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

Everyone dropped a surprise album this week—and we're not mad about it

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

Surprise! This week two artists with fierce fanbases, Carly Rae Jepsen and Jeff Rosenstock, both released albums out of the blue. So while a global pandemic rages on, we still feel too blessed to be stressed in the realm of new music. In more good news, stylish pop king Harry Styles released the buzziest, beachiest music video of the year so far for his song “Watermelon Sugar,” Secretly Canadian announced the forthcoming release of a lost collection of Jason Molina recordings and Soccer Mommy and Jay Som covered each other’s songs. Furthermore, we received two excellent new albums by Katie Von Schleicher and Nation of Language on Friday, further solidifying spring 2020 as a great time for new music releases—even if it’s a horrible time for everything else. Check out all this new music—plus a few lists of classic albums—below.

BEST ALBUMS

Katie Von Schleicher: Consummation

Paste named Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Katie Von Schleicher the Best of What’s Next back in 2017 on the tail of her album Shitty Hits’ release. It’s a sturdy indie effort, full of bouncy melodies and Von Schleicher’s emotions laid bare. “Paranoia,” a ghostly glance inside the swirling unease of an anxious mind, is the stand-out track. Since 2017, Von Schleicher has stayed busy playing in labelmate Lady Lamb’s touring band. On her next solo effort, Consummation, however, she seems to have settled into her own groove even more. These songs, while tricky to grasp at times, are much more assured. Lead single “Caged Sleep” is a blast sonically, while it taps into that same eerie underworld that “Paranoia” did back in 2017, diving deep into the vivid and frequently spooky land of dreams. “Wheel” is a lot spunkier, the kind of steady indie-rock jam you might sway along to at a festival (remember those?). The album itself has many different moods, but Von Schleicher masters them all with her keen rock sensibilities. While we had our eye on her back in 2017, Consummation could be Katie Von Schleicher’s biggest jumping-off point yet. —Ellen Johnson

Nation of Language: Introduction, Presence

Sometimes a synth-pop song’s only purpose is to make you feel alive on the dance floor, and that’s fine. You can still feel a deep emotional connection as you latch onto its pulse and forget your worries. But the kind of life-affirming synth-pop that makes you cry—think giants like Robyn or LCD Soundsystem—are the artists that will ruin your life (in the best possible way). New York City’s Nation of Language have been releasing singles since 2016, and their lead singer and songwriter Ian Devaney recently collaborated with Strokes drummer Fab Moretti on a project called machinegum for an album last year. It was obvious, even several years ago, that Devaney was an unusually consistent songwriter—every song was capable of making you pull over your car for a quick sob or triumphantly stick your head out of the sunroof with outstretched arms. His ’80s-indebted electro-pop meshed beautifully with the dance-punk sounds of the city’s yesteryear, and his songs had an emotional immediacy that was unrivaled. Now, having finally unveiled their debut full-length, which contains some of those incredible early singles, it feels like Nation of Language have more of a right to claim the “soaring synth-pop” mantle than anyone else right now. —Lizzie Manno

BEST TRACKS

Madeline Kenney:Sucker

“Sucker,” which features guest vocals by Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, contains more of Kenney’s signature vocal drops (which appeared all over her lush 2018 album Perfect Shapes) and a woozy guitar-pop sound that she does better than just about anyone else. The song occasionally veers into slacker-rock, which is a fitting sound for a song with lyrics like “But when it’s all said and done / I’ll make another / pour my seventh cup of coffee / I’m the sucker.” Maybe she’s a “sucker” to herself, but to the listener, Kenney sounds as poised as ever. —Ellen Johnson

HAIM:Don’t Wanna

“Don’t Wanna” falls under no simple labels: a crisp and clean-cut drum track melds seamlessly with guitar, bass and vocals that could have been pulled straight from a Fleetwood Mac track. The lyrics also refuse to be compartmentalized, exploring the complex reality of romantic relationships that so often cannot be defined by simple categories. “I don’t wanna give up on you,” HAIM sings. “I don’t wanna have to / But we both have nights / Waking up in strangers’ beds…I don’t wanna give up yet.” Vulnerability that makes you want to dance: It doesn’t get much more HAIM than that. —Lia Pikus

Jason Molina:Shadow Answers the Wall

Experiencing the posthumous work of an artist always feels like a subliminal privilege. Exploring never-before-seen pockets of an artist’s creative product, and knowing that these products are finite, feels like something close to sacred. “Shadow Answers the Wall,” a single from the previously unheard Jason Molina album which will be released Aug. 7, is a glimpse of Molina at his both his most essential and his most wistful. “If I had never believed, and let everything come into place, would the stars be looking down, would the stars be looking down on me,” he sings. Unadorned drums paired with a sultry bass-line permeate the track, giving the song a brooding character and complementing Molina’s lyrics with ease. The drums especially offer a feeling of intimacy that further elevates the song, making you feel as if you’re hearing the track live. This sense of spatial intimacy, heightened by the sound of birds chirping in the last few seconds of the song, produces a pensive and promising track. —Lia Pikus

The Paste Happiest Hour

This week we caught up with David Bazan, Badly Drawn Boy and more. Watch every episode—future and past—on our YouTube page.

