Now Playing:

"Alexa, play Birch Street Radio on TuneIn" or "on Live365"
"Hey Google, play Birch Street Radio on TuneIn"
Trouble connecting? Contact us for help!
NEW! Live365 is now available as an app on Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung TV, and Android TV. Find "Live365" in your TV's store, download it, then search for Birch Street Radio.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

New Music from Strand of Oaks, Cosmic Guilt, Ålesund, Eliza Shaddad, Inhaler now in our mix

Strand of Oaks: Galacticana

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Tim Showalter says he wrote this song at the start of the pandemic. "Those were sad and scary times, and I just wanted to make it positive instead of negative," he told NPR. The opening lyric -- "I believe that ecstasy happens when we all get together" -- seems perfectly timed, as live concerts begin to happen again. "Standing right in front of me, feeding off the energy together / Looking for identity, freaking out a little bit together." The single is the first to spin out from the next Strand of Oaks album, Heaven, due in October.

Cosmic Guilt: Sun In Your Eyes

Photo by Jeremy Pero
This single precedes the debut album by a 10-piece ensemble that Philadelphia music site The Key calls "a supergroup of some of Philly’s most treasured alt / roots rock players." The blog describes this track as "a complex, shimmering soundscape interpolated with rhythmic slides and languid guitar riffs." Group leader James Everhart has played in more raucous rock bands such as Low Cut Connie, but says he "grew up listening to British folk music like Fairport Convention and Pentangle, Nick Drake. I started listening to Wilco and Uncle Tupelo at a really early age. ... And I’ve always had a penchant toward wanting to record music like that."

Ålesund: Rhythm

Although sharing the name of a city in Norway, this alt-pop quartet is based in Bristol, UK. It just released its third EP, A Thread In The Dark, created by remote collaboration during the pandemic. Songwriter and vocalist Alba Torriset says the lyrics were also influenced by lockdown: "The usual hustle and bustle of life can drown things out, but with everything and everyone stopping, it brought a magnificent clarity. Hearing the birds sing, watching the trees blossom, following the cycles of the full moon. Thinking more about what is real, what is important, human instincts, human interactions, the natural world and how we all work together within it."

Eliza Shaddad: The Woman You Want

Growing up in various parts of Europe, the U.K. and Africa, this Sudanese-Scottish singer-songwriter absorbed musical influences ranging from Celtic folk to traditional Sudanese music. According to AllMusic, after a year studying jazz at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she performed in and around the city and issued an EP, then joined electro-classical outfit Clean Bandit, adding to her eclectic musical background. The Woman You Want is her second solo LP, and we're featuring the title track. Shaddad says the album "is a record of me figuring myself out. ... I'd been wrestling with the idea of wanting to be a better human, a better woman, a better wife, better friend, better daughter ... and not really feeling capable of it ... and the so the title, and title song, came out as a direct challenge really, to me, and to the listener."

Inhaler: Totally

We previously featured two singles from the Dublin band's debut LP, It Won't Always Be Like This - the title track and "When It Breaks." With the release of the full album, we dip in deeper and pull out this track. NME calls it one of the collection's standouts, "powered by groove-inflected basslines and shimmering synths, boasting the kind of robust sound you’d usually expect from an established band who have been trying to challenge themselves, and their fans, for decades."

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Jackson Browne + Thompson Springs + Jeen + The Town Heroes + Willamena = New Music Picks

Jackson Browne: Still Looking for Something

On the just-released LP Downhill From Everywhere, the veteran singer-songwriter continues to mix personal reflections with political statements (such as the title track). Our pick this week for the New Music Bin is one of the more personal songs. As Browne sings that he's "out here under the streetlight ... still looking for something in the night," we can't help but picture him on that corner in Winslow, Ariz. Nearly 50 years after "Take It Easy," the message this time is to stay restless - to never stop looking for new experiences.

Thompson Springs: Too Close for Comfort

After releasing its debut album, Undertones, last year, this indie-folk-rock band coped with the pandemic by converting its Chicago apartment into a makeshift recording studio. This is the third single to emerge from those friendly confines, with mixing help from Wilco's Pat Sansone. Starting quietly with the lines "When I get too close / You fly away," the track quickly opens up into a Petty-esque rocker, with a touch of saxophone.

Jeen: Maybe I'll Be Gone

This Toronto-based songwriter and musician is prepping her fifth album, Dog Bite. Of this single, she says: "Sometimes people just get used to you being around and assume you’ll be there no matter how they treat you. ‘Maybe I’ll Be Gone’ is a threat to leave after being taken for granted after too long." The fast-paced track features Jeen on guitar and bass along with Ian Blurton on lead guitar and Stephan Szczesniak on drums.

