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Sunday, December 3, 2017

New Music from Common Deer, Sjowgren, Danielia Cotton, Ramona Rose and, oh yeah, U2!

Photo by Wally Jay Parker
Toronto-based Common Deer only started releasing music this year - putting out an EP in January and another in September (I & II) - but has already made a big impression with their expansive orchestral-pop sound.

The quintet consists of Graham McLaughlin (guitar, violin), siblings Sheila Hart-Owens (keyboards) and Adam Hart-Owens (cello, guitar, synth) and siblings Liam Farrell (percussion, synth, samples) and Connor Farrell (bass). McLaughlin and Hart-Owens trade vocals. We were a little slow to catch up with this band, but once we got a chance to listen to "Wait," a single from the second EP, we were instant fans. This exuberant track is just one highlight from a great batch of freshman-year work. It's one of our featured New Music tracks this week, and you'll be hearing plenty more from I & II in our big mix.

In the past couple of weeks, California indie outfit Sjowgren has released three new singles. That brings their total output to five singles and three demos since they started releasing tracks last year. We don't know much about this band, and apparently that's the way they like it. They're believed to be from the San Francisco Bay area but haven't provided any other information. Yet their debut single "Seventeen" drew plenty of notice (including ours) and the latest tracks are bound to bring them more. Our pick for the New Music bin is "Stubborn Forces."

We're happy to hear new music from Danielia Cotton, whose powerful voice caught our attention last year with "A Prayer." We were latecomers: the New Jersey-born, New York-based singer-songwriter has been performing and releasing music for over a decade. As Philadelphia's WXPN has written, Cotton "draws on a wide range of influences, from Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones to Mavis Staples and Etta James." The new album, The Mystery of Me, ranges from soulful ballads to upbeat rockers like our featured pick, the Motown-flavored "4 Ur Life."

We've written before about artists outside America who are making "Americana" music. Add to that list England's Ramona Rose. The singer-songwriter told Vents Magazine she moved to Leeds "as a shy 18-year-old with a battered acoustic guitar and no clue what I was doing." (She's now all of 22). "I’ve always loved country and folk music – the way they tell stories has been a source of inspiration to me for as long as I can remember, and I was listening to a lot of it at the time of writing this track." Her new single, "Grand Canyon," uses that American landmark as a symbol for a lover's promises that go unfulfilled.

The other act joining our New Music rotation this week needs no introduction. With the release of U2's Songs of Experience, we're adding "Get Out Of Your Own Way," with its hopeful message of self-actualization. On first listen, the album strikes us as uneven, mixing optimism with awkward attempts at political commentary and a few lyrical clunkers ("Democracy is flat on its back, jack"). And, sorry, but we've trimmed off the Kendrick Lamar sermon at the end of "Get Out..." because we find it more jarring than inspirational. Still, there are few bands in the world whose body of work can match U2's, and we remain committed fans.
Please let us know what you think of the music mix on Birch Street Radio, and send us your suggestions for more artists to discover! Comment here, on Twitter or Facebook, or by email:

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