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Saturday, April 25, 2020

New Jackson Browne + The Thank Yous + HAIM + HAARM + Michael Kiwanuka

Jackson Browne: Downhill From Everywhere

What's downhill from everywhere on planet Earth is the ocean, and what flows downhill is all the crap of civilization. That's the message of Browne's latest song of alarm. "Do you think of the ocean as yours? / Do you think about it at all?" The verses take the form of a litany* of the mundane and the scandalous: "Downhill from the mall ... from the factory farm and the hospital ... from the fruity plain and the bottom line, downhill from Columbine." (*See also: REM's "The End of the World," Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," etc.)

The Thank Yous: These Things Happen

The influence of The Beatles on this indie band from Norway is clear in its music and the nickname of member Petter Folkedal: Sergeant Petter. He and Lars Lundevall are the singing-songwriting duo behind The Thank Yous, joined by drummer Frode Unneland and producer/bassist Tommy Haltbakk. This track from their just-released debut album, Good Times Killing Us, is a nifty piece of power pop with a lyric that shrugs its shoulders at the pain of a breakup: "All the music that reminds you of her is forever painted black / Yeah I know, these things happen every day." Mixes well with: Barenaked Ladies "It's All Been Done."

HAIM: The Steps

The new album from the sisters Haim was scheduled for release this week, but that's been postponed, along with plans for promotional touring, due to the ongoing pandemic. Women In Music Pt. III will include three singles released last year along with this new track and several that are still under wraps. This latest song describes a relationship that's out of sync - "You don't understand me" - but might work out in some fashion: "If I go right and you go left / Hey, I know we'll meet up again." NPR wrote: "Electric guitars squeal and wobble over a ramshackle acoustic strum and garage drums — the texture's rough and messy, but loved and lived-in."

HAARM: Take Me Away

Relationships going or gone bad are often the theme of this Liverpool trio's songs - but this one is a change of pace. Says vocalist Jen Davies: "‘Take Me Away’ is intended as a moment of euphoria; a release from those [negative] thoughts. Of course, we wrote it several months ago now, but it feels more important than ever to have written something uplifting in the current situation.” And how can anyone not be uplifted by the sunshine-y sound of steel drums underpinning this track?

Michael Kiwanuka: Rolling

The third album from the London singer-songwriter, titled simply Kiwanuka, was released last fall to rave reviews: Rolling Stone called it "his most fully-formed work, a meditative, expansive collection of synth-psych, blues-rock, stately folk." The Guardian declared it one of the decade's best albums, "a contemplative song cycle intended to be listened to in one extended sitting." Perhaps that's why it's taken a while for any one track to find its way onto radio playlists in the Americas. That's how we caught up to "Rolling," which now lands in our New Music bin.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

This week's New Music picks: Phish, Debra Devi, Ron Sexsmith, EOB and Fxrrvst

Phish: Sigma Oasis

There isn't a lot of Phish music in our mix, as the band is known best for its live jamming, while its recorded works have drawn less attention. But on its new album, Sigma Oasis, Phish has what Pitchfork calls a breakthrough in bringing its improv genius into the studio. Playing together in guitarist Trey Anastasio's studio in Vermont, they were able to "capt(ure) their comfortable dynamic with a positivity that radiates from every note." It probably helped, too, that they had already road-tested the songs. Glide Magazine calls the title track "breezy and upbeat ... [with] a catchy melody along with a swampy guitar riff from Anastasio that is somewhat reminiscent of another Phish original, 'Blaze On.'” The band says the last line of the song's chorus, "You're already there," sums up its point: "Right here, right now is as good as it gets. ... It’s a content state of mind. You’re just completely in the moment."

