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

Most of this week’s oxygen will be sucked up by Sleater-Kinney, and rightfully so. The legendary indie-rock group released their ninth studio album The Center Won’t Hold—their most daring work to date, due in part to producer Annie Clark aka St. Vincent. To celebrate the new release of this seminal powerhouse band, Paste rounded up 15 of our favorite Sleater-Kinney songs. Other notable albums this week arrived courtesy of Peaer, The Hold Steady, Ride, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and more, plus new singles from Big Thief, The Highwomen, Bodega and others. It was another exciting week at Paste’s NYC studio, where we hosted live sessions with The Regrettes, Lillie Mae (who also released a new album today) and more. Scroll down to get your weekly fix from the Paste music section.

BEST ALBUMS

Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold

There is no room for nostalgia in Sleater-Kinney’s reunion. The band’s excellent 2015 reentry point, No Cities to Love, was not exactly a rote run-through of past glories. And the trio (now duo) did not spend 2017 going around playing Dig Me Out on some obligatory 20th anniversary run. It barely even feels like a reunion at this point—how has this band not always been here, making its bass-resistant racket and soundtracking our slide into right-wing authoritarianism? Like 2005’s The Woods, The Center Won’t Hold finds Sleater-Kinney bringing in a big name producer to jolt their routines and play more than a symbolic role in the record-making process. Except this time, the friendly intruder is art-rock maestro St. Vincent, not Dave Fridmann. And unlike The Woods, which was largely tracked live—all the better to reimagine the band’s sound as a ferocious Zeppelin-esque roar—Center finds Sleater-Kinney more inclined than ever to utilize the studio as an instrument. At its best, The Center Won’t Hold is an urgent and deliriously impolite record about powering through exhaustion, despair and the ambient dread any feminist feels pretty much constantly in 2019. Full of transformation and deserved indignation, The Center Won’t Hold is the first Sleater-Kinney album since the rest of the world started to catch up. —Zach Schonfeld

Peaer: A Healthy Earth

Creating a capital-m Moment in a song is more about the pitch than it is the big swing for the fences. It’s about anticipation and, more importantly, wondering what the big crack is going to sound like. A Healthy Earth, the new record from Brooklyn-based Peaer, lives in those liminal spaces between the release of the pitch and the contact of the bat. Over the album’s 11 tracks, the Brooklyn trio set themselves up for massive math-rock moments with precise instrumentation and a keen ear for particularly geeky songwriting. Despite some undercooked lyrics, the sonics on A Healthy Earth often make contact to send the ball soaring. “Don’t” might be the best distillation of that sound, changing time signatures and decibel levels at the drop of a hat. A twirling guitar lick swerves in the negative spaces defined by tangible bursts of percussion and Katz’s strained vocals, setting the stage for a reverb-heavy, cacophonous bridge that leads into the track’s deceptive outro. There are some really great moments throughout A Healthy Earth—the acoustic bossa guitar outro on “Wilbur,” the Shamir-assisted harmonies on “In My Belly” and the xylophone-assisted, explosive percussion on “Have Fun!” all come to mind. But instrumentation is only part of the big swing; you’ve got to have the full follow-through if you’re going to clear the fences. —Harry Todd

BEST TRACKS

Big Thief:Not

“Not” is something of a throwback to the harder textures of that first album, in contrast to the wispy sound of U.F.O.F. Over insistent electric guitar strums and a whistling, metallic flute, frontwoman Adrianne Lenker struggles to articulate something, and works her way around that tip-of-the-tongue feeling by negation: ”[It’s] not a rouse / not heat / not the fire lapping up the creek.” But before Lenker can answer her own riddle, the song dissolves into three minutes of discordant guitar solos, and then ten seconds of static-filled silence. —Substitute Thapliyal

Bodega:Shiny New Model

“Shiny New Model” folds in quiet meditations on the sterility of late-capitalist innovations and the complicated realities of the gig economy. “Tell me don’t you relate to the state of that silver sepulchre?” frontman Ben Hozie asks in relation to ATMs; “Tell me don’t you feel used? Buttons pressed in the back of a bodega.” He’s singing over a pirouetting guitar line and an intimate bass groove. It’s not quite glam, not quite grunge, but just the right combination of both. —Harry Todd

The Highwomen:Highwomen

Impeccable harmonies between the singers, delicate acoustic guitar fingerpicking, and lyrics centered around women’s empowerment and resilience make “Highwomen” an unforgettable offering from the trending group. “We are the highwomen,” they sing on their self-titled single, “We are the daughters of the silent generations / You send our hearts to die alone in foreign nations.” As the song reaches its end, they boldly continue, “They may return to us as tiny drops of rain / but we will still remain / and we’ll come back again and again and again.” —Marissa Matozzo

BEST PERFORMANCES

The Regrettes

Los Angeles pop/rock band The Regrettes released their sophomore album How Do You Love? via Warner Records earlier this month, which details the “rise and fall of a relationship—from that first rush of butterflies, through a destructive break-up, to ultimately finding peace and closure,” according to a press release. The four-piece, led by 18-year-old frontwoman Lydia Night, came into the Paste Studio to perform three songs from their new LP: “Dress Up,” “Pumpkin” and “I Dare You.”

