Friday, October 21, 2016

Valley Queen - "High Expectations"

Jeff has had much more luck than I have with Spotify's Discover Weekly playlists. I seem to mostly get bands I listen to regularly, and maybe some ok stuff sprinkled in. This week, I finally found a song I've been obsessed with all week. A Los Angeles band that hasn't released a debut album yet, Valley Queen released a single back in August. While "In My Place" is the A-Side, the B-Side is what sucked me in. "High Expectations" is this laid back, California-style modern folk song. I'm not really a lyrics guy, but that's what actually drew me in. "I'm not going to fake an orgasm in texting conversations" might be a lurid line, but coming out of singer Natalie Carol it's pure poetry. The whole song is an interesting take on modern dating. A line like "Women sending pictures like a resume, hoping that they qualify" shows a side you don't hear much about. Don't get me wrong, "In My Place" is also a great song, but "High Expectations" is the one I'll be obsessing over for a long time.

You can listen to Valley Queen below. For more on Valley Queen, be sure to check out their website.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Le Tigre - "I'm With Her"

Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that this election cycle has been an absolute shit show. Most people seem to despise one or both main candidates, and there isn't a whole lot to get excited about politically. That might change, since at least this election has inspired the first new Le Tigre song in over a decade. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Kathleen Hanna can probably guess that she's not exactly the world's biggest Donald Trump fan. Le Tigre have chosen to throw their support totally behind Hillary Clinton with the song "I'm With Her." It's an upbeat dance track, exactly what you'd expect from Le Tigre. If this election brings us nothing else, at least we have a new song from Le Tigre. Maybe this whole year has been worth it. 

For everything Le Tigre, be sure to check out their website. Also, check out Kathleen Hanna's more current band, The Julie Ruin, on their website, too. The video for "I'm With Her" is below.

The Claypool Lennon Delirium Covers The Beatles

I don't believe Sean Lennon has previously outright rejected being compared to his father the way other musicians with famous musician parents have, but he never actually encouraged it. That seemed to change earlier this year with the release of The Claypool Lennon Delirium's Monolith of Phobos, his most Beatles-like work yet. Back in August, the band (which also includes Les Claypool, obviously) played at the House of Blues in Boston. I wasn't able to make the show, but luckily WGBH's Front Row Boston did, and they captured an absolutely mind-melting cover of "Tomorrow Never Knows." It's a pure psychedelic showcase for Lennon. He basically has the voice of John, the guitar chops of George, and the noise rock pedigree of someone who's toured with Sonic Youth. It's nearly eight minutes of wonderful, and you need to hear this. What's truly bizarre is that Sean Lennon has been dismissed for just about two decades as just being John Lennon's kid, and not truly taken seriously, which is truly unfortunate as he's been quietly releasing consistently great music all this time. By covering his dad, he might be finally stepping out on his own.

To check out The Claypool Lennon Delirium's cover of "Tomorrow Never Knows," head on over to WGBH's website. And while you're there, check out their archive of fantastic, multi-camera pro-shot live videos. It's the best internet wormhole you'll fall down in a long time. For more on The Claypool Lennon Delirium, check out their website.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kristin Hersh - "Soma Gone Slapstick"

Photo via Facebook
Kristin Hersh's solo albums tend to be where she explores her quieter, more acoustic music. The noisier more abrasive sounds tend to get channeled into Throwing Muses, and the really noisy stuff becomes 50 Foot Wave. That's not the case with her new song, "Soma Gone Slapstick." 

"Soma Gone Slapstick" isn't that far removed from her other solo work. The intro starts with about 10 seconds of acoustic guitar, but then some drums and a chugging guitar chord comes in. It's still very much in the singer-songwriter realm, but it's a very interesting change. 

Kristin Hersh's upcoming album, Wyatt at the Coyote Palace, will be a two disc set packaged with a book of essays and lyrics. It's due out on November 11. You can watch the video for "Soma Gone Slapstick" below. For more information, check out her website.

First Listen, Part Two: More New Releases for October 14

And the rest!

