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Saturday, March 6, 2021

New from Kings of Leon, Teenage Fanclub, Kiwi Jr., Joanna Connor + introducing Crimson Peak


Kings of Leon: Stormy Weather


On their eighth album, the Followill brothers and cousin embrace "the mature, laid-back versions of themselves," as NME puts it. "There are meditations on growing older and statements on climate change, interspersed with love letters to quiet, domestic romance." But there are also "plenty of high-energy bursts of light you can already see bringing a crowd to life." We previously featured the lead single, "The Bandit," and our pick this week is another of the more arena-friendly rockers, with a prominent, funky bass line.

Teenage Fanclub: I'm More Inclined


The deceptively named veteran indie rockers are preparing to release their 10th album (or 11th or 12th, depending on who's counting), Endless Arcade. AllMusic calls them "an eternally underrated Scottish indie band with wonderful melodies and Byrds-influenced harmonies." The press release says of the album: "Melodies are equal parts heartwarming and heart-aching; guitars chime and distort; keyboard lines mesh and spiral; harmony-coated choruses burst out like sun on a stormy day." Our featured track certainly has that warm-and-sunny, California-70s sound.

Kiwi Jr.: Cooler Returns


Photo by Padrian McLeod
Does the press release for these Toronto indie-rockers' second album really mean to call it their "sophomoric" release? Whether a typo or a joke, it hints at the collegiate-level ironic humor that the band brings to its takes on life in the unsettled times. The Revue writes that this title track "is situated in the dumpster fire that was 2020. A massively upbeat sonic experiment of hip-shaking, head-spinning, neck-jerking, quirky guitar pop-rock [wherein] the gents discuss how the past year truly screwed up people’s equilibrium and sense of self."

Joanna Connor: Destination


We bring a strong dose of Chicago-style blues rock to our playlist with this track from the new album 4801 South Indiana Avenue. The title refers to the former location of a renowned South Side blues club. "For a studio album this technically stellar and concisely written, it is soaked in a rawness and energy that exceeds many live performances," writes Blues Rock Review. Guitarist-singer-songwriter Connor "wastes no time opening 'Destination' with fiery-rapid fire slide-licks that display an impressive combination of speed and precision. Reese Wynans provides a full-bodied piano underpinning that allows the vocal call-and-response duo of Connor and Jimmy Hall to flex their singing muscles."

Crimson Peak: Lies


Photo by Frida Lönnroos
Our friends at Saint in the City Records introduced us to this pop-rock band from Helsinki, Finland. The group has put out several singles since 2018 and is preparing to release its debut EP. As the indie label describes it: "Big pop choruses nestle amongst driving rock guitars and widescreen, atmospheric indie-folk soundscapes, all driven by alternating vocals from Lina Sandvik and Elias Losinskij-Kovanko." This latest single "is a song about letting a fake person know that you can see through them,” says one of the band's two lead vocalists, Lina Sandvik. “The truth will always eventually come out.”

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Music variety! New sounds from The Big Takeover, Brigitte DeMeyer, Real Estate, ROOKS, The Raft


The Big Takeover: Shy


Based in New York's Hudson Valley and fronted by Jamaican-born singer and songwriter Nee Nee Rushie, this seven-piece band describes itself as playing "original music that is rooted in and reverent toward the genres and rhythms of Jamaican pop: reggae, rocksteady, ska." They also blend in "the spirit of Motown and the uptown sophistication of the 21st century retro soul and R&B revival scene." This track is one of the advance singles from their upcoming album Spilling Water.

Brigitte DeMeyer: Cat Man Do


We're always interested in music and musicians that blend multiple influences in new ways, and that applies to this track from DeMeyer's new album, Seeker. A Californian who has spent much of the past decade in Nashville, she "draws on country, folk, blues, gospel, and classic pop for her diverse Americana," as AllMusic puts it. She teams with Wood Brothers pianist/producer Jano Rix on her new album, Seeker. This slinky track with a jazz flavor tells a tale of a "tragically hip" hustler trying to find "the right kind of cool." 

Real Estate: Half a Human


This is the title track from an upcoming EP composed of songs that were initially sketched out during the sessions for the 2020 LP The Main Thing. "The tracks came to life," the band says, when its members "began trading the material back and forth remotely throughout the pandemic." Vocalist/guitarist Martin Courtney says "I was feeling a little weird about being in a band. Like, ‘How is this still a thing?’ ... [But] this is what we’re good at and it’s what we love to do and want to keep doing.”

