Thursday, December 3, 2020

Justine's Black Threads Cover "Angels We Have Heard On High"

I tend to truly despise traditional Christmas songs, especially the ones that are more hymns than anything else. However, there are always exceptions, and this version of "Angels We Have Heard On High" is one of them. Performed by Boston's Justine's Black Threads, this take on the traditional Christmas song is more of a rockabilly and bluegrass version. It's the kind of cover that could almost still be played in a church. Almost, but only if you had the most liberal of pastor, priest, or minister. It keeps some of the traditional feel but is still rockin' enough to not turn off even the most secular of us.

You can listen to Justine's Black Threads' version of "Angels We Have Heard On High" below. You can get your copy of the song over on Bandcamp. For more on Justine's Black Threads, check out the band on Facebook.

Saint Sister featuring Lisa Hannigan - "The Place That I Work"

Photo by Kevin Freeney

Dublin based duo Saint Sister have teamed with Lisa Hannigan for their latest single. The resulting song is "The Place That I Work," a nearly a capella Irish ballad. It's a modern version of a very traditional song, with the only instruments being strings, synthesizers, and birdsong nearly hidden in the background. This keeps the traditional feeling of the song intact while helping it sound modern and current. The result is an impossibly beautiful song you're going to become quietly obsessed with.

Saint Sister's Morgan MacIntyre explains the story behing "The Place That I Work":

“I wrote this song while I was working as a Christmas temp in Dublin’s oldest book shop, Hodges Figgis. One day a friend, who I hadn’t seen since we had a misunderstanding, came in and caught me completely off guard. I was, all at once, angry that we hadn’t talked for months and that they had chosen now, to come to where I worked to make peace, but also undeniably relieved and happy to see them, to know we were still friends.”

You can watch the video for "The Place That I Work" below. Saint Sister have a new album due out in 2021. For more on Saint Sister, check out the artist's website.

Gustaf - "Design"

Photo by Adam Lempell

You're going to thank me for introducing you to Gustaf. The Brooklyn based band have just released a new single, "Design." One of the immediate bands that are going to come to mind are their fellow Brooklynites Bodega, who they've also played shows with. Both bands play a version of funky, dance friendly post punk. One of the main differences in the bands is that "Design" feels darker. It's like if The B-52's decided to still be fun but went goth. 

Vocalist Lydia Gammill says of the new song:

"Although the title of the song is not the refrain ('desire’, we named the track 'Design' because it is a commentary on how our desires and critiques of others are a product of our design. Like in 'Mine', the narrator addresses an invisible critic, arguing that the ills we believe to be unique to ourselves are the result of an oppressive system. However, in the end we're just shouting at the back of someone’s head as they leave the room."

You can watch the video for "Design" below. The song will be included on the Mine 7" that is due out December 4 on Royal Mountain Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Gustaf, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Snotty Nose Rez Kids with Skinny Local - "Screaming Indian"

Photo via Facebook

Snotty Nose Rez Kids make a type of hip hop I'm not normally into, but for some reason they just work for me. The Canadian indigenous hip hop duo (hailing from Haisla Nation) have just released a new single. "Screaming Indian" has a distinctly modern hip hop sound (I think the kids may call this trap?), which any long term readers would know that I typically can't get into. But Snotty Nose Rez Kids just have such a unique and creative style that it's impossible not to get into their music.

Young Trybez of Snotty Nose Rez kids explains the new single:

"The title "Screaming Indian" was an idea based off the retired Atlanta Braves logo that was also referred to as the 'Screaming Savage.' They were forced to retire it because of the obvious outrage from Indigenous activists who viewed the logo as racist and harmful to our people. The Braves 'retired' the logo in 1989 and tried to bring it back in 2013 as a batting practice logo; that is what sparked the idea for us. The world we live in moves fast and people forget quickly. We need to remind ourselves of where we come from and remind the world of what they've done to our lands and people. In this song we reclaim and embody the 'Screaming Indian.'"

You can listen to "Screaming Indian" below. For more on Snotty Nose Rez Kids, check out their website.

