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Saturday, June 12, 2021

James McMurtry, The Wallflowers, MBG, Modest Mouse, Gary Numan drop into the New Music bin


James McMurtry: Canola Fields


We're longtime fans of this Texas singer-songwriter and are happy to hear a new album is on its way. Horses and Hounds is his first LP in seven years and his debut on New West Records. Rolling Stone calls McMurtry a "hyper-literate" writer whose "lyrics are rich in detail." This song opens with a drive through Southern Alberta, where the color of the fields of canola trigger a memory: "about the same chartreuse as that ’69 Bug you used to drive around San Jose.” He sings of reconnecting with that person later in life: "Cashing in on a 30-year crush / You can't be young and do that."

The Wallflowers: Who's That Man Walking 'Round My Garden


The latest single to pop out ahead of the Exit Wounds LP due next month builds on a time-worn theme: man comes home from work and finds a strange car in the driveway / strange shoes under the bed / strange man in the kitchen. In this case, Jakob Dylan says the garden "is whatever you hold dear and find worthy of protecting. Might be a woman, could be your future, may be your peace of mind. Keep out of mine and I’ll keep out of yours.” Spin says "the timeless Americana rock sound the band is known for fuses with a little extra guitar-driven funkiness" on this track.

MBG: Go O.U.T.


Expressing the feelings of many, Toronto songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leena Rodriguez sings of being "cooped up, locked down in a bungalow" for months and wanting to get back out in the world - but still nervous about being around "the people that live without fear." Get Some Magazine calls this single "a perfect slice of post-pandemic punk ... infectious, and kind of pummeling, with some wondrously distorted guitars, lockstep drums, and MBG’s unique scream that turns into a genuine roar at one point."

Modest Mouse: Leave a Light On


The second single to land in our New Music bin ahead of The Golden Casket "feels woozy and borderline psychedelic at the edges," writes Rolling Stone, "but it’s anchored by a big indie rock sing-along hook: “We’re leaving, we’re leaving, we’re leaving / We’ll be home soon.”

Gary Numan: Saints and Liars


The veteran of late-70s-early-80s New Wave recently released his 18th LP, Intruder. It's a concept album that "looks at climate change from the planet’s point of view," Numan explains. "If Earth could speak, and feel things the way we do, what would it say?" The music is much darker and heavier than in Numan's early works (e.g. "Cars") and would mix well with Muse at its most foreboding.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Shemekia Copeland & Kenny Wayne Shepherd + Wolf Alice + Michigan Rattlers + Liz Phair + Crowded House = this week's New Music Picks


Shemekia Copeland & Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Hit 'Em Back


Contemporary blues singer Copeland asked lyricist John Hahn for a song to address anger and division in the blues community. "You can say ‘this is the blues and that isn’t’ - and I’ve been guilty of that, too, but as I’ve grown, I’ve seen it encompasses everything from rock and folk to you name it. Blues is the root of American music." The refrain - "Let ‘em scream and yell / Push and shove / You gotta hit ‘em back with love" - certainly also applies to society at large. Copeland recruited guitarist Shepherd to write the music and join her on the record. Within days they were in a Nashville studio putting it together with pedal-steel master Robert Randolph and drummer Tony Coleman. All proceeds will be donated to the non-profit Music Maker Relief Foundation.

Wolf Alice: Smile


The UK band's third album has drawn reviews bordering on the ecstatic. Paste Magazine writes that Blue Weekend "finds Wolf Alice at the top of their game, with each track memorable and each idea fresh and unique." NME calls it "a stone-cold masterpiece full of confidence and magic," and says of this track: "Over crunching riffs [vocalist Ellie Roswell] shoots down the world’s attempts to put her in a box and tell her how she should be." She does so mostly in a flat, talk-singing manner, in sharp contrast to her soaring vocals on the track we featured previously, "The Last Man on Earth."

