Friday, November 17, 2017

Shame - "One Rizla"

Post punk is typically the artsier, less aggressive form of punk. Nobody told Shame that. Their new song, "One Rizla," is a pretty chilled out post punk songs, with the ambient feel of dream pop and the fuzzed out bliss of shoegaze. But while that may sound like the song could drift into twee territory, it's far too snotty too be considered twee by any measure. In fact, the song builds so slowly in both speed and aggression that you won't be able to even notice it until the near scream filled ending. It's not an explosive ending, but more of a just barely controlled seething rage leaking out just enough. This song is enough to put their upcoming album into all of our Most Anticipated of 2018 lists.

You can watch the video for "One Rizla" below. Shame's debut album, Songs of Praise, will be out January 12 on Dead Oceans. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Shame, be sure to check out their website.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Eskies - "All Good Men"

Dublin's The Eskies are coming back with their second album next month, and are previewing the first single from it, "All Good Men." According to their press release, they're described as folk/rock/Yiddish/Blues, and all of that is completely true. But "All Good Men" seems to be even more than that. It has a bit of a punk attitude, and any time a band is from Dublin and combines folk and punk, they're going to get compared to The Pogues. Plus, they have an folk rock anthem quality, so there's some Frank Turner in there. All of this is wrapped up in some old swing, which reminds me of Squirrel Nut Zippers. All of these elements also come together to have just a bit of a Gogol Bordello sound. "All Good Men" takes a bunch of elements that are already a bunch of elements and combines them all into a song that somehow blends together just about perfectly.

You can watch the video for "All Good Men" below. The Eskies' second album, And Don't Spare the Horses, will be out on December 1st. For more on The Eskies, check out their website.

J Eastman and The Drunk Uncles - "On Your Dime"

It's rare that a band's name completely matches their sound. J Eastman and The Drunk Uncles sound exactly what you'd expect them to sound like. Their latest single, "On Your Dime," is a blast of loud power pop that leans very heavily on the rock side of the genre. You can just feel the haze of booze that thickens the type of venue these guys play, and the crowds they're sure to attract. For added points, they inject just the slightest country twang to the song giving it an Uncle Tupelo feel. It all feels decidedly Minnesota (where the band is from). Granted, there's not a regional "sound" to Minnesota, but there's almost a regional "feel" to the state.

You can listen to "On Your Dime" below. It will be included on their upcoming album. To be sure to stay updated on the album, check them out on Facebook and Bandcamp.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

QWAM - "Doggy Door"

Photo by Karen Sophia Colon
Brooklyn's QWAM is set to release their debut EP in January, but right now we can listen to the first single, "Doggy Door." From the frantic opening of drum stick rattling, "Doggy Door" is an energetic thrash of a song. It's definitely punk while being on the slightly more mainstream side of the genre, but without being "pop punk" in the slightest. The mainstream description might be attributed to the Pennywise style "Whoah-oh-oh" chant along chorus, even though the whole song feels more like The Gits than 90's Warped Tour style punk. Plus, they throw in a disjointed guitar solo at the end that is discordantly beautiful.

You can listen to "Doggy Door" below. QWAM's debut EP, Feed Me, will be out sometime in January. You can pre-order the EP now through Bandcamp. For more on QWAM, check them out on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for November 10

A slow-ish week. I'll be covering the new TayTay when it finally hits streaming services, but until then...

Co-Albums of the Week:

Artist: Kindling
Album: Hush
Quick Description: Local shoegazey goodness.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking to harken back to a different time, but not the trendy stuff that's hitting today.
Overall Thoughts: Holy crap this is absolutely wonderful , droney, almost shoegazey music. A band from Easthampton, I figured I’d like them when Spotify listed Infinity Girl as a comp, but this is so much better than that. Maybe my favorite of the week at this point, the vocals are gorgeous and drenched in reverb, they’re not afraid to get aggressive, and this is a rare act that sounds like something you’ve heard before even though you know it’s fully unique.
Recommendation: Do not miss out on this at all, it’s a brilliant listen.

