Monday, March 28, 2016

Catching up with Faded Paper Figures

As we've said before, there is so much good music out there in the world that it's a challenge to keep up - or catch up. We just recently connected with Faded Paper Figures, an "electro-organic" band that formed in California in 2007.

The band's fourth album, Relics, came out in 2014. Clashmusic.com called it "forward-thinking electro pop, with the glistening production shrouding a chassis which borrows from indie rock songcraft." Paste said "the band’s delightful pop is out-of-this-world yet grounded in self-examination." They followed that in 2015 with an EP called Remnants.
In a sense, FPF is a side project for each of its members - Kael and Heather Alden and R. John Williams. Heather is a medical doctor, Kael writes music for a Hollywood production company and John is an English professor at Yale. With the Aldens based in Los Angeles and Williams in New Haven, theirs is a bi-coastal collaboration.

We've added a few tracks from Relics to our rotation as we continue to explore their other collections. One of them, "Not The End Of The World (Even As We Know It)" is just asking to be paired with its REM antecedent - and we'll certainly do that segue one of these days. But our favorite track, at least at the moment, is "Spare Me." We hope you enjoy hearing them in our mix!

Friday, March 25, 2016

The latest additions to our Marvelous Mix

The Suffers have been playing their brand of "Gulf Soul" music since 2011, but the release of their first full-length album has brought them a lot of new buzz. So we're not among the first, but we won't be the last to add them to our playlist. "Make Some Room" and "Good Day" are our picks from the self-titled collection.

A new release from Corinne Bailey Rae is a bit of a rare thing. After her self-titled debut in 2006, she released "The Sea" in 2010. Now at last she has a new album, The Heart Speaks in Whispers, set for release in May. We've added the lovely "Stop Where You Are" to our New Releases bin.

"Nobody Wins" is the latest track added to our playlist from Painkillers, the solo debut of Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon.

He's from our home state of New Jersey, by the way - and so is...

Jessi Teich, a singer-songwriter now based in Philadelphia. Her new single, "The Curtain Call," is a gentle ballad that turns out to have a powerful kick. She recently performed it for NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Artists we play: Scott Krokoff

Our latest discovery is a singer-songwriter from Queens, N.Y., who fits somewhere in the folk-rock/Americana part of the music spectrum.

Scott Krokoff self-released his third recording last fall, and we came across it just days ago. It's called "Realizations & Declarations, Vol. 2." Yes, there was a Vol. 1, and they're conceived as EPs leading to an eventual LP.

But it doesn't sound like a work in progress. It's a polished package, with Scott's vocals and guitar backed by Steve Holley (formerly of Wings) on drums, Paul Errico (who's worked with Steve Forbert) on keyboards and Bob Stander on bass and electric guitar. Stander, a studio veteran, is the producer.

Scott writes personal but very accessible lyrics and packages them with a sound that reminds us of The Wallflowers and The Jayhawks, among others. Our favorites from the new disc - which you'll be hearing in the mix on Birch Street Radio - are "The Right Place," "Because of You," "Walter Mitty" and the clever "I Got Nothing."

Footnote: Although their sounds are very different, Scott shares something with another of the indie artists we play: Gary Douglas. Both are New Yorkers who have made their living as attorneys but refused to give up on their passion for music!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

New Jayhawks, Frightened Rabbit, White Denim

We hesitate to use the phrase "country rock" these days because so much so-called country music is really southern-fried pop-rock. But to those of us who remember The Byrds, Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield and early Eagles, "country rock" means bright guitars, smooth harmonies and wide-ranging lyrics. Maybe "alt-country" is the best modern label for this sound. One band that's practicing in this vein today - and has been for some 20 years - is The Jayhawks. We've just added "Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces," the title track from their latest release, to our New Music Bin.

From a very different musical direction comes Frightened Rabbit, a Scottish band whose latest single, "Get Out," starts out as a pleasant mid-tempo song and then explodes with tension, musically and lyrically. The subject is the love that you don't want but can't escape: "She won't get out of my heart," Scott Hutchison sings amid urgent percussion in the chorus. The band's upcoming album is called Painting of a Panic Attack.

