Sunday, March 19, 2017

New music from bands of all ages

Our latest batch of new music includes tunes from bands you know well and others that perhaps you have not yet discovered. Come discover them with us!

Useless Cities is a quartet from London that formed just about a year ago and has been busily touring clubs and festivals around that city. Their sound has been called "somewhere between indie and post-rock." The mix of male and female vocals is perhaps a bit reminiscent of Arcade Fire, and they've also drawn comparisons to The National and Future Islands. They have just a handful of recorded tracks so far. From their second EP we're bringing you "New Feelings," with the refrain, "new feelings inside/new feelings, trapped inside."

San Fermin, the project of Brooklyn songwriter/musician Ellis Ludwig-Leone, is bringing out its third album, Belong, next month. We're featuring "No Promises," a song "about the fear of disappointing those who’ve placed their trust in you." Charlene Kaye's vocal is front and center on this track, with the lyric: "I won't promise/if you follow me around/I won't let you down."

Back in January we introduced you to Ha Ha Tonka, a band from Missouri that draws its influences from both modern-indie and Southern rock. We've been playing tracks from their 2013 album Lessons, and now we have their new release, Heart-Shaped Mountain. "This is our 'love album,' and love can be a scary thing," says writer/singer/guitarist Brian Roberts. There are thoughtful and poignant songs in this collection - but our initial pick for the New Music rotation is the energetic "Race To The Bottom."

Real Estate's fourth album, In Mind, has just been released, and after featuring the single "Darling" for several weeks, we're now adding "Stained Glass" to our New Music bin. Of the three New Jersey natives who formed the core of the band - singer/guitarist Martin Courtney, lead guitarist Matt Monandile and bassist Alex Bleeker - Monandile has now departed. His replacement is another old friend from New Jersey, Julian Lynch. "I’ve known Julian since I was 14 years old, so the whole process was extremely comfortable and really positive,” Courtney told Salon.

The fifth band dropping into our New Music bin this week needs no introduction at all. The single "Hypnotised" is a gentle, sad-but-hopeful tune that will appear on Kaleidoscope, an EP due in June from Coldplay. You've heard of them, we trust?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Farewell to Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry, whose rollicking songs, springy guitar riffs and onstage duck walk defined rock & roll during its early years and for decades to come, died on Saturday. See CNN's report above; read Rolling Stone's report here.

We're currently featuring tracks from this collection on Birch Street Radio.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Our five new-music picks of the week

The Right Now is a seven-piece band out of Chicago known for a soul/R&B 60s-revival sound. It's new release, Starlight, expands on that foundation with more elaborate arrangements. "Starlight is the album where we embraced being a pop band more than a soul band," keyboardist/guitarist/bandleader Brendan O'Connell told We're honestly not familiar with their earlier work, but the new record has some great energetic tunes showcasing lead singer Stefanie Berecz's powerful vocals. We're featuring "Too Late" in our New Music bin.

We've been playing "Hazy," the single from Sarah Bethe Nelson's new record, for a few months. Now that Oh Evolution has been released, we're delving deeper. The sort-of title track, called simply "Evolution," backs the San Francisco singer-songwriter's vocal with powerful drums and guitar as well as synths and multi-tracked voices. The Revue said "The psychedelic-pop foundation remains, but the pace is quickened and the tribal-like rhythm section gives the song an unexpected edge."

It's also been a few months since we added Paper City Exile's "Song For Emily" to our playlist. At the time we expressed our surprise to discover that the members of this Massachusetts band are high school students. They've now released an LP and we're adding another strong rocker, "There She Goes," to our New Music rotation.

The British quartet Temples continues to revisit the psychedelic rock era with its second album, Volcano. The magazine Clash compared it favorably with the band's acclaimed debut, 2014's Sun Structures. "No second-album syndrome here ... the songs are more psychedelic than pop this time round, but it’s clear from the offset that the band have not only built on their debut, but expanded their sound hugely." Our pick for the New Music bin is "I Wanna Be Your Mirror."

Sheryl Crow addresses the sharp divisions that are threatening society -- not just in her own USA -- in her new single. "Halfway There" is a plea for respectful discussion in place of closed-minded argument. It's the first release from her forthcoming album, "Be Myself."

