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 saw the formal studio return of one of America’s greatest songwriters—Bruce Springsteen. Alongside Springsteen’s intimate, picturesque new album Western Stars, we also heard a new record from New York psych-rock and jazz outfit Crumb, and new selections from The Avett Brothers, Vagabon and Black Belt Eagle Scout. Our latest episode of The Paste Podcast included a performance from Nick Waterhouse, and Paste’s NYC Studio featured sessions from Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes and Sinkane. Most notably, we rounded up our favorite albums of 2019 so far, which you delve into here. Scroll down to check out the best of Paste’s music section from the past week.

BEST ALBUMS

Crumb: Jinx

It’s hard to imagine a better title for Crumb’s self-released debut album than Jinx. Across 10 songs and a brisk 28-minute runtime, the Brooklyn-based indie quartet twine hazy production with bewitching lyrics, crafting mesmerizing psych-pop that feels equally indebted to the lounge aesthetics of mid-’90s Stereolab as it does Madlib’s crate-digging, jazz-sampling hip-hop production. Perhaps it’s unfair to immediately compare Crumb to legendary forebears. To their credit, Crumb is making music that sounds utterly their own, thanks in no small part to lead singer and guitarist Lila Ramani’s lilting vocals. Singing with a cadence that is simultaneously domineering and subdued, Ramani pulls you closer, almost whispering over instrumentation that’s both droning and engaging. When everything clicks, it’s nearly impossible to not be enraptured by Jinx. —Harry Todd

Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars

The knock on Bruce Springsteen since the peak of his ’80s success has been that he’s a rich guy masquerading as a working-class stiff. It’s a silly criticism because it discounts the value and the power of imagination that has fueled him since the beginning. Springsteen wasn’t born wealthy, but he is a born storyteller, and he’s managed to hold on to whatever it is that makes him a dreamer. So while Springsteen has never been a state trooper, or a firefighter charging into the South Tower on 9/11, or a washed-up wrestler, he can sing persuasively about them because he has enough intuition and empathy to see the world through their eyes. That’s exactly what he does with a host of different characters on Western Stars, his first studio album since High Hopes in 2014, a grab bag of reimagined songs from earlier albums, covers and unreleased tunes he had recorded during the preceding decade. By contrast, Western Stars is a self-contained, thematic collection of songs. Though Springsteen’s latest is said to be indebted to the sound of southern California pop records from the late ’60s and early ’70s, the more prominent California influence seems to be film scores from Hollywood epics. Western Stars is full of sweeping symphonic passages that evoke the endless skies and open spaces of the American West. —Eric R. Danton

BEST TRACKS

The Avett Brothers:High Steppin’

Along with the announcement of their new album, Closer Than Together, The Avett Brothers shared a bouncy new tune, “High Steppin.’” The video finds Scott posing as a pickup-driving, rhinestone-studded cowboy, a mysterious “stranger” who loves “stretchin’ out my wheels.” His passenger is Seth, acting as a grim reaper who offers life advice (like: “you can only live one day at a time, only drive one hot rod at a time, only say one word at a time”) in a monologue halfway through the song. They’re met in the middle of the road by a chipper troupe of line dancers and bassist Bob Crawford. They eventually join in, so everyone is “high steppin’” in the end. —Ellen Johnson

Vagabon:Flood Hands

Indie darling Lætitia Tamko shared a chilled-out lead single from her new LP, All The Women In Me (out on Sept. 27 via Nonesuch Records). “Flood Hands” starts with the breathy, hypnotic dreaminess we’re used to seeing from Vagabon until the echoing drumbeat swells and production ebbs forward, illustrating growth. “I know,” she sings, with calm resignation, and her powerful and booming, yet delicate tenor voice. “Even if I run from it, I’m still in it.” With upped production from her simple, barebones tracks in Infinite Worlds, “Flood Hands” leaves us with lingering lines of pop alchemy that fade to silence. —Christine Fernando

Black Belt Eagle Scout:At the Party

Ever since Black Belt Eagle Scout (aka multi-instrumentalist and activist Katherine Paul) released her 2018 debut album, Mother of My Children, she’s been making waves with eloquent lyrics that honor her indigenous heritage. As a self-identified queer womxn, each of Paul’s songs convey heartfelt, sentimental themes and showcase her guitar-playing skills. “At the Party” is the first taste of her sophomore album, At the Party With My Brown Friends, out on Aug. 30 via Saddle Creek. —Marissa Matozzo

THE PASTE PODCAST

Pete Holmes Talks Comedy, Sex and God on The Paste Podcast #13

On the latest episode of The Paste Podcast, Comedian, actor and podcast host Pete Holmes talks to Paste’s Michael Dunaway about his new Comedy Sex God. Holmes goes deep on the “God” part of that title and why spirituality is his favorite subject on his podcast, You Made It Weird. We also discuss the five best albums of 2019 with Paste’s Lizzie Manno and Ellen Johnson as we approach the year’s half-way point. And Nick Waterhouse stops by the Paste Studio to play us a song.

