Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Northeast Festival Round Up Update

Back in May we brought you a handful of some of the smaller music festivals you should be checking out. It's been a couple of months, so we have some updates for you! Here are three late summer/early fall festivals that should be worth your time!

The Cranking and Skanking Fest
August 25, Worcester, MA
If you're like me, you spent many years attending the Warped Tour, only to quit as you seemed to age out. My last year was 2002 (?), when I realized I was only there to see four bands (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Bad Religion, Circle Jerks, The Damned). When they announced that this would be the final year of the tour, I hoped they'd reach out to some of the more classic bands that have played in the past, and maybe they did, but you'd never know it by looking at it. This might be why I'm so excited about The Cranking and Skanking Fest. Sure, it's in the parking lot of the Palladium in Worcester which isn't the most glamorous location, and I prefer when festivals mix it up a bit instead of just multiple hours of ska and reggae, but when you have the best of the best, you can't go wrong. Right now it's The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Toots & The Maytals, The Bouncing Souls, Fishbone, The Pietasters, The Planet Smashers, with more to be announced. Seriously stacked line up already, and somehow they're cramming more in!

Rubblebucket's Dream Picnic
September 8, Holyoke, MA
I've been trying to get around to seeing Rubblebucket again ever since I saw them a few years back at the Green River Festival, and this might be the year I finally do it. They've put together an amazing festival with multiple blog favorites. I'll happily go see Diet Cig, Caroline Rose, Mal Devisa, and Kalbells any night of the week, but a festival that lets me see all of them with Rubblebucket headlining? We're in. Plus, somehow tickets are currently under $30, which doesn't seem feasible.

Freshgrass Festival
September 14-16, North Adams, MA
We told you about the initial line up for Freshgrass with bands like Trampled By Turtles, Rhiannon Giddens, Yonder Mountain String Band, Indigo Girls, and more. If that somehow wasn't enough, they've added even more! The highlights of the new additions are Flogging Molly, Bela Fleck, and Twisted Pine! Bela Fleck and Twisted Pine make perfect sense, and Celtic punks Flogging Molly may make sense on a more open folk festival, but for a mostly traditional bluegrass leaning Americana festival like Freshgrass, it's a huge stretch. Although, one I'm looking forward to quite a bit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

First Listen: New Releases for 13 July

Album of the Week:

Artist: Jenn Champion
Album: Single Rider
Quick Description: Latest from the longtime singer-songwriter; first album under the Jenn Champion moniker.
Why You Should Listen: You like intense, mature songwriting.
Overall Thoughts: I’m racking my brain trying to really describe the experience of this album. It’s very direct, yet still feels ethereal and haunting. It has an urgent aggression to it even in its almost airy and quiet nature. It is especially interesting for the lyrics to stand out and be so blunt when we’re focused on a sound that lends itself to a more metaphoric/allegorical approach. This is my favorite listen of the week because of how it upends the expectations it carries with it, and there’s something kind of cool about that.
Recommendation: The best listen in a while.

Artist: Cowboy Junkies
Album: All That Reckoning
Quick Description: Latest from the well-known act.
Why You Should Listen: It feels a lot like what you've come to expect.
Overall Thoughts: This act has been around seemingly forever, have a very dedicated and loyal fanbase, and does something I’ve never truly and fully connected with. This new album? Really, really good. Really good. The songs are interesting, with a lot of solid pieces throughout, and this is one I’ll not only come back to, but will probably inspire me to give their back catalog a second look.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Mikaela Davis
Album: Delivery
Quick Description: First proper full-length from a buzzworthy singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Davis, a harpist by trade, takes a different route than the other major harpist on the scene.
Overall Thoughts: This reminds me a lot of an Abi Reinhold album from last year. A lot of dynamic sounds here with some songs that definitely stand out on first listen; this is certainly one to keep an eye on and something I’m looking to revisit.
Recommendation: A truly top listen this week.

