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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Greetings from Birch Street Radio

Best wishes to all our listeners celebrating holidays this weekend.

And happy Spring to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere.

Our weekly New Music selections will debut a little later than usual this week, on Sunday evening. Check back here then.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

New music by Ellevator, Talma, Editors, Littless and Sarah Cripps added to our mix

Ellevator is a pop-rock band from Hamilton, Ontario, whose debut EP hasn't been released yet but is already getting attention from the likes of CBC Radio and Canadianbeats. We're featuring the single "New Survival," written by lead singer Nabi Sue Bersche. "I spent a lot of years trying to live up to other people’s high-hopes," Bersche says. "The song is about finding the person underneath all the noise and learning to live with them, even if I don’t always like them.”

We've previously featured London alt-rock band Talma and their single "Lifeline." Their second EP, Out To Sea, arrived recently and we're picking up on the opening track, "In Circles." Guitarist James Creed wrote the song "about the sense of apathy we can experience when returning to a routine lifestyle after time away from it all - the everyday, the mundane" - and the possibility to "step away from paths well-known and chase a new sense of meaning."

Birmingham, UK's Editors are out with their sixth album, Violence. As a reviewer on musicOMH put it,the title "suggests the perpetual gloom-mongers are about to explore new depths of darkness," but the album has "an emotional richness ... that brings some light to where there was once only darkness." Our featured track is, in fact, called "Darkness at the Door," but amid the obscurity of its lyrics there are suggestions that friendship can add that bit of light. 

Jumping back across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, we revisit Littless. Several weeks ago we started spinning "Better Left Unsaid" from the indie band's debut album, Less Precious, and now we're featuring "I've Been Waiting." Littles is the project of keyboardist Kyle Graham from another Philadelphia indie outfit, Hemming. It has an electro-pop sound grounded by sharp percussion and topped with multi-tracked vocals by Hemming's Candice Martello.

And we're dipping again into the self-titled album by Sarah Cripps, the Toronto singer-songwriter whose previous work was more country/roots oriented but who has shifted more toward a pop-alternative sound. We're adding "Caroline," which mixes layered vocals and keys with a pounding bass line and reminds us just a bit of the Christine McVie/Fleetwood Mac sound.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

'Bad Bad News' and other good things - Here are our New Music Picks of the Week

As usual, our New Music picks for the week cover a wide range of styles, from jazzy soul to bouncy pop, because we're all about variety.

Leon Bridges' second album, due in May, is called Good Thing, and the first single is called "Bad, Bad News." The lyric ties those phrases together: "They tell me I was born to lose / But I made a good thing out of bad, bad news." It's a song of confidence and assertiveness in the face of adversity, and includes our favorite couplet of the week: "Ain't got no name, ain't got no fancy education / But I can see right through a powdered face on a painted fool." The track features a strutting bass line, a danceable drum beat, guitar and horn accents and a terrific, jazzy instrumental closer.

We recently featured "Roots" from the debut album by Carmanah, and couldn't wait much longer to showcase another tune. The band brews a unique blend of folk, blues and other influences, and "Send It To Me" is on the bluesier side, with hints of R&B and even Motown. Speak in Rhymes, produced by Gus Van Go (The Arkells, Whitehorse, Fast Romantics) is a very impressive first effort, from a band that sounds like it has been refining its sound for years.

Next we jump to London and Coralcrown, a new indie-pop project led by Luis Gotor. He's preparing to roll out his first EP in May. Gotor describes his music as "influenced by modern indie rock mixed with disco music from the 70s and pop music from the 80s." We're featuring the just-released single, the irresistibly catchy "Between The Lights."

Another emerging artist with just a couple of singles out so far is Australia's Hatchie. Brisbane-based multi-instrumentalist Harriette Pillbeam was among the many artists featured at SXSW last week, where the Austin Chronicle says she presented an "enveloping half-hour of lush, gauzy, glimmering pop." Her new single "Sure" opens with a guitar strum that takes us back to Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me," and the Hatchie sound has also been compared with The Sundays, Cocteau Twins and The Cranberries. Not bad company.

We have trouble categorizing the music of Lake Street Dive. Is it rock, pop, soul, jazz, maybe even cabaret? There's some of all that in Rachel Price's dynamite vocals and the tight playing of Mike "McDuck" Olson (trumpet, guitar), Bridget Kearney (upright bass), and Mike Calabrese (drums) - now augmented by keyboardist Akie Bermiss. They cite influences that run the gamut from swing-era jazz through The Beatles to Motown. Ahead of the forthcoming album Free Yourself Up, we're spinning the single "Good Kisser."

