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Saturday, June 12, 2021

James McMurtry, The Wallflowers, MBG, Modest Mouse, Gary Numan drop into the New Music bin

James McMurtry: Canola Fields

We're longtime fans of this Texas singer-songwriter and are happy to hear a new album is on its way. Horses and Hounds is his first LP in seven years and his debut on New West Records. Rolling Stone calls McMurtry a "hyper-literate" writer whose "lyrics are rich in detail." This song opens with a drive through Southern Alberta, where the color of the fields of canola trigger a memory: "about the same chartreuse as that ’69 Bug you used to drive around San Jose.” He sings of reconnecting with that person later in life: "Cashing in on a 30-year crush / You can't be young and do that."

The Wallflowers: Who's That Man Walking 'Round My Garden

The latest single to pop out ahead of the Exit Wounds LP due next month builds on a time-worn theme: man comes home from work and finds a strange car in the driveway / strange shoes under the bed / strange man in the kitchen. In this case, Jakob Dylan says the garden "is whatever you hold dear and find worthy of protecting. Might be a woman, could be your future, may be your peace of mind. Keep out of mine and I’ll keep out of yours.” Spin says "the timeless Americana rock sound the band is known for fuses with a little extra guitar-driven funkiness" on this track.

MBG: Go O.U.T.

Expressing the feelings of many, Toronto songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leena Rodriguez sings of being "cooped up, locked down in a bungalow" for months and wanting to get back out in the world - but still nervous about being around "the people that live without fear." Get Some Magazine calls this single "a perfect slice of post-pandemic punk ... infectious, and kind of pummeling, with some wondrously distorted guitars, lockstep drums, and MBG’s unique scream that turns into a genuine roar at one point."

Modest Mouse: Leave a Light On

The second single to land in our New Music bin ahead of The Golden Casket "feels woozy and borderline psychedelic at the edges," writes Rolling Stone, "but it’s anchored by a big indie rock sing-along hook: “We’re leaving, we’re leaving, we’re leaving / We’ll be home soon.”

Gary Numan: Saints and Liars

The veteran of late-70s-early-80s New Wave recently released his 18th LP, Intruder. It's a concept album that "looks at climate change from the planet’s point of view," Numan explains. "If Earth could speak, and feel things the way we do, what would it say?" The music is much darker and heavier than in Numan's early works (e.g. "Cars") and would mix well with Muse at its most foreboding.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Shemekia Copeland & Kenny Wayne Shepherd + Wolf Alice + Michigan Rattlers + Liz Phair + Crowded House = this week's New Music Picks

Shemekia Copeland & Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Hit 'Em Back

Contemporary blues singer Copeland asked lyricist John Hahn for a song to address anger and division in the blues community. "You can say ‘this is the blues and that isn’t’ - and I’ve been guilty of that, too, but as I’ve grown, I’ve seen it encompasses everything from rock and folk to you name it. Blues is the root of American music." The refrain - "Let ‘em scream and yell / Push and shove / You gotta hit ‘em back with love" - certainly also applies to society at large. Copeland recruited guitarist Shepherd to write the music and join her on the record. Within days they were in a Nashville studio putting it together with pedal-steel master Robert Randolph and drummer Tony Coleman. All proceeds will be donated to the non-profit Music Maker Relief Foundation.

Wolf Alice: Smile

The UK band's third album has drawn reviews bordering on the ecstatic. Paste Magazine writes that Blue Weekend "finds Wolf Alice at the top of their game, with each track memorable and each idea fresh and unique." NME calls it "a stone-cold masterpiece full of confidence and magic," and says of this track: "Over crunching riffs [vocalist Ellie Roswell] shoots down the world’s attempts to put her in a box and tell her how she should be." She does so mostly in a flat, talk-singing manner, in sharp contrast to her soaring vocals on the track we featured previously, "The Last Man on Earth."

Michigan Rattlers: That Kind of Life

New to our ears is this band from - well, the name tells you that. Graham Young and Adam Reed started playing together as an acoustic duo, with plans to evolve into a rock band. They've done that with the additions of keyboardist Christian Wilder and drummer Tony Audia. Their second album, That Kind of Life, is their first as a full band. Young told American Songwriter the title track is "about having this idea of what your life will be, what will happen. And how that doesn’t happen, it rarely works out. So then it’s like, how do you adjust and move forward? This is something we’ve all had to figure out this year. No one got out unscathed.”

Liz Phair: The Game

On her new album Soberish, Phair reunites with Brad Wood, the producer of Exile in Guyville, Whip-Smart and Whitechocolatespaceegg. She told Stereogum she considers this her first proper studio album since the last of those three came out in 1988, with everything since being a series of detours. We previously featured the single "Spanish Doors," and this is another song about a relationship on the skids: "Everytime I think we're solid / You change the game."

Crowded House: Love Isn't Hard At All

Neil Finn puts the band back together, more or less, on its first album in 11 years, Dreamers Are Waiting. He's joined by co-founder Nick Seymour on bass and original producer Mitchell Froom on keys - plus Finn's sons, Liam (guitar) and Elroy (drums). Glide Magazine calls the result a "solid collection of jangle pop," adding, "that core sound, anchored in deep harmonies and strong pop hooks [is] still there." This track is a multi-generational co-write, by Neil and Elroy.