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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Latest from Grand Splendid, Sharon Lia Band, Brooke Annibale, Sunflower Bean, Less Than Jake

Grand Splendid: You Are the Universe

This band has been part of the Montreal indie-rock scene for years and released an EP (Numbers) in 2013. Now comes the first single from an upcoming full-length album. They describe their music as featuring "upfront electric guitars and soothing vocal melodies," and both are featured on this track. In an interview with Montreal Rocks, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Julian Buchbinder said his early influences included The Beatles, The Cure and R.E.M. This song, he said, "is very personal to me. I wrote it when my son was born and my whole perspective of life changed completely. Maybe the fact that I was sleep deprived at the time could have something to do with the psychedelic feel of it." 

Sharon Lia Band: The Sum Of Us

Released several months ago but just reaching our ears, this anthem of unity provides a fine introduction to the Philadelphia alternative-progressive rock band fronted by singer and pianist Sharon Lia. The song "is about the conflict within ourselves, the tragedy of giving up, the victory of rising when we fall, the symphony of realizing our potential, and the philosophy that every single one of us contributes to the sum of us all,” Lia says. 

Brooke Annibale: Home Again

Also released several months ago but just finding its way to our New Music bin is this love song to the singer-songwriter-guitarist's future wife. Their wedding was planned for this summer, but had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Annibale decided to mark the date by releasing this track as a single. "It’s a song about figuring out how to communicate our love for one another and ultimately build a life and make a home together."  

Sunflower Bean: Moment in the Sun

The Brooklyn-based trio is out with a bouncy single that Consequence of Sound calls "quite a departure from the glammy ’70s rock of their Twentytwo in Blue sophomore record or last year’s King of the Dudes EP. It’s firmly in the indie pop sphere, modern synth intersplicing jangly ’80s pop guitar lines on the chorus." The band says the theme of the song is "finally recognizing what is important in one’s life, the people you decide to spend it with.”  

Less Than Jake: Lie to Me

Photo by Paris Vison
Still ska-punking after all these years, this band from Gainesville, Florida is bringing out a new LP, Silver Linings - its first since founding member Vinnie Fiorello moved on and Matt Yonker took over on drums. Chris DeMakes (vocals, guitar), Roger Lima (vocals, bass) and Buddy Schaub (trombone) remain from the lineup that debuted with 1995's Pezcore, along with early addition Peter "JR" Wasilewski. "We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with this [album], it’s still undeniably Less Than Jake," says Lima. "Just a bit punchier and in-your-face."

Saturday, November 14, 2020

New Foo Fighters + Ida Mae feat. Marcus King + Chair Warriors + Valley + Just Like Honey

Foo Fighters: Shame Shame

Dave Grohl says he and his fellow foos wanted to try something a little different in making their upcoming album, Medicine at Midnight. Citing examples like Bowie's Let's Dance and the Stones Tattoo You - "those rock albums that would make you get up and move and dance" -  Grohl told Loudwire: "We haven't done that yet, so we went into the studio with that in mind ... I don't even wanna say it's like our 'dance record,' but it's got grooves that we've never had before, so they kind of make you bounce around." He also said this first single may be the least-typical-FF song in the batch.

Ida Mae: Deep River (feat. Marcus King)

The husband-and-wife duo of Chris Turpin and Stephanie Jean hail from Norfolk, U.K. but their love of Americana folk, country and blues styles brought them to Nashville. On this track from their new EP Raining For You, they expand on their acoustic sound by teaming up with Marcus King. They describe the song as "the rowdy dystopian dream-state adventure of two people In love. It was written in one sitting as a stream of consciousness storybook about two people leaving their home to try and make something of themselves, only to find themselves lost in a system that is out of their control." The result is a wonderfully frantic blues-rock blast. 

Chair Warriors: Spirit

Several tracks from this Montreal band's 2017 album Dawn of Edo are in our big mix, and we're glad to be among the first to spin this new single. Entertainment site V13 premiered it a few days ago, saying it shows the indie-rock trio "at their most polished and most capable." The band says it's part of "a slew of new upcoming material that breaks the mold we originally created with our previous EP," and that will tell a story of an "entity" with a message that can change the world for the better. Musically, they describe the track as "all about classic ‘80s synths and a retro-wave aesthetic while maintaining signature elements of our earlier work.”

Valley: hiccup

This Toronto indie-pop quartet steps up its game on its new EP, sucks to see you doing better. Northern Transmissions writes: "Each track is a multi-layered composition with captivating notes of exploration and curiosity which allows fans to go beyond the traditional means of songwriting." Karah James steps out from behind the drums to join guitarist/lead singer Rob Laska on vocals, and we agree with the reviewer that "Valley is at their strongest when both Rob and Karah share the mic." The themes running through the lyrics of all five songs are breakup-regret and young-adult ennui, sugar-coated in catchy tunes and bouncy production.