ROOKS: IDM


Following up their debut album, last year's The High Road, this trio from Western Canada has already released two singles this year. "We recorded this track in the middle of our second lockdown here in Alberta," the band says. "Jay (singer/guitarist) was in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and the rest of the band was in Calgary. We sent tracks back and forth until IDM was created. Kinda neat we were never in the same room throughout the process." That's the way so much new music is being recorded these days, we wonder if playing together in a studio is going to become the exception instead of the rule.

The Raft: There's No Going Back


Phil Wilson has been writing recording and performing under the name The Raft since 2003. Based near Liverpool, he cites influences including The Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and The Sundays - and yeah, The Beatles. This track comes from the new LP Summerheads and Winter Beds.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Bill Toms & Hard Rain, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Manchester Orchestra, Fly the Nest, Lake Street Dive in our New Music Bin


Bill Toms & Hard Rain: Everybody's Talking


This Pittsburgh-based blues-rock-roots band will release it's tenth "studio" album, Keep Movin' On, in April, and we're glad to get the chance to spin this early single. We put studio in quotes because, as with many recent releases, guitarist/frontman Toms, his band and The Soulville Horns put it together from remote locations. It was an unusual experience for a group that's used to playing live - and whose previous release was, in fact, 2019's Live. The new LP was pulled together with help from producer Rick Witkowski, long-time member of Crack the Sky, another band with ties to the Pittsburgh area. The result is solid, soulful rock'n'roll from a veteran band, led by the one-time lead guitarist for Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers.

Edie Brickell and New Bohemians: I Don't Know


Singer-songwriter Brickell and the New Bos have been an on-and-off project for more than three decades, releasing just three albums after their 1998 debut, Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars. But after reuniting in 2017 and releasing Rocket the following year, they are back relatively quickly with Hunter and the Dog Star. It's filled with a collection of short-story-like songs backed by the inventive playing of guitarist Kenny Withrow, bassist Brad Houser, drummer Brandon Aly, percussionist John Bush and keyboardist Matt Hubbard. Band members told Relix that most of the tracks were the result of improvisation in the studio. Of our pick for the New Music bin, Withrow said it was built around one riff that emerged from three hours of jamming.

Manchester Orchestra: Bed Head


Photo: Shervin Lainez
On The Million Masks of God, the sixth album by this Atlanta-based alt-rock band, "singer-guitarist Andy Hull, guitarist Robert McDowell, drummer Tim Very, and bassist Andy Prince aimed to create a cinematic, immersive experience that’s meant to be listened to in one sitting," writes Consequence of Sound. That will have to wait until the LP's release in April, but in the meantime they've carved out this single. "Over a distorted drum pattern that glitches at various points, Manchester Orchestra race through a brooding melody about being caught in tough situations and grappling with grief."

Fly the Nest: Old Street Lover


Several months ago, we featured "Borrowed Time" by this Dublin-based singer-songwriter, a.k.a. Stephen Cooper. As a frequent writer of music for films and television, he brings a wide-screen sound and dramatic energy to his songs. “This song is about having a connection with someone that’s ultimately lost," Cooper says. "Though it hurts to see it end, you really do wish them the best and hope they find what they’re looking for.”

Lake Street Dive: Hypotheticals


Ahead of the upcoming album Obviously comes this song about the hopeful early days of a relationship. Soultracks.com writes: "After a fascinating intro from [lead singer Rachel] Price, the band locks into a groove-heavy R&B vibe. From Bridget Kearney’s funky acoustic bass trimmings to the spacey synthesizer solo, Lake Street Dive and [producer Mike] Elizondo are firmly on the same page. And the lyrics about yearning for a positive romantic outcome are ear tantalizing: Hypothetically, yes / Theoretically, forever / We'll see what happens / But I hope we will never be apart.”

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Introducing Gorstey Lea Street Choir + new music by The Staves, Tune-Yards, Valley, Yukon Blonde


The Gorstey Lea Street Choir: Lowborn & Stargazing


Through the magical mysteries of social media, we came upon this band from Burntwood, Staffordshire, U.K., which happened to have just released its first EP (cleverly titled Extended Play 1) in December. We're always looking for new and different sounds, and were immediately taken by this brass-infused track. The story goes that band leaders Michael and Russ met when they were teens, but didn't get around to making music together until some 35 years later, when Michael joined Russ at a gig. The crowd kept asking for more, the landlord booked them again, and they made up their band name on the spot - with a nod to Van Morrison.

