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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Last New Music picks of the year: Just Like Honey, Sarah Smith, Angel Olsen, Pinegrove, Current Swell

Just Like Honey: Slow Lane

This dream-pop band released its first album in 2018 and has just followed up with a new EP, Slow Lane. Based in Germany, the members come from that country and France, the USA and Canada. Their music joins the ethereal vocals of Darlene Jonasson and Bianca Yang to a hard-rock foundation, laid down by lead guitarist Patrick LeMar and his brother, drummer Steve Le Mar, with Jonasson also playing guitar and Yang on bass and piano. The title track's refrain - "Too slow for the fast lane / too fast for the slow lane / Where do I belong?" - answers itself with the final line, "Watch me now."

Sarah Smith: You Don't Get My Love

Based in London, Ontario, this rock guitarist/vocalist has toured all over Canada, the U.S. and Europe since starting her solo career in 2012. She's about to release her fifth album, Unveiling, billed as taking her vulnerable songwriting "to a deeply personal new level as Sarah sings about love, loss, and having the courage to trust in her own voice." Smith's singing invites comparisons to Melissa Etheridge, and this track would mix well with any of the rockers in M.E.'s songbook.

Angel Olsen: What It Is

This North Carolina-based singer-songwriter has expanded her indie-folk-rock sound on her latest album, All Mirrors, to include sweeping orchestrations. As Rolling Stone puts it, "With cinematic strings and goth-noir drama, [Olsen] makes her biggest, boldest record yet. ... The songs are all navigations and negotiations of love, self-interrogations included, and nothing’s simple or clear cut." This single starts out with a simple beat before building to swells of angry-sounding strings and crashing cymbals.

Pinegrove: Phase

This New Jersey-based quartet is about to release its fourth LP, Marigold, and embark on an extensive tour of North America and Europe. This song, says frontman Evan Stephens Hall, “is more or less about insomnia - trying to sleep but things racing in your mind, looking around your room ... seeing all the things you could do or should be doing, enumerating tasks, making lists in your head, moving through anxieties and eventually, hopefully, into sleep.”

Current Swell: How Many Times

This is about the rocking-est track from the British Columbia-based band's latest release, Buffalo. On the singles "High Life" and "Bring It On Home," the band shows a mellower side, but our pick for the New Music bin is a jaunty roots-rock blast. The spontaneous sound of the track belies the care put into making the album, which took place over more than a year. Singer-guitarist Scott Stanton explains, "We’d record three songs, go home, and listen to those songs before asking: ‘What else does the album need?’”

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Fresh picks from KOYO, Madison Cunningham, Annie Keating, Drew Holcomb, Mallrat

KOYO: Ostracised

We've been playing tracks by this British band on our extra-eclectic show The Detour, and now we're moving their latest single into our New Music bin. The five-piece from Leeds cites psych-rock bands like Tame Impala as influences, and mixes in strains of harder and progressive rock. "We liked the idea of writing a song that manages to pull together both directions we’ve been going in - the wilder, more raucous side and the spacey, poppier side," the band said in a release. "Lyrically, let it be an anthem for anyone who’s felt disconnected or cut off from something, someone, maybe society or socially.”

Madison Cunningham: Trouble Found Me

We previously featured "Pin It Down" from this Los Angeles singer-songwriter's recent album, Who Are You Now. Popmatters called our latest pick the "catchiest moment on the record." The lyric suggests the trouble came in the form of a bad relationship - "But nothing that I can do / Is enough for you" - that the singer is leaving behind with lessons learned. "Next time I'm gonna be ready / When trouble finds me."

Annie Keating: $20

The flow of new releases slows in the holiday season, and that gives us a chance to revisit music that emerged earlier this year. Back in July we featured "Beholden" from this Brooklyn-based country-bluesy-rock-singer-songwriter's latest EP, Can't Stand Still. Now that it's winter, we're breaking out this track about being on the street in bitter January cold with $20 to your name.

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors: The End of the World

This is another song that came out over the summer, on this Nashville-based Americana-rock band's latest collection, Dragons. The Detour included it in a cheerfully apocalyptic theme set (which you can hear here). Holcomb calls it "our take on the 'Eat, Drink, and Be Merry' for tomorrow you will die theme" as well as a "big clarion call for community."

Mallrat: Charlie

We're also catching up with this track from September's Driving Music, the second EP by Australia's Mallrat, a.k.a. Grace Shaw. A bit of a departure for the hip-hop-influenced pop singer, this song opens with gentle piano chords setting a reflective mood before Shaw begins talk/singing about feelings of love that maybe aren't entirely requited: "I just might love you forever / I hope you warm up to me." The closing refrain invokes the Charlie of the title: Shaw's dog. "All I wanna do is see you when I get home / Like Charlie in the rain outside."

