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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We're brewing up some "Special Blends"

If you enjoy our Marvelous Mix of Music, we think you'll like a new feature we've added. We call it "Special Blend." It's just a cute name for a couple of songs that we think go together well. They might have similar themes in their lyrics, or similar musical styles, or flow nicely from one to the other. The connection might be obvious or subtle.

We'll drop these mini-sets into the mix every now and then - and we'd love to get your comments on them. You can post comments on this page or our Facebook page, or tweet us @BirchStRadio, or email us.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Garbage & other good things added to our playlist

Last year saw the 20th anniversary of Garbage's self-titled debut album. After celebrating with a deluxe re-release of that LP, Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker are bringing out their sixth studio album, Strange Little Birds. In announcing its release, Manson said it "has the most to do with the first record than any of the previous records." Indeed, the first single, "Empty," has a very similar sound & feel to the likes of "Only Happy When It Rains." It joins our New Music rotation this week.

If you're a regular listener to Birch Street Radio, you're familiar with Rebecca Pronsky, a Brooklyn native and resident whose music is infused with country and folk influences. She recently toured with Shawn Colvin and has also shared stages with Josh Ritter and Steve Forbert, among many others. Her latest album, "Known Objects," hits on May 6, and we're glad to have an advance copy. We've added several tracks to our playlist, and our featured pick of the moment is "Nothing Yet."

Rachael Sage is also a New York singer-songwriter - and multi-instrumentalist and producer and visual artist whose love of dance inspires her latest album, Choreographic, dropping on May 20. Many of her songs sound like they come from the soundtracks of yet-to-be-made musicals. "Try Try Try," officially the first single, is now in our New Music rotation. We'll add other tracks to our playlist as well - joining songs from her 2014 release, "Blue Roses," which include a duet with Judy Collins covering Neil Young's "Helpless."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

More fine new music added to our big mix

Some new songs by veteran artists and others by up-and-comers have been added to our Marvelous Music Mix this week.

Eric Clapton will release his 23rd studio album, I Still Do, next month. The album reunites the team of Clapton and veteran producer Glyn Johns, who worked together on Slowhand 40 years ago. (GuitarWorld has a good article about the album.) We're playing the first single, "Can't Let You Do It To Me" -- which is a bit reminiscent of the Slowhand classic "Lay Down Sally."

One of our favorite singer-songwriters, Shawn Colvin, is teaming up with Steve Earle on an album and a series of concerts this summer. The first tune released from Colvin & Earle, "You're Right (I'm Wrong)," has a rough-hewn sound and a sense of simmering tension. Earle told Rolling Stone it's "the darkest piece on the record."

Speaking of dark: "Something dark is coming over me" is the foreboding first line of "Change in Blue" by Hannah Gill & The Hours. There's a touch of Florence Welch in the way Gill -- an 18-year-old out of Easton, Maryland -- throws her powerful voice into her songs with abandon.

Margaret Glaspy
Margaret Glaspy, native Californian and current New Yorker by way of Boston, will release her debut album this summer and meanwhile has put out a couple of tracks on an EP. We've added "You And I," in which she sings of putting an end to a stale relationship. "I don't want to see you cry/but it feels like a matter of time." Ouch.

As you may have noticed, we like to pick up on bands in our home area of New Jersey. The latest to come across our radar is Tall Days, a guitar-and-drums duo with a back-to-basics rock sound that's well represented in "The Wall," our first pick from their EP Back To The Sound.

Tall Days at Mercury Lounge. Photo by David Burlacu

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Happy Record Store Day!

Take a break from listening to Birch Street Radio to visit a record store today.

But when you're not spinning your own disks, we hope you'll tune in and listen to ours!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Artists we play: Gracie And Rachel

Gracie And Rachel at Fanwood Performance Series

Live shows are always the best way to discover an artist. We caught another one in our home state of New Jersey recently (part of the Fanwood Performance Series) and had the pleasure of hearing and meeting Gracie And Rachel.

