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

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Hey cowboys and girls! The days were long but the week was short thanks to Labor Day, which means it’s already time for our Friday roundup. The biggest news of the day is the stunning, long-awaited debut album from country supergroup The Highwomen, but we’re also digging into new releases from Frankie Cosmos, Bat for Lashes, Pearla and more. We’re also still digesting new records from last Friday including Whitney, Lana Del Rey and Ezra Furman. Read more about those albums here, here and here. Meanwhile, the Paste HQ relocated to Downtown Atlanta, Ga., where our staff has been busy unpacking, rearranging and exploring the nearby landmarks (and preparing to launch the Paste Studio ATL!). That’s pretty much everything. Now go listen to some new music.

BEST ALBUMS

The Highwomen: The Highwomen

The new (but long-teased) supergroup/collective/movement led by Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires have finally shared their debut, self-titled album as The Highwomen. One of the highlights is the swinging, empowering country tune “Crowded Table,” a harmonic ballad about family—or, at least, whoever it is you go home to—and inclusivity that will probably make you cry. Think of The Highwomen as the bigger and twangier Americana/country boygenius that packs just as much girl power and lyrical finesse while simultaneously helming a movement. Other features on the record include Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert, Sheryl Crow, Tanya Tucker and Ray LaMontagne, and that’s not even the whole lot. The Highwomen took the hands of many. —Ellen Johnson

Frankie Cosmos: Close It Quietly

“Flowers don’t grow in an organized way / Why should I?” Greta Kline asks on Close It Quietly, Frankie Cosmos’ latest release. It’s an appropriate question for her to ponder considering the iterative nature of Kline’s project. Calling her prolific would be an understatement: In 2015, she estimated that she had written a few hundred songs since 2011, and the New Yorker hasn’t slowed down in the years since (“Does anyone wanna hear the 40 songs I wrote this year?” she sings winkingly on the new record). She even in one instance—”Rings (On A Tree)”— retraces her steps, giving another look at an already released song, this time bringing along her bandmates for the ride with fuller instrumentation. Some may see this as regressive, but instead, Kline is zig-zagging sideways, forwards and backwards, defying the typical idea of what growth looks like. Like a flower, she and her bandmates will wind their way around any fence post or push through any sidewalk crack that impedes them. Their new album, the fourth studio LP since 2014’s breakthrough, Zentropy, showcases the four-piece’s growth with the clarity and personal touch of your mom marking your height on the kitchen wall (though, of course, not quite as linearly). Close It Quietly closely follows both Frankie Cosmos’ 2018 album Vessel and their 2019 Haunted Items series, the latter sparsely populated with just Kline’s voice and her contemplative piano. Kline’s approach to songwriting remains akin to journaling, a nearly compulsive desire to preserve particular memories and feelings. Before, that typically led to charming—if slightly twee—songs with the incisiveness of bedroom pop created by an artist with a poetic sensibility. —Clare Martin

BEST TRACKS

Michaela Anne:I’m Not The Fire

“I’m Not The Fire” is a classic, twang-fueled country song flourished with modern production elements and lots of rock ‘n’ roll guitar. Ultimately, it’s a call for happiness no matter your circumstances. “Whether you win or lose, you can be happy if you choose,” Michaela sings. It might come across as imperative, but Michaela Anne is really holding up a mirror, taking a good hard look at herself and asking the listener to do the same. —Ellen Johnson

King Princess:Ain’t Together

King Princess’ (aka Mikaela Straus) newest track “Ain’t Together,” finds her caught in a relationship with a partner who says “I love you” easily, but can’t seem to commit. Her previous single, “Prophet,” was a sultry, even funky, ode to obsession. “Ain’t Together” deals with a similar desperation, but its breezy guitar, backing harmonies and vocal delivery are strikingly dispassionate. “Being chill with you, oh, it kills,” sings Straus, sounding overwhelmingly nonchalant: “I ain’t chill at all.” The song’s buttoned-up approach underscores how keeping a relationship light and unattached can be oppressive in its own right. —Amanda Gersten