Artist: Fever High
Album: FHNY
Quick Description: 1980s throwbacks, but more like a time machine than an homage.
Why You Should Listen: Your leg warmers aren't the least bit dusty and worn.
Overall Thoughts: Fever High is not only channeling the 1980s on this record, but they’re outright hopping in a time machine and outright stealing from the era, and it’s amazing. I think the second or third song is outright using the Soft Cell boops, and there’s one song that is one step away from being a Bananarama cover. It’s blatant musical appropriation and I honestly loved every moment of it. It’s close to my favorite album of the week on a whole, it’s just waaaay to much fun.
Recommendation: Too good for words.

Artist: Radnor & Lee
Album: Radnor & Lee
Quick Description: Weirdest collaboration in a while.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of either of these guys.
Overall Thoughts: Ben Lee is a name you probably know thanks to his folk rock work over the last decade. Josh Radnor is best known as Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother, and he’s set himself up as a sort of artist’s Zach Braff since then, with some indie film and stage work. So it’s not completely weird that a stage guy is doing an indie record with a bit of theatrical flair to it. His voice isn’t especially strong, but I might just be hearing him as his TV character more than him doing whatever this is. Still, coming in with low-ish expectations, this far, far surpassed them.
Recommendation: Better than you'd expect.

Artist: Quicksand
Album: Interiors
Quick Description: Comeback album from an early 1990s act.
Why You Should Listen: You haven't had your emo fill in a while.
Overall Thoughts: The latest in a line of post-rock/emo acts coming back around, Quicksand provides a record that sounds like it’s straight from the early 1990s scene. The nostalgia and the authenticity is there, but as someone who has traditionally been hot and cold on the entire thing, this one failed to really grab me much at all. This is not an indication that someone with a real love for this era wouldn’t find a lot to enjoy here, but just that this ultimately was not for me.
Recommendation: Give it a shot, but be wary.

Artist: Brother Roy
Album: Last Man Standing
Quick Description: Classic country rock stuff.
Why You Should Listen: This is the retro release for the week in this area.
Overall Thoughts: Brother Roy is pushing for a really interesting sort of classic aesthetic, and it mostly works. He’s got a pretty nondescript voice, allowing the tones and musicality to ultimately drive the experience on this. The songs are good, and there’s really nothing negative to say about this except that it doesn’t have anything that really gives it that great leap forward one might expect. It’s absolutely worth a listen, and if you’re into this sort of thing you might find something in it that I didn’t.
Recommendation: A good listen for a shortish week.

Artist: Plastic Flowers
Album: Absent Forever
Quick Description: Latest from the indie rock act.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoyed their last album.
Overall Thoughts: I don’t know what my expectation was here, especially since I know I heard this band in the past and the sound here surprised me. This is solid, albeit unexciting, indie rock in a good form, and that’s all well and good but doesn’t do a lot to set itself apart. This might be your cup of tea, but there are better albums to listen to first.
Recommendation: Not crucial.

Artist: Langhorne Slim
Album: Lost at Last Vol. 1
Quick Description: Latest from the acclaimed folkie.
Why You Should Listen: Langhorne Slim has built up more than enough good will.
Overall Thoughts: I still remember when I first saw Langhorne Slim however long ago, probably opening for Clem Snide. He was a whirlwind even then, and I’ve happily kept up with his work since then. This latest album is not a step back, but it is a step in what feels like a calmer direction on a whole. Back to his roots a bit, as it were. This is not going to be your favorite Langhorne Slim record, but it’s going to be something you’ll still enjoy. Just differently than how you’ve liked his other stuff.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Yeah But No
Album: Yeah But No
Quick Description: Standard indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: A solid if unspectacular listen.
Overall Thoughts: Another indie rock act this week, I also liked this one (and arguably more than Plastic Flowers), but it suffers from a very similar situation to Plastic Flowers in that it doesn’t do a ton to set itself apart. I liked this one a little more, but it’s still not something that I would reach for first this week.
Recommendation: Maybe if you need something more.

