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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Fresh picks: The Jayhawks, Gracie and Rachel, MBG, July Talk and introducing The Criticals

The Jayhawks: This Forgotten Town

Photo: Vivian Johnson
The upcoming album XOXO represents a deliberate effort by the band to equalize its members' contributions to the music. On this song, written by Marc Perlman and Gary Louris, the lead vocals are shared by Louris and Tim O’Reagan, with Karen Grotberg harmonizing. The band's blend of American roots and 60's pop influences (referenced by the cover art) remains intact. The lyrics of this song are a bit obscure -- "I like to leave space between the lines for interpretation," says Louris -- but the theme of living on the economic edge comes through in lines like "Living in a makeshift tent / Couldn't find money for the rent."

Gracie and Rachel: Trust

The Brooklyn-based duo of keyboardist Gracie Coates and violinist Rachel Ruggles has been part of our mix since they began releasing recordings in 2016 (and we caught one of their live shows). Having toured with Ani DiFranco, they have now signed with her Righteous Babe Records label for their upcoming sophomore album. They just released a pair of singles (remember two-sided 45s?), "Ideas" and this track. As they describe it: "Sprouted from a writer’s block that caused Gracie and Rachel to doubt their songwriting abilities after a lengthy tour, 'Trust' blossomed into an empowered reflection on learning to speak your own language, believe in your instincts, and write your own narrative, regardless of any self-imposed walls your mind builds up."

MBG: Too Slow

Last summer we featured music from this Toronto-area one-woman-rock-band's debut LP,  Have a Alright Day, produced at MB Studios (that is, her house). For her new single, Leena Rodriguez recorded there and at Human Tourist Records (also a house - that of musician Phil Hirst, who engineered the track). Of course, she's back to working at her own home now due to the coronavirus, unable to bring her music to live audiences. A shame, since this track - although it starts slowly - builds into a wild rocker that would liven any club. Webzine Last Day Deaf calls it an "undeniable, garage/alternative rock banger, which gradually picks up to its zenith, unleashing more tension than a classic alt-rock quartet could achieve."

July Talk: Governess Shadow

More Toronto rock: This single from Peter Dreimanis, Leah Fay and their band is billed as a broadside against misogyny and social inequality. “This song is about my great-grandmother Alice and her two sisters Marie and Anna, who were sent to finishing school in Moscow as teenagers to learn how to serve the wealthy families of the day,” Dreimanis told Billboard. “It’s also about the deep imbalances of power in our world, and specifically how people are separated by wealth and gender.”

The Criticals: Talk Now

This Nashville-based band was formed in 2018 by Parker Forbes and Cole Shugart, veterans of that city's DIY music scene. They cite The Stone Roses, Janes Addiction and The Doors among their influences. Their sound has also been compared to The Strokes - and the lead vocal here reminds our ear of Cake's John McCrea. Although they put out a stream of singles last year, this catchy track is the first to reach us, with a boost from Deuce Music.

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