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

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

This week, we commemorated the anniversaries of two landmark albums: Bob Dylan’s iconic pivot to country, Nashville Skyline, and The Clash’s influential self-titled debut. But this week also saw the arrival of great new albums, including the adept garage rock of Reese McHenry’s No Dados, ambient compositions of T Bone Burnett’s The Invisble Light, determined folk-pop of Molly Tuttle’s When You’re Ready and the sophisticated jazz of Norah JonesBegin Again. On the singles side, Charly Bliss dropped another uber-catchy track from their forthcoming album Young Enough, Kaytranada emerged with a funky new collaboration and Faye Webster teamed up with Father for an addictive R&B mashup. Dig into all of that and more below.

BEST ALBUMS

T Bone Burnett: The Invisible Light: Acoustic Space

The Invisible Light: Acoustic Space, the latest addition to T Bone Burnett’s solo discography after an 11 year gap, comprises a handful of tracks that sound long-buried and freshly unearthed instead of brand-spanking new. That’s okay. The new can sound ancient if it likes, or if it makes sense, and Invisible Light has the aural quality of a relic tucked away in a cavern deep beneath the earth, waiting to be discovered by future generations, warning them of disasters and embarrassments they maybe could’ve avoided if they’d just dug the damn thing up a few years sooner. But Burnett, having busied himself producing and composing music for films and TV series ranging from Nashville to Inside Llewyn Davis to A Place at the Table for the last decade and change, has awakened, and if we’re too late to stop the political tragedies that have befallen us in the intervening years, at least we can rely on his sage counsel for succor. Burnett has a purpose driving him on Invisible Light, and it hews toward the apocalyptic. He has hope, too, wrapped up primarily in “Being There,” but it’s a small hope. “Be not afraid / be not afraid / the angel begged / be not afraid,” he sings. The sentiment, while welcome, isn’t exactly a comfort when people in society aren’t there even when they are there, a reality Burnett details throughout the rest of the track. Maybe not being afraid is enough. Maybe being there is enough. Maybe Burnett’s advisements have come too late. If so, they’re at least a marvel to listen to.—Andy Crump

Reese McHenry: No Dados

Since the dawn of “Louie Louie,” someone, somewhere, is always playing garage rock. Few of them are doing it as well as Reese McHenry. She has a blast-furnace voice, which she applies with dizzying power to songs that practically thrum with energy. Yet a decade ago, there was a period when the North Carolina singer couldn’t even speak, let alone sing, after experiencing a major stroke and a series of smaller aftershocks. As if that wasn’t enough, she was also diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. Her band at the time splintered, and McHenry spent the better part of two years recovering, where she wrote song after song while confined to her couch. Eventually, after also receiving a pacemaker, she began working her way back with a string of musical projects that in 2017 yielded Bad Girl, her first solo album. No Dados, the follow-up, is bigger and brawnier on songs that practically throw off sparks as McHenry and her band barrel through them. She’s commanding on rugged guitar workouts, her massive voice cutting through the churn of power chords and elemental drums on opener “Magnolia Tree” and soaring full-throated just atop the bristling riffage of “White Bear Incident.” All that time working on songs while regaining her strength has made McHenry an agile enough writer to give well-worked topics a fresh spin, but her intensity, and depth of feeling, are what really get these songs across. A voice like hers is a rare quality, and it’s surely as gratifying to McHenry as it is to her fans that she finally has a chance to make the most of it. —Eric R. Danton

BEST TRACKS

Faye Webster feat. Father:Flowers

Dreamy songstress Faye Webster has teamed up with rapper Father on the next single from her forthcoming album, Atlanta Millionaires Club. In classic Webster style, the spring-appropriate song, titled “Flowers,” effortlessly blends healthy doses of both Americana and hip-hop influence for a final product that can be summarized with two words: Atlanta excellence. “Flowers” also pays tribute to Father, along with Webster’s time at Awful Records—the Atlanta rap collective that helped kickstart her career. “I learned a lot about making music with other members,” Webster explains of her time at Awful. —Lindsay Thomaston

