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Saturday, June 29, 2019

New releases from Tara MacLean, Wyland, Phantogram, NKOS, The Hold Steady join our mix

Tara MacLean's fifth studio album, Deeper, in a sense is her most independent work. After three albums on Nettwerk Records, most recently 2008's Wake, she put together a collection of covers of songs by other Prince Edward Island artists as an album and show called Atlantic Blue. This time out, she returned to writing her own songs, co-produced them with P.E.I. singer-songwriter Dennis Ellsworth, and released the album independently. "It feels really good," she told EntertainmentFocus, "just to be the person at the helm." The result has garnered glowing reviews, with The Guardian of Charlottetown calling it "superb ... powerful, emotionally charged." Our pick for the New Music bin is perhaps the most pop-leaning track, "Ghosting Me," and you'll be hearing much more from the album in our mix and especially on our Sunday show The Birch Street Bistro.

Our listeners are familiar with New Jersey indie-rock band Wyland. Their recent singles "Nowhere Now" and "Dark Days" spent time in our New Music bin over the past several months, and now we're spinning their latest, "Lost." Despite the title, it's ultimately a declaration of devotion: "Even if I get lost ... I'll find a way back to you." The singles are leading up to a soon-to-be-released album that the band recorded in Ireland last year.

"Into Happiness" is the new release from Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, a.k.a. Phantogram. It's the second single to emerge from the electro-pop duo since the 2016 LP Three. Rolling Stone says the shuffling drums and mix of synths "teeter towards dark wave but are ultimately buoyed by a particularly bright riff" and Barthel's encouraging vocal: "Fall into happiness / Wish you could be here / No more loneliness / You'd make it perfect."

Four musicians from different parts of the globe started working together separately (that is, in separate studios and over the internet), and eventually turned into a "real" band. Now that band, NKOS, is out with its debut single, a piece of edgy electronica called "Little Miss Numb." NKOS is singer/songwriter Nancy Natali, who was born in Australia but grew up in Geneva and Rome; producer Flavio Manieri from Poland and Italy; Italian DJ and producer Chris Shape and guitarist Marcus Billeri of Paris.

And because we always like to jump among genres, we turn from synthy techno to the guitar-and-drums rock and rambling storytelling of The Hold Steady. In the five years since their last album, the band has released the occasional single while Craig Finn also worked on solo projects. Now they're preparing to release Thrashing Through the Passion, an LP including new songs along with tracks previously released on Bandcamp. They're previewing it with "Denver Haircut," a somewhat seedy slice-of-life tale with the refrain, "It doesn't have to be perfect / Just sort of has to be worth it."

Saturday, June 22, 2019

New from The Bird & The Bee, The Regrettes, Winona Forever, Finnian and Monica Moser

Photo: Alexa Nicole Curran
An unusual cover, a taste of LA garage-punk, a laid-back groove and the latest from two singer-songwriters make up this week's New Music picks.

Back in 2010, The Bird And The Bee issued an album of Hall & Oates covers, which lent themselves easily to reinterpretation by the indie-pop duo. Now Inara George and Greg Kurstin have given the cover treatment to a radically different band - Van Halen. LoudWire writes: "While it may seem like a bit of a reach for the somewhat ethereal pair, keep in mind that Kurstin has worked frequently in the rock world as a producer, most famously lending his talents to Foo Fighters' 2017 album Concrete and Gold." B&B's Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen is due in August, and we're featuring the single "Ain't Talking 'Bout Love."

Photo: Claire Marie Vogel
The Regrettes were formed in 2015 by four teenagers: singer-songwriter Lydia Night, guitarist Genessa Gariano, bassist Sage Nicole and drummer Maxx Morando. Night's original songs helped the young band get signed by Warner Music and bring out an album in 2017. They've released several singles since, and just came to our attention with "I Dare You" from their upcoming sophomore album How Do You Love? Paste calls the track "catchy and guitar-driven ... an infectious tune to which you can’t help but dance along."

The sound of Montreal quartet Winona Forever has been described as "woozy art-pop," "smooth indie-jazz-yacht-rock," and even "groovy." We're always interested in emerging bands that come up with a unique blend of styles (even if those styles date to the 1970s), and that's what we hear on "Gazing," from the band's new album, Feelgood.

Influences of 1970s soft-rock also can be heard in the debut album from Finnian, a singer-songwriter from Dundalk, Ireland. After years of touring as folk-singer-with-guitar, he put together a band of accomplished musicians to record Under the Influence, to be released later this summer. We recently slipped one track, "Even Flow" (a duet with Stephanie Winters) into our mix, and now we're putting "Where We Go" into the New Music bin. It's described as a song "about dreaming big and how people shouldn’t be afraid to make that leap of faith."

The latest single from Nashville singer-songwriter Monica Moser starts as a gentle piano-and-vocal ballad and builds with percussion and electronic keyboards into a very contemporary pop-rock anthem. "Shortcut" describes a relationship that has advanced too quickly, skipping important steps. Moser says the title refers to "someone getting to know the intimate parts of you that didn't deserve to."

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Presenting new tracks by Springsteen, Jenn Grant, Seratones, Boy & Bear and Big Thief

Bruce Springsteen's new album, Western Stars, has received a lot of positive reviews (although we saw one critic call it tedious). It's a stylistic departure from Bruce's typical Jersey Rock sound, filled largely with "mid-tempo songs lush with the type of string-and-horn arrangements that once kept session players busy in recording studios up and down Sunset Boulevard," as the Los Angeles Times put it. We think the Toronto Sun describes it best, as having "the rich, warm sound of songs like 'By The Time I Get to Phoenix,' 'Wichita Lineman' and 'Everybody’s Talkin' - but populated by Springsteen’s latest cast of misfits, wanderers, blue-collar heroes and broken men." Fifty-some minutes of Mellow Bruce can get a bit tiresome, but the individual songs are mostly well-crafted. We've been spinning the lead single, "Hello Sunshine," and we're now featuring album track "Tucson Train" in our New Music Bin.

