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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Whispering Tree, Smashing Pumpkins and other new sounds added to our big mix

We were recently introduced to The Whispering Tree, a duo based in New York's Hudson Valley that creates artful pop with folk, jazz, rock and other influences. Pianist/vocalist Eleanor Kleiner, who grew up in the New York area, and French multi-instrumentalist Elie Brangbour began their collaboration in 2007 after meeting at music school in London. They've just released their fourth collection, Invisible Forces, which they self-produced at their home and a nearby studio. The LP title comes from the song we're featuring in the New Music bin - "Heavy," a reflection on the passage from carefree childhood to the burdens of adulthood.

Trees may whisper, but pumpkins smash. Billy Corgan got most of the Smashing Pumpkins back together for a tour this summer and produced an album due out later this fall, with an unweildy title that we'll shorten to Shiny and Oh So Bright. We're picking up on the second single to spin out, "Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)." Rolling Stone says its "guitar-driven, bright melodies and Corgan’s inflection recall early era Pumpkins with a 1979 vibe that should please longtime fans."

The story goes that Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago with the intention of writing music for movies and abandoning her solo career. As Billboard writes, her new surroundings "proved to be a well of inspiration -- just two years later, she’s already back with a roaring single and a new LP." The single, “The River,” is now in our New Music bin and the album, Wax, is due Oct. 5.

This week we're also dipping back into two albums released this summer.

We've previously featured the brooding "The Storm Won't Come" from Richard Thompson's latest collection, 13 Rivers. Now we're spinning "Bones Of Gilead," which is a faster-paced rocker but with a somewhat similar theme: "This is about an impending crisis, but it’s a good crisis," Thompson says of the track. "It’s an uncomfortable process to go through, one you may barely survive, but it brings knowledge and growth and love.”

And from American Child, the great new album by blues/soul artist Shemekia Copeland, we're adding "Great Rain," a duet with John Prine covering a song by ... John Prine, which appeared on his 1991 album The Missing Years. Copeland's LP is currently riding high on blues and Americana record charts. We've been playing the powerful "Ain't Got Time for Hate" and you'll occasionally hear us spin the joyful ode to diversity, "Americans."

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Indie and mainstream artists mix in our latest big batch of new music

After taking a late-summer break, we're back to updating the New Music bin -- and we're making up for lost time by adding a big batch of fresh tracks. Some are by big names (including a couple of Pauls), and we'll get to those, but first we want to introduce a newcomer to our playlist.

Monique Sherrell Brown started her musical career in New York City's cabarets, then took on a sideline as a backup singer in a Country/Blues band. She describes her new EP, Life After the Blues, as a fusion of jazz and country-rock. It's her jazz-singing side that dominates in our featured track, "Useless Nights." With Brown's soulful voice over a soft guitar-bass-drum background, it lands in a groove with the likes of Sade and Joan Armatrading.

The Marcus King Band could still be placed in the "emerging artist" category, but it's definitely gaining more and more attention. King's combination of mad guitar skills and songwriting ability, plus the top-notch band he's put together, have pushed him to the forefront of Southern-flavored roots rock. After opening for Tedeschi Trucks Band this summer (we got to see one of those great shows), TMKB is headlining a tour this fall. We're featuring "Where I'm Headed," a mid-tempo, bluesy single from the band's upcoming second album, Carolina Confessions.

Next up we have a couple of artists that we've featured before:

The oddly-named French quartet Kill the Moose with "From Here To Now," a captivating piece of shoegaze topped by Elisabeth Massena's vocals ...

... And U.K. singer-songwriter Ramona Rose, whose latest single, "High Water," starts as a slow burner and builds to a rocking crescendo.

Elle King's new single, "Shame," is high-energy from the jump. "I can make you shake, rattle your bones," King sings, and this track from the upcoming Shake The Spirit LP is designed to do just that.

Which brings us to a couple of other get-up-and-move numbers:

The latest single from In The Valley Below, in which the alt-rock duo takes a dance-pop turn with "Desperate Dance."

And "Back Down" by Vancouver-via-LA duo Bob Moses. It's the lead single from their second album, Battle Lines.

Amos Lee takes a contemplative turn on his seventh studio album, My New Moon. He cites the high school shootings in Parkland, Fla., as the inspiration for "No More Darkness, No More Light," saying he hopes to find "constructive feeling about this tragedy."

As mentioned, we round out our picks with a couple of famous Pauls:

Egypt Station, the new album by Paul McCartney, is "a deeply eccentric song cycle in the Ram mode," as Rolling Stone puts it. Like many of his albums, it's uneven. We previously featured the first single, "Come On To Me," but we've already grown tired of it. And after hearing the septuagenarian's juvenile "Fuh You" once, we hope never to hear it again. But we agree with RS that there are also excellent songs here, like our current pick, "Dominoes." "An eerie acoustic guitar hook, worthy of the White Album, builds for almost five minutes, complete with an old-school backwards guitar solo and the disarming farewell line, 'It’s been a blast.' ... [I]t has the unmistakable McCartney touch everybody else keeps failing to copy, yet it feels totally fresh and new.