Lillie Mae

Nashville country singer Lillie Mae just dropped her second LP, Other Girls, today (Aug. 16) via Third Man Records. Mae spent nearly two decades singing and playing the fiddle in venues across Nashville, and tomorrow (Aug. 17) Mae will return to the city to reach another career milestone—making her Grand Ole Opry debut. Mae stopped by the Paste Studio to perform four songs from Other Girls: “You’ve Got Other Girls For That,” “Whole Blue Heart,” “Didn’t I” and “A Golden Year.”


FEATURES

The 15 Best Sleater-Kinney Songs

Sleater-Kinney  have been stamped “the best band in the world” by Esquire, the “best rock band on the planet” by Vice and, most recently, “more inclined than ever to utilize the studio as an instrument,” by our own Zach Schonfield in his review of the band’s daring ninth album, The Center Won’t Hold (out today on Mom + Pop). The new record finds the band taking more chances than ever. Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss (who has since departed the band) recruited St. Vincent’s Annie Clark to produce the record, and the four women made for an interesting meeting of the minds, one that led to one of the boldest rock records of the year. But Sleater-Kinney have been kicking ass for 25 years. There’s nothing surprising about them releasing a masterpiece—they’ve done it many times before. Whether they’re punks or riot grrrls or just rockstars in your mind, it’s not an exaggeration to claim Sleater-Kinney are one of the best indie rock bands to have ever existed. In honor of their new record and a quarter-century of band-hood, we dove deep into their discography and chose their most fevered, emboldened, incredible songs. Here are our staff’s 15 favorite S-K songs. —Ellen Johnson & Paste Staff

The 15 Irish Acts You Need to Know in 2019

For a small, grassy island with a population about the size of Massachusetts’, Ireland’s impact on the music world has been disproportionately large. Ireland is home to Rory Gallagher, a man that (if you believe urban legend) Jimi Hendrix once declared the best guitar player in the world, and Sinead O’Connor, who famously ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in possibly one of the most misconstrued political statements of our era. We also have the country to thank for My Bloody Valentine and their magnum opus Loveless, which utterly defined the shoegaze genre. That’s not even mentioning Bob Geldof’s work on Live Aid or Bono’s silly glasses or the talent-filled and tragically short life of The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan. Hell, go all the way back to pianist John Field and his nocturnes’ influence on Frédéric Chopin. The Irish aren’t finished making musical history, either. Despite long being associated with trad (traditional) and various rock genres, every corner of the island is exploding with musicians who dabble in hip-hop, experimental music, techno and aural art that shirks hard-and-fast definitions. Here are a few of the artists from the Emerald Isle (that is, both the Republic of and Northern Ireland) who are creating compelling music in 2019. —Clare Martin

Outside Lands: 10 Best Surprises

Outside Lands Festival year number 12 is in the books and once again, Golden Gate Park was the star of the show. There is no better venue for a music festival of this scale anywhere in America; I’ll take the Pepsi challenge on that one. The park’s sweeping greenery and cypress-covered meadows are impeccable. It’s a total treat to get to play within for the privileged chaos of OSL. The musical tide seemed to turn a bit this year, as more and more EDM and EDM-laced pop permeated the festival’s larger stages throughout the day for well-to-do kids to frolic amongst. But the lineup has also become increasingly committed to diversity. Our highlights reflect that effort, those triumphs and then some. While it’d be great to see more artists use this incredible 210,000+ person platform to make an impression on young attendees, (our future depends on it!), OSL is still a stupendous production. The food and drink offerings reflect the best of what the Bay Area has to offer—you can actually buy (and smoke!) weed inside the festival grounds and this was also the warmest year of the fest that I can remember. On Saturday, Childish Gambino played to what is apparently the largest crowd ever at the festival and he was solid, if not spectacular. But for this particular exercise, we bring you the weekend’s 10 best surprises. —Adrian Spinelli

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