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Sunday, May 30, 2021

The latest: Counting Crows, Will McBride Group, Plastic Age, Annie Keating, Brett Dennen

Counting Crows: Elevator Boots

Lead singer Adam Duritz is the latest member of a well-known rock band to write a song about being a member of a well-known rock band. "Everybody wants to know you ... Plug into the buzz ... They want you and you want to / With their lips on fire and your head unscrewed / But it's time to whip another change and hit one more town." The track is one of four on the band's first release in seven years, the curiously titled Butter Miracle, Suite One.

Will McBride Group: No For An Answer

This North Carolina band's latest EP, None the Worse for Wear, recently reached our ears by way of a UK indie-music site (Viva the interwebs!). The band had its origins in 2004-05, playing gigs in the Raleigh area, and several years later started landing opening slots for such national acts as Styx, ZZ Top and Aaron Neville. They describe their music as jazz-influenced rock and pop. Here, a backing chorus adds extra flavor to the funky guitar, keyboards and drums. Mixes well with: String Cheese Incident (think "Joyful Sound"), Phish, Bruce Hornsby.

Plastic Age: Desire

Photo: Manon Pilorge
This self-described "indie-rock/pop-punk band from France recently released it's second album, Yeack! The trio, fronted by lead vocalist/bassist Apolline, cites a wide range of influences, including the Buzzcocks, Pixies, Vines and Garbage. U.K. music website Small Music Scene calls the LP "insanely entertaining," with "gritty basses and shattering drum fills mixing with the dashing riffs."

Annie Keating: Third Street

We previously featured "Marigold," and now another track from the LP Bristol County Tides enters our New Music bin. It's one of the more rocking tracks off the album, which grew from Keating's pandemic retreat from Brooklyn to Bristol County, Mass. There, she says, "the city girl in me entirely gave way to the country, captivated by the river and the tides high and low." This song describes some of the new friends she made there. Guitar Girl Magazine calls the album Keating's "most accomplished, inspired, and ambitious work to date."

Brett Dennen: See the World

The title track from the California singer-songwriter's seventh album, due this summer, is a father-to-son message that resonates with this moment. "This song has taken on a more powerful meaning after this past year," Dennenn says. "Now that the world is opening up, I have both relief and anxiety." His son "is the reason I wrote this song. To tell him that it is more important to learn from himself than it is to learn from me.”

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Jackson Browne, Scott Krokoff, Sleater-Kinney, Garbage, Gary Louris land in our New Music bin

Jackson Browne: Cleveland Heart

The title isn't a reference to the spirit of the city on Lake Erie's shore. The latest single from Browne's upcoming Downhill From Everywhere album is a wry take on the idea that human hearts are too emotionally fragile. "I expect real changes to start / When I finally get my Cleveland Heart / They can take a bashin' and never lose the passion." Browne told Rolling Stone he was driving past the offices of cardiac-device maker Cleveland Heart when "the person I was driving with said ... 'that’s where they make artificial hearts.’ I said, ‘Oh, I could use one of those!’”

Scott Krokoff: Far Too Many Times

A frequent theme in this New York troubadour's songs is encouragement to shake off self-doubt and pursue the life you want to lead. On this single, the lyric is addressed to someone who prefers to bitch and moan that life's not fair. "No one owes you anything / It's up to you to seize what each moment brings / So get out there and stand up and sing / And don't complain to me." In a couple of spots, Krokoff tosses in a parenthetical "she said" -- suggesting that the narrator of the song is actually quoting what someone once told him.

Sleater-Kinney: Worry With You

With time and the recent departure of their longtime drummer, some of the rough edges have been worn off this band that emerged from the Portland punk scene of the 1990s. The new album coming from what is now the duo of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein is called Path of Wellness, and this single has a vibe of positivity through togetherness in a troubled world: "If I'm gonna worry, I’m gonna worry with you,” they sing over what Pitchfork calls "some of the breeziest melodies of their career."

