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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Crack The Sky, Johnny Marr, The Jayhawks & introducing Caribou Run, Cosmic Strip

Another week, another very diverse selection of sounds in our New Music bin!

One of the greatest rock bands that too few people know is Crack The Sky, which won critical acclaim with its 1975 debut album - and then fell victim to a series of record company and marketing failures that limited its reach. Over the decades since, through ups and downs and personnel comings and goings, this thoughtful and inventive prog-rock band has released a couple dozen albums and maintained a devoted following, particularly in the Pittsburgh and Baltimore areas. Now, via a PledgeMusic campaign and indie label Loud & Proud Records, Crack the Sky is about to release an album of a new music called Living In Reverse, along with Crackology, a collection of re-recordings of songs from its back catalog. This week we're featuring one of the new tracks, "Talk Talk," which combines rock guitar and drums, frontman John Palumbo's distorted vocals - and Bobby Hird putting down his guitar to play a repeating figure on banjo.

Caribou Run is a six-piece band from Nova Scotia that's been described as "neo-folk" and "alt-country." But they stretch out in many directions on their sophomore album, Old Peninsula. After all, how many folk or country bands feature trombone? Canadian Beats calls the LP "a beautifully blended story of pain, celebration and reflections of past and present. ... Each of the 10 well-crafted songs offers listeners a chance to immerse themselves in these narratives." Drew Moores and Danielle Noble share vocal duties, and it's Noble taking the lead on our featured track, "Roll On."

Another alt-country band, perhaps more typical of that genre, is The Jayhawks. Their latest album, Back Roads and Abandoned Motels, includes tracks that frontman Gary Louris wrote with other artists. We've been spinning "Come Crying To Me," a co-write with Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks. Now we're adding another, "Everybody Knows," a mellow cover of a song originally recorded by the Dixie Chicks in 2006.

Now we jump across genres, and across the Atlantic, and tune into the dream-pop/indie-rock of London's Cosmic Strip. Singer-songwriter Camella Agabaylan and company will soon release their debut EP, Heavenly, and we're adding the title single to our New Music bin. Agabaylan says the song is "dedicated to the addictive feeling of your first love." The Revue calls it "a perfectly constructed slice of dream pop," and we'll add that the propulsive beat, rocking guitars and gradually swelling sound keep it from being the least bit sleepy.

We round out this week's picks with another track from Call the Comet, the latest album from Johnny Marr. He describes "Day In Day Out" as "a celebratory song about an obsessive nature. You can either go under with that stuff or accept it as part of your personality, so this is about celebrating those qualities." As The Times of London wrote, on this track Marr "revives the shimmering guitar jangle he pioneered with the Smiths."

Saturday, August 4, 2018

This week's picks: Jeen, The Sea The Sea, Three Star Revival, Just A Jester, Snow Patrol

Toronto-based Jeen O'Brien has written songs for artists such as Serena Ryder and Great Big Sea, collaborated with Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning in his side project Cookie Duster, and released her own music simply as Jeen. Ahead of her latest album, Gift Shop, she's just released "Any Moment," an energetic alt-rock-pop number featuring the co-producer of her project, veteran Toronto musician Ian Blurton, on guitar. "Lyrically this song, simply put, is about perseverance," Jeen said. "You will never know what might be just around the corner if you give up before you get there.”

The Sea The Sea calls itself an "indie folk-pop duo-band" -- that is, a band formed around the duo of Chuck and Mira Costa. The new album from this upstate New York group, From The Light, expands on their original acoustic sound to include additional vocals, synthesizer and percussion. Drowned In Sound calls it "folk-tinged pop of the highest order." We're featuring "Ricochet," a dynamic track that, as the DiS reviewer says, "skitters around, giving each member of the band the opportunity to truly shine."

We previously featured the sinuous "Move A Little Bit" by Tennessee's Three Star Revival, and now we're dipping back into the recent Fade Away EP for a funky number called "Wait." By all accounts this band puts on a great live show, but so far it has toured mostly in the U.S. Southeast. We're rooting for them to get more widespread notice and hit some bigger stages.

Just A Jester is the project of London singer-songwriter Timothy Daniel Whitaker, who has been part of the UK music scene since the 1980s. Over the years he formed a number of bands with his brother Simon, ranging from prog rock to acoustic outfits. The latest single from his solo project is "Make It Easier." It has a relaxed vibe and vocal style that puts us in mind of late-70s Gerry Rafferty.

We've been playing "Don't Give In" from Snow Patrol's latest album, Wildness, and now we're featuring another track, "Empress." It's an uplifting anthem extolling human connection - "hands just reaching out for hands" - in a troubled world. "Friends and foes and princes / are all just human in the end," Gary Lightbody sings. "This is so damn simple, yeah / It's so damn simple."