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Saturday, December 7, 2019

New sounds from Armada of Secrets, Michael Stipe, The Who, The Lone Bellow, Cold War Kids

Armada of Secrets: Make Me Over

You may have caught this track on one of our now-nightly trips on The Detour. Now we're highlighting it in our New Music bin. Vocalist Caroline Kabera and bassist Carl Dawkins met in music school after Kabera immigrated to London from Burundi. Armada of Secrets has been an on-and-off project over several years, and this release is the first to reach our ears. It has a distinctive drum-and-bass-driven, soulful rock sound, with a lyric that the duo says reflects "the desire we have to remodel ourselves ... It brought all of our anxieties, fears, and accomplishments (and even lack of) to the forefront."

Michael Stipe: Your Capricious Soul

The former R.E.M.-er just released his first solo single on his own website, with proceeds going to the climate activism group Extinction Rebellion. The song references the planet's distress (“the birds are dying / or they might as well be”), but that's just one of the themes Stipe touches on in his oblique way. Pitchfork calls the track "sonically dazzling," adding that it "feels less like a big new gesture than a continuation of Stipe’s thoughtfully wayward pursuit of his post-R.E.M. muse."

The Who: All This Music Must Fade

On their new album, called simply Who, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey follow in their own footsteps, with the latter giving voice to the former's thoughtfully cynical lyrics. And they turn that cynicism on themselves in tracks like this one, which borrows sounds and phrases from Who classics while dismissing them as ephemeral. “I don't care / I know you’re gonna hate this song ... It won't light up your parade/It's just simple verse.” Elsewhere on the album, the veterans look back on their early days as "snotty young kids" who found themselves successful and rich - and grew old in spite of themselves: "We tried hard to stay young / But the high notes were sung." If this turns out to be the last Who album, it seems an appropriate sign-off.

The Lone Bellow: Count On Me

There's no trace of cynicism in this I've-got-your-back declaration from the trio of Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist. Singing in harmony, they promise to be there when you "need an arm 'round your neck / Somebody you can talk to." Rolling Stone calls it "a message of reassurance in a troubled world," as well as "a pulsing, high-energy song." We can easily imagine it becoming a cathartic sing-along at live shows.

Cold War Kids: Dirt In My Eyes

The California band's latest release, New Age Norms 1, is the first of a planned trilogy of relatively short (8-song) albums. We previously featured the first single, "Complainer," and now we're picking up this equally ear-catching track. Glide Magazine calls it a "shimmering and propulsive ... dance-rock hybrid.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Our latest adds: The Restless Age, Drive-By Truckers, Coldplay, Eliza & The Delusionals, 311

The Restless Age: Time Can't Go Back Now

From the music scene around Woodstock, N.Y., comes the trio of Will Bryant (keyboards), Lee Falco (drums) and Brandon Morrison (bass). Their music features vocal harmonies that recall classic bands like CS&N and Poco and could mix well with modern outfits like Real Estate, Lost Leaders and Grizzly Bear. Over the past several years they've performed as backing musicians for Amy Helm, Donald Fagen, John Sebastian and Graham Nash, and have toured in support of  The Waterboys and others. Our featured track is on The Building Sessions, an LP they recorded in a couple of days earlier this year at The Building recording studio in Marlboro, N.Y.

Drive-By Truckers: Amageddon's Back In Town

One of the most common themes in rock music these days is a feeling of disorientation amid a world in crisis. Some songs confront politics and climate change directly, others convey a sense of general confusion. This track takes the latter course, with Patterson Hood singing cryptic lyrics like "You can't tell the darkness from the flame" and "You can't tell the rabbit from the hat. The band describes the song as a “whirlwind joyride through the whiplash of events we collectively deal with each day.” This is the first single from an album titled The Unraveling, expected in January.

Coldplay: Arabesque

We previously featured "Orphans," one of the early singles from Everyday Life. The full album was just released, and Spin calls it "their best album since 2011’s Mylo Xyloto, and their most provocative work to date." Coldplay experiments here with touches of classical, gospel, country and world music. "Arabesque" is a particularly international number, with a verse contributed by Belgian musician Stromae and a horn section led by Femi Kuti, son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. To our ears, it's the strongest cut on the album.

Eliza & The Delusionals: Just Exist

This indie-rock band hails from Southport, on the Gold Coast of Australia. Frontwoman Eliza Klatt says "Just Exist is about the balance of feeling depressed and feeling creative and inspired by those feelings. ... I hate feeling down but if I didn’t feel that way I think I would plainly just exist.” This single was released several months ago but has taken a while to find its way to our New Music bin. So far the band has released an EP and several singles; we don't know if there's an album on the way.