Just Like Honey: Heart Has No Place

Composed of musicians from the USA, Germany, France and Canada, this band (or its PR people) describe its music as "bittersweet melancholy" combining influences from dream pop, alternative rock and indie folk. The band was started by Patrick Le Mar (guitars, bass) and his half-brother Steve (drums, percussion) and became complete with the additions of Darlene Jonasson (lead vocals, guitar, mandolin) and Bianca Yang (lead vocals, bass, piano). This track from their new album, Into the Wild, mixes well with the likes of The Sundays and The Cranberries.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Daniel Lanois, Reuben and the Dark, Deep Sea Diver, Seaway, Lauren Mann in our New Music bin

Daniel Lanois: (Under the) Heavy Sun

Photo by Floria Sigismondi
The latest project from the producer behind some of the most influential albums in rock history has him working with guitarist Rocco DeLuca, organist Johnny Shepherd and bassist Jim Wilson to create what Spin calls a "space-gospel vibe." The four share vocal duties on the forthcoming album, Heavy Sun, with Shepherd taking the lead on this track. "Under The Heavy Sun," says Lanois, "imagines a place where spirit rises from the ground, from hurt to glory, an open road to a joy untold, a club somewhere in outer space where you leave your ego at the door to enter a new dimension of freedom." XS Noise says the track "fuses classic gospel and modern electronics, mixing gritty, human textures with crisp, digital accents and lush, swirling atmospherics."

Reuben and the Dark: Change

"This song has been floating around for a while," says Reuben Bullock, frontman of this Calgary-based folk-rock band. It didn't make it onto the group's 2019 album un \ love, but its release as a single seems well-timed to the present moment. "We are in a strange place in time," Bullock says. "All of us are going through transformations … transitions. Many of us feel like trees just trying to hold onto their leaves. But, it is a time for transformation. Embracing the seasons of the heart. We have been changed. We are still changing.”

Deep Sea Diver: Impossible Weight (feat. Sharon Van Etten)

The title track from the third album by this Seattle-based band features guest vocal by Sharon van Etten. Consequence of Sound writes that she and bandleader Jessica Dobson "trade strong vocal performances [and] harmonize seamlessly. Dobson’s sharp guitar work crunches and buzzes beneath them, serving as another voice altogether." Dobson, who has played lead guitar for Beck and The Shins, co-produced her band's new LP. American Songwriter calls the collection "a restless mix of surprisingly catchy pop hooks, sing-along choruses and incisive indie rock with Dobson’s strong, expressive vocals careening above layered guitars, drums and keyboards." 

Seaway: Brain in a Jar

Known as a pop-punk band, this Ontario outfit moves a bit toward 70s/80s power pop on its fourth album, Big Vibe. AllMusic says the LP "feels like a subtle move away from the nervy punk of the band's early years and further towards a mainstream rock sophistication they've always hinted at. ... [It] builds upon everything they've done before but pushes them in a bigger, more ambitious direction." The title track is the featured single, but we're focusing on this lead-off number reminiscent of the early days of alternative rock. 

Lauren Mann: Say It Out Loud

We've been spinning the single "Dear Forever," and with the release of the full album Memory & Desire, we're featuring this upbeat song is about speaking one's mind. "Say it out loud like you know it's the truth / Say it out loud even if you're confused / Try to get it out from inside your head / Before it's all just miscommunication." It's one of many fine tracks on the British Columbia-based singer-songwriter's latest release, and you'll be hearing others on The Bistro and elsewhere in our mix.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Crowded House return + Wild Tibetan Monks debut + latest from Julien Baker, Eels, Blue Stragglers

Crowded House: Whatever You Want

Neill Finn and his band are back with their first new music in a decade. On this track, Finn and fellow founding member Nick Seymour are joined by producer/keyboardist Mitchell Froom and Neil’s sons: guitarist Liam Finn and drummer Elroy Finn. It's unclear whether they have an album in the works, but they're planning a New Zealand tour in March. This upbeat track, with the refrain "Some people will tell you whatever you want," could just be about flattery in general - but one verse suggests something darker: "Should be shouting from the mountain / At their top of their voice / 'This is not right; this man is a fake' / But they will follow him down / To the edge of the cliff / And if he tells them to jump / They will jump right in." 

