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Saturday, June 26, 2021

New tracks by Danielia Cotton, Adrian Sutherland, Slothrust, Gang of Youths, Sleater-Kinney

Danielia Cotton: Good Day

The last time we featured a track from this New Jersey soul-rock artist, it was a powerful lament of racial prejudice, "A Different War." On this new single, Cotton lets hope reign. "During a particularly dark day, in a dark year, I remember sitting down and thinking I want to write a song that puts me in a good mood," she says. "With the help of my new writing partner Jeff Cohen from Nashville, we finished it off with lyrics that actually puts us in the mood that we set out to create."

Adrian Sutherland: Right Here

The frontman of roots-rock band Midnight Shine will release his first solo album in September. 
His home area on the James Bay in Attawapiskat First Nation has been more isolated than usual through the pandemic due to restrictions on flights - the only way in and out. With no access to recording studios, Sutherland "realized he’d have to fully DIY it," according to a press release. "So he spent last fall constructing and preparing his own recording space in a metal shipping container on his property. This spring, Adrian was finally able to start working remotely and interactively with producers and musicians from inside his ‘sea-can studio’" to complete the album. This single follows "Respect the Gift," which we featured in January.

Slothrust: Once More for the Ocean

Photo: Adam Stone
Guitarist/vocalist Leah Wellbaum, bass player Kyle Bann and drummer Will Gorin met as music students at Sarah Lawrence College in suburban New York and released their first EP in 2010. Now based in Los Angeles, they have their fifth full-length album coming out in September. Wellbaum says: "This song felt like it was handed to me by the ocean. It came to me when I was sitting on some rocks and staring at one of my favorite oceans in the world, on Star Island off the coast of Rye, New Hampshire. ... it is about the search for a greater consciousness in times of chaos. For me that feeling of oneness often shows up when I am spending time in nature."

Gang of Youths: the angel of 8th ave.

After making a name for themselves in Australia, Dave Le'aupepe and his band have relocated to London. This single from their upcoming third album is "about falling in love and finding a place in a new city with that person,” Le'aupepe tells NME. "It’s my story, but we wanted it to feel like a more broad spectrum of love and the two major cities that played a big part in mine and my wife’s life." The other city would seem to be New York, given the lyric's references to 8th Avenue and Washington Square.

Sleater-Kinney: Path of Wellness

The 10th album from the Portland-based band has received somewhat mixed reviews, as critics and fans bemoan the departure of a founding member. Paste magazine is mostly positive, calling the record "rooted in a yearning for love and stability during wildly unstable times." Remaining members Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker "are not aiming to replicate the sound they had with ex-drummer Janet Weiss ... Path of Wellness is not quite a consistently triumphant reinvention, but it’s far from the dud some Weiss loyalists anticipated. What results is a very good, occasionally uneven effort ... What [it] lacks in sonic urgency, it makes up for with a vintage classic-rock swagger."

Saturday, June 19, 2021

New releases from Amy Helm, Keeton Coffman, Whitehorse, Cold War Kids, Joy Formidable

Amy Helm: Calling Home

Her new album, What the Flood Leaves Behind, is effectively a homecoming for Helm, recorded at the Levon Helm Studios she built with her dad in Woodstock, N.Y. “Going back to the place where I learned so much about how to express music, how to hold myself in music, how to listen to music,” she says, “I could see clearly where I came from and where I am now in my life. I was singing from a different place now and for a different reason.” The album is excellent from start to finish. We previously featured "Breathing" and "Are We Running Out of  Love," and will be adding other tracks to our big playlist in the coming weeks.

Keeton Coffman: Hard Times

This Texas singer-songwriter-guitarist's new LP, Hard Times, is filled with songs written while he took a break from performing to deal with bipolar disorder: "When I got back to myself, I had these 10 songs." He told The Main Edge it was "a great surprise" when he played them for his producer, Ryan Cecil, "and he said, 'This is the best record you’ve ever written.'" Coffman added: "The songs start with something I’m going through, then I wrap up these emotions and things I want to say in a fictional character or story."

Whitehorse: Why So Cruel

The wax was barely dry, so to speak, on their March release, Modern Love, when the duo of Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet announced that another LP, Strike Me Down, would arrive in September. The couple started out as a folk duo. but their sound has evolved into a wide range of rock. Sometimes it has a country tinge, but the press release for the upcoming album says it leans into "dance-ready nightclub noir." We hear a hint of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" in this single. 

Cold War Kids: What You Say

The kids have come a long way from their early-2000s indie days and their 2006 major-label debut Robbers & Cowards, which included their offbeat breakout single, "Hang Me Up to Dry." As AllMusic puts it, they "grew from quirky blues-punks into polished, anthemic rockers." They take a turn to the dance-y on this single from their upcoming album, New Age Norms 3Ear To The Ground Music says of the track: "It is always fun to hear different influences with an act who keeps getting better."

Joy Formidable: Chimes

Here's another single from what's shaping up to be a fine album, the upcoming Into the Blue. 
Lead singer-guitarist Ritzy Bryan said she wrote the song at a low point, "going through a difficult breakup that left me feeling quite lost and questioning myself. In the middle of that sadness, I had a whole week of strange little serendipitous events that ended up inspiring the lyrics for ‘Chimes’. I felt like something or someone was looking out for me."

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.