Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ric Gordon - Just Can't Get Enough

Last month, Russian Winter Records was moving their office and discovered a box of the 1979 debut EP from Ric Winter, Just Can't Get Enough. They decided to digitize the album, as well as sell the original 1979 copies of the album.

Who even knew there was a punk scene in Kansas City, Missouri back in 1979? One of my favorite things about this original wave of 70s punk is how surprisingly diverse it was. Ric Gordon probably wouldn't be considered punk just a few short years later after the scene went more hardcore or artsy, but Just Can't Get Enough is a great snapshot of just how great and poppy punk could be when it started out. Songs like "Rock-N-Roll Lady" and "Just Can't Get Enough" live in the world that's more polished than early Ramones but more raw than Cheap Trick. And then you get a song like "People Run, People Hide" that somehow hints at post punk and new wave.

You can listen to "Rock-N-Roll Lady" below. You can get a copy of Just Can't Get Enough as a download, CD, or the original 1979 vinyl at Bandcamp

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for February 17

Another crazy release week, but a lot of middle-of-the-road stuff. So we'll cover the real highlights, and do quick hits on the rest.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Molly Burch
Album: Please Be Mine
Quick Description: Singer-songwritery roots-ish goodness from a Sallie Ford tourmate.
Why You Should Listen: Come for the Ford connection, stay for the great music.
Overall Thoughts: This might have stayed well below our radar had she not been listed as the opener on Sallie Ford's upcoming tour. Ken sent this over, and I knew it would be something I'd like, but I didn't expect it to be something I'd love. The songs themselves are hooky and musically interesting, but still sound challenging and strange at the same time. There's a retro feel to a lot of it, like "Wrong For You," a more traditional feel with "Why," but this album is probably going to catch your attention quickly and not let go like it did with us. And now when you inevitably go to see Sallie Ford this spring (lol like I ever go out for late concerts anymore), you have a reason to catch the opener.
Recommendation: The best of the week, a worthy listen.

Artist: Ryan Adams
Album: Prisoner
Quick Description: Prolific singer-songwriter's latest.
Why You Should Listen: Even when Adams isn't at his best, it's still a must-listen.
Overall Thoughts: If I wanted to get snarky about it, I'd note that Alex Dezen is perhaps doing Ryan Adams better than Ryan Adams is at this point, but that would drive attention away from an album that, while far from groundbreaking, might be some of his best work since the roots-tinged Cardinals records of nearly a decade ago. There's an evenness to the album that keeps it from being the sort of dynamic, fascinating listen that Adams offers at his best, but there's also not a real clunker on here worth noting. Overall, it's just a solid, if unspectacular, listen. There's better music out this week, but that doesn't mean this isn't pretty good.
Recommendation: Worth your time at some point.

Artist: Amy MacDonald
Album: Under Stars
Quick Description: Latest from the young Scottish singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Amy MacDonald has always been sneaky good, and doesn't get enough due in the United States.
Overall Thoughts: I first became fond of MacDonald on her debut album, This is the Life back almost a decade ago. She hasn't put out a ton of music since then, as this is only her third album, but this shows some continued maturity as a songwriter as well as a further modernization of her sound away from a more modern take on traditional folk-pop. This works well because it feels like it would fit into the modern radio landscape, but I won't lie - there's part of me that's wishing more for a sequel to her debut.
Recommendation: Good, solid listen this week.

Artist: Allison Krauss
Album: Windy City
Quick Description: First solo album in nearly two decades from the modern bluegrass legend.
Why You Should Listen: Allison Krauss + country classics = a no-brainer.
Overall Thoughts: If you are approaching this assuming that a leopard has changed its spots, don't. This isn't the (admittedly awesome) Robert Plant collaboration, but instead a pretty standard and lovely love letter to classic country. This means there's not a ton to say in one regard, but Krauss is such a professional and knows her way around the Great Country Songbook well enough where this listen is not going to throw any curveballs your way.
Recommendation: A great listen, but don't expect any groundbreaking material here.

Artist: Nikki Lane
Album: Highway Queen
Quick Description: Latest album from the alt-country artist.
Why You Should Listen: Nikki Lane always brings it.
Overall Thoughts: This is Lane's third album, and it's just as good as her first two. Catchy songs with a bit of swagger to go with them, it just continues to surprise me that she doesn't get a lot more attention. The latest album does feel a little more adult and less rambunctious, maybe, but that's not a bad thing. It basically outshines a lot of stuff in the genre, and should absolutely be part of your listening anyway.
Recommendation: A must this week, even when we're overloaded with roots music.