EPs of note:

* Adia Victoria - Baby Blues
* Ingrid Michaelson - Snowfall
* Slothrust - Show Me How You Want It To Be (great covers EP!)
* Empire of the Sun - On Our Own Way
* Tennis - We Can Die Happy
* Sleigh Bells - Kid Kruschev

Also out:

* Angel Olsen - Phases (weird rarities collection)
* Dillon - Kind
* Tim Heidecker - Too Dumb for Suicide (Trump protest songs. It ain't good...)
* Shooter Jennings - Live at Billy Bob's Texas
* Husker Du - Savage Young Du
* R.E.M. - Automatic for the People (25th Anniversary Edition)

Live Shows: The Deslondes & Twain, Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA 11/12/17

There are a few factors that can lead to a disastrous live performance. A fully seated venue, tables and waitresses taking orders, an early start time, and technical issues can make any band give a bad show. On Sunday night at the Iron Horse Music Hall The Deslondes faced all of these and shone through.

A seated venue might be a perfect place for The Deslondes to perform. Even their most up tempo songs still come across as laid back. It was still a bit tough, since they did remark that they do usually ask the crowd to stand up and dance at one point, and with all the tables, there just wasn’t enough room. A few couples did wander way in the back near the back bar to find some room to dance, but the majority seemed to be fine with just watching the show. Somehow the appreciative crowd was able to keep up enough energy despite the tables and chairs to keep the show staying lively.

What might work out in The Deslondes’ favor the most is their complete Southern charm. How many bands have you ever seen dedicate a song to the kitchen staff for providing them with dinner? Four out of the five members of the band shared vocals duties throughout the entire show. That could cause even the greatest performers to come across as disjointed, but with The Deslondes it just adds to their talent. Their sound remained seemless throughout their entire set. The laid back songs like “Muddy Waters” fit right in with the much faster “Hurricane Shakedown” no matter who was singing or wrote it. Another part of the charm is their complete lack of pretense. A lot of other Americana/country artists that specialize in post-WWII throwback music can seem kind of kitschy in their presentation and performance. With the entire band lacking any hats except for the baseball variety, three out of five members not having any facial hair, not even the slightest sense of irony, it adds the feel of just being five guys who love a style of music and performing it.

I also want to apologize for missing Twain. Despite loving his recently released album, Rare Feeling, I missed his entire set. My previous experiences at the Iron Horse Music Hall have shown me that a start time of 7:00 means doors at 8:00, so I arrived at 7:40 and missed him entirely. He came back to perform with The Deslondes for the encore, but that was hardly enough time to truly experience a talented musician. On the plus side, I got to truly know my age since hearing laid back country on a Sunday evening and getting out for 9:00 pm (when most shows are just starting or doors are usually opening) is now a perfect night for me.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Live Shows: Lee Ranaldo, ONCE Ballroom, Somerville, MA 11/8/17

Photo by Ken Sears
For someone as obsessed with Sonic Youth as myself, I was uncharacteristically hesitant about going to his show at ONCE in Somerville last week. His latest album, Electric Trim, just hasn't been working for me. It's being billed as his Beatles influenced album, and while I hear that influence, I'm also hearing far too much jam band in it for my taste. Plus, members of Sonic Youth typically focus on their newer work than their older work, so there was little chance of him busting out any of my favorites from the Sonic Youth days.

There might not have been a performance of "Cinderella's Big Score" that night, but the songs from Electric Trim worked much better in a live setting than on the album. Ranaldo was armed exclusively with acoustic guitars, and had a bare bones line up of a drummer and a keyboard/electric guitar player. The most interesting part of the evening is that the typical noisy guitar solos were played by Raul Fernandez and not Ranaldo. It's not the type of thing I expected with a Lee Ranaldo solo show, but it, like most of the night, somehow worked.