Artist: Rayland Baxter
Album: Wide Awake
Quick Description: Latest roots record from a favorite here.
Why You Should Listen: This could be the album that propels him into fame.
Overall Thoughts: We’re fans here, and this one was a surprise at how mainstream it sounds. What I thought would be another solid roots outing from someone with a good track record instead sounds like an album that could propel him into the mainstream, or at least into the Sturgillsphere.
Recommendation: Make some time for this one.

Artist: Amy Shark
Album: Love Monster
Quick Description: Debut full-length from the alt-pop songstress.
Why You Should Listen: This fits right in with a lot of the more interesting pop stuff out there.
Overall Thoughts: Is it fair to put her in dark pop territory? I don’t know, but this is a decent pop record with a lot of great moments nonetheless. A misstep with Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 aside, this might scratch the pop itch you have, especially given how desolate the landscape has been lately.
Recommendation: Might work for you.

Artist: Valley Queen
Album: Supergiant
Quick Description: Long-awaiting debut album from a buzzy act.
Why You Should Listen: Few bands sound like this one right now.
Overall Thoughts: This is a great album, first and foremost. “Breaking the Muse” has been in constant rotation for me since I tripped up on it, and there’s just a great mix of interesting vocals and great instrumentation that sort of gives me a “10,000 Maniacs, but kind of weird” thing, if that makes sense. I had high hopes for this album, and it not only meets them, but exceeds them.
Recommendation: A must-listen.

Artist: Marlowe
Album: Marlowe
Quick Description: L'Orange/Solemn Brigham collaboration.
Why You Should Listen: It's the best rap album of the week/month.
Overall Thoughts: There's something really special about this album that shows itself even moreso compared to a good Kool Keith album and an okay Future effort. The music is great, the lyrics and flow seemingly effortless. It's what you want in a rap album even if you don't know it.
Recommendation: Listen to this.

Artist: Tanukichan
Album: Sundays
Quick Description: Dreamy, gazey singer-songwriter stuff.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for that more transportive effort.
Overall Thoughts: I find this to be a difficult album to describe in many ways. It is easy to just call this a superlative shoegaze effort, but that doesn't do the effort a service. It's more than that, and probably more than what it presents itself as at the end of the day. It's one of the best of the week, and something that deserves some attention for its songwriting and musical superiority.
Recommendation: Give this the time it deserves.

Artist: Luluc
Album: Sculptor
Quick Description: Great folk music.
Why You Should Listen: Luluc isn't reinventing the wheel, but just doing their best to perfect it.
Overall Thoughts: There's a bit of a reflex in discussing folkish efforts in trying to compare them to other acts. I'm as guilty as anyone. Luluc can be compared in similar ways, but that would do them a disservice in particular because of how special this effort is. It's a truly gorgeous affair with a lot of subtle things happening that I loved on first listen. If you're looking for a good folky record, you're not going to do better than this one this week.
Recommendation: Put this in your rotation.

Of note:

* Lydia - Liquor (successfully straddling the line between indie and mainstream)
* Wet - Still Run (no one sounds like Wet, and this is a solid listen from a band that is truly unique)
* Kool Keith - Controller of Trap
* Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose
* Suffers - Everything Here
* The Ophelias - Almost
* Lemuria - Companion

Not EPs but Not Albums (since these 7 song things are apparently here to stay):

* Matt Muse - Nappy Talk
* Deafhaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
* Wilder Maker - Zion
* Collections of Colonies of Bees - Hawaii


* Body/Head - The Switch

Also out:

* Cliff Westfall - Baby You Win
* Smokescreens - Used to Yesterday
* Future - BEASTMODE 2

Summer Magic - "Hey!"

We're huge fans of big, catchy as hell power pop. When you're covering a lot of indie rock and folk, the music tends to be pretty serious and important, so it's great to inject a little bit of fun in what we listen to. Summer Magic might be the best example of that. Their new single, "Hey!," is this burst of both 60's and 90's inflected power pop. It has that sugary, upbeat feel of something like The Archies, but also the sound of early Fountains of Wayne without the snark. "Hey!" is guaranteed to get crammed straight into your brain and be stuck there for a few days at least, but you won't be complaining.

