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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Rubblebucket, Daniel Pearson, Ennor, Ay Wing and more Eels music added to our big mix

We're pleased to have new music from Rubblebucket, even though they're no longer the full band that we'd come to know and love. For the upcoming album Sun Machine, the Brooklyn-based group basically consists simply of founders Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth, coming out on the other side of health and personal issues. Judging by the first song to spin out, "Fruity," their sound is a bit more subdued than it was with the bigger band, but still bounces along with a rich mix of percussion, winds, guitar and synthesizer. We look forward to the full album in August.

Daniel Pearson is one of those artists whose sound more-or-less fits the Americana category - but who isn't American (Mumford & Sons being a well-known example). Pearson is an English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who cites the likes of Springsteen, REM and Ryan Adams among his influences. His most recent album was 2015's Alone, Together, but he's put out a string of singles in the past couple of months, and we're picking up the latest, "Until The Sun Comes Up." Pearson brings a full-band sound to this upbeat song, which he describes as being "about refusing to take things lying down and never giving up."

Also from England, and hewing a bit more to an English-folk-rock sound, is Ennor. This four-piece is from Cornwall, the southwestern-most part of the U.K. that juts into the sea, and the band's name is that of a large island that's believed to have once existed off the coast where the smaller Isles of Scilly now lie. So it's fitting that we're introduced to them with a song called "Wave After Wave." It's described as "a melancholic reflection on climate change," pondering the question, "at what point will we have gone too far?" Starting quietly with acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies, the track swells to a rock crescendo.

Mixing things up as we usually do, we turn from folk-rock to the "beat-driven fluorescent synth-pop" of Swiss-born, Berlin-based Ay Wing. Her new EP, Ice Cream Dream, does tend toward the sweet side, but we're picking up the slightly edgier "Strange." In a bit of a St. Vincent vein, the song comments on "digital narcissism" -- the modern urge to turn one's life into a show on social media, showing off your strange-ness because you're "afraid to be forgotten." In the song's video, the singer casts herself as various movie characters taking selfies.

Also entering our New Music bin this week is another track from the new album by Eels, The Deconstruction. "Today Is The Day" (like our previous featured track, "You Are The Shining Light") fits the album's theme of casting off old ideas and attitudes, taking life as it comes and making the best of it. "Today is the day that you see me / As a man who will always change / Who knows the only things to count on / Are life is quick, and life is strange."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Great new music by Samantha Clemons, Dawes, Middle Kids, Hannah Gill and Traitrs

This week we're especially pleased to be able to introduce our listeners to Samantha Clemons. This Texas singer-songwriter set out to make acoustic pop music, but according to her bio, shifted her style as she "began channeling her frustration and disappointment at the dramatic social and political shifts of recent years." The title track of her upcoming EP Burn, Clemons says, "reflects the idea that we’ve just been talking past one another and have lost sight of the fact that we occupy a lot of common ground." It's a gripping song with lyrics that can be heard two ways: as angry, aggressive refusal to listen, or a courageous, adamant refusal to submit. "Mine fit me just fine / No need to walk in your shoes." Clemons sings with a soulful power reminiscent of Tracy Chapman and Rhiannon Giddens. We're looking forward to hearing much more.

Concern about the state of society has become a common theme in music lately, for obvious reasons. "Living In The Future," the new single from Dawes, is frank in its paranoia. "I'm always looking over shoulders / Not knowing what I'm looking for / Now that the feeling someone's watching / Isn't just a feeling anymore." Frontman Taylor Goldsmith says that on the band's upcoming album, Passwords, "many of the songs are an attempt to come to terms with the modern world, while always trying to consider both sides of the story." The album is due June 22.

Australia's Middle Kids had their breakout moment in the Western hemisphere last year with the release of an EP that spawned the hit "Edge Of Town." Earlier this year came the single "Mistake," and now we have their first full-length collection, Lost Friends. Pitchfork describes it as "a record that’s all about fumbling your way through insecurities, indecision, and embarrassments. In singer/guitarist Hannah Joy, the band has a captivating mouthpiece who deftly navigates these emotional minefields with equal parts panic and poise, thanks to a naturally trembling voice that can harden into tough-love sentiment." Our pick for the New Music bin is "Bought It," which Joy says is based on "walking around trying to feel like we’re OK but actually we’re not sure if we are."

Twenty-year-old Hannah Gill has a voice that erupts from your speakers like a force of nature. On 2016's The Water, she and her band The Hours created a sweeping Florence-and-the-Machine-like sound. Her new release, Lost in Words, encompasses a variety of styles, starting with the sultry torch song "Lose" and including a sharp-tongued rebuke of a drug abuser, "Medicine." We're featuring a swinging, brassy number called "Here To Stay."

Check out a great batch of videos of the band performing live at Paste Studios.
The fine folks at The Revue introduced us to Traitrs, a Toronto duo that defines itself as post-punk and would fit right in with bands of that 80s genre. On "The Suffering of Spiders," from their just-released debut album Butcher's Coin, the resemblance to The Cure is uncanny. The dark, moody sound. The plaintive wail of the singer, Sean-Patrick Nolan. Even a lyric about spiders! But this is no tribute band: Nolan and Shawn Tucker are building on their influences to create a sound that Tucker says strives to "give you goosebumps, chills, a feeling inside that can’t be explained."

