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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Extra dose of new music - Edgar Road, Castlecomer, Vanishing Shores, Tyler Boone, Rubblebucket, Parquet Courts and more!

Our new-music-picking team is going on vacation for the next two weeks. So we've decided to double up on our selections - adding 10 new tracks to the New Music bin instead of our usual five per week. And once again, it's a mix of many different styles, mostly from indie and emerging artists, who keep making today's most-interesting music.

One of our favorite discoveries of last year was Edgar Road, a band from northeastern Scotland. We picked up several tracks from their first two EPs, and now they've released a new single, "Say It Another Way," a breezy tune with duet vocals by Mark Conti and Magdalena Wellenger.

We've more recently picked up music from Lewisburg, a "dark country" band from the little country town of... North London. After featuring "Clear The Air," we're now reaching back a few months to spin an earlier single, a brooding rumination on a "Slow Morning."

Brooks Williams
Based in Cambridge, England, but originally from Statesboro, Georgia in the U.S.A. is "Euro/Americana" guitarist-singer Brooks Williams. He's been playing for years on both sides of the Atlantic, and his latest album, Lucky Star, is his 28th solo recording. We've added "Going To New Orleans" to our New Music bin.

If John Hiatt fits in any musical category, "Americana" might be it. His long musical career has encompassed folk, rock and country genres, always stamped with his own idiosyncratic style. His latest album, Eclipse Sessions, is due in October. The first single to spin out, "Cry To Me," has a relaxed, rootsy, sittin'-and-pickin' sound and a gently sardonic lyric: "I'm probably gonna let you down but / I swear I won't keep you down."

Now we jump across the Pacific to Australia - and turn sharply from laid-back acoustic music to electric power- pop. Castlecomer is a band from Sydney that's preparing to release its debut album. We've got the title track, "All Of The Noise," and while it's certainly a loud, energetic number, it's more melodic than noisy. (Photo credit: Anna Webber)

Next we bop over to New Zealand to check out The Beths, an alternative rock/pop outfit whose debut album carries the self-deprecating title Future Me Hates Me. AllMusic.com tells us the band, founded by jazz majors at the University of Auckland, "built their reputation in the clubs of Australia and their native New Zealand for an impulsive, infectious indie rock." Our featured track is "Great No One."

Spinning the globe again, we land in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and of a new indie band called Vanishing Shores. Lead singer and songwriter Kevin Bianchi cites Neil Finn, Elvis Costello and The Tragically Hip among his influences. He says his songs speak to "the need to reach out and connect with those around us." From the band's self-titled debut EP, we're featuring "Always" and we'll likely add more tracks to our big mix.

It's been about a year since we've had new music from Tyler Boone, but the singer/songwriter/guitarist from Charleston, South Carolina - now based in Nashville - has a new EP coming out this fall, called Jealousy. He's spun out two singles so far, and we're adding "Let It Go," a mid-tempo rocker about a relationship that's run its course.

The latest from Brooklyn-based Rubblebucket is also about the end of a relationship - in particular, the romantic partnership of the band's founding members, Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver. Despite their "uncoupling," they remain committed to making music together. Toth says "Annihilation Song" is an anthem for their "perseverance in following through with our creative and friendship partnership." Kalmia sings: "This is annihilation / it could be a liberation / I’m down for the count but I’ll be gettin' up soon enough.” The new LP, Sun Machine, comes out Aug. 24.

We're rounding out this Pick-10 of new music on a boisterous note with "Wide Awake," the title track from the latest release by another Brooklyn outfit, Parquet Courts. The album is full of punk anger and lyrics touching on serious current topics - but this track is just a fun, loud piece of party music, with a chanted refrain, whistles and shouts over a funky bass line and even some steel drums.

By the way, several of these tracks were previously played on The Detour, our weekly show where we try out new recordings and mix in tracks that don't quite fit our usual big mix. The Detour is also taking a late-summer break, but will return on Sunday, Sept. 9.

Join us at the beach - or wherever you go

We're going into vacation mode for the next two weeks. So a couple of our regular features - the Saturday block of New Music picks-of-the-week, and our Sunday show The Detour - will be on hiatus until the weekend of September 8-9.

But the marvelous mix of music on Birch Street Radio will keep playing! And here's a reminder that you can listen to our internet stream anywhere you go. Besides the players on this page, you can find us on TuneIn and many other streaming sites and apps.

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."