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

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What are you more excited about: the first day of summer (today, June 21, hi summer!), or New Music Friday? We’re admittedly jazzed for both occasions, but we’d be lying if we said today didn’t feel extra special in the music department. After all, we were gifted the perfect soundtrack to a summer fling in Hatchie’s debut Keepsake (and maybe a breakup, in Mannequin Pussy’s Patience), a shimmery new project from Fruit Bats and a soaring new endeavor from a favorite folkie, Bedouine. Each would pair wonderfully with a glass of rosé or a spritzy, umbrella-shaded cocktail of your choosing. Also out today is the mind-blowing debut from black midi, which might make better company for a bowl of nails. We’re still working that one out. Otherwise, we recovered from Bonnaroo, threw a Britpop party in the studio and inhaled this new Prince compilation. It’s all here, so grab your headphones—nay, speakers (it’s speakers weather!)—and treat yourself to a week’s worth of new tunes.

BEST ALBUMS

black midi: Schlagenheim

It may be hard to write about, but Schlagenheim is a record you feel more so than anything else. Case in point: First track “953” features one of the hardest hitting lead guitar riffs in recent memory, an opening salvo that makes you want to drop everything and go run a mile—something I actually did, resulting in my fastest time ever. Within mere seconds of hitting play on their debut album, Geordie Greep and Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin make their case as two of our most inventive contemporary guitarists, all while you try your hardest to keep time with a beat that will still elude you after 10 listens. There’s a high barrier to entry for Schlagenheim, a record by a band who refuses to meet you halfway. Pedantic and pretentious all the way through, Schlagenheim showcases why black midi are generationally great instrumentalists despite our inability to follow what they’re doing and why. Schlagenheim is like Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica in this way—it doesn’t always sound aurally pleasing, and it’s often tough to keep up, but it rewards those who try. By the end of “Ducter’s” anarchic pandemonium, you won’t know what hit you, but you’ll find yourself quickly returning to “953” for another go around of an album that showcases some of the most talented musicians around, coalescing behind an experimental, genre-less and extremely noisy sound to exceptional results. Schlagenheim is beyond weird. Schlagenheim is a legitimate one of a kind record. Schlagenheim is a masterpiece. —Steven Edelstone

Hatchie: Keepsake

In September of last year, Alvvays invited tour openers Snail Mail and Hatchie onstage for a cover of The Hummingbirds’ “Alimony.” That moment felt a bit like a passing of the torch: As Alvvays were transitioning into indie veteran status following two critically acclaimed records, Snail Mail was the artist of the moment, the “now” of the trio. But also on that stage was rising Australian dream pop artist Hatchie, the moniker of Harriette Pilbeam: Keepsake, her debut record arriving nine months after that night, proves her inclusion on that bill wasn’t some sort of a fluke—she deserves to be on that stage every bit as much as those other artists, releasing an album that stands just as tall as the best of Snail Mail, Alvvays, or, quite frankly, anyone else in indie rock these days. Catchy and well-produced, nearly every song hits with a major sing-along chorus, the kind that could easily soundtrack any teen rom-com in the near future. The blueprint that Pilbeam follows throughout works extremely well for her. Most artists at this point in their careers would give anything for the ability to write one pop song as good as the upbeat, guitar-driven “Obsessed,” let alone 10 similar versions of it. She doesn’t experiment much throughout her debut, but Pilbeam knows what she does best and sticks to it throughout. Her dream pop niche in the indie rock world is sure to win her loads of new fans going forward, and with her debut, she establishes herself as not only one of its rising stars, but also one of its best songwriters. —Steven Edelstone

BEST TRACKS

Alex Cameron:Divorce

With a knack for donning the masks of a wide array of oddball characters in his previous work, Alex Cameron finds a new character in “Divorce”—himself. Facing the threat of a bitter breakup, he sings, “I’ve killed little baby rabbits. I’ve killed microscopic crabs / But I never killed a feeling like the one you and me had.” Inspired by the empty threats of leaving that lovers make in the heat of a moment, “Divorce” is an impassioned exclamation of misery at the thought of losing a relationship. In the video, Cameron’s shadowed face calls out from the darkness as a heart necklace drapes over his shoulders. He asks us where his love went because he can’t find it in his hands. —Christine Fernando

