This week we were graced with excellent new albums from Alice Boman, Kiwi Jr., Mura Masa, Marcus King and more. We also heard another single from Soccer Mommy’s forthcoming new album color theory (out in February), which she formally announced this week. U.S. Girls also shared that a new album is en route, and, additionally, we made lots of lists. We made lists about teen movie soundtracks, experimental guitar bands and southern rock artists. If this piques your interest, stick around, why don’t you? All the best new songs and albums (and lists) from this past week are here.
Alice Boman exists in a world of wistful fatalism on her debut album. The songs on Dream On are full of regretful wishes and powerful longings that are usually outweighed by doubts and fears. Even as Boman seeks to revel in the present, the Swedish singer and songwriter is haunted by the certainty flickering at the edges of her consciousness that any bliss she feels will be fleeting, and then vanish forever. Heavy emotions that have a tendency to sink quickly into claustrophobia, but Boman balances the roiling turmoil in her mind with ethereal indie-pop musical arrangements that are calm and measured, almost to the point of serene. The songs unfold in an unhurried way, keyboards seeping in like a ground fog around Boman’s feathery voice. She often sings as though she’s floating in a gauzy dream-world, her voice soft and beseeching on lyrics that swing between despondent and despairingly ardent. —Eric R. Danton
Ask a dozen people to define the term “indie rock” and you’ll probably get a dozen different answers that include word combinations like “Archers of Loaf” and “Foster the People” and “indie rock is dead” and “sir, this is a Wendy’s.” As the term has evolved over the past few decades—from its origins denoting music released by an independent record label to a vague descriptor of a certain kind of sound—it’s no wonder the words have lost much of their meaning. Make no mistake, however: Kiwi Jr. is an indie rock band. You can hear evidence of that all over their fine debut album Football Money, which has been released worldwide by Mint Records. (It came out only in Canada last year.) Someday, other band names will disappear from Kiwi Jr.’s reviews as the quartet further develops its sound. Football Money is evidence they’ve clearly got the ability and the point of view to do exactly that. Until then, they’re working from a world-class playbook. —Ben Salmon
Rosie Tucker: “Brand New Beast”
“Brand New Beast” is a minute-and-a-half of punchy, rocky witticisms. The small but mighty track is an ode to sticking up for yourself (“If I could shed you like a skin / Brand new beast I would”), sexual frustration (“You won’t even eat me out”) and, strangely enough, terrarium (“Embrace terrarium”). If your 2020 somehow ends up as ballsy, playful and heartfelt as this Rosie Tucker track, you’ll be living the dream. —Lizzie Manno
Soccer Mommy: “circle the drain”
In the video accompanying the new Soccer Mommy single, Sophie Allison’s friends, played by pro skateboarders Sean Malto, Jake Anderson, Curren Caples and Nicole Hause, sneak into a shuttered Palm Springs waterpark to shred the dried-up slides, literally circling a drain or two; meanwhile, Allison, with suitcase (and occasionally her guitar) in hand, makes her way into town, eventually meeting up with her friends and stepping onto a skateboard herself. The visual is a sunny, carefree counterpoint to “circling the drain” itself, whose chipper jangle-pop sound belies the struggles of its singer: Allison sings about “a feeling that boils in my brain,” admitting that she’s tired of putting on a brave face to mask the slow but steady internal collapse that she feels powerless to prevent. Depression is using her own inertia against her—like gravity pulling a skater down a waterslide, only there’s no happy landing at the bottom. That’s what’s beautiful about the video: Allison is able to put her heavy baggage down and have some fun, without fear of the fall. —Scott Russell
U.S. Girls: “Overtime”
Produced by Meg Remy, co-written by Remy, Basia Bulat and Rich Morel, and recorded live with a whopping 20 session musicians, including saxophonist Jake Clemons of the E Street Band, the newly announced U.S. Girls album Heavy Light finds Remy looking inward, a press release explains, “recounting personal narratives to create a deeply introspective about-face. The songs are an inquest into the melancholy flavor of hindsight, both personal and cultural. Remy makes this notion formally explicit with the inclusion of three re-worked, previously released songs.” These include “Statehouse (It’s A Man’s World),” “Red Ford Radio” and this week’s new iteration of “Overtime.” —Scott Russell
The Paste Podcast #38: The Witcher & The Dead South
Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher strikes a bizarre balance between high fantasy and old-school camp—and it somehow works. Allison Keene and Josh Jackson discuss one of their favorite new TV shows, and Canadian folk outfit The Dead South play us a few songs in the 38th episode of The Paste Podcast.
