Great new singles and albums really came out of the woodwork this week. These past few days, we found ourselves delighting in the droll punk of Cheekface and Shame, the emotive folky sounds of Julien Baker and Andrew Bird & Jimbo Mathus, the bright pop/rock of Pale Waves and Miss Grit, and much more. Dig into seven of our favorite new songs from the past week, as chosen by the Paste music staff.
This week, Andrew Bird and Jimbo Mathus announced a new album, These 13, out on March 5 via Thirty Tigers. As longtime friends and former collaborators in Squirrel Nut Zippers, this is the duo’s first shared musical project in decades. These 13 was produced by Mike Viola and recorded live to tape. The first half of the album was recorded in early 2019, while the second half was finished in early 2020. They also shared the album’s lead single, “Sweet Oblivion,” alongside an accompanying video that sees the two-piece perform outside the mountains of Ojai. —Lizzie Manno
Body Meat (aka Philly-based multi-instrumentalist and producer Christopher Taylor) is a master at melding jarring hyperpop with slinky R&B. Hot off the heels of his 2019 album Truck Music and his 2020 single “The Well,” he’s announced a new EP, Year of the Orc, which will be self-released on March 16. The news came with a new track, “ULTIMA,” an auto-tuned, tempo-shifting collage of harsh pop, with a message of self-preservation at the forefront. Much like on Truck Music, Taylor’s expressive, graceful vocals shine through the track’s glitchy eccentricities. —Lizzie Manno
Los Angeles trio Cheekface returned this week with their second album, Emphatically No., available now via New Professor. It was featured on Paste’s list of most anticipated albums of 2021, and it follows their 2019 album Therapy Island. Every day feels like the confused, spinning Mr. Krabs meme, especially for millennials who continue to get screwed by every institution and have no choice but to Juul, ironically use TikTok and bake bread to remind themselves that they have arms. Cheekface’s Emphatically No. captures all these feelings of millennial dread with staggering precision. Self-aware, pointed and wildly goofy, Cheekface use U.K. post-punk and American indie-punk as a vehicle for their social commentary and self-deprecating one-liners. —Lizzie Manno
“Hardline” debuted Wednesday alongside its music video, directed by Joe Baughman. “Even after having spent 600 hours immersed in ‘Hardline’ and having listened to it thousands of times, I am still moved by it. It was a fun and ambitious challenge creating something that could accompany such a compelling song,” Baughman said in a statement. “Hardline” is quite compelling indeed, beginning Julien Baker’s new record on an ambitious note, with staccato organ chords, heavy strings and synth accents wreathing the singer’s characteristically confessional vocals (“Start asking for forgiveness in advance / All the future things I will destroy”). Percussion of both analog and digital varieties picks up the song’s momentum as Baker barrels towards a dark inevitability: “I’m telling my own fortune / Something I cannot escape / I can see where this is going, but I can’t find the brake.” —Scott Russell
On her forthcoming Impostor EP (coming Feb. 5), Korean-American musician Margaret Sohn explores that nagging feeling that your accomplishments are somehow falsified—that you are undeserving of your own success. Impostor syndrome comes in many forms, such as the racial impostor syndrome Sohn experienced while growing up half-Korean and struggling to “fit into the white space” of the Michigan suburbs she called home. Her EP’s closer and title track finds Sohn calling herself out as a fraud over big, gnarled guitars and sparkling keyboard runs, her reedy vocals leaving (or perhaps expunging) emotional bruises: “Your reward’s / Faking worth / You’re no star / Impostor,” she accuses. Songs like this one will prove Miss Grit wrong in a hurry. —Scott Russell
Pale Waves were still in the shadows of The 1975 when they released their 2018 debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, receiving relentless comparisons to their labelmates and co-producers. But since then, they’ve released three singles, all from their forthcoming album Who Am I?, that have helped differentiate themselves, dipping their toes into ‘00s pop and ‘90s alternative rock. Their latest single, “Easy,” is still very polished and pop-forward, but their embrace of Sundays-like vocals, along with the melodic nod to Vanessa Carlton’s smash hit “A Thousand Miles,” brightens their effortless pop intuition. —Lizzie Manno
Shame’s Drunk Tank Pink may lack some of the tongue-in-cheek humor of its predecessor, but its emotional sentiments are more thoughtful. Their playful self-deprecation now manifests as blatant insecurities rapidly gnawing at them, and they look for escape, distraction and companionship—they reference the sky and the elements with increasing frequency and tenderness—to fill that void and combat their dissociation. “Happiness is only a habit and if that’s true, then I’m habitually dependent on something I cannot control,” Steen asserts on the metaphysical, piano-led grand finale “Station Wagon.” —Lizzie Manno