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

Music Features The Week in Music
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It’s the most exciting time of the year to be a music fan. Our album-of-the-year lists are complete, and we just had some time to relax during the holidays. Now, we get to fantasize and speculate about all the albums we’re going to receive in the coming year. Not only that, today (Jan. 10) is the first major album release date of 2020, which means the first batch of records have appeared on the conveyor belt, ready for us to consume, cherish and argue about. This week brought new albums from Hawktail, The Big Moon, Beach Slang, and others, plus standout singles from Disq, Caroline Rose, Georgia and many more. To celebrate all this exciting music news, we’re sharing our very first Week in Music column of 2020, lovingly curated for our readers. We hope you find something to obsess over in the following list of new music.

BEST ALBUMS

Hawktail: Formations

There’s so much a song can convey through notes that lyrics alone cannot. Movement, for instance, like the sensation of riding in a caravan, each bump in the road felt through plucks of a mandolin or the genial elastic hum of a bass; nature, couched either in one’s surroundings or in the mundane passing of weather; emotion, like joy at the sight of the sun rising or melancholy at the year’s first snowfall. (Or maybe snow brings joy, too, at least if you spend time at Ober Gatlinburg.) Formations, the sophomore album from Nashville folk powerhouse Hawktail, captures each of these experiences and all of these vibes effortlessly, or at least the effort feels lightweight. Making music as impeccable and polished as the seven tracks that comprise Formation’s whole takes years of training and practice. Marrying that level of mastery with the articulate communication of imagery and motifs through instruments alone requires something much more intangible. Nary a word is spoken or sung on Formations, and, yes, art being subject to interpretation, listeners will walk away with their own ideas of what the record is about and what it’s trying to say. But it remains true that whatever you think it’s saying, it’s nonetheless saying something, perhaps about Tennessee’s past, its ancestry, or the simple pleasure of a sled ride. —Andy Crump

The Big Moon: Walking Like We Do

“But dark matter and your naked body / Fill in the space between all I can explain,” sings Juliette Jackson in the first verse of “Love in the 4th Dimension” from The Big Moon’s Mercury Prize-nominated debut album of the same name. But she’s capable of explaining more than she thinks. The lead singer of the London rock quartet excels at depicting the fluctuating intimacy between people and the circumstances that determine that distance. On “Pull the Other One,” her significant other is trying to forcefully enter the door that separates them. Throughout “Cupid,” she’s dodging the arrows of potential suitors, and on “Zeds,” she’s losing sleep night after night from yearning for someone. While Jackson’s relationships come and go, the band’s sticky pop melodies and playful shared vocals become burned into your psyche like that brace-faced, zit-covered school portrait that will haunt you forever. On The Big Moon’s second album Walking Like We Do, their benevolent rock ‘n’ roll contains far more sonic possibilities. The Big Moon demonstrate both musical and lyrical versatility on Walking Like We Do. It might seem like a predictable move for a guitar band to unleash a keyboard-heavy album number two, but unlike other bands who have deployed this method, they don’t go so far down the wormhole that they lose their original appeal. Now that we know The Big Moon aren’t interested in trying to clone the tuneful guitar pop songs that brought them fans and acclaim, it seems that they want to be one of those acts that grows with their listeners—the best kind of band. —Lizzie Manno

BEST TRACKS

Disq:Daily Routine

Madison, Wisc. band Disq have shared the details of their debut album Collector, out on March 6 via Saddle Creek. Lead single “Daily Routine” is their first new music since their 2018 single “Communication,” backed with “Parallel.” The track is a searing power-pop cut with a healthy dose of gnarled guitars. It’s the perfect fusion of their pop sensibilities and punchy live shows. It’s also packed with the kind of youthful angst and much-needed antics that characterize the current millennial experience. —Lizzie Manno

Caroline Rose:Feel The Way I Want

Indie pop singer/songwriter Caroline Rose has released her first new music of the year and announced the follow-up to her 2018 LP LONER. Her next record, Superstar, will arrive March 6 on New West. The news was accompanied by the first single, “Feel The Way I Want,” and its vibrant music video. “Feel The Way I Want” bursts with the fueled-up synth-pop we’ve come to expect from Rose, though this song feels less satirical than many of the LONER jams and more forthright and personable. —Ellen Johnson

