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Saturday, October 13, 2018

New sounds from Mirah, Elephant Trees, The Good Water, SYML, Ryan & The Lightning Stones

We're going all-indie with this week's new music picks. A few of them were featured recently on The Detour, our Sunday show where we stretch the format to try out new and unusual sounds. (More info here.)

The Detour has already spun a few tracks from the new album by Mirah, Understanding, and now we're adding one to the New Music bin. By the title, you might expect "Hot Hot" to be a dance-pop number, but it's actually an organ-backed meditation on what really matters in life. "You know beauty comes with age / You can't help but keep on / Getting more hot hot / With every brave thought." This is the sixth full-length solo release from Mirah, who has been blending pop, jazz and other styles in bands and on her own since the late 1990s. AllMusic says that with songs on political as well as personal topics, "Understanding is music for not just surviving, but thriving, when things get difficult."

Almost a year ago we introduced Elephant Trees with a bouncy pop-rock tune called "Open Up." On their latest single, the Birmingham, England, group sound less bouncy than jittery, and suitably so for a track called "Uncomfortable." “It’s confused and messy in parts, and that’s intentional, it represents my brain,” says frontwoman Martha Philips. "People our age have our phones stuck in our hands and are lost in these worlds of false stories and opinions, screaming at us about who we are meant to be ... ‘Uncomfortable’ is all about expressing that feeling and rising up to not feel so powerless anymore.”

Another emerging UK band that just came to our attention is a throwback to the early psychedelic rock bands of the 1960s. The Good Water evokes the sound of bands like the Zombies, Animals and Strawberry Alarm Clock on their new single, "Tell Me What To Do." The trio's frontman, Rob Clements, says “the upbeat bounce of the track is synonymous with a Northern Soul style groove -- a genre that is steeped in teenage angst, with talcum powder and tears on the dance floor.”

Seattle musician and producer Brian Fennell, who records as SYML, is out with an energetic new single, "Clean Eyes." He describes it as "the first song that was written with more of a 'band' approach," as opposed to solo-singer-songwriter style. He says he wrote the lyric "as an outlet to express my least favorite thing about myself, that I’m a cynic," and in appreciation of his wife, "who sees the world beautifully through clean eyes." (By the way, "syml" apparently is a Welsh word meaning "simple."

A Place to Start is the appropriately titled debut EP from Ryan & The Lightning Stones. It's the project of Montreal singer-songwriter Ryan Biron, who grew up listening to the likes of Green Day, Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. Later, he says, he became interested in "the artists that my own idols loved and named as inspiration," including Johnny Cash, Leadbelly, Tom Waits and Woody Guthrie. With this stripped-down release he places himself in the realm of modern folk/Americana with the likes of The Lumineers. Our pick for the New Music bin is "Distance."


Saturday, October 6, 2018

New Bohemians are back, plus James Maddock, West Coast Feed, Grip Weeds, Blue Stones

Welcome back Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, who are about to release Rocket, their first album in a dozen years. Billboard magazine says it's "the unintended product of a 2017 New Bohemians reunion for a benefit concert" for a Dallas arts school. During rehearsals, new songs began to take shape, and the quintet decided to make a record. "Both Brickell and  (Bohemians guitarist Kenny) Withrow view the album as the start of a new period of activity for their band." Our pick for the New Music bin is "Tell Me."

James Maddock has just released his sixth solo album, with the oddball title If It Ain't Fixed, Don't Break It. UK-born Maddock fronted the band Wood before moving to New York and reestablishing himself as an indie singer-songwriter. The self-described "rock and roll lifer" evokes that old time R&R of the 60s on this collection, notably on our featured track, "Discover Me."
Another single has spun out from the upcoming debut album by Seattle's The West Coast Feed. We previously featured "You Belong To Me," and now we're adding "Set Me On Fire" to our big playlist. The eight-piece band draws on "the collective legacies of Memphis, Muscle Shoals and New Orleans" and, says guitarist Matt Woll, "we’re having a blast making music we love."

The love of making music has kept The Grip Weeds going for more than two decades. The New Jersey quartet makes jangly rock and power pop influenced by The Beatles, Buffalo Springfield and fellow Jerseyans The Smithereens. While we're just catching up with them, they've been frequently featured on Little Steven Van Zandt's Underground Garage radio show. From their forthcoming album, Trip Around the Sun, we're spinning the single "After the Sunrise."

For a dose of heavier rock, we turn to Ontario's Blue Stones, whose debut full-length album Black Holes is coming out later this month. Guitarist Tarek Jafar and percussionist Justin Tessier have known each other since growing up in Windsor, and started their music project while at university together. We're picking up the title track. As they described it to Canadian Beats: "It’s got a little bit of everything we’re about — melodic soft spots, heavyweight distortion, a little bit of trippiness and a lot of groove."