This has been one of the strangest, most difficult weeks in years. Some things feel pointless right now, but art isn’t one of them. Various forms of culture and entertainment are one of the few pure enjoyments available to us right now, and instead of letting ourselves fall down a dark path, we need to keep our spirits up and our souls filled. In good news this week, Bandcamp is waiving their revenue shares on all sales today (March 20) in order to support independent artists who have little to no income right now. Also, artists have been putting on impromptu Instagram performances and live-streamed concerts to try and fill the void of live music. While the touring industry has now grinded to a halt, artists have still been releasing music this week, and we’ve heard some pretty great stuff from Hayley Williams, Rustin Man, Perfume Genius and others. If you’re looking for some refuge from the chaos, scroll down to check out the music and other content that made us smile this week.
It’s hard to believe that it was already four years ago when a 19-year old Låpsley released one of the most promising debut records in recent memory in the spectacular, Long Way Home. Songs like “Hurt Me,” “Falling Short” and “Operator” are still on heavy rotation for us (the latter thanks in part to DJ Koze’s popular Disco remix), and Through Water is an exciting next phase for the songwriter and producer. Låpsley’s early work came with a certain elegance that she’s certainly built upon on last December’s These Elements EP. Two songs from that EP, “My Love Was Like The Rain” and “Ligne 3” will also appear on Through Water and show the exquisite production and distinct vocal duality that put Låpsley on our radar to begin with. —Adrian Spinelli
Clockdust, the third album from Rustin Man, the moniker of former Talk Talk bassist Paul Webb, comes along as a bit of a surprise. It took six years following the last full-length by his previous band .O.rang in 1996 for him to settle into a solo career, with the release of 2002’s Out of Season, a haunted folk album recorded with Portishead vocalist Beth Gibbons. And it wasn’t until 17 years later when its follow-up, Webb’s first proper solo release Drift Code, finally hit the streets. Buoyed by the same swell of inspiration that helped create Drift Code, this new collection arrives less than a year later. But it also appears colored by the death of Mark Hollis, Webb’s bandmate in legendary post-rock group Talk Talk, last February. There doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation between that momentous passing and the music and lyrics found on Clockdust—at least none that Webb has owned up to in the press material for this album. But what hovers over this lovely, late-night listen is the unavoidable passing of time: a nostalgic filter through which each groggy gem should be viewed. —Robert Ham
Hayley Williams (feat. boygenius): “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris”
Hayley Williams has shared a new solo single with boygenius, “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris,” taken from her forthcoming album Petals for Armor, out on May 8 via Atlantic Records. “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” is a floral-themed, sultry tune with background vocals from boygenius—the beloved indie supergroup of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker. The string arrangements and subtle guitar lines give it a distinctly yearning quality and an underlying sadness. —Lizzie Manno
Perfume Genius: “On The Floor”
Last month, Perfume Genius released “Describe,” the first single from Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, which alluded to a pop-forward sound on the new album. “On The Floor” also heavily leans into a full-blown pop sound—a jubilant exploration of love, sex and physicality. —Natalia Keogan
Waxahatchee: “Can’t Do Much”
These are dark times, but we at least have a new Waxahatchee record to look forward to: Katie Crutchfield’s Saint Cloud is out next Friday, March 27, coronavirus be damned, and this week brings our latest preview of the album, honky-tonk love song “Can’t Do Much.” It may not be sentimental, per se, but “Can’t Do Much” is tupelo honey-sweet: Crutchfield croons, “I want you all the time / Sanity, nullified,” as if stating a fact, rather than expressing her feelings, yet the song is all the more romantic for it. —Scott Russell
London dream pop project Wyldest (aka Zoe Mead) stopped by the Paste Studio in Manhattan during New Colossus Festival to perform songs from her recent albums—her 2019 debut Dream Chaos and its recent acoustic re-working Redream Chaos.
