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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."

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Just added to our mix: Screens 4 Eyes, Valley, Sheryl Crow, Shayna McDaniel, Liam Gallagher

We're glad to present brand-new music from Screens 4 Eyes, an indie electronic-rock-dream-pop group from Tel Aviv, Israel. "Feelings Are For Girls" is their first single since the 2017 album Behind These Doors, which has been in our mix since its release. The band's lineup has changed, other than vocalist-keyboardist Yael Brener. On this track, her misty voice echoes through an electronic soundscape that creates a sense of being drawn into a mystery. The Screens are working on an EP that we hear will have more of a rock-band sound, with guitars, bass and drums joining in.

Photo: Becca Hamel
Toronto indie-pop band Valley has released the second installment of a series of EPs collectively called Maybe. From the new set, called Maybe: Side B, we previously featured "Park Bench" and now we're picking up the opening track, "A Phone Call in Amsterdam." With its musical mix of acoustic and electronic sounds, band members have called it "the quintessential Valley song." Guitarist-vocalist Mike Brandolino says "It’s lyrically open-ended, so you adapt it to your own story and whatever’s going on in your life while you listen.”

As always, we embrace a wide range of music in our big mix - so from electro-pop we jump to earthy Americana music. Sheryl Crow has just released a single with her "two favorite women in all of rock n' roll," Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples. The trio harmonize and trade solos singing about a "lover stubborn as a weed" on this country-rock track, "Live Wire." Crow's upcoming LP, Threads, featuring a series of  all-star collaborations, is due in late August.

New to our mix is Shayla McDaniel, a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has made a splash in her home area of Knoxville, Tennessee, and is starting to gain wider attention. Her new single, "Tension," is smooth and soulful with a touch of jazz. McDaniel's will be releasing a collection called Both of My Hands next month.

Rounding out our weekly picks is a dose of gritty rock from Liam Gallagher. The second solo album from the former Oasis singer, to be called Why Me? Why Not? is in the works, and he's just released the first taste, called "Shockwave."

Saturday, June 1, 2019

New tracks from Secret Treehouse, Scott Krokoff, Sacred Paws, Olden Yolk, The Black Keys

The latest single from Norway's Secret Treehouse expresses what many people around the world are feeling these days: that everything is in the "Wrong Hands." Vocalist Anja Bere sings softly of "smoke and hate in the air" to a jangly pop melody that builds into a stadium-worthy anthem. Based in Bergen, Norway, this self-described "pop orchestra" has quickly become one of our favorites.

New York singer-songwriter Scott Krokoff has been a favorite of ours for some time, with his well-crafted songs and often self-effacing lyrics. His latest single, "Something I'd Like To Know," is a breezy pop tune that describes "the life of an introvert" who envies others' self-assurance. "How does it feel when everybody loves you? How does it feel to say the things you want to?"


The second album from Sacred Paws, Run Around the Sun, is our introduction to the Scottish duo of Rachel Aggs and Eilidh Rodgers. Aggs' guitars, Rodgers' drums and the duo's intertwined voices create what AllMusic calls "a joyous indie-pop listening experience." Our featured track is "The Conversation," in which their sometimes alternating, sometimes joined voices suggest a discussion that veers between argument and agreement.

Singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Shane Butler (of Quilt) and Caity Shaffer create folky, poetic art rock as Olden YolkThey've just released their second album, "Living Theatre," and we're featuring "Grand Palais," which AllMusic says "approximates the eerie, infectious folk-rock of the late '60s, complex ethereal harmonies, jammy guitar solo, shaker, drum fills, and all."

Much more down-to-earth is the guitar-and-drums rock-and-roll of The Black Keys, who land in our New Music Bin once again with "Go," the latest single from their upcoming Let's Rock LP. 

In addition to the tracks featured in our New Music Bin, we're constantly adding music - both new and old - to our big playlist. And we expand our musical scope even further on two Sunday programs: 
  • The Birch Street Bistro, which showcases singer-songwriters.
  • The Detour, where we veer off the beaten path to discover new indie music and dig up old deep tracks. 
Follow the links above for more info on those shows, and find past episodes archived on our Mixcloud site

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Debuts by Soda Blonde, Golden Dimes, plus new Super Doppler, Merlot Embargo, Sail By Summer

It's all indie bands in our New Music bin this week, including two debuts and the latest from some groups we've featured before.

From Dublin, we bring you the first release by Soda Blonde, which consists of four of the five members of the recently-disbanded Little Green Cars: Faye O’Rourke, Adam O’Regan, Donagh Seaver O’Leary and Dylan Lynch. "Swimming Through The Night" features O'Rourke's powerful vocal, which evokes comparisons to Annie Lennox and Florence Welch. The band says this track, to be officially released June 7, is one of a "collection of songs written by O’Rourke throughout her early 20s, where she honed in on her unique lyrical style of gritty kitchen-sink realism."

