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Sunday, January 28, 2018

John Gorka, Sarah Cripps, Barrence Whitfield and more in this week's New Music bin

John Gorka has been one of our favorite singer-songwriters since we caught him at a folksinger show in New York in the 1980s, so we were very glad to come upon his latest release, True In Time. Recorded in just a few days of "live" sessions in a Minneapolis studio, with his long-time producer Rob Genadek at the helm, the album is the next-best thing to one of his coffeehouse concerts. We're adding "Nazarene Guitar" to our New Music bin. It features backing vocals by frequent collaborator Lucy Kaplansky and pedal steel by Joe Savage, and opens with a typically self-deprecating, deadpan line: "The cool people had a meeting, decided that I wasn't one of them / So I took my Nazarene guitar and played it all the way to Bethlehem." Pennsylvania, that is.

Thanks to Canadian Beats for introducing us to Sarah Cripps, who just released her self-titled second album. Previously considered a country musician, she took a few years off from music and has reemerged as a singer-songwriter with a wide-ranging, dark-tinged pop sound. Cripps told Atwood Magazine she was "going through a turbulent transition" while making the album. The lead track, "Leave Behind," "is a reflection of losing myself and some of my lowest moments - ultimately, it’s the turning point that gave me the guts to just embrace the weirdness.” We're spinning that track, and will soon be adding more.

We have to admit our familiarity with Awolnation is pretty much limited to "Sail," the quirky 2011 single that managed to run up the charts several separate times. The third album from the Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist Aaron Bruno, Here Come the Runts, comes out this week, and the latest single, "Handyman," caught our ear. It jump-cuts from gentle acoustic passages to rumbles of distorted guitar, with lyrics that also jump around from wistful memories of love ("If only yesterday took place tomorrow") to a line about being afraid of the government.   

Of course, we like to mix up our music and jump from genre to genre, so let's turn next to the raucous roadhouse sound of Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. This Boston-based outfit has been churning out its own blend of blues-rock, soul and funk since the 1970s. We were lucky enough to catch one of its local shows sometime in the mid-80s and were blown away by the band and its frontman's over-the-top energy. It's great to hear they've got a new album coming out, and ya gotta love the title: Soul Flowers of Titan. And the equally out-there title of the first single: "Let's Go To Mars." This rocket trip is powered by blasts of guitar, horns and the captain's commanding voice.

Denver-based Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats also has a reputation for great live shows, with its mix of guitar, horns, piano and sturdy vocals. Although their first album, and the single "S.O.B.," won the band a big following, it frankly didn't really grab us. But their latest tune, "You Worry Me," has worked its way into our ears and reaches our playlist this week. Its pensive lyrics are set against quick-paced, upbeat music that give them a hopeful mood.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

New music by David Byrne, Sunflower Bean, Caitlin Canty & introducing The Recoupes

A lot of commercial radio stations are so stuck in their formats that they won't play new releases by long-established artists. But we're always happy to hear new music from "old masters." So we're adding the first single from David Byrne's forthcoming American Utopia to our New Music playlist this week. The album, due in March, reunites Byrne with Brian Eno and includes many other collaborators. The single, "Everybody's Coming To My House," was co-written by Eno. Byrne is planning an extensive tour behind the album, including a stop at Coachella.
Also due in March is the third album by Sunflower Bean. Twentytwo In Blue will include the single "I Was A Fool," which we've been playing for a couple of months, and a second single has just spin out, called "Crisis Fest." Stereogum says that on this track, the Brooklyn-based trio "diverts from the dreamy indie-rock that ran throughout their 2016 debut album, Human Ceremony, toward an energetic mix of classic rock and pop rock."
Shifting to the singer-songwriter vein, we have a new single from Caitlin Canty, her first full-length collection since 2015's Reckless Skyline. “Take Me For A Ride” is a slow, contemplative number featuring a regret-tinged vocal backed by guitar and mournful pedal-steel. “The song is a take on the frustration in circling back to a vice or a person that you’ve been trying to quit,” Canty told American Songwriter. It will be the opening track on the Vermont-born, Nashville-based Canty's Motel Bouquet.


From the bars and clubs of London and Essex comes a young quartet called The Recoupes. They've started to get some airplay in the U.K. and they're about to release a single, "All I Know." It's a bouncy rocker that frontman Alan Li says is about "knowing that you can’t be perfect – especially when you’re young, and feel like you’re still getting the hang of life. But despite that, you find someone who accepts that and you want to give your all to them.” Ah, young love!

And we're dipping back into the recent EP by Common Deer, called simply II. We've been playing the exuberant "Wait!" and now we're featuring "Gone," a somewhat more pensive track that still features the Toronto quintet's expansive, cinematic sound.

We're always on the hunt for new music and new artists, and we're open to your suggestions. Comment on this page, contact us on Facebook or Twitter, or email us: birchstreetradio@gmail.com

Sunday, January 14, 2018

New music by Bedouin, Fox Grin, Coveter and more added to our mix

The debut album from Bedouine, the project of Syrian-born, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Azniv Korkejian, has been getting wonderful reviews. Pitchfork wrote that the songs have a "natural intimacy, with arrangements that, at their most ornate, feel like impromptu daydreams in the minds of their narrators." It draws comparison to Joni Mitchell's Hissing of Summer Lawns. The Guardian wrote, "her debut elegantly shape-shifts between Americana, country, cosmic folk and sun-scorched soul." We're joining the chorus of praise for this captivating album. "One Of These Days" is one of our featured New Music tracks this week, and we'll soon be adding more of Bedouine's gorgeous songs.

