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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Latest releases from new & established artists

The latest additions to our New Music bin range from a veteran of 80s stardom to a band that's about to release its debut album. All have been in our big mix for some time, and we're happy to add their latest tunes.

The newest act is Night Talks. This Los Angeles band has put out three singles since July. Each earned a place in our rotation, and now we're adding the latest track, "Cutting Through." The rest of the debut album, In Dreams, is due Feb. 10. Lead singer Soraya Sebghati told "The majority of the lyrics on the album are about the experiences of my different emotions, and I wanted this to be the culmination of all of it." In it she sings, "I am a girl / cutting through a man's world."

Also from California (mostly) is electronic music trio Faded Paper Figures, which just released its fifth album, Chronos. It's the band's first release since 2014, which isn't surprising considering the members' day jobs - in medicine and academia - and the fact that one of them lives on the East Coast. In a recent Twitter chat, band members said they don't have any live shows lined up because "real life is just too crazy! But we hope to soon." They described their music as "somewhere between indie-electronica, indie-rock and synthpop." Whatever you want to call it, check out "Crossing Out," now in our New Music rotation.

The next two bands are better-known, although they still kinda fit in the "indie" category. Spoon is readying its next album, Hot Thoughts, for a March release. The Austin outfit's last LP, 2014's They Want My Soul, was terrific, so we have high hopes. We're spinning the first single/title track.

And New Jersey-based Real Estate is back, also with its first album since 2014, also due in March (there seems to be a pattern here). The first single is "Darling," which combines the smooth sound of 80s Southern California bands with some tricky time signatures. Just for fun, check out the video to see who wanders onto the set.

Not surprisingly, there seems to be a wave of music with political/social commentary coming out these days. "Shine," a new single from Pat Benatar, is in a way an update of her 80s hit "Invincible" - even including that word in the lyric. "We won't be silent/We raise our voices/Dignity, pride/These are our choices." Benatar and her long-time partner Neil Giraldo teamed with songwriter Linda Perry on this song. Sales proceeds are earmarked for the nonprofit B.A. Rudolph Foundation, which supports women pursuing careers in public service or government.

Monday, January 23, 2017

This week's new music: Women have the power

After events of the past few days in the U.S.A., it seems appropriate to emphasize female artists in our New Music bin this week.

The great American singer Mavis Staples joins with Canada's Arcade Fire on "I Give You Power." The lyric is simple and clear: "I give you power/over me... But I gotta be free... I give you power/I can take it away." The single was released with this message: "It’s never been more important that we stick together and take care of each other. Love, Mavis Staples and Arcade Fire. All proceeds go to ACLU."

Meanwhile, Katie Stelmanis and her Toronto-based band Austra have just released the well-timed Future Politics, whose theme is the search for new ways of dealing with today's problems. The video for the title track opens with this text: "It's time to build visions that are radically different from anything we've known before." But can we agree on those visions? The images in the video range from hopeful to frightening.

Laura Marling has this to say about her next album, due in March: "I started out writing Semper Femina as if a man was writing about a woman. And then I thought it’s not a man, it’s me — I don’t need to pretend it’s a man to justify the intimacy of the way I’m looking and feeling about women. It’s me looking specifically at women and feeling great empathy towards them and by proxy towards myself." On the single "Soothing," Marling sings a vaguely unsettling lyric over a jazz bass line.

Also due in March is a new album from the wonderful Aimee Mann, with an unsettling title, Mental Illness. Mann says of herself, "People think that I write these really depressing songs ... So I thought I’d just give myself permission to write the saddest, slowest, most acoustic, if-they’re-all-waltzes-so-be-it record I could." The first single, "Goose Snow Cone," is not a waltz, and not exactly sad, but suggestive of internal struggle. "Gotta keep it together when the friends come by," Mann sings in her calm, matter-of-fact way.

In a much lighter vein is a new single from The Courtneys, "Silver Velvet." It's pure power pop from the Vancouver, Canada, trio's forthcoming second album, called, well, The Courtneys II.

We've got other new music waiting to push its way into our Marvelous Mix, so keep checking this page and tuning in our stream to see what we come up with next!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Our latest 'discovery' & more new music

Sometimes we discover new bands, and sometimes they discover us. Recently, members of indie band Screens 4 Eyes found Birch Street Radio, heard the wide range of musical styles in our Marvelous Mix, and thought their sound might fit in. They shared their new EP, Behind These Doors, we gave it a listen - and we were hooked. It's the second release by this electronic-rock-dream-pop trio from Tel Aviv, Israel. Yael Brener's smoky vocals and layered keyboards float over the solid foundation of Roney-Leigh Dubnov's drums and Assaf Cohen's bass guitar. They describe their lyrics as "a playful ride between the everyday life and the world of unconsciousness, accompanied with the desire for intimacy, excitement and freedom." We're featuring "Secret Life" in our New Music rotation and will be adding other tracks to our Marvelous Mix.

