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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Latest picks: Dean Maywood, The Decemberists, Switchfoot, Valley and Sunflower Bean

Irish singer-songwriter Dean Maywood brought his new single, "Jane," to our Sunday show The Birch Street Bistro last week, and it captivated it us with its combination of romance and melancholy. Maywood, who plans to release his debut EP this spring, writes "narratives of the everyman, stories we all know." Citing artists like Neil Young and John Prine as his heroes, Maywood describes himself as a "country / Americana" artist -- which, considering that American folk music has Celtic roots, is a case of cultural influences turning full-circle.

There's hardly a band or singer who doesn't have a song about life on the road, but The Decemberists give the theme a twist in "Traveling On," from a new EP of the same name. As Rolling Stone aptly puts it, lead singer Colin Meloy "seems to be imagining a weary indie-rock band’s tour schedule in fantastical, historically haywire terms," with references to lifeboats, holy rollers and "the new dauphin in Duluth." The sound is cheerful folk-rock but the refrain suggests the feeling of being caught in a loop: "We're traveling on / Sold for a song / We're traveling on / And it won't be long / 'Til we're traveling on."

"Native Tongue," the title track of a new album by San Diego alt-rockers Switchfoot, combines the spiritual uplift of a U2 song with the insistent, pounding sound of Imagine Dragons. "Love's your language, love's your native tongue," songwriter and vocalist Jon Foreman preaches to a beat that will rock arenas, before the song shifts into a quieter mode for a coda in which he unironically declares that he "wants the world to sing" with love.

We're dipping back into the new EP by Toronto alt-pop band Valley, Maybe: Side A, to pull out "There's Still A Light In The House." It's a breezy keyboards-and-drums-driven number whose stream-of-consciousness lyrics suggests the giddy uncertainty of a new relationship. "Cause you found me there / With your new cut hair / Is it New York? Or Heaven? / I can't think twice now."

Sunflower Bean lays down "a dare, a threat and a beckoning" in "Come For Me" from the New York band's new EP, King of the Dudes. “This song was inspired by inner strength, power and sexual freedom,” the band says in a press release. “In 2018 there is no time to waste and no time for shame. This song is a declaration of that." Frontwoman Julia Cumming channels the likes of Benatar and Jett as she shout/sings, "Do you really want to come for me? Do you really want to waste my time? If you do then do it right."

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