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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Enjoy your holiday weekend! (We are!)

We wish all our listeners in Canada and the USA a great Labour Day/Labor Day weekend!

We're in holiday-weekend mode ourselves. So our next batch of New Music Picks will debut next Saturday, Sept. 7. And the next episodes of our Sunday specialty shows, The Birch Street Bistro and The Detour, will stream on Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, our regular Marvelous Mix of Music keeps streaming 24/7 - and makes a great soundtrack for whatever you're doing, whether on holiday or at work!

Use the listening links on this page, or find our free, noncommercial stream on TuneIn, SimpleRadio and many other internet-radio apps. ("Alexa, play Birch Street Radio on TuneIn!")

And find past episodes of The Bistro and The Detour at

Saturday, August 24, 2019

New releases by Wilderado, Field Mouse, Fastball, The Head and the Heart - and introducing Eilís

Just before our music-picking ears went on vacation, they chose these five tracks to add to our New Music Bin. The next batch of new tunes will be introduced Sept 7.

Wilderado: "Surefire"
This Americana quartet was based in Latigo Canyon, Calif., until a 2018 wildfire destroyed their home base there. They moved back to their original home town of Tulsa, Okla., while spending much of their time touring. According to Consequence of Sound: "In the wake of that loss and change of scene, a poem by Tabitha King called 'A Gradual Canticle for Augustine' struck frontman-songwriter Max Rainer. It reminded him that only by taking one day at a time can you truly appreciate where you’re going." That's the inspiration for "Surefire."

Field Mouse: "Heart of Gold"
"A lot has happened in the three years since our last record came out," writes Rachel Browne, this Brooklyn band's singer-songwriter. That last record, Episodic, was released in 2016, just before the U.S. presidential election. The new album, Meaning, is "more or less about the end of the world and all of the ways that it seems to be happening, but also about making peace with former selves and growing as a person despite the feeling of global entropy."

The Head and the Heart: "See You Through My Eyes"
A decade out from its origins in Seattle, this band has gone through changes in personnel and musical direction. The result is a fresh sound on their latest album. WFUV music critic Darren DeVivo writes that after struggle and rebirth, "it's no surprise that much of Living Mirage is introspective. But the arrangements are also richer and more pop-savvy than anything the band has done in the past. ... the sound of a band juggling tradition with fresh techniques and finding an exciting angle."

Fastball: "The Help Machine"
It's been more than two decades since this band from Austin broke through with the 1998 platinum LP All The Pain Money Can Buy, but Fastball seems to have found new energy. “In the past, we’d make a record and then everybody would go their separate ways for awhile,” says Miles Zuniga. "But now, we're feeling so excited about the music that it’s ‘How soon can we make another record?’" So, following up 2017's Step Into The Light, Zuniga and longtime bandmates Tony Scalzo and Joey Shuffield are about to release their seventh album, The Help Machine. We're picking up the title track.

Eilís: "Breathe"
We have featured a number of artists from the prolific music scene in Northern Ireland, and the latest to come to our attention is this young singer-songwriter from County Derry. She's been playing at festivals and winning songwriting awards in her home area and has just released her first single, "Breathe." To our ears, this piano ballad and Eilís' dramatic vocal blends well with the likes of Sara Bareilles and Adele. We featured the track recently on The Birch Street Bistro, and now we're adding it to the New Music bin.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Robbie Robertson channels John Lennon - plus The Magpie Salute, Madison Cunningham, Shovels & Rope, Lizzie No

Mixing new music and classics is what we're all about, so when classic-rock artists release new music, we always want to check it out. Robbie Robertson is preparing to release his first studio album in seven years, Sinematic, and we have the first single, "Let Love Reign." The former The Band member says it's inspired by a former Beatle: "Some people think John Lennon’s dream about love and togetherness went up in flames. I think that’s wrong. It’s everlasting." Musically, he notes that the song's groove and guitar riff hearken back to Dale Hawkins' "Susie Q."

Here are this week's other picks for the New Music Bin:
The Magpie Salute: "In Here"
A just-released single from a soon-to-be-released EP of tracks from a pretty-soon-to-be-released album, High Water II (got that?) ... from the project started a few years ago by Rich Robinson and former Black Crowes bandmates Marc Ford and Sven Pipien. To be honest, the band's first release, 2017's The Magpie Salute, recorded live before a small studio audience, remains our favorite. But this is a solid piece of mid-tempo, guitar-based rock, fleshed out nicely with keyboard and horns and John Hogg's powerful, bluesy vocals.

Madison Cunningham: "Pin It Down"
This Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter makes her Birch Street Radio debut with this sinuous song from her just-released album, "Who Are You Now." The chorus speaks of deja vu, but in the sense of repeating past mistakes. Atwood Magazine aptly describes Cunningham’s style as "somewhere between Joni Mitchell and Margaret Glaspy, bearing both a sweetness and flippancy in her airy voice."

Shovels & Rope: "I'm Comin' Out"
The fourth album by the married duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, By Blood, came out several months ago, but this single just landed in our inbox and we promptly moved it to the New Music bin. The couple tells Consequence of Sound that the inspiration was their second pregnancy: "We were... imagining what it is like to be born, naked and vulnerable. ...We pictured the infant working up the courage to emerge." The lyric could easily apply to other forms of coming out. "We often dedicate this song, in honor of their journey, to our LGBTQ friends, fans and family, but this song is about finding your inner magic and motivation - wherever that leads."

