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Saturday, December 22, 2018

New Tunes from Carsie Blanton, Chuck Morris, Caoilfhionn Rose, Jane's Party, Just a Jester

Regular Birch Street Radio listeners are familiar with Carsie Blanton, a New Orleans-based singer-songwriter whose puts a very personal and idiosyncratic spin on her folky-jazzy-pop music. Her lyrics range from sassy and sexy to deep and philosophical. She's just released the first single from an album called Buck Up, due in February. It's the title track, which Blanton describes as "a song of hope and tenacity in trying times" - done in a folky style that evokes the likes of John Prine.

Bouncing around musical styles as we usually do, we check out a piece of bluesy R&B from Chuck Morris. He was the drummer on The Arsenio Hall Show for six years, toured and recorded with his own funky-reggae band, and after taking a hiatus, is now working on a new album. The first single, "Good Life," is an upbeat, feel-good song with a drums-horns-guitar opening that sounds like it could be introducing a new late-night talk show.

From Manchester, UK comes the debut album Awaken from singer/songwriter/producer Caoilfhionn Rose. She cites such influences as The Mummers, Rachel Sermanni, Melody’s Echo Chamber and Broadcast - which, to be honest, we're not familiar with, so to us, her sound is quite fresh. The title track "moved me out of my comfort zone," Rose says. “Having played solo as a pianist for a couple of years, it inspired me to work with new sounds, musicians with a different approach to making music.” Drum loops and mellotron flute are among those sounds. (By the way, Rose's first name is pronounced Keelin.)

Next we head to Toronto for the newest release from pop-rock quartet Jane's Party. They've been popping out singles from a forthcoming LP, Casual Island, due in February. We're featuring the latest, "Wait For You," featuring the band's hallmark breezy riffs and vocal harmonies. We'll also give some spins to what they call the B-side: a dreamy reimagining of The Cars' "Drive."

And hopping back to the UK, we pick up new music from another act previously featured on Birch Street Radio -- Just a Jester, the current project of singer-songwriter-guitarist Timothy Daniel Whitaker. He played and recorded all the instruments on his self-produced EP Clear Blue, released a couple of months ago, from which we've been spinning "Make It Easier." He's quickly returned with a new single, "Another World."

This being the season of holiday music and best-of lists, we probably won't have another batch of featured new music next weekend, but plan to resume our weekly picks the first weekend in January. Meantime we plan to feature a bit of holiday music on Sunday's episode of The Birch Street Bistro (noon Eastern Time, 9 a.m. Pacific, 5pm GMT) and on Christmas day itself. And we're planning a New Year's special with all-2018 music, including a lot of tracks we haven't played before. We hope you enjoy it all, and continue listening to our Marvelous Mix in the coming year! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Stay tuned-in to our marvelous mix

Heads-up to our listeners: It appears Birch Street Radio might soon have to switch streaming providers (again!), as the landscape continues to shift in the wacky world of internet radio. 

If so, some third-party players might stop working or have to be "re-tuned." As we've done in the past, we'll try to make any transition as smooth as possible. 

If you ever have trouble listening on any player or app, please come here to birchstreetradio.com for the latest connection information. You can also contact us at birchstreetradio@gmail.com.

We're hoping to avoid any disruption, and will do our best to keep our Marvelous Music Mix flowing!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Now in our New Music bin: Valley, Broken Bells, Alice Merton, Michael Jablonka, John Lewitt

Toronto alt-pop quartet Valley has just released Maybe: Side A - the first installment of a three-part LP, or a trio of EPs, depending how you look at it. In the two years since its previous release, This Room Is White, the band worked in its home studio and on trips to Los Angeles and New York to create this new collection, "packed with snapshots from the last two years of our life, and concepts of our generation." From this collection of mostly upbeat, buoyant tunes, we're picking "Loop Love" to feature in our New Music bin, and we'll drop other tracks into our big mix.

Alice Merton also has a connection to the Toronto suburbs, as she lived there with her family during part of her pre-teen years. Having lived at times in the U.S., Canada, England, France and her native Germany, she has said that her 2016 hit single "No Roots" was inspired by the feeling that "there's no one place where my home is." Her first album, Mint, is due next month, and the latest single to spin out of it is the quirky, jumpy "Funny Business." In the lyric, she urges a suspicious lover to "trust me when I say that I was innocent ... I don't break hearts, I don't do funny business."