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

Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes

English punk rockers Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes released their third album, End Of Suffering, this May via International Death Cult. End Of Suffering was named after the Buddhist term for enlightenment and was recorded in just six months over the heat wave that engulfed London last year. Carter stopped by the Paste Studio in NYC to perform four tracks from his new album: “Crowbar,” “Kitty Sucker,” “Angel Wings” and “End of Suffering.” —Lizzie Manno

Sinkane

Born in London to Sudanese parents, raised in Ohio, and now based in New York City, bandleader Ahmed Gallab released his latest Sinkane album, Dépaysé, last month via City Slang. Gallab says, “Dépaysé chronicles an immigrant’s journey of self-discovery in the Trump era.” Listen to Sinkane’s blend of funk, psych, reggae and pop via this Paste Studio performance. Sinkane performed four tracks: “Mango,” “Ya Sudan,” “Young Trouble,” and “How We Be.” —Lizzie Manno

FEATURES

The 25 Best Albums of 2019 (So Far)

The 2019 music year has felt fruitful as ever. These last six months have delivered the rare haul of critically-adored albums that straddle pop blockbuster territory and the music nerd nation. Perhaps that’s thanks to critics’ swelling soft spot for poptimism, but our top 10 alone consists of records by pop mainstays like Carly Rae Jepsen and Tyler, The Creator, rock contemporaries Kevin Morby and Sharon Van Etten and indie newcomers like Julia Jacklin and Faye Webster. It’s not every year the mix is that diverse in terms of both genre and target audience. But that’s just 2019, a year that often makes no sense at all. Two-and-a-half years into a helter-skelter administration and firmly rooted in the chaos of the internet and the correspondingly relentless news cycle, we’re all just trying our best. Luckily, this year’s soundtrack has lent a great deal of calm and clarity. Check out the 25 best albums of 2019 so far, as voted by the Paste Staff. —Paste Staff

The Curmudgeon: Craig Finn, Justin Townes Earle and the Sound of Things Falling Apart

We all want to believe in the American Dream. We want to believe that each generation will be better off than the generation before. We want to believe that economic benefits, political decision-making and personal health and safety will be more broadly and equally shared in each succeeding decade. Such optimism is hard to sustain, however, in the face of the evidence. We see wealth and income becoming less not more equally shared. Two of the past five presidential elections have been claimed by the candidate who received fewer votes. Climate change is exacerbating fires and flooding across the continent. Your ability to avoid and/or recover from disease and violence is becoming more not less dependent on the color of your skin, the genitals in your pants and the money in your pocket. Such a situation presents a challenge for songwriters. How do you take the temperature of this culture without offering a false panacea or an angry rant? How do you measure such large societal trends without resorting to vague abstract nouns, creaky allegories or empty sloganeering? Two new albums have been especially successful at meeting this challenge—Craig Finn’s I Need a New War and Justin Townes Earle’s The Saint of Lost Causes. —Geoffrey Himes

10 Bands to See at Bonnaroo 2019

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival sold out for the first time since 2013. That means 80,000 people will invade the 700-acre, Manchester, Tenn. farm for four days (June 13-16). This multi-stage camping festival is now in its 18th year, and this year’s headliners include Phish, Childish Gambino, the Grand Ole Opry, Post Malone and Odesza. As Paste heads out to cover Bonnaroo, we chose 10 acts we’re most excited to catch at one of the country’s premier music festivals. —Paste Staff

Horse Jumper of Love Discuss New LP So Divine

Horse Jumper of Love formed in 2013 out of Boston’s DIY house scene, and their 2016 self-titled debut album established them as one of today’s hardest-hitting slowcore bands. They signed to Run For Cover Records for their new album, So Divine, which finds frontman Dimitri Giannopoulos, bassist John Margaris and drummer Jamie Vadala-Doran pondering the seemingly random nature of memories. While they begin to piece through the rubble of those memories, they also leave a code for listeners to crack. Giannopoulous is known for his cryptic lyrical collages of intimate moments, and So Divine is no exception. Think of this album as the inexplicable chemistry between two people or an eye-opening lucid dream—you don’t fully understand it, but it triggers intense emotions that will regularly resurface in your mind. Though at times sedating, their downtempo guitars have an unsuspecting might, luring you into unforgiving quicksand and slowly engulfing you in tar-like sonics. Read Paste’s chat with Giannopoulous about their forthcoming album So Divine, as we discuss aliens, his Night At the Museum-like job and how drawing helps him as a songwriter. —Lizzie Manno

Palehound Wrestle With Friendship, Change and Tattoos on Their Best Album Yet

Listening to Palehound is often like having a tough conversation with your best friend. There’s likely to be some pain, some old feelings dug up and picked apart, but you’ll always feel better after it’s over. And on the Boston-based band’s third LP Black Friday (out now on Polyvinyl), there are as many platonic heart-to-hearts and anxious tell-alls as there are romantic revelries and loving assurances. Frontwoman and songwriter Ellen Kempner has always possessed an extraordinary understanding of the mechanics of relationships. Black Friday finds her singing in second person more often than not, occasionally referring to a nameless “darling” who could easily be either a partner or a friend. She’s not only grappling with her own feelings, doubts and fears, but also those of others. Many of the lyrics go back to a single question for all involved: “Am I enough?” A few weeks before the record’s release Kempner called Paste from New York City, where she’s still planning to move in the fall, even after “a huge rat” scuttled by her café seat right in the middle of this chat. We talked about bodies, friendship and the instability of the music business, among other things. —Ellen Johnson

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