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Indie folk artist Andy Shauf is gearing up to release his fifth LP, The Neon Skyline, next week on Jan. 24. He stopped by the Paste Studio in NYC this week to play three songs from the forthcoming release—the title track, “Things I Do” and “Changer”—plus a fourth that didn’t make the record, “Judy.” —Ellen Johnson
Son Little, aka Los Angeles-based artist Aaron Earl Livingston, is saying “aloha” with his new album out on Jan. 31. He visited the Paste Studio this week to preview the album with three songs: “mahalia,” “suffer” and “about her. again.” —Ellen Johnson
10 Experimental Bands Who Are Redefining Guitar Music
Experimental music is often used as a vessel for transcendence or catharsis. It’s a safe space that protects artists from the preconceptions or typical parameters of mainstream art. It allows for total, nonjudgmental expression, and though it largely exists on the fringes and in relatively small, devoted cult followings, its existence is vital to the artists and the people who consume it. Billboard recently revealed the 10 highest-charting rock songs of the decade, which included a wash of Imagine Dragons, Twenty One Pilots and other not-so-rock guitar acts. Essentially, it’s a weird time to be a rock band, so whether you’re a more traditional “rawk” group or a DIY noise outfit, it’s easy to feel ignored by mainstream culture. Despite having to go against the grain, experimental rock bands still find ways to amass sturdy followings. More challenging bands like black midi, Empath and The Spirit of the Beehive have all received recent critical praise and fierce devotion from blogs and message boards. Instead of tooting the tired horn of “guitar music is dead,” 2020 seems like as good a time as any to celebrate some of today’s most perplexing guitar bands. Ranging from fairly accessible to more difficult to swallow, here are 10 experimental rock bands who continue to push the envelope. —Lizzie Manno
The 10 Best Teen Movie Soundtracks of the 21st Century
One thing to get straight right away: This list is not fully an endorsement of these movies. Some, like 2019’s Booksmart and 2017’s Lady Bird, are bonafide classics that truly and beautifully capture teenage-hood, and if you haven’t yet seen them for some reason, I’ll kindly ask you to come out from underneath the rock you call home. Others, like the second movie in the Twilight series and 2012’s aca-amazing(!) Pitch Perfect film, haven’t aged as well. If you haven’t already seen them, don’t waste your time. But here’s the thing about all the movies on this list—they, at least at one time or another, meant something to the teens who loved them. If you read the entire Twilight series over the course of one week, braided your hair like Katniss Everdeen, have ever been strangely attracted to Michael Cera, or found yourself googling The Hectic Glow after sobbing over The Fault in Our Stars, you can probably relate. Thankfully, the music supervisors for teen movies generally have better taste than the teens who watch them, and these soundtracks have had a shelf life as good as Robert Pattinson The Actor. Booksmart may have been snubbed at this year’s Oscar nominations, but what does it matter when this film’s greatest musical satisfaction comes in the form of a Perfume Genius swimming pool scene? If any Academy voters are reading this, please, for the love of all that is good, consider recognizing female directors. And if you’re a current or former teen, enjoy this compilation of soundtracks that doubled as tastemakers. They may have had more of an influence on your record collections (read: playlists—you’re millennial, after all!) than you think. Movies are listed by alphabetical order. —Ellen Johnson
13 Artists Making Great Southern Rock Right Now
The definition for southern rock can be a little loose. There are, of course, bands like The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd who fit squarely in the southern rock category—they were from the South, and they made twanged-up, roaring rock ‘n’ roll. But in 2020, that definition can look a little different. We have artists, like The Wood Brothers and Marcus King, who take after those country rockers of old, but we also have artists like Brittany Howard and Adia Victoria, who are little more difficult to pin down. The 13 artists and bands on this list don’t all sound the same. Some touch on the blues and soul, while others are more comfortably country. But all of these sounds are inherently southern, and each of these talented musicians tap into the South’s illustrious history in one way or another. Simply put, these guys rock. If you’re a fan of southern music, be it rock or country, you’ll probably find something to love here. Please enjoy this list of 13 artists, some new and some already familiar, who are making really excellent southern rock right now. —Ellen Johnson
“Camaraderie & Community” At The Core of Nashville’s Gender Revolution
Everybody in Nashville has their favorites; Erin Rae, as Leah Blevins describes her, is an exceptional human being, within and without the music industry, a soft-spoken, nose-to-grindstone and gentle leader for her peers. She works hard. More importantly, she compels others to work hard, too. “She makes you feel worthy when you’re with her,” Blevins professes. Rae’s text chain with Michaela Anne, Kelsey Waldon, and Caroline Spence is proof that women supporting women means more women enjoying success in a competitive scene couched within a doubly competitive business. But as Blevins and I have our colloquy, it becomes clearer minute by minute that support extends beyond intimate micro interactions to public macro interactions: Nashville’s ecosystem isn’t made up of private exchanges between individuals alone, but comprises a giant reciprocal web, which might actually be more of a Möbius strip, or perhaps an ouroboros. Regardless, the very existence of one woman’s success can facilitate the success of others. As the crusty old New England aphorism goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. —Andy Crump
Remembering Neil Peart: More Than a Drummer
It would be difficult to overstate how much Neil Peart of Rush meant to multiple generations of teenagers, and not just because he was a superlative drummer. Though he may not have known it, Peart, who died Jan. 7 of a form of brain cancer, was also something of a guide and mentor. Rush fandom is often played for laughs in pop culture, when it’s not a source of outright cringes—think Jason Segel on Freaks and Geeks bashing along on the drums to “The Spirit of Radio” in his dad’s basement; or Krieger, the weirdo mad-scientist character on the animated series Archer, who has decorated each of his sketchy “rolling probable-cause” vans with airbrushed murals depicting cover art from Rush’s albums. Even Rolling Stone couldn’t resist a whiff of condescension in 2015 when it put the Canadian trio on the cover of the magazine, 41 years into Rush’s career. Under the headline “Twilight of the Geek Gods,” the one-time countercultural gatekeeper made the plaudit seem like a favor to all the nerds who like sprawling prog-rock songs full of mythology, literature, history and dystopian futures, all set to blazing guitar riffs and complicated time signatures. —Eric R. Danton