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Saturday, April 28, 2018

New sounds in our mix: Jim James, Courtney Barnett, Artmagic, Signs to the City, Too Slim

In making our weekly New Music picks, we like to feature a mix of well-known artists and those that are new, emerging, or outside the mainstream. This week we've got each of those categories covered.

Jim James of My Morning Jacket is brewing up another solo album, Uniform Distortion, for release this summer. He's described it as having a theme relating to "the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis, and how that information is so distorted there is almost no longer any tangible truth." We're not sure how the first single fits in (other than its distorted guitar licks). "Just A Fool" seems more like the lament of a performer who feels like a phony: "Going through the motions with the mic in my hand / Playing hard to get, pretending like I understand." 

Courney Barnett's Tell Me How You Really Feel is due in a couple of weeks, and we now have the third song to spin out from that collection. "City Looks Pretty" starts out as an upbeat rocker about urban living - "Friends treat you like a stranger and / strangers treat you like their best friend." After the line "pull yourself together and just calm down," the song shifts into a quieter, slow jam. The track joins Tell Me's "Nameless, Faceless" and "Need A Little Time" in our big playlist.

Artmagic is a collaboration between veteran singer-songwriter-producer Sean McGhee, known for working with Alison Moyet, Imogen Heap, Dido and others, and guitarist Richard Oakes of British post-punk band Suede. Together, they go off in their own unique direction. From their latest release, The Songs of Other England," we're featuring "The Clean Room." McGhee aptly describes it as "melodic and anxious alternative/indie rock with martial drums, droning synths and brittle guitars." The lyric describes a place of escape/imprisonment: "The perfect cage, where sadness will not thrive and joy won't take ... where inertia harbors you."
Signs to the City is a four-piece alternative-rock band based in British Columbia and fronted by Jarrett Lobley, whose "day job" is making house calls as a family physician. They craft mostly mid-tempo, thoughtfully lyrical music, but with a wide range of sonic styles. They recently released their first album, Not Made of Miracles, and embarked on a European tour. Our pick for the New Music bin, "Last Time," mixes simple piano chords with layers of synths and other instruments for a sound reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper. We'll also be giving some spins to "Unstable," a track with a bit of a U2 vibe.

Also added to our mix this week: A solid dose of blues/rock from Too Slim and the Taildraggers. Slide-guitar ace Tim Langford and his crew from Spokane, Wash., just released their seventh album, High Desert Heat. In a rather audacious move, they include a cover of The Chambers Brothers' "Time Has Come Today." But we're featuring one of the nine original tunes, "Trouble," a straight-shooting guitar-drum-harmonica number with a timeless sound.

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