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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Our latest picks: Hero Fisher, Joy Williams, Bad Suns + more from Mumford & Sons, Van Morrison

We have played a couple of tracks from Hero Fisher's new album Glue Moon on our Sunday free-form show The Detour. Last week we gave a spin to "I Let Love," and decided it would fit just fine in our 24/7 mix - so we've now added it as one of our featured New Music picks. The album is the second release from this British-born, French-raised and now London-based artist, described as "by turns a blistering rock and roller in the vein of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, and an experimental folk storyteller à la Jeff Buckley."

Moving farther in the folk-music direction, we're picking up "Canary," a new song by Joy Williams, formerly of the Americana duo The Civil Wars. It's an advance single from her forthcoming solo album Front Porch. The lyric builds on the idea of a canary in a mine, warning of danger in the air - although in this song, the canary sings out instead of falling silent. Williams said: "This song is the call to sing, and not stay silent any longer. To speak out. To look out for one another, and to speak up for ourselves."
California indie-rockers Bad Suns have two well-received albums to their credit. described them as combining "angsty songwriting" with "hook-heavy indie rock to form the basis of their extremely catchy sound." They're now out with a new single, "Away We Go," with a more optimistic, "tomorrow might be better" theme.
Our other picks for the New Music bin this week are additional tracks from recent releases we've featured before:
  • Van Morrison - "Got To Go Where The Love Is" from The Prophet Speaks
  • Mumford & Sons - "If I Say" from Delta.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

New from Wyland, Mark Knopfler, The Daybreaks, The Story So Far and introducing Dream Reporter

Photo by Kelsey Ayres
New Jersey indie band Wyland recently spent a month in Ireland working with producer Phil Magee on an EP due early next year. The first taste is a just-released single, "Nowhere Now." Frontman Ryan Sloan cites influences including U2, Coldplay, Elbow and Noel Gallagher. He told Ones To Watch that the beginnings of this song came to him in an Austin, Texas, hotel room during SXSW and "the rest of the tune came together back in New Jersey as the band put their spice to it." Keyboardist/backing vocalist Ariella Mastroianni says the Nowhere of the title is a place of escape, "where the laws of the universe just don’t quite apply" and there is "infinite possibility." The band is about to start a tour of Canada and the Eastern U.S. with Toronto-based indie band Valley.

On Birch Street Radio, we specialize in mixing indie artists with established acts. So we turn next to Mark Knopfler, the guitar master who rose to fame with Dire Straits and now works independently. From his ninth solo album, Down The Road Wherever, we previously featured the single "Good On You Son." We now have the full collection, which AllMusic aptly calls "A classic Knopfler grab-bag of elegant fretwork, crafty melodies, and dryly delivered storytelling." Our latest pick for the New Music bin is one of the perkier numbers, "Nobody Does That."

Also from the U.K., we have the debut of London-based Dream Reporter. We don't know the name, or much else about, the singer-songwriter-producer behind this indie-rock/dream-pop project. But the debut EP is quite promising. It includes an Elliot Smith cover along with a few original songs, including our featured pick, title track "White Horse." It combines quirky beats with lush synths and a powerful vocal. In the lyric, the singer spurns someone's attempt to "rescue" her: "You're no white horse / no escape ladder."

The Daybreaks are a Nashville-based group that sometimes describe their music as "retro synth pop." (Synth pop can already be retro?) They've just released their second album, The Idea of You, and we're picking up on the title track, a six-minute excursion that starts with quiet synths and dreamy vocals that then float atop waves of urgent electronic, guitar and piano sounds to an arena-rock-style crest.

And now we jump to the West Coast and the pop-punk quintet The Story So Far. Proper Dose is the fourth studio album by the California outfit, and its first release in more than three years. Our music mix doesn't include much in the punk direction, but The Story goes in some different directions on this release, blending in acoustic and electronic elements. We're picking up "Take Me As You Please," which features chiming guitars and a laid-back attitude: "She says that I'm crazy / but I don't let it faze me."

Saturday, November 10, 2018

David Crosby's here, plus new music by Joy Ike, The Wind + The Wave, The Revivalists, Lydia Luce

Photo by Anna Webber
David Crosby's new album Here If You Listen is billed as "a collaborative album with Becca Stevens, Michael League and Michelle Willis," who also backed up his 2016 album, Lighthouse. The Guardian writes that the music "retains [Crosby's] trademark unusual tunings and dreamy harmonies but is a thoroughly band effort," and that working with young musicians "seems to have turbo-charged Crosby’s muse." Our pick for the New Music bin is "Vagrants of Venice." It paints a post-apocalyptic picture of a once-great city submerged by rising seas and sparsely populated by "wild people / nearly feral / living on what they can find." There's a strong thematic echo of the classic "Wooden Ships," which Crosby co-wrote with Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner in 1968. Fifty years later, global warming has taken its place alongside nuclear war as a nightmare of civilization's suicide.