Continuing in the alt-pop vein, we're picking up "Shelter," a new single from Broken Bells, the collaboration of Shins frontman James Mercer and producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton. On this track the duo “combined their unmistakable melodies, lyrics, vocals and singular composition style" with the mouse's “deconstruction and reconstruction of sampled beats.” The result is a breezy mid-tempo take on the well-worn theme of a lover providing shelter from the storm.

We've previously featured Michael Jablonka, who established himself at a young age as a guitarist-for-hire behind various UK artists before recently striking out on his own. His latest single, "Papier-Mache," expands on his blues-funk-rock sound with expressive, soulful vocals. The track takes the listener on a ride through multiple changes in mood and tempo, with a flaming guitar break in the middle.

We circle back to Toronto for a more laid-back sound from singer-songwriter John Lewitt. He recently released his fifth album, All Good Things, which blends strains of Americana, folk, country and rock with personal, relatable lyrics. Our pick for the New Music bin is "Best Kept Secret," the love song of a guy who can't believe his good fortune.

By the way, we debuted four of these five songs on our weekly show The Detour, where we mix a lot of indie and other new releases with older tracks that you don't hear often. It streams Sundays at 5pm Eastern, 2pm Pacific, 10pm GMT and repeats six hours later. Past episodes are archived on Mixcloud.

We've also just added a weekly show called The Birch Street Bistro, which features singer-songwriters and bands that play music on the softer side of the rock spectrum. Join us in the Bistro on Sundays for a relaxing hour starting at Noon Eastern, 9am Pacific, 5pm GMT.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

New tunes from Frances Cone, The Chestertons, Fast Friends, Lake Street Dive and The Revivalists

Frances Cone is the indie-pop project of Christina Cone, a classically trained pianist and vocalist. After releasing album in 2013, Cone began working with bassist Andy Doherty and together they formulated a lush multi-layered sound surrounding Cone's breathy vocals. Partly recorded in New York and partly since their move to Nashville, their new album Late Riser is due out in January. We're featuring "Failure," which Cone calls a love song to imperfections - "a reach beyond tolerance to acceptance and even fondness."
Continuing in an indie-music vein, we head up the interstates from Nashville to Cleveland to pick up "Big Life," a new single from The Chestertons. It's a straight-forward, guitar-based rocker (except for a spacey break in the middle), with earnest vocals by Kevin Bianchi. We've previously featured a few tracks from Bianchi's solo project, Vanishing Shores.
Adding some European flavor to our mix this week is Paris-based Fast Friends, a French-Swedish pop-rock duo. They have just released their debut EP, Unknown Homes, and we tried out the lead track "Eureka" on The Detour last Sunday. We found its quirky, laid-back, lo-fi sound quite appealing and have now popped it into our New Music bin.

Six months or so after releasing their latest album, Free Yourself Up, Lake Street Dive has taken some songs that didn't make that collection and put them out as an EP called Freak Yourself Out. We're featuring the standout "Who Do You Think You Are?"
And we're pulling yet another track from Take Good Care, last month's release from The Revivalists. This one, called "Change," reminds us a lot of the bluesier side of The Black Keys.

Reminder: We're always happy to receive suggestions of new music to consider for our playlist. Use the comment form on our website, contact us on Facebook or Twitter, or email to birchstreetradio@gmail.com.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

New music by Bryan Hansen Band, Crack the Sky, Keuning, Jeff Tweedy, Cat Dail added to our mix

New Jersey's Bryan Hansen Band has a distinctive sound that combines the funky rhythm section of bassist Will Blakey and drummer Cwan Merritt with Hansen's intricate lyrics and jazz/soul vocal stylings. They have been in our mix for a few years now, and they've just released a new single, "Diamonds," from an upcoming album called Gas Money. In the accompanying video, glimpses of the band playing the song are intercut with a short film in which they pull off a diamond-theft caper - but ultimately get played.

Veteran rockers Crack the Sky just released Living In Reverse, their 20th album (more or less) in a 33-year recording career. We have been playing the first single, "Talk Talk," and now we're featuring the title track. The influence of The Beatles and the progressive-rock era remain strong with this outfit, and John Palumbo's lyrics seem particularly self-reflective on this album. We're not alone in considering CTS one of the best bands that too few people know, but they have maintained a strong fan base in the Mid-Atlantic area of the U.S.

The name Keuning may not be familiar to many outside the fan base of The Killers, who know Dave Keuning as the lead guitarist of that band for the past 17 years. Although still a member, Keuning took a break from the band last year, opting to forego a tour in order to spend time with his family. He recorded his forthcoming solo album, Prismism, at his San Diego home studio. Now in our New Music bin is the latest single, "Boat Accident," which Clash Music calls "an instantly catchy, endlessly infectious piece of alt-pop with a crisp 80s vibe."