Debra Devi: Stay

We recently caught up with this New Jersey-based blues-rock guitarist's 2017 release, Wild Little Girl, and added a taste to our mix. Her new EP, A Zillion Stars Overhead, arrives this week. "Stay" is its catchiest song, and thus our selection for the New Music bin. But the highlight of the collection is the nine-minute-plus "When It Comes Down (jam)," a showcase for Devi's guitar talent and for the top-flight band she put together for the Zillion session, including Jorgen Carlsson of Gov't Mule and drummer John Hummel (Amfibian). We'll be featuring that track on The Detour, and it will pop up in our regular playlist now and then. The EP "kind of grew out of one recording session” after Devi met Carlsson, she told hometown newspaper The Jersey Journal. "We kind of had a good connection, so he had said, let’s record together sometime. ... It turned out being a really good session, and so it ended up turning into this EP.”

Ron Sexsmith: You Don't Wanna Hear It

The new album Hermitage is this veteran recording artist's first since moving from his longtime home in Toronto to suburban Stratford, Ont. (That explains the lawnmower on the cover, if not the pink boa.) As he and his family settled in, Sexsmith had a burst of songwriting inspiration. He and his longtime drummer and production partner Don Kerr set up a studio in the house, and "The result is one of the brightest and most open-hearted LPs of Sexsmith's long career," says AllMusic.com. "His vocals in particular have always felt chronically pensive, but he sounds comfortable in a new way on these songs - not exactly outgoing, but with just enough playfulness to be easily noticeable." This single, Sexsmith says, is "a song about someone who has their nose all out of joint about something and are not in the mood to hear the truth.”

EOB: Shangri-La

EOB is the nom d'artiste of Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien. Rolling Stone describes him as "an under-appreciated but crucial part of Radiohead ever since the band formed in 1985." The magazine says: "It’s taken some time, but O’Brien has finally stepped out from the shadows with the release of his exceptional solo debut, Earth." This opening track, with its Beck-esque, playful electronic bloops and vocal jumps, has been spinning on The Detour for a few weeks and now lands in our New Music bin.
RS calls "Shangri-La" "a triumphant scorcher sprinkled with percussion as O’Brien acknowledges feelings he didn’t realize he had before finding the song’s titular mystical harmonious place. Never has his voice sounded so prominent — so recognizable — until now."

Fxrrvst: Bad Things

This Toronto-based duo has just released Dear Friend, Pt. 1, a four-track EP whose title points to a follow-up expected later this year. Holly Forrest moved from Australia to Toronto in 2015 to pursue a music career, and within hours of her arrival, met singer/songwriter Matt Fuentes. As their bio puts it: "The serendipitous meeting was the beginning of an exciting and fulfilling collaboration which they aptly named FXRRVST (pronounced forest)." Canadian Beats writes: "Forrest and Fuentes possess a sound that runs at the upbeat and electric pace of Metric or Silversun Pickups-style indie, but with an anxious and vulnerable edge that makes this record feel thoroughly personal and empowering." Entering our New Music bin is the first track. "Opening on a haunting emo-tinged melody, 'Bad Things' fights through the darkness until its triumphant end as Forrest pleads for help in moving on with her life."

Saturday, April 11, 2020

New Wolf & Moon, Sam Gifford, Hannah Georgas, Eliza & The Delusionals, Don't Believe in Ghosts

Wolf & Moon: A Tape Called Life

Just about a year after releasing their debut album, Before It Gets Dark, this husband-wife duo gives us the first taste of their next LP, Follow The Signs, due in September. Stefanie and Denis set out from The Netherlands a few years back to travel and play their dream-folk-electronic music. The theme of this song, they tell us, is that life can't be rewound: "All we've got is now and there is so much to experience in life. The song is about the balance of being in the now and dreaming about a future."

Sam Gifford: Something Else

Back in late 2018 we featured Sam Gifford & The Innocent's debut single, "What You Want," and since then a couple of other tracks from the London alt-rock band have found their way into our big playlist. Now, after some personnel changes in his band, Gifford is preparing to release an EP this summer, Man Made, under just his name (insert not-so-innocent-anymore joke here). This first single is a solid, upbeat rocker on the theme of taking a chance on something (or someone) new: "We could fade away / Or we could feel something else."

