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 marked the return of two seminal indie rock fan favorites: Chicago alt-rock heroes Wilco and Brooklyn noise-pop outfit Vivian Girls. It also brought new releases from Purple Mountains, Tony Molina and Ducks Unlimited, plus Paste Studio performances from Kate Tempest and Sublime With Rome. The newest episode of The Paste Podcast brought us wisdom from one of rock’s finest—Courtney Barnett talked to Paste at Montréal Jazz Festival about the power of live performance. If that wasn’t enough great new music content, Paste compiled our favorite post-punk releases from 2019 so far, and we had a chat with Americana power couple Buddy and Julie Miller. Get caught up on all of the week’s best new music below.

BEST ALBUMS

Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains

David Berman is back—despite his best efforts, it seems. For 15 years bookending the turn of the 21st century, Berman was not only the primary creative force behind indie-folk faves Silver Jews, he was considered by many to be the poet laureate of the underground. Across six solid albums—peaking with 1998’s American Water—his songs spilled over with double-take-worthy wisdom and witticisms built from approachable language. On his new album—self-titled and released under the name Purple Mountains—Berman doesn’t sound like a different person than the one that walked away a decade ago. He sounds like himself, an endlessly thoughtful and unnervingly honest master arranger of words. He is still an adequate singer, limited by his flat and shaky voice, but he sounds rejuvenated, perhaps buoyed by his new backing band, the Brooklyn psych-folk group Woods. He’s just as bummed out as ever on Purple Mountains, and he still makes being bummed out sound better than just about anyone else. —Ben Salmon

Tony Molina: SONGS FROM SAN MATEO COUNTY

Tony Molina has never needed long to make an impression—his songs typically cut off after a minute or so anyways. On SONGS FROM SAN MATEO COUNTY, a rarities record the Bay Area-based Molina describes as “a bunch of songs that were supposed to come out but never did,” he largely ditches the Beatles-esque acoustics of his previous two albums in favor of in-your-face power pop, complete with loads of face-melting guitar solos throughout. Essentially, Molina went out and released the best Weezer album since Pinkerton, the kind of record Rivers Cuomo would’ve killed to write. —Steven Edelstone

BEST TRACKS

Wilco:Love Is Everywhere (Beware)

Perennial alt-rock favorites Wilco just want to feel joyful. Is that so much to ask? In 2019’s dire, dreary political climate, maybe it is. Maybe we should risk our individual happinesses to better our community; maybe there’s a way to materialize that joy into political action. That’s the central tension in the band’s new song, “Love Is Everywhere (Beware),” the lead single from their newly announced 11th album, Ode to Joy. —Harry Todd

Vivian Girls:Sick

Dream-pop heavyweights Vivian Girls have come out of the woodwork to announce Memory, their first new album in eight years. Their newly unveiled first single “Sick” is a frenzied, strong return to the band’s familiar jangle-pop instrumentation, fleeting, twisting harmonies and dark lyricism. —Savannah Sicurella

Ducks Unlimited:Get Bleak

Featuring guest vocals from Laura Hermiston of fellow Toronto band Twist, “Get Bleak” is a jaunty slice of C86 indie-pop. The song pokes fun at the wishful thinking that simply moving to a new city will fix your problems, and it also sulks in that reality. “You flew across an ocean to / Get bleak,” sings lead vocalist Tom Mcgreevy against chunky guitar plucks. —Lizzie Manno

THE PASTE PODCAST

Paste Podcast #17: Courtney Barnett Talks About the Power of Live Performance

Courtney Barnett  just won’t quit. We met up with her in Montréal, the morning after an unreal two hour performance at Montréal Jazz Festival, and she was all smiles. With more festivals dates in her future, Barnett is in the zone right now. On the heels of last year’s fantastic second LP, Tell Me How You Really Feel, Barnett is now also focused on her Milk! Records label, which will be releasing the new Sleater-Kinney album on Aug. 16. She talked to us about what it means to have a hand in that release, who her guitar heroes are, the absolute amazingness we witnessed from her on stage the night before and you know…life. Hear it all now on The Paste Podcast, along with an exclusive performance of “Depreston” and a discussion of HBO’s new all-too-real dystopia, Years & Years. —Adrian Spinelli