Georgia:24 Hours

British singer/songwriter, producer and drummer Georgia (born Georgia Barnes) released her second album Seeking Thrills on Domino Records today (Jan. 10). It’s hard to believe this glorious dance-pop world was living inside the head of a longtime session drummer, but thankfully, Georgia has brought it to life. On “24 Hours,” rhythms pulse with vigor and vibrancy as Georgia joyfully proclaims, “If two hearts ever beat the same / We could be it.” Georgia mines sparkling dance-pop for the end of the world out of distorted beeps, swelling synths and ascendant vocals. —Lizzie Manno

BEST PERFORMANCES

Maya Beiser

World-class cellist Maya Beiser performed a tribute to David Bowie on Thursday in our New York studio, which is particularly fitting given that today (Jan. 10) is the fourth anniversary of Bowie’s death. Beiser covered three Bowie classics with a string quartet: “Lazarus,” “Prelude in Bowie/Ziggy Stardust” and “Life on Mars.”

Radkey

Missouri punk band Radkey made a visit to Paste’s Atlanta headquarters to perform two songs from their 2019 album No Strange Cats and one track from 2016’s Delicious Rock Noise. The band of three brothers played “Dark Black Makeup,” “St. Elwood” and “P.A.W.”

FEATURES

10 Country Artists to Watch in 2020

Have you ever heard of Harlan Howard? If you don’t recognize the now-deceased songwriter’s name, you’ve probably still heard his most famous quote about country music: It’s just “three chords and the truth.” That’s obviously an overly simplified statement, but Howard was on to something there: Times may change, studios may get fancier and artists may experiment more, but country music will always be country music. It’s the music where everyday life feels monumental, because it is. It’s music that doesn’t hide from reality. The country music community has plenty of strong ties that run deep, but it’s also famously home to some toxic practices—like ignoring female artists on the radio. According to a 2019 study, only 11% of artists on the year-end airplay reports were women. That is a shameful statistic, and it’s a systematic issue. So what can you do to support women country artists? Stream their music, buy their merchandise and go to their shows. A good place to start could be with some of the women on this list, who are all up-and-coming country artists with a lot to say. Here, we’ve selected 10 promising acts—both men and women—who have albums on the way or new music in the works in 2020. They all have a little bit of “truth” to share. —Ellen Johnson

These Rising Nashville Stars Stick Together The Same Way We Do—With A Group Message

The first thing you’ll notice about the women driving Nashville’s music scene today: They all like each other. It’s not polite admiration, the way people in any industry generally tend to play diplomats and say nothing but blandly cordial things about one another, but honest liking, where professional respect intersects with affection. Sitting across from me at Dose Coffee’s location in Nashville’s Riverside Village, Erin Rae’s phone is popping off. She’s on a group text, she says, with Caroline Spence, Michaela Anne and Kelsey Waldon. Caroline is in the U.K., updating the gang on her travels. “She says she’s in a hotel by Heathrow,” Rae informs me. “She just landed over there. She’s knitting and watching the BBC.” This seems like the kind of perfunctory bulletin only shared between bonded people, to whom details like accommodations abroad actually matter. But notes about itineraries and craft projects comprise just a portion of the text chain’s contents: Stories about bummer ticket sales or road trips gone awry make up the communications, too. —Andy Crump

The 70 Best Albums of the 1970s

The ’70s sometimes get a bad rap: Often these years are remembered as the musical era that brought us disco at its absolute gaudiest. But there was far more going on in the decade than polyester, sequins and cocaine; the 1970s saw the rise of the singer/songwriter, the birth of punk rock, reggae’s infiltration of the mainstream and the long, strange trip led by some of psychedelia’s finest. In fact, it’s a decade so musically diverse, we had quite a time whittling it down to our top albums. When we polled our staff, interns and writers, over 250 albums received votes, but ultimately these 70 emerged as clear favorites. Note: As with our best albums of the 1960s, we’ve limited each artist to two albums. That means artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie all had some stellar work bumped from the list—but it also means you’ll have more to get angry about, so have at it. —Paste Music Staff

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