Artist: The Orwells
Album: Terrible Human Beings
Quick Description: Some solid straightforward rock music.
Why You Should Listen: The Orwells are brutally consistent and underrated.
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed their previous album, but once it disappeared from my playlists I kind of forgot about them. This album was a clear and decisive reminder that it was a mistake, as this is another solid listen. It starts out strongly with "They Put a Body in the Bayou," and by the end I was ready to give it another spin. In an era where rock music is really not terribly interesting on a whole, where a lot of bands are trying to get away from the traditional stuff, it's great to hear The Orwells doing something that sounds fresh while still being traditional.
Recommendation: Should absolutely be part of your listening this week.

Artist: STL GLD
Album: Torch Song
Quick Description: Boston-based rap music wearing its politics on its sleeve.
Why You Should Listen: Timely topics, but solid rhymes and beats even if you're not on board with the message.
Overall Thoughts: STL GLD is a collaboration between Moe Pope, two-time Boston Music Award winner, and Arcitype, Boston Music Award winner for producing. The result is a really, really surprising effort that feels modern and mainstream with reach far beyond I-95. You'll get a good grasp on this album within the first few songs, but the entire thing is kind of revelatory, and if you're concerned by too much messaging, you'll find a lot to enjoy here.
Recommendation: Nearly my album of the week, a must listen.

Artist: Eisley
Album: I'm Only Dreaming
Quick Description: Newest album by the Texas indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: The group retains its dreamlike tone while maturing as musicians.
Overall Thoughts: I remember seeing Eisley for the first time, most of the band weren't even adults yet but they were writing songs well beyond their years. They never quite took off the way I had hoped, but their new album is still full of the solid songwriting I loved when I first encountered them. There's definitely an increasing maturity with the songs which doesn't hurt, but this album definitely feels more solid than their more recent efforts. I'm impressed.
Recommendation: In a busy week, carve some time out.

Worth your time this week:

* Tall Tall Trees - Freedays (strange, compelling folk rock)
* Mr Tophat - From Another Dimension (another solid disco release)
* Son Volt - Notes of Blue (solid listen, might get lost in the country shuffle this week)
* Jens Lekman - Life Will See You Now (still kind of twee-ish, but his best in a while)
* The Courtneys - The Courtneys II (solid girl-fronted punkish rock, really enjoyed this)
* Mozart's Sister - Field of Love
* Strand of Oaks - Hard Love

Also out this week:

* Animal Collective - The Painters EP
* Neville Staple - Return of Judge Roughneck
* Hayes McMullan - Everyday Seem Like Murder Here

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sheer Covers Slowdive

If you love covers as much as we do, you most likely know all about The Blog That Celebrates Itself. In case you're unfamiliar, it's a Brazil based blog that puts together these insane tribute compilations, and then gives them away for free on Bandcamp. Free covers? We're always up for that.

Last week, they released their latest, Just for Life: A Homage to Slowdive. As with most compilations put out by The Blog That Celebrates Itself, it's great, but I usually barely know any of the bands on the compilation. However, track 7 is a cover of "Joy" by Sheer. We definitely love Sheer around these parts, and knowing that one of our favorite fuzzed out guitar pop bands is doing a song by one of the finest shoegaze bands is fairly thrilling. Sheer's version has just a hint more of a pop side than Slowdive's original, but it's a very straightforward cover. 

You can listen to Sheer's version of "Joy" below. If you like what you hear, you can get the song and the rest of the compilation over at The Blog That Celebrates Itself's Bandcamp. For more on Sheer, check out their Bandcamp.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sono Oto - "How Do You Feel"

Photo by Alex John Beck
When I first read the bio for Sono Oto, I knew exactly what he would sound like. Also known as Mark Henry Phillips, he is the main behind the music for the wildly popular (ok, the first season at least) Serial podcast, as well as the sound designer for films like Cutie and the Boxer and Teenage. Obviously his debut album is going to be filled with indie orchestral soundtrack type music, a la Jonny Greenwood, right?

