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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." 

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