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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Edgar Road, Selwyn Birchwood, Shayla McDaniel, Middle Kids, Still Corners in our New Music bin

Edgar Road: Hold On

A common story in the past year: This five-member indie band from the north of Scotland has "a passion for live music and travel, both which have been destroyed over the last year." But the group continued to make music and has just released three singles in quick succession. Our pick for the new music bin is, according to the band, "a song about the end of a long term relationship, something we can all relate to either from our own experiences or from picking up the pieces of somebody else's turmoil." The other singles, "Everything Has Changed" and "Photograph," will pop up in our big mix, too.

Selwyn Birchwood: You Can't Steal My Shine

This Florida-based contemporary blues artist has just released his third album, Living in a Burning House. The electric-guitar and lap-steel player calls his original music “electric swamp funkin’ blues.” Rock and Blues Muse praises the LP as "a career-making record that moves Birchwood and the blues as a whole forward in a remarkable way." His band's unique sound is due in part to the prominent role of baritone saxophonist Regi Oliver.

Shayla McDaniel: Take My Words

We've featured this Knoxville, Tennessee-based singer-songwriter before, and are happy to be among the first to present her latest single. A  multi-instrumentalist with a distinctive voice (lyrically and vocally), she tells us this song "was inspired by my parents and encourages us to treasure the wisdom collected over time, especially from loved ones." From the refrain: "So take my words, don’t write them down / but don’t let them fall to the ground /catch them in your mind and hide them in your heart."

Middle Kids: Questions

This is the second single to spin out ahead of the Sydney indie-rock band's upcoming album, Today We're The Greatest. It starts out quietly, but as Stereogum puts it, "By the time Hannah Joy is ripping into the chorus a second and third time, the soundtrack has become a raging inferno of distorted guitars and orchestral brass." In today's climate, one might think the opening lyric is directed at a politician - "How am I supposed to trust you when you are lying all the time?" - but no, it's a song of a strained personal relationship.

Still Corners: Last Exit

Formed in London, the duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray relocated to the U.S. Southwest a couple of years ago and developed a sound described as "shimmering desert noir." We're featuring the title track from their just-released fifth album, Last Exit. AllMusic says on this collection, Still Corners "embellish on the sunbaked dream-pop they introduced on [2018's] Slow Air ...  The album's abundant use of slide guitar and pedal steel suggests a rustic version of shoegaze ...  a fitting soundtrack for getting lost on the open road."

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The latest from Crack the Sky, Screens 4 Eyes, Kiwi Jr., The Perfumers, Harriet Comfort

Crack the Sky: We Don't Know

Many of the songs on this veteran prog-rock band's new album, Tribes, comment on the current divisions in society. We previously featured the title track ("We take sides / Believing in our tribes"); another warns about signs of "Another Civil War." Our latest pick for the New Music bin addresses official disinformation: "Calling all men in government suits / All I want is a little truth." There's a hint of Beatles/Floyd psychedelia on the refrain, "We don't know what to believe / All we see is all we see." 

Screens 4 Eyes: Secrets

Like so many bands around the world, this Tel Aviv-based electro-pop group's plans for their next EP have been slowed to a crawl by pandemic lockdown. They eked out one single last year ("Sometimes a Gate Is Opened") and have just released this "dreamy folktronica" track. The lyric speaks of the inability to keep secrets when they are shared with a supposed friend in the form of texts, emails, photos - evidence that can easily be spread around. "In the coming of time / You will have what you need / To crush me." 

Kiwi Jr.: Waiting in Line

Photo: Warren Calbeck
This Toronto quartet puts frontman Jeremy Gaudet's sardonic narrative lyrics together with deceptively loose arrangements to make breezy, jangly indie rock. AllMusic writes that the band's sophomore album, Cooler Returns,"feels ever so slightly more refined" than its 2019 debut, "allowing the band's unique stew of influences and reference points a little more room to gel." The band has drawn comparisons to Parquet Courts and Pavement, and we detect earlier influences like The Kinks. DIY Mag calls the new album "an endearingly ramshackle pop-rock affair that suggests they managed to do something unthinkable with their 2020 - had a lot of fun." 

