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Sunday, August 27, 2017

This week's new music picks: Lynne & Moorer, Kacy & Clayton, Dream Syndicate and more

Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff
Sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer both have established careers as singer-songwriters, but haven't recorded together until now. They did a joint tour in 2012, then started a project together but shelved it for a while before trying again. "Despite the buildup of anticipation," NPR wrote, the "long-awaited joint album feels unburdened by expectations." Not Dark Yet features one original tune and a selection of covers that, along with "the sparseness of Teddy Thompson's production, helps place the focus squarely on the voices, how phenomenally well-matched they are in their suppleness, how they resist and yield to each other." We're spinning the title track, a cover of a Bob Dylan song from his 1997 album Time Out Of Mind.

Photo by Chris Sikich
When The Dream Syndicate came around the first time in the early 1980s they were part of the punk/underground/garage reaction to mainstream electronic pop. The band ended before that decade did - but frontman Steve Wynn and drummer Dennis Duck revived it in recent years for sporadic live shows, then headed into the studio and came out with How Did I Find Myself Here? “It sounds like everything that I loved about the Dream Syndicate and yet sounds unlike any other record we made,” said Wynn. The Syndicate stands out, again, amid today's current wave of electronic pop. But the raw jangle of its early days has morphed into a fuller, more rounded sound, with jam-band elements - especially in the 11-minute title track. You'll hear that occasionally in our mix, but our pick for the New Music bin, "Glide," clocks in at a mere 6:22.

The Canadian duo Kacy & Clayton take us back to an even earlier time, with a sound that evokes the 1960s English folk revival, with a dash of California folk-rock from the same period. The Siren's Song is the third album from vocalist Kacy Anderson and fingerstyle guitarist Clayton Linthicum, and even the cover looks like it belongs in a rack of 60s vinyl. You'll get a good taste of their sound from our pick for the New Music bin, "The Light Of Day."

Our other New Music picks were actually released a few months back, but it's not too late to catch up:

Courtney Barnett's "How To Boil An Egg" is a reworking of one of her earliest songs, with the self-deprecating worldview that we've come to know well. "I've been dreamin', dreamin' of a brand-new start," she sings, voicing the passive approach to life of so many 20-somethings. As it happens, her tales of the mundane struck chords around the world, bringing her more success than she could have been dreaming of back then. On this recording, she gave the song a full-band treatment, but played every instrument herself.

BNQT (pron: banquet) brings together members of indie bands Franz Ferdinand, Grandaddy, Band of Horses, Travis, and Midlake. Eric Pulido of Midlake conceived this project, and each of the members contributed a couple of songs to an album they optimistically entitled Volume 1. They've described themselves as a "poor man's version of the Traveling Wilburys," and the song we're adding to our New Music playlist - one of Pulido's contributions, "Real Love" - has a similar easygoing vibe.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

New music by Van Morrison, Joan Osborne, Bridget Kelly, Fastball & more

Our blogger is heading off on vacation so this week's notes on our New Releases are a little rushed, but here goes:

One of the masters, Van Morrison, has a new album - we think it's his 37th! - coming out next month. It includes some blues and soul covers as well as original songs, and we've added one of those, "Transformation," to our New Music bin. Another master, Jeff Beck, guests on guitar.

Another good pairing: Joan Osborne is bringing out an album of Bob Dylan songs. We'll be playing several selections, but our feature pick this week is "Buckets of Rain."

Remember Fastball? We have to admit to losing track of this Austin, Texas, band since its late '90s breakout with All The Pain Money Can Buy and the single "The Way." But they've kept on keeping on, and released Step Into Light earlier this year. We're catching up now with a song called "We're On Our Way."

We turn on the electric blues with the Bridget Kelly Band, a group from Florida led by singer Kelly and her husband, guitarist Tim Fik. Bone Rattler is the name of their fourth album, and we're featuring a don't-let-the-door-hit-you-in-the-butt song called "Ain't Missin' You."

