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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Our latest picks: Modest Mouse, Grand Splendid, Dentist, Soda Blonde, Coldplay in New Music bin

Modest Mouse: We Are Between

The Portland, Ore.-based band plans a June release of The Golden Casket, their first album since 2015's Strangers to Ourselves. On the new collection, frontman Isaac Brock “explores themes ranging from the degradation of our psychic landscapes and invisible technology, to fatherhood,” according to a press release. This first single uses a simple refrain to suggest bigger ideas about life, the universe and everything: "We are between, yeah, we are / Somewhere between dust and the stars / Swung open, then slammed shut, yeah, but here we are."

Grand Splendid: Magic

Here's the second single from this Montreal indie-rock band's upcoming album, its first full-length release. Who are these guys?  Julian Buchbinder (lead vocals, guitar), Alex Pilla (bass, keyboards), Mathias Fugen (guitar, vocal harmonies) and Renaud Viero (drums). In November we featured the first single, "You Are the Universe," which eventually reached #1 on the Canadian Online Radio Chart and remains in the top 10 at this writing.

Dentist: Let Me Let Go

We featured the single “Don’t Let Me Catch You” when it came out in February, and this latest entry to our New Music bin is the next bit to emerge from their upcoming fourth album. Impose Magazine writes that the track "cruises on what Dentist does best; infectious hooks, driving bass and loud guitars." It's a song aboug getting away from a bad relationship, as vocalist Emily Bornemann told the mag: "I often find myself writing about heartbreak I can’t control, because it is something that just sticks with me."

Sold Blonde: In The Heat Of The Night

Singer Faye O'Rourke, guitarist Adam O’Regan, drummer Dylan Lynch and bassist Donagh Seaver-O’Leary are former members of Little Green Cars. When that Dublin band broke up in early 2019, they reformed as a quartet and have already released two EPs and a couple of singles. We recently featured "Small Talk," the title track of an upcoming album that will also include this new single. "It’s a song about conflict -- and getting a kick out of it," says O'Rourke. "The thrill of the fight."

Coldplay: Higher Power

The band teamed with Swedish pop producer Max Martin, who has worked on hits with the likes of Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake, on this new single. Frontman Chris Martin told the BBC that it's one of several new tracks Coldplay recorded over the past year, while jumping through hoops to comply with pandemic restrictions. "We had to find countries where we were able to get in with permission, and then be in a recording bubble - and we did that three or four times," he said. He told the network that lockdowns forced him to look at his relationship with fame. "Last year was a quite an eye opener," he said. "I was like, 'Who am I without Wembley Stadium, saying you're awesome?'"

Saturday, May 1, 2021

New releases by Carsie Blanton, Screens 4 Eyes, Edgar Road, WKNDR, Dumpstaphunk

Carsie Blanton: Sufferin' Fools

With her unique sound and view of the world, this indie singer-songwriter that we've been following for years is drawing well-deserved attention with her new album, Love & Rage. Across its 11 tracks, Blanton's subjects range from love and lust to injustice and protest. We can't do a better job of capturing the album's spirit than this review by National Public Radio or this one by PopMatters. We previously featured singles "Party at the End of the World" and "Be Good," and with the release of the LP we're picking this cheerfully bittersweet song about a brief affair: "Knowin' it was just one night / Why'd it have to feel so right?"

Screens 4 Eyes: At Dawn

This is the latest single from the Tel Aviv synth-pop group's pandemic-delayed-but-still-forthcoming third EP. On this track, dawn brings darkness as keyboardist-vocalist Yael Brener sings of finding a lover missing at morning: "Why did you walk away? / This is how it feels, a fading presence walks away." Bright piano notes and sharp drumbeats accent the moody synths, creating a mesmerizing sonic atmosphere.

Edgar Road: Breakout

Here's the latest track from another indie band we've been following and featuring for a few years now. The five-piece from northern Scotland has released several singles in recent months, building toward its planned third EP. The band features vocalist-guitarist Mark Conti, Magdalena Wellenger on keyboards and vocals, Simon Watterson on guitar, Michael Byiers on bass and Allan Hall on drums.

WKNDR: Rising

Photo: Nick Wasch Photography
The title track from Richmond, Virginia-based "alterna-folk-rock" band grabs us right away with its opening flute notes (we always enjoy a rockin' flute) and then busts out into a joyful sound suitable for dancing on the lawn at a summer music festival (Can we have those again, please?). The band consists of Jim Wright (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Ali Foley Shenk (vocals, flute, bass, ukulele), Adam Powell (drums and percussion) and Elliot Johnson (lead guitar, keys, bass, vocals). In their words, they play "original music deriving from their conviction that life is beautiful, love wins, and mean people suck."

