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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.

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