Charly Bliss:Hard to Believe

“‘Hard to Believe’ is a song about being addicted to a bad relationship, and the endless cycle of trying and failing to end one,” explains Charly Bliss frontwoman Eva Hendricks. “[Drummer Sam Hendricks] wrote the guitar riff very early on in the writing process of Young Enough and we’ve always been obsessed with playing it because it’s so insanely catchy.” It certainly is. “Hard to Believe” is Charly Bliss power-pop in its purest form, an effervescent rocker that goes down like a shotgunned soda. As is customary for the band, the song’s bubbly instrumental blast belies harrowing emotional turbulence, a heavy weight masked by lightness: “I’m kissing everything that moves / I’m kissing anything that takes me far away from you,” sings Hendricks, unflinching in laying her conflicting feelings bare. —Scott Russell

Kaytranada feat. VanJess:Dysfunctional

Prolific Canadian producer Kaytranada has teamed up with Nigerian-American R&B duo VanJess on a new song titled “DYSFUNCTIONAL.” The track features a bouncy funk bass line and smooth, soulful vocals from VanJess about a struggling relationship. The track follows last year’s Kaytranada EP NOTHIN LIKE U / CHANCES, which featured appearances from Ty Dolla $ign and the producer’s frequent collaborator Shay Lia. Kaytranada’s debut full-length 99.9% arrived in 2016 and boasted guest spots from Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa, Syd of The Internet, BADBADNOTGOOD, GoldLink and Little Dragon. VanJess’s debut album Silk Canvas came out last year to critical acclaim. — Adam Weddle

BEST PERFORMANCES

Ruston Kelly

Earlier this year, country singer Ruston Kelly announced via tweet his “official genre” is “dirt emo.” He even made t-shirts to prove it. If you’ve heard Kelly’s 2018 album Dying Star, which we named one of the best country releases of the year, this nomenclature needs no explanation. But for the uninitiated, Dying Star sounds like if Kurt Cobain (may he rest in peace) drove a jet-black tractor down to Nashville and recorded an album with Willie Nelson’s harmonica player, throwing in the occasional Auto-Tune. The album tackles issues like drugs and addiction while seamlessly blending country, emo and rock. When you take into consideration Kelly’s influences (he cites the aforementioned Cobain, as well as Townes Van Zandt and Eminem), it makes complete sense. Kelly, along with his dad and tour mate Tim “TK” Kelly, stopped by the Paste Studio on Friday to play two tunes from Dying Star, the title track and “Faceplant,” plus a recently written, still unreleased song, “Closest Thing.” You can watch the whole session below. —Ellen Johnson

Neyla Pekarek

Ever heard of Rattlesnake Kate? No? Then musician and singer/songwriter Neyla Pekarek, formerly of The Lumineers, has some stories for you. Pekarek released her debut solo album, Rattlesnake, earlier this year, and it tells the stories of one Rattlesnake Kate, a real-life frontierswoman who singlehandedly took down 140 rattlesnakes. That’s what we call a #girlboss. Pekarek visited the Paste Studio this week to play three songs from the album: “Train,” “The Attack” and “Western Woman.”

FEATURES

The World is Finally Ready for Duster, the Droning Space Cadets of Yesteryear

The music of the band Duster is hard to classify. It’s been called many things, but none of these classifications have managed to stick all that well. There’s more natural propulsion behind Duster’s music than slowcore contemporaries like Codeine and Bedhead, and it’s more spaced-out than artists like the Microphones or Built to Spill. A more apt description of Duster’s music might be a ride in one of those airplanes that simulate zero-gravity. Your feet leave the ground of their own accord, and you spend a few moments suspended there, maybe spinning around a little bit, totally out of control. The band’s brief discography was relatively well-received by critics, but it never really found an audience, and before anyone could blink they had broken up. Their label, Up Records, then home to Modest Mouse and Built to Spill, was experiencing a downturn following the passing of founder Chris Takino in 2000, and Duster’s music had been little more than a blip on the radar commercially. So the band members moved on. But now, almost two decades later, Duster has a devoted, even rabid following. Vinyl copies of their albums sell for hundreds of dollars on the online marketplace Discogs. If you ask the right people, Duster are revered as legends and pioneers—not just by fans of the genre but by important contemporary artists—and they’re suddenly poised for a comeback, having played their first shows in 18 years this winter. —Adam Weddle