Judging by "How Do You Feel," my assumptions were very wrong. Sono Oto is more of a singer/songwriter project, albeit a more orchestral one. "How Do You Feel" is pretty straightforward and reminds me a lot of later Elliott Smith. The story of Sono Oto's origins go way back to 2008 when Phillips' father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He had given up on his dreams of being a full time musician and was instead a producer for NPR. So he didn't die with regrets like his father, he quit his job in favor of music. 

Sono Oto's debut album, Inheritance, is due out on March 24. You can listen to "How Do You Feel" below. For more on Sono Oto, check out his website.

Benjamin Booker Covers Penny & The Quarters

Photo by Ken Sears
It's been way too long since we've heard anything new from Benjamin Booker. It's been almost two years since we heard his cover of "Walkin' After Midnight" and almost three years since the release of his debut album. In one Instagram post, he announced that he has new music to share (at a show coming up next month) and he also shared a cover of Penny & The Quarters' "You and Me." The song was originally recorded back in the 70s, but was mostly unknown until a rediscovery in the 2011 film Blue Valentine. But, the truly important thing is we have something new to listen to from Benjamin Booker. Granted, it's an acoustic Instagram video, but it's still something new from Booker.

You can watch Benjamin Booker's cover of "You & Me" below. For more on Booker, check out his website. Let's hope we have a new album by the end of the year.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

No Sun Cover Dead Kennedys

Seemingly the only thing that No Sun and Dead Kennedys would have in common would be that they are both the western United States. No Sun are a relatively new ambient rock/shoegaze band from Salt Lake City, while Dead Kennedys are the legendary politically charged fairly hardcore 80s punk band. But, we live in strange times, so here's No Sun covering the Dead Kennedys' iconic "Nazi Punks Fuck Off." This song was chosen to make a fairly obvious political statement, and I'm pretty sure we'll be hearing a lot more covers of this particular one for the next four years are so. No Sun's take is very different from the original. The Dead Kennedys' song is this unbelievably fast hardcore blast of a song, while No Sun's just slowly grinds. 

You can listen to No Sun's cover of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" below, and get your own copy for free via Bandcamp. For more on No Sun, check them out on Facebook. You can find their current tour dates below the song.

3/9     Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
3/10    Denver, CO @ Mutiny Information Cafe
3/11    Kansas City, MO @ The Couch
3/12    St. Louis, MO @ Foam
3/13    Milwaukee, MN @ Ground Zero
3/14    Minneapolis, MN @ Safe Haus
3/15    Chicago, IL @ Quenchers
3/16    Fort Wayne, IN @ The Tiger Room
3/17    Elyria, OH @ Blank State Elyria
3/18    Toronto, ON @ The Smiling Buddha
3/19    Montreal, QC @ Brasserie Beaubien
3/20    Syracuse, NY @ The Reformed Church of Syracuse
3/21    Florence, MA - 13th Floor Music Lounge
3/22    Boston, MA @ The Middle East
3/24    Montclair, NJ @ Meatlocker
3/25    Brooklyn, NY @ St. Vitus
3/26    Wilkes Barre, PA @ The Other Side
3/27    Baltimore, MD @ The Windup Space
3/28    Philadelphia, Pa @ Kung Fu Necktie
3/29    Richmond, VA - @ The Castle
3/30    Charlotte, NC @ The Station On Central
04/1    Houston, TX @ Satellite Bar
04/2    Austin, TX @ Beerland
04/4    El Paso, TX @ The Sandbox
04/5    Tempe, AZ @ 51 West

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Weakened Friends - "Early" (acoustic)

Photo via Facebook
For some reason, the acoustic performance thing feels very 90s to me. I know bands did it before and have done it since, but the 90s seemed like a heyday of that between MTV Unplugged, acoustic albums, and import singles. 

This might be why I'm so thrilled about Weakened Friends letting us hear a brand new song from their upcoming debut album via an acoustic performance. Over the weekend, the band played an acoustic set at Sofar Studios in Boston, where they premiered the new song "Early." It starts off really acoustic performance-esque, and almost like a ballad. Further on it kicks in a bit more and gets more Weakened Friends-ified, so we can hear a bit more of what the actual album track will sound like. It's everything we would expect from Weakened Friends at this point, with vulnerable vocals mixed with noisy, fuzzed out riffs (at least, that's what I'm imagining it will sound like). I usually avoid the live performance debuts of new songs, but this isn't just lousy cell phone footage, so it's well worth your time.