Fruit Bats:Gold Past Life

Chicago-based alt-folk band Fruit Bats released a case study in B-roll for their newest single, “Gold Past Life.” At the center of the bizarre music video stands the proud proprietor of a mail-order stock footage company, who is aiming to sell selections from his catalog by showing off his newest satisfied customers: Fruit Bats (who else could it possibly be?). The proprietor’s Sunset at Beach (with Zoom), Seasonal Bird in Oven and Desperate Businessman Discovers Future clips, and other assorted footage are scored by the band’s easy, buoyant single, some of which include frontman Eric D. Johnson as The Drifter, Desperate Businessman and the Beach Bum. —Savannah Sicurella

Caroline Polachek:Door

Former Chairlift vocalist Caroline Polachek has unveiled the first glimpse into her new solo work in the form of a brand new single titled “Door.” The song is not a clear departure from Chairlift’s springy, esoteric electronic sound (the single’s warm, cinematic intro recalls pluckier ballads from Moth), but it is a glossier and more hyper-real take on the pop landscape. “Door” finds Polachek stepping into lovesick shoes to lilt over glittering synths and weighty bass lines. “Sometimes I don’t know who I’m singing to / Who is the you who I sing to / When the house is empty?” she croons, leading into the flickering, pop-laden chorus. —Savannah Sicurella

BEST PERFORMANCES

Sports Team

Sports Team make funny and charismatic indie rock. They’re charming and pesky, but not in an overly laddish way. You won’t find morbid social commentary or harsh self put-downs—Sports Team bring back jolly camaraderie and light-hearted spontaneity. They made their first U.S. live appearance earlier this year at Austin’s South By Southwest, which Paste highlighted as a standout set. Watch the six-piece band perform three tracks in Paste’s New York City studio during their first American tour: “Here It Comes Again,” “Get Along” and “Kutcher.” Frontman Alex Rice flails his arm in classic rock ‘n’ roll fashion, and during some instrumental passages, he nonsensically mimes words like a madman in a drunken stupor. —Lizzie Manno

Dylan LeBlanc

Country-leaning singer/songwriter Dylan LeBlanc was already an acclaimed artist with three full-length LPs under his belt, but this year he released another, produced by one of the best in the biz: LeBlanc’s Renegade (out now on ATO Records) was produced by Nashville favorite Dave Cobb and features LeBlanc’s longtime band The Pollies. Both LeBlanc and the band stopped by our studio this week to perform three Renegade cuts, including the title track, “Domino” and “Born Again.”

FEATURES

The 10 Best Acts We Saw at Bonnaroo 2019

Bonnaroo 2019 proved to be a return to form for the annual Manchester, Tenn. festival. A couple decades after Phish began booking a handful of their own rural, outdoor concerts, laying the groundwork for festivals like Bonnaroo, the beloved jam band made their third appearance at the farm for three sets spread across the weekend. So not only did ‘Roo get back to its jam roots, but it also welcomed huge pop names like Cardi B, Post Malone, Childish Gambino and Odesza. Sprinkled here and there were indie acts big—Courtney Barnett, Beach House, The National—and small—Faye Webster, SOAK and Rubblebucket. Country titans like Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris played the fest’s biggest stages. It was quite the combination for a festival whose puzzling 2018 headliners were Eminem and The Killers, but whatever formula they tested this year, it worked: The festival sold out for the first time since 2013, and in doing so maintained its free-spirited, communal vibes. The farm is still one of the best (or at least, most iconic) places to hear music in the country. Here are our favorite moments of the weekend. —Ellen Johnson & Lizzie Manno

Meernaa’s Heart Hunger: How a Chance Studio Encounter Led to a Marriage and One of 2019’s Best Debuts