Michigan Rattlers: That Kind of Life


New to our ears is this band from - well, the name tells you that. Graham Young and Adam Reed started playing together as an acoustic duo, with plans to evolve into a rock band. They've done that with the additions of keyboardist Christian Wilder and drummer Tony Audia. Their second album, That Kind of Life, is their first as a full band. Young told American Songwriter the title track is "about having this idea of what your life will be, what will happen. And how that doesn’t happen, it rarely works out. So then it’s like, how do you adjust and move forward? This is something we’ve all had to figure out this year. No one got out unscathed.”

Liz Phair: The Game


On her new album Soberish, Phair reunites with Brad Wood, the producer of Exile in Guyville, Whip-Smart and Whitechocolatespaceegg. She told Stereogum she considers this her first proper studio album since the last of those three came out in 1988, with everything since being a series of detours. We previously featured the single "Spanish Doors," and this is another song about a relationship on the skids: "Everytime I think we're solid / You change the game."

Crowded House: Love Isn't Hard At All


Neil Finn puts the band back together, more or less, on its first album in 11 years, Dreamers Are Waiting. He's joined by co-founder Nick Seymour on bass and original producer Mitchell Froom on keys - plus Finn's sons, Liam (guitar) and Elroy (drums). Glide Magazine calls the result a "solid collection of jangle pop," adding, "that core sound, anchored in deep harmonies and strong pop hooks [is] still there." This track is a multi-generational co-write, by Neil and Elroy.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

The latest: Counting Crows, Will McBride Group, Plastic Age, Annie Keating, Brett Dennen


Counting Crows: Elevator Boots


Lead singer Adam Duritz is the latest member of a well-known rock band to write a song about being a member of a well-known rock band. "Everybody wants to know you ... Plug into the buzz ... They want you and you want to / With their lips on fire and your head unscrewed / But it's time to whip another change and hit one more town." The track is one of four on the band's first release in seven years, the curiously titled Butter Miracle, Suite One.

Will McBride Group: No For An Answer


This North Carolina band's latest EP, None the Worse for Wear, recently reached our ears by way of a UK indie-music site (Viva the interwebs!). The band had its origins in 2004-05, playing gigs in the Raleigh area, and several years later started landing opening slots for such national acts as Styx, ZZ Top and Aaron Neville. They describe their music as jazz-influenced rock and pop. Here, a backing chorus adds extra flavor to the funky guitar, keyboards and drums. Mixes well with: String Cheese Incident (think "Joyful Sound"), Phish, Bruce Hornsby.

Plastic Age: Desire


Photo: Manon Pilorge
This self-described "indie-rock/pop-punk band from France recently released it's second album, Yeack! The trio, fronted by lead vocalist/bassist Apolline, cites a wide range of influences, including the Buzzcocks, Pixies, Vines and Garbage. U.K. music website Small Music Scene calls the LP "insanely entertaining," with "gritty basses and shattering drum fills mixing with the dashing riffs."

Annie Keating: Third Street


We previously featured "Marigold," and now another track from the LP Bristol County Tides enters our New Music bin. It's one of the more rocking tracks off the album, which grew from Keating's pandemic retreat from Brooklyn to Bristol County, Mass. There, she says, "the city girl in me entirely gave way to the country, captivated by the river and the tides high and low." This song describes some of the new friends she made there. Guitar Girl Magazine calls the album Keating's "most accomplished, inspired, and ambitious work to date."

Brett Dennen: See the World


The title track from the California singer-songwriter's seventh album, due this summer, is a father-to-son message that resonates with this moment. "This song has taken on a more powerful meaning after this past year," Dennenn says. "Now that the world is opening up, I have both relief and anxiety." His son "is the reason I wrote this song. To tell him that it is more important to learn from himself than it is to learn from me.”

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Jackson Browne, Scott Krokoff, Sleater-Kinney, Garbage, Gary Louris land in our New Music bin


Jackson Browne: Cleveland Heart


The title isn't a reference to the spirit of the city on Lake Erie's shore. The latest single from Browne's upcoming Downhill From Everywhere album is a wry take on the idea that human hearts are too emotionally fragile. "I expect real changes to start / When I finally get my Cleveland Heart / They can take a bashin' and never lose the passion." Browne told Rolling Stone he was driving past the offices of cardiac-device maker Cleveland Heart when "the person I was driving with said ... 'that’s where they make artificial hearts.’ I said, ‘Oh, I could use one of those!’”