FEATURES

All The Times I Screamed During Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” Video

The former One Direction frontman shared the beachside music video for his song “Watermelon Sugar” (from last year’s Fine Line) on Monday morning, and it’s a bonanza of sexually suggestive images, from slurps of the titular juicy fruit to the piles of smiling women to Styles pointing his lips skyward and licking them at no one in particular. However, this sugary summer masterpiece is in no way sexually explicit. Yet, it’s more lewd than nudity because it’s fruit, we’re talking about here—a most innocent food! And the best part is Harry’s being entirely upfront about his intentions for the video: The opening credits proclaim, “This video is dedicated to touching.” Sigh, remember “touching”? Truly nothing in this world sounds as scandalously enticing as frolicking through a beach party hosted by a horn-dog Harry Styles, but since that is impossible for a number of reasons, the pure delight of watching this video will have to suffice. Behold, a list of all the sweatiest, thirstiest, most scream-worthy moments in a video full of them —Ellen Johnson

The 25 Best Albums of 1970

Looking back at the best albums of 1970, it quickly becomes clear that some fantastic albums are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. The beginning of the 1970s was a time of transition with The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Simon & Garfunkel all releasing their final albums. Meanwhile, acts like Black Sabbath, James Taylor and Crosby, Stills & Nash had just were just gaining momentum. The Grateful Dead released two of their best albums in 1970, and Van Morrison, Neil Young and Miles Davis all released masterpieces. For a year when Elvis Presley’s “The Wonder of You” and Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” were the two biggest hits, the album format was alive and well. Happy 50th anniversary to these 25 classic LPs from 1970. —Josh Jackson & Paste Music Staff

The 100 Best Indie Folk Albums of All Time

No music genre is particularly easy to define, but “indie folk” is about as nebulous as they come. In compiling our rankings here, we’ve defined its era as beginning in 1972 with Nick Drake’s seminal Pink Moon, being mostly ignored until the mid-’90s with acts like Elliott Smith and Gillian Welch, and then booming right around the time we launched Paste in 2002. In fact, reading through this list is overwhelmingly nostalgic, as much a time capsule of the writers and editors we’ve worked with these last 15 years as of the musicians who’ve often graced the cover and pages (both paper and virtual) of our magazine since its inception. Musically, we’re looking at that glorious amalgamation of tradition folk elements (acoustic instruments and vocal styles) with the burgeoning indie-rock scene—or, occasionally, electronic elements applied to folk music. These albums are filled with folky songs that would be at home on college radio next to post-rock and dance tracks. There’s overlap with alt-country, coffeehouse singer/songwriters, orchestral pop and indie rock, but we did our best to grab albums that felt like “indie folk,” whether the artist was recorded in their bedroom or released it on a major label. We limited our list to two albums per artist, and even then only noting second albums from a handful of key artists. —Paste Music Staff

Hear Me Out: All The Best Workout Songs Are on TikTok

At first, being on TikTok felt creepy. Trying to fill the Vine-sized hole in my heart, I, like so many others in my age group, begrudgingly joined the platform when quarantine began as a way to kill some extra time and maybe get in a few extra hahas here and there. But the landscape is also filled with so many teens, which makes me feel icky and way too old to be here—like a grown-up sitting alone in the theater at Trolls World Tour. TikTok’s algorithm adjusts itself depending on what state you’re in and the posts you interact with the most, so, after a while, I saw less and less stranded co-eds and 16-year-olds dancing to “Savage” and more and more Bon Appetit fan content and musical theater memes (hi, recovering theatre kid here). Since I write about music for a living, you’d probably expect me to have “taste.” I’m here to tell you that, yes, Fiona Apple is one of my favorite artists of all time, and I know every lyric on indie-rock band Pavement’s 1995 album Wowee Zowee, but when I go on a run or need to sweat, my taste deflates to that of a 17-year-old TikTok star. I’ll spare you my workout playlist, but let’s just say there’s more than one track featuring Zedd. —Ellen Johnson

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