You can listen to "Hey!" below. Sharks and Other Dangers, the new album from Summer Magic, will be out August 31. For more on Summer Magic, be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Freebie: J Eastman and The Drunk Uncles - Pleasing Some of the People None of the Time

Somehow Pleasing Some of the People None of the Time, the new album from Minneapolis's J Eastman and The Drunk Uncles, slipped by me when it was released in late spring. I know I heard it, and enjoyed it, but it slipped off my radar. The good news about that is that the album is now available for a free download! The opening song, "Don't Listen to Me," is a bit more straightforward hard rock than I expected it to be. It seems to be the oddity of the bunch, because after that we're back to the boozy haze of country twangified loud power pop that we expect from J Eastman and The Drunk Uncles. Pleasing Some of the People None of the Time has this amazing Uncle Tupelo meets The Replacements sound that we all need in our lives.

You can listen to "Holding On" below. Pleasing Some of the People None of the Time is now available for the "Name Your Price" option on J Eastman and The Drunk Uncle's Bandcamp. As always, if you download it for free, at least help the band out by giving them a follow on Facebook.

Dentist - "Upset Words"

Photo by Matthew Lyons
Despite hailing from Asbury Park, NJ (one of my personal favorite destinations), Dentist don't sound much like other New Jersey bands. They get called surf rock a lot, but maybe in that way the Pixies kind of had a little bit of a swirling surf rock sound. On their latest single, "Upset Words," Dentist have this incredibly upbeat, bouncy sound. It's pure indie pop rock, but with swirling guitars and a driving force propelling it forward faster than it sounds. It's a blissful fuzzed out romp with instruments seeming to be taking their own routes throughout the song. 

You can listen to "Upset Words" below. The new album from Dentist, Night Swimming, will be out July 20 on Cleopatra Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Dentist, be sure to check out their website.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lonnie Holley - "I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America"

Photo by Tim Duffy
I don't know if it's truly possible to describe Lonnie Holley's "I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America." I think the closest thing we have to it is free jazz, maybe? Except this song is loud, noisy, and dissonant. It might kind of be like some of the more experimental improvisational side projects of Sonic Youth, but this feels more controlled and like it has an actual purpose. From the song title alone I think we can all assume that this is an intensely political song, so you might be able to compare it to Childish Gambino's "This is America," but "I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America" would be like Childish Gambino on crack. I'm also getting the slightest hints of P-Funk here, but very slight. I'm pretty certain that none of that makes any sense, but this is definitely a song worth listening to.

You can watch the video for "I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America" below. MITH, the new album from Lonnie Holley, will be out September 21 on Jagjaguwar. It can be pre-ordered here. For more on Lonnie Holley, check out his website. His current tour dates are below the video.

Tue. July 17 – Atlanta, GA @ Atlanta Symphony Hall (w/ Animal Collective)
Mon. July 23 – Austin, TX @ Paramount Theater (w/ Animal Collective)
Wed. July 25 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre (w/ Animal Collective)
Fri. July 27 – Chicago, IL @ The Vic Theatre (w/ Animal Collective)
Sat. July 28 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Broad
Sun. July 29 – Seattle, WA @ Moore Theater (w/ Animal Collective)
Mon. July 30 – Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater (w/ Animal Collective)
Tue. July 31 – Wed. Aug. 1 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Theater at the Ace Hotel (w/ Animal Collective)
Fri. Aug. 3 – Sun. Aug. 5 – Portland, OR @ Pickathon
Fri. Sept. 7 – New York, NY @ Metropolitan Museum of Art
Thu. March 21 – Sun. March 24, 2019 – Knoxville, TN @ Big Ears Festival

Bear Grass - "Wash Over Me"

Last month we brought you "Unawake," the new single from upstate NY's Bear Grass. Thankfully, we have another new song of theirs to check out, and it's equally as stunning. "Wash Over Me" is a little more shiny and pop-sounding than "Unawake," but they somehow achieve this with dirtier guitars. It starts off as a pretty standard Americana inflected indie rock song, but slowly these swirling and grinding guitars begin taking over until it's an intense mess towards the end. Katie Hammon's vocals keep the entire thing grounded in harmony. We can't wait for this new album.