Artist: Moby and The Void Pacific Choir
Album: These Systems Are Failing
Quick Description: New album/project from Moby
Why You Should Listen: Moby used to make some fairly essential stuff, and this is a return to interesting form.
Overall Thoughts: I feel like Moby kind of ruined his brand in a way with Play, which was a good album, for sure, but was such a departure from his early work (Animal Rights being the noted exception) that it seemed to set him on a weird trajectory in the longer term. These Systems Are Failing has a bit of a noise/industrial feel to it and thus doesn't feel like a recent Moby album, but still feels like an older one in terms of structure and interest. This was a favorite of mine this week, and I would highly recommend that, if you just saw the name Moby and scrolled on by, to give this a shot.
Recommendation: A really great listen this week.

Artist: Conor Oberst
Album: Ruminations
Quick Description: Lo-fi, stripped down songs from the Bright Eyes singer.
Why You Should Listen: Conor Oberst has become a more interesting musician in the last decade, and this is a very stark departure.
Overall Thoughts: Oberst has had a rough few years, with some family issues as well as a fabricated claim against him, and it's hard not to hear the emptiness that this album has with these issues in mind. I'll be honest - as a musical endeavor, this didn't connect with me at all, but my favorite moments with Oberst/Bright Eyes are his more straightforward stuff (like "Four Winds") as opposed to the emo folk of "The Calendar Hung Itself." This feels more like the latter informed by the former, so I'm not sure if I'm into it, but this might work for others.
Recommendation: Might be a fans-only project.

Artist: L'Orange and Mr Lif
Album: The Life and Death of Scenery
Quick Description: A short hip hop EP collaboration.
Why You Should Listen: Two talented people in the hip-hop scene working together? Of course you need to hear this.
Overall Thoughts: While I don't know if this is something I'd listen to again, this is an interesting, sort of science fictiony tale told over a 22 minute hip hop EP. The production is great, Mr Lif is great, and the result is an interesting but perhaps inessential listen.
Recommendation: Worth a listen or two.

Artist: JoJo
Album: Mad Love
Quick Description: First album in a decade from the pop singer.
Why You Should Listen: You have some sort of affinity/memory of JoJo.
Overall Thoughts: We're hitting a bit of a pop renaissance of sorts right now, so the return of JoJo is a welcome surprise in theory. The problem here is that the game has been upped so much in recent years that an album like this comes along and, without much to drive it forward, it ends up falling flat and sounding a little old and uninspired. The production feels lifeless and the best song on the album might be a bonus track on the extended edition. That's never a good sign. When Britney Spears can legitimately offer one of the best pop albums of the year, we can expect more from JoJo.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: Joseph Hein
Album: AM Gold
Quick Description: A soft rock listen.
Why You Should Listen: This feels like a throwback in an era of throwbacks...
Overall Thoughts: ... but I don't know a lot that sound quite like this. I know this is definitely a reference to a musical act I can't quite finger, and that's fine. Someone who recognizes the musical reference might get more out of this, but, for me, this was just a pleasant listen that works on a basic level. The songs are nice, everything is smooth and clear, and it's a nice album for some short escapism.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth a listen.

Artist: Ablebody
Album: Adult Contemporaries
Quick Description: Another throwback, this one doing what it says on the tin.
Why You Should Listen: It feels like a really overwrought 80s album.
Overall Thoughts: The vocals are what do it for me, but the overall sort of off-center instrumentation really sells it for me overall. I don't have a ton to say here except that it sounds very old and familiar, and you'll know how you feel by the time the leadoff track ends.
Recommendation: Not for everyone, but if you like this sort of thing...

Artist: Jonny Fritz
Album: Sweet Creep
Quick Description: Classic roots music from an accomplished musician.
Why You Should Listen: Fritz is really good at what he does, but the added bonus of his tongue being firmly in cheek sets him apart.
Overall Thoughts: In a week of throwbacks, it's tempting to say he's aping the classic country sound, but he does bounce around in Americana genres throughout Sweet Creep, and to attempt to pigeonhole Fritz would be a disservice. Focusing on the music alone, this is a really fun, laid back listen with some humor and some classic tropes all rolled into one. Even if it's not your favorite this week, it's going to be a memorable one.
Recommendation: Definitely worth your time.

