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

You may have spent this week gearing up for the holiday weekend, but your favorite artists were busy announcing new projects. This week Washed Out, This Is The Kit and Sufjan Stevens each announced new albums out in 2020, and we couldn’t be more tickled. In addition to these album announcements and accompanying singles, we heard a daring new album by British rock group Dream Wife and rounded up the best music of June 2020 (a good month for music by any standard). Check out the best albums and songs of the month, and then zero in on this incredible week for music. It feels strange to end this intro by inviting you to have a great Fourth of July, so instead I’ll suggest you swap patriotic songs for protest anthems this year. In any case, have a nice weekend, and may it be filled with music.


Dream Wife: When You Gonna…

Dream Wife’s sophomore record So When You Gonna… is noticeably less fiery than their debut, though you wouldn’t guess that from the first track, “Sports!,” which comes out the gate at full speed. The videogame-inspired bridge and the Garfunkel and Oates-esque line “These are the rules / Sports!” are just a few elements that make it one of the best songs on the album. The momentum dissipates fairly quickly into the album, though some of the energy from their debut peeks through on the title track and the live-while-we’re-young banger “RH RN.” While the all-or-nothing feeling of the first record is missed, the progression makes sense. Dream Wife was the sound of being young, of kissing strangers (“Let’s Make Out”) and endless summers (“Kids”). Now that the members of Dream Wife are a bit more grown up, their musical choices reflect that. It’s a trite observation about a sophomore album, but cliches become those for a reason: They’re true again and again. The band members are slightly less rash, though the songs are still punctuated by angular guitar and Mjöll’s shrieks that would give Poly Styrene a run for her money. —Clare Martin


Sufjan Stevens: “America”

Earlier this week, singer/songwriter and composer Sufjan Stevens announced the details of his eighth solo album The Ascension, due out on Sept. 25 via Asthmatic Kitty Records. This morning (July 3), Stevens has premiered its lead single “America”—a 12-minute electro-pop epic—alongside a video shot by Stevens. Stevens describes the new song as “a protest song against the sickness of American culture in particular.” —Lizzie Manno

This Is The Kit: “This Is What You Did”

Kate Stables announced this week that her next album under the This Is The Kit alias is called Off Off On, and it’s set to arrive Oct. 23 on Rough Trade. The news arrived with the lead single “This Is What You Did,” which features Stables’ signature upbeat banjo, top-knotch vocals and restless, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Stables describes it as “A bit of a panic attack song,” adding, “”The negative voices of other people that are your own voice. Or are they? Hard to say when you’re in this kind of a place. How to get out of this place? Needing to get outside more.” —Ellen Johnson

Jordana: “Big”

Jordana has announced a two-part EP series, with the first part titled Something to Say, out July 31 via Grand Jury Music, and the second part coming this fall. She previewed Something to Say this week with a new song, “Big.” “Big is written about my experience of entering a state of pure confidence,” Jordana says. “It describes the fearlessness that I’ve taken on to reach this point.” The song is a unique electro-pop adventure, and Jordana’s vocals are as silky and gorgeous as ever. The video is a fun, youthful visual component, depicting her dancing in the streets at night. —Danielle Chelosky


The 10 Best Laurel Canyon Albums

Last year, our critic noticed a trend in Laurel Canyon sounds appearing throughout indie music. Artists like Jenny Lewis, Weyes Blood and Molly Tuttle have been channelling Mitchell, Carole King, Emmylou Harris and more artists who were posting up with the likes of Neil Young, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Gram Parsons in the late ’60s. The free spiritedness of the hippie era could be felt across the cottages and hills dotting the Laurel Canyon area. In honor of this “bohemian refuge” and the distinct sound it inspired (plus Neil Young and James Taylor, two stalwarts of the scene, have released albums this year), we decided to gather a list of albums we love here at Paste that came out of that era. While the Laurel Canyon sound can undoubtedly be heard today in artists like the aforementioned Weyes Blood plus Jonathan Wilson and Dawes, we decided to restrain this list to albums that arrived around the actual time that all these folks were living in Laurel Canyon. Not every album listed here was made in L.A. as a direct result of hanging out with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (the most notable residents of Laurel Canyon during this time) or one of the other Laurel Canyon legends, but they all share a similar sound, style and spirit undoubtedly inspired by the Canyon. Please enjoy the 10 best Laurel Canyon albums. —Ellen Johnson & Paste Staff

The 10 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2020 (So Far)

Rap and hip-hop have dominated the charts in recent years, and rappers have continued to make history in the past six months. Countless artists made striking impressions, and some reached milestones. Fans flocked to social media to ensure Beyoncé, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj made history as the first four black female solo artists to occupy the top two spots on the Billboard Hot 100 with their respective hit singles, “Say So” and “Savage.” We saw Drake’s mixtape, Dark Lane Demo Tapes, debut at number two behind Kenny Chesney’s Here and Now, which ended Drake’s streak of nine consecutive number one debuts. Pop Smoke’s Meet the Woo 2 was an exciting taste of potential before the Brooklyn rapper was killed in February. Rap and hip-hop have always been major platforms for rebellion against police brutality, and the recent outrage sparked by George Floyd’s killing cements what rappers have been talking about for decades. This year has seen many artists make statements, push boundaries and challenge the mainstream, even if that risks streams or album sales. Their blend of activism with innovation in lyricism and production is capable of far more than just entertainment—it can change hearts and minds. Without any further ado, here are our 10 favorite hip-hop albums of 2020 (so far). —Jarrod Johnson II

The 10 Best Albums of June 2020

2020 is a year defined by pain, disease and a long overdue racial justice movement. There’s no doubting that now, and while there’s still six months of the year left, there’s no changing it. However we may remember June 2020 for its music in addition to its movements. And the two weren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. This month, we received Run The Jewels’ fiery fourth LP, which our critic called the “unofficial soundtrack of the uprising.” It is truly an album of this moment. We also received the excellent new album from one of America’s finest musicians, Bob Dylan, in addition to career-best new records from Phoebe Bridgers, Hinds and HAIM. Don’t waste another moment without these records in your life. Dig into all the best music from June 2020 here. —Paste Music Staff

The 15 Best Songs of June 2020

If you think about the year as a whole, you may imagine 2020’s soundtrack as sounding bleak. But, in reality, it’s full of grit and hope. June is the perfect example. While protest songs like those from Sault, Noname, Leon Bridges, Terrace Martin and Run The Jewels reigned supreme, we were also treated to songs of pure beauty. And lest forget the songs that fall somewhere in between, like the jubilance of Bad Moves’ catchy anti-capitalist fight song “Working For Free.” June really sounded great, when you get right down to it. We had our ears to the ground, sky and the space in the middle, and this is what we came up with. Enjoy the best songs of the last 30 days. —Paste Music Staff