For more on Weakened Friends, be sure to check out their Bandcamp and Facebook.

First Listen Part Two: More New Releases for February 10

Here's the rest of the new releases for this week.

Artist: Lupe Fiasco
Album: DROGAS Light
Quick Description: New album from the often-controversial rapper.
Why You Should Listen: This is Lupe Fiasco's best effort in close to a decade.
Overall Thoughts: Lupe Fiasco was always pretty socially conscious, but things got a little out there for him with his recent releases. DROGAS Light doesn't lose the commentary, but it does gain some memorable music backing it for the first time in a few releases. Songs like "Jump" and "Wild Child" are really reminiscent of the quality of his Food and Liquor days, and this is an album I can't wait to get back to. If Sallie Ford didn't come out with new music this week, this might have ended up as my album of the week.
Recommendation: Best rap album out since RTJ3, and one of the best of the week.

Artist: Mother Mother
Album: No Culture
Quick Description: Canadian rock group goes even more mainstream.
Why You Should Listen: It's hard to find a reason if you're a reader of this blog.
Overall Thoughts: I loved this band once. "Let's Fall in Love" is a favorite of mine, and this new album feels sort of modern new wavey and it just doesn't work. Mother Mother aren't The Killers, y'know? I don't have a lot of good to say, so I won't say much more.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: Jesca Hoop
Album: Memories Are Now
Quick Description: Latest release from the quirky singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: You like a little strangeness to go with your songwriting.
Overall Thoughts: Jesca Hoop is a lot like Joanna Newsom in a lot of ways, except the voice is a little more normal and the songs structured a little more normally. Memories Are Now is not Hoop's best album - my vote is for Kismet - but in terms of what I expect from Hoop, it's pretty solid. A decent entrypoint if you're unfamiliar.
Recommendation: A good listen in a sea of great ones this week.

Artist: Chuck Prophet
Album: Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins
Quick Description: Chuck Prophet does a very specific brand of rock, and this is sort of a concept album in that vein.
Why You Should Listen: You like this sort of thing, with sharp songwriting and straightforward instrumentation.
Overall Thoughts: While I have some positive things to say about this, I admit that I don't really get it. I feel like there's a joke I'm missing along the way, or some sort of schtick I don't understand. It may reveal itself on future listens, but I can't say I get this. I would normally just put this in "also out," but it's good enough to at least deserve some attention.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, maybe more.

Artist: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Album: Zombies on Broadway
Quick Description: Theatrical indie pop rock.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for the lovechild of Patrick Wolf and Rufus Wainwright.
Overall Thoughts: I was ultimately drawn in by the cover here, to be honest, but it turns out this was a fun, unique listen. If you like the sort of theatrics that a lot of indie pop artists are up to these days, this deserves a listen, but there's enough here to be really accessible anyway. Give it a listen.
Recommendation: A fun listen this week.

Also out this week/recently:

* Henoheno - Piggybacks (try "Notice All Your Flaws")
* Mark Porkchop Holder - Let it Slide

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

First Listen Part One: New Releases for February 10

A busier than normal week, so I'm splitting this into two days.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Sallie Ford
Album: Soul Sick
Quick Description: New album from a favorite here that will just have you asking "Sallie, who hurt you and how can we destroy them?"
Why You Should Listen: Sallie Ford somehow improved on what she was doing, and she was already doing some amazing stuff.
Overall Thoughts: Man, Sallie Ford's been through from stuff, huh? That was really my first reaction as I listened to this album, a bunch of songs that feel confessional, that drip with hurt and pain, that just feel really heavy. And yet this ends up being beautiful with a lot of inspirational tones and gorgeous music. The whole sort of bluesy thing she was doing takes a bit of a backseat here, but this isn't some sort of singer-songwritery acoustic "woe is me" record, either. It's something a lot more special than that, and it's something everyone really just needs to give a listen. It's unfair that this album is out now, because the bar has just been raised for the rest of 2017 again and it's only February.
Recommendation: A must listen. Just absolutely amazing.

