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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.

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