Luckily, Ranaldo is still far from the acoustic singer/songwriter, and while he was playing
Photo by Ken Sears
acoustically, he was still playing it like Lee Ranaldo. Instead of just strumming and singing, he played his guitar with a bow, bells, by knocking on the wood, and just like a member of Sonic Youth playing acoustically. Virtually the entire set came from Electric Trim, with highlights being "Moroccan Mountains" and "Uncle Skeleton." In fact, the only song I don't believe was on Electric Trim was a cover of The Velvet Underground's "Ocean." Plus, to answer an audience member's question (it was a lightly enough attended show to make interacting with Lee feel comfortable, but those of us who were there were more than appreciative), he told a story of Sonic Youth's only acoustic set at Neil Young's Bridge School benefit concert in 1991.

The evening might not be exactly what you expect from a former member of Sonic Youth, but it's always refreshing to hear an artist change things up a bit. Plus, it was a great enough experience to make me want to revisit an album I had already written off as not for me. That's a rare, and special, thing.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Drive-By Truckers - "The Perilous Night"

Photo by Danny Clinch
Remember when we all thought American Band was as political and as political as Drive-By Truckers would get? Well, here's a new single, "The Perilous Night." With this song, Patterson Hood gets specific, mentioning Putin and Charlottesville explicitly, and with an accompanying lyric video showing anti-Trump imagery and videos of Russia. Apparently American Band was a warm up.

What's even more interesting is the actual song itself. Drive-By Truckers have always been Americana with punk tuned guitars, and that sound is almost completely absent. "The Perilous Night" sounds a lot more like the pop side of mid-90's alternative (think Gin Blossoms and Fountains of Wayne) mixed with soul, complete with an R&B chorus. It's an interesting choice to make their most commercially sounding single for their most abrasive and divisive topic. I can't imagine it wasn't done on purpose.

You can watch the lyric video for "The Perilous Night" below. It will be released on December 15 on a 7" along with an absolutely amazing version of "What It Means" that was recorded at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Drive-By Truckers, check out their website

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Van T's - "Bitter Sweet"

"Bitter Sweet," the latest single from Glasgow's The Van T's, brings together a lot of different elements. First of all, it's pure, straightforward rock music, the kind that's almost become a rarity in the world of music. It's the kind of big sound The Donnas kept alive for nowhere near enough years. It also keeps up a funky surf rock bassline throughout almost the entire song. And then there's the vocals. Twin sisters Hannah and Chloe Van Thompson keep the song awash in beautiful, swirling harmonies despite the clunk of noise behind them. Despite the song being a glorious straightforward rock song, it begins and ends in noisy chaos that will warm the hearts of Sonic Youth fans everywhere. "Bitter Sweet" is a better rock song than we could ever possibly deserve.

You can watch the video for "Bittersweet" below. It's currently available for purchase on iTunes and other digital platforms. For more on The Van T's, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for November 3

Album of the Week:

Artist: Fox Face
Album: Spoil and Destroy
Quick Description: Solid, energetic punk rock.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something a little more authentic.
Overall Thoughts: There has been no lack of female-fronted punk acts as of late, and Foxface definitely comes across as the rawest of the batch so far. It reminds me a lot of Be Your Own Pet, except it feels more authentic? And then I was won over for good with their take on “Toxic,” which was awesome. So this was a favorite of this week, and I can't wait to dive back in.
Recommendation: Good for everyone, great for punk fans.

Artist: Mark "Porkchop" Holder
Album: Death and the Blues
Quick Description: Garage-influenced blues rock.
Why You Should Listen: Another authentic-sounding listen.
Overall Thoughts: This is just a really fun, really solid blues rock record. Definitely some garage elements here, and would have really fit right in 15 years ago but works just as well now. Easily one of my more enjoyable listens this week, for sure, and worth your time even if this isn’t your typical genre.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Artist: Mr. Lif and Brass Menazeri
Album: Resilient
Quick Description: A surprising genre mashup.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy things that are weird and awesome.
Overall Thoughts: This is sort of like if What Cheer? Brigade enlisted a rapper to help them out. I’m so into this it’s ridiculous – Mr Lif is near-perfect as usual, and the instrumentation is different enough in and of itself in this genre to sound fresh and different. Everything about this works, and this has vaulted into my favorite rap effort of the year and deserves to be on some year end lists.
Recommendation: A great listen, nearly my favorite of the week.