Saturday, March 10, 2018

New music picks of the week: Naked Sun, Erika Wennerstrom, Slow Roar, Georgia Flood, Chvrches

The Naked Sun plays what it calls "honest rock." The group has also described its sound as "psychedelic indie roots Americana alt-country." Whatever you call it, it's a fresh-sounding blend of rock and folk that's great fun to listen to. After several years of playing around the Philly area and releasing a couple of EPs, this sextet is out with its debut album, War With Shadows. It's produced by Brian McTear, who also has worked with fellow Philadelphians War on Drugs and Kurt Vile. We're featuring the single "Holdin' Back the Heart," which frontman Andrew Wesley Harris says was "the very first song the band wrote together way back in 2010 when we were first starting out." (FYI the band's name is an Isaac Asimov reference.)

After fronting a couple of incarnations of the Heartless Bastards, Erika Wennerstrom took a break for some travel, some hiking, some self-discovery, and a solo project - resulting in her new album, Sweet Unknown. "It was a really freeing experience," she says. "I found my strength in my vulnerability as an artist, and really, just as a person. It kind of forced me to allow myself to be a little more exposed and stand on my own two feet.” Wennerstrom reflects on that process on the opening track, "Twisted Highway," while guitars and drums create a rolling sound that evokes a road trip through wide open spaces.

From Los Angeles comes Slow Roar, the project of multi-instrumentalist writer/producers Rebecca Rosoff and Sonny Lanegan. Their debut EP has been out for a few months and was brought to our attention by, which writes that the track "Honey," our pick for the New Music bin, "drips with rock coolness." Or as Indie Obsessive puts it, "the pair conveys a moody wanton energy through complex percussion arrangements, lustfully jagged guitars, detuned snare hits, and Rosoff's rawly soulful and penetrating vocals."

One of the indie bands you've heard us feature before, The Georgia Flood, has spun out another single in advance of its forthcoming second album, Polaroids and Panic Attacks. Following "Take A Hit" and "Illuminations," the latest is "Empty Houses," featuring a slinky bass line, pounding drums and vaguely angsty lyrics, leading to the refrain, "You gotta lose control to enjoy the night."

Scotland's Chvrches are preparing to bring out their third album, Love Is Dead. That unhappy theme runs through the two singles they've released ahead of the LP. On "My Enemy," Lauren Mayberry trades vocals with Matt Berninger of The National on lyrics of recrimination at the end of an affair. The lyrics in "Get Out" are more ambiguous: Is Lauren telling an ex to go away, or looking for a way out together from an unhappy state? We're adding both tracks to our big mix, and featuring the poppier "Get Out" in our New Music bin.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Jason Wells, Glen Hansard, Joan Baez, Calexico and introducing Lighthouse Keepers

Among the many indie artists we play, Jason Wells may be one of the least trendy - a dedicated practitioner of old-school, electric-guitar-driven, blues-influenced rock. Based in central Indiana, he and his band tour steadily around the U.S. Midwest. His latest album, Nine Hours - which he describes as "raw rock-n-roll mojo" - is set for release later this month, and we'll be playing several tracks. We're starting by featuring "Waiting To Come Down" in our New Music bin. The interplay of guitar and keyboards actually reminds us a bit of vintage Traffic. Jason says it's one of his favorite tracks on the record - "Love the jammy stuff we captured." Jam on, brother.

Another artist rooted in traditional sounds, leaning more toward folk-rock, is Ireland's Glen Hansard. His latest release, Between Two Shores, was created in two sessions almost four years apart. While on tour in 2013, he and his band stopped at Wilco's Chicago studios and laid down more than a dozen tracks. But it was only last year that he revisited those recordings. "I heard how great the band sounded," he told Rolling Stone. "I thought, 'These tunes are good! These tunes are worthy!'" But he wasn't happy with the lyrics, so he rewrote the songs and recorded new vocals. The result is getting a lot of attention, and we're joining in by adding "Roll On Slow" to our New Music playlist.

Sailing farther toward the folk end of the spectrum, we find ourselves guided to the Boston area by Lighthouse Keepers. This group formed while most of its members were students at Harvard University. We came upon them via Noisetrade, which tells us: "It began with three students in a dorm room, with a violin, a guitar, a ukulele, and three voices; they started by playing around with various covers as well as free-styling collaboratively." They've since added three members and just released a full album of well-crafted original music. Every track is strong, making it hard to pick one to feature, so we'll just start with the first: "Sense Of Me."

Amid the current folk-rock revival comes a new album from one of the leaders of the 1960s folk-rock movement: Joan Baez. Whistle Down the Wind is her first studio album in ten years. On it, she covers an array of contemporary songwriters, including Josh Ritter, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Eliza Gilkyson. Fitting with Baez's history of commitment to social causes, the album has a theme that NPR Music described as "defiant optimism" in the face of global discord. Our featured pick is Giklyson's apocalyptic-yet-hopeful "The Great Correction."

For another take on current events, we return to the most recent release from Calexico, The Thread that Keeps Us. On "Under the Wheels," over an urgent Latin-meets-reggae rhythm, Joey Burns sings of trying to find hope in one another: "Under the wheels of the war machine / Always someone else's scheme / Show me a sign / When the world falls apart / From the core to the seams / The threads that we seek."