Margo Price Covers Joni Mitchell

In a kinda sorta Christmas song, Margo Price has released a cover of Joni Mitchell's beyond iconic song "River." The cover is just Price at a piano singing, and it's absolutely lovely. Recorded live, the song is such a magical and straightforward version of Mitchell's song. It's perfect for fans of either or both artists. Joni Mitchell fans are going to be ultra-critical of any cover of any of her songs, particularly this one. I can't see even the biggest Mitchell purist not enjoying Price's version of "River." It's also such a showcase for Price's talent that even fans of her unfamiliar with Mitchell are going to become enamored with the cover.

You can watch the video for Margo Price's cover of "River" below. For more on Margo Price, check out the artist's website.

Bleached Cover "Jingle Bells"

A punked up cover of "Jingle Bells" could (and has) gone horribly wrong, but luckily this one is done by Bleached. This isn't an attempt at being badass and mocking the holiday classic. Instead, Bleached's version is a burst of fun and pure joy, which is what a Christmas song truly should be. But that's always been the charm of Bleached. They're a fun, modern version of punk that is still punk enough to make old, cranky punks happy. It's a little noisy, and a little aggressive, but it's still the kind of fun Christmas song that you can put on a family playlist and your parents and even grandparents would be ok with it. 

You can listen to Bleached's version of "Jingle Bells" below. The song is currently available via Dead Oceans. For more on Bleached, check out the band's website.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

First Listen: New Releases for 27 November

Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins
Album: CYR
Quick Description: Latest effort by the reconstituted alt-rock legends.
Why You Should Listen: It's a solid listen on a whole.
Overall Thoughts: Listen, Billy Corgan is who he is. The Pumpkins are better than their critics say they are in this new form. This album is absolutely more Adore than Siamese Dream. This is a double album and probably doesn't need to be. Put all that aside, and listen to this, and there's a solid album in here. Some songs are truly great, and a great reminded of how good a songwriter Billy Corgan can be. Hardcore fans might not dig this, and I don't count myself among them, so I may be approaching this differently, but it's a good album with some truly great moments.
Recommendation: Check it out.

Artist: Billie Joe Armstrong
Album: No Fun Mondays
Quick Description: Green Day lead singer with a compilation of COVID covers.
Why You Should Listen: Cover songs are fun, and this is a good reminder of Billie Joe Armstrong's musical capabilities.
Overall Thoughts: We here are old enough to remember when Dookie went top five on Billboard and some felt it was the end of civilization as we knew it. Green Day stopped being truly punk before American Idiot, and at some point became a beloved act, but this feels very back-to-basics for Armstrong. They're good songs done with equal parts fun and reverence, and that's all you can ask for from a compilation like this.
Recommendation: Definitely worth the time.

Artist: Nile Marr
Album: Are You Happy Now
Quick Description: Debut album from the son of Smiths legend Johnny Marr.
Why You Should Listen: While this won't let him escape from his father's shadow, it might be the first step of attempting to meet it.
Overall Thoughts: It's unfair to compare a musician to his father, and doubly unfair when said musician's father is an iconic songwriter and guitarist. Nile Marr makes a real go of it, though, and the result is a really great album. The vocal tones and songwriting is reminscent of Johnny in many ways, but this also has a modern sensibility that sets it apart. Especially in an era where we all wince whenever Morrissey opens his mouth, it's great to have music that's somewhat adjacent to be happy with.
Recommendation: A mandatory listen this week.

Artist: Various Artists
Album: No Cover: Carpark's 21st Anniversary Covers Comp
Quick Description: A covers compilation celebrating 21 years of Carpark Records.
Why You Should Listen: Covers compilations = fun.
Overall Thoughts: If you go down the roster of Carpark Records artists, you find plenty of our favorites around here on the list. Carpark benefits from having a pretty varied palate in terms of genre, and this compilation celebrates that reality and provides some great playlist fodder as a result. Also, not only is this a wonderful release, but Carpark put together a playlist with the songs and their covers back-to-back. A nice little addition to a fun release.
Recommendation: Have some fun with this one.

