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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Liz Phair returns + Oliver Wood goes solo + new music by London Grammar, Yard Arms, Wilderado


Liz Phair: Spanish Doors


The title of Phair's upcoming album, her first in 11 years, is Soberish, referring to a state of moderation - such as, partying without losing control. "If you reach for too much of a good thing, or starve yourself with too little, you’ll lose that critical balance," Phair says. The LP was produced by Brad Wood, who also worked on Exile in Guyville, Whip-Smart and whitechocolatespaceegg. “I found my inspiration for Soberish by delving into an early era of my music development - my art school years spent listening to Art Rock and New Wave music non-stop on my Walkman” Phair said. This first single narrates the reaction to the collapse of a relationship: "I don't want to see anybody I know / I don't want to be anywhere that you and I used to go."

Oliver Wood: Fine Line


The frontman of The Wood Brothers isn't leaving that group, but makes his solo debut with Always Smilin' - an album born of collaborations back when those were easy to arrange. "The year before the pandemic, people would come through Nashville where I live and I'd set up a co-write or a jam in our studio, just to do some stuff outside of my own band," Wood said. "There wasn't an album in mind. I just wanted to be creative." The first single has an earlier origin: "The song 'Fine Line' dates back to my King Johnson days," Wood said. "Bringing it back and recording it again was my way of paying tribute to that band and the music we made together" in the late 1990s.

London Grammar: How Does It Feel


This was the third single to come out before California Soil, the just-released third album from the Nottingham trio of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dot Major. Stereogum calls the song "an upbeat spin on the London Grammar sound, keeping the sense of cinematic drama but putting a dancey skip in its step." Reid acknowledges it has more of a pop sound than much of the band's work. "I’ve always loved pop music ... This song started off as an experiment, and ended up being one of my favorites on the record. Along with our alternative side, this creates a light and shade on our album that I’ve always wanted to achieve."

Yard Arms: Hollow Ankles


Less than a year after their third EP, Sanctuary Lines, Noah Villeneuve and Billy Golding are back with more of their melancholic pop - or what they jokingly refer to as "sad bops for dad bods." Lyricist Villeneuve calls this track "a musing on the chronic instability of life," but there's an upbeat hopefulness to that musing. Yard Arms count Echo and the Bunnymen among their influences, and we definitely hear echoes of the 80s as well as the 90s and beyond in their sound.

Wilderado: Head Right


Somewhere on the rock/alternative/Americana spectrum lies this band from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They've released several singles and EPs since 2015, and are working toward a debut LP to be called Head Right. Broadwayworld calls this title single "a confident and boisterous slice of rock n' roll [that] builds on what the band does best - combining soaring melodies with lush three-part harmonies." Band member Max Rainer says the group was sitting around talking about "how sometimes the best way to ruin a song, life, or anything really, is to take it too seriously. That afternoon we wrote 'Head Right.' It ... represents a turning point for us as a band, a return to the basics and the feeling of writing music while not caring about much at all." 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The latest: The Wallflowers, Carsie Blanton, Whitehorse, Flock of Dimes, Van Go Go


The Wallflowers: Roots and Wings


Photo: Yasmin Than
The first release from Jakob Dylan since 2012's Glad All Over is this single from a new LP, Exit Wounds, due in July. Paste Magazine tells us he put together a new group of musicians for the album, and has scheduled a tour to begin in the summer. JD says of the album title: "Nobody is the same as they were four years ago. That, to me, is what Exit Wounds signifies. And it’s not meant to be negative at all. It just means that wherever you’re headed, even if it’s to a better place, you leave people and things behind, and you think about those people and those things and you carry them with you. Those are your exit wounds. And right now, we’re swimming in them."

Carsie Blanton: Party at the End of the World


Our regular listeners are familiar with this singer-songwriter, whose upcoming album Love and Rage expresses her primary messages: Love one another, and rage against hatred. "About half the time, I think the human race is doomed and there’s nothing we can do about it. On those days I alternate between despair and hedonism. This [song's] about hedonism." She's pictured here with long-time band members Joe Plowman (bass) and Patrick Firth (keyboards), who podded together and produced the album through the pandemic.