Our other pick for the New Music playlist this week is a timely track from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit's The Nashville Sound. It's called "White Man's World." We'll let it speak for itself.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Josh Ritter, Hemming, The Kents & more new music added to our mix

Josh Ritter is bringing out a new album, Gathering, next month. Ritter tells NPR Music that the album title is a reference to storms building up, either in the atmosphere or internally. The first song to spin out, "Showboat," is narrated by "a big talker who carries deep inner uncertainties and struggles to keep a strong front against the world raging around him."

We return to the vibrant Philadelphia indie-music scene for the latest release by Hemming, the band led by singer-songwriter Candice Martello that we've featured before on Birch Street Radio. "Counting Stones" is a dark, piano-based ballad with a plaintive vocal lamenting a broken relationship: "I can see right through the ground / And I'm counting every single stone / That's how far I let you get me down." Hemming will be touring with Philly friends Cayatana starting with September dates in Brooklyn, Toronto, Detroit and Chicago.

Another indie act that we've featured before is Ontario quartet The Kents. They put out an EP last year and now follow up with a single, "Is There Anyone?" Lead vocalist and guitarist Warren Frank says it's "about trying to find one's place amidst the constant barrage of opinions that social media has become." Over a jittery, syncopated beat, he sings, "Is there anyone ... to tell me all the things I need to hear."

One of the current practitioners of "retro" or "vintage" rock is J.D. McPherson, who played with a rockabilly band in his home state of Oklahoma before setting out solo. Now living in Nashville (where it seems damn near every type of music is being crafted and innovated these days), he's bringing out his third album, Undivided Heart & Soul, in October. The first single is a tale about a run of misfortune, called "Lucky Penny."

Also joining our new music rotation this week is the latest from Big Head Todd and the Monsters, "Damaged One." The veteran guitar-rockers from Colorado apparently have an album due this fall, although we haven't been able to find its title or any other info. We figure it's a good bet it will also include the band's previous single, last year's "Wipeout Turn."

Hear these five picks-of-the-week in our big 24/7 mix on Birch Street Radio on your favorite media player - Or hear them together right now in this set on MixCloud:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Americana, Canadian alt-rock and more new music

We're featuring another very eclectic batch of New Music this week, ranging from the delicately beautiful sound of a female folk trio to the multi-layered sounds of young alt-rock bands.

They may not be household names in pop circles, but Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan are superstars in the realm of folk, bluegrass and Americana. They've come together on and off in the past couple of years to perform as I'm With Her, a project that the New York Times described as an alliance of virtuosos. Violinist Watkins, guitarist O'Donovan and multi-instrumentalist Jarosz, songwriters all, meld their singing and playing beautifully. They finally have an EP coming out soon, and we're featuring the first track to emerge, "Little Lies."

Montreal alt-rockers Chair Warriors make their Birch Street Radio debut this week with "Lights Out," the first track to emerge from an upcoming EP called Dawn of Edo (a Japanese-history reference). The trio of vocalist/keyboardist Brandon Mignacca, guitarist Robert Flis and drummer Gopal Devanathan produces an expansive sound influenced by bands like Muse. Mignacca says of this song, "Lights Out is about the idea of seeing things for what they truly are. City lights deny us the chance to view the stars, among other things. It’s when the lights are out that you can truly see what the universe holds both externally and internally."

Also on our playlist for the first time is Oakland, California's Day Wave. It's the solo project of Jackson Phillips, a singer-songwriter who fleshes out his songs with guitar, synth and drums to give them a psych-pop sound. Following a couple of EPs, he released his first full-length, The Days We Had, a few months back. We're catching up with the catchy "Something Here."

Our other featured picks this week are:
  • Another track from Little Hurricane's most recent release, Same Sun, Same Moon. The California duo continues in its optimistic vein with "Isn't It Great."
  • And the ever-optimistic, unstoppable Ringo Starr has a new album coming out next month, Give More Love. We're adding the title track, wherein Ringo keeps alive the Beatles' love-is-all-you-need philosophy - which indeed we need in these times.

We play one of our 15 latest New Music picks at the top of each hour of our live stream. You can also listen to the latest five picks, listed above, in this set on Mixcloud.