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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Just added: Jackson Browne/Leslie Mendelson, City & Colour, Dizzy, Thom Artway, Cold War Kids

Jackson Browne teams up with New York singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson on "Human Touch." The beautiful duet was recorded for the closing credits of a documentary, "5B," about San Francisco hospital workers coping with the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Billboard has a good article explaining how Browne, Mendelson and her regular collaborator, Steve McEwan, worked together on the song. Browne told the magazine he hopes to write more with Mendelson and McEwan in the future.

City and Colour is prepping an album for release this fall and recently released a single called "Strangers." Frontman Dallas Green says the song "is about how you will never truly know another human being. ... You'll never really understand what it's like to be inside someone else's brain or heart. So, we need to appreciate the differences. If we do, maybe we can live better with one another." Green expands C&C's sound on this track, with "fuzzy, reverberating electric guitars and weighty percussion" that "fit a more stadium-rock-ready mold," as Paste Magazine puts it.

Green's Ontario neighbors Dizzy have just released an EP, Heavy/Twist, consisting of two new songs and some alternate mixes. It's a follow-up to last year's debut LP, Baby Teeth. Our pick for the New Music bin is "Twist." Lead vocalist Katie Munshaw says the track "marks the first time we’ve had the confidence to fully self-produce our music. We decided to give the song more of an analog sound than Baby Teeth by including live drums and piano." The lyric, she says, is "about the hold someone can have over you even after they’ve left your life."

We jump to Europe - specifically, the Czech Republic - to bring you a new single from singer-songwriter Thom Artway. "Chasing the Wires" is a duet with Czech singer Lenny. It's from Artway's new album, All I Know, the follow-up to a 2016 debut LP that won awards in his home country. The lyric tells of a couple wanting, but struggling, to connect: "We share the same desire / but feel so far apart."

California's Cold War Kids bring a blue-eyed-funk sound to "Complainer," a new single ahead of a forthcoming album called New Age Norms. It's a critique of someone who's all talk and little action. "You got big plans but you never take a chance," Nathan Willett sings, and later: "You say you want to change this world / Well, do you really believe in magic? / But you can only change yourself / Don't sit around and complain about it."

Saturday, July 6, 2019

New tunes from Jacobs Run, Tyler Boone, Low Life Lolas, Lenny Bull and *repeat repeat

This week in our New Music bin: repeat appearances by four bands, and the first by a band with a name that repeats. (Our notes are brief this time because we're kinda in vacation mode.)

We were introduced to Melbourne trio Jacobs Run about two years ago, but it's been a while since we've had a new track to add. Now comes the single "Superman," a solid alt-rock song on the familiar theme of an "ordinary man" striving to be super for the one he loves.

Charlston-via-Nashville singer-songwriter-guitarist Tyler Boone has been in our big mix for a few years, and we've noted the wide variety of styles - rock, blues, country-tinged ballads - in his repertoire. On "Jealousy," from his latest EP, his subdued, reverb'ed vocal contrasts with angry-sounding guitar and drums.

Toronto indie band Low Life Lolas made their debut on our playlist a couple of months ago with "Darling I Won't Ask." Now we're featuring another track from their debut EP, Wolves, called "Under My Skin."

We're also pulling out another cut from Sharp Teeth, the solo debut of Toronto-based Lenny Bull. She and her band continue to remind us of early Pretenders on "Turn Me On."

And it's back to Nashville for *repeat repeat and "Hi, I'm Waiting." This bouncy, summery tune is from the third album, Glazed, by the project of husband and wife Jared Corder (vocals, guitar) and Kristyn Corder (keyboards, vocals). AllMusic describes their sound as "surfy garage pop ... equal parts ebullience and grit."

Saturday, June 29, 2019

New releases from Tara MacLean, Wyland, Phantogram, NKOS, The Hold Steady join our mix

Tara MacLean's fifth studio album, Deeper, in a sense is her most independent work. After three albums on Nettwerk Records, most recently 2008's Wake, she put together a collection of covers of songs by other Prince Edward Island artists as an album and show called Atlantic Blue. This time out, she returned to writing her own songs, co-produced them with P.E.I. singer-songwriter Dennis Ellsworth, and released the album independently. "It feels really good," she told EntertainmentFocus, "just to be the person at the helm." The result has garnered glowing reviews, with The Guardian of Charlottetown calling it "superb ... powerful, emotionally charged." Our pick for the New Music bin is perhaps the most pop-leaning track, "Ghosting Me," and you'll be hearing much more from the album in our mix and especially on our Sunday show The Birch Street Bistro.

Our listeners are familiar with New Jersey indie-rock band Wyland. Their recent singles "Nowhere Now" and "Dark Days" spent time in our New Music bin over the past several months, and now we're spinning their latest, "Lost." Despite the title, it's ultimately a declaration of devotion: "Even if I get lost ... I'll find a way back to you." The singles are leading up to a soon-to-be-released album that the band recorded in Ireland last year.

"Into Happiness" is the new release from Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, a.k.a. Phantogram. It's the second single to emerge from the electro-pop duo since the 2016 LP Three. Rolling Stone says the shuffling drums and mix of synths "teeter towards dark wave but are ultimately buoyed by a particularly bright riff" and Barthel's encouraging vocal: "Fall into happiness / Wish you could be here / No more loneliness / You'd make it perfect."