Garbage: Wolves

Shirley Manson calls this "the pop song off the record" - that is, her band's forthcoming seventh studio album, No Gods No Masters. “This song reminds me of my younger self, when there were two sides to my personality,” says Manson, referencing an old folk tale about dueling inner wolves. “I hurt so many people in my life, both knowingly and unknowingly, I’m sure. But when you’re young and in self-survival mode, much like a baby rattlesnake, you have no idea how strong your venom is. Meanwhile, you're just out there having fun.”

Gary Louris: Almost Home

The Jayhawks frontman is about to release a solo album, Jump for Joy, that he describes as a collection of “the best songs I have written that are still lying around.” American Songwriter writes that this single "details the supernatural force that grounds every traveler - the person waiting on the other side of the door that wields a magnetic power to define a subjective concept of home."

Saturday, May 15, 2021

New music from Joan Armatrading, Son Volt, Gorstey Lea Street Choir, Rooks, Joywave

Joan Armatrading: Already There

It's great news that a new LP is on its way from this U.K. artist whose 1976 self-titled debut remains one of the great albums of all time. The first track to spin out from Consequences is a celebration of the moment of realization that a love is requited. "You just told me you loved me / For the very first time / And it feels like I'm flying ... While you were falling in love / I was already there."

Son Volt: Reverie

Call them alt-country or roots-rock, Son Volt has been going strong for more than a quarter-century and is preparing to release its 10th album, Electro Melodier. This first single is "an uptempo, hopeful reflection on persistence and hard-won perspective," writes Rolling Stone. The album is named after two amplifier brands from the late '40s and early '50s, and frontman Jay Farrar says, "I wanted to concentrate on the melodies which got me into music in the first place." The band's current lineup also includes Mark Spencer, Chris Fame, Mark Patterson and Andrew DuPlantis.

The Gorstey Lea Street Choir: Bluebird, Hollywood ... Domino

This group from Staffordshire, U.K., follows up its 2020 debut EP with a single described as "a psychedelic upbeat 6/8 stomp." Big Takeover Magazine calls it "a rich melting pot of prominent drum strikes, limber bass line, reverberating percussion, and bright psych-tinged guitar lines." Michael Clapham, co-leader with Russ Phillips, says “This song is a cautionary tale of days gone by, what may have been and where we are now."

Rooks: Battlefield

Guitarist/vocalist Jay Bowcott, drummer Darryl Swart and bassist Brent Rossall make up this trio from Calgary. As a relatively new band (they released their debut LP last year) that draws on classic-rock influences, they fit perfectly into the Birch Street Radio lineup. On this new single, the Rooks are flying in similar skies as the Byrds, Eagles and Jayhawks.

Joywave: Every Window Is a Mirror

This is the title track from the Rochester, N.Y., band's latest album, due next month. Like so much recent music, it was recorded under quarantine conditions in a home studio, in this case belonging to frontman Daniel Armbruster. “The imagery in the song," he says, "is thinking you’re looking through a clear pane of glass, only to discover upon further inspection that you can see yourself in it, some of the room you’re in reflected in it — and it might be a little dirtier than you thought when you’re up close.”

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Our latest picks: Modest Mouse, Grand Splendid, Dentist, Soda Blonde, Coldplay in New Music bin

Modest Mouse: We Are Between

The Portland, Ore.-based band plans a June release of The Golden Casket, their first album since 2015's Strangers to Ourselves. On the new collection, frontman Isaac Brock “explores themes ranging from the degradation of our psychic landscapes and invisible technology, to fatherhood,” according to a press release. This first single uses a simple refrain to suggest bigger ideas about life, the universe and everything: "We are between, yeah, we are / Somewhere between dust and the stars / Swung open, then slammed shut, yeah, but here we are."

Grand Splendid: Magic

Here's the second single from this Montreal indie-rock band's upcoming album, its first full-length release. Who are these guys?  Julian Buchbinder (lead vocals, guitar), Alex Pilla (bass, keyboards), Mathias Fugen (guitar, vocal harmonies) and Renaud Viero (drums). In November we featured the first single, "You Are the Universe," which eventually reached #1 on the Canadian Online Radio Chart and remains in the top 10 at this writing.

