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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Fresh sounds from Sharon van Etten, Kiwi Jr., Snarls, The Afghan Whigs, Rolling Blackouts CF

Sharon van Etten: Mistakes

The singer-songwriter's sixth album draws its title and its cover art from the covid and climate crises - recorded as it was in Van Etten's home studio in Los Angeles where she was sheltering from the pandemic and watching wildfires draw uncomfortably close. As AllMusic explains, she had recently moved across the country, married and started raising a family - all contributing to "evocative lyrical sketches, where images of yearning, parenthood, isolation, and love create the impression of difficult but necessary emotional growth." Our featured track is more joyful, a celebration of one's foibles and of a lover who accepts them: "Every time I make a mistake / Turns out it's great." NME calls the track the album's standout, "Van Etten at her best, its thumping chorus ideal for banishing lockdown-induced rumination on your regrets."

Kiwi Jr.: Night Vision

These Toronto indie-rockers will release their third album, Chopper, in August. It's produced by Wolf Parade cofounder and current Arcade Fire touring member Dan Boeckner. Singer/guitarist Jeremy Gaudet says of this lead single: "Before ‘Night Vision’ was 100% written, just the basic idea of it existing as a Kiwi Jr. song inspired us and set the tone for the record. A lot of the images in the lyrics are of teenagers driving around, trying to make plans, sharing the aux, putting their parents' car in the ditch, etc. But the idea at the center of the song is that of working up the nerve to make a big decision. Like a boxer getting pumped up before a fight.”

Snarls: Fixed Gear

Sometimes our New Music bin features songs that have been out for a while but are still "new to us" - and, probably, to most of our listeners. This song appeared last fall on an EP called What About Flowers?, but just landed in our inbox as a single - and we're glad to catch up with the self-described "glitter emo alt rock" quartet from Columbus, Ohio. Paste praised "the wonderful vocal ping-ponging that closes 'Fixed Gear,' evoking the cheerful pop interplay and juxtaposed vocal melodies of The Beths, and kicking off the EP on an incessantly catchy note."

The Afghan Whigs: The Getaway

Formed in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1986, disbanded in 2001 and re-banded in 2012-2017, the group is now re-returning with its first album in five years, How Do You Burn?, slated for September release. Frontman Greg Dulli and bassist John Curley are the only remaining original members, joined by various other players and singers on the LP. This single has a touch of prog, reminding our ears of Crack the Sky. Consequence of Sound calls it "a soaring slow-burner that gradually builds into a powerful, climactic end. Its video uses imagery of space, astronauts, and rockets to convey a sense of limitless possibility."

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: My Echo

The Melbourne, Australia band with the too-long name just released its third full-length album, Endless Rooms. We previously featured lead single "The Way It Shatters," and now turn to this edgy track. It's another song born of pandemic isolation: singer/guitarist Fran Keaney said it’s “about being surrounded by phone screens, computer screens, TV screens, paranoia and loss of time and place.” The sharp-angled, sometimes discordant guitar sounds capture that anxiety.

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