The Perfumers: I Need It

This four-piece band from Fort Wayne, Indiana, professes to "spend most of their time writing, producing and drinking coffee." Siblings Jordan (guitar, vocals) and Sayge (drums) Kortenber, along with Malakai Bisel (guitar, vocals), have been playing together since 2012. After taking a break, they reformed the band in 2019, and were just beginning to play shows when the pandemic shut that down. So they turned their focus to recording, added keyboardist Noah Campodonico and revamped their sound. This is their third single - released a few months ago, but still "new" to us. They describe it as covering "topics such as love, social media, and phone addiction." 

Harriet Comfort: The Other Side

Most of its members hail from Australia, but this six-piece group came together in East London. They took their band name from mail that kept being delivered to their flat, presumably intended for a previous occupant. They took their power-rock sound from influences that range from Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes to The Cranberries and Fleetwood Mac. This track is said to be "inspired by a night out on the town in a new city ... [exploring] the excitement of unexpectedly being thrust into a new adventure with some unsavoury characters.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

New from Foo Fighters, Adrian Sutherland, Inhaler, Elizabeth & The Catapult, Matthew Sweet

Foo Fighters: Waiting on a War

The latest single from the upcoming Medicine at Midnight LP finds Dave Grohl contemplating how his daughter's worries about the state of the world mirror his own as a child during the Cold War. "Last fall, as I was driving my daughter to school, she turned to me and asked, 'Daddy, is there going to be a war?,'" Grohl said in a statement. "My heart sank as I realized that she was now living under the same dark cloud that I had felt 40 years ago. ... Everyday waiting for the sky to fall. Is there more to this than that? Is there more to this than just waiting on a war? Because I need more. We all do." The track is largely acoustic before building to a fierce finale.

Adrian Sutherland: Respect the Gift

The closing line "Only one shot / You gotta give it all you got" sums up the theme of this rocker. The indigenous singer/songwriter from northern Ontario says it's "about using our ‘gifts’ for good, and not taking for granted the everyday freedoms and luxuries we have. There’s never been a more important time to appreciate all that we find precious, especially given the world we’re living in today." FYI Music News writes: "The track features a spirited guitar riff, funky rhythms, and solid backing vocals, turning it into an upbeat song of celebration." . 

Inhaler: When It Breaks

This Irish quartet fronted by Elijah Hewson (who happens to be Bono's son) is preparing its debut album for release early this year. Of this single, recorded during the summer of quarantine, the bad says: "The lyrics and the music communicate the anxiousness of how we were all feeling, and still are now a couple months later. It’s our interpretation of this strange and imperfect world we’ve come to live in.” 

Elizabeth and the Catapult: Pop the Placebo

This is the first taste from the New York-based indie singer-songwriter's new album - sincerely, e - due in March. Behind her acoustic guitar and vocal, orchestral strings and backing vocals swell and recede  as Elizabeth Ziman describes her efforts to cope with pandemic isolation by following the advice of wellness gurus. "I was trying everything possible to stay healthy, as if controlling all the minutiae of my life would ward off any possibility of getting sick or feeling unhappy. ... The practices were all seemingly healthy, but my preoccupation with them was not."

Matthew Sweet: At A Loss

With the release of Catspaw, we're featuring another track from his 15th album and his third since moving in 2013 from LA to his home state of Nebraska. Produced at his home studio, with Sweet playing all the parts except drums, the album "finds him further digging into his "anthemic power pop and tube-amp guitar wizardry," as AllMusic puts it. The lyric describes someone unsure about how to act in a new relationship, hoping the other will take the lead: "I'll never know what I'm gonna say / 'Til you say you do / Until then, I'm at loss."

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Brand-new music by Major Funk, Kings of Leon, Edie Brickell, The Weather Station, Elephant

Major Funk: Show Your Heart

The group's web site says it plainly: "High energy bass-led grooves, soaring vocals, and a tight horn section; this isn’t what you’d expect from a band coming from the Yukon in Canada’s North." But this group from Whitehorse brings all that to this single from its debut full-length album, Is That You?, due in March. Hat tip to Canadian Beats for introducing us to the seven-piece ensemble of experienced musicians from across Canada. "Together we make old school music with a modern spin," says bassist √Čtienne Girard. 

Kings of Leon: The Bandit

Also due in March is When You See Yourself, the eighth studio album (and first since 2016) from the Followills - brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared and cousin Matthew. The Nashville-based band bring their familiar sound to this lead single. The cryptic lyrics "And they're walking around with their heads in the cloud screaming, Must catch the bandit" - seem to suggest people hunting for someone to blame for their troubles, who may or may not be real.. 

