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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Our latest picks from new & classic artists

This week we introduce you to a new American band and an emerging English singer-songwriter - and to the latest releases from one of last year's breakout acts and two returning stars.
The New Respects are bringing a fresh style to rock'n'roll - and breaking down stereotypes while they're at it. Twins Alexandria (guitar) and Alexis (bass) Fitzgerald, their brother Darius (drums) and cousin Jasmine Mullen (lead singer) grew up in Tennessee surrounded by Gospel and contemporary Christian music. But when they formed a band in their teens, they started out playing folk-rock, taking cues from Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers. Along the way they started listening to a wide range of rockers, from The Beatles to Alabama Shakes, and their sound morphed into a high-energy mix of rock and pop with flavorings of funk and soul.

In an interview with NPR's World Cafe, Mullen talked about defying expectations. "A lot of people, I know when they see us they're like, 'Y'all are about to do some R&B or some gospel.' Then they see us come out on stage with guitars and they're like, 'What?'"

We listened to their new EP Here Comes Trouble and were like, "Wow!" We're adding "Frightening Lightning" to our New Music bin, and other tracks are sure to find their way into our mix.

From Essex, England, comes Tom Ryder, a singer-songwriter who's been playing the U.K. folk circuit for several years and issued his first EP last year. He has a new single coming out next week and we've got an advance copy. "Here We Go Again" is a wry look at a relationship that develops into more than expected. "He swears it's not official/But he's got a tattoo of her initials."
The Record Company, whose debut LP made a big splash last year with its blues-rock-revival sound, is back with a new single, "Baby I'm Broken." Full disclosure: This song isn't exactly new - it was previously released on an EP in 2013. But it's being re-released, and it's new to us and probably most of our listeners, so we're giving it a ride in our New Music rotation.
The opening riff of "Long Time," the new single from Blondie deliberately hearkens back to "Heart of Glass," and the song would not have been out of place at an 80s party. It also fits well into today's music scene, where updates of 60s, 70s and 80s sounds mix happily together. The upcoming album Pollinator features Debbie Harry with writing collaborator/guitarist Chris Stein and Blondie's founding drummer Clem Burke, with appearances by the Smith's Johnny Marr, Dev Hynes of Blood Orange plus Joan Jett and Laurie Anderson. It's due May 5.
We're happy to hear a new album is coming April 28 from The Cranberries. Something Else is billed as a celebration of the Irish band's 25th anniversary, and will include reworkings of several of the band's classic songs, some in stripped-down acoustic style and some with orchestral arrangements. It will also include new songs, and the first to be released is "Why," which Dolores O'Riordan wrote after the passing of her father but had not recorded until now.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

New music from bands of all ages

Our latest batch of new music includes tunes from bands you know well and others that perhaps you have not yet discovered. Come discover them with us!

Useless Cities is a quartet from London that formed just about a year ago and has been busily touring clubs and festivals around that city. Their sound has been called "somewhere between indie and post-rock." The mix of male and female vocals is perhaps a bit reminiscent of Arcade Fire, and they've also drawn comparisons to The National and Future Islands. They have just a handful of recorded tracks so far. From their second EP we're bringing you "New Feelings," with the refrain, "new feelings inside/new feelings, trapped inside."

San Fermin, the project of Brooklyn songwriter/musician Ellis Ludwig-Leone, is bringing out its third album, Belong, next month. We're featuring "No Promises," a song "about the fear of disappointing those who’ve placed their trust in you." Charlene Kaye's vocal is front and center on this track, with the lyric: "I won't promise/if you follow me around/I won't let you down."

Back in January we introduced you to Ha Ha Tonka, a band from Missouri that draws its influences from both modern-indie and Southern rock. We've been playing tracks from their 2013 album Lessons, and now we have their new release, Heart-Shaped Mountain. "This is our 'love album,' and love can be a scary thing," says writer/singer/guitarist Brian Roberts. There are thoughtful and poignant songs in this collection - but our initial pick for the New Music rotation is the energetic "Race To The Bottom."

Real Estate's fourth album, In Mind, has just been released, and after featuring the single "Darling" for several weeks, we're now adding "Stained Glass" to our New Music bin. Of the three New Jersey natives who formed the core of the band - singer/guitarist Martin Courtney, lead guitarist Matt Monandile and bassist Alex Bleeker - Monandile has now departed. His replacement is another old friend from New Jersey, Julian Lynch. "I’ve known Julian since I was 14 years old, so the whole process was extremely comfortable and really positive,” Courtney told Salon.