Wild Tibetan Monks: Cartoons

We've just been introduced to this Irish indie band and its debut single. The trio formed in college in 2011, and moved in 2018 to Perth, Australia. They toured around Western Australia, playing covers, working on their own music and developing a following. This track was recorded at Rada Studios in Perth before their recent return to Dublin. (Did their travels ever take them to Tibet? Or a monastery? Unknown.) Bassist/vocalist Sean says the song deals with "the pressures of modern life ... We wanted to create a feeling, not just through the lyrics, of longing to go back to a simpler time, of sitting with someone and watching cartoons.” Australian music site The AU Review picked it as a Track of the Day last week. 

Julien Baker: Faith Healer

Photo by Alysse Gafkjen
Due early next year, Little Oblivions is the third album by this Memphis-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. New York Magazine's entertainment site Vulture says it features the artist's "fullest sound yet, with Baker producing the album and playing most of the instruments - which now include drums, bass, and synthesizers, along with the usual guitar and piano." Of this track, Baker says it began as "a very literal examination of addiction" and grew to touch on other forms of escapism. "I (and so many other people) are willing to believe whomever - a political pundit, a preacher, a drug dealer, an energy healer - when they promise healing."

Eels: Are We Alright Again

Known for dark, brooding lyrics, Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. E, takes a more circumspect, even optimistic approach on Earth to Dora, the 13th album from his LA-based band. Although structured as a song cycle about a love affair that breaks down, "the album is full of songs that conjure a feeling of internal hope," as a review at Louder than War puts it. "Their soft winding melodies creep inside you as E’s voice soothes and croons." Everett says the album's songs came about before the pandemic - except for this one, which he says "is kind of a quarantine daydream I desperately needed to have."

Blue Stragglers: She

We previously featured "Forever and a Day" from these Sussex, UK-based purveyors of "fuzzed-up, hook-laden grooved-out alt-rock," and now we're dipping back into their self-titled debut album. The lyric, with the refrain "She never makes mistakes," is the amusingly relatable lament of a man admiring a woman who's out of his league: "She's always there / Just waitin' for the right time / Waitin' for a perfect / Man, someone she'll understand / It's not you and it sure ain't me."

Saturday, October 24, 2020

New sounds from Shemekia Copeland, Caamp, Blitzen Trapper, Bad Religion, Aaron Frazer

Shemekia Copeland: Walk Until I Ride

Her powerful voice commands attention as this blues/r&b singer addresses social issues and matters of the heart on her 10th album, Uncivil War. The album was produced in Nashville with a top-flight cast of musicians and guest stars. This track is a civil rights anthem that has drawn comparisons to the Staples Singers. We have also featured the title single on The Detour, and you'll hear that and other tracks in our mix.

Caamp: Officer of Love

A year after making a mark with their debut album By and By, this indie-folk trio from Ohio is back with this languid and oddly catchy ditty. "She is an officer of love and I'll obey her every word" goes the refrain; don't ask us what the rest of the lyrics are supposed to be about. “We recorded this song on the road in the summer of 2019," the band says. "It’s a tune that’s close to our hearts and one of our favorites to play live. We hope it brings a little joy to your life. Let’s all choose love.” 

Blitzen Trapper: Don't Let Me Run

In a similar laid-back groove - at with lyrics at least as obscure - lies this track from Eric Earley and his band. On their new, tenth album, Holy Smokes Future Jokes, Earley explores concepts of death and rebirth and “the idea that humanity is not the center of the universe, or even the center of our own universe.” As American Songwriter puts it, "the head-scratching concepts go down easy for music that feels like a comforting warm breeze on a cool spring day.” 

Bad Religion: What Are We Standing For

This Los Angeles band has been blasting angry punk rock for some 40 years. Why stop now? The group says the new single is an expression of solidarity with athletes and others who have “taken a knee to protest police brutality and racism” instead of standing for the U.S. national anthem. "A counterfeit political currency / Shouldn't stand there as a patriotic call." Consequence of Sound writes that the track is an outtake from Bad Religion’s 2019 album The Age of Unreason, and would have fit nicely on that record. It’s a rollicking uptempo rocker with catchy chords and some sick pick slides — a Bad Religion staple."

Aaron Frazer: Bad News

The resurgence of soul music continues with the upcoming album by this Brooklyn-based singer. The falsetto-voiced co-vocalist and drummer of Durand Jones and the Indications recorded his solo debut in Nashville with production by the ubiquitous Dan Auerbach. Of this song, Frazer says: "I wrote ‘Bad News’ last November, originally as a song about climate change ... But today, I think it's taken on a new meaning. It's become a song that gives voice to the things everybody is experiencing right now: isolation, and figuring out how to get through our daily life in the face of relentless bad news.” Introducing... Aaron Frazer is due in January.