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

Kate Tempest

U.K. spoken-word artist, rapper, poet, novelist and playwright Kate Tempest came into Paste’s New York City studio to perform songs from her third studio album The Book of Traps and Lessons, out now via American Recordings/Republic Records. In this session, Tempest performed three songs: “Three Sided Coin,” “Firesmoke” and “People’s Faces.” Her vocal delivery is sometimes fiery, sometimes matter-of-fact, but always intentional and with the goal of illustrating the corresponding emotion her gritty poetry dredges up. —Lizzie Manno

Sublime With Rome

This year, ska-punk trio Sublime With Rome released their third full-length album Blessings and celebrated 10 years as band. They came into the Paste Studio to perform two songs from Blessings—”Wicked Heart” and “Light On”—as well as an old Sublime tune “Badfish” from their 1992 debut 40 oz. to Freedom. —Lizzie Manno

FEATURES

The Cure’s New Concert Film Proves They’re Still in Their Prime

Director Tim Pope might’ve had a lump in his throat while working to create a film celebrating 40 years of live performances from one of the greatest, most influential bands in history. 2019 marked four incredible decades of The Cure’s live concerts, and it also marked 30 years since the release of their gothic masterpiece Disintegration. The English group, headed by the wistful, wispy-haired Robert Smith, were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, and they decided to tap Pope, who filmed dozens of their most famous music videos and their award-winning 1986 concert film In Orange, to capture yet another chapter of their legacy. On July 9, 1978, The Cure performed their first gig in a small English pub called The Rocket to a few dozen people. On July 7, 2018, just about 40 years since their live debut, they played an outdoor show in London’s Hyde Park in front of 65,000 people, and Pope captures that sprawling two-hour plus event in his new film The Cure – Anniversary 1978-2018 Live in Hyde Park London. The film debuted July 11 in cinemas across North America for one night only, and it felt like the official bestowing of immortal status on a band that bewilderingly remains in their prime. —Lizzie Manno

Buddy & Julie Miller On Their Musical Reconciliation

Nearing the four-decade mark of their marriage, the Millers remain devoted life partners. But they’ve walked an often rocky road when it comes to their working relationship, which in the ’90s was sort of a precursor to couples like Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires—a country/roots husband/wife duo who most always appear on each other’s albums—but has been stalled for the last decade. Julie’s health problems and Buddy’s busy work schedule prevented the couple—she, a Christian-country soloist turned songwriter and one of Americana’s most singular voices, and he, an in-demand producer, guitar legend and perpetual studio rat—from making music together. Until now: Breakdown on 20th Ave South, their first record since 2009’s Written in Chalk, is out now on New West. And it’s something of a miracle album. Julie wasn’t exaggerating when she said they’ve weathered their share of struggles. She lost her brother to a freakish lightning accident, and a friend to suicide not long after. Just before Written in Chalk, Buddy had triple bypass surgery. And around the same time, Julie finally put a name to her long-persisting symptoms of pain and fatigue when she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder that often prevents her from performing and working. But thanks to Buddy, it wasn’t as much of an issue this time around. —Ellen Johnson

10 Essential Post-Punk Albums From 2019 (So Far)

Three or four decades after its peak, post-punk means a lot of different things. What denotes “post-punk” now? Is it the pointed guitars? The chugging rock rhythms? The sarcastic speak-sing? The arty observations? The playful self-awareness? Or is it a feeling or sound that can’t be put into words? Whatever criteria you use to define punk’s often moodier, sometimes goofier counterpart, you should take time to explore one of music’s most dynamic genres. From its underground prime to countless revivals, post-punk is still alive and kicking, even delivering some of the most interesting guitar records as of late. For a sample of some of the most mercurial players in post-punk today, check out 10 of the best post-punk releases from 2019 so far. —Lizzie Manno

10 New Albums to Stream

We’ve listed 10 of this week’s most essential album releases along with nifty streaming links. Highlights include a collection of unreleased Nas material titled The Lost Tapes 2, a weird new album from The Flaming Lips, which features Clash guitarist Mick Jones, plus the debut album from Saddle Creek’s new signing Ada Lea. Listen to 10 new albums released today (July 19). —Paste Staff

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