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Saturday, May 18, 2024

New from Nada Surf, Blitzen Trapper, Kaia Kater, Parlour Panther, Winnetka Bowling League

Nada Surf: In Front Of Me Now

The New York-based trio of Matthew Caws, Daniel Lorca and Ira Elliot will release its 10th album, and first for New West Records, in September. “Every time we make an album, I’m asked (and ask myself) what it’s about,” says Caws. “I’m still trying to figure everything out, and that’s probably as close to a theme as there is. ... I’m just trying to stay honest with myself and take my best guess at making sense of the world.” Brooklyn Vegan says this first single "is the kind of soaring guitar pop Nada Surf do so well."

Blitzen Trapper: Planetarium

Photo by Jason Quigley
Eric Earley and company just released their 11th album, 100's of 1000's, Millions of Billions. As AmericanaUK writes, Earley "is a recent student of Buddhist writings and teachings and his two latest albums are dotted with existential songs about the purpose of life and the nature of existence." Earley himself says this track is "a love song at heart [that] tracks my journey through therapy and beyond. Growing comfortable with impermanence and emptiness, the endless flow that surrounds us." It features Anna Tivel on violin and Eric Johnson of Bonny Light Horsemen on banjo and vocals.

Kaia Kater: The Witch feat. Aoife O'Donovan

This Montreal singer-songwriter's new album, Strange Medicine, "feels more like a cinematic odyssey than a straight folk album," writes Exclaim. "The songs ... feel fully realized, featuring strings, melancholic horns, R&B synth work, frenetic jazz drumming and of course, [Kater's] expert banjo playing." It's the kind of album that deserves listening from beginning to end, but for our New Music bin we're picking this story of a Salem Witch Trial victim who comes back to haunt and take revenge on her "pious pilgrim" accuser.

Parlour Panther: All I Need

Photo by Carol Gandra Photography
From Vancouver comes this band led by trans/non-binary couple Frankie and Reidar, who have been making music together since 2014. Their new album, Bloom, "boasts a vibrant mix of blues-inflected vocals, playful synths and an energetic low-end," writes Exclaim. "Tracks like 'OMG' and 'All I Need' pack a punch with their fuzzy riffs, adding a welcome edge to Parlour Panther's typically soft sound."

Winnetka Bowling League: America In Your 20s

The LA band's frontman, Matthew Koma, says this track from the new album Sha La La "is my own bullshit about loving and hating where I come from. You ask a lot of questions in your 20’s and I think that’s when you start to realize the answers are all grey and nuanced."

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Frank Turner, Bryan Hansen Band, Valley, Camera Obscura, Alastair Greene in the New Music Bin

Frank Turner: International Hide and Seek Champions

Photo by Shannon Shumaker
Some of the tracks on his brand-newm, 10th studio album, Undefeated, are angry about the state of the world. Some are just fun (e.g. the single "Girl From The Record Shop"). This one is a humorous take on feeling "trapped in a time of hysteria" and wanting to escape: "I've got two parachutes and a caseload of cash ... I can't wait to disappear with you / Let's take the leap before the world goes down in flames."

Bryan Hansen Band: Kissing My Love

This New Jersey band's music was once described by a New York DJ as "blue-eyed soul." With bassist Will Blakey providing the funky propulsion and Bryan Hansen's high-register voice recalling soul singers of the past, there's no arguing with that. Joined here by Pete Andrews on drums and Matt Cook on piano, they do a fine job with a 1972 Bill Withers song.

Valley: When You Know Someone

We've been keeping an ear on this Toronto indie-pop band since catching them live back in 2018, before the release of their first LP, Maybe, and have a dozen or so of their songs in our huge playlist. This new single strikes us as having a bit more grown-up sound (compared to, say, "Sucks to See You Doing Better"). It's the first release since the departure of guitarist Mickey Brandolino to focus on producing and writing. Drummer Karah James says the remaining members wrote the song with Nashville singer-songwriter Trent Dabbs, "who helped us channel the emptiness we were feeling."

Camera Obscura: Big Love

Photo by Robert Perry
The Scottish band's new album is its first since Desire Lines in 2013, and since the death of keyboardist and singer Carey Lander from cancer in 2015. Paste magazine reports the group reconvened in 2018 for a handful of gigs and, after a pandemic-elongated delay, have returned with Look to the East, Look to the West. "Although the band retains a knack for lush songs that are at once dreamy and catchy, the 11 tracks here are subtler than in years past," the mag writes. "In place of the bold string charts and sweeping orchestrations [are] a more basic sound that favors keyboards, particularly organ and piano." On this track, a warning to a lovesick friend, "warm pedal steel guitar slides around underneath a marching beat and grainy electric guitar."

Alastair Greene: Standing Out Loud

Here's the title track from the latest LP, due this week, by this blues-rock guitarist. Born in California, now living in Texas, he decamped to guitarist/producer JD Simo's House of Grease studio in Nashville, to record most of the tracks on the album, with Greene and Simo co-producing.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Iron and Wine + The Lemon Twigs + La Luz + Church of Trees + Late Night Trouble = Variety!

