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Saturday, March 16, 2019

New Sounds from The Head & The Heart, Karen O & Danger Mouse, Local Natives, Bear's Den and the Black Keys

The Head and the Heart take their folk-rock sound in a more pop direction on "Missed Connection," the first song to emerge from an upcoming album called Living Mirage. “A lot of the beats on that song are quicker," says drummer Tyler Williams, "and there are high hats that were never in our music before,” along with touches of synths and other effects. The group's fourth album follows the amicable departure of co-founder Josiah Johnson, the return of keyboardist Kenny Hensley and the addition of Matt Gervais, husband of guitarist/vocalist Charity Rose Thielen.

Photo by Eliot Lee Hazel
In another case of an artist trying a different style, Karen O & Danger Mouse is a collaboration between the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the ubiquitous pop producer. Their new album Lux Prima leads off with a nine-minute cinematic suite, followed by a collection of songs that allow O to expand her range far beyond YYY's garage-punk. As NME writes, "Her iconic shrieks and yells are replaced by whispers and croons, while Danger Mouse – aka Brian Burton – wraps everything in futuristic, cosmic production." Our pick for the New Music bin is a slinky slow-disco number called "Turn the Light."

Los Angeles-based Local Natives are preparing to release their fourth album, Violet Street. We're picking up the advance single "When Am I Gonna Lose You." Singer-guitarist Taylor Rice, who got married last year, says the song is about being in an "incredible relationship" and fearing that it will somehow go wrong. "This song is me diving into murky emotions of anxiety and doubt in the middle of love and joy.”

British duo Bear's Den also has an album poised for release next month - their third, titled So That You Might Hear Me. The first track to spin out, "Laurel Wreath," is described by vocalist Andrew Davie as "a song about vulnerability and courage and the need for connection that runs through the whole album.”

After five years busying themselves with other projects, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are back as The Black Keys. They pick up right where they left off with their bluesy garage-rock on a single called "Lo/Hi." There's no word yet on whether an album will follow, but the Keys have announced plans for a fall tour along with Modest Mouse.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Our latest picks: Josh Ritter, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jerry Popiel, Sara Bareilles, N0V3L

Photo by David McClister
Josh Ritter's upcoming album is a collaboration with Jason Isbell's band, The 400 Unit. Judging by the first single, "Old Black Magic," it's an excellent combination of talents. The track is a hard-driving rocker that Rolling Stone says lands in "the sweet spot between the introspective lyricism of Ritter’s previous efforts and the swaggering Southern rock of the 400 Unit." Produced by Isbell and recorded in Nashville's RCA Studio A, the album is called Fever Breaks and is due next month.

Speaking of combined talents, the dozen members of Tedeschi Trucks Band have put together another excellent album, Signs. We previously featured a couple of singles that preceded the full release. Now we're adding "I'm Gonna Be There" to the New Music bin. NPR describes it as a love song "that simmers slowly and finds its tension in [Susan] Tedeschi's incredible vocal performance, the rich vocal harmonies, a smoldering string arrangement and [Derek] Trucks' ripping guitar solo." We'll be dropping other tracks from the album into our big mix as well.

Jerry Popiel is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from the Cleveland area who performs both as an acoustic guitarist/singer and as a member of several indie-rock bands - including two that we've featured, Vanishing Shores and The Chestertons. His new single "Michigan Street" evokes classic folk-rock along the lines of Gordon Lightfoot and Tom Paxton. We debuted it on last Sunday's episode of The Birch Street Bistro and now we're featuring it in the New Music bin.

The pop music of Sara Bareilles hasn't previously broken into our playlist, but her latest single, "Fire," caught our ear recently and has now worked its way into our New Music bin. It's from her forthcoming album Amidst the Chaos, produced by T Bone Burnett. The song is a farewell to a relationship that failed to generate much heat: "Someday I won't have to feel the cold / But I do now, so I'll know / What it feels like when I feel fire."
Genre-jumping as we always do, we turn now to N0V3L, whose sound draws on 70s New Wave, punk and post-punk. It's the work of a creative collective based in a house in Vancouver, where its members produce their own music, videos and clothing. We're picking up a track called "Natural," which puts us in the mood to pull out old Devo and Talking Heads albums. (In fact, we did just that when we gave this song a spin last Sunday on The Detour.)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

New music by Jane's Party, The Elephant Trees, Don't Fear the Natives, In the Valley Below, Happiness Junkies

Another batch of all-indie music - from five different countries! - fills our New Music bin this week. All are tracks that made their Birch Street Radio debut on our Sunday free-form show, The Detour, and earned their way into our rotation.

