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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."

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