Artist: Thievery Corporation
Album: The Temple of I & I
Quick Description: The electronic collective comes along with a great album that feels essential.
Why You Should Listen: You are into electronic music but haven't been jazzed by recent offerings.
Overall Thoughts: Thievery Corporation has never really been my thing. If I wanted acid jazz, I had Mark Farina, and if I was looking for more mainstream electronic music there was always Cassius for house or Orbital or The Crystal Method. Thievery Corporation didn't fit in, but something here really clicked for me. The best songs here are with Mr. Lif, unsurprisingly, but what I found was an album that I initially felt might be too long and stick around too much, but it ends up being a really enjoyable listen overall. Great for electronic music fans, but also if you're not really into the genre - you might find something to like.
Recommendation: A great listen this week.

Artist: Save Ferris
Album: Checkered Past
Quick Description: No one was asking for a Save Ferris comeback EP, but here we are.
Why You Should Listen: You have a lot of nostalgia for the ska wave of 1995.
Overall Thoughts: I'm probably being unnecessarily harsh on this, but when we have ska acts still making music that's a little interesting and different, Save Ferris comes along and drops an album that doesn't remind you of their classic stuff while offering little in the way of a reason to want to see what else they have up their sleeves. "Golden Silence" is fine, I guess, but the whole thing just feels like an unnecessary letdown.
Recommendation: Unless you were really, really hardcore into this group, don't bother. A perfectly viable Less Than Jake EP came out recently, listen to that instead.

Artist: The Sadies
Album: Northern Passages
Quick Description: The Canadian alt-country act offers another classic.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy high-quality, unassuming country rock.
Overall Thoughts: I hate calling this act alt-country because it feels more folk-rocky, but no matter - The Sadies are great and continue to be great with this latest album. I always feel like they slide under the radar and they really shouldn't, because they keep making solid music. This album is no different - it won't set the world on fire, but it's a great listen nonetheless.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth some time in your rotation this week.

Artist: Duke Garwood
Album: Garden of Ashes
Quick Description: Unassuming, quiet, but intense folk music.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of Mark Lanegan.
Overall Thoughts: I couldn't place who Garwood sounded like until I looked up the album cover for this post and saw the comparison, and then it just hit me. I'm not a Lanegan fan, but he has a very distinct style that Duke Garwood shares, and the result is an album that's pretty solid on a whole if not a little strange for the genre. You'll know if you'll like it from the first couple minutes, but it's not something you should outright ignore unless Lanegan's musical style completely puts you off.
Recommendation: Almost certainly worth your time, although it won't be for everyone.

Artist: Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
Album: Backlash
Quick Description: A blues/funk/rock mishmash.
Why You Should Listen: You like Gary Clark Jr. but wish he had a brass section.
Overall Thoughts: While I admit that this is not a genre for me typically, I can't not highlight that this is a pretty solid listen overall. Black Joe Lewis does a great job with what he does, and this ends up being a highly enjoyable listen from start to finish. Won't work for everyone, but if you like this sort of thing you'll get a lot out of it.
Recommendation: If you like the genre, it's something you should hear.

Artist: Alexander F
Album: Alexander F
Quick Description: Garage rock/punk from the Rubblebucket guitarist.
Why You Should Listen: If you're really into Rubblebucket, this is not going to be what you expect. If you're not into Rubblebucket, the same rule applies.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over to me, and I was expecting something kind of weird and vanity project-esque given Rubblebucket's sound. What I got instead was a fairly standard garage rock record (with some surprises). It's not going to blow your mind at all, for sure, but in terms of the closest thing to a pure rock record available this week? It's pretty interesting.
Recommendation: A fairly interesting listen.

Also out this week:

* Crushed Stars - Displaced Sleepers

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ransom Pier - "Holding On"

Photo by Kyle Walker
It's been about a year and a half since we last heard from Random Pier, but luckily they are back with a brand new song. "Holding On" is exactly what we expect (and want) from Ransom Pier. It's just your good old fashioned standard Americana with a soul/blues twist. Think of Lake Street Dive mixed with Julie Rhodes. You're not getting any boundaries broken with Ransom Pier, and that's perfectly ok. Although "Holding On" does get some odd changes we haven't previously seen in Ransom Pier's previous releases, and since songs changing pace multiple times unexpectedly is kinda one of my things, I'm all for this.

You can listen to "Holding On" below. I'm not sure if it's just a single release or part of an upcoming album, but for more details you can check out their website, and get your own copy of "Holding On" at Bandcamp. They're also set to do some fairly extensive east coast touring, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.