We previously added a couple of singles that Toronto alt-rockers Jane's Party released ahead of their new album, Casual Island. Now that the full LP is out, we're adding "Arrow" to our playlist. The track features what Canadian Beats describes as "bouncing base, kicking drums, upbeat layered vocals, and tight electric guitar."

Our regular listeners also know The Elephant Trees, an alt-rock trio from Manchester, U.K. Their latest single is an edgy synth-driven number called "4100." Lead singer Martha Phillips said “It’s different in style to our earlier music but I think that comes from a place of growth." She wrote the song, she said, "about the things we use to distract us from life.”

Jumping over to Donegal, Ireland, we catch up with a recent release from Don't Fear the Natives, a six-piece band built around the duo of singer Claire McDaid and guitarist/songwriter Denis Kelly. Their EP Stupid Heart includes various styles from rock to folk. We're featuring the title track, which lands somewhere in between, with a gently rolling melody threading through a low-fi rumble of drums and keyboards.

In The Valley Below's sophomore LP, The Pink Chateau, is due in April. It will include the previously released title track and "Desperate Dance." The California-based duo of Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob has just spun out another single, a slow-burning song of perseverance called "Rise."

Also in the "slowbeat" vein, we're picking up a track from Amsterdam's Happiness Junkies. The duo of vocalist/pianist El and guitarist Onno serves up what Indie Spoonful describes as "rock melancholia with intelligent lyrics that you can ease your mind into." From their recently released debut album, we're featuring "You Can Leave Your Light On."

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Introducing Birds of Bellwoods, Lucy Bell, Bailen & latest from Broken Social Scene, Juliana Hatfield

The Toronto musical collective and force of nature known as Broken Social Scene has followed up 2017's Hug of Thunder with an EP called Let's Try The After, Vol. 1, suggesting that there will be more to come soon. It's a disparate collection of songs and instrumentals, of which our current fave is "Boyfriends." Pitchfork says it "builds on Hug of Thunder’s skyscraping rock motifs as [Kevin Drew] effortlessly slides into the rousing chorus, 'Let’s get you out of here,' a torrent of electric guitar and weighty piano chords arriving perfectly on cue."

Lingering in Toronto, we pick up a track from Victoria, the debut full-length album by Birds of Bellwoods. Exclaim calls it the band's "coming-out party as one of Canada's emerging alternative outfits," adding that it "channels the vibrancy of Only By the Night-era Kings of Leon and combines it with the Lumineers' style of anthemic writing." Our pick for the new music bin is the energetically angsty "Let You Go."

Dropping down to Boston we catch up with the latest from Juliana Hatfield, Weird. As the title suggests, the theme of the album is the feeling of not fitting in, of being out of step with the world. We're featuring "Staying In," a song about retreating from a world where "they keep changing all the rules / and I don't know how to play these games." The refrain: "I'm staying in / My hair's not right / And if I go out / Somebody might take me for / a functioning human being."

We consider ourselves lucky to have been sent an advance copy of a new single by Lucy Bell, an emerging singer-songwriter from Downpatrick, County Down in Northern Ireland. Although just 18 years old, she already has a few years of performance experience, having won Belfast-based Panarts' Young Singer Songwriter of the Year award in 2017. She brings sharp writing skills and a polished delivery to "Lost On The Line."

New York City-based Bailen has broken into the AAA charts with "I Was Wrong," the first single from its upcoming debut album, Thrilled To Be Here. Fraternal twins Daniel and David Bailen and their sister Julia "craft melodies that sound more country than city, laced with dusty guitars and harmonies," says Stereogum. The band says the song "is about coming together and listening to the other side of an argument, hearing another perspective, and being able to say I was wrong.”

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Now in our New Music bin: I'm With Her, Mackenzie Shivers, The Raconteurs, Hembree, Wild Belle

Once again we've picked a wide variety of new music to feature this week:
I'm With Her, the Americana "supergroup" of singer-songwriter-musicians Aoife O'Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins, follows up last year's album See You Around with a new single, "Call My Name."

From The Unkindness, the new album by New York singer-songwriter Mackenzie Shivers, we're featuring "Tears To Keep Me Warm."The Raconteurs, the occasional side project of Jack White, has re-emerged with a pair of new songs, their first in over a decade. We're adding "Now That You're Gone" to our New Music Bin.

Kansas City indie-rockers Hembree will release their debut full-length album, "House On Fire," in April. We're spinning the first single, "Culture." Lead vocalist Isaac Flynn says of the song: “These days we put so much emphasis on things that lack actual significance. Everything is urgent and I wanted to try to capture this urgency in a song and question what we prioritize."
Wild Belle, the brother-sister duo of Natalie and Elliott Bergman, is bringing out its third album of reggae/dance/pop, Everybody One Of A Kind, next month. We're picking up the first single, "Mockingbird."