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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Our latest new-music picks: Florence + Snow Patrol + Bad Wolves + Saltwater Sun + Hey Ocean!

Florence + The Machine is preparing to release a new album, High As Hope in June. The first single, "Sky Full of Song," is scheduled to hit stores as a 7" vinyl single on Record Store Day, April 21st. Florence Welch describes it as "a song that just fell out of the sky fully formed. Sometimes when you are performing you get so high, it’s hard to know how to come down. There is this feeling of being cracked open, rushing endlessly outwards and upwards, and wanting somebody to hold you still, bring you back to yourself. It’s an incredible, celestial, but somehow lonely feeling."

Thanks to The Revue we recently discovered another female-fronted U.K. band, Saltwater Sun, and their new single, "The Wire." The song is a commentary on how the hyper-connectivity of modern society seems to be causing more division than unity. "There seems of late / A currency of hate," sings lead vocalist Jennifer Stearnes over ringing guitars and driving percussion. "Choose your words and make’em hurt / Get the final blow in first / Whatever gets the win.”

After working on solo projects for the past few years, the Vancouver-based trio Hey Ocean! has reunited and released The Hurt of Happiness. As Exclaim wrote, the band described the album "as seeking to bridge their pop and more experimental tendencies when announcing the record, and it largely succeeds ... bouncing between moods and styles with ease." Although hailing from the West Coast, David Beckingham, Ashleigh Ball, and David Vertesi put together a sound that reminds us a bit of an East Coast trio, Port Cities. Entering our new music bin is the album's title track, a mid-tempo number featuring tight harmonies among the three vocalists.

Our big mix doesn't usually include heavy-metal bands, but LA's Bad Wolves is out with a cover of The Cranberries' "Zombie" that is more of a melodic and lyrical hard-rock record. It's also a terrific song -- and still very relevant to our times, unfortunately, as new generations continue to fight old wars around the world. Its writer and original singer, Dolores O'Riordan, was scheduled to add her own vocal to the cover on the very day that she passed away. Bad Wolves singer Tommy Vext said in a statement, “It was the greatest honor to know she liked our version and wanted to sing on it. We’re deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Dolores and by the fact that she’s leaving behind three children so we are donating the proceeds from the song to her kids."

Also added to our new music bin this week, Snow Patrol's "Don't Give In," a message about resisting inner demons. Frontman Gary Lightbody says the song "was originally about a friend going through a tough time, but the more I wrote into it, I realised it was about me and the struggle of making the album ... coupled with the struggle with depression I’ve had since I was a kid, so it has become the talisman of the album. The song that became a self-fulfilling prophecy.” The album, Wildness, is due next month.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Our latest picks: Wye Oak, Eels, Alice Merton, Super Doppler, Flora Cash

Due to time constraints, we only have brief notes this week on our featured new music. But it's the music that matters, not our comments, right? Here are our latest picks:

Wye Oak: "Lifer" from their just-released album The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. We'll also be dropping other tracks from this well-crafted album into our mix. Check out the good reviews it has received from Pitchfork, The 405 and NPR Music.

Eels: "You Are The Shining Light" from the new album The Deconstruction. The album title states its unifying theme of stripping away pretense and false hopes to deal with life as it really is and ourselves as we really are. In this song, the message is that the real you can be a positive force. Check out this review from American Songwriter.

Alice Merton: "Lash Out," from her debut No Roots EP. The title track got overexposed before we had a chance to feature it, but we're grabbing this one while it's fresh.

Super Doppler: "I Can Breathe." We featured this band from Norfolk, Virginia, about a year ago when they were about to release their debut album (under a different name, Major and the Monbacks, which they changed about 10 seconds before the release). Their music, which they have called "retro psych-country rock n roll," has heavy overtones of mid-era Beatles and a good-times vibe.
Flora Cash: "You're Somebody Else." Cole Randall, from the U.S., and Shpresa Lleshaj, from Sweden, met via an online music site, became collaborators and then husband and wife. Their folky/dreamy/pop album Nothing Lasts Forever (And It's Fine), came out a year ago, but is getting more attention after a SXSW appearance last month. The opening lyric of this single caught our attention right off: "I saw the part of you that, only when you're older, you will see, too."

Sunday, April 1, 2018

New music from Courtney Barnett, Natalie Prass, Anderson East, Gang of Youths, Midnight Shine

Courtney Barnett calls out misogynists, of both the online and IRL varieties, in "Nameless, Faceless" from her forthcoming LP Tell Me How You Really Feel. She addresses internet trolls as pathetic head cases ("You sit alone at home in the darkness / With all the pent-up rage that you harness / I'm real sorry / 'Bout whatever happened to you), as well as the violence that rage can produce ("I wanna walk through the park in the dark ... I hold my keys between my fingers"). She quotes Margaret Atwood ("Men are scared that women will laugh at them ... Women are scared that men will kill them." All this in a three-minute grunge-pop song, in her usual pithy observational style. Kim Deal (Pixies, The Breeders) contributes background vocals.

