his soulful blues. We danced with New Orleans jazz giants Preservation Jazz Hall Band. High Water belongs in Charleston, one of the best destinations in the South for food, drinks and friendly folks. From Mitski dancing on a table to the goat cheese tortelloni we’ll be talking about for months, here are the best moments from High Water 2019. —Ellen Johnson

Revisiting Hole’s Live Through This, 25 Years Later

I’ll just come out and say it: I’m too young to have appreciated the grunge era in its moment. Growing up in the rural Midwest, my first introduction to Courtney Love was in middle school when one of my older brother’s friends—in my eyes, an expert on all things alternative, since he regularly smoked weed in the city park after school, most likely in his mother’s minivan—pulled me aside and told me Kurt Cobain’s suicide was a hoax, since there was no way he could have pulled the trigger of a shotgun on himself. Forget the note, forget the heroin; Kurt Cobain had been murdered, and, really, there was only one feasible culprit. I may have missed the grunge movement, but Courtney Love’s public image problem was alive and well all those years later. At best, she’s depicted as an ancillary character in the drama of Cobain’s life who used her husband’s tragic heroic arc as social currency for her own career; at worst, she’s the temptress that led him to his death, indirectly or otherwise—as recently as this week there are still conspiracy articles surfacing that she murdered Cobain. This month, however, marks the 25th anniversary of Hole’s Live Through This, the record with the haunting (or, at the absolute least, titularly ironic) luck of being released a week after Cobain’s death. For most records, even existing in mere proximity to Cobain-the-Fallen-Rock-God™ would be enough to establish a lasting reputation, but as an album mercilessly helmed by Love, Cobain’s death is a horsefly in Live Through This’s legacy—relentless, vexing and distracting. Is it true that he wrote the songs for her? Aren’t Hole’s songs just ripoffs of Nirvana’s? Is she the Yoko Ono of the ’90s? —Katie Cameron

Irish Rockers Fontaines D.C. Want to Bring Romance Back to the City

For generations, Ireland has been spat upon by other countries. The Emerald Isle has been relentlessly invaded, persecuted and caricatured throughout history, so it’s no surprise the Irish have an us-against-the world complex. Enter Irish rock band Fontaines D.C., who proudly bear the Dublin City initials at the end of their name and capture the real-life implications of the capitalist rat race on Irish people and culture. The young five-piece were one of the buzziest bands at this year’s SXSW, and their debut album, Dogrel, is out now on Partisan Records. “We’re reflecting [Ireland] in a way that it pains us to see,” explains frontman Grian Chatten. “We’re proud to be Irish in a sense. It feels nice because Ireland is such a historically underdog country. It feels nice to wear our Irishness on our sleeves because it’s a voice that’s been shouted over for hundreds and hundreds of years.” Post-punk is all the rage when it comes to on-the-rise bands from the other side of the Atlantic. Last year, you couldn’t swing a virtual dead cat without hitting an article about London’s Shame or Bristol’s Idles—two bands known for their ferocious live performances, playfully self-effacing lyrics and stout, melodic guitars. Fontaines D.C. have been loosely lumped in with both bands, having toured with them and generated similar levels of hype. Though a passive listener might dub Fontaines D.C. the next members of this bright and shiny post-punk “scene,” a more thoughtful survey of their work arguably uncovers more differences than similarities with their British counterparts. —Lizzie Manno

“Now let’s break it”: How Glen Hansard Deconstructed His Songwriting Process and Returned with His Best Solo Album Yet