Saturday, December 14, 2019

New singles from U2, Wye Oak, teepee, Tic Tic and Adrian Sutherland added to our Marvelous Mix

U2 & A.R. Rahman: Ahimsa

This collaboration between one of the world's most famous rock bands and one of India's best-known composers is a song of non-violence - the translation of the Sanskrit title. Released to coincide with U2's first-ever concerts in India, the track opens and closes with Rahman's daughters singing an ancient Tamil verse. Otherwise it's very recognizable as a U2 song - sweeping and earnest. The Irish Times calls it "cookie-cutter U2 ... But it works ... It isn’t the least bit histrionic. U2 feel more carefree than at any point in the past decade."

Wye Oak: Fortune

Originally from Baltimore, Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner lived in separate cities for a few years and split their time between Wye Oak and side projects. Now they're living in the same city again (Durham, N.C.) and got together in a studio this summer to produce some new music. "Fortune" is the first track to emerge and the duo’s first release since 2018’s The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. Consequence of Sound says the song "is paced by steady cyclical sonic builds, icy synth winds sweeping over Wasner’s broad harmonies." Says Wasner: "Life is change. Change is loss. This song is about how hard it is to let go, and the feeling of celebrating and mourning it all at once.”

teepee: Heavenly Gates

From the Czech Republic comes the dream pop / indie-folk music of Tereza Lavičková and Miroslav Patočka. They've been featured on The Detour, and now they've landed in our New Music bin with this track from their upcoming second album, Where the Ocean Breaks. The  duo describes the album as "about hope, reconciliation, love, changes but also about the inequalities in our society, and connection with nature."

Tic Tic: Autopilot

From Prague we jump north to Kristiansand, Norway, where Irene Svendsen and Kai Drange live "with our cat and our synths." Their music combines programmed patterns and electronic instruments with dreamy vocals. This brightly bouncing number is the first single from their debut album, to be released early in the new year.

Adrian Sutherland: Politician Man

Whether you live in Canada - Sutherland is originally from Attawapiskat in northern Ontario - or in the U.S. or the U.K. or virtually anywhere on Planet Earth, you can probably relate to this song. "Hey Mr. Politician Man, whatcha done for me lately? / Hey Mr. Politician Man won't you break me off a piece some day," Sutherland sings. "Lying to my face / Lying to yourself / Lying to the people you said that you would help." The frontman of roots-rock band Midnight Shine (which we've featured before) released this song in October, just before Canada's federal election. We bet it will remain relevant for a long, long time. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

New sounds from Armada of Secrets, Michael Stipe, The Who, The Lone Bellow, Cold War Kids

Armada of Secrets: Make Me Over

You may have caught this track on one of our now-nightly trips on The Detour. Now we're highlighting it in our New Music bin. Vocalist Caroline Kabera and bassist Carl Dawkins met in music school after Kabera immigrated to London from Burundi. Armada of Secrets has been an on-and-off project over several years, and this release is the first to reach our ears. It has a distinctive drum-and-bass-driven, soulful rock sound, with a lyric that the duo says reflects "the desire we have to remodel ourselves ... It brought all of our anxieties, fears, and accomplishments (and even lack of) to the forefront."

Michael Stipe: Your Capricious Soul

The former R.E.M.-er just released his first solo single on his own website, with proceeds going to the climate activism group Extinction Rebellion. The song references the planet's distress (“the birds are dying / or they might as well be”), but that's just one of the themes Stipe touches on in his oblique way. Pitchfork calls the track "sonically dazzling," adding that it "feels less like a big new gesture than a continuation of Stipe’s thoughtfully wayward pursuit of his post-R.E.M. muse."

The Who: All This Music Must Fade

On their new album, called simply Who, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey follow in their own footsteps, with the latter giving voice to the former's thoughtfully cynical lyrics. And they turn that cynicism on themselves in tracks like this one, which borrows sounds and phrases from Who classics while dismissing them as ephemeral. “I don't care / I know you’re gonna hate this song ... It won't light up your parade/It's just simple verse.” Elsewhere on the album, the veterans look back on their early days as "snotty young kids" who found themselves successful and rich - and grew old in spite of themselves: "We tried hard to stay young / But the high notes were sung." If this turns out to be the last Who album, it seems an appropriate sign-off.

The Lone Bellow: Count On Me

There's no trace of cynicism in this I've-got-your-back declaration from the trio of Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist. Singing in harmony, they promise to be there when you "need an arm 'round your neck / Somebody you can talk to." Rolling Stone calls it "a message of reassurance in a troubled world," as well as "a pulsing, high-energy song." We can easily imagine it becoming a cathartic sing-along at live shows.

Cold War Kids: Dirt In My Eyes

The California band's latest release, New Age Norms 1, is the first of a planned trilogy of relatively short (8-song) albums. We previously featured the first single, "Complainer," and now we're picking up this equally ear-catching track. Glide Magazine calls it a "shimmering and propulsive ... dance-rock hybrid.