The fifth band dropping into our New Music bin this week needs no introduction at all. The single "Hypnotised" is a gentle, sad-but-hopeful tune that will appear on Kaleidoscope, an EP due in June from Coldplay. You've heard of them, we trust?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Farewell to Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry, whose rollicking songs, springy guitar riffs and onstage duck walk defined rock & roll during its early years and for decades to come, died on Saturday. See CNN's report above; read Rolling Stone's report here.

We're currently featuring tracks from this collection on Birch Street Radio.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Our five new-music picks of the week

The Right Now is a seven-piece band out of Chicago known for a soul/R&B 60s-revival sound. It's new release, Starlight, expands on that foundation with more elaborate arrangements. "Starlight is the album where we embraced being a pop band more than a soul band," keyboardist/guitarist/bandleader Brendan O'Connell told We're honestly not familiar with their earlier work, but the new record has some great energetic tunes showcasing lead singer Stefanie Berecz's powerful vocals. We're featuring "Too Late" in our New Music bin.

We've been playing "Hazy," the single from Sarah Bethe Nelson's new record, for a few months. Now that Oh Evolution has been released, we're delving deeper. The sort-of title track, called simply "Evolution," backs the San Francisco singer-songwriter's vocal with powerful drums and guitar as well as synths and multi-tracked voices. The Revue said "The psychedelic-pop foundation remains, but the pace is quickened and the tribal-like rhythm section gives the song an unexpected edge."

It's also been a few months since we added Paper City Exile's "Song For Emily" to our playlist. At the time we expressed our surprise to discover that the members of this Massachusetts band are high school students. They've now released an LP and we're adding another strong rocker, "There She Goes," to our New Music rotation.

The British quartet Temples continues to revisit the psychedelic rock era with its second album, Volcano. The magazine Clash compared it favorably with the band's acclaimed debut, 2014's Sun Structures. "No second-album syndrome here ... the songs are more psychedelic than pop this time round, but it’s clear from the offset that the band have not only built on their debut, but expanded their sound hugely." Our pick for the New Music bin is "I Wanna Be Your Mirror."

Sheryl Crow addresses the sharp divisions that are threatening society -- not just in her own USA -- in her new single. "Halfway There" is a plea for respectful discussion in place of closed-minded argument. It's the first release from her forthcoming album, "Be Myself."

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Blues & electro & art pop & rock all in our mix

From gritty to dreamy, we're once again bringing a wide variety of sounds to our New Music bin this week.

Robert Cray has been credited with a major role in sparking a 1980s revival of blues-based music, mixed with soul and R&B, that continues into today. For his latest project, Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm, he worked at Memphis' Royal Studios with Grammy-award-winning producer Steve Jordan and with members of the Hi Rhythm band that recorded with many Memphis soul legends (see this Blues Magazine article). The album is due late next month, but we've got the lead track, a cover of Bill Withers' "The Same Love That Makes You Laugh."

Speaking of variations on the blues: English blues/rock/fusion master John Mayall. Eight-three years old. First album came out in 1965. Just released a new one. Let that sink in for a moment. OK, the latest release is called Talk About That. He's joined on a couple of tracks by Joe Walsh - including "Cards On The Table," which we're putting in our New Music bin. More cuts from this album will be finding their way into our mix, too.
Baltimore, Maryland-based synth-pop trio Future Islands is bringing out its new album The Far Field next month. The first taste is a track called "Ran," which combines a quicktime rhythm with a melancholy lyric: "On these roads/Out of love, so it goes/How it feels when we fall, when we fold." There's word that Debbie Harry contributes vocals to one track on the album, but this one features the band's lead singer, Samuel T. Herring. (Are we the only ones who think Herring sounds just a bit like the non-falsetto voice of Fine Young Cannibals' Roland Gift? Yeah, we probably are.)

Nova Scotia singer/songwriter Jenn Grant's voice has been called ethereal, and that's the sound she goes for on "Galaxies," from her brand-new release, Paradise. Some tracks on the album are more down-to-earth, others are lush and dreamy. With her range of sonic styles, Grant may remind you at times of Dar Williams, Sarah McLachlan, Kate Bush, Enya - and even Marian Hill. Paradise keeps our ears paying close attention throughout.

And now for something completely different--

From Birmingham UK comes Electric Cake Salad, an alternative/hard rock/electronica band that released its second album, Subdiffusion, a few months ago. This trio has been part of the music scene in England's Midlands region for about a dozen years. We were introduced by way of Deuce Music, and we're picking picking up the single "Reason To Stay." The refrain is actually "got no reason to stay," and it has a propulsive sound that seems fitting for a fast getaway.