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Beach House, Arctic Monkeys, Rita Coolidge, Meg Myers, Carvin Jones Band - Lots of variety in our New Music picks

The latest releases causing big buzz in the loosely defined "alternative music" world are from Arctic Monkeys and Beach House. Reviews of both emphasize shifts in the bands' styles - but the critics' reactions are quite different.

Beach House is receiving a lot of praise for innovating its sound, in part by switching producers for its seventh album, simply titled 7. Consequence of Sound calls it a "sprawling adventure ... imbued with a restless energy and excitement." Pitchfork says it's "their heaviest and most immersive-sounding album. It’s darker, thicker, set at a deeper spot in the woods." From Rolling Stone: "This is the least introverted record Beach House have ever made; it'll still blow your mind with candles lit and headphones on, but it's the first time they've sounded like a band you might want to hear at a party with more than one guest." For all that, the immersive soundscape of 7 is quite recognizable as a Beach House album. The singles "Lemon Glow" and "Dive" are already in our mix, and we're now featuring the opening track, "Dark Spring."

By contrast, the Arctic Monkeys' Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is getting a more mixed reception. It's a concept album with an out-there premise: The moon has been colonized - gentrified, even - and we're listening to a lunar lounge singer in a casino bar. Rolling Stone's 2-star review says "It's an adventurous, Bowie-esque conceit ... but the meandering LP can't bear the weight." Spin takes a kinder view, saying "the more you give in to these vibes, the more the vibes give back." Our restless ears don't want to settle in for 40 minutes in the bar, but we're stopping in long enough to hear "Four Out Of Five" - which frontman Alex Turner tells Pitchfork is about the taco shop on the hotel's roof. We can imagine Ziggy Stardust grabbing a snack there with a Starman.

Have we mentioned before that we like to include a wide variety of musical styles in our big mix? We turn next to a new album from Rita Coolidge, whose long career as a folk/country/pop/rock singer and songwriter got its start in the '70s L.A. music scene, backing up the likes of Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Stephen Stills and Dave Mason. Her new release, Safe in the Arms of Time, was produced at L.A.'s Sunset Sound, where she recorded her earliest solo albums. “The idea was making an album that had the same appeal of my early records – to make a roots record about my own roots,” Coolidge says. Some of its tracks are quiet and reflective, but we're featuring an upbeat song of long-lasting love, "Naked All Night."

Another veteran musician with a new release is blues guitarist Carvin Jones, who's been touring and recording since the early 1990s. Based in Phoenix, Jones was once called "the new king of strings" by Buddy Miles and was named on of the 50 greatest blues guitarists by Guitarist Magazine. The latest incarnation of the Carvin Jones Band recorded What A Good Day in Spain last year and is about to launch a tour across Canada, starting in Calgary June 8 and finishing at Montreal's Club Soda June 21. After that it's back to the States and various other points around the globe. We're adding the title track to our New Music bin.

Back in the realm of alternative rock, Meg Myers will release her second full-length album, Take Me To the Disco, in July and has already spun out a single, "Numb." The track veers from brooding to crying out, as the lyric describes how pressure to live up to expectations can cause emotional shut-down. It seems to be the story of a musician dealing with a pushy manager/promotor/record label, but could apply to a child with an overbearing parent, or many other scenarios. "I hate the feeling of this weight upon my shoulders ... You think you want the best for me but ... if you force it, it won't come."

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Latest by Rachael Sage, Crooked Teeth, The Perms, The Wolfe, Erika Wennerstrom join our mix

New York singer-songwriter-producer Rachael Sage grabbed our attention a few years ago when we saw her share a stage with Judy Collins. That makes us relative latecomers, as she's been performing and recording for more than two decades. Sage has just released her 13th album, Myopia, and it's arguably her best collection. It includes a cover of Howard Jones' "No One Is To Blame" (Sage just finished a tour with him). But it's her original songs that make a big impression -- ranging from the upbeat, optimistic "Alive" to an unsettling look into the mind of a misanthrope, "Sympathy Seed." Our pick for the New Music bin is the very catchy "Olivia." Sage tells BlackBook that the song is inspired by a certain "fiercely intelligent, empathetic and heroic character" on television.

From a very different part of the music spectrum comes Crooked Teeth, an electro/dance band from Glasgow by way of London. Their debut single for indie label Lost In The Manor, "Mountain Song," mixes synths, guitars and electronic beats into a swirl of sound that could fill a dance club or provide the soundtrack for a road trip.

Indie-rock trio The Perms released their fourth album, Miracle, a few months back, but it's taken a while for it to reach our ears from their home base in Winnipeg. They specialize in the compact, under-three-minute pop song, and we're picking up a perfect 2:32 example, the bouncy single "Lose Yourself."

From just a bit farther west, in Saskatchewan, comes The Wolfe, a female rock/power-pop trio that's just released its second EP, Strange Words. We're spinning the single, "Tip Of My Tongue." Canadian Beats called it "a nice balance of catchy pop energy with that rock-and-roll edge."

And we've decided we haven't heard enough of Erika Wennerstrom, the Heartless Bastards vocalist who released her solo album, Sweet Unknown, several weeks ago. So we're dipping back into that set for the hypnotic slow-burner "Extraordinary Love." Wennerstrom says the song is about loving oneself first: "If I can't be kind and loving to myself how can I expect anybody else to?"