Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday Freebie: Cold Expectations and Mint Green

This week we bring you a double header for Friday Freebie. Both bands are from the Boston area, both bands are playing a show on March 7 at Once Somerville with one of our favorites The I Want You, and both bands have releases available for free right now on Bandcamp!

Cold Expectaions - Supper Prayers
According to their Bandcamp bio, Cold Expectations took their name by combining songs from Hank Williams and The Rolling Stones. Can you imagine that in your head? Yup, that's basically what Cold Expectations sound like. Track 1 on Supper Prayers is called "Waterin' Down the Whiskey (With Our Tears)" and another called "Lately I've Been Wearin' My Heart On My Sleeve" in case Hank Williams/Rolling Stones hybrid didn't quite explain it enough for you. Although it's not all early country and 60's country rock on Supper Prayers. There is also quite a bit of 90's alternative influence here, but more the 90's alternative that was strongly influenced by country, although no one would ever have admitted that at the time. If you'd like to check out and download Supper Prayers, head over to Cold Expectations's Bandcamp. Also, be sure to follow them on Facebook.

Mint Green - Headspace
To keep my theme of repeating a band's Bandcamp bio, according to theirs Mint Green are "Summery, angsty, alt-rock with punk influence and catchy choruses." No arguments here, as songs like "Holy" are insanely catchy and pop filled, but with harder edged guitars than a typical power pop song. "Holy" even features a hardcore style breakdown, albeit an upbeat, poppy one. It's a really interesting and unique style. Not many bands can bring something new to the genres of power pop or pop punk, but I guess combining the genres and throwing in a wee bit of hardcore will do it. If you'd like to check out and download Headspace, head over to Mint Green's Bandcamp. As always, if you download their music for free be sure to at least follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Ken's Best of 2018 - #3: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - Years

Last year Sarah Shook & The Disarmers's Sidelong was my #2 album of the year. This year, their album Years is my #3 album. It says a lot for one artist to land in my top 3 two years in a row, but such is my love of Sarah Shook & The Disarmers. Years is a tiny bit more polished than it's predecessor, but ever so slightly. No one out there is doing country punk better than this group nowadays. It's such a raw sound that hearkens back to classic country without being a throwback at all. Normally when a band cleans up their sound and gets a little less raw I'll be that guy and whine and complain. Sure, I missed the rawness of Sidelong on my first listen of Years. But that didn't last long at all. Shook is an amazing songwriter, and with Years that is what shines through. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers are one of the rare bands I root for being as huge as they can be. True country fans will love this, but unfortunately most country fans want to hear songs about not wearing shoes or raps about a pick up truck. For those of us that prefer this sound, Years is basically perfect.

Songs of note: "New Ways to Fail," "The Bottle Never Lets Me Down," "Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don't."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #3: Neko Case - Hell-On

Neko Case has been at it for over two decades now, and continues to put out some incredibly essential music. Her latest, Hell-On, continues with the mood that we’ve become accustomed to – dark and brooding in many ways, but still feeling bright in others. Probably the best effort she has put together since Fox Confessor (and she doesn’t have a bad effort in between), both thematically and musically this just excels on all fronts.

Whether it’s an almost 1960s/70s pop song like “Bad Luck,” or the Crooked Fingers “Sleep All Summer” cover (featuring Eric Bachmann on his own song), the whole album has that sort of strange, otherworldly feel that Case does so well. Maybe the best, most complex track, however, is “Last Lion of Albion,” which is mythical and musically weird and incredibly ambitious. Early in the record, it sets the tone for where we’re headed and really sets us up for one of the best of the year.

Songs of note: “Last Lion of Albion,” “Sleep All Summer,” “Bad Luck,” “Halls of Sarah.”

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ken's Best of 2018 - #4: The Beths - Future Me Hates Me

You know it's a strong year for music when The Beths are my #4 pick of the year. Future Me Hates Me is an absurdly great album, filled with some of the catchiest alternative pop rock songs anyone has heard in years. I've always had a sweet spot for songs that sound sunny and cheerful but are in reality heartbreakingly depressing. This description basically sums up all of Future Me Hates Me. The title track is Beach Boys level upbeat and catchy, but it's called "Future Me Hates Me." Seeing them live back in October only cemented my obsession with The Beths. The album is great. Seeing them live? Next level obsession worthy. My too early prediction for 2019 is that they are going to be the show stealer once the summer festival season starts. Their song "Little Death" just has that large crowd scream along feel to it, and I really want to see fields of people yelling out "I die I die a little death" at the top of their lungs. In fact, Future Me Hates Me coming out in August might be the only reason I didn't place it higher on my top 10, as I've had more times with the three albums ahead of it.

Songs of note: "Future Me Hates Me," "Little Death," "Happy Unhappy."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #4: Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour

I realize that I have nothing special to say about Kacey Musgraves that hasn’t already been said, nor do I have anything especially unique to write about Golden Hour than anyone else has. Sometimes, an album simply hits the overall zeitgeist and we see the years of toil and the occasional identity crisis come to fruition in an effort that spans multiple genres and refuses to be pigeonholed. One could have forgiven Musgraves for scaling back and doing a back-to-basics country record given the criticism she has taken over the years; she instead decided to mix it up and acknowledge her roots while doing something a little more risky. It works. It more than works.

