Sunday, September 10, 2017

New music in our mix: Caroline Reese, Pavey Ark, Alvvays, The National, Iron & Wine

We've been playing music by indie singer-songwriter Caroline Reese for several months now, and we're happy to be one of the first radio outlets to hop on Two Horses, her brand-new EP. Reese, who grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, and now spends most of her off-the-road time in Montana, returned to her home state to make this record on an old farm. The songs and arrangements are more stripped-down than on the album she released earlier this year with her band, The Drifting Fifth. The songs were recorded in about a week's time, she says, and "we kept the performances relaxed and semi-live." Our pick for the New Music bin is "Nicotine," a look back at teenage explorations involving cigarettes, cars and love. It features lap-steel guitar by Brad Hinton, cello by Matt Kolodzieski and backing vocals by another singer-songwriter you've heard on Birch Street Radio, Lizzie No.

Dipping back into the debut release by English band Pavey Ark, we're adding the title track, "Leaf by Leaf," to our playlist this week. "It's a song about our home city, Hull," the band has posted. "It's about optimism, things getting better bit by bit." The band's array of acoustic string instruments is accented nicely on this track by a trumpet feature.

The second album from Toronto's Alvvays, called Antisocialites, came out a few days ago. After previously featuring the early single "In Undertow," we're picking up "Dreams Tonite" - wherein lead singer Molly Rankin looks back on a failed relationship and wonders, "If I saw you on the street, would I have you in my dreams tonight?" In what may be a musical first, this song works in a reference to Eisenhower, to rhyme with hour.

The National's new release, Sleep Well Beast, is being hailed by critics, and while we're not as enraptured as some by the peculiar lyrics and stylings of Matt Berninger and company, we've been enjoying "The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness" along with everyone else. Now we're featuring "Guilty Party," with its remarkably straightforward lyric about a romantic breakup: "It's nobody's fault / No guilty party / We just got nothing / Nothing left to say."

Iron & Wine's new album has a similarly zoological title, Beast Epic, and from that we're pulling another end-of-love song in which the narrator is more willing to place blame. In "Bitter Truth," Sam Beam sings, "Let's be honest, we were strongest till I let you drag me down / I was sorry then, I'm not now."

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