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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 "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."

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