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Sunday, April 1, 2018

New music from Courtney Barnett, Natalie Prass, Anderson East, Gang of Youths, Midnight Shine

Courtney Barnett calls out misogynists, of both the online and IRL varieties, in "Nameless, Faceless" from her forthcoming LP Tell Me How You Really Feel. She addresses internet trolls as pathetic head cases ("You sit alone at home in the darkness / With all the pent-up rage that you harness / I'm real sorry / 'Bout whatever happened to you), as well as the violence that rage can produce ("I wanna walk through the park in the dark ... I hold my keys between my fingers"). She quotes Margaret Atwood ("Men are scared that women will laugh at them ... Women are scared that men will kill them." All this in a three-minute grunge-pop song, in her usual pithy observational style. Kim Deal (Pixies, The Breeders) contributes background vocals.

Photo credit: Sergey Osipov
Also from Australia, originally, and just beginning to draw wide notice on the other side of the Pacific, is Gang of Youths. Although based in the U.S. since 2013, the band has remained best-known in its former homeland, where its most recent release, Go Farther in Lightness, topped the charts and won three ARIA awards (comparable to the Grammys or the Junos). Their arena-friendly rock, with frontman Dave Le'aupepe's literate lyrics and passionate singing, draws comparisons to the likes of U2 and Arcade Fire. The gang is now getting serious buzz from its recent U.S. appearances at SXSW and on late-night TV, and a packed show at New York's Bowery Ballroom. Although the album came out in August, we're betting it's as "new" to most of you as it is to us. We're putting the single "The Heart Is A Muscle" into our New Music bin and will drop more tracks into our big mix.

We return now to northern Ontario's Midnight Shine, whose version of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" was featured in our New Music bin a little over a month ago. While the band benefited from borrowed interest by covering that classic song (and adding an Indigenous twist), it's deserving of more attention for its original, rootsy rock music. We're now featuring another single from their new High Road album, "Velocity," which expresses a longing to slow down in a fast-paced world.

We've been slow to warm up to Nashville singer Anderson East. His gravel-voiced blue-eyed soul can feel a little too perfect at times, more imitative than authentic. But it's clear his love of Southern musical traditions is genuine, and it's undeniable that he and producer Dave Cobb are damn good at crafting records. Case in point: "Girlfriend" is a really fun listen, with its amusing love-triangle lyrics -- and its booming riffs from a killer horn section.

Natalie Prass made a splash a few years ago with her debut album of orchestral pop songs -- and now she's making waves again by taking her music in a new direction. The first two singles from her next collection, The Future and the Past, draw from R&B and disco. She joins our big mix with "Sisters," which SPIN calls "a strongly neo-soul-informed feminist anthem ... complete with jazz-piano spats, scatting, and a chorus of backing singers echoing 'Keep your sisters close / You gotta keep your sisters close to ya.'"

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