Jeff Tweedy's band Wilco is currently on hiatus, and he goes into singer-songwriter mode on his first true solo album. Rolling Stone writes that "the easygoing arrangements on Warm bely a much darker, conflicted undercurrent running through Tweedy’s writing," resulting in a "deeply moving" collection. We're picking up a track called "I Know What It's Like," a song of disconnection: "I know what it's like / to not feel love."

In a lighter vein, we're dipping back into the new album from New York singer-songwriter Cat Dail, Fight For Love. This time we're featuring a track called "Wonder Love" whose lyric also contains the album title. It's a clever twist on the Superman story: "I don't need Superman to save me / He could be my friend ... Me and the man of steel could spend hours / sitting around comparing our powers." On a recent episode of The Detour we put this song together with several other super-themed tunes. You can listen to that super-set any time - just go to our Mixcloud site and play The Detour - Ep. 18.)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Our latest picks: Hero Fisher, Joy Williams, Bad Suns + more from Mumford & Sons, Van Morrison


We have played a couple of tracks from Hero Fisher's new album Glue Moon on our Sunday free-form show The Detour. Last week we gave a spin to "I Let Love," and decided it would fit just fine in our 24/7 mix - so we've now added it as one of our featured New Music picks. The album is the second release from this British-born, French-raised and now London-based artist, described as "by turns a blistering rock and roller in the vein of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, and an experimental folk storyteller à la Jeff Buckley."


Moving farther in the folk-music direction, we're picking up "Canary," a new song by Joy Williams, formerly of the Americana duo The Civil Wars. It's an advance single from her forthcoming solo album Front Porch. The lyric builds on the idea of a canary in a mine, warning of danger in the air - although in this song, the canary sings out instead of falling silent. Williams said: "This song is the call to sing, and not stay silent any longer. To speak out. To look out for one another, and to speak up for ourselves."
California indie-rockers Bad Suns have two well-received albums to their credit. AllMusic.com described them as combining "angsty songwriting" with "hook-heavy indie rock to form the basis of their extremely catchy sound." They're now out with a new single, "Away We Go," with a more optimistic, "tomorrow might be better" theme.
Our other picks for the New Music bin this week are additional tracks from recent releases we've featured before:
  • Van Morrison - "Got To Go Where The Love Is" from The Prophet Speaks
  • Mumford & Sons - "If I Say" from Delta.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

New from Wyland, Mark Knopfler, The Daybreaks, The Story So Far and introducing Dream Reporter

Photo by Kelsey Ayres
New Jersey indie band Wyland recently spent a month in Ireland working with producer Phil Magee on an EP due early next year. The first taste is a just-released single, "Nowhere Now." Frontman Ryan Sloan cites influences including U2, Coldplay, Elbow and Noel Gallagher. He told Ones To Watch that the beginnings of this song came to him in an Austin, Texas, hotel room during SXSW and "the rest of the tune came together back in New Jersey as the band put their spice to it." Keyboardist/backing vocalist Ariella Mastroianni says the Nowhere of the title is a place of escape, "where the laws of the universe just don’t quite apply" and there is "infinite possibility." The band is about to start a tour of Canada and the Eastern U.S. with Toronto-based indie band Valley.

On Birch Street Radio, we specialize in mixing indie artists with established acts. So we turn next to Mark Knopfler, the guitar master who rose to fame with Dire Straits and now works independently. From his ninth solo album, Down The Road Wherever, we previously featured the single "Good On You Son." We now have the full collection, which AllMusic aptly calls "A classic Knopfler grab-bag of elegant fretwork, crafty melodies, and dryly delivered storytelling." Our latest pick for the New Music bin is one of the perkier numbers, "Nobody Does That."

Also from the U.K., we have the debut of London-based Dream Reporter. We don't know the name, or much else about, the singer-songwriter-producer behind this indie-rock/dream-pop project. But the debut EP is quite promising. It includes an Elliot Smith cover along with a few original songs, including our featured pick, title track "White Horse." It combines quirky beats with lush synths and a powerful vocal. In the lyric, the singer spurns someone's attempt to "rescue" her: "You're no white horse / no escape ladder."

The Daybreaks are a Nashville-based group that sometimes describe their music as "retro synth pop." (Synth pop can already be retro?) They've just released their second album, The Idea of You, and we're picking up on the title track, a six-minute excursion that starts with quiet synths and dreamy vocals that then float atop waves of urgent electronic, guitar and piano sounds to an arena-rock-style crest.