We've also been playing the first single ("Raven") from Jenn Grant's new album, and now that the rest of Love, Inevitable has been released, we're adding the beautiful second track, "Our Love." The Halifax singer-songwriter went west to Portland, Ore., and worked with a new producer on this, her seventh album. “It came from this strange time in my life where I was sort of taking a leap of faith in several ways,” Grant says. You'll be hearing other songs from the album in our big mix and on The Birch Street Bistro.

As always, our New Music picks of the week feature a wide variety of sounds. We turn now to the Southern soul-rock of Seratones, who have just released the title track of their upcoming second album, Power. The Shreveport, Louisiana-based five-piece band creates a hard-driving groove backing A.J. Haynes commanding vocal: "We take two steps forward / They take one step backward / We take each step 'cause we've got the power."

Rounding out this week's picks:

Boy & Bear: "Hold Your Nerve" - The upbeat track is the first release from the Australian band since 2015's Limit of Love. After a hiatus due to frontman Dave Hosking's illness, the group traveled to Nashville to work on its fourth album, due later this year.

Big Thief: "UFOF" - Pitchfork calls the Brooklyn quartet's third album "undoubtedly" their best, "a mesmerizing flood of life filtered down into a concentrated drip." We're spinning the dreamy title track, in which songwriter/vocalist Adrianne Lenker bids farewell to her "UFO friend."

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Just added to our mix: Screens 4 Eyes, Valley, Sheryl Crow, Shayla McDaniel, Liam Gallagher

We're glad to present brand-new music from Screens 4 Eyes, an indie electronic-rock-dream-pop group from Tel Aviv, Israel. "Feelings Are For Girls" is their first single since the 2017 album Behind These Doors, which has been in our mix since its release. The band's lineup has changed, other than vocalist-keyboardist Yael Brener. On this track, her misty voice echoes through an electronic soundscape that creates a sense of being drawn into a mystery. The Screens are working on an EP that we hear will have more of a rock-band sound, with guitars, bass and drums joining in.

Photo: Becca Hamel
Toronto indie-pop band Valley has released the second installment of a series of EPs collectively called Maybe. From the new set, called Maybe: Side B, we previously featured "Park Bench" and now we're picking up the opening track, "A Phone Call in Amsterdam." With its musical mix of acoustic and electronic sounds, band members have called it "the quintessential Valley song." Guitarist-vocalist Mike Brandolino says "It’s lyrically open-ended, so you adapt it to your own story and whatever’s going on in your life while you listen.”

As always, we embrace a wide range of music in our big mix - so from electro-pop we jump to earthy Americana music. Sheryl Crow has just released a single with her "two favorite women in all of rock n' roll," Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples. The trio harmonize and trade solos singing about a "lover stubborn as a weed" on this country-rock track, "Live Wire." Crow's upcoming LP, Threads, featuring a series of  all-star collaborations, is due in late August.

New to our mix is Shayla McDaniel, a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has made a splash in her home area of Knoxville, Tennessee, and is starting to gain wider attention. Her new single, "Tension," is smooth and soulful with a touch of jazz. McDaniel's will be releasing a collection called Both of My Hands next month.

Rounding out our weekly picks is a dose of gritty rock from Liam Gallagher. The second solo album from the former Oasis singer, to be called Why Me? Why Not? is in the works, and he's just released the first taste, called "Shockwave."

Saturday, June 1, 2019

New tracks from Secret Treehouse, Scott Krokoff, Sacred Paws, Olden Yolk, The Black Keys

The latest single from Norway's Secret Treehouse expresses what many people around the world are feeling these days: that everything is in the "Wrong Hands." Vocalist Anja Bere sings softly of "smoke and hate in the air" to a jangly pop melody that builds into a stadium-worthy anthem. Based in Bergen, Norway, this self-described "pop orchestra" has quickly become one of our favorites.

New York singer-songwriter Scott Krokoff has been a favorite of ours for some time, with his well-crafted songs and often self-effacing lyrics. His latest single, "Something I'd Like To Know," is a breezy pop tune that describes "the life of an introvert" who envies others' self-assurance. "How does it feel when everybody loves you? How does it feel to say the things you want to?"

The second album from Sacred Paws, Run Around the Sun, is our introduction to the Scottish duo of Rachel Aggs and Eilidh Rodgers. Aggs' guitars, Rodgers' drums and the duo's intertwined voices create what AllMusic calls "a joyous indie-pop listening experience." Our featured track is "The Conversation," in which their sometimes alternating, sometimes joined voices suggest a discussion that veers between argument and agreement.

Singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Shane Butler (of Quilt) and Caity Shaffer create folky, poetic art rock as Olden YolkThey've just released their second album, "Living Theatre," and we're featuring "Grand Palais," which AllMusic says "approximates the eerie, infectious folk-rock of the late '60s, complex ethereal harmonies, jammy guitar solo, shaker, drum fills, and all."

Much more down-to-earth is the guitar-and-drums rock-and-roll of The Black Keys, who land in our New Music Bin once again with "Go," the latest single from their upcoming Let's Rock LP. 

In addition to the tracks featured in our New Music Bin, we're constantly adding music - both new and old - to our big playlist. And we expand our musical scope even further on two Sunday programs: 
  • The Birch Street Bistro, which showcases singer-songwriters.
  • The Detour, where we veer off the beaten path to discover new indie music and dig up old deep tracks. 
Follow the links above for more info on those shows, and find past episodes archived on our Mixcloud site