Everyone was rightfully thrown off by country disco song “High Horse” (even if it’s still a jam and a half) but the joys of this album come from songs like “Space Cowboy” and “Velvet Elvis,” two examples of which feel like what a modern country song should feel like, as opposed to the stereotypes we’ve all internalized in the mainstream. While artists like Taylor Swift work to shake the country off of their image, Musgraves instead appears to be taking the mantle and using it in a whole different way, and it works better than anyone could have predicted.

Songs of note: “High Horse,” “Velvet Elvis,” “Space Cowboy,” “Golden Hour.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Night Flowers Cover The Pretenders

London's Night Flowers have released a cover of The Pretenders's 1983 Christmas classic "2000 Miles" for charity, however it's also for a personal reason. The band has dedicated the song to the memory of Sandeep "Sonny" Heer. He was a Night Flowers fan that recently passed away. As the band wrote in their press release for the single:

"We’re just a small band - we don’t have many tools at our disposal but what we do have is our love and our music. With this in mind, for Christmas this year we have recorded a cover of The Pretenders 1983 hit ‘2000 Miles’ ourselves, which we would like to dedicate to Sonny’s memory. Any proceeds from the single will be going to CALM, as per his families wishes. More infomation on CALM here -"

Night Flowers's version of "2000 Miles" is absolutely spot on. The song has a sense of melancholy under normal circumstances, and knowing the meaning behind the cover makes this version devastating. You can listen to it below, and to get your copy of the song head over to the bands's Bandcamp.

Ken's Best of 2018 - #5: Haley Heynderickx - I Need to Start a Garden

I Need to Start a Garden is one of the very rare albums that both Jeff and I included in our top 10 for 2018, so that says huge things about this one. Haley Heynderickx came out of nowhere back in September 2018 with "Oom Sha La La" and I instantly knew I needed to hear more. There aren't a lot of truly unique artists in folk. but Heynderickx is one of the most unique ones. From her odd and interesting way of arranging songs into long epics like "Worth It" to her stunning voice that is just slightly off kilter enough to keep interesting, I Need to Start a Garden is one of the more mesmerizing releases of the year. Take a song like the aforementioned "Oom Sha La La." It starts off as this lovely little pretty song, with the chorus of "Oom sha la la/Oom oom sha la la" just sucking you in, and then the near repeated screaming of "I need to start a garden" kicks in. I'm sure some listeners would be repelled as this can shatter the beauty and pleasantness of the song. But for some of us, it just adds to the song, sucking us in and making us completely obsessed. 

Songs of note: "Worth It," "Untitled God Song," "Oom Sha La La."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #5: Lucy Dacus - Historian

Lucy Dacus is an artist I found with a debut I enjoyed even though we somewhat overlooked it in these parts. When “Night Shift” landed a year ago, anyone who heard it knew we were in for something special, and the full album doesn’t disappoint. Equal parts tender and muscular, Historian provides an album that, instead of being a sophomore slump, shows an artist growing into her own and excelling at what she does best.

The album kicks off with one of the best songs of 2018, “Night Shift,” and never leaves that high. The album is certainly better experienced as a cohesive unit, but it’s hard to find fault in any of these songs. I just wonder when Dacus is going to peak as an artist, as she clearly is far from at her full power.

Songs of note: “Night Shift,” “Addictions.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ken's Best of 2018 - #6: Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel

We've been babbling about our love of Courtney Barnett ever since she covered The Lemonheads's "Being Around" almost five years ago now. 2018 is no exception, and saw the release of Barnett's fantastic album Tell Me How You Really Feel. The new album is a bit more quiet and contemplative than 2015's Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit..., but that quiet brings in a more intense experience on further listens. The album opener, "Hopefulessness," just builds and builds throughout, going from a standard singer/songwriter tune to an indie rock anthem without increasing the tempo. "Need a Little Time" stays quiet throughout (mostly), and shows Barnett moving a bit from the talk-singing she's known for and singing more, quite nicely. Tell Me How You Really Feel showcases Barnett's growth as an artist and songwriter while sticking completely to what we love about her music. 

Songs of note: "Hopefulessness," "Need a Little Time,"  "Nameless, Faceless."

Jeff's Best of 2018 - #6: Tiny Stills - Laughing Into the Void

Sometimes an album comes along that just scratches that itch you didn’t know you had. That was my experience with Tiny Stills, a favorite this year that mixed the sort of indie pop with endearing and emotive songwriting that sets the good apart from the great. From the opening track to some of its most mainstream efforts, this album basically succeeded in everything it tried to do.

The album kicks it off with an opening track that namedrops a variety of things before diving into a hooky poppy number. “Let’s Fall in Love” takes its time in taking off and being the song it shows hints of being from the start. Then you have songs like “Colorblind” that are not forging new ground but are not trying to forge new ground either. The straightforward nature of this record is really why it’s such a joy to hear.

I shuffled this between 8/7/6 this year, and ultimately realized that if I can’t find out where it belongs, it probably belongs closer to the front. I assume it will for you, too.

Songs of note: “Colorblind,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” “When I’m With You.”