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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Debuts by Soda Blonde, Golden Dimes, plus new Super Doppler, Merlot Embargo, Sail By Summer

It's all indie bands in our New Music bin this week, including two debuts and the latest from some groups we've featured before.

From Dublin, we bring you the first release by Soda Blonde, which consists of four of the five members of the recently-disbanded Little Green Cars: Faye O’Rourke, Adam O’Regan, Donagh Seaver O’Leary and Dylan Lynch. "Swimming Through The Night" features O'Rourke's powerful vocal, which evokes comparisons to Annie Lennox and Florence Welch. The band says this track, to be officially released June 7, is one of a "collection of songs written by O’Rourke throughout her early 20s, where she honed in on her unique lyrical style of gritty kitchen-sink realism."

Also making its debut is Golden Dimes, a band formed by New Jersey neighbors who describe themselves as "five suburban dads, all lifetime musicians brought together by fate and a mutual love of great food and drink, an irreverent sense of humor, and positive vibes." They recently released an EP, Uncommon Cents, blending keys, guitars and organic drum sounds with vocal harmony. Our featured pick, "Paper Skin," carries an earnest message for dads and other adults interacting with children: "Never tell them they're not good enough / Don't make them feel that they can't ever win."

The three bands making return appearances in our New Music bin include Super Doppler. This group from Norfolk, Virginia, blends late-Beatles-psychedelic sounds with strains of roots rock and country. Their latest single, "Going Nowhere," might be our favorite yet. Blends well with: Real Estate.

Merlot Embargo is an indie-pop band from Los Angeles fronted by singer-songwriter and guitarist-producer couple Scarlet and Geoff. They caught our attention with their first album in 2016, and have issued several singles since. The latest, "Don't Cry," is an I'll-be-fine-without-you breakup song: "Don't cry for me / when you're the one who wants to leave / baby you don't get to grieve."

We've been playing Sail By Summer's "Casual Drive" for a couple of months, and now we're picking up "Fetch You Roses." It's the latest single to spin out from the upcoming debut album by the "melancholic indie" duo of Norwegian singer-songwriter William Hut and Danish keyboardist Jens Kristian. Casual Heaven is due in August.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

New sounds from Lizzie No, Southern Avenue, The Heavy, The National & introducing Low Life Lolas

Our regular listeners are familiar with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lizzie No. Her music has been part of our mix since the release of her 2017 debut LP, Hard Won. Her second collection, Vanity, is due in August, and she's just released a single, "Narcissus." On this track, No moves a bit beyond the folk/country sounds of her first record, adding a fuller, somewhat rock-ier sound behind very personal, self-reflecting lyrics. "I see myself / As a great pretender / in grown-ups clothing / Up on tiptoe by the water's edge," she sings, then turns to lessons learned in love: “I believed some things were meant to happen / Now I’m not so sure / 'Cause I keep on breaking my own heart." Rolling Stone named this a Song You Need To Know, writing that "it’s ultimately [No's] uncanny knack for songwriterly perspective that grounds the song."

We weren't familiar with Memphis-based soul-rock band Southern Avenue until we heard a track from their just-released second album, Keep On. From Relix.com we learn that this group came together through a collaboration among "Israeli psych-blues guitarist Ori Naftaly, gospel singer Tierinii Jackson and drummer Tikyra Jackson (Tierinii’s sister)." However that happened, the result is "fiery, guitar-led soul rock, with punchy horns, hard-shuffling beats." Our featured track, Whiskey Love," is about a woman breaking out of a cycle of abuse. Tierinii Jackson describes it as "a song of hope and strength for all those out there struggling.”

Southern soul, rock and funk also come together in the unlikely surroundings of Bath, England, through the music of The Heavy. This band has been keeping on for a dozen years or so and just released it's fifth album, Sons. All Music describes the sound very well: "Featuring the swaggering, throaty vocals of Kelvin Swaby, the Heavy are akin to '70s British trad-rock bands like Faces or Humble Pie, but only if they'd been fronted by James Brown." We're featuring the single "Better As One," which drives home a message of unity: "I know that we can do better / I know we're better as one / I know we can do better / Without evil on our tongue."

Jumping from one style of music to another, as we always do, we return to the Toronto indie-music scene and pick up a track from the debut album by Low Life Lolas. This quartet, formed a year or so ago, features songwriter and lead vocalist Reneé Parr along with drummer Melissa Chiasson, guitarist Alex MacLeod and bassist Jose Guillen. Parr began writing in her hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and developed a style described as "a blend of delicate folk, dissonance, and sophisticated lyrics." The band backs it with a big, solid indie-rock sound. Our pick for the New Music bin is "Darling I Won't Ask."