You can watch the video for "Wash Over Me" below. LEFT, the new album from Bear Grass, will be out August 10 on Five Kill Records and can be pre-ordered here. For more on Bear Grass, check out their website.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

William Elliott Whitmore Covers The Magnetic Fields

Photo by Doug Ewing
Doing a country/Americana version of a Magnetic Fields song might seem strange, but William Elliott Whitmore may have chosen the perfect one to cover with "Fear of Trains." With lyrics like "It was the army train that took her daddy from her / It was the bible train that took her momma too / And that high loud whistle made her horse run away / But the straw that broke the camel's back was you," the song was meant to be a country song. Unless you're incredibly familiar with the lyrics of Stephin Merritt, you'd most likely never pick up on this being a Magnetic Fields song since it's such a unique take, that somehow just feels correct.

You can listen to William Elliott Whitmore's take on "Fear of Trains" below. It will be included on his upcoming all covers album, Kilonova. That will be out on September 7 via Bloodshot Records, and feature covers of songs by Bad Religion, Johnny Cash, ZZ Top, Captain Beefheart, and more. It can be pre-ordered here. For more on William Elliott Whitmore, check out his website.

Jack Drag - "Little Lies"

I first discovered Jack Drag sometime in the mid to late 90's opening for Letters to Cleo, and was immediately smitten. They had this incredible lo-fi sound, but in a groovy, huge sounding way I had never heard before. I was shocked when they signed to A&M, and thrilled with the release of Dope Box. It was an expanded sound: More polished but in a great way. The band released a few more indie albums after that, but John Dragonetti moved from Boston to LA as part of the great exodus. He got more into producing and released a few albums with The Submarines.

Now, Jack Drag is back! There is a new single and a forthcoming album. "Little Lies" is far more polished and pop than anything Dragonetti has released as Jack Drag previously. It's nowhere near as pop as The Submarines, but lies in the middle of later period Jack Drag and The Submarines. There is definitely much more orchestration, and a far more lush sound. But that could be because home recordings are now much more advanced than they were in 1995. Plus, he brought in Aimee Mann and Dylan Gardner for backing vocals!

You can listen to "Little Lies" below. The new album from Jack Drag, 2018, will be released on Burger Records in the fall. For more on Jack Drag, be sure to check out his/their website.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

lié - Hounds

I've been fairly (ok, ridiculously) obsessed with Vancouver's lié ever since stumbling on them when I saw they were opening for The Dead Milkmen in that area of the continent. Their self described "three piece dark punk" sound just hits me in a sweet spot. Luckily for us, they just released their latest full length, Hounds.

Let's attempt to describe lié besides just "dark punk." lié play punk, no question about it. It's an insanely fast, loud version of the genre, which, quite frankly, most punk bands seem to lack these days. But, holy shit is this noisy. It's basically if Bikini Kill and Sonic Youth got angry. Hounds is filled with songs of pure chaos. Usually I love noisy bands like this because they have a controlled sense of chaos, but I don't think lié is completely in control, in all honesty. It sounds as if they plugged in their instruments and were overtaken by some sort of malevolent spirit. If that sounds like your thing, congratulations. You're going to love this.

You can watch the video for "Fill It Up" below. Hounds, the brand new album from lié, is out on. You can pick up your copy over at their Bandcamp. For more on lié, follow them on Facebook. The band is just about to go on a tour that luckily includes some Northeast US dates. Those can be found in the links above.