Whitehorse: Relic in the New Age


The Ontario-based duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland recently released Modern Love, the first album the couple also produced. Their sound has been described as folk-rock, Western noir, "space cowboy" and, in a publicity blurb, "a fully immersive experience of interpersonal harmonics in ultra rich waveshape sonics." Ok, then. The LP's theme is described as a "blueprint for love in the digital age," and this song expresses a sense of trying to adapt humanity to technology: "You've got me by the barcode, baby /  I know I’m just a demo failed / But somehow I prevailed / It’s evolutionary."

Flock of Dimes: Two


Photo: Graham Tolbert
Jenn Wasner, who is half of the indie-pop duo Wye Oak and a touring member of Bon Iver, has released her second solo album under the Flock of Dimes name. For Head of Roses, Wassner "assembles a different group of collaborators, but she sounds more confident than ever in her own voice," Paste writes, resulting in "an album that’s equal parts intricate, exploratory pop and thoughtful, experimental indie folk." The refrain in this song expresses the tension between independence and partnership: "Can I be one? / Can we be two? / Can I be for myself? / Still be still with you?"

Van Go Go: Both of Us


The quartet of Nathan Mackinder (vocals), Jason Schaller (guitar), Paxton Olney (bass) and Jonah Brockman (drums) formed in Michigan in 2007, recorded some demos in 2008 - then took a hiatus that turned into 12 years of pursuing other careers. Amid the pandemic, their bio says, they decided "they had unfinished business, as well as unfinished music from 2008, and they collectively decided that it was time to finish the stories that they had begun to tell before separating." They returned to Pearl Sound Studios, finished off those early songs and added  new ones. We're not sure if this one was written in '08, but to our ears it has a bit of an '80 sound.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

New from Joy Formidable, Weekend Recovery, Keeton Coffman, Annie Keating, Rag 'n' Bone Man


The Joy Formidable: Into the Blue


This single is the Welsh band's first release in three years. Does that mean there's an album on the way? The fact that this track is labeled "Single Edit" would seem to be a good clue. Lead singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan co-wrote and shares vocals with bassist Rhydian Dafydd on this song. Bryan says it's "about surrendering to love and magic. Having the courage to enjoy a new journey and the mystery and excitement of something unexpected.”

Weekend Recovery: Surprise


The trials of a new band: This group formed in 2017 in Leeds, U.K., and after extensive touring was in the midst of producing its debut album. Then the pandemic struck, the label that was going to distribute the record collapsed, and two of the five original members left the group. But a crowdfunding campaign and a new label deal revived the LP, False Company, early this year. Their sound ranges from garage band noise to anthemic pop like this single.

Keeton Coffman: Wounded Heart


This Texas singer-songwriter-guitarist has been part of our mix since his 2016 LP Killer Eyes. We've picked up a couple of his singles since then, and this latest release will be on his second full-length album, Hard Times, due in June. "This is a record I wrote from my experiences, but these aren't stories about me," he told Glide Magazine. "I hope people find themselves in the characters. His heartland rock and storytelling reflect influences such as Bruce Hornsby, Tom Petty and John Mellencamp.

Annie Keating: Marigold


In the early days of the pandemic, the Brooklyn-based Americana artist retreated with her family to Bristol County, Massachusetts, along the coast between Cape Cod and Rhode Island. Songs from that retreat make up Keating’s 8th full length album, Bristol County Tides, described as telling "an evocative story of love, loss, and finding what matters most in uncertain times." It's a mix of warm ballands and more upbeat songs, like the single we're featuring in our New Music Bin.

Rag 'n' Bone Man: All You Ever Wanted


Four years since he broke out with the album Human, Rory Graham is about to release a 15-track, semi-autobiographical collection, Life By Misadventure. A native of rural East Sussex, U.K., "Graham got his start in the hip-hop world of Brighton before finding a more suitable vehicle for his massive voice," according to AllMusic. He released a series of soulful, bluesy EPs, culminating in the 2017 LP and its hit single, also called "Human." The new album was largely produced in Nashville and, says NME, "finds Graham taking on a classic rock-influenced sound as he reminisces about the places he grew up in."