With Gracie on piano lead vocals and Rachel on violin and vocals, this duo creates "orchestral pop" music that's both lovely and intense. As their website says, their songs deal with "questioning realities, anxious introspection, and self-exploration" - and they convey those themes through the tension and energy in their playing as much as through their lyrics.

We've added two songs from their forthcoming album - the title track, "Go," and "Tiptoe" -- to the Marvelous Mix on Birch Street Radio.

Originally from Berkeley, Calif., Gracie And Rachel are now based in Brooklyn. They've toured on their own and with artists such as Julien Baker, Holly Miranda and Emmy The Great, and have a show this week (Thursday, April 14) at The Gateway in Brooklyn. See more at

Sunday, April 10, 2016

New music from Paul, Carlos, Sarah & more

It's a busy time for new releases, and we've added several tunes to the New Releases portion of our big mix.

One of our all-time favorite artists, Paul Simon, teased his upcoming album Stranger to Stranger by releasing an amusing little number called "Wristband."

Another veteran musician, the amazingly prolific Carlos Santana, has reunited his original band for an album called simply Santana IV. Of the tracks released so far, our pick is "Leave Me Alone."

We're eagerly awaiting the next album by Sarah Jarosz, Undercurrent. The first track to be unveiled is the slow and smoky "House of Mercy."

You've heard us play early tracks from Only You Remain, the debut album from Baltimore-based The Great American Canyon Band. The official release was last week, and we've added the the title track to our rotation.

Likewise, Frightened Rabbit just released Painting of a Panic Attack. Our favorite track is still the single "Get Out," but we've also added "Lump Street" to our New Releases bin.

And we're spinning the single "Shine" from Ben Harper's latest, Call It What It Is.

We've also picked up on some new (or at least, new-to-us) indie music - more on that soon!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bands we play: The Defending Champions

We've had several tracks from The Defending Champions' 2013 album "Breakfast of the Defending Champions" in our rotation for a few years now, and just last week got a chance to see them live. We were not disappointed. This seven-piece band puts on a tight, high-energy show, playing jazz- and ska-infused rock.
The Defending Champions (in poor-quality cellphone pic)
They've been playing together since 2007. And in fact, lead singer/trombonist Matt Ryan, guitarist Dean Nevolis and saxophonist Matthew Schoenebaum have been in bands together since their teens. They're joined by drummer Shawn Fichtner, bassist Eric Swiontkowski, trumpeter Jovan Alvarez and percussionist Dave DeRiso in the current lineup of The Defending Champions. (A slightly different lineup recorded the band's debut album in 2010. We're playing a couple of tracks from that one, too.)

The band is currently working on its third album. They previewed a couple of the new songs at the show we caught. We will definitely need that album!

By the way, the show was at a new venue in their home town of Montclair, N.J. -- an auditorium in a 1910-vintage building that's been revitalized by a local group as a performance space called The Old Mogul Theatre.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

New and varied sounds added to our mix

Bern & The Brights
We pick up on new music in various ways. Record companies send out promotional copies. Artists promote themselves through social media. We read reviews and follow music news. But our favorite way to discover music is in person.

Last week we checked out a multi-band show at a new performance space in our home state of New Jersey - the Old Mogul Theatre in Montclair. One of the acts was locally based dream-pop duo Bern & The Brights. They've been making and releasing music - and picking up critical acclaim - since 2008. Their latest release is a 5-track collection called Heart Wide Open. From it, we've added "Beautiful Morning" to our New Releases bin. You'll also hear other cuts from their catalog popping up in our big mix.

Also added to our New Releases list this week:
  • London electronic-pop trio Haelos with "Dust," from their just-released debut album, "Full Circle."
  • "Fire" by British indie artist Barns Courtney, whose career has taken off suddenly since the song was picked for the soundtrack of the movie "Burnt."
  • Another track from Wynonna & The Big Noise's self-titled debut: "Ain't No Thing," featuring Susan Tedeschi. Two powerful voices on a fine bluesy rocker.
  • From New York "post-power pop" band The Chordaes, "Get the Feeling," the first single from their forthcoming debut album.