Edie Brickell and New Bohemians: My Power

The New Bos gathered again in Austin to record their fifth studio album, Hunter and the Dog Star, due for release next month. It follows 2018's Rocket, which marked their return from a 12-year break. American Songwriter says the band has put together "a collection of diverse musical ideas and styles ... as they have continuously done for the past three decades." Brickell says the songs reflect "the mystery of self-expression, loyalty, companionship and love in the darkest sky just before dawn.” 

The Weather Station: Atlantic

We previously featured "Tried to Tell You" from the upcoming album, Ignorance, by this project of Toronto singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman. On this track, she writes of witnessing natural beauty - "My god, I thought, what a sunset / Blood red floods the Atlantic" - and wishing it could clear her mind of the world's distress: "Thinking I should get all this dying off of my mind / I should really know better than to read the headlines." Lindeman says she was "trying to capture something of the slipping feeling I think we all feel, the feeling of dread, even in beautiful moments." She adds: "I tried to make the band just go crazy on this one, and they did. ... The music really makes me see the place in my mind; the flute and the guitar chasing each other, wheeling around like birds, the drums cliff-like in their straightness." 

Elephant: Bird's Eye View

From Rotterdam comes this four-piece band that describes its sound as "mellow pop music with an eccentric edge, for fans of Wilco, Andy Shauf and Big Thief." The group launched last year - not the best time to be starting out in the music business - but achieved success with debut single "Midnight in Manhattan." This follow-up is described as "a sweet and haunting song about coming to terms with faded dreams and getting older." The band is joined on this track by pedal steel guitarist Stefan Wolfs.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

New year, new music: Carsie Blanton, Stevie Wonder, Forest Sun, Tired Lion, The Metal Byrds

Carsie Blanton: Be Good

This New Orleans-based singer, songwriter, bandleader and playful revolutionary chose the first moment of 2021 to release a "song about kindness and courage, to ring in a year that's sure to require lots of both." The lyric uses the examples of two famous preachers of love and equality to highlight how dangerous those notions always have been to society's power structure. The single is the first from Love & Rage, the new album from Blanton and her band, due in late April.

Stevie Wonder: Where Is Our Love Song?

With a similar message about "our need for love, peace and unity,” Wonder recently released his first new music in over a decade. On this track, backed by Gary Clark Jr. on guitar, he sings: "Where are our words with hope, prayer for peace, and our desperately needed song of love?" He told Rolling Stone he wrote the beginnings of the song in 1968, when he was 18, and completed it last year with new lyrics.

Forest Sun: Already Home

This self-described troubadour brings a California laid-back style to his music, which draws on influences including gospel, soul, reggae, Americana, blues and jazz. Following his late-2019 LP Brighter Day, he began releasing songs on a monthly basis. Those are now collected on the new album, Stubborn Breathing Heart, which came out New Year's Day. He's been heard frequently on the Birch Street Bistro, our daily hour of singer-songwriters, acoustic bands and the like. Our pick for the New Music bin is this folk-rock-style song with a natural singalong chorus. 

Tired Lion: Breakfast for Pathetics

After establishing this alt-rock band in Perth, Australia, and releasing its debut album (Dumb Days) in 2017, frontwoman Sophie Hopes moved across the continent to Brisbane. As NME reports, "while the relocation brought her closer to her partner, Violent Soho’s Luke Boerdam, it meant leaving behind a lot of personal history – as well as her bandmates." So, on this second LP, Hopes plays all the guitar and keyboard parts, accompanied only by Violent Soho drummer Michael Richards. "What hasn’t changed is the way Hopes fully embraces ’90s indie rock and grunge, leaning into its tangled guitars and quiet/loud kick to chronicle the gloriously messy feelings she observes in and around her."

The Metal Byrds: Impossible

Despite the "byrds" spelling and Austin, Texas, origins, this isn't a jangly Americana band. Their music is classic hard rock with female vocals - think Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Patty Smyth. Eclectic Music Lover describes it as "infused with healthy doses of rock’n’roll and power pop, along with enough metal in the mix to give their songs a dark, edgy quality." The group formed in 2018, after a mutual friend introduced London-born singer-songwriter Suzanne Birdie and guitarist Sly Rye Dovey. Their third EP, Life in 20, came out in late 2020 and includes this goodbye-to-you sendoff to someone who's "impossible to love."