Photo credit: Sergey Osipov
Also from Australia, originally, and just beginning to draw wide notice on the other side of the Pacific, is Gang of Youths. Although based in the U.S. since 2013, the band has remained best-known in its former homeland, where its most recent release, Go Farther in Lightness, topped the charts and won three ARIA awards (comparable to the Grammys or the Junos). Their arena-friendly rock, with frontman Dave Le'aupepe's literate lyrics and passionate singing, draws comparisons to the likes of U2 and Arcade Fire. The gang is now getting serious buzz from its recent U.S. appearances at SXSW and on late-night TV, and a packed show at New York's Bowery Ballroom. Although the album came out in August, we're betting it's as "new" to most of you as it is to us. We're putting the single "The Heart Is A Muscle" into our New Music bin and will drop more tracks into our big mix.

We return now to northern Ontario's Midnight Shine, whose version of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" was featured in our New Music bin a little over a month ago. While the band benefited from borrowed interest by covering that classic song (and adding an Indigenous twist), it's deserving of more attention for its original, rootsy rock music. We're now featuring another single from their new High Road album, "Velocity," which expresses a longing to slow down in a fast-paced world.

We've been slow to warm up to Nashville singer Anderson East. His gravel-voiced blue-eyed soul can feel a little too perfect at times, more imitative than authentic. But it's clear his love of Southern musical traditions is genuine, and it's undeniable that he and producer Dave Cobb are damn good at crafting records. Case in point: "Girlfriend" is a really fun listen, with its amusing love-triangle lyrics -- and its booming riffs from a killer horn section.

Natalie Prass made a splash a few years ago with her debut album of orchestral pop songs -- and now she's making waves again by taking her music in a new direction. The first two singles from her next collection, The Future and the Past, draw from R&B and disco. She joins our big mix with "Sisters," which SPIN calls "a strongly neo-soul-informed feminist anthem ... complete with jazz-piano spats, scatting, and a chorus of backing singers echoing 'Keep your sisters close / You gotta keep your sisters close to ya.'"

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Greetings from Birch Street Radio

Best wishes to all our listeners celebrating holidays this weekend.

And happy Spring to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere.

Our weekly New Music selections will debut a little later than usual this week, on Sunday evening. Check back here then.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

New music by Ellevator, Talma, Editors, Littless and Sarah Cripps added to our mix

Ellevator is a pop-rock band from Hamilton, Ontario, whose debut EP hasn't been released yet but is already getting attention from the likes of CBC Radio and Canadianbeats. We're featuring the single "New Survival," written by lead singer Nabi Sue Bersche. "I spent a lot of years trying to live up to other people’s high-hopes," Bersche says. "The song is about finding the person underneath all the noise and learning to live with them, even if I don’t always like them.”

We've previously featured London alt-rock band Talma and their single "Lifeline." Their second EP, Out To Sea, arrived recently and we're picking up on the opening track, "In Circles." Guitarist James Creed wrote the song "about the sense of apathy we can experience when returning to a routine lifestyle after time away from it all - the everyday, the mundane" - and the possibility to "step away from paths well-known and chase a new sense of meaning."

Birmingham, UK's Editors are out with their sixth album, Violence. As a reviewer on musicOMH put it,the title "suggests the perpetual gloom-mongers are about to explore new depths of darkness," but the album has "an emotional richness ... that brings some light to where there was once only darkness." Our featured track is, in fact, called "Darkness at the Door," but amid the obscurity of its lyrics there are suggestions that friendship can add that bit of light. 

Jumping back across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, we revisit Littless. Several weeks ago we started spinning "Better Left Unsaid" from the indie band's debut album, Less Precious, and now we're featuring "I've Been Waiting." Littles is the project of keyboardist Kyle Graham from another Philadelphia indie outfit, Hemming. It has an electro-pop sound grounded by sharp percussion and topped with multi-tracked vocals by Hemming's Candice Martello.

And we're dipping again into the self-titled album by Sarah Cripps, the Toronto singer-songwriter whose previous work was more country/roots oriented but who has shifted more toward a pop-alternative sound. We're adding "Caroline," which mixes layered vocals and keys with a pounding bass line and reminds us just a bit of the Christine McVie/Fleetwood Mac sound.