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

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If you’ve already exhausted your summer Spotify playlist by mid-July, Paste has you covered. Today (July 12) brings the release of Mal Blum’s sometimes funny, sometimes dark new album Pity Boy as well as a New Order live album featuring reimagined tracks performed with a 12-piece synth orchestra. The week also marked the return of Chastity Belt, who announced a forthcoming self-titled album and released its lead single. Plus we heard great new tunes from Brooklyn post-punk outfit B Boys and Asheville rockers Secret Shame. This week’s musical edition of The Paste Podcast featured a performance from Dashboard Confessional frontman Chris Carrabba, along with an interview with Matt Hinton, director of the new documentary Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury. Check out the best new music and features from the past week below, as curated by the Paste music team.

BEST ALBUMS

New Order: ?(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes..

If you’re looking for a New Order live album chock full of their greatest hits, go pick up Live at the London Troxy or Live at Bestival 2012. If you’re looking for a New Order live album with a more unconventional setlist, a broader artistic vision and a 12-piece synthesizer orchestra, check out this new one, the arty-mathy, horrendously titled ?(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes... The performance behind this mouthful of an album title took place at the 2017 Manchester International Festival (MIF), where New Order performed at Manchester’s Old Granada Studios, the same stage where Joy Division performed in 1978 for their television debut on Tony Wilson’s So It Goes. Their MIF performance featured a bold stage setup and dramatic light show, which “reacted” to the music and was designed by English conceptual artist Liam Gillick. Its aesthetic devotion to sharp lines and spiraling motifs can be found throughout. Above all, this is an album full of intention. The way it toggles between the dreamy, the rave-y, the interstellar and the mathematical is what makes it uniquely transcendent. It’s so easy to get locked into the pulsing grooves and club beats on “this weird New Order live album” (which is likely how you’ll refer to it) that you won’t even realize songs like “Age of Consent” or “Blue Monday” are missing. —Lizzie Manno

Mal Blum: Pity Boy

Listening to Mal Blum’s music, you might grow a bit jealous of the people who get to actually hang with the singer/songwriter in real life. Thanks to their wry one-liners and their ability to create joyful sounds out of relentless self-scrutiny, it’s easy to picture Blum sliding up to brunch or a beach day dispensing a fluid mix of slightly weird yet perceptive jokes and deep insights about the endless struggle to understand oneself and others. These registers—humor and world-weary musing—converge on Blum’s latest record Pity Boy, bringing levity to songs about mental health, the limited resources we have to care for one another and the grace to be found in taking responsibility for hurting others. Even when Blum’s themes shade darker, the music allows slants of brightness to permeate the gloom and offers frequent opportunities to jump up, dance around, and forget whatever problem might have initially inspired a song. Pity Boy offers both the comfort and joy of spending 38 minutes in Blum’s forthright yet mercifully light-hearted presence as they navigate how to speak politically in 2019 and try to be a better friend. —Annie Galvin

BEST TRACKS

Chastity Belt:Ann’s Jam

Chastity Belt’s new album opener “Ann’s Jam” features the feminist rockers’ signature electric riffs, tinges of lo-fi sounds and nostalgic, introspective lyrics. “We were driving South in your parents’ car singing aloud to scratched CDs,” Julia Shapiro sings, “feeling meaningful, thinking this is a start and it’ll go on.” —Marissa Matozzo

B Boys:Instant Pace

On their colorful new single “Instant Pace,” B Boys turn their wide-ranging critique to another facet of human experience dimmed by the rat race: peace and quiet. “We’re overwhelmed and overburdened when we can’t make sense of a senseless world,” Avalos sings over the punkish cacophony that anchors “Instant Pace.” The winking irony that defines the band is in the catchy riff that sits above the noise: This paean to rest and relaxation makes you want to throw your body around. —Substitute Thapliyal

Secret Shame:Dark

On “Dark,” North Carolina five-piece Secret Shame channel both the tragic beauty and spooky ambience of a graveyard. Drawing on deathrock, goth, punk and psychobilly, the track captures the struggle to remain sane when those around you are in a rough mental state. There’s a murky allure to lead singer Lena’s voice, and though the guitars are nightmarish, their sharp melodics offer some stability to counteract the track’s rickety emotions. —Lizzie Manno

THE PASTE PODCAST

Paste Podcast #16: Chris Carrabba and His Reimagined Dashboard Confessional Albums Plus Matt Hinton’s Parallel Love

On this musical episode of The Paste Podcast, Chris Carrabba stops by the Paste Studio in New York to play a few songs and talk about his the reimagined and rereleased Dashboard Confessional three-album collection, Now Is Then Is Now. Plus host Josh Jackson interviews Matt Hinton, director of the new documentary Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury. Since a catastrophic van accident slowed their musical career, three of the five members from the ’90s post-punk band have become Eastern Orthodox priests.