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Blues & electro & art pop & rock all in our mix

From gritty to dreamy, we're once again bringing a wide variety of sounds to our New Music bin this week.

Robert Cray has been credited with a major role in sparking a 1980s revival of blues-based music, mixed with soul and R&B, that continues into today. For his latest project, Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm, he worked at Memphis' Royal Studios with Grammy-award-winning producer Steve Jordan and with members of the Hi Rhythm band that recorded with many Memphis soul legends (see this Blues Magazine article). The album is due late next month, but we've got the lead track, a cover of Bill Withers' "The Same Love That Makes You Laugh."

Speaking of variations on the blues: English blues/rock/fusion master John Mayall. Eight-three years old. First album came out in 1965. Just released a new one. Let that sink in for a moment. OK, the latest release is called Talk About That. He's joined on a couple of tracks by Joe Walsh - including "Cards On The Table," which we're putting in our New Music bin. More cuts from this album will be finding their way into our mix, too.
Baltimore, Maryland-based synth-pop trio Future Islands is bringing out its new album The Far Field next month. The first taste is a track called "Ran," which combines a quicktime rhythm with a melancholy lyric: "On these roads/Out of love, so it goes/How it feels when we fall, when we fold." There's word that Debbie Harry contributes vocals to one track on the album, but this one features the band's lead singer, Samuel T. Herring. (Are we the only ones who think Herring sounds just a bit like the non-falsetto voice of Fine Young Cannibals' Roland Gift? Yeah, we probably are.)

Nova Scotia singer/songwriter Jenn Grant's voice has been called ethereal, and that's the sound she goes for on "Galaxies," from her brand-new release, Paradise. Some tracks on the album are more down-to-earth, others are lush and dreamy. With her range of sonic styles, Grant may remind you at times of Dar Williams, Sarah McLachlan, Kate Bush, Enya - and even Marian Hill. Paradise keeps our ears paying close attention throughout.

And now for something completely different--

From Birmingham UK comes Electric Cake Salad, an alternative/hard rock/electronica band that released its second album, Subdiffusion, a few months ago. This trio has been part of the music scene in England's Midlands region for about a dozen years. We were introduced by way of Deuce Music, and we're picking picking up the single "Reason To Stay." The refrain is actually "got no reason to stay," and it has a propulsive sound that seems fitting for a fast getaway.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

New music from both sides of the Atlantic

Once again this week we're adding new music from indie bands and major-label acts alike. And honestly we think the indies are the more interesting ones! So let's get to them first:

Edgar Road is an alternative-rock band from Elgin, in northeastern Scotland. They cite Elbow, Coldplay and U2 among their influences, and the five-piece group does bring an anthemic and uplifting sound to "Kollide," a track from their newly released second album, Looking Glass. The band's name apparently refers to the location of the high school that some of the band members attended (and since we named our radio station after a street, we're naturally partial to a band named after a road). Hat tip to Deuce Music for alerting us to this emerging band.

We're likewise happy to discover Wyland, a quartet from the town of Kearny in New Jersey's Meadowlands region (hold the "swamps of Jersey" jokes, please). We caught up with them via, which has a preview of their upcoming EP Snake Hill. We're featuring the rousing "Lights Go Dark" in our New Music bin. (Photo by Brian L. Tice Jr.)

We head out to Los Angeles for The Wild Reeds, featuring the vocal talents of  Sharon Silva, Kinsey Lee and Mackenzie Howe, in powerful solos and delicate harmonies alike. When they appeared on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series in 2015, producer Bob Boilen wrote, "Great singers aren't easy to come by, so finding three in one band is something special." We've added "Only Songs" to our New Music rotation. It's the first single from the album The World We Built, due in April.

OK now on to the bigger-name acts...

The Chainsmokers aren't so much a band as a pair of American DJs, but they've teamed up with Coldplay (or at least with Chris Martin under that name) on a song called "Something Just Like This." It's four minutes of pure pop fun, nothing more and nothing less.

Rounding out this week's New Music five-pack is "Young & Wild," the latest single to spin out from Canadian band The Strumbella's 2016 album, Hope.

We hope you enjoy our big mix of new & classic rock & pop & folk & more -- and that you'll let us know what you think. Comment on this page, on Facebook or Twitter, or send us an email. We want to hear from you!