Eliza & The Delusionals: Pull Apart Heart

From their just-released second EP, A State of Living in an Objective Reality, comes this rocking track from Australia's Eliza Klatt and her band. Backed by guitarists Kurt Skuse and Ashley “Tex” Martin and bassist Ruby Lee, Klatt belts out a lament about a relationship that isn't working: "Pick apart the pieces of my mind / And  in the morning, I'll tell you that I'm fine."

Don't Believe In Ghosts: Living Like This

We gave this bouncy track a few spins on The Detour, and now we're moving it into our New Music bin. New York-based DBIG evolved from singer-songwriter-producer Steven Nathan's home studio in 2017. He's joined by Dan DelVecchio on guitar, Alex Goumas on bass and Ken Yang on drums. This is the latest in a series of singles they've been turning out since early last year. What's the idea behind the band name? “Don’t give energy to the ghosts of your past,” says Nathan.

Hannah Georgas: That Emotion

This Vancouver singer-songwriter connected in 2018 with The National's Aaron Dessner and began working on music at his upstate New York studio. The result is a Dessner-produced album coming later this year, and this is the first single. Georgas says: “I always felt happy with my songs, but during these sessions we found something else - musically a new warmth and depth and, vocally, a delivery that is more raw and expressive, allowing the emotion of each song to shine through.”

Saturday, April 4, 2020

This just in from Screens 4 Eyes, Scott Krokoff, Pretenders, Robert Cray, The Brokers

Screens 4 Eyes: Sometimes A Gate Is Opened

Cover art: Dylan Michilsen
This indie group from Tel Aviv has been a regular in our mix from the time of its debut EP in 2017. The band's next release is coming... soon... but the mixing has been delayed by pandemic-enforced isolation. In the meantime, "we decided to put out this unreleased track, recently mixed by (U.K. producer) Richard File." While the EP will have more rock-band instrumentation, here Yael Brener's vocal weaves through a blend of synths and percussion. The dream-like sound is fitting: "The lyrics are about those rare times when there seems to be some crack that enables us an encounter with (an) other being, other presence," Brener says. "The feeling is real but we are left to wonder about their nature ... are they real, or do they emerge from our own brain."

Scott Krokoff: My Own Terms

Another indie artist who pops up frequently in our mix is this New York singer-songwriter-guitarist. His songs often revolve around themes of staying true to yourself and finding your own path. As the title makes clear, this is another chapter in that songbook. "It's about staying the course to achieve whatever goal or goals you have in mind, regardless of whether you have failed previously or made mistakes," Krokoff told Music-News.com.

Pretenders: The Buzz

Chrissie Hynde compares a romantic crush to an addiction on this first single from the upcoming 11th Pretenders studio album, Hate For Sale. Rolling Stone calls the track a "jangly" ballad, with Hynde "crooning lovelorn lyrics over a swooning rush of guitars." The magazine notes that the album is the first to feature the band's long-time touring line-up of Hynde, guitarist James Walbourne, bassist Nick Wilkinson and founding drummer Martin Chambers. The songs - including the punky title track - were co-written by Hynde and Walbourne.

Robert Cray Band: This Man

On his latest LP, That's What I Heard, Cray and his band mix originals and covers, building their own structures on traditional foundations of blues, soul, gospel and R&B. On this track, Cray cleverly subverts a common blues-lyric trope into a political statement. At a surface level, it's a song about a man upset to find a strange man in his house. But the lyric provides clues to what man, and what house, Cray is singing about: "There he is again / Talkin' loud, talkin' trash / And it's always something bout him / Now he's walking around like he's a big king / If we're gonna save our home / We gotta get him out."

The Brokers: It All Went Bad

The refrain of this song seems to take on new meaning in this time of "stay-at-home" warnings: "I wish I never left my house / Tile stove, warm bed / Now I shiver, I'm on my own / Alone." For that matter, the title seems apropos of the moment. The single was released late last year, ahead of this Helsinki duo's upcoming album Echoes Behind Me, and turned up on The Detour (our nightly exploration of new and different music) a few weeks ago. Martti Varjonen and Teemu Tiainen describe their music as "indie rock with a pinch of electronic sound and catchy melodies backed up by ethereal atmosphere."