With so much new good music emerging every week, we're bound to miss some gems, and we're always glad when someone calls our attention to one that we overlooked. And so, six months or so after its release, we're catching up with Joy Ike's luminous album, Bigger Than Your Box. The Nigerian-American singer, songwriter and pianist describes it as a collection of songs "about dreaming beyond what you can actually see." Our featured track is "Ever Stay," an uplifting song driven by shifting rhythms. Ike says the song "is for the person who needs to be reminded that they are not alone."

We're only about six weeks behind in catching up with Lydia Luce's debut full-length album. Luce grew up in Florida in a musical family, played in her mother's orchestra as a teenager, studied at Berklee College of Music and earned a master's degree in viola performance at UCLA. She then moved to Nashville, where she recorded Azalea, combining her classical training with Americana and folk influences. We're featuring the moody, intriguing title track.

We've previously featured tracks by The Wind + The Wave, the Austin-based duo of Patricia Lynn and Dwight Baker. They've now released their third full-length album, Human Beings Let You Down -- recorded in hotels and backstage dressing rooms as they toured the USA behind their previous album, Happiness Is Not A Place. Baker does double-duty as producer, Lynn is the primary singer-songwriter, and they're joined on the record by their touring band. Now they're back on the road again. Our featured track, "Lay Me Down," evokes the excitement - and weariness - of the touring life: "I'm all fired up / and when I'm all dried up / I'm gonna lay me down."

Photo by Zackery Michael
From Austin we slide over to New Orleans and pick up a track from the latest album by The Revivalists, Take Good Care. It includes the single, "All My Friends," which has been out for a few months, and the just-released LP is packed with another 13 songs. The Associated Press suggests that's several songs too many, saying it starts off featuring "the band’s exciting mix of jazz-funk grooves, blues rock and warm melodies," but gets generic and boring toward the end. We'd put "You And I" in the first category, and that's our pick for the New Music bin.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Van Morrison plays on, plus new music by Cake, Cat Dail, Maggie Rogers, The West Coast Feed

How's this for a track record? 45 albums in 51 years. That's the creative output of Van Morrison - so far - and that doesn't count compilation albums or his work in the group Them in the mid-60s. Barely a year after the release of Roll With The Punches, his latest effort, The Prophet Speaks, is due in early December. It will include eight covers of the likes of John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke and Solomon Burke, plus six new Morrison compositions. The title track is peak Van, blending jazz sax and Latin rhythms with smooth, sophisticated blues and that distinctive voice.
Cat Dail has been playing New York clubs and touring since the 1990s, but we're just catching up with this indie singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist by way of her new album, Fight For Love. Each track on this collection has a style of its own, with strands of folk, rock, funk, blues, jazz singing etc., all pulled together behind a distinctive and captivating voice. It was tough to pick one for our New Music bin, but we settled on the slinky "Catch Fire." Others will pop up in our big mix.
Maggie Rogers recorded two albums on her own while in high school in Maryland and college at New York University, before breaking out in 2016 with the hit single "Alaska." Her major label debut, Heard It In A Past Life, is due in January from Capitol Records, but singles keep spinning out ahead of it. "Alaska" and "Fallingwater" are already in our mix, and we're now picking up the latest, "Light On."

We're tapping once more into The West Coast Feed now that its debut album has been released. We previously featured the raucous singles "You Belong To Me" and "Set Me On Fire." The band takes a lighter approach on our latest selection, "Sky Pines," while still bringing its big horn-filled sound and adding a touch of violin.

Cake has just released its first original song in seven years, called "Sinking Ship." Band member Vince DiFiore describes it as “a sobering meditation on the current human habitation of the planet.” It could also be heard as commentary on the current political situation in the U.S. and around the world. The lyric mocks complacency - "You said give this a little more time / and everything is going to be fine" - and warns that "Everything we were just trying to save / is now vanishing under the waves."
And on that note, let us remind all our listeners and friends in the USA: Do your part and VOTE this Tuesday as though your life and the world depended on it. Because they do.