The Town Heroes: Fuse

This Nova Scotia duo's upcoming sixth LP, Home, is described as a concept album. Its nine songs tell a story that includes a teenage summer romance, and that's the focus of this single. Canadian Beats writes: "An upbeat, energetic rock song with tender falsetto vocals sitting atop fuzzed-out guitars and driving drums, 'Fuse' is a love letter to firsts, the summer, and carefree days where everything you hope for is falling into place."

Willamena: I Know Nothing

This indie-rock band from Kalamazoo, Mich., has been part of our big mix for several years, consistently delivering solid rock-and-roll with impassioned, heart-on-sleeve vocals. This is the lead single from Broken Songs, the group's seventh studio release. The lyric reflects on the good and bad of impermanence: "I know nothing ever stays the same / I know nothing ever keeps / from turning into something else."

Saturday, July 17, 2021

New Music: Wild Feathers, Barenaked Ladies, Courtney Barnett, Vanishing Shores and Live TTB

The Wild Feathers: Ain't Lookin

This rollicking number is the first taste of the Nashville group's upcoming LP Alvarado. It would be the band's fourth studio album - except it wasn't exactly made in a studio. “We’ve always written and demoed new songs in a cabin outside of town and then gone into the studio to record the album. This time, we decided to take the studio to the cabin and produce it ourselves,” says singer-guitarist Ricky Young. “We’ve never been more proud of a collection of songs because it feels and sounds exactly how we wanted it to. No outside input or opinions, just the five of us in a room together.”

Barenaked Ladies: New Disaster

Photo: Matt Barnes
Lead songwriter and vocalist Ed Robertson says the character of Detour de Force, the band's 13th studio album, changed when the pandemic disrupted plans to make "a very live, off-the-floor record up at my cottage." Pausing the process gave the group time to consider "what songs could be reapproached and taken to really cool places in studio." AllMusic calls the result "a thoughtfully constructed album ... balancing intimate, often humorous personal sentiments with more anthemic feel-good moments." This track might be called an anthemic feel-bad moment, reflecting on how mass-media packages climate change and other disasters as entertainment: "Stay tuned for scary monsters / Watch out for rising tides / But first a word from sponsors."

Courtney Barnett: Rae Street

Photo by Mia Mala McDonald
Here's the latest episode of Courtney's Deep Thoughts About Mundane Things - otherwise known as the first single from a new LP, Things Take Time, Take Time. The opening lines "In the morning I'm slow / I drag a chair over to the window / And I watch what's going on" - pretty much sum up the song, delivered in a languid drawl that suggests calm more than boredom. “I guess it was an exercise in patience," Barnett says. "I wrote a lot of it looking out my window, watching the world go by. ... A lot of it just feels joyful to me.” As ever, she sees things a little differently than most: "The garbage truck tiptoes along the road..."

Vanishing Shores: Maps

This is the title track from the new album by Kevin Bianchi and his Cleveland-based indie-rock band. The Kickstarter-funded LP was one of the many musical projects delayed by the pandemic, although a few tracks were released as singles over the past year (and we previously featured "Fix Me" and "Road Less Traveled"). Some of the songs are slow and contemplative; this is one of the more upbeat numbers, featuring the intertwined vocals of Bianchi and Katie Egan. The lyrics suggest an enduring relationship: "Looking over maps we held in a past life / Following each line / Our fingerprints still captured in familiar dust." 

Tedeschi Trucks Band: I Looked Away

The newest recording from one of the best touring bands in the land is Layla Revisited: Live at LOCKIN' - capturing a 2019 concert at a Virginia festival. Joined by Trey Anastasio and Doyle Bramhall II, the band played through the entirety of the Derek and the Dominos album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. TTB's faithful-yet-fresh takes bring new life to the classic tunes. The set includes long jams like a terrific 12-minute version of Keep On Growing and 8 1/2 minutes of Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad. We'll find time for those in our mix, but for the New Music bin we've picked the opening number, clocking in at a mere 3:05.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Fresh sounds from Shawna Caspi, Inhaler, The Record Company, The High Loves and Aurora

Shawna Caspi: Lay Low Shadow

Persevering through pandemic isolation at home in Toronto, this singer-songwriter (and visual artist) managed to put together her most ambitious and personal album to date, to be released next month. Our listeners are familiar with Caspi's crystal clear, expressive voice and fingerstyle guitar work - often heard with minimal accompaniment on her previous recordings. This first single from Hurricane Coming features a full band, with reverberating electric guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and backing vocals, giving it a country-tinged rock sound. The lyric reflects a struggle to overcome anxiety: "Every time I trip up / That's your cue to reappear." Caspi explains: "I keep thinking that I've left it in the past, but in reality, it will always be close by. ... I need to acknowledge that feeling and learn to create a healthy dialogue with it that removes the element of fear."