The Staves: Best Friend


On their new album, Good Woman, Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor expand on their folk-trio sound with the help of producer John Congleton, known for his work with Phoebe Bridgers, St. Vincent and Sharon Van Etten. The title track is getting a lot of airplay, and we'll include it in our mix, but we're featuring this bright, upbeat track that Paste says "bursts with electronic flavor [and] casts the sisters’ glorious three-part harmonies in a new light." 

Tune-Yards: hold yourself.


What Pitchfork describes as the "eclectic agit-prop project" of Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner has a fifth album on the way, called sketchy. Pitchfork says of this single: "Centered around Garbus’ powerhouse vocals, the gauzy, bass-heavy beat ballad delivers a potent message of self-empowerment." Garbus herself puts it in a different context: "This song is about feeling really betrayed, by my parents’ generation, and at the same time, really seeing how we are betraying the future.”

Valley: Like 1999


Are the members of Valley old enough to be nostalgic for 1999? Longing for the days before the internet and text-messaging? Apparently so, or at least they can imagine themselves as young adults in that time. "Let's go back before 2000," the Toronto indie-pop band sings, "Back before our love was so distracted." Our favorite lyric: "I wish that Y2K had happened / We would stay forever classic / You and I would both be trapped in 1999." 

Yukon Blonde: Fickle Feelings


Before it gets too old to qualify for our New Music bin, we're dipping back into Vindicator, the Blondes' fifth album, released in November. This time we're featuring the track their hometown newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, called "One of the best songs the band has ever written. This easy-flowing funky tune begins with James Younger’s loping bass slides that could have been lifted right from the Style Council’s 'Long Hot Summer.' Then a sharp distorted guitar riff slices in and Rebecca Gray’s chiming vocals begin."

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Forest Sun, Dentist, Foo Fighters, Days Indoors, The Weather Station - New Music Variety!


Forest Sun: A Million


This song strikes us as a reverse twist on John Prine's exhortation to "go to the country" and "eat a lot of peaches." Here, the dream is of easy life in the big city: "Gonna move into the city / That’s what I’m gonna do / Gonna make a million dollars / And give it all to you." The track also has a touch of Lumineers-ish modern urban Americana, complete with a woah-a-woah, foot-stomping chorus. "I wanted to capture that wide-starry-eyed optimism of actors, musicians, and entrepreneurs flocking to the proverbial city to chase their hopes and dreams," says Sun. It's the first of a series of monthly singles he plans to release this year, available first and free to his Patreon supporters.

Dentist: Don't Let Me Catch You


This Asbury Park trio has its fourth album of "fuzzed out, surf punk-tinged indie pop" in the works. After releasing Night Swimming in 2018 and spending much of 2019 on tour, the band says: "The beginning of 2020 was full of promise, but it took a hard turn that no one expected. Instead of making music that reflected on the depression that set in during lockdown, Dentist decided to work on an album that would inspire them and their listeners to hang in there and look forward to better times ahead." The troubles of the world don't intrude on this first upbeat single - although its subject is " a woman scorned when her love interest disappears suddenly."

Foo Fighters: Medicine at Midnight


Dave Grohl has described the new LP Medicine at Midnight as a party album and the band's "Let's Dance," referencing David Bowie's monster hit of 1983. The Bowie influence is strongest in the beginning of this title track, with Grohl almost crooning over backing that includes percussion by Omar Hakim - who played on Let's Dance. As the song builds, Grohl and the band gradually sound more Foo-like, before returning to the post-disco sound and a final refrain about "rain on the dance floor."

Days Indoors: Be Yourself


This is the latest single from a London-based indie rock band that will soon release Tales of Shade & Colour, its first EP since becoming a five-piece group (yes, they need to update their publicity photo!). Like "Silent Criers," the previous single we featured in December, it's an anthem of encouragement to make the most of life: "Live your days, you've just begun / To be the one, be everything / Just be yourself."

The Weather Station: Parking Lot


On the new album Ignorance, Tamara Lindeman meditates on what we don't know and can't know: the future, both for the world and for our personal lives. Her enchanting voice draws listeners to see their own hopes and worries in the songs, as in the mirrors on the suit she wears in the album-cover photo. The Toronto singer-songwriter says this track "is my strange gentle disco song about a humble encounter with a bird and being tired and being in love, and being heartbroken in ways I didn’t quite yet understand. ​I don’t fully know how everything connects in this song other than it obviously does."