Listen below, or better yet, download on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify or the new app from our podcast partner Himalaya, and subscribe!

BEST PERFORMANCES

James

James have been churning out alternative rock hits since their formation in Manchester, England in ’80s. They gained a loyal following at home and abroad with singles like 1991’s “Sit Down” and 1993’s “Laid,” and they’ve put out a steady stream of albums since reforming in 2007. James, led by frontman Tim Booth, visited the Paste Studio to perform songs from their 2018 album Living in Extraordinary Times as well as 2014’s La Petite Mort.

Gringo Star

Following last year’s LP Back to the City, Atlanta garage-psych outfit Gringo Star released their first live album today (July 12), Controlled Burn (Live in Atlanta). It was recorded in hometown dive bar The Earl in 2018, which marked the 10th anniversary of their debut album All Y’all. The band piled in the Paste Studio to perform three songs that appear on their new live album: “Mister Mistery,” “Good Night” and “Back to the City.”

FEATURES

Montréal Jazz Festival Does Something Better Than Every Other Fest

The music festival landscape is incredibly saturated. Period. As summer festival lineups drop, it’s increasingly become this monotonous drivel of the same acts recycled into a slightly different combination, and we’re left with the false impression that things are indeed different, when in reality they most certainly are not. Most big promoters follow the same pattern of algorithmically based festival curation: if the Spotify play counts match-up to the tour revenue history, then that’s a bingo! But more often than not, we’re given lineups top heavy with acts fronted by white males, and we’re left with few opportunities to celebrate the smallest shred of diversity and gender parity in a lineup if and when it comes to our cities. I don’t know about you, but playing this charade for the past decade plus, hoping that the scope will change and then it doesn’t, has had me looking for something that deviates from the norm. And for the past two years, I’ve found it in Montréal. A tough situation last year proved a learning experience for the long-running Montréal Jazz Festival and one that clouded my full understanding of this fest. But this year, at its 40th anniversary, I saw Montréal Jazz for what it is: The most inclusive and accessible music festival I’ve ever been to. —Adrian Spinelli

Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones: Reimagining the Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour

Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones aren’t the only musicians to dream of another way to perform for audiences. Why couldn’t their shows be less grandiose and distancing, more intimate and spontaneous, with props, costumes and many different acts—like the small traveling circuses of pre-Beatles Europe preserved in the films of Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Marcel Carne? Unlike most such dreamers, Dylan and the Stones actually put their ideas into practice and then documented the results with movie cameras and tape machines. This summer that documentation has been released in fuller form than ever before. Dylan’s 1975-76 Rolling Thunder Revue is the subject of both a new Netflix documentary directed by Martin Scorsese and a mostly new 14-CD box set. And the 1968 Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus is the subject of an expanded and remastered box set with a DVD, Blu-Ray disc and two audio discs. What this avalanche of film footage and music recordings reveals is not only scattered moments of inspired brilliance but also long stretches of sheer folly and self-indulgence. Together they demonstrate that it’s possible to create more personal, less predictable performance situations. —Geoffrey Himes

Every Song of the Summer From This Decade, Ranked

What a strange decade it’s been. We started it as hopeful progressives guided by a sane president, and we’re ending it under the authority of a hateful buffoon. At least we’ll enter 2020 with a decade’s worth of great pop music. Every summer for the last 10 years, one pop song has dominated all the rest. And with each one, the “Song of the Summer” title has become an increasingly familiar aspect of popular culture. The winner is dependent on so many variables—which genre is most popular at the time, which collaborations have the most fire power, the national mood. It’s more than just a hook. There’s no one authority on which song is the true Song of the Summer, but we chose these 10 after studying the Billboard charts, reading archived news media and revisiting our own summer memories. And you, too, should remember hearing them non-stop during their peak summer popularity, unless you were residing under a rock. Here we’ve ranked them worst to best, including our professional guess for 2019’s song of the summer. —Ellen Johnson

The Best Game Soundtracks on Spotify

With the recent addition of most of the Final Fantasy soundtracks on Spotify, fans of the famous JRPG series flocked to the music-streaming service to get hit with waves of nostalgia. It got us thinking about the other fantastic videogame soundtracks on the service. There are some phenomenal soundtracks missing—like that of NieR: Automata or Kingdom Hearts—but there is plenty of music to enjoy, help you work or cry to. So, we figured we’d recommend you some of the best videogame soundtracks on Spotify right now in no particular order. —Natalie Flores

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