Dentist: Let Me Let Go

We featured the single “Don’t Let Me Catch You” when it came out in February, and this latest entry to our New Music bin is the next bit to emerge from their upcoming fourth album. Impose Magazine writes that the track "cruises on what Dentist does best; infectious hooks, driving bass and loud guitars." It's a song aboug getting away from a bad relationship, as vocalist Emily Bornemann told the mag: "I often find myself writing about heartbreak I can’t control, because it is something that just sticks with me."

Sold Blonde: In The Heat Of The Night

Singer Faye O'Rourke, guitarist Adam O’Regan, drummer Dylan Lynch and bassist Donagh Seaver-O’Leary are former members of Little Green Cars. When that Dublin band broke up in early 2019, they reformed as a quartet and have already released two EPs and a couple of singles. We recently featured "Small Talk," the title track of an upcoming album that will also include this new single. "It’s a song about conflict -- and getting a kick out of it," says O'Rourke. "The thrill of the fight."

Coldplay: Higher Power

The band teamed with Swedish pop producer Max Martin, who has worked on hits with the likes of Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake, on this new single. Frontman Chris Martin told the BBC that it's one of several new tracks Coldplay recorded over the past year, while jumping through hoops to comply with pandemic restrictions. "We had to find countries where we were able to get in with permission, and then be in a recording bubble - and we did that three or four times," he said. He told the network that lockdowns forced him to look at his relationship with fame. "Last year was a quite an eye opener," he said. "I was like, 'Who am I without Wembley Stadium, saying you're awesome?'"

Saturday, May 1, 2021

New releases by Carsie Blanton, Screens 4 Eyes, Edgar Road, WKNDR, Dumpstaphunk

Carsie Blanton: Sufferin' Fools

With her unique sound and view of the world, this indie singer-songwriter that we've been following for years is drawing well-deserved attention with her new album, Love & Rage. Across its 11 tracks, Blanton's subjects range from love and lust to injustice and protest. We can't do a better job of capturing the album's spirit than this review by National Public Radio or this one by PopMatters. We previously featured singles "Party at the End of the World" and "Be Good," and with the release of the LP we're picking this cheerfully bittersweet song about a brief affair: "Knowin' it was just one night / Why'd it have to feel so right?"

Screens 4 Eyes: At Dawn

This is the latest single from the Tel Aviv synth-pop group's pandemic-delayed-but-still-forthcoming third EP. On this track, dawn brings darkness as keyboardist-vocalist Yael Brener sings of finding a lover missing at morning: "Why did you walk away? / This is how it feels, a fading presence walks away." Bright piano notes and sharp drumbeats accent the moody synths, creating a mesmerizing sonic atmosphere.

Edgar Road: Breakout

Here's the latest track from another indie band we've been following and featuring for a few years now. The five-piece from northern Scotland has released several singles in recent months, building toward its planned third EP. The band features vocalist-guitarist Mark Conti, Magdalena Wellenger on keyboards and vocals, Simon Watterson on guitar, Michael Byiers on bass and Allan Hall on drums.

WKNDR: Rising

Photo: Nick Wasch Photography
The title track from Richmond, Virginia-based "alterna-folk-rock" band grabs us right away with its opening flute notes (we always enjoy a rockin' flute) and then busts out into a joyful sound suitable for dancing on the lawn at a summer music festival (Can we have those again, please?). The band consists of Jim Wright (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Ali Foley Shenk (vocals, flute, bass, ukulele), Adam Powell (drums and percussion) and Elliot Johnson (lead guitar, keys, bass, vocals). In their words, they play "original music deriving from their conviction that life is beautiful, love wins, and mean people suck."

Dumpstaphunk: Make It After All

This is the title track from the New Orleans band's jam-packed new album. From their bio: "Founding members Ivan Neville (vocals/keyboards) Ian Neville (guitar) Tony Hall (bass/guitar/vocals) and Nick Daniels (bass/vocals) along with newest members Alex Wasily (trombone) and Deven Trusclair (drums), have built upon the Neville family’s iconic NOLA legacy, as they’ve transformed into the city’s pre-eminent 21st-century funk-fusion export, after being birthed originally from a spontaneous set during New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2003." We only wish we could get down to Tipitina's and catch their shows this weekend!