Within the first few seconds of “I’ll Be You Be Me,” it’s obvious this is a different sort of Glen Hansard record entirely, one that sounds nothing like anything he’s released under his own name previously. Opening with a sample of the drum and bass from Queen’s “Cool Cat” only to explode into a Bad Seeds-esque strings-led crescendo, Hansard invites us into a dark, ominous and hushed world, one that’s a galaxy away from the laid back grooves of 2012’s “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” or the lovely “Winning Streak” from 2015’s Didn’t He Ramble. If anything, the famed Irish singer/songwriter is channeling the bleakest and gloomiest moments from his former band, The Frames, from over 20 years ago, but “I’ll Be You Be Me” makes songs like “Fitzcarraldo” or “Song For Someone” seem almost quaint. And it’s not just the opening track from Hansard’s new album, his fourth solo release, This Wild Willing—he follows it up with “Don’t Settle” and “Fools Game,” two monsters that begin timidly and end with Hansard’s strongest, and most menacing, musical compositions to date. That feeling continues throughout the next two songs, as “Race to the Bottom” and “The Closing Door,” complete with Middle Eastern instrumentation, further prove how wildly removed this record is from last year’s pleasant Between Two Shores, a collection of demos that didn’t make 2015’s Didn’t He Ramble. But this isn’t what Hansard’s fourth release was supposed to even sound like. Not even remotely close. —Steven Edelstone

12 Women Influencing the Future of Jazz

Last year, a group of female and non-binary jazz musicians founded the We Have Voice Collective, an organization that aims to “foster awareness, inclusion, and the creation of safe ( r ) spaces for all” in jazz and improvised music scenes. This arrived in the wake of #MeToo and following mass exposure to instances of sexism and misogyny in jazz. A year earlier, the Women in Jazz Foundation began their efforts to provide a voice for women and non-binary individuals within the historically male-dominated genre. As with other strands of #MeToo-induced activism across industries, it’s not as if women weren’t in jazz before now—they’re just finally being given a voice. This list was compiled not because these artists are women, but because they are talented players who are key to the futures of jazz and improvised music and deserve representation. In recent years, jazz has welcomed a wave of new faces to the scene, all of whom are standing on the shoulders of pioneering women artists like pianist-composers Lil Hardin, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, Carla Bley, Eliane Elias, Renee Rosnes and Geri Allen, guitarists Mary Osborne and Emily Remler, trumpeters Valaida Snow and Clora Bryant, soprano saxophonists Jane Ira Bloom and Jane Bunnett, trombonist-arranger Melba Liston, big-band leaders Toshiko Akiyoshi, Maria Schneider and others. —Bill Milkowski

7 Takeaways from Beyoncé’s Homecoming Documentary

Thousands of festival-goers will flock to the California desert this weekend for the second installment of Coachella 2019. They’ll see Childish Gambino, Ariana Grande, Tame Impala and even a special edition of Kanye’s “Sunday Service,” if they’re lucky. But it’s unlikely any of those performers will be able to match the grandiosity of Beychella, Beyoncé’s epic pair of sets at last year’s festival. On Wednesday, Netflix dropped Homecoming, a documentary written, produced and directed by Mrs. Knowles-Carter herself that features stunning footage of each weekend’s set and dives deep into the symbolism, production and eight-month rehearsal process behind Beychella. The film also arrived with a surprise live album encompassing the entire Coachella set as well as new music. It’s all just The Carters’ latest in a long line of masterpieces. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to consider canceling your Friday night plans. Bey deserves your full attention. Rounding up the best moments from this shimmering slice of pop culture history was no easy task, but it was one I eagerly accepted. Read on for the best discoveries, insight and moments from the colossal film event that is Homecoming. —Ellen Johnson

Heather Woods Broderick Accepts the Invitation

Being in a touring band is extremely hard work, a life characterized by little-to-no sleep, payment in the form of drink tickets and hundreds of miles of highways with each consecutive one looking even more like the last. It’s not remotely glamorous—simple tasks like doing laundry or getting fast food become major accomplishments for the day, breaking up the monotony of driving, soundchecking, playing the show and sleeping in a cramped motel near the freeway. After a decade-plus of being on the road for six to eight months a year, Heather Woods Broderick—a touring musician alongside Laura Gibson, Lisa Hannigan, Damien Jurado, Horse Feathers, Efterklang and most notably Sharon Van Etten—realized she had to slow things down quite a bit. Instead of returning to Greenpoint, Brooklyn following a string of dates with Van Etten in 2015, Broderick decided to move seemingly a world away from the most populous city in America, settling in Pacific City, Oregon, a beach getaway two hours from Portland (on a good day) with a population a smidge over 1,000 people to write her new album, Invitations, out on April 19 via Western Vinyl. —Steven Edelstone

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