Chelsea Wolfe:Deranged for Rock & Roll

“Deranged for Rock & Roll” follows suit with the other singles it joins for Wolfe’s forthcoming record, Birth of Violence, showing an apparent step in the direction of subtlety. Gone are the nightmarish riffs and howls of 2017’s Hiss Spun, and replacing them is something that’s closer to folk than metal. The main component of Wolfe’s new sound is the acoustic guitar, which she carries with her through the video for “Deranged for Rock & Roll.” While the song begins with light strumming under Wolfe’s reverb-tinged voice, a swelling of feedback opens the song up into a slow, dark ballad. —Hayden Goodridge

FEATURES

The 10 Albums We’re Most Excited About in September

Last month’s album releases didn’t let us down. We heard new records from favorites like Bon Iver, Whitney and Jay Som, new standouts like Clairo and Queen of Jeans and the legends themselves, Sleater-Kinney. September’s album release schedule promises just as much star power. We’ll get new full-lengths from one of the world’s biggest pop culture forces, Kanye West, plus the much-hyped country supergroup, The Highwomen, everyone’s favorite lo-fi indie madman, (Sandy) Alex G, and much more. Scroll down to preview the records we’re most pumped about this month, and you can revisit our favorite albums of August here. —Paste Staff

Ezra Furman Harnesses the Power of Political Punk on Twelve Nudes

Backed by a number of bands over the past decade—first The Harpoons, next The Boy-Friends and then The Visions—Ezra Furman has remained fiery. The Chicago-born, now Boston-based rock ‘n’ roller has confronted his demons on past records, but never with as much vengeance as on his latest solo album Twelve Nudes (out now via Bella Union). He’s an experienced channeler of seething folk-punk, amped-up garage rock and classic glam, but Furman’s never screamed quite like this before, marking his first whole-hearted venture into punk. “I always felt like I had a punk album waiting to be made,” Furman tells Paste. “I guess I just used to not go that direction because I was like, ‘Well, there’s a million punk bands. What do I have to offer? How could I add something and not just do a Henry Rollins impersonation or something?’ I always wanted to do something outside of a clear genre, and I kinda knew if I made something that I’m not sure what to call the genre, then I felt more confident that it was something original. Maybe it was partly that I have more confidence now that I have something to add, that I have the ability to not just make a Sex Pistols karaoke record or something. Or maybe it was just like, ‘Fuck it. I have to scream. I have to scream into a microphone this year.’” —Lizzie Manno

For Whitney, Some Things Just Never Change

Their debut album Light Upon The Lake dawned in summer 2016 to lots of positive critical chatter, Whitney cracked the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart (and tons of end-of-the-year lists, including ours) and “some time on the road” turned into two years on tour. Things changed, as life so often does for touring musicians—especially those with a highly successful debut on their hands. “Our personal relationships and friendships changed a lot,” Kakacek tells Paste. Except his own with Ehrlich, he adds: “Considering all the things that have changed in our lives over the past three years, our friendship hasn’t. It’s the benefit of two minds just like on accident, so we have similar thoughts constantly, but it’s not hard to figure out how to write songs. They just kind of come.” Writing may be easy for the duo, but on Forever Turned Around, they decided to change up the formula ever so slightly. For Kakacek, the Chicago outfit’s lead guitarist who mostly stuck to his tool of choice on LP1, that meant writing more songs on the piano for Forever Turned Around, the band’s sophomore album out now on Secretly Canadian. —Ellen Johnson

Record Time: New & Notable Vinyl Releases (August 2019)

Record Time is Paste’s monthly column that takes a glimpse into the wide array of new vinyl releases that are currently flooding record stores around the world. Rather than run down every fresh bit of wax in the marketplace, we’ll home in on special editions, reissues and unusual titles that come across our desk with an interest in discussing both the music and how it is pressed and presented. This month that includes a newly-found collection of live blues recordings from 1969, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll during his Vegas heyday, early experiments from a post-punk pioneer, and much, much more —Robert Ham

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