Also new to our collection is Fox Grin, a art-rock/dream-pop duo originally from Atlanta that's now based in Nashville. Thomas Chapman (vocals/guitar/keys) and David Bean (bass/backing vocals) aim to create "brilliantly colored soundscapes with a pop-song sensibility." Atlanta Immersive has called their music "wonderfully lush noise." They've just released their third collection, King Of Spades, and our featured pick is "One Day."

And we've just been introduced to Coveter, an emerging alt-rock band from Ottowa that put out its first EP, Love Me To Pieces, a few months back. One review said its five songs "do an excellent job of incorporating alternative, blues, funk, and even pop with a modern twist. [The band's] greatest trick is how it seems to rock hard, yet seems so laid back." Coveter's sound is on the rough-and-noisy edge of what we typically play, but we're enjoying the jaunty sound of our featured track, "Who Knows?"

Our other New Music picks of the week are additional cuts from albums we've featured in recent weeks:

  • From Tempest by Vancouver Island's Band of Rascals, we're adding "Altitude."
  • And from the self-titled album by Rochester, N.Y.'s Heroic Enthusiasts, we're picking up "Pure Fade" 
As always, we welcome suggestions about what music - new, not-so-new and classic - we should check out. Comment on this page, on Twitter or Facebook or at birchstreetradio@gmail.com

Sunday, January 7, 2018

This week's picks: Jacobs Run, Danielia Cotton, Joe Satriani, BRMC and Blue October

Last summer we picked up on Jacobs Run, a trio from Melbourne, Australia. We've been playing their singles "Hold On a Minute" and "Use" and waiting to hear more. Now their third single, "Sleepwalking," is about to be released, and we've got an early copy in our New Music bin. It's a tale of insomnia caused by relationship angst: "I'm churning up inside my head / wondering what it is I should have said." This is a polished piece of pop/rock - not surprising since this "new" band is made up of veteran musicians. They cite as influences fellow Australians The Church as well as Oasis, Snow Patrol and Tom Petty.
Another indie artist we've featured before is Danielia Cotton, who blends elements of rock, soul, gospel and other genres with thoughtful lyrics and rich, emotive vocals. Her recent release, The Mystery of Me, encompasses a wide range of moods. We've been spinning the very upbeat "4 Ur Life" and now we're adding the more laid-back "Forgive Me" -- which to our ears would blend well with some of Sheryl Crow's songs.
Veteran guitar master Joe Satriani is about to release his 16th studio album, What Happens Next. For this all-instrumental outing, he formed a power trio with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and bassist Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple. They set out, he says, to make "pure rock and roll." We're featuring "Energy," which Satriani told Guitar World demonstrates "the power, fun and excitement of true and spontaneous musical chemistry. Chad, Glenn and me rockin’ out, not holding back, reveling in the moment.”
We're not very familiar with California's Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, although they've been releasing records since 2000 and are about to roll out out their eighth studio LP. The single "Echo" caught our attention and earwormed its way into our New Music bin. It's an atmospheric, meditative track. Rolling Stone said the song, "as the title suggests, echoes the enthralling sound of Eighties rockers like Echo & The Bunnymen." The album, Wrong Creatures, was produced by Nick Launay, who has worked with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Arcade Fire.

Blue October is another band that we're late to discover. This Texas outfit has been turning out alternative rock since the late 90s and is about to release its ninth album, I Hope You're Happy. The title track is an upbeat post-breakup song that sends sincere, if bittersweet, good wishes to an ex: "I hope you're happy / Even if you're not mine."

What bands - new or old - do you think we should "discover" and introduce to our listeners? Give us your recommendations by commenting on this page, contacting us on Facebook or Twitter, or sending us an email. Thanks!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Our first picks of 2018: Icicle, Calexico, The Georgia Flood and more

Happy New Year to all our listeners around the world! Our New Music picks for the first week of the year include a few tracks from upcoming 2018 albums along with a couple of late-2017 releases.

We were recently introduced to Icicle, the project of Montreal-based Krassy Halatchev. Growing up in Bulgaria, he studied the music of bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Depeche Mode and The Cure before emigrating in 1990. He was a member of a couple of bands before releasing his first solo album in 2014. His fifth LP, Silence, is due in March, but we have an early taste. We're featuring "My Heart," a mid-tempo rocker built on a heartbeat bass groove.

Calexico's ninth studio album, The Thread that Keeps Us, is due out in a couple of weeks. We've been playing the first single, "End of the World With You," for several weeks, and now we're featuring "Voices in the Field." The Tucson, Arizona-based band brings a sense of tension and unease to its latest work. “There’s a little more chaos and noise in the mix than what we’ve done in the past,” says co-founder Joey Burns, reflecting “where we’re at right now as a planet” as well as the band's desire to keep experimenting musically.

The latest single from The Georgia Flood, an indie-rock band that we've featured before, also has a noisy tension to it. That seems fitting, since it will be part of a collection called Polaroids and Panic Attacks, the Atlanta group's second album. The song, "Illuminations," has a sense of searching for signs in the dark. Founded by brothers Brooks Mason and Lane Kelly, the band has added drummer Damian Navarro and guitarist Gavin Deleshaw since its debut EP in 2016.

A few weeks ago we started spinning Sjowgren's "Stubborn Forces," and now we're adding "High Beam." Both are singles that dropped in November. Are more songs coming in 2018? An album, maybe? Who is in this band, anyhow? We don't know. The California group with the Scandinavian-sounding name has so far maintained an air of mystery. That seems rather gimmicky, but we enjoy the music, so we'll play along.

And we're taking another dip into the December release from The Defending Champions, Don't Stop. With a powerful horn section backed by guitar, bass and percussion, this New Jersey outfit blasts out its own unique brand of punk/ska/soul/rock party music. The title track and "Listen In" are already in our rotation, and now we're adding "Bad Habit."