Sunday, September 17, 2017

New this week: U2, Dhani Harrison, Lone Bellow, Crooked Weather & .imp

Once again our New Music picks for the week range from big stars to lesser-known indies. We'll start this post with the biggest of the big: U2. It's fashionable in some circles to dismiss this band as so-last-century, but there's no denying it has an excellent body of work behind it - and that it's still capable of making top-notch rock/pop. "You're The Best Thing About Me," the new single from its upcoming LP Songs of Experience, may not be cutting-edge but it's a fine, solid track. And while it gives the initial impression of being a happy love song, the lyric is actually about self-defeating behavior: "The best things are easy to destroy ... Why am I walking away?"

Dhani Harrison is ready to stand on his own. After performing in various bands and writing music and TV scores, he's releasing his debut solo album, In///Parallel, next month. So far, two tracks have emerged -- "All About Waiting" and "Admiral Of Upside Down." The former blends psych rock and indie elements and, yes, reminds us Beatles fans of his dad's work. Camila Grey, formerly of the LA band Uh Huh Her, is featured on backing vocals. ("Admiral" is a dreamy number that murmurs along for about four minutes and then gets dramatically louder - but, sorry, it just doesn't work for us.)

London-based producer James Hargreaves released an EP under the name .imp ("dot-imp") earlier this year, and is now getting some traction with a single from it called "Pull Me Over." Hargreaves describes it as a song about "the grind of repetition in everyday life and using music as an escape," built around a looped bass line that he says is "a musical representation of exactly that." We find it catchy, and a pleasant few minutes of escapism. It's hard to put .imp in a musical category; each track on the EP, Headscrambler, has a different style, mostly much edgier and noisier than this one.

"Americana" is one of those musical categories that can't be clearly defined beyond "I know it when I hear it, sorta." And its blurry boundaries are pointed up by the fact that musicians from the UK, Canada and other countries are grouped in with its U.S. practitioners. After all, the Americana Music Awards named Mumford & Sons as Emerging Arist of the Year in 2011 and this month gave Van Morrison a Lifetime Achievement-Songwriting award. So maybe the English quartet Crooked Weather belongs in that club - or maybe not. Their acoustic music has been described as "haunting," "ethereal" and a cross between indie-folk and World Music. We're pleased to feature their new single, "Rabbit Holes." (P.S.: Crooked Weather hail from Hull, the U.K.'s 2017's City of Culture, as does another indie band we've featured, Pavey Ark.)

Another phenomenon in the Americana movement is the frequent appearance of bands that formed in U.S. cities, as opposed to the countryside - a throwback, perhaps, to the Greenwich Village folk revival of the 1960s. The Lone Bellow, for example, emerged from the Brooklyn music scene. But for its third album, Walk Into A Storm, the band moved to Nashville and recorded in the historic RCA Studio A with producer Dave Cobb, who has worked with Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell. We've been playing the single "Time's Always Leaving," and now that the full album is out you'll be hearing several tracks in our mix. Our feature pick for the week is "Feather," a rollicking track with Kanene Donehey Pipkin taking the lead vocal.

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