Of note:

* Petal Supply - Hey (Pretty good PC Music-style alt-pop.)
* The Queers - Save the World
* Belbury Poly - The Gone Away
* Taylor Swift - folklore: the long pond studio sessions
* Various Artists - Pop Ambient 2021
* Sundae Crush - A Real Sensation
* Scott H. Biram - Fever Dreams
* Aane Brun - How Beauty Holds the Hand of Sorrow

Christmas music:

* Kelly Finnigan - A Joyful Sound
* Lera Lynn - Love One Another
* Lights - Christmas Lights
* Jenn Grant - Forever on Christmas Eve
* Murder by Death - Lonely Holiday
* Poppy - A Very Poppy Christmas


* Sophia Bell - Princess of the Dead, Vol. II
* Daniel Avery - Into the Arms of Stillness
* Wonderflu - Bubblegum
* Grace Gillespie - After the Harvest Moon
* Me Rex - Triceratops
* Me Rex - Stegosaurus

Also out:

* Hatebreed - Weight of the False Self
* Electric Jaguar Baby - Electric Jaguar Baby
* Clutch - The Weathermaker Vault Series, Vol. I
* Purple X - Purple X

Gray Bouchard & the Dedications Cover The Devil's Twins

Photo by Lauren Piandes

Back in the early days of rock 'n' roll it was standard practice for musicians to cover songs from their contemporaries and friends. Everybody did it, and if it was good enough for Johnny Cash and everyone else... Somewhere along the line, it fell out of favor, and most artists seem to only cover classic bands and their influences. Gray Bouchard & the Dedications are going old school and covering The Devil's Twins' latest single "Bad Karma." The original was just released back on October 30, and Gray Bouchard and his band have already cranked out a new single. The cover keeps the groove of the original (which would be expected), but drops some of the harder rock elements of The Devil's Twins in favor of a bit more of a pop side (also expected). But this is definitely the hardest we've heard the Dedications rock so far. It's almost like if The Cars reformed in the 90's and tried to get played on alternative rock radio then.

You can watch the video for Gray Bouchard & the Dedications below. For more on the band, check out their Facebook.

theWorst - "Yes Regrets"

Hailing from Portland, ME, theWorst have been called "... the glorious love child of Joan Jett and Kurt Cobain" by Alternative Press. I hate to just cop what another music writer said, but in the case of their newest single, it fits too perfectly not to. "Yes Regrets" is loud, guitar heavy rock with a little 80's pop sensibility thrown in. It's noisy, but not too noisy. It's driving punk rock in the way that Nirvana were punk, but with Jett's attitude and hit making abilities. Plus, it features Dana Colley of Morphine on baritone saxophone so you know they've got some serious indie cred.

You can watch the video for "Yes Regrets" below. theWorst's new album will be out in 2021 on RascalZRecordZ. For more on theWorst, check out their website.

Mento Buru - "Donde Esta Santa Claus?"

Photo by Jeremy Gonzalez

Central California's Mento Buru have been playing their unique blend of Latin ska since 1992. The band has just released an EP of Christmas songs. The first single, "Donde Esta Santa Claus?," is a laid back ska song that doesn't sound very Christmas-y, except for the lyrics. The new song is about Santa Claus, so it's obviously a Christmas song, but there is nary a jingle bell to be heard. It's a great way to listen to Christmas music without alerting any co-workers. Plus, Latin music and ska go together so incredibly well, I can't believe I haven't heard this combination before.

Drummer Cesareo Garasa says of the new song: “When you watch the video, you’ll see a lot of people smiling. There’s a reason for that. The sessions went really quickly, around 20 hours over four days, and were inspired by not only what Christmas means to each of us, but the positivity and excitement we all felt as it all came together. There was a real festive, communal feeling making this EP and it shows.”

You can watch the video for "Donde Esta Santa Claus?" below. East Bakersfield Christmas, the new EP from Mento Buro, is out now. For more on Mento Buro, check them out on Facebook.