Coming from a different musical direction is Blue Healer, a trio from Austin, Texas. Members David Beck, Bryan Mammel and Dees Stribling previously played with folk-rock band Sons of Fathers, but their new project is more in the indie rock/pop vein. They released their self-titled debut album a few months ago and it recently found its way into our hands. Our pick for the New Music bin is the lead-off track, "Only The Rain."

Another indie band we're adding this week falls into the "not new, but new to us" category. Ha Ha Tonka hails from Missouri and is named after a state park there. They call their music "indie-meets-Southern-rock." Via AirPlay Direct, we recently caught up with their album Lessons and are happy to add "Rewrite Our Lives" to our playlist. Although they haven't had a new release in a few years, they're about to start a tour that will include dates with the Old 97s and an appearance at SXSW.

Also dropping into our New Music bin this week:

"Paying My Way" by Dropkick Murphys. "Veteran punk band" seems like an oxymoron, but it defines this Boston institution. From the new album 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory we've picked a song about picking yourself up from a fall, or out of a destructive rut, and moving forward.

"Name For You" by The Shins. Frontman James Mercer has said the upcoming album Heartworms was inspired, in part, by growing older and parenthood. Here, he brings an upbeat, poppy sound to a song that urges girls/women to ignore the labels that society wants to impose on them.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New releases from newcomers & veterans

Robbie Robertson has released Testimony, an 18-track compilation of tracks from his career, as a companion to his new memoir of the same name. It includes live and studio recordings Robertson made with Bob Dylan, The Band, its predecessor The Hawks, as well as Robertson's own band.

The title track is a new mix of a song from Robertson's self-titled 1987 solo album, featuring contributions or samples from U2, Ivan Neville, Daniel Lanois, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, and even the late Gil Evans. It joins our New Music rotation this week.

Well known in Toronto music circles, the Julian Taylor Band recently put out Desert Star, a 22-track collection that shows off a wide stylistic range. The band roams through Soul, R&B and Rock sounds, putting its own stamp on each. We've picked a rockin' little number called "Never Too Late" to feature in our New Music bin, and you can expect to hear other selections in our mix.

Singer-guitarist Marcus King is in his early 20s but has a sound that evokes decades of Southern blues-rock. The second, self-titled album from The Marcus King Band is produced by Warren Hayes, of Gov't Mule and the Allman Brothers Band. We're hopping on the lead-off track,  "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That"

From King's home state of South Carolina we dip down to Atlanta to check out The Georgia Flood. This group has much more of a modern alt-rock sound. We're spinning "Whistle King" from the band's debut EP, People Like Ourselves.

Jesca Hoop is preparing to release her fifth solo album, Memories are Now, and we're happy to present the first single, "The Lost Sky." The project is produced by Blake Mills, who has also worked with Fiona Apple, and this song reminds us a bit of that artist's work. It's quite different from Hoop's most recent project, a collaboration with Iron & Wine's Sam Beam - but "quite different" seems to be Hoop's specialty.

Our specialty is variety, and we hope you'll tune in and enjoy the many flavors of rock/pop/folk/alternative/etc in our Marvelous Mix.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Our New Year's resolution: More music!

New Year's fireworks - Montreal
Happy New Year to all our listeners! Thanks so much for joining our 24/7 listening party!

At Birch Street Radio, our goal for 2017 is simple: Keep adding more good music and more great bands/singers/musicians to our Marvelous Mix.

The holiday weeks actually aren't a big time for new releases, but Ryan Adams did drop another track from his upcoming Prisoner LP - "To Be Without You" - and it landed in our New Music bin. Otherwise, we're catching up on tracks from the past few months that you may not have heard yet.

For example: Loud Hailer, the album that Jeff Beck released back in July. The 72-year-old Beck is joined here by vocalist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg, members of a London band called Bones. Beck explores new sonic territory here, with arty effects and sometimes awkward social commentary, but it's all built atop the rock-guitar master's virtuoso playing. Our pick: "Live In The Dark."

Another album that's been around a few months but is starting to get more notice is Heavenly Bodies, from Los Angeles band Midnight Faces. The title of the album, and of opening track "Blue Haze," might have you expecting a dreamy blur, but these Faces play with drive and energy. They remind us of The War On Drugs, with an expansive sound held down-to-earth by pulsing beats.

A few weeks ago we began spinning "Manipulator" by Montreal's Elephant Stone. Now we're adding more of their latest album, Ship of Fools, to our mix, and featuring "The Devil's Shelter" in our New Music rotation. Alex Maas from Austin's Black Angels joins in on the chorus.

In a completely different vein, we have a new single from Sara Hartman. This young singer-songwriter moved from New York's Long Island to Berlin in 2015 to pursue her music career. In "From The Other Side of The World," she sings of missing her younger sister back home. It's a beautiful reminder that a love song doesn't have to be about romance.