And now we jump to the West Coast and the pop-punk quintet The Story So Far. Proper Dose is the fourth studio album by the California outfit, and its first release in more than three years. Our music mix doesn't include much in the punk direction, but The Story goes in some different directions on this release, blending in acoustic and electronic elements. We're picking up "Take Me As You Please," which features chiming guitars and a laid-back attitude: "She says that I'm crazy / but I don't let it faze me."

Saturday, November 10, 2018

David Crosby's here, plus new music by Joy Ike, The Wind + The Wave, The Revivalists, Lydia Luce

Photo by Anna Webber
David Crosby's new album Here If You Listen is billed as "a collaborative album with Becca Stevens, Michael League and Michelle Willis," who also backed up his 2016 album, Lighthouse. The Guardian writes that the music "retains [Crosby's] trademark unusual tunings and dreamy harmonies but is a thoroughly band effort," and that working with young musicians "seems to have turbo-charged Crosby’s muse." Our pick for the New Music bin is "Vagrants of Venice." It paints a post-apocalyptic picture of a once-great city submerged by rising seas and sparsely populated by "wild people / nearly feral / living on what they can find." There's a strong thematic echo of the classic "Wooden Ships," which Crosby co-wrote with Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner in 1968. Fifty years later, global warming has taken its place alongside nuclear war as a nightmare of civilization's suicide.

With so much new good music emerging every week, we're bound to miss some gems, and we're always glad when someone calls our attention to one that we overlooked. And so, six months or so after its release, we're catching up with Joy Ike's luminous album, Bigger Than Your Box. The Nigerian-American singer, songwriter and pianist describes it as a collection of songs "about dreaming beyond what you can actually see." Our featured track is "Ever Stay," an uplifting song driven by shifting rhythms. Ike says the song "is for the person who needs to be reminded that they are not alone."

We're only about six weeks behind in catching up with Lydia Luce's debut full-length album. Luce grew up in Florida in a musical family, played in her mother's orchestra as a teenager, studied at Berklee College of Music and earned a master's degree in viola performance at UCLA. She then moved to Nashville, where she recorded Azalea, combining her classical training with Americana and folk influences. We're featuring the moody, intriguing title track.

We've previously featured tracks by The Wind + The Wave, the Austin-based duo of Patricia Lynn and Dwight Baker. They've now released their third full-length album, Human Beings Let You Down -- recorded in hotels and backstage dressing rooms as they toured the USA behind their previous album, Happiness Is Not A Place. Baker does double-duty as producer, Lynn is the primary singer-songwriter, and they're joined on the record by their touring band. Now they're back on the road again. Our featured track, "Lay Me Down," evokes the excitement - and weariness - of the touring life: "I'm all fired up / and when I'm all dried up / I'm gonna lay me down."

Photo by Zackery Michael
From Austin we slide over to New Orleans and pick up a track from the latest album by The Revivalists, Take Good Care. It includes the single, "All My Friends," which has been out for a few months, and the just-released LP is packed with another 13 songs. The Associated Press suggests that's several songs too many, saying it starts off featuring "the band’s exciting mix of jazz-funk grooves, blues rock and warm melodies," but gets generic and boring toward the end. We'd put "You And I" in the first category, and that's our pick for the New Music bin.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Van Morrison plays on, plus new music by Cake, Cat Dail, Maggie Rogers, The West Coast Feed

How's this for a track record? 45 albums in 51 years. That's the creative output of Van Morrison - so far - and that doesn't count compilation albums or his work in the group Them in the mid-60s. Barely a year after the release of Roll With The Punches, his latest effort, The Prophet Speaks, is due in early December. It will include eight covers of the likes of John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke and Solomon Burke, plus six new Morrison compositions. The title track is peak Van, blending jazz sax and Latin rhythms with smooth, sophisticated blues and that distinctive voice.
Cat Dail has been playing New York clubs and touring since the 1990s, but we're just catching up with this indie singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist by way of her new album, Fight For Love. Each track on this collection has a style of its own, with strands of folk, rock, funk, blues, jazz singing etc., all pulled together behind a distinctive and captivating voice. It was tough to pick one for our New Music bin, but we settled on the slinky "Catch Fire." Others will pop up in our big mix.
Maggie Rogers recorded two albums on her own while in high school in Maryland and college at New York University, before breaking out in 2016 with the hit single "Alaska." Her major label debut, Heard It In A Past Life, is due in January from Capitol Records, but singles keep spinning out ahead of it. "Alaska" and "Fallingwater" are already in our mix, and we're now picking up the latest, "Light On."