Manchester four-piece rockers New Luna performed at last week’s New Colossus Festival, but stuck around in NYC the following week and played a Paste Studio session for us. They performed four tracks: “Mantis,” “Opinionated,” “Knew Too” and “Falling Apart.”
The 15 New British Acts You Need to Know in 2020
Here at Paste, we enjoy rounding up the acts we’re most excited about from across the pond. We did so for the past two years (here in 2018 and here in 2019), and have found favorites in artists like Shame, Yola, Nilüfer Yanya, black midi and Honey Lung. Now, we’re ready to gush about the next class of fresh-faced Brits whose ages, background and genres vary wildly, but that’s part of the fun. We were excited to see several of the artists listed here at Austin’s now-canceled SXSW, but even though we weren’t able to see them live, we’re still thrilled to introduce them to you. Some of these names, like Georgia and Beabadoobee, have been drawing headlines for a few years, but others, like caroline and Sault, will likely be new for many. Ranging from folk, jazz, punk, pop and more, here are 15 U.K. artists who’ve caught our eyes and ears as of late, listed in alphabetical order. —Lizzie Manno
10 Musicians Making Great Quarantine Content on Instagram Right Now
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table. The only other living things in sight are my marmalade-colored cat and a stash of red flowers wilting in a blue vase. It’s been just over a week since things took a turn for the worst, coronavirus-wise, in the U.S., and like many of you, I’m just trying to figure out how to exist right now and care for those around me who may be more vulnerable. Working from home has its perks, but I’ll admit I’m starting to feel a little nutty. You know who else is on the verge of losing it? Vanessa Hudgens, apparently. The actress went live on Instagram earlier this week and made some pretty questionable comments about the spread of COVID-19 (she has since apologized). “It’s a virus, I get it,” she chirped. “Like, I respect it. But at the same time, like, even if everybody gets it, like, yeah, people are gonna die, which is terrible but, like, inevitable?” Wow. Someone needs to get a new publicist (or maybe some, like, empathy?). Most traces of the unfortunate occurrence have been expunged from the internet, but I haven’t forgotten. Thankfully, there are leagues of other, dare I say more thoughtful celebrities putting Instagram to good use during this period of social distancing. For musicians, that can look like a flood of new live videos, a Q&A or a live stream, and there are a few folks who have taken extra care to make your feeds a little less gloomy. Here are 10 artists who are making really great #QuarantineContent (is that a hashtag yet?) despite how bleak everything may seem. If you like what you hear/see, give them a follow, and, if you’re feeling extra generous, find a way to support them. Everyone affected by this virus—especially touring independent musicians—could use a little boost right now. —Ellen Johnson
The 15 Best Fiona Apple Songs
Earlier this week, Fiona Apple let loose some much pined-for information regarding her eagerly awaited new album, via an extensive interview with The New Yorker. The new record (with a still unannounced release date) is called Fetch the Bolt Cutters, taken from a Gillian Anderson quote. “Really, what it’s about is not being afraid to speak,” Apple said in the profile. As it turns out, Apple has never been afraid to speak throughout her 25-year career. She has repeatedly divulged and desecrated the rumors and gossip surrounding her public persona, but instead of doing so in the press, she usually prefers to address those matters in her music (except for the occasional, incredible public outburst, like her famed acceptance speech at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, or, more recently, her spur-of-the-moment interview with Vulture). But take away all the noise, all the speculations about what she’s up to and when she’ll release something next, and Fiona Apple is still one of the most innovative artists to have walked the earth in the last three decades. She has released four near-perfect albums, and she continually pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a pop artist. These days, the 42-year-old rarely leaves her house in Venice Beach, Calif., but for those of us in the outside world, her music remains a sort of salve to the chaos that has unfolded since the most noteworthy moments of her career. In anticipation of the new music and celebration of what she has already accomplished, we took a look back at some of Fiona’s best songs. Here are 15 of our favorites. —Ellen Johnson, Allison Keene & Austin Jones
How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Wreaking Havoc on International Bands Touring the U.S.
