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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Fresh tracks from Jason Isbell, Puss N Boots, Wye Oak, Cold War Kids, Subshine

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Be Afraid

Days after Drive By Truckers released The Unravelling, former band member Jason Isbell is out with more angry alt-country-rock music of his own. It's the first single from Reunions, his second album with The 400 Unit, due for release in May. The lyric sounds a call to music-scene stars to use their platform to speak truth to power. "If your words add up to nothing then you're making a choice / to sing a cover when you need a battle cry." Referencing the flak that some country artists have taken for speaking out, Isbell sings, "Be very afraid / but do it anyway."

Puss N Boots: It's Not Easy

Jazz singers and then-novice guitar players Norah Jones and Sasha Dobson started playing together back in 2008, soon joined by session bassist Catherine Popper, who has worked with Ryan Adams, Grace Potter and many more. In between their other projects, the trio gigged at New York clubs, released the 2014 album No Fools, No Fun and followed with a Christmas album last year. Now they're back with Sister, a 14-song collection of originals and covers of Tom Petty, Dolly Parton, Paul Westerberg and Concrete Blonde. The vibe is more country-Americana than jazz on most of the tunes, including this one featuring Jones on lead vocal.

Wye Oak: Fear of Heights

There's no word so far of a new album coming from the duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner, but they've resumed releasing new music and are preparing to tour this spring. A couple of months ago, we featured their first track in two years, "Fortune." This latest song, Wasner says, "likens the deepening of a relationship to the feeling of ascending to the top of a very tall place. There’s something to be seen (or learned, or experienced) once you arrive, but for some there is also a fear that increases with every step upwards." Stereogum writes: "This band always operates at a high level, but it’s still great to hear them return with material this strong."

Cold War Kids: Who's Gonna Love Me Now

Close on the heels of November's release of New Age Norms 1 comes the first single from the second installment of the planned trilogy. describes it as "a loose, fuzzy stomp," written as a group composition by vocalist Nathan Willett, bassist Matt Maust, guitarist David Quon, multi-instrumentalist Matthew Schwartz and drummer Joe Plummer. Willett says the lyric "is about all those times when I imagine what it’d be like to have my freedom. You’re in a relationship and ... you you start wondering what it’s like on the other side. But when you actually get it — you crash and burn.”

Subshine: Over the Moon

Almost a year ago, we featured "Easy," the lead single from the debut album of this project fronted by Norway's Ole Gunnar Gundersen. Easy Window was released last summer and we've played other tracks on The Detour and in our big mix. Heavily influenced by British 80s pop-rock, Subshine returns with a catchy tune that alternates between gentle crooning and driving guitar-rock.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

New tunes from Nada Surf, Tame Impala, Kodaline, Secret Treehouse, Keeton Coffman

Nada Surf: So Much In Love

On their new album, Never Not Together, the New York alt-pop-rock band delivers what AllMusic calls "lyrical anthems rife with an electric, '90s-style power pop shimmer." A reviewer on ABC News described the collection as "nine songs about connections, empathy and alienation tied together by Matthew Caws' eternally youthful vocals and a bouquet of inviting melodies." We're featuring the opening track, which fits right in with the band's best-known tunes, but will also delve into some of the album's more innovative tracks.

Tame Impala: Lost In Yesterday

The project of Melbourne's Kevin Parker has just released its first album in five years. In the meantime, Parker has become part of the LA music scene as a producer of hip-hop and pop albums. Now his domesticated antelope returns with a solid collection of psych-synth pop-rock. "Crunchy guitars are largely absent, writes NME, "but we’re left with something far more intriguing – a pop record bearing masterful electronic strokes." There's a bit of a theme of time passing: We previously featured "It Might Be Time," and this track is about how nostalgia colors the past: "Now even though that was a time I hated from day one / Eventually terrible memories turn into great ones."