Veering off in yet another direction: We've heard bits and pieces of The National's eighth album, I Am Easy to Find, and now the full hour-plus record has been released. Much has been written about the album, the accompanying short film, and the choice by Matt Berninger to collaborate with several female artists. We're now featuring the title track, a quiet ballad on which Matt is joined by British musician Kate Stables (a.k.a. This Is The Kit). We always find Berninger's lyrics annoyingly cryptic, but in this gentle duet, they go down smoothly.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The latest from Hemming, Kasador, Valley, Foals and Of Monsters and Men join our big mix

It's been a little while since we've heard new music from Hemming, a singer-songwriter who's part of a vibrant indie-rock scene in Philadelphia. After a debut album in 2015 and some singles and side projects since, she's just released a four-song EP, Waiting/Wasting. Hemming, a.k.a. Candice Martello, describes her music simply as "songs about feelings," and they often explore the darker places of the heart. On our featured track, "Nest To Me," a syncopated percussion figure is gradually joined by instrumental layers as the lyric turns to a chant of longing for someone to be next to/nesting with "what's left of me."

There's an anxious undercurrent as well to "Brood & Bloom," the new single by Kasador, an indie-rock quartet based in Kingston, Ontario. It's the title track from an upcoming full-length release, following a 2016 EP and a couple of singles. The band says the album was "written through tough times" and that "the message in this [song] is clear: out of something bad comes something good, if you choose to make it happen."

From Kingston we cruise down the 401 to Toronto to catch the latest from Valley, "Park Bench." It has a sunny and breezy sound, but the disjointed lyric suggests disorientation in the modern age. “It touches on social, generational, and political ideas that we felt were relevant to us at the time,” says Valley's drummer, Karah. The track will be on Maybe: Side B, the second installment of an album the band is releasing in stages; Side A came out about six months ago and we're told they're not stopping at B. 

The new collection from Foals, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1, has been declared by NME to be the band's "best album to date." We previously featured the single "Exits," and now we're picking up "In Degrees," which Atwood Magazine calls "a real high point of the album" with "a disco feel to it thanks to an incredibly funky bass line and thumping lower register ... This is super refreshing to hear, and it works perfectly in this eclectic album."

Moving farther from the folk-pop sound of their 2011 debut, Of Monsters and Men crank up the guitar rock on their latest release, "Alligator," the first single from an upcoming album called Fever Dream. The Icelandic band’s co-vocalist, Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdóttir, takes the lead on this track, with a lyric that never mentions the titular reptile, but speaks of releasing inner feelings: "I am open and I am restless / Let me feel it out, let it all come out."

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Introducing Orwells 84; Lenny Bull's debut; plus new Bleached, Black Keys and Bruce Hornsby

From Dundalk in Ireland, the sound of Orwell's 84 reached our ears recently - and grabbed hold of them with the band's new single, "Cailín." This six-piece outfit came together and refined its sound gradually over the past few years, releasing just a couple of singles along the way. With this new release, they've stirred many flavors of music into a joyous brew that's hard to categorize but fascinating to hear. It's folk-rock with Celtic flavor, neo-psychedelica meets trad, guitar-bass-drums mixed with violin, cello - and a bouzouki solo. We'll be very interested to see and hear where this band's musical journey takes it next.

The former frontwoman of Toronto roots-rock band Torero just released her debut EP as a solo artist. Lenny Bull has assembled a tight four-piece rock'n'roll band for this project and delivers songs she describes as reminders "to be bold, strong and unapologetic." We're hearing a bit of a Pretenders vibe in songs like "Somebody's Girl," our pick for the New Music bin.

The upcoming album from Bleached, the pop-punk duo of sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin, is called Don't You Think You've Had Enough? It's described as their first LP written from the perspective of sobriety, after facing down addiction. The lead single, "Hard to Kill," celebrates that turn-around: "After all the damage that we've done / Turns out I'm very hard to kill."

Now we go off in another direction with the latest from Bruce Hornsby. If you know him mostly for his 80s singles you might be surprised by the avant-garde jazz, progressive and classical sounds that mix together in his new album, Absolute Zero. We're featuring "Voyager One," inspired by the NASA probe that's now some 13.5 billion miles away. NPR calls this number "pleasantly frantic, propelled by a tight funk-fusion groove and Hornsby's playfully spry vamping on the piano."

We round out the New Music bin this week with the latest piece of blues-rock from The Black Keys. "Eagle Birds" is the second single, following Lo-Hi, to spin out ahead of the band's ninth LP, Let's Rock. The two songs, and the album title, make it pretty clear that - after the Danger Mouse-produced Turn Blue and a five-year gap filled with side projects - Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are back to playing straightforward guitar rock.