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Saturday, January 27, 2024

New releases by Mark Knopfler, Future Islands, Positive People, The Vaccines, Driven Snow

Mark Knopfler: Ahead of the Game

Photo by Murdo MacLeod
April will bring us the 10th solo album by the guitarist and former Dire Straits bandleader. Knopfler says the title, One Deep River, reflects his attachment to the Tyne, which flows through Newcastle, in northeast England, where he grew up. “Crossing the Tyne is always on your mind,” he says. “It’s what you were doing when you were leaving as a youngster, and that feeling is always the same every time you do it. You’re heading out or you’re coming back, and it just connects with your childhood. The power of it doesn’t go away.” Stereogum calls this first single "a dreamy, propulsive spin on the expert-level guitar-pop Knopfler has been kicking out for decades, metropolitan but seasoned with notes of blues, country, and folk."

Future Islands: Say Goodbye

Photo by Frank Hamilton
Speaking of Dire Straits, the theme of their classic song "So Far Away" - trying to maintain a relationship across distance and time zones - is echoed in this track from the new album by Sam Herring and company. "I'll be alright / When you're on my time." But there's a sense of foreboding here: "Every day without you feels one closer to goodbye." And indeed, this and other songs on People Who Aren't There Anymore apparently refer to the breakup of Herring's romance with Swedish actress Julia Ragnarsson, in part due to being separated by Covid lockdowns.

Positive People: Off/On

New to our ears, and likely yours, is the duo of Olenka Krakus and Jeffrey Moon, who are also members of Montreal band Olenka & the Autumn Lovers. Their self-titled debut album is billed as a collection of "bright melodies that mask a darker subject matter." This track features Olenka's smooth vocals, while others on the LP mix it with Jeffrey's rougher voice (a la July Talk). The lyric suggests an indecipherable message: "I can’t begin to paint the picture / sort the mixture into /off and on and off and on."

The Vaccines: Heartbreak Kid

The British indie-rock band just released its sixth studio album, Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations. Lead singer Justin Young says of this track: "There are two types of people in the world – people that have had their heart broken and people that haven’t had their heart broken yet. ... [the song is] a reminder that in a world where too many of us feel too detached too often, facing your feelings head-on can make you feel more alive, even if it feels like the world is ending."

Driven Snow: Sunlight

Kieran McGuinness and Emily Aylmer are about to release their debut album, A Kind of Dreaming. It pulls together several singles the married Dublin duo released in the past two years (such as "Flickers of You" and "In Moonlight," previously in our New Music bin), along with brand-new tunes. We didn't catch this one when it was issued last year, so we're using the LP release as an excuse to feature it now. 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

A Mumford & Sons/Pharrell Williams collab, plus The Strumbellas, Jeen, Jane's Party, The Smile

Mumford & Sons + Pharrell Williams: Good People

The British trio and the American hip-hop/R&B artist met during festival tours over a decade ago, we're told, and reconnected last summer at Pharrell’s "Something in the Water" festival at Virginia Beach. They decided to join up in New York and then Paris to write and record some new songs, with Pharrell producing. 

They are joined on this track by the Native Vocalists, a six-member choir made up of members of Native American tribes from the U.S. and Canada. The song had its first live performance as part of Pharrell's presentation at Paris Fashion Week this month.

The Strumbellas: Hold Me

This first single in two years from the Toronto-based folkie-indie-rock group heralds its fifth album, Part Time Believer, due in a couple of weeks. Band member David Ritter (keyboards, percussion, vocals) says of the album's theme: "I think people often feel like things are escaping them, or they’re trying to grab on to something - happiness, gratitude, professional or personal goals - and for some reason, they just can’t get there. Even if they get the thing they want, it doesn’t feel the way they thought it would. A lot of these songs are about trying to, like, figure out why we’re all feeling this way, and how we can find more peace in our lives."

Jeen: So What

The about-to-be-released album Gold Control is touted as "hazy, heady, hedonistic and hopeful," and this track as its emotional centerpiece. "It’s about never-ending uphill battles,” the singer-songwriter says, “and wishing you could freeze time to stay with someone you can’t enough of." The album is another collaboration with Canadian rock veteran Ian Blurton, who has co-produced Jeen's last five albums.