Kodaline: Wherever You Are

This Dublin band is previewing its upcoming fourth album with this slice of anthemic power-pop on the familiar theme of maintaining a connection with a distant loved one. Vocalist Steve Garrigan says, "I wrote it specifically for my girlfriend as due to being away on tour all the time, we never really get to see each other." Mixes well with Coldplay, Wyland, Talk Talk.

Secret Treehouse: At Sunrise

It was only a year ago that this alternative pop/rock band from Norway released its very impressive debut album. They've hardly taken a break since; apparently they can't stop/won't stop releasing well-crafted, catchy tunes - three so far, unless we missed one - that fit nicely into our big mix. This latest single has been getting spins on The Detour in recent weeks, and now we're upping it to the New Music Bin. 

Keeton Coffman: Fire + Gasoline

Our New Music selections this week are rather heavy on electronic pop-rock - as is much of the music being released these days - so we're glad to be able to add a good dose of guitar-based rock. We've been playing several tracks by this Texas-based purveyor of "heartland rock 'n' roll" since he released his solo debut album in 2016. Now comes this brand-new single - full of energy and passion with a lyric describing the incendiary start of an affair: "Pour out your love and we'll strike a match / Drop it to the floor, baby never look back."

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Added to our mix: Drive-By Truckers, Wolf Parade, Grace Potter, Peaness & Andy Shauf. Variety!

Drive By Truckers: 21st Century USA

This track from The Unraveling, the new collection of social commentary by Mike Cooley, Patterson Hood and company, has a strong Neil Young vibe - a bit ironic, perhaps, since the band is from Alabama. The song is a description of Anytown USA, with its chain stores, its citizens working hard for too little pay, and their hopes for what Joe Hill called "pie in the sky when you die." On the LP, the Truckers decry gun culture, drug addiction and "Babies in Cages" in blunt lyrics. "I didn’t want to disguise it in flowery, poetic language,” Hood says. “It’s not a poetic time.”

Wolf Parade: Forest Green

The new album Thin Mind marks a return to the Montreal-based band's original lineup of guitarist Dan Boeckner, keyboardist Spencer Krug and drummer Arlen Thompson. NowToronto writes that "the group have downsized their sound accordingly, largely excising the displays of proggy sprawl that have always been a feature of their records in favour of a more immediate, pop-focused attack." The review calls this track "urgent and exhilarating, like an early-80s Cars hit recast as a fiery protest song decrying the conversion of woodlands into condos on 'stolen land.'”

Grace Potter: Back To Me (feat. Lucius)

The phrase "slow burner" certainly applies to this track from the late-2019 release, Daylight. From a quiet hum, it builds up to a '70s-soul climax as Potter's powerful vocal is backed by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius. Paste writes, "Potter’s voice alone should be reason enough to pay attention to her ... that raspy force shines on every single note." On this song, "she holds her voice back before letting it totally take control."

Peaness: Kaizan

The three-piece indie-pop outfit from Chester, England, is new to us but has been gaining attention with performances at festivals and on the BBC. This bouncy single, which would mix well with anything from the catalogs of The Go-Gos and The Bangles, reflects the trio's love of Japanese pop culture. Band member Jess says she wrote the song "to remind myself that with every act of kindness and every crime, we affect the future, and that those choices go on to shape others, and our beautiful planet, long after we're gone. The word ‘Kaizen’ is a Japanese word that literally translates to ‘change for the good’, and that’s what we're hoping for.”

Andy Shauf: Try Again

This Toronto-based, Saskatchewan-raised musician writes short stories in the form of songs, with wryly humorous lyrics delivered in an off-handed, conversational style. His new release, The Neon Skyline, is a concept album that tells a simple tale: Boy who lost girl goes out for drinks with friends; boy is still thinking about girl; girl shows up at the bar, they banter but don't reconnect. At the end of this song, boy is coming to grips: "Somewhere between drunkenness and honesty / I make a silent toast to the things I do and don't miss."