Artist: Grace VanderWaal
Album: Just the Beginning
Quick Description: Debut album from the AGT winner.
Why You Should Listen: This much talent can't be ignored.
Overall Thoughts: Grace VanderWaal is the teenage prodigy who recently won America’s Got Talent with her ukulele, and this is a perfectly accessible, radio-friendly pop debut. Shades of early Ingrid Michaelson abound here, and VanderWaal sounds 10 years older than she is already, which means she might be a scary force to reckon with once she truly grows into the artist she may very well be. If you’re turned off by this genre, you’re not going to like much here...
Recommendation: ...but this was definitely a solid listen on a whole.

Artist: FM Belfast
Album: Island Broadcast
Quick Description: New album from the Icelanding dance-like group.
Why You Should Listen: This is weird party music, I guess.
Overall Thoughts: FM Belfast is an Icelandic act that has their own twist on radio pop, and this latest album is actually kind of straightforward in a way I didn’t expect. It’s fine, but as a band that I recognize as one that takes chances, I was honestly surprised that the first listen was not as daring.
Recommendation: It’s a slow week, so give this a shot, but maybe temper your expectations.

Artist: Elephant
Album: Elephant
Quick Description: Debut from a band straight from the oughts.
Why You Should Listen: This is some decent rock music.
Overall Thoughts: What if The Killers were actually a good band that enjoyed psych rock and T. Rex? You might get Elephant, who have a modern take on a retroish sound. I liked, but didn’t love, this album, which is somewhat uneven but really, really good when it works. I really feel like this band would have been super popular during that second post-Strokes wave in the mid-2000s, but on a whole, this is an interesting rock listen.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Blitzen Trapper
Album: Wild and Reckless
Quick Description: Latest from the indie rock favorites.
Why You Should Listen: There's no "Black River Killer" here, but that's all good.
Overall Thoughts: Intentional or not, Blitzen Trapper is channeling Tom Petty a lot here. They’ve been so consistently good for some time now that it’s hard to argue that what they’re doing is getting stale or less interesting, but Blitzen Trapper has absolutely hit its stride as a band and the album feels familiar and comfortable from the first moments of the opening track.
Recommendation: Just a good album across the board.

Artist: Ryan Koenig
Album: Two Different Worlds
Quick Description: Americana-ish folksy record.
Why You Should Listen: This is a little off the beaten path.
Overall Thoughts: If Mark Porkchop is mixing up the blues a little bit, Koenig is offering up a type of anti-americana, harkening to the whole anti-folk thing of last decade. It’s an okay album, but I think it might struggle to find an appeal if you’re one to take the recommendations from this site to heart. It feels a little too ironic? I’m not entirely sure. Either way, it’s worth a shot but you might not dig this as much as you want.
Recommendation: Might be worth your time.

Artist: Blake Hazard
Album: Possibilities at Sea
Quick Description: Some modern pop music.
Why You Should Listen: Might be worth your time if you're looking for something super mainstream.
Overall Thoughts: It is interesting to hear Blake Hazard in the context of Grace VanderWaal. One could theoretically be considered the future of American pop music, while Blake Hazard could be sitting solely in the middle of the current landscape of the non-TSwift kind. She has a great voice, good musicality, but there’s something fairly sterile about the whole affair that keeps this from taking the leap I was hoping for. I would still recommend it, and I’m hoping further listens show a little more depth, but this might not work for those allergic to pop.
Recommendation: Be wary.

Artist: James Holden and The Animal Spirit
Album: The Animal Spirit
Quick Description: Strange, captivating electronic music.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something truly odd.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't know what to expect going in, and I don't completely know what I ended up with coming out, but this was an interesting listen on a whole. Reminded me of the more atmospheric electronic listens when I first got into the genre. You'll know really quick whether you're into this or not.
Recommendation: Give it a shot if you're into it.

EPs of note:

* Billy Bragg - Bridges Not Walls
* GOON - Happy Omen
* Emeli Sande - Kingdom Coming
* Allah-Lahs - Covers #1
* S U R V I V E - RR7387