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Saturday, October 27, 2018

The latest from Rachael Yamagata, Buxton, Bob Mould plus The High Points and Ghostly Kisses

Rachael Yamagata dropped a surprise EP this month, called Porch Songs. The Woodstock, N.Y.-based singer-songwriter describes its six songs as "stark vault treasures and reflections of a younger self ... songs that showcase a transformation underway but don’t quite let you know what the end result will be." That description certainly fits the track in our new music bin, "Worthless," which seems to describe a moment when a relationship might be transitioning, or might be coming to an end. Either way, she sings, "It isn't worthless / no waste of time."

Buxton is celebrating its 15th year as a band with the release of its fifth album, Stay Out Late. Over the years this Houston-based group has grown from a trio to a quintet and added more keyboard and synth sounds, while retaining its fundamental folk/rock/Americana sound. AllMusic says the latest record finds the group "spinning frontman Sergio Trevino's peculiar missives into dreamy golden-hued pop with soft hints of Texan spirit." Our featured track is a cheerful falling-in-love song called "Jan."

Speaking of cheerful - that might not be the vibe you expect from former Husker Du punk-rocker Bob Mould, but he's taking a deliberate turn to the sunny side on his forthcoming LP, Sunshine Rock. That's also the title of the first single, which dropped last week. "Sunshine Rock was such a bright, optimistic song, and once that came together, I knew that would be the title track, and that really set the tone for the direction of the album,” Mould says. Having described himself in a memoir as a "miserablist," Mould now says he's "trying to keep things brighter these days as a way to stay alive."


Have we mentioned that we debut a lot of indie music on our Sunday show called The Detour? A few weeks ago we gave a spin to "Need Your Love" by The High Points, and now we're adding it to our New Music rotation. This duo from Norwich, U.K., describes its music as "indie-funk with inspirations from 70s disco," although we're hearing good old guitar-bass-drums rock/pop in this jaunty number from their just-released debut EP, Instant Love.

As usual we go in many musical directions with our weekly New Music picks. So from bouncy, funky rock we turn to the ethereal sound of Ghostly Kisses, the project of Quebec-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Margaux SauvĂ©. Her debut EP What You See, was released last year and now she's followed up with a new single, "The City Holds My Heart." We discovered it thanks to The Revue, which calls it a "breathtakingly gorgeous song ... stunningly cinematic." Ghostly Kisses has shows coming up in Montreal and Toronto in early November.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Timely music by Gracie & Rachel, plus Florence & The Machine, Leon Bridges, Death Cab and Muse


Brooklyn chamber-pop duo Gracie & Rachel have been part of our mix since we caught a live show in early 2016, about a year before before they released their self-titled debut album. They recently produced a single and a video, called simply "Her," inspired by current events and celebrating women who take courageous stands. "Call out loud / Hear how it sounds / Stand up tall / Feel the weight of it all." We debuted the track on The Detour a couple of weeks ago, and now we're adding it to the New Music bin. It's available on Bandcamp, with all proceeds going to the anti-sexual-violence organization RAINN. And we encourage you to watch the powerful video.

The rest of our New Music picks this week are the latest singles to spin out of recent albums from major-label artists that need no introduction:

"Patricia," a tribute to Patti Smith
If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)
Northern Lights
Pressure

We're constantly expanding our big music mix. Along with our our featured New Music picks each week, we're always adding to our library of tracks from the 60s to today.

How do we decide what to include in our playlist? We use a very sophisticated screening process: If we hear it, and we like it, we play it.

And we invite your suggestions! Comment on this page or email us at birchstreetradio@gmail.com

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."