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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Debuts by Cartwheel, Taylor Scott Band, and the latest from New Pornographers, Wyland, Wilco

Sometimes it takes a little while for new music to find its way to our ears. Cartwheel, a trio from Wichita, Kansas, released its debut album Best Days earlier this year, but it has only now come to our attention - and grabbed it. The group is fronted by guitarist Kristyn Chapman, who has played in various bands over the past dozen years but now makes her debut as a songwriter and bandleader. She's joined by William Erickson on drums and Riley Day on bass. Our featured song, "Nothing," was the first Chapman wrote: "The chords, melody, and words came all at once in a rare miracle," she says. Her vocal floats softly through an indie-rock churn of fuzzy guitar and sharp percussion: “We’re so afraid to feel anything,” Chapman sings, “but feeling is what makes life full.”

Another new-ish record that took its time reaching us is All We Have, the first full-length release by the Denver blues-rock-funk outfit Taylor Scott Band. Scott's powerful lead guitar and soulful tenor voice are backed up by the tight combo of Jon Wirtz on keys, Chris Harris on bass and Lem Williams on drums. Steve Berlin of Los Lobos produced the record. Our featured track is the solid opener, “Somebody Told Me.”

It's always hard to discern what their songs are about, but on the just-released album from The New Pornographers, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, images of falling, collapse and disorder keep cropping up. We previously featured the single "Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile," where the plunging is emotional. Now entering our New Music bin is "Colossus of Rhodes," which isn't actually about the ancient statue that collapsed in an earthquake, but has a things-aren't-going-well theme: "There is no food left in the house / There is no air left in the room," Neko Case sings. "Change the locks on every door / We've had break-ins before." Slant Magazine describes the song as "the band’s blusteriest track to date," featuring "concert-style piano, gurgling synths, and dramatic string swells." Rolling Stone calls the album "panic-attack pop."

Another brand-new album, Wyland's In a Circuitry of Lonely, is also filled with soaring but unsettling songs - with titles like "Lost," "Dark Days" and "Nowhere Now." We've been spinning those tracks as the New Jersey-based indie band released them over the past year, and now that the full collection is out, we're featuring "Remote Control Heart." Lead singer and songwriter Ryan Sloan conjures disaffection and disconnection: "And life just keeps moving / While our hearts lie in ruins."

On the verge of releasing their 11th album, Wilco has dropped the single "Everyone Hides," and we're picking it up to round out our New Music bin this week. It's a meditation on how we construct narratives for ourselves that don't contain the whole truth. "You're selling yourself on a vision / a dream of who you are," Jeff Tweedy sings. "Remember, it can't be denied / everyone hides."

Saturday, September 21, 2019

WHO plus new music from Foals, Leela Gilday, John Otto Young and Scott Krokoff

Our latest wide-ranging batch of New Music:

The Who: "Ball and Chain"
Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry are getting ready to release their first new album in 13 years. “I think we’ve made our best album since Quadrophenia in 1973,” singer Roger Daltrey said in a statement. “Pete hasn’t lost it. He’s still a fabulous songwriter, and he’s still got that cutting edge.” Called simply WHO, the LP consists of 11 songs Townshend says he and his brother Simon wrote "to give Roger Daltrey some inspiration, challenges and scope for his newly revived singing voice." The first single is "Ball and Chain," one of several tracks Townshend says "refer to the explosive state of things today."

Foals: "The Runner"
This UK indie band will soon release it's second album of the year - or really, the second part of a double-album, Everything That Is Not Saved Will Be Lost. Frontman Yannis Philippakis told NME: "Part one ended with a lot of fire and destructive imagery, part two is trying to respond to that: how you can continue in the wreckage and through the scorched earth?” Of this single, Philippakis says, “It’s a call to find a sense of purpose and perseverance despite the odds and despite the troubles we may find inside or outside ourselves.”

Leela Gilday: "Rolling Thunder"
From Canada's Northwest Territories comes North Star Calling, the new album by Dene-Canadian singer-songwriter Leela Gilday. MusicLifeMagazine calls it "a deeply spiritual album ... invoking the experiences, the imagery, the faith and the powerful connection to the natural environment so imbued in her Dene heritage and culture." Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq contributes to our featured track, a power-to-the-people song called "Rolling Thunder."

John Otto Young: "Timeline"
For this keyboardist and songwriter from Connecticut, music was his hobby for years, then his side gig, but always his passion. Now retired from his "day job," he released his first solo album, Sunset Tour, earlier this year. It includes a range of musical styles, and our pick is this jazz-influenced meditation on our fleeting trip through time.

