Sunday, August 20, 2017

New music by Van Morrison, Joan Osborne, Bridget Kelly, Fastball & more

Our blogger is heading off on vacation so this week's notes on our New Releases are a little rushed, but here goes:

One of the masters, Van Morrison, has a new album - we think it's his 37th! - coming out next month. It includes some blues and soul covers as well as original songs, and we've added one of those, "Transformation," to our New Music bin. Another master, Jeff Beck, guests on guitar.

Another good pairing: Joan Osborne is bringing out an album of Bob Dylan songs. We'll be playing several selections, but our feature pick this week is "Buckets of Rain."

Remember Fastball? We have to admit to losing track of this Austin, Texas, band since its late '90s breakout with All The Pain Money Can Buy and the single "The Way." But they've kept on keeping on, and released Step Into Light earlier this year. We're catching up now with a song called "We're On Our Way."

We turn on the electric blues with the Bridget Kelly Band, a group from Florida led by singer Kelly and her husband, guitarist Tim Fik. Bone Rattler is the name of their fourth album, and we're featuring a don't-let-the-door-hit-you-in-the-butt song called "Ain't Missin' You."

Our other pick for the New Music playlist this week is a timely track from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit's The Nashville Sound. It's called "White Man's World." We'll let it speak for itself.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Josh Ritter, Hemming, The Kents & more new music added to our mix

Josh Ritter is bringing out a new album, Gathering, next month. Ritter tells NPR Music that the album title is a reference to storms building up, either in the atmosphere or internally. The first song to spin out, "Showboat," is narrated by "a big talker who carries deep inner uncertainties and struggles to keep a strong front against the world raging around him."

We return to the vibrant Philadelphia indie-music scene for the latest release by Hemming, the band led by singer-songwriter Candice Martello that we've featured before on Birch Street Radio. "Counting Stones" is a dark, piano-based ballad with a plaintive vocal lamenting a broken relationship: "I can see right through the ground / And I'm counting every single stone / That's how far I let you get me down." Hemming will be touring with Philly friends Cayatana starting with September dates in Brooklyn, Toronto, Detroit and Chicago.

Another indie act that we've featured before is Ontario quartet The Kents. They put out an EP last year and now follow up with a single, "Is There Anyone?" Lead vocalist and guitarist Warren Frank says it's "about trying to find one's place amidst the constant barrage of opinions that social media has become." Over a jittery, syncopated beat, he sings, "Is there anyone ... to tell me all the things I need to hear."

One of the current practitioners of "retro" or "vintage" rock is J.D. McPherson, who played with a rockabilly band in his home state of Oklahoma before setting out solo. Now living in Nashville (where it seems damn near every type of music is being crafted and innovated these days), he's bringing out his third album, Undivided Heart & Soul, in October. The first single is a tale about a run of misfortune, called "Lucky Penny."

Also joining our new music rotation this week is the latest from Big Head Todd and the Monsters, "Damaged One." The veteran guitar-rockers from Colorado apparently have an album due this fall, although we haven't been able to find its title or any other info. We figure it's a good bet it will also include the band's previous single, last year's "Wipeout Turn."

Here these five picks-of-the-week in our big 24/7 mix on Birch Street Radio on your favorite media player - Or hear them together right now in this set on MixCloud:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Americana, Canadian alt-rock and more new music

We're featuring another very eclectic batch of New Music this week, ranging from the delicately beautiful sound of a female folk trio to the multi-layered sounds of young alt-rock bands.

They may not be household names in pop circles, but Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan are superstars in the realm of folk, bluegrass and Americana. They've come together on and off in the past couple of years to perform as I'm With Her, a project that the New York Times described as an alliance of virtuosos. Violinist Watkins, guitarist O'Donovan and multi-instrumentalist Jarosz, songwriters all, meld their singing and playing beautifully. They finally have an EP coming out soon, and we're featuring the first track to emerge, "Little Lies."

Montreal alt-rockers Chair Warriors make their Birch Street Radio debut this week with "Lights Out," the first track to emerge from an upcoming EP called Dawn of Edo (a Japanese-history reference). The trio of vocalist/keyboardist Brandon Mignacca, guitarist Robert Flis and drummer Gopal Devanathan produces an expansive sound influenced by bands like Muse. Mignacca says of this song, "Lights Out is about the idea of seeing things for what they truly are. City lights deny us the chance to view the stars, among other things. It’s when the lights are out that you can truly see what the universe holds both externally and internally."

Also on our playlist for the first time is Oakland, California's Day Wave. It's the solo project of Jackson Phillips, a singer-songwriter who fleshes out his songs with guitar, synth and drums to give them a psych-pop sound. Following a couple of EPs, he released his first full-length, The Days We Had, a few months back. We're catching up with the catchy "Something Here."