Also out this week:

* The Orb - COW/Chill Out, World (album is indeed very chilled out)
* Two Door Cinema Club - Gameshow (felt very uninspired)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for October 14

An interesting release week!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Kingsley Flood
Album: Another Other
Quick Description: New album from the local favorites.
Why You Should Listen: Kingsley Flood has near-mastered the indie rock landscape...
Overall Thoughts: ...and if there's any justice, this will be their breakthrough. The band has a collection of songs, some of which we've heard on other EPs, that just flow together really well and show some consistent songwriting chops and, perhaps more importantly, a more robust and consistent sound that hasn't been there for them up to this point. No, there's no "Set Me Off" here, but that's okay - the whole album is a pretty solid achievement and a surprise even for me, who is a genuine fan of this band and who was anticipating a new full length. You owe it to yourself to hop on the bandwagon now before they blow up and become huge.
Recommendation: A must listen this week.

Artist: Swet Shop Boys
Album: Cashmere
Quick Description: Politically-charged rap from a group including Heems of Das Racist.
Why You Should Listen: Even putting the politics aside, there is some great musicianship and rapping here.
Overall Thoughts: Like many, I came to Das Racist because of their more humorous efforts, and Swet Shop Boys, while definitely being more serious in a lot of ways, still has the humor in place. Overall, it creates an album that is good but uneven. "T5" is great, "Zayn Malik" is great, but other songs don't hit the same tones. With that said, Das Racist had a similar issue with their releases, so there's that as well. Overall, a good listen and the best rap-related album out this week...
Recommendation: ...but this might not work for everyone.

Artist: Mike Doughty
Album: The Heart Watches While the Brain Burns
Quick Description: Latest album from the former Soul Coughing lead.
Why You Should Listen: Mike Doughty always has interesting releases.
Overall Thoughts: This is a good album, and maybe the most straightforward of his solo releases in a while. Lead single "I Can't Believe I Found You In That Town" sets a good tone for the album, and the rest of it continues along those same lines. Do I have a complaint? Maybe that I'm so used to Doughty trying on different sounds and ideas that this feels almost too standard in comparison? I'm truly not sure, but this album definitely connects on a musical level.
Recommendation: A highlight of the week.

Artist: Lisa Mitchell
Album: Warriors
Quick Description: Latest album from the Australian pop singer.
Why You Should Listen: Fairly straightforward singer-songwriter pop always deserves a listen.
Overall Thoughts: It's hard to look at this without also looking at JoJo's return album (which we discuss tomorrow). This, especially in comparison, feels vibrant and fresh, without a lot of the dark undertones that a lot of pop music trends toward lately. Lead single "The Boys" gives a good idea as to what's going on with this album, and the result is a pleasant listen that, overall, might lack that standout track that would make it something great, but ends up still being a good album that deserves some attention.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Jeff Rosenstock
Album: Worry
Quick Description: Some grunge-tinged indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: Not quite a throwback but not quite modern, it's the most interesting straightforward release this week.
Overall Thoughts: I only snagged this because his former bandmate, Laura Stevenson (a favorite around these parts), had tweeted about it on Friday. The first song, sort of a weird piano track, didn't pique my interest. The following songs, though, were a very fun listen. Sometimes grungy, sometimes straight rock, and always lyrically interesting, there is a ton to love here. This was nearly my album of the week, but I resist only because I really think this is an album that needs to simmer a little and have some time spent with it. I might end up loving it more and more by the time I get to spend some time with it.
Recommendation: Absolutely a must-listen this week.

Artist: Fvnerals
Album: Wounds
Quick Description: Dark shoegazy rock music.
Why You Should Listen: You need something a little heavier to balance this week out.
Overall Thoughts: I loved this, but of course I did. It's dark and heavy (I think I saw one reference to this group as "doomgaze" which is appropriate), and the overall result here is an album that needs to be taken as a whole. The whole, of course, being a pretty interesting and different adventure. If you like Chelsea Wolfe, this might be up your alley.
Recommendation: Won't be for everyone, but I know I liked it.