Dumpstaphunk: Make It After All

This is the title track from the New Orleans band's jam-packed new album. From their bio: "Founding members Ivan Neville (vocals/keyboards) Ian Neville (guitar) Tony Hall (bass/guitar/vocals) and Nick Daniels (bass/vocals) along with newest members Alex Wasily (trombone) and Deven Trusclair (drums), have built upon the Neville family’s iconic NOLA legacy, as they’ve transformed into the city’s pre-eminent 21st-century funk-fusion export, after being birthed originally from a spontaneous set during New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2003." We only wish we could get down to Tipitina's and catch their shows this weekend!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

New from Sam Coffey & Iron Lungs, Anderson East, Amy Helm, Wolf Alice, Chair Warriors

Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs: Lately

Photo: Kate Dockeray
The third studio album from this Toronto-based band, titled Real One, is "an anthemic arena-rock album with a side of punk," says Canadian Beats. "The overall tone of the record is aggressive and raw, but it also is relentlessly upbeat." Our featured track, writes Northern Transmissions, "has Coffey yearning for that special someone (I been thinking about you lately / I been talking about you lately), while sonically, it’s just huge and custom built for big rock shows."

Anderson East: Madelyn

This is the first single from Maybe We Never Die, the Alabama singer's upcoming third album. American Songwriter says it's "a continuation of the deeply reflective state East found himself in 2020 when the pandemic hit." East told the website: “Now, I’m more reflective and I’m beginning to realize what being a human being really means. It’s a nice reset.” This song is a ballad of love in troubled times: "I about had enough / Can't make sense of this world we're livin' in ... I need my favorite high / To ease my state of mind / My Madelyn / Hold you tight just to find some shelter, ooh-oh."

Amy Helm: Are We Running Out of Love

The second single to emerge ahead of What the Flood Leaves Behind is one of the album's cover songs. The song is by Swedish singer-songwriter and guitarist Daniel Norgen. Helm turns its simple lyric into an emotional plea: "How long will it take / For love to touch everyone? / How long? / Are we running out of love?"

Wolf Alice: The Last Man on Earth

The first single from the London band's third album, Blue Weekend, drew a rave review from NME: "Wolf Alice have long proven themselves to be one of the best and brightest bands in Britain, but here they give us yet more evidence that they’re still setting the standard for UK music and beyond." The song, which vocalist Ellie Roswell says is about "the arrogance of humans," builds at a slow pace, which "puts their singer at the forefront and lets her emotive voice do the work until we enter a grand, powerful second half." 

Chair Warriors: Throne

The Montreal trio says this just-released track is the latest "in a long line of singles we have coming out over the next several months." It follows "Spirit," which we featured in November. At the time, the band said its upcoming material will tell a story of an "entity" bringing a message that can change the world for the better. The Chair Warriors bring a modern-prog, Muse-like sound to this song, fitting for a sci-fi concept.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Liz Phair returns + Oliver Wood goes solo + new music by London Grammar, Yard Arms, Wilderado

Liz Phair: Spanish Doors

The title of Phair's upcoming album, her first in 11 years, is Soberish, referring to a state of moderation - such as, partying without losing control. "If you reach for too much of a good thing, or starve yourself with too little, you’ll lose that critical balance," Phair says. The LP was produced by Brad Wood, who also worked on Exile in Guyville, Whip-Smart and whitechocolatespaceegg. “I found my inspiration for Soberish by delving into an early era of my music development - my art school years spent listening to Art Rock and New Wave music non-stop on my Walkman” Phair said. This first single narrates the reaction to the collapse of a relationship: "I don't want to see anybody I know / I don't want to be anywhere that you and I used to go."

Oliver Wood: Fine Line

The frontman of The Wood Brothers isn't leaving that group, but makes his solo debut with Always Smilin' - an album born of collaborations back when those were easy to arrange. "The year before the pandemic, people would come through Nashville where I live and I'd set up a co-write or a jam in our studio, just to do some stuff outside of my own band," Wood said. "There wasn't an album in mind. I just wanted to be creative." The first single has an earlier origin: "The song 'Fine Line' dates back to my King Johnson days," Wood said. "Bringing it back and recording it again was my way of paying tribute to that band and the music we made together" in the late 1990s.