Last Wednesday, the Argentina-based bluegrass band Che Apalache was traveling through North Carolina when they got some distressing news. Two Midwestern dates on their sprawling U.S. tour had been canceled. It was the first wave of cancelations for Che Apalache as the grim reality of the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the music industry. The band was about to embark on a 13-hour drive to Indiana, where they had a show scheduled in Goshen, Ind. And Joe Troop, the group’s bandleader and fiddler, had no idea what was going to happen. “We’re going into the fourth week of an 11-week tour,” Troop told me that afternoon, March 11. “We don’t know what the next seven weeks of our lives are gonna be. We’re really at the mercy of what people decide to do.” Troop knew the whole tour was teetering on the brink of collapse. And he had already booked weeks’ worth of travel accommodations, rental vehicles, hotels, and airline tickets which he knew wouldn’t be refunded. “The worst case scenario is that we don’t have any income this year,” Troop said. “We live off of touring. This is our entire income. The rest of the year is spent planning for the tours. This is a complete upheaval of our economic structures.” A novel virus that hardly anyone had heard of three months ago is likely to disrupt the entertainment industry more severely than any event since September 11, or perhaps the 1980s AIDS epidemic. (If that seems like hyperbole, consider that some leaders are comparing this crisis to World War II.) And Che Apalache, which had been touring behind its album Rearrange My Heart, a Grammy-nominated fusion of bluegrass and Latin American folk, is hardly the only act facing financial devastation in the pandemic age. Festivals have been called off, venues have gone dark, countless tours have been canceled, and musicians are wondering how to make a living in the weeks or months ahead. —Zach Schonfeld
10 Ways to Support Indie Artists Amid Coronavirus Cancellations
These are potentially dismal times. With schools, churches, retail stores, bars, restaurants and offices closing their doors by the hundreds, and the rest of us stuck inside, separated from the outside world, all in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it can all feel a bit hopeless—not to mention lonely. Industries across the board are being affected by outbreak, but the independent music sector may feel the ripples in an especially painful way. Concerts, tours and festivals across the world have been canceled or postponed, and, for many independent artists, tour revenue is a crucial if not primary source of income. This means that now is a perfect time to support those artists in some other way, if you’re able. We’re all (hopefully) at home right now practicing social distancing, probably on or near the couch, our entertainment systems eager to supply some comfort. So why don’t you throw on an LP if you have a record player, stream a favorite new release on Bandcamp or just subscribe to your favorite musician’s YouTube page and float away with a tide of their posted videos? You may not be heading out to a concert these next few weeks, but there are still avenues for enjoying and supporting the music that matters to you. Here are a few ways you can help your favorite artists from home. —Ellen Johnson
The 8 Best Acts We Saw at New Colossus Festival 2020
It’s hard to discuss the second edition of New York City’s New Colossus Festiva without mentioning the elephant in the room. Coronavirus has been shutting down or postponing live music events all across the globe over the past two weeks—most notably Austin’s famous SXSW and California’s Coachella—but NYC’s New Colossus chugged ahead last week as best as it could. A number of artists pulled out, fearing that they might get stuck in New York City due to impending travel bans, and venues were eventually subject to the city’s capacity restrictions or forced to cancel. It was hectic, to say the least, but the artists who did show at this Lower East side five-day event put on some incredible performances for audiences still hungry for live music—despite all the warnings. Paste’s showcase at Berlin experienced a few speed bumps due to artist cancellations, but performances from Tim Burgess, Honey Lung and others resulted in a warm, intimate evening of music. Paste also hosted live-streamed sessions with a number of artists from the festival at our Manhattan studio, like Donna Blue, Ali Barter, New Luna, Siv Jakobsen and more, and you can check all those out on our YouTube channel here. As for the artists that blew us away while we floated around the small venues of the Lower East Side, you can read about these fantastic eight artists. —Lizzie Manno