Paul Simon copies himself on In The Blue Light, his new compilation of 10 reworkings of songs from his catalog. In some cases, the changes are subtle - a perfectionist painter trying to get the shading just right. But other tracks are given new vitality. We're featuring "Can't Run But," in which, working with chamber-music ensemble yMusic, Simon replaces the 1990 original's world-music vibe with a more stark, modern-classical sound.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Getting back in the groove after a summer break

We're pleased to report that our trusty, state-of-the-art automation system kept our Marvelous Mix of Music flowing 24/7 while the Birch Street Radio team enjoyed a late-summer vacation.

Now we're back to business: Our music staff is busy sorting through dozens of new releases, looking to pick the best tracks to feature in our New Music bin next week. 

We're also selecting tracks that don't quite fit into our regular mix but will make for a good trip on The Detour, our Sunday show that specializes in indie, edgy and unusual music. The Detour will return Sunday, Sept. 9.

Reminder: We want to hear from you! Send us your comments on our music mix, any questions about our broadcasts - and especially, your suggestions of artists and music that you'd like to hear us add to the mix! You can comment on this page, or on Facebook or Twitter, or by email at birchstreetradio@gmail.com

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Enjoy the Labo(u)r Day holiday! Take us along!

It's Labor Day Weekend in the USA and Labour Day Weekend in Canada. Whether you're sunning at the beach or hiking in the woods (or busy earning) you can listen to Birch Street Radio on any internet-connected device - many of which are more portable than the one shown above.

Our trusty automation system is keeping our Marvelous Music Mix flowing while we're away from the studio. Meanwhile lots of new releases are piling up on our desk, and we'll soon be busy choosing tracks to feature in our New Music bin. Expect to hear plenty of fresh tunes in the coming weeks!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Extra dose of new music - Edgar Road, Castlecomer, Vanishing Shores, Tyler Boone, Rubblebucket, Parquet Courts and more!

Our new-music-picking team is going on vacation for the next two weeks. So we've decided to double up on our selections - adding 10 new tracks to the New Music bin instead of our usual five per week. And once again, it's a mix of many different styles, mostly from indie and emerging artists, who keep making today's most-interesting music.

One of our favorite discoveries of last year was Edgar Road, a band from northeastern Scotland. We picked up several tracks from their first two EPs, and now they've released a new single, "Say It Another Way," a breezy tune with duet vocals by Mark Conti and Magdalena Wellenger.

We've more recently picked up music from Lewisburg, a "dark country" band from the little country town of... North London. After featuring "Clear The Air," we're now reaching back a few months to spin an earlier single, a brooding rumination on a "Slow Morning."

Brooks Williams
Based in Cambridge, England, but originally from Statesboro, Georgia in the U.S.A. is "Euro/Americana" guitarist-singer Brooks Williams. He's been playing for years on both sides of the Atlantic, and his latest album, Lucky Star, is his 28th solo recording. We've added "Going To New Orleans" to our New Music bin.

If John Hiatt fits in any musical category, "Americana" might be it. His long musical career has encompassed folk, rock and country genres, always stamped with his own idiosyncratic style. His latest album, Eclipse Sessions, is due in October. The first single to spin out, "Cry To Me," has a relaxed, rootsy, sittin'-and-pickin' sound and a gently sardonic lyric: "I'm probably gonna let you down but / I swear I won't keep you down."

Now we jump across the Pacific to Australia - and turn sharply from laid-back acoustic music to electric power- pop. Castlecomer is a band from Sydney that's preparing to release its debut album. We've got the title track, "All Of The Noise," and while it's certainly a loud, energetic number, it's more melodic than noisy. (Photo credit: Anna Webber)

Next we bop over to New Zealand to check out The Beths, an alternative rock/pop outfit whose debut album carries the self-deprecating title Future Me Hates Me. AllMusic.com tells us the band, founded by jazz majors at the University of Auckland, "built their reputation in the clubs of Australia and their native New Zealand for an impulsive, infectious indie rock." Our featured track is "Great No One."

Spinning the globe again, we land in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and of a new indie band called Vanishing Shores. Lead singer and songwriter Kevin Bianchi cites Neil Finn, Elvis Costello and The Tragically Hip among his influences. He says his songs speak to "the need to reach out and connect with those around us." From the band's self-titled debut EP, we're featuring "Always" and we'll likely add more tracks to our big mix.

It's been about a year since we've had new music from Tyler Boone, but the singer/songwriter/guitarist from Charleston, South Carolina - now based in Nashville - has a new EP coming out this fall, called Jealousy. He's spun out two singles so far, and we're adding "Let It Go," a mid-tempo rocker about a relationship that's run its course.

The latest from Brooklyn-based Rubblebucket is also about the end of a relationship - in particular, the romantic partnership of the band's founding members, Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver. Despite their "uncoupling," they remain committed to making music together. Toth says "Annihilation Song" is an anthem for their "perseverance in following through with our creative and friendship partnership." Kalmia sings: "This is annihilation / it could be a liberation / I’m down for the count but I’ll be gettin' up soon enough.” The new LP, Sun Machine, comes out Aug. 24.

We're rounding out this Pick-10 of new music on a boisterous note with "Wide Awake," the title track from the latest release by another Brooklyn outfit, Parquet Courts. The album is full of punk anger and lyrics touching on serious current topics - but this track is just a fun, loud piece of party music, with a chanted refrain, whistles and shouts over a funky bass line and even some steel drums.

By the way, several of these tracks were previously played on The Detour, our weekly show where we try out new recordings and mix in tracks that don't quite fit our usual big mix. The Detour is also taking a late-summer break, but will return on Sunday, Sept. 9.