Meanwhile, Austin-based White Denim is out with some rollickin' good party music. We've added "Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)" to the New Music Bin. From the early previews, it seems like the rest of the band's new album, Stiff, is in the same raise-the-roof style. It's coming out this week, in plenty of time to soundtrack your summer beer blast.

We're also picking up some music by an indie artist from New York, Scott Krokoff. We'll have more to say about him in another post soon.

Friday, March 18, 2016

New ingredients added to our Marvelous Mix

Oh Wonder
We're constantly adding more music to our big mix - and that doesn't always mean new music. We're also adding, bit by bit, to our library of "classics." For example, we just beefed up our Jimi Hendrix collection.

As for our New Music Bin, in recent days we added another track from Pete Yorn's recent release, Arranging Time: "In Your Head."

And something from Oh Wonder, a London duo whose debut, self-titled album was released in September. "Lose It" is the song - a slow swinging number. With hand claps and finger snaps.

We've also picked up a track from a new album by Gathering Time, a trio from the New York area who recreate the folk and folk-rock sound of the 1960s. The album is Keepsake and our current pick is "Broken Chain," featuring the wonderful voice of Hillary Foxsong. We were already playing a couple of songs from their previous release, When One Door Closes...

So yeah we're a Classic Rock station. And a New Rock station. And a Brit Alt-Pop station. And a Retro Folk station. And more! We hope you enjoy our unique blend of AlternaIndieFolkProgAmeriClassicRock!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

New-music update: Beth Orton and more

Beth Orton has announced a new album, Kidsticks, due in May. The first track was released this week. "Moon" is more electronic and spacey (pun intended? maybe) than we're used to hearing from Orton, but combined with her unmistakable voice it makes for captivating listening. We've added it to our New Music Bin.

Other fresh additions:
  • "You Know Who You Are," the title track from Nada Surf's new album, which is getting a lot of airplay and critical buzz. We're less enamored than some, but this track and "Cold to See Clear" deserve their places in our mix.
  • "Something About You" by Lucius from Good Grief. We like this track better than the first single from the album, "Born Again Teen," which you might have noticed not hearing on Birch Street Radio.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

We're glad you're listening. Let's hear from you!

We're pleased to see that new listeners are discovering Birch Street Radio. We hope you're enjoying our marvelous music mix. And we want to know what you think.

What do you like about our music mix and presentation?

Do you have suggestions for improving it?

How did you find out about Birch Street Radio?

Have you had any difficulty playing our stream?

Are there bands or singers you think we should consider adding to the mix?

Please get in touch! You can
  • leave a comment on this page
  • email us at birchstreetradio@gmail.com
  • follow us on Twitter
  • find us on Facebook 
Thanks, and please keep listening!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The newest additions to our carefully curated mix

Our panel of music testers.
A lot of new music comes our way - more than we can keep up with - and whether it makes it into our playlist depends on these very elaborate criteria:

1. Have we had a chance to listen to it?
2. Do we like it?

Yeah, that's pretty much it.

Obviously, musical taste is entirely subjective and very personal. So Birch Street Radio is a very personal mix of music that happens to grab our ears. We hope you'll enjoy our choices -- at least more often than not.

Alan Sheckter photo via hannahjanekile.com
This week our ears were grabbed by a track that came our way from Hannah Jane Kile, a 21-year-old singer, songwriter and guitarist from Auburn, Calif. As far as we can tell, she isn't well-known outside the Northern California area - yet. But "Warm Your Heart," from her new album Little Blue Heron, shows she's an artist with a lot of potential. So we've added it to our New Music bin and hope you enjoy it, too.

Also joining the many strong female voices in our lineup is Wynonna Judd. Although we're not a country-music station, some of our favorite rock and folk artists have a bit of a country streak. Now here's a country artist who's pushing into Americana country/rock territory with her new band, Wynonna and the Big Noise. And their first single, "Cool Ya," has pushed its way into our New Music Bin.

We've also added a new single from Catfish & the Bottlemen, "Soundcheck." This is another group that hasn't been in our playlist before, but hey, we like to throw some fresh garage-band sounds into the mix now and then.