Lizzie No: "Channels" 
We've been playing the early singles from Vanity, this New York singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist's latest album. Now that the full collection has been released, you'll be hearing more. The LP is full of strong tracks, featuring a wide range of musical styles. They're tied together by No's smartly observant and very personal lyrics, matched by her voice, which projects both vulnerability and clear-eyed determination. This track closes the album with an upbeat country-rock-band sound.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Now in our New Music bin: Haim, The Get Ahead, SOAK, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Pete Yorn

The sister trio Haim brings a jazzy feel and a cool saxophone to its new single, "Summer Girl." Danielle Haim says she wrote the lyrics to express her support for her partner when he was diagnosed with cancer ("He's in the clear now"). She then worked with Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of Vampire Weekend, to expand on what began as a "garage band demo ...with just a bass line, drums, some gibberish and a doot doot doot little melody." They ended up with a sound that reminded them of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" - and gave him a co-writing credit. (The doot-doots also remind us of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner.") Batmanglij wrote the sax part, played by Henry Solomon. The result: a shiny summer pop song on the surface, with surprising depth beneath.

By way of Nashville public radio station WMOT we came upon Portland, Ore.-based The Get Ahead. This five-piece band (including two married couples) draws on eclectic influences to create what it calls "Americana soul." Roots-music site No Depression says The Get Ahead "blurs the lines between folk, old-time, gospel, old-school R&B, and soul." We're all about eclectic blends, and we're glad to catch up with "Deepest Light," the title track from the band's recent LP.

From Derry in Northern Ireland comes indie-folk singer-songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson, who performs and records as SOAK. At just 22, she released her second album, Grim Town, this year. It's sort of a concept album, describing a town that represents "a dystopia that I’ve created in my brain," Monds-Watson says. We're picking up the single, "Knock Me Off My Feet," which has an upbeat, far-from-grim sound. The artist describes it as "a love letter to the lawlessness and freedoms of small-town culture, as well as its more claustrophobic, cut-you-down-to-size qualities."

As British indie-rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen prepare to launch a U.S. tour, another track from their recent album The Balance has found its way into our New Music bin. Called "2All," it's described by frontman Van McCann as a song about lies, loyalty and love.

New Jersey's Pete Yorn is back with a new album, Caretakers, that brings together Yorn's guitar-based music and the gauzy production of Day Wave's Jackson Phillips. AllMusic says the album at times "feels like a throwback to an early '90s unspoiled by grunge ... a time suspended between the underground and the mainstream." We're picking up on "Calm Down," which evokes revisiting a home town and bittersweet memories: "All the tears I cried / all the times we tried / but I wouldn't change a thing."

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Latest from New Pornographers, Bryan Hansen, Sleater-Kinney, Robert Randolph, Jason Spooner

The New Pornographers are back with a single ahead of a just-announced eighth album, to be released this fall. Band founder A.C. Newman produced the LP, titled In The Morse Code of Brake Lights, and says it's not a theme album but happens to contain a lot of car-related songs. The single, however, uses a different metaphor to describe the vertigo of new love: "Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile." Stereogum says it exemplifies the band's "articulate candy-coated power-pop" with "a subtly infectious groove and hooks to spare."

The New Jersey-based Bryan Hansen Band creates its own unique style, mixing funk, rock, soul and R&B. Drummer Cwan Merritt provides the groove, bassist Will Blakey brings the funk and Hansen is the soulful singer and songwriter. From their upcoming album Gas Money we're featuring "Smiling Dashboard Jesus," a song with the laid-back vibe of a summer barbecue - as demonstrated in the song's music video.

Speaking of videos, the lyric video for Sleater-Kinney's "Hurry On Home" is quite amusing. The song is from The Center Won't Hold, the band's ninth album, and apparently its last with drummer Janet Weiss, who announced her departure this summer, unhappy with the band's latest direction. The groundbreaking punk trio definitely tries out some new sounds on this LP, produced by St. Vincent. The title track is a cacophonous experimental number, while "Hurry" veers toward alt-pop with its synths and its clean production, even as it shakes the walls with what Pitchfork calls "Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker’s gigantic, thick guitar riffs and Janet Weiss’ bull’s-eye drumming."

R&B, Gospel and blues come together in the music of Robert Randolph and the Family Band. And the connection between religious and musical ecstasy is clearly drawn in “Baptise Me,” a single from the upcoming album Brighter Days. “When you think about Stax music and a lot of music from the 70s, especially like the Staples Singers, it was inspirational and you danced you had a good time,” says Randolph. “That’s what we really wanted to hone in on here: let’s sound good and have a natural good time that will bring listeners along ... All of these songs kind of harken back to how we started, to being known as this musical family band that comes from the church and appeals to rock, blues, gospel and soul music audiences."

From its base in Portland, Maine, The Jason Spooner Band has been recording and touring since the early 2000s, and is preparing to roll out its fifth album, Wide Eyed. We're jumping on the first single, "All Things Equal," a rootsy, grooving number with great interplay between guitars and horns.“Our influences are all over the map as individuals… rock, blues, folk, jazz, Americana, R&B, reggae, etcetera,” says Spooner. "I feel like this record allowed us to tap into some of those influences without worrying if it fit our 'official genre.' "