311: Dodging Raindrops

We round out this week's New Music bin with a cheery tune from this band's 14th (!) album, Voyager. This track puts a sunny, pop gloss on 311's trademarked reggae-rock. Consider it our guilty pleasure of the week.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Covers by Aimee Mann, Evanescence + new tunes from Judah & The Lion, Runabay, Deep Blue Sea

Aimee Mann: "Hold On"

Nashville-based Dualtone Records just released Come Up To The House: Women Sing Waits, a collection of 12 covers of Tom Waits songs interpreted by female vocalists. Produced by Warren Zanes, it features performances by Rosanne Cash, Patty Griffin, Corinne Bailey Rae, Phoebe Bridgers and many more - including Aimee Mann. In a glowing review of the album, Variety says Mann makes this classic her own: "something about Mann’s voice naturally conjures the tossed-off intimacy of a coffee shop confession between besties." Of the entire collection, the magazine says: "Freed from Waits’ gravelly, way-down-in-the-hole brogue, his female interpreters discover dramatic new shapes and colors within" his songs.

Evanescence: "The Chain"

In a very different musical vein, Evanescence gives its gothic orchestral pop treatment to this Fleetwood Mac classic. It's the band's first rock recording in eight years, and debuted in the trailer for a new video game. Whatever its origins, it works: The dramatic song lends itself well to this band's overwrought stylings and Amy Lee's soaring voice. "This cover was so fun to make," Lee said in a press release. "We love Fleetwood Mac and wanted to paint a dark and epic picture with our take on 'The Chain.'"

Judah & The Lion: "Alright"

This Nashville band, with its brand of folk-tinged electronic pop, hasn't been a regular part of our mix before. But this track caught our attention with its simple, hopeful response to a deeply troubled world. "It's clear to me we're scared to hope," Judah Akers sings - and yet: "I don't know why / I cannot stop this feeling inside / ...We're gonna be alright." The bouncy tune invites you to believe it, at least for a few minutes.

Runabay: "How Long"

This indie-folk band from Northern Ireland was featured in our New Music bin a couple of years ago, and we're happy to have them back with this new single. It's a quiet, contemplative song evocative of someone gazing at the sky and pondering deep questions about love and life: "In the movements of your body / In the stillness of the skies / Lies the root of my existence / Where infinity resides." The band's recent album, Between the Lines, was a nominee for this year's Northern Ireland Music Prize.

Deep Blue Sea: "Rock Star Status"

This London-based quartet joined our mix about a month ago with "Don't Say I Didn't Warn You," and now we're taking another dip into Strange Ways, the group's debut studio album. It's a snappy Warholian commentary on our everyone-wants-to-be-a-star culture. "Everybody here gets rock star status /  there's no pointing out 'cause everybody's famous," Dregas Smith sings over driving guitar, bass and drums. "Fifteen seconds of adoration / a lethal dose of adulation."

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Orwells '84, Best Coast, Sarah Harmer, Jackie and Demob Happy - the latest additions to our mix

Orwells '84 - "On The Road"

We introduced our listeners to this indie-folk band from Dundalk, Ireland, with their single "Cailin" back in May. Now we're happy to present a track from their just-released debut EP, Truth Is The First Victim. With intricate arrangements featuring a wide range of acoustic instruments, this six-piece group creates a very original and quite joyous sound that could easily be the highlight of a summer music festival. We'll be adding more tracks to our mix in the weeks to come.

Best Coast: "For The First Time"

Photo by Kevin Hayes
"I'm 2 years sober today," Bethany Cosentino tweeted this week, just days after she and Bobb Bruno released this new Best Coast single. It's an upbeat, infectious song - and a personal statement of survival. "On Friday nights I don't spend too much time / Lying on the bathroom floor (like I used to) / The demons deep inside of me / They might have finally been set free," Cosentino sings. "I feel like myself again / But for the first time." That's great news. The single is a preview of what will be the first Best Coast album in five years. Titled Always Tomorrow, it's due in the new year, probably around the same time the band starts a tour in February.

Sarah Harmer: "New Lows"

Ontario singer-songwriter and activist Sarah Harmer is preparing to bring out her first new LP in a decade, Are You Gone. The first single to spin out is a call for action to protest politicians' inaction on rescuing the climate. The song references "new threats, new lows," and then suggests a mass movement could make a difference: "If this gets us to our feet / And grows / Who Knows?" Says Harmer: "I hope this song gets people to their feet, and not only to dance." But it does, in fact, have a good beat.

Jackie - "Lifetime In A Touch"

Lingering in Ontario, we turn to this Toronto-based trio's new single, which they say is "essentially a heartbreak song, wrapped in a happy vibe... a ‘there’s a light at the end of the tunnel’ story." Substream Magazine describes the track as grimy rock with a pop groove: "(Marc) Girardin’s guitars are extra fuzzy, but the riffs are still as catchy as they come. (Max) Trefler’s drums are key to giving the song momentum, and it’s clear (lead singer and songwriter Jackie) Mohr had a strong vision in the writing."

Demob Happy: "Autoportrait"

This high-energy rocker was actually released in mid-summer, and we gave it a spin on The Detour. We gave it another listen the other day and decided to add it to our New Music bin. The track grabs your ears and shakes them for just less than three minutes, then stops as suddenly as it began. The Brighton, U.K., band's frontman, Matt Marcantonio, described the song as “coercing a confession out of myself over insecurities," but the lyric alternates between anxiety ("I am afraid to be who I am") and security ("I know nothing wrong could happen / While I'm still in love with you.")