We're tapping once more into The West Coast Feed now that its debut album has been released. We previously featured the raucous singles "You Belong To Me" and "Set Me On Fire." The band takes a lighter approach on our latest selection, "Sky Pines," while still bringing its big horn-filled sound and adding a touch of violin.

Cake has just released its first original song in seven years, called "Sinking Ship." Band member Vince DiFiore describes it as “a sobering meditation on the current human habitation of the planet.” It could also be heard as commentary on the current political situation in the U.S. and around the world. The lyric mocks complacency - "You said give this a little more time / and everything is going to be fine" - and warns that "Everything we were just trying to save / is now vanishing under the waves."
And on that note, let us remind all our listeners and friends in the USA: Do your part and VOTE this Tuesday as though your life and the world depended on it. Because they do.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The latest from Rachael Yamagata, Buxton, Bob Mould plus The High Points and Ghostly Kisses

Rachael Yamagata dropped a surprise EP this month, called Porch Songs. The Woodstock, N.Y.-based singer-songwriter describes its six songs as "stark vault treasures and reflections of a younger self ... songs that showcase a transformation underway but don’t quite let you know what the end result will be." That description certainly fits the track in our new music bin, "Worthless," which seems to describe a moment when a relationship might be transitioning, or might be coming to an end. Either way, she sings, "It isn't worthless / no waste of time."

Buxton is celebrating its 15th year as a band with the release of its fifth album, Stay Out Late. Over the years this Houston-based group has grown from a trio to a quintet and added more keyboard and synth sounds, while retaining its fundamental folk/rock/Americana sound. AllMusic says the latest record finds the group "spinning frontman Sergio Trevino's peculiar missives into dreamy golden-hued pop with soft hints of Texan spirit." Our featured track is a cheerful falling-in-love song called "Jan."

Speaking of cheerful - that might not be the vibe you expect from former Husker Du punk-rocker Bob Mould, but he's taking a deliberate turn to the sunny side on his forthcoming LP, Sunshine Rock. That's also the title of the first single, which dropped last week. "Sunshine Rock was such a bright, optimistic song, and once that came together, I knew that would be the title track, and that really set the tone for the direction of the album,” Mould says. Having described himself in a memoir as a "miserablist," Mould now says he's "trying to keep things brighter these days as a way to stay alive."


Have we mentioned that we debut a lot of indie music on our Sunday show called The Detour? A few weeks ago we gave a spin to "Need Your Love" by The High Points, and now we're adding it to our New Music rotation. This duo from Norwich, U.K., describes its music as "indie-funk with inspirations from 70s disco," although we're hearing good old guitar-bass-drums rock/pop in this jaunty number from their just-released debut EP, Instant Love.

As usual we go in many musical directions with our weekly New Music picks. So from bouncy, funky rock we turn to the ethereal sound of Ghostly Kisses, the project of Quebec-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Margaux Sauv√©. Her debut EP What You See, was released last year and now she's followed up with a new single, "The City Holds My Heart." We discovered it thanks to The Revue, which calls it a "breathtakingly gorgeous song ... stunningly cinematic." Ghostly Kisses has shows coming up in Montreal and Toronto in early November.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Timely music by Gracie & Rachel, plus Florence & The Machine, Leon Bridges, Death Cab and Muse


Brooklyn chamber-pop duo Gracie & Rachel have been part of our mix since we caught a live show in early 2016, about a year before before they released their self-titled debut album. They recently produced a single and a video, called simply "Her," inspired by current events and celebrating women who take courageous stands. "Call out loud / Hear how it sounds / Stand up tall / Feel the weight of it all." We debuted the track on The Detour a couple of weeks ago, and now we're adding it to the New Music bin. It's available on Bandcamp, with all proceeds going to the anti-sexual-violence organization RAINN. And we encourage you to watch the powerful video.

The rest of our New Music picks this week are the latest singles to spin out of recent albums from major-label artists that need no introduction:

"Patricia," a tribute to Patti Smith
If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)
Northern Lights
Pressure

We're constantly expanding our big music mix. Along with our our featured New Music picks each week, we're always adding to our library of tracks from the 60s to today.

How do we decide what to include in our playlist? We use a very sophisticated screening process: If we hear it, and we like it, we play it.

And we invite your suggestions! Comment on this page or email us at birchstreetradio@gmail.com