Jane's Party: Common Guys

This Toronto quartet's last full-length was Casual Party, released in the pre-pandemic days of 2019. Since then they've put out an album of live tracks and a few singles, and they kicked off 2024 with this fun number, described as "walking a very fine line between polished dance-pop and slacker indie rock." It was written by bassist Devon Richardson and vocalist/guitarist Tom Ionesu, who says the concept is "grade 8 school dance, after school in the gym, trying to muster up the courage to ask a girl out."

The Smile: Wall Of Eyes

Photo by Frank Lebon
We're picking up the title track from the new album by the side project of Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood plus Sons of Kemet's Tom Skinner. The Guardian writes: "As with [The Smile's] first album, you would be hard-pushed to describe Wall of Eyes as anything other than Radiohead-esque. But for an album so thick with disquiet and gloom, there is a strange sense of ease about much of it," adding that "there are lovely, tumbling chord sequences and vaguely Latin rhythms underpinning" this opening number.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Breaking new music from Waxahatchee, Lizzie No, The Petal Falls, The Rockyts, The Black Keys

Waxahatchee: Right Back To It

Katie Crutchfield's latest album under the Waxahatchee name has just been announced for March release. Tigers Blood will include contributions from MJ Lenderman, Spencer Tweedy, and Phil Cook. This first single is a collaboration with guitarist Lenderman. "I wanted to make a song about the ebb and flow of a longtime love story," Cruthfield says. "I thought it might feel untraditional but a little more in alignment with my experience to write about feeling insecure or foiled in some way internally, but always finding your way back to a newness or an intimacy with the same person."

Lizzie No: Annie Oakley

We don't know if No really did stay at the motel in Oakley, Kansas, named for the sharpshooter and performer. But in this song, it represents a lonely stop on the road for a musician trying to get by, and wondering "when it's time to kill the dream." The New York-based singer-songwriter says: "Most of the great songwriters in the Americana genre have darkly determined road songs featuring dirty motels, gas station coffee, the exhilaration of seeing America’s plains rushing toward them from behind a car ... Behind the scenery are some difficult questions, like ‘why have I chosen to do this with my life?’"

The Petal Falls: Someday

This single comes our way from Kent, UK, where singer-songwriter and guitarist-keyboardist Keith Leahy formed a band in the 1990s that fell apart amid struggles with a record label. Years later, Leahy was able to release the band's bottled-up music with the help of producer-engineer-drummer John King. Now The Petal Falls has become a collaboration between Leahy and King. This latest single is a catchy number that evokes that 90s rock-pop feeling while sounding fresh.

The Rockyts: Falling Again

Here's another case of what was once a band morphing into a solo project. The Rockyts originated in Ottawa as a trio of young teens playing 60s-style originals and covers. Now just over 18, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Jeremy Abboud has released a string of singles on his own, including this one that just landed in our New Music bin.

The Black Keys: Beautiful People (Stay High)

With the title of their 12th studio album, Ohio Players, the boys from Akron, Ohio, pay homage to the 70s funk band of the same name. On the LP, due in April, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney collaborate with various friends, including Noel Gallagher, Greg Kurstin, and on this track, Dan “The Automator” Nakamura and Beck. "No matter who we work with, it never feels like we're sacrificing who we are. It only feels like it adds some special flavor," says Auerbach.

Monday, January 1, 2024

The Marvelous Mix rolls on into another year

Happy New Year from Birch Street Radio! We look forward to bringing you our Marvelous Mix of new and classic, indie and major-label music through the year ahead and beyond!

April will mark the start of our 12th year of broadcasting on the web from the Birch Street Studios in Beautiful Downtown Suburbia. This month, we begin our seventh year streaming on the TorontoCast platform from Canada and our sixth year on Live365 in the USA. 

We will continue expanding our huge playlist, by picking the best new releases and by mining nuggets of gold from the past six decades, across a wide variety of rock-related genres. Use the listening links on this page to enjoy our stream anytime, 24/7, completely free and commercial-free!