London Grammar: How Does It Feel

This was the third single to come out before California Soil, the just-released third album from the Nottingham trio of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dot Major. Stereogum calls the song "an upbeat spin on the London Grammar sound, keeping the sense of cinematic drama but putting a dancey skip in its step." Reid acknowledges it has more of a pop sound than much of the band's work. "I’ve always loved pop music ... This song started off as an experiment, and ended up being one of my favorites on the record. Along with our alternative side, this creates a light and shade on our album that I’ve always wanted to achieve."

Yard Arms: Hollow Ankles

Less than a year after their third EP, Sanctuary Lines, Noah Villeneuve and Billy Golding are back with more of their melancholic pop - or what they jokingly refer to as "sad bops for dad bods." Lyricist Villeneuve calls this track "a musing on the chronic instability of life," but there's an upbeat hopefulness to that musing. Yard Arms count Echo and the Bunnymen among their influences, and we definitely hear echoes of the 80s as well as the 90s and beyond in their sound.

Wilderado: Head Right

Somewhere on the rock/alternative/Americana spectrum lies this band from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They've released several singles and EPs since 2015, and are working toward a debut LP to be called Head Right. Broadwayworld calls this title single "a confident and boisterous slice of rock n' roll [that] builds on what the band does best - combining soaring melodies with lush three-part harmonies." Band member Max Rainer says the group was sitting around talking about "how sometimes the best way to ruin a song, life, or anything really, is to take it too seriously. That afternoon we wrote 'Head Right.' It ... represents a turning point for us as a band, a return to the basics and the feeling of writing music while not caring about much at all." 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The latest: The Wallflowers, Carsie Blanton, Whitehorse, Flock of Dimes, Van Go Go

The Wallflowers: Roots and Wings

Photo: Yasmin Than
The first release from Jakob Dylan since 2012's Glad All Over is this single from a new LP, Exit Wounds, due in July. Paste Magazine tells us he put together a new group of musicians for the album, and has scheduled a tour to begin in the summer. JD says of the album title: "Nobody is the same as they were four years ago. That, to me, is what Exit Wounds signifies. And it’s not meant to be negative at all. It just means that wherever you’re headed, even if it’s to a better place, you leave people and things behind, and you think about those people and those things and you carry them with you. Those are your exit wounds. And right now, we’re swimming in them."

Carsie Blanton: Party at the End of the World

Our regular listeners are familiar with this singer-songwriter, whose upcoming album Love and Rage expresses her primary messages: Love one another, and rage against hatred. "About half the time, I think the human race is doomed and there’s nothing we can do about it. On those days I alternate between despair and hedonism. This [song's] about hedonism." She's pictured here with long-time band members Joe Plowman (bass) and Patrick Firth (keyboards), who podded together and produced the album through the pandemic.

Whitehorse: Relic in the New Age

The Ontario-based duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland recently released Modern Love, the first album the couple also produced. Their sound has been described as folk-rock, Western noir, "space cowboy" and, in a publicity blurb, "a fully immersive experience of interpersonal harmonics in ultra rich waveshape sonics." Ok, then. The LP's theme is described as a "blueprint for love in the digital age," and this song expresses a sense of trying to adapt humanity to technology: "You've got me by the barcode, baby /  I know I’m just a demo failed / But somehow I prevailed / It’s evolutionary."

Flock of Dimes: Two

Photo: Graham Tolbert
Jenn Wasner, who is half of the indie-pop duo Wye Oak and a touring member of Bon Iver, has released her second solo album under the Flock of Dimes name. For Head of Roses, Wassner "assembles a different group of collaborators, but she sounds more confident than ever in her own voice," Paste writes, resulting in "an album that’s equal parts intricate, exploratory pop and thoughtful, experimental indie folk." The refrain in this song expresses the tension between independence and partnership: "Can I be one? / Can we be two? / Can I be for myself? / Still be still with you?"

Van Go Go: Both of Us

The quartet of Nathan Mackinder (vocals), Jason Schaller (guitar), Paxton Olney (bass) and Jonah Brockman (drums) formed in Michigan in 2007, recorded some demos in 2008 - then took a hiatus that turned into 12 years of pursuing other careers. Amid the pandemic, their bio says, they decided "they had unfinished business, as well as unfinished music from 2008, and they collectively decided that it was time to finish the stories that they had begun to tell before separating." They returned to Pearl Sound Studios, finished off those early songs and added  new ones. We're not sure if this one was written in '08, but to our ears it has a bit of an '80 sound.