And they did just win the BRIT Award for British Breakthrough Act, so that helped catch our attention.

Want to tip us to some music you think we should play? 
Go ahead and email us
Will we play it? See #1 and #2 above.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Quilt stitch together music, poetry and art

We've been giving a lot of play to the new album by Quilt, Plaza. As you might guess from the music, the band members are some deep thinkers. They met while studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

In a deep and detailed interview with The Key, a Philadelphia music blog run by public radio station WXPN, Quilt discuss the connections between visual arts, music and poetry - and many other topics, including that time flames were coming from the bottom of their car.

Give it a read! (And okay, so we're not the first to make a quilt/stitch pun! So did the Boston Globe in another good article about the band.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

We're trying to keep independent internet radio alive

Xappmedia.com
We love being able to broadcast our special blend of music to the world over the internet. But it sure has been a rocky road in the past few months.

First, the US Copyright Royalty Board revised its fee structure for streaming music. It was a compromise between the record companies and the Pandoras and Spotifys - but it completely ignored small independent webcasters. An exemption that had allowed these "personal broadcasters" -- who make little or no money from their stations -- to pay a nominal rate expired at the end of the year.

About the same time - no coincidence, to be sure - the financial backers of pioneering internet radio platform Live365 withdrew their support. The result: Live365 closed shop at the end of January, leaving tens of thousands of internet broadcasters without a host.

There are many other platforms for streaming on the web - but to obtain proper licensing, the new rate structure is unaffordable for the music enthusiasts, radio hobbyists and small groups that thrived on Live365.

Many of us turned to what seemed the only viable alternative - Radionomy, a Belgium-based company that allows you to set up a stream for free, and then sells and inserts commercials into your program. Radionomy states that it covers all licensing fees for its broadcasters, who technically don't own their stations but are "producers" on its platform.

Back in December, about the same time as the CRB decision and the investor flight from Live365, the multinational conglomerate Vivendi S.A. bought a majority stake in Radionomy. So this isn't some fly-by-night dot-com - it's now owned by the same corporation that owns Universal Music Group, the world's biggest music recording and publishing company.

But Radionomy's tens of thousands of producers around the world -- now including many former Live365 broadcasters -- were dismayed this week to learn that Sony Music has sued Radionomy in a California court for copyright infringement -- alleging that Radionomy has failed to pay performance royalties since sometime in 2014.

Radionomy and Vivendi have not yet responded, so it's unclear just what is going on here. Is this a situation that developed under the previous ownership and that Vivendi is working to correct? Or a dispute between record-company giants over how a European service is supposed to pay U.S. copyright fees?

Will this end up in a negotiated settlement between those giants so that all can live happily ever after? Or will it result in another shut-down disaster for independent U.S. webcasters?

Just as this news was circulating, Radionomy suffered a major crash. Apparently triggered by a power failure, its entire system went down Tuesday night and was completely dead for 12 hours. Its tens of thousands of stations were simply unavailable on the web. After the system came back up, it had severe problems that affected many of its stations throughout Wednesday. At this writing (10:30 p.m. Wednesday EST / 0330 Thursday UTC), problems of dead air, looping tracks and disconnects are continuing for at least some stations.

(Luckily, Birch Street Radio has been broadcasting trouble-free since Wednesday morning.)

All of this is troubling for those, like us, who simply want to put together musical radio programs that reflect our personal tastes and offer an alternative to the mainstream programming of corporate radio. We absolutely want the artists who produce the music to get their royalties, which is why we joined Live365 and then Radionomy rather than running our own unlicensed streams.

All we can hope for is that an arrangement can be reached whereby personal webcasters can continue to pursue their passion without being crushed by fees that were designed for major commercial services.

And all we ask YOU, or listeners, to do is to lend us your ears! If you enjoy our station, we hope you'll tune in early and often and build up our audience "ratings." That's how you can help us stay on Radionomy (where low-listenership stations eventually get axed). And if at some point we have to make another move, to yet another platform, we hope you'll follow along. Keep up with our latest news here at birchstreetradio.com, and on Twitter (@BirchStRadio).

Thanks for listening!