Scott Krokoff: Far Too Many Times


A frequent theme in this New York troubadour's songs is encouragement to shake off self-doubt and pursue the life you want to lead. On this single, the lyric is addressed to someone who prefers to bitch and moan that life's not fair. "No one owes you anything / It's up to you to seize what each moment brings / So get out there and stand up and sing / And don't complain to me." In a couple of spots, Krokoff tosses in a parenthetical "she said" -- suggesting that the narrator of the song is actually quoting what someone once told him.

Sleater-Kinney: Worry With You


With time and the recent departure of their longtime drummer, some of the rough edges have been worn off this band that emerged from the Portland punk scene of the 1990s. The new album coming from what is now the duo of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein is called Path of Wellness, and this single has a vibe of positivity through togetherness in a troubled world: "If I'm gonna worry, I’m gonna worry with you,” they sing over what Pitchfork calls "some of the breeziest melodies of their career."

Garbage: Wolves


Shirley Manson calls this "the pop song off the record" - that is, her band's forthcoming seventh studio album, No Gods No Masters. “This song reminds me of my younger self, when there were two sides to my personality,” says Manson, referencing an old folk tale about dueling inner wolves. “I hurt so many people in my life, both knowingly and unknowingly, I’m sure. But when you’re young and in self-survival mode, much like a baby rattlesnake, you have no idea how strong your venom is. Meanwhile, you're just out there having fun.”

Gary Louris: Almost Home


The Jayhawks frontman is about to release a solo album, Jump for Joy, that he describes as a collection of “the best songs I have written that are still lying around.” American Songwriter writes that this single "details the supernatural force that grounds every traveler - the person waiting on the other side of the door that wields a magnetic power to define a subjective concept of home."

Saturday, May 15, 2021

New music from Joan Armatrading, Son Volt, Gorstey Lea Street Choir, Rooks, Joywave


Joan Armatrading: Already There


It's great news that a new LP is on its way from this U.K. artist whose 1976 self-titled debut remains one of the great albums of all time. The first track to spin out from Consequences is a celebration of the moment of realization that a love is requited. "You just told me you loved me / For the very first time / And it feels like I'm flying ... While you were falling in love / I was already there."

Son Volt: Reverie


Call them alt-country or roots-rock, Son Volt has been going strong for more than a quarter-century and is preparing to release its 10th album, Electro Melodier. This first single is "an uptempo, hopeful reflection on persistence and hard-won perspective," writes Rolling Stone. The album is named after two amplifier brands from the late '40s and early '50s, and frontman Jay Farrar says, "I wanted to concentrate on the melodies which got me into music in the first place." The band's current lineup also includes Mark Spencer, Chris Fame, Mark Patterson and Andrew DuPlantis.

The Gorstey Lea Street Choir: Bluebird, Hollywood ... Domino


This group from Staffordshire, U.K., follows up its 2020 debut EP with a single described as "a psychedelic upbeat 6/8 stomp." Big Takeover Magazine calls it "a rich melting pot of prominent drum strikes, limber bass line, reverberating percussion, and bright psych-tinged guitar lines." Michael Clapham, co-leader with Russ Phillips, says “This song is a cautionary tale of days gone by, what may have been and where we are now."

Rooks: Battlefield


Guitarist/vocalist Jay Bowcott, drummer Darryl Swart and bassist Brent Rossall make up this trio from Calgary. As a relatively new band (they released their debut LP last year) that draws on classic-rock influences, they fit perfectly into the Birch Street Radio lineup. On this new single, the Rooks are flying in similar skies as the Byrds, Eagles and Jayhawks.

Joywave: Every Window Is a Mirror


This is the title track from the Rochester, N.Y., band's latest album, due next month. Like so much recent music, it was recorded under quarantine conditions in a home studio, in this case belonging to frontman Daniel Armbruster. “The imagery in the song," he says, "is thinking you’re looking through a clear pane of glass, only to discover upon further inspection that you can see yourself in it, some of the room you’re in reflected in it — and it might be a little dirtier than you thought when you’re up close.”