Iron and Wine: Sweet Talk

For Sam Beam, the Covid pandemic proved an obstacle to songwriting rather than a source of material. The result was a six-year gap between 2017's Best Epic and his new album of original Iron & Wine music, Light Verse. "Perhaps because of the time lag, the songs ... [have] a more positive tone, focusing on acceptance, the need for human connection, and even joy," writes AllMusic, which calls it "one of the most enjoyable, varied, and well-crafted of the band's records." 

The Lemon Twigs: How Can I Love Her More?

Brothers Brian and Michael D'Addario, known for music that sounds like it came through a time warp from the late 60s-early 70s, are out with their fifth studio album, A Dream Is All We Know. Michael says that on this track, "we tried to bridge the gap between professional Brill Building writing and the more off the wall writing style of the post Sgt. Pepper psychedelic scene. There are a lot of musical ideas but it’s still a catchy pop song. We had a lot of fun with the recording of this one, overdubbing two drum sets, some theremin, and strings and horns (all played by Brian)."

La Luz: Strange World

This Seattle band is bringing out its fifth album, News of the Universe, this month. Discussing this song, band leader Shana Cleveland says: "The best advice a friend gave me during a time when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed and battling consecutive panic attacks was to go outside, take my shoes off, and sit with my feet on the earth. This seemed to slow the universe down in a way that made it feel easier to handle. So this chorus is something of a mantra to myself ‘we’ll be fine, just take your time.’"

Church of Trees: Where Is Love

We recently caught up with this Canadian band's latest LP, Transience, released in February, and dropped "That's All" into our New Music bin last month. The album incorporates many styles of synth-pop, incorporating strains of rock, pop and dance. We're dipping in again for this track with its late-disco-era echoes.

Late Night Trouble: Pretty Little Thing

This flat-out rocker is from another Canadian band's album that's been out for a few months but just reached our ears, thanks to a video release for this single. Lead singer Roxanne and her bandmates are about to start an eight-city U.S. tour behind the album, Candyland.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Freshly picked for our New Music bin: Phish, St. Vincent, Dear Rouge, Local Natives, Blue October

Phish: Evolve

Sounding surprisingly like alt-rock hit-makers instead of improvisational jammers, the quartet refines one of its relatively recent songs into a tight four minutes as the title track of its 16th studio album, due in July. Guitarist-lead singer Trey Anastasio released a version in 2020 on his solo album Lonely Trip, and the song started turning up in the band's live shows the following year.

St. Vincent: Big Time Nothing

Photo by Alex da Corte
On the new album All Born Screaming, Annie Clark "packs such a wallop with [the] songs that it feels like she's sharing something deeply personal with her listeners even if they're not overtly autobiographical," writes AllMusic. The reviewer hears shades of Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, and Portishead on the LP - and we always hear echoes of Laurie Anderson's 80s experimentation in St. Vincent's music.

Dear Rouge: Too Close to the Heat

The band describes this single from its upcoming album, Lonesome High, as their “sexiest track to date.” The LP, due in September, was written and recorded in under a year as the band popped in and out of the studio between tour dates.

Blue October: Everything We Lost In The Fire

The Houston band will release its 13th album later this year. About the new single, frontman Justin Furstenfeld says: “The heaviest times of our lives is when we have to make difficult decisions. Change can be a beautiful part of life if you celebrate it. This is me celebrating change in the loudest way possible.”

Local Natives: Throw It In The Fire

OK it's just coincidence that we have three incendiary titles in our New Music bin this week, with Dear Rouge singing about Heat, Blue October on Fire and these guys with more Fire. We previously featured the early single April, and now pick this track from the just-released But I'll Wait For You, a sequel of sorts to last year's Time Will Wait For No One.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

New: Pearl Jam, Marcus King, Grace Cummings, Maggie Rogers, introducing The Wesleys

Pearl Jam: Wreckage

Dark Matter,
the band's 12th album, "rages and riffs hard, but there are somber, pared-back, folksy meanders worthy of a long road trip" as well, says Paste Magazine. This track lands somewhere in between, building up in power as it rolls.

Marcus King: Hero

After emerging as a guitar prodigy and leading a rock band, King has been working with producer Rick Rubin and developing as a singer and songwriter as well. This track from Mood Swings is a co-write with Dan Auerbach, and American Songwriter calls it "a seamless blend of country and soul that showcases King’s crystalline vocals."

Grace Cummings: On And On

The Australian actor/singer's new album, Ramona, is made up of "lavishly orchestrated songs and rich, soulful vocals ... reflect[ing] on grief, self-destruction, and emotional violence," writes On this track, the lyrics are obscure, but the powerful voice is heavy with emotion - reminding us of the likes of Laura Marling and Florence Welch. 

Maggie Rogers: The Kill

Here's another track from Don't Forget Me, the singer-songwriter's third album. Pitchfork calls it "her strongest yet, the sound of a wise, clear-eyed, melodious prodigy coming into her own voice." It describes this song as "a churning spin on the push-pull dynamic of a doomed pairing, where Rogers employs the classic songwriter trick of flipping the pronouns in the second chorus."

The Wesleys: A Lot To Lose

This sprightly track comes from the self-titled debut album by a garage-pop quartet from Montreal. It has the uncluttered sound of truly indie rock, reflecting its DIY production in a band member's home studio. They cite the likes of Teenage Fanclub, The Pixies and The Replacements among their influences.