Our other featured picks this week are:
  • Another track from Little Hurricane's most recent release, Same Sun, Same Moon. The California duo continues in its optimistic vein with "Isn't It Great."
  • And the ever-optimistic, unstoppable Ringo Starr has a new album coming out next month, Give More Love. We're adding the title track, wherein Ringo keeps alive the Beatles' love-is-all-you-need philosophy - which indeed we need in these times.

We play one of our 15 latest New Music picks at the top of each hour of our live stream. You can also listen to the latest five picks, listed above, in this set on Mixcloud.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Latest picks: Arcade Fire, Shawna Caspi, The Lone Bellow & more

Arcade Fire's Everything Now made its full debut this past week, and it's getting rather mixed reviews -- as often happens when a band is deemed Important and the critical bar is set very high. The album is indeed a bit uneven, and some of the lyrics are preachy or trite. But rather than look for flaws, we look for solid tracks that will add flavor to our Marvelous Mix. We've been enjoying the title cut and "Signs Of Life," and now we're featuring "Put Your Money On Me" in our New Music bin.

We dip again this week into Broken Social Scene's Hug of Thunder album for "Halfway Home," a glorious commotion of guitar and strings and horn and voices that seems to keep all 13 or so band members busy. The lyric is mysterious and a bit harrowing: "You said we're halfway home / You said survive ... If you never run, never run / How they gonna catch you alive."

As we always strive to mix things up, our next pick this week comes from singer-songwriter Shawna Caspi, one of the independent artists we play regularly on Birch Street Radio. Her fourth album, Forest Fire, is due in September, and the first track to spin out is "Never Enough." It's a story of a mother's desperate prayer for her troubled son, "calling up to heaven and hoping for a little relief." Over a gentle acoustic arrangement, Caspi's bell-clear vocal is evocative but not sentimental.

Also coming in September is the third album from The Lone Bellow, Walk Into A Storm. The preview single, "Time's Always Leaving," is a rousing number with the trio's trademark full-throated harmonies, and a clever lyric about a personified Time that keeps looking at her watch, impatient to move on.

And from the Bellow's Brooklyn/Nashville folk-rock we jump to the California/Southern blues-rock-jam sound of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. This hard-working crew is out with its fifth full-length album in as many years, Barefoot In The Head. calls the ex-Black Crowes frontman and his bandmates "torchbearers, carrying hippie blues traditions into a new century." Our pick for this week's New Music bin is "Behold The Seer."

We play one of our latest 15 New Music picks at the top of each hour of our live stream. If you'd like to hear all five of them right now, here they are, made into a set on Mixcloud.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

This week's new-music picks: Banditos, The Georgia Flood, The Mrs & more

From Alabama by way of Nashville come the Banditos, a six-piece group that, like so many of the best new acts, mashes up various musical styles to create its own. Writing about their debut album, NPR said, “Three vocalists, a wicked guitarist who also plays pedal steel, a banjo, an upright bass and a hot-footed drummer guarantee that every song they play is stuffed with crazy rhythms and melodic energy.” They've just released their sophomore effort, Visionland, and it displays their wide range. We're putting bar-band-rocker "Fine Fine Day" into our New Music rotation this week, and we'll be spinning other tracks as well.

Another Southern-flavored rocker entering our new-releases bin comes from Atlanta-based The Georgia Flood, one of the many indie bands we've featured before on Birch Street Radio. The group consists of brothers Brooks Mason (vocals/guitar) and Lane Kelly (bass) plus their long-time high school friends, Gavin Deleshaw (guitar) and Damien Navarro (drums). It's only been six months or so since they released their debut album, but they're out with a new single, "Take A Hit."

When you think "new indie pop-band from Austin, Texas," you probably don't picture four moms in their 30s and 40s. But ... well, why not? Andra Liemandt was inspired by her daughter's music lessons to take up drumming. She and long-time friend and tech-company co-worker Jenny Mason, who plays bass, recruited keyboardist Larissa Ness and guitarist Mandy Prater to form The Mrs, both to express their creativity and to spread a message of empowerment for women and girls. From their self-produced debut album we're picking the extremely catchy "Somewhere To Go."

Rounding out our featured New Music picks this week are a couple of more-established artists, with additional tracks from their most-recent releases:

The ubiquitous Dan Auerbach, from his Waiting On A Song solo album, with the self-deprecating "King Of A One-Horse Town."

And the irrepressible Coldplay with the best track (in our opinion) to emerge from the new Kaleidoscope EP. The Brian Eno collaboration "A L I E N S" is a timely song of refugees, with a 5/4 rhythm giving it a suitably nervous feeling.


We're trying something new this week: Using Mixcloud to give you our New Music picks in one package. We may do more with that platform in time. As always we welcome your feedback!