Also making its debut is Golden Dimes, a band formed by New Jersey neighbors who describe themselves as "five suburban dads, all lifetime musicians brought together by fate and a mutual love of great food and drink, an irreverent sense of humor, and positive vibes." They recently released an EP, Uncommon Cents, blending keys, guitars and organic drum sounds with vocal harmony. Our featured pick, "Paper Skin," carries an earnest message for dads and other adults interacting with children: "Never tell them they're not good enough / Don't make them feel that they can't ever win."

The three bands making return appearances in our New Music bin include Super Doppler. This group from Norfolk, Virginia, blends late-Beatles-psychedelic sounds with strains of roots rock and country. Their latest single, "Going Nowhere," might be our favorite yet. Blends well with: Real Estate.

Merlot Embargo is an indie-pop band from Los Angeles fronted by singer-songwriter and guitarist-producer couple Scarlet and Geoff. They caught our attention with their first album in 2016, and have issued several singles since. The latest, "Don't Cry," is an I'll-be-fine-without-you breakup song: "Don't cry for me / when you're the one who wants to leave / baby you don't get to grieve."

We've been playing Sail By Summer's "Casual Drive" for a couple of months, and now we're picking up "Fetch You Roses." It's the latest single to spin out from the upcoming debut album by the "melancholic indie" duo of Norwegian singer-songwriter William Hut and Danish keyboardist Jens Kristian. Casual Heaven is due in August.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

New sounds from Lizzie No, Southern Avenue, The Heavy, The National & introducing Low Life Lolas

Our regular listeners are familiar with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lizzie No. Her music has been part of our mix since the release of her 2017 debut LP, Hard Won. Her second collection, Vanity, is due in August, and she's just released a single, "Narcissus." On this track, No moves a bit beyond the folk/country sounds of her first record, adding a fuller, somewhat rock-ier sound behind very personal, self-reflecting lyrics. "I see myself / As a great pretender / in grown-ups clothing / Up on tiptoe by the water's edge," she sings, then turns to lessons learned in love: “I believed some things were meant to happen / Now I’m not so sure / 'Cause I keep on breaking my own heart." Rolling Stone named this a Song You Need To Know, writing that "it’s ultimately [No's] uncanny knack for songwriterly perspective that grounds the song."

We weren't familiar with Memphis-based soul-rock band Southern Avenue until we heard a track from their just-released second album, Keep On. From Relix.com we learn that this group came together through a collaboration among "Israeli psych-blues guitarist Ori Naftaly, gospel singer Tierinii Jackson and drummer Tikyra Jackson (Tierinii’s sister)." However that happened, the result is "fiery, guitar-led soul rock, with punchy horns, hard-shuffling beats." Our featured track, Whiskey Love," is about a woman breaking out of a cycle of abuse. Tierinii Jackson describes it as "a song of hope and strength for all those out there struggling.”

Southern soul, rock and funk also come together in the unlikely surroundings of Bath, England, through the music of The Heavy. This band has been keeping on for a dozen years or so and just released it's fifth album, Sons. All Music describes the sound very well: "Featuring the swaggering, throaty vocals of Kelvin Swaby, the Heavy are akin to '70s British trad-rock bands like Faces or Humble Pie, but only if they'd been fronted by James Brown." We're featuring the single "Better As One," which drives home a message of unity: "I know that we can do better / I know we're better as one / I know we can do better / Without evil on our tongue."

Jumping from one style of music to another, as we always do, we return to the Toronto indie-music scene and pick up a track from the debut album by Low Life Lolas. This quartet, formed a year or so ago, features songwriter and lead vocalist ReneƩ Parr along with drummer Melissa Chiasson, guitarist Alex MacLeod and bassist Jose Guillen. Parr began writing in her hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and developed a style described as "a blend of delicate folk, dissonance, and sophisticated lyrics." The band backs it with a big, solid indie-rock sound. Our pick for the New Music bin is "Darling I Won't Ask."

Veering off in yet another direction: We've heard bits and pieces of The National's eighth album, I Am Easy to Find, and now the full hour-plus record has been released. Much has been written about the album, the accompanying short film, and the choice by Matt Berninger to collaborate with several female artists. We're now featuring the title track, a quiet ballad on which Matt is joined by British musician Kate Stables (a.k.a. This Is The Kit). We always find Berninger's lyrics annoyingly cryptic, but in this gentle duet, they go down smoothly.