Artist: Courtney Granger
Album: Beneath Still Waters
Quick Description: Well-structured Americana.
Why You Should Listen: Probably the best musicianship of all the releases this week.
Overall Thoughts: It's sometimes hard to slot an artist like Granger into a certain genre box, because this is both so much more than just basic roots music. Has a classic country feel, but it's so well-structured and enjoyable that you hate to pigeonhole it. If you've missed having some good new Americana in your rotation, absolutely give this one a shot.
Recommendation: A great album this week.

Also out this week:

* Kings of Leon - Walls
* Sleaford Mods - TCR (just like their older stuff if you're into that)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Jack White & Margo Price - "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)"

This week saw the debut of Chris Thile (Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers) take over as host of NPR staple A Prairie Home Companion. I was always shocked that more "hip" bands didn't do the show back when Garrison Keillor was the host, since it's hokey, old-timey format seemed to be a perfect fit for most of the current crop of Americana artists. That might finally be happening with the new, younger host, as Thile's first show featured the big guns of Lake Street Dive and Jack White. Best of all is Jack White brought out Margo Price for a rendition of The White Stripes' "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)." While the original had more of a gospel feel to it, this version felt like the song might have started out as a Carter Family song. Just add some twang and the beyond classic feel of Price's voice, and any song can be an old standard.

You can watch Jack White and Margo Price perform "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)" below. For more on Margo Price, check out her website. Also, if you're a Margo Price fan, be sure to check out the interview Marc Maron just did with her on his WTF podcast. You'll probably want to be sure to keep up with the new edition of A Prairie Home Companion, which you can here.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

New (and Free!) Dinosaur Jr Tour Documentary

Photo by Levi Walton
This was a very pleasant surprise this morning. Apparently Otis Bperiod was on tour with Dinosaur Jr earlier this year to document the band. He put together a documentary that just went up for free on YouTube. It's really rough black and white footage of the band, shot single camera style, but it's a ton of live footage along with the band fooling around backstage. The backstage footage is great to see as a fan since most Dinosaur Jr coverage tends to focus on the band not really getting along. This is an absolute must for all fans of Dinosaur Jr, and it's free. Like I said, the video is a pretty rough quality, but it's a feature length Dinosaur Jr tour documentary, so who really cares, right?

You can watch the full Dinosaur Jr - Bits and Pieces on YouTube below. I'd personally recommend watching it on your tv if you have the capability. For more on Dinosaur Jr, check out their website, and be sure to follow Otis Bperiod on Facebook.

*Full disclosure: I haven't watched the full thing yet, so there could be something amazing or horrible towards the end that I'm not reporting on.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Stef Chura - "You"

Photo by Zak Bratt
Hailing from Detroit, MI (somehow I'm surprised that there is an underground music scene in Detroit, even though that makes perfect sense), comes Stef Chura. Her new song, "You," might become your favorite song of 2017. It starts out as relatively standard singer/songwriter fair, albeit really fantastic relatively standard singer/songwriter fare. But underneath it all lies this brooding quality. And then the noise starts to kick in, and then drift away, just to come back later. She's along the lines of Colleen Green and Lady Lamb, as an artist who defies the easy folk label by just having this raw edge of punkish indie rock, but with just a hint of Kristin Hersh thrown in.

Stef Chura's debut album, Messes (which is definitely going on my most anticipated albums of 2017 list), will be out January 27 on Urinal Cake Records. You can listen to "You" below. You can pre-order the album at Urinal Cake's website. For more on Stef Chura, check out her Bandcamp and Facebook.

The Wave Pictures - "Pool Hall"

Photo by Mike Rozycki
The new single from The Wave Pictures strikes pretty close for us all in the Boston we've lost a ton of legendary music venues in the last couple of years, so a song about losing a beloved hangout to development strikes a chord with us. "Pool Hall" is this groovy 90s tinged indie rock song. Dave Tattersall's vocals come across like a crooning Stephen Malkmus or a less rock star version of Jarvis Cocker. It's a chilled out, bluesy sound that is really unique in the world of indie rock, and I'm really looking forward to hearing more from these guys.

The upcoming album from The Wave Pictures, Bamboo Diner in the Rain, will be out November 11 on Moshi Moshi. You can watch the video for "Pool Hall" below. For more information on The Wave Pictures, check out their website and Facebook. You can pre-order Bamboo Diner in the Rain here.