Four musicians from different parts of the globe started working together separately (that is, in separate studios and over the internet), and eventually turned into a "real" band. Now that band, NKOS, is out with its debut single, a piece of edgy electronica called "Little Miss Numb." NKOS is singer/songwriter Nancy Natali, who was born in Australia but grew up in Geneva and Rome; producer Flavio Manieri from Poland and Italy; Italian DJ and producer Chris Shape and guitarist Marcus Billeri of Paris.

And because we always like to jump among genres, we turn from synthy techno to the guitar-and-drums rock and rambling storytelling of The Hold Steady. In the five years since their last album, the band has released the occasional single while Craig Finn also worked on solo projects. Now they're preparing to release Thrashing Through the Passion, an LP including new songs along with tracks previously released on Bandcamp. They're previewing it with "Denver Haircut," a somewhat seedy slice-of-life tale with the refrain, "It doesn't have to be perfect / Just sort of has to be worth it."

Saturday, June 22, 2019

New from The Bird & The Bee, The Regrettes, Winona Forever, Finnian and Monica Moser

Photo: Alexa Nicole Curran
An unusual cover, a taste of LA garage-punk, a laid-back groove and the latest from two singer-songwriters make up this week's New Music picks.

Back in 2010, The Bird And The Bee issued an album of Hall & Oates covers, which lent themselves easily to reinterpretation by the indie-pop duo. Now Inara George and Greg Kurstin have given the cover treatment to a radically different band - Van Halen. LoudWire writes: "While it may seem like a bit of a reach for the somewhat ethereal pair, keep in mind that Kurstin has worked frequently in the rock world as a producer, most famously lending his talents to Foo Fighters' 2017 album Concrete and Gold." B&B's Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen is due in August, and we're featuring the single "Ain't Talking 'Bout Love."

Photo: Claire Marie Vogel
The Regrettes were formed in 2015 by four teenagers: singer-songwriter Lydia Night, guitarist Genessa Gariano, bassist Sage Nicole and drummer Maxx Morando. Night's original songs helped the young band get signed by Warner Music and bring out an album in 2017. They've released several singles since, and just came to our attention with "I Dare You" from their upcoming sophomore album How Do You Love? Paste calls the track "catchy and guitar-driven ... an infectious tune to which you can’t help but dance along."

The sound of Montreal quartet Winona Forever has been described as "woozy art-pop," "smooth indie-jazz-yacht-rock," and even "groovy." We're always interested in emerging bands that come up with a unique blend of styles (even if those styles date to the 1970s), and that's what we hear on "Gazing," from the band's new album, Feelgood.

Influences of 1970s soft-rock also can be heard in the debut album from Finnian, a singer-songwriter from Dundalk, Ireland. After years of touring as folk-singer-with-guitar, he put together a band of accomplished musicians to record Under the Influence, to be released later this summer. We recently slipped one track, "Even Flow" (a duet with Stephanie Winters) into our mix, and now we're putting "Where We Go" into the New Music bin. It's described as a song "about dreaming big and how people shouldn’t be afraid to make that leap of faith."

The latest single from Nashville singer-songwriter Monica Moser starts as a gentle piano-and-vocal ballad and builds with percussion and electronic keyboards into a very contemporary pop-rock anthem. "Shortcut" describes a relationship that has advanced too quickly, skipping important steps. Moser says the title refers to "someone getting to know the intimate parts of you that didn't deserve to."

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Presenting new tracks by Springsteen, Jenn Grant, Seratones, Boy & Bear and Big Thief

Bruce Springsteen's new album, Western Stars, has received a lot of positive reviews (although we saw one critic call it tedious). It's a stylistic departure from Bruce's typical Jersey Rock sound, filled largely with "mid-tempo songs lush with the type of string-and-horn arrangements that once kept session players busy in recording studios up and down Sunset Boulevard," as the Los Angeles Times put it. We think the Toronto Sun describes it best, as having "the rich, warm sound of songs like 'By The Time I Get to Phoenix,' 'Wichita Lineman' and 'Everybody’s Talkin' - but populated by Springsteen’s latest cast of misfits, wanderers, blue-collar heroes and broken men." Fifty-some minutes of Mellow Bruce can get a bit tiresome, but the individual songs are mostly well-crafted. We've been spinning the lead single, "Hello Sunshine," and we're now featuring album track "Tucson Train" in our New Music Bin.

We've also been playing the first single ("Raven") from Jenn Grant's new album, and now that the rest of Love, Inevitable has been released, we're adding the beautiful second track, "Our Love." The Halifax singer-songwriter went west to Portland, Ore., and worked with a new producer on this, her seventh album. “It came from this strange time in my life where I was sort of taking a leap of faith in several ways,” Grant says. You'll be hearing other songs from the album in our big mix and on The Birch Street Bistro.

As always, our New Music picks of the week feature a wide variety of sounds. We turn now to the Southern soul-rock of Seratones, who have just released the title track of their upcoming second album, Power. The Shreveport, Louisiana-based five-piece band creates a hard-driving groove backing A.J. Haynes commanding vocal: "We take two steps forward / They take one step backward / We take each step 'cause we've got the power."

Rounding out this week's picks:

Boy & Bear: "Hold Your Nerve" - The upbeat track is the first release from the Australian band since 2015's Limit of Love. After a hiatus due to frontman Dave Hosking's illness, the group traveled to Nashville to work on its fourth album, due later this year.

Big Thief: "UFOF" - Pitchfork calls the Brooklyn quartet's third album "undoubtedly" their best, "a mesmerizing flood of life filtered down into a concentrated drip." We're spinning the dreamy title track, in which songwriter/vocalist Adrianne Lenker bids farewell to her "UFO friend."