Inhaler: It Won't Always Be Like This

This is the title track from the Dublin-based quartet's debut album. It's also a re-recording of a song they issued as a single in 2019. The band tells NME it was written more than a decade ago about a breakup, but the title phrase "earned richer meaning last year when the world shut down and all we could do was wait it out." The magazine says the track provides "a galvanising introduction that sets the tone for the record that follows: full of defiance, optimism and plenty of guitars." Guitarist and lead singer Eli Hewson (son of Bono) is joined by bassist Robert Keating, guitarist Josh Jenkinson and drummer Ryan McMahon. “We started writing this [album] when we were teenagers and now we’re adults,” says Keating. “I wanted the songs to feel positive,” adds Hewson. “Because… it won’t always be like this.”
On their forthcoming, third album, Play Loud, the LA-based trio "stretches out artistically and explores [its] far-flung influences," according to its publicists. Bassist Alex Stiff says: "On the first two albums, people might have thought we were three guys who sit around a campfire, praying to Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, and we're not. We're three different guys with different musical tastes. It's time for all of us to show our individuality, and this record shows us evolving." But the band's rootsy rock sound remains recognizable. Mixes well with: The Black Keys. 

The High Loves: Call Me Back

We bounce back to Toronto to find this alt-rock five-piece preparing to release Too Much of a Good Thing, its first full-length album. Lead singer and guitarist Noah Monckton says: "The song is about coming to the end of a relationship with someone you love, and the realization that the relationship might not have been healthy for either of you." The band got to play this song live exactly once before the pandemic shut down music venues. "Lockdown allowed us to really stress about the little details of the arrangement; we had time to perfectly craft a very tight, high energy 'bop' ... The music is high-energy and a ton of fun, although the lyrics are pretty melancholy on their own. This juxtaposition helps give the song some of its magic."

Aurora: Cure For Me

Veering off in a different direction, as we like to do, we pick up the latest electro-pop single from this Norwegian singer-songwriter-producer. "I don't need a cure for me," she sings. As she explains in a press release: “Sometimes I feel like the whole world is trying to convince you something is wrong with you. And sadly, often people believe this to be true. ...  I think it’s about time we shut those voices out. ... We should be allowed to be human. And we don’t need a cure for it.”

Saturday, July 3, 2021

New Music from Campbell and Johnston, Wye Oak, The Wallflowers, Garbage and Bleachers

Campbell & Johnston: Got To Feel It

From Nova Scotia comes the debut album by power duo Christine Campbell and Blake Johnston and their blues-rocking Black Market Band. The pair share guitar duties and take turns on vocals, with Campbell featured on this number. Canadian Beats says "her rich, dusky vocals ... expel heart and soul into every melody," while tracks featuring Johnson "take on the energy of his smooth, funky growl."

Wye Oak: Its Way With Me

It's been a prolific year so far for Jenn Wasner. Shortly after releasing the Head of Roses album via her Flock of Dimes solo project, she and Andy Stack returned as Wye Oak with "TNT," and now comes another single. NPR calls this track "a sublime reflection on self-control and surrender. Over a repetitive guitar pattern, Wasner exhales meditations on agency and acceptance, offering grace for all to hear." Wasner says the song is "about learning to feel at peace amidst the chaos of existence through letting go of all that is beyond our control.”

The Wallflowers: Maybe Your Heart's Not In It No More

We dip again into Exit Wounds, the new LP by Jakob Dylan and company, for this mid-tempo, guitar- and organ-infused number. Dylan calls it a "conversation you could find yourself having with your muse — one where you’re asking if they’ve changed their mind or have you changed yours. Are you still in sync or have you lost touch?" Shelby Lynne provides backing vocals.

Garbage: No Gods No Masters

The title track to the new album by Shirley Manson's long-running project is described by AllMusic as "a driving pop gem that echoes Missing Persons and Blondie. Atop the ever-reliable backing of Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker, Manson defiantly declares, 'The future is mine just the same/No master or gods to obey.'" The website calls the album "a highlight in their discography and one of their best works to date, a potent and outspoken dose of genre-blending artistry that confidently returns Garbage to their position as a band perpetually ahead of the curve."

Bleachers: Stop Making This Hurt

This track has been making its way up the charts over the fast couple of months and eventually earwormed its way into our New Music Bin. Singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and record producer Jack Antonoff will release the third album from his Bleachers project, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night, later this month. Rolling Stone calls this single "a boisterous pop-rock tune led by punchy piano, rich horn stabs, and sliced through with sparkling synths."