Scott Krokoff: "Groundhog"
As far as we know, this New York singer-songwriter is still keeping his day job, but he continues making music a priority. He's been a fixture on our virtual airwaves for years with his very relatable songs. Many, like this new single, are about the challenge of breaking out of one's shell and making the most of life.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

'New' from R.E.M., plus Robert Randolph, Sheryl Crow, Frankie Cosmos, and introducing MBG

One of our featured new releases this week was recorded 15 years ago. R.E.M. has issued the previously unreleased song "Fascinating" to benefit hurricane-relief efforts in the Bahamas. The recording was made at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, in 2004, intended for the Around the Sun album. "But the lush ballad ultimately didn’t jibe with that spare, atmospheric album," according the a statement from the band. It's now available on R.E.M.'s Bandcamp page, and "proceeds will be donated to Mercy Corps to support their humanitarian response in the Bahamas."

Our other picks of the week:

Robert Randolph & The Family Band: "Strange Train"
We previously featured "Baptise Me" from Brighter Days, the latest release by the slide-guitar virtuoso and his gospel-rhythm-and-blues band. Now we're riding and rocking on the "Strange Train." Says Blues Rock Review: "Randolph’s Z.Z. Top-esque guitar groans along with his vocals. The drums control the pace of the song as it builds with the bumping bass and a final epic solo from Randolph."

Sheryl Crow: "Beware of Darkness"
Featuring Eric Clapton, Sting, Brandi Carlile
Crow's new album Threads is an all-star revue. Each of its 17 tracks is a collaboration with one or more artists from a pantheon of Americana, pop, rock and country stars, on original songs and covers. We've been playing the Crow/Bonnie Raitt/Mavis Staples track "Live Wire," and now we're putting this excellent treatment of the George Harrison classic into the New Music bin. More from the album will surely pop up in our mix.

Frankie Cosmos: Windows
The new album Close It Quietly has brought fresh attention to the New York band fronted by singer-songwriter Greta Kline. Rolling Stone calls it a "tour de force songwriting binge." Indeed, there are 21 songs on the LP, ranging in length from just over a minute to just over three. Listening straight-through is like hearing a friend pour out everything on her mind, jumping from thought to thought, each crystallized in words that range from conversational clarity to poetic obscurity. Our featured track's lyrics suggest difficulty in understanding one another: "Spit out diamonds, cough up rubies / Call me when you can see through me." 

MBG: "Make My Day"
This catchy pop-rock track comes from Have a Alright Day, the first release by MBG - a solo project of singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Leena Rodriguez. This "one-woman rock band" recorded and produced the EP in her home studio in suburban Toronto. Writing her own songs is a new experience, she says: "I've explored in between the genres of classic/punk rock and blues to folk and jazz." Influences of each style can be found in the four tracks on this impressive debut.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Latest from Mondo Cozmo, Super Doppler, Seratones, Grace Potter, The Rails

After a holiday break, our Music Committee has picked another fine batch of new releases to add to our marvelous mix.

Mondo Cozmo: "Black Cadillac"
Two years after his debut solo album, Plastic Soul, Joshua Ostrander is back with a raucous single from his upcoming LP New Medicine. Built on the kind of repetitive guitar riff Lou Reed might have used, it builds to what BuzzbandsLA calls a "rock-gospel rave-up." Ostrander's talk/singing reminds us a bit of Jakob Dylan as he goes on a stream-of-consciousness rant that obliquely references politics, pop culture - and that time he was tempted to steal a sugar spoon from the Kennedy Room on Capitol Hill after testifying to Congress about the Music Modernization Act.

Seratones: "Gotta Get To Know Ya"
A different kind of raucous rave comes from Power, the new album by this Louisiana soul-rock band fronted by A.J. Haynes. While the album's title track had a message of empowerment, this one comes across as a sexy dance-party song: "No more conversation, give me just what I need / Temperature's a'rising, baby gonna feel the heat."

Super Doppler: "Since You've Been Gone"
We picked up on this band before it was this band - that is, before it adopted its current name about two years ago. The Norfolk, Virginia group's music has sometimes been called country rock, but we think their own description - "Retro Psych Rock n Roll" - is closer to the mark. From their new, self-titled album, our pick is the late-Beatles-ish "Someone Is Watching You."

Grace Potter: "Love Is Love"
Four years after Potter's solo debut Midnight (following her time with The Nocturnals), she returns with Daylight, due for release in October. In the interim, Potter divorced, remarried and had a child. "When I finally started writing songs again - it had to be for myself and myself alone." Paste calls this song "tried-and-true Grace Potter. Featuring a gospel choir and Potter’s dynamite vocals, the song is confessional yet comprehensive."

The Rails: "Call Me When It All Goes Wrong"
If Grace Potter wants to bring Daylight, Kami Thompson and James Walbourne seem to want to shoot it out. Cancel the Sun is the title of the latest release from Thompson, daughter of Richard and Linda, and husband Walbourne, lead guitarist for the Pretenders. We're featuring the opening track, a harsh goodbye song that describes a failing relationship as "just another ride that I've been on / one that didn't last too long."