Molly Tuttle is ‘Ready’ for Anything

When Molly Tuttle was a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, a teacher encouraged her to step outside her comfort zone. He instructed her to improvise with a flat nine chord, which Tuttle says “sounded really strange to me.” “So I was always cringing when I was playing it,” she says over the phone in early April. “And he was like, ‘Why does that make you uncomfortable?’ And I was like, ‘It’s because I’m not used to it and I’m not familiar with it.’ And he [said], ‘You need to take that feeling and realize that’s the root of so much division [we as] humans feel towards each other and towards different things we encounter.’ I think lessons like that helped me approach music in a different way.” Tuttle’s embrace of unexpected sounds is apparent on her terrific full-length debut, When You’re Ready, out now on Compass Records. Originally a student of bluegrass and later a fan of indie and alternative rock, Tuttle extended her diverse taste to her own music, crafting in When You’re Ready a breathable Americana piece following a more conventional—but no less enthralling—chapter one, her 2017 EP Rise. —Ellen Johnson

The 25 Best Self-Referential Songs

Artists have been referencing themselves in their art since the ancient Greek civilization—or possibly even earlier. The art of referring to oneself through literature, music, film, philosophy, architecture and cultural criticism has also been associated with a more recent movement—postmodernism. In fact, earlier this year, we heard New York indie rockers Vampire Weekend refer to themselves by recycling an old lyric on their new song “Harmony Hall.” In celebration of this wondrous ancient and postmodern device, Paste decided to list 25 of our favorite songs with self-referential lyrics. We listed the songs in alphabetical order and decided to limit this list to songs with direct self-references—meaning songs that explicitly referenced the artist’s given name, stage name or another one of their recordings. —Lizzie Manno

Bill Nelson Looks Back At The Making of Be-Bop Deluxe’s Sunburst Finish

Sunburst Finish, the 1976 album from art rock quartet Be-Bop Deluxe, falls into this valley set between the major musical movements in the band’s native England. Prog rock and proto-metal were on the wane with the rising signs of punk and post-punk about to dominate the cultural conversation. Like the lyric of the album’s hit single “Ships In The Night,” it felt like a square peg stuck in a cultural landscape of round holes. Heard today, it feels like the perfect record for that time period. Singer/guitarist Bill Nelson adhered to a musical complexity that resulted in multi-tiered tunes like “Sleep That Burns,” which moves from ambling rock to cocktail jazz to full on bombast in a mere five minutes, and the searing rock of “Blazing Apostles” and the ether-drunk psychedelia of “Crying To The Sky.” this album has been fresh on the mind of longtime fans of Be-Bop Deluxe and new listeners thanks to a recent deluxe reissue of the album released by Cherry Red Records that marries a re-mastered version of the original recording with a new stereo mix, a batch of bonus tracks and radio sessions from the time. It’s a lovely package that does justice to an oft-overlooked album (at least here in the U.S.). Paste recently spent a little time on the phone with the band’s leader Bill Nelson to talk about the making of Sunburst Finish, working with Leckie and how Be-Bop Deluxe changed with the arrival of Clarke and their arrival on the pop charts. —Robert Ham

10 Releases to Buy at Record Store Day 2019

The most important holiday of the whole year is upon us. Okay, so it’s not exactly an official recess—the banks will still be open—but Record Store Day is the closest thing we have to a national holiday in the independent record store biz, and it’s happening this Saturday, April 13. The annual event, now in its 12th year, brings together independent record stores across the country and always churns out a fantastic selection of exclusives, special releases, reissues and oddities. The 2019 menu includes everything from deluxe box sets and legacy reissues to indie deep cuts and limited edition 7” singles. We examined this year’s list and chose 10 favorite gems for this handy shopping guide. To find a participating store near you, go here. Now get out there and buy some music from your local record store. —Ellen Johnson & Lizzie Manno

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