In 2013, Carly Bond was thinking about going to a trade school to study music production and recording. She emailed local legend John Vanderslice, owner of San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone studio, for some advice. She took Vanderslice up on his offer for a tour of the famed studio, which has played host to sessions from St. Vincent, Spoon, Sleater-Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie, Bob Mould and countless others. A year later, after saving up her tips from working at an Italian restaurant across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, Bond booked a day in the studio to hammer out a couple demos with her old band. The engineer she met and worked with that day, Rob Shelton, is now her husband. Their relationship, which began in the studio during that fateful session, developed in more ways than one; Shelton is also the synth player in Meernaa, the band fronted by guitarist and lead singer Bond that grew out of countless days working as session musicians at Tiny Telephone until they eventually decided to write songs of their own. About a half-decade, a handful of singles and an EP later, they unleashed their stunning debut album, Heart Hunger, on San Francisco’s Native Cat Recordings. —Steven Edelstone

Julia Nunes Finds Her Own Way

“Make sure you take care of your body while sitting on the floor,” the musician Julia Nunes says to a crowd of 40 at Downward Dog Dance, a studio and community space nestled in a strip mall on the outskirts of Richmond, Va. While some devotees arrived early enough to secure metal folding chairs, most of us are fidgeting to sit comfortably on the uncarpeted floor, taking Nunes’s directive to “listen to your body” as we settle in for her intimate show. In person and in her voluminous social media presence, Nunes gently encourages her audience to take care of themselves. Nunes’s latest music, compiled on a compact album called UGHWOW, out now, bears this statement out in a musical sense. Whereas her earlier work was primarily ukulele-based indie pop, the newer material takes a hard turn toward bass-heavy R&B, which showcases her distinctive, low-alto voice and knack for catchy melodies but fills your headphones with gut-punch beats and cavernous vocal effects. “I wanted to make music that sounded like it could fit on a playlist of music I was jamming to in my regular life,” Nunes says, citing SZA, Frank Ocean, Drake, and Mac Miller as influences. Given that Nunes began her career as a teenager strumming original tunes on YouTube and opening for Ben Folds, this surprising twist in her evolution suggests that living inside her brain must be, yes, fun—even if the new songs dwell in post-breakup sadness and hard-core introspection. In her words, UGHWOW could soundtrack “a rave at the end of the world.” —Annie Galvin

Mannequin Pussy’s New LP Patience is a Kickass Emotional Reboot

Mannequin Pussy’s first two albums—2014’s GP and 2016’s Romantic—are both under 20 minutes and feature speedy jolts of punk along with the occasional glimmer of dulcet-toned pop. But their new LP, Patience, is crisper, poppier, longer and more fully realized than anything they’ve released before. In a still-modest 26 minutes, Mannequin Pussy, led by frontwoman Marisa Dabice, dish out punk-pop that will make you want to hug your teenage self, but also fight on behalf of the adult you’ve become. Dabice opened up on this record in a way she hasn’t before. She sings about abusive relationships, self-hatred, and personal inadequacies, revelations she struggled with for years before ever talking about them. It’s a record that simultaneously pierces while forcefully standing its ground, rightfully taking up space. Paste spoke with Marisa Dabice about the emotional nuances of Patience, and why this album almost didn’t see the light of day. —Lizzie Manno

Meet the U.K.’s Weirdest New Buzz Band, Black Midi

When a Black Midi song blares, it’s like an impossible mountain climb—as soon as you find a ledge to grasp, it’s an electrifying triumph, but once you’ve gripped it, it crumbles off and you’re left hanging above a frightening abyss. With Black Midi, it’s all about the pursuit. You’re on a mission to find a more bewildering moment than the last. Their unconventional time signatures, breakneck guitars, propulsive grooves, Geordie Greep’s eccentric vocals and Morgan Simpson’s exceptionally agile drumming results in these devious, indeterminate rock squalls that make them so enamoring. Following a much-hyped run at this year’s South By Southwest, Black Midi are unleashing their debut album, Schlagenheim, via Rough Trade Records on June 21. It’s misshapen, unpredictable, and at times murky, other times freakishly precise. It’s an experimental rock carousel with both a charming craftiness and menacing grandiosity. Paste had a chat with Geordie Greep when Black Midi were on tour in Paris. We discussed the band’s songwriting process, their slippery sound and the polarizing reactions to their music. —Lizzie Manno

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