Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Freebie: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - Songs From Sidelong + More

Today is packed with highly anticipated album releases. For us, one of the most anticipated releases of all is the latest from Sarah Shook + The Disarmers, Sidelong. This morning I woke up to an email from NoiseTrade offering me some free music from Sarah Shook & The Disarmers. Songs From Sidelong + More includes three songs from Sidelong as well as three songs from Sarah Shook's 2013 solo album, Seven. We've been raving about the songs we've heard so far from Sidelong. Her deep down country sound mixed with punk and indie rock resonates hard for us. I had never heard anything from her solo album, so being able to hear a few songs from that release is welcome. Those three are more traditional alt-country. Sidelong is the album that sets Sarah Shook & The Disarmers up as a completely unique sound.

You can get your copy of Songs From Sidelong + More over at Noisetrade. After listening to these songs, you're going to want to get your own copy of Sideways. Luckily for you, it's out today on Bloodshot Records! For more on Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, check out their website.

Dharma Bombs - "Pack Your Bags"

Hailing from Richmond, VA, Dharma Bombs are pure throwback Americana. They cite The Devil Makes Three and Pokey LaFarge as influences, but I'm going at add The Two Man Gentleman Band and Squirrel Nuts Zippers as other comparable acts since they have a bit of the old timey swing sound, too. The first song off their upcoming debut album, "Pack Your Bags," is an interesting choice to introduce themselves. They're a six piece band, but "Pack Your Bags" is a minimalist folk ballad. Everyone gets a chance to shine, but almost separately. The horn section seems to get the most time as far as the instruments go, but it's mostly a quietly strummed acoustic song with forlorn male and female vocals getting the main focus. It's a beautiful song that is only going to build anticipation for their upcoming album.

You can listen to "Pack Your Bags" below. Dharma Bombs' debut album, Old Time Romance, will be out on May 11 on Crystal Pistol Records. Keeping with the Friday Freebie theme, you can download their seven song Live on WRIR release for free on Bandcamp. For more on Dharma Bombs, check out their website.

Friday Freebie: Justin Townes Earle - Kids In the Streets Singles Pack + NoiseTrade Acoustic Sessions

We're pretty excited about the upcoming album from Justin Townes Earle. The man just doesn't release bad music. Hell, the man doesn't release anything mediocre. His new album, Kids In the Street, is due out on May 26. To get us excited for the new album, or even just to tide us over, he's offering the first three singles for a free download through NoiseTrade. Plus, there are three additional live recordings from his PledgeMusic sessions thrown in for fun. 

The new songs reflect some changes in Earle's life. Since his last album, 2014's double shot of Single Mothers and Absent Fathers, Earle has gotten married and is about to become a father. Kids In the Street shows his growth as a songwriter. Instead of looking into himself, the songs look out into the world around him. Plus, he's letting his blues and soul influences out in these songs. It's not a huge change in sound. Kids In the Street fits right in with Earle's discography of country/folk releases, but it's just enough of a change to keep his sound interesting.

You can get your copy of Kids In the Street Singles Pack + PledgeMusic Acoustic Sessions (not exactly a catchy title, but accurate) for free at NoiseTrade. Kids In the Streets will be released on May 26 via New West. The album can be pre-ordered via PledgeMusic. For more on Justin Townes Earle, check out his website.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

James Elkington - "Make It Up"

Photo by Tim Harris
James Elkington was born in England but now makes Chicago his home. He started out in bands like The Zincs and The Horse's Ha, but stopped writing music around 2011. Instead, he collaborated and played with the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn, and Tortoise. This sparked a new creative energy, and he's now set to release his debut solo album.

"Make It Up" was recorded in Wilco's Loft in Chicago. His British accent and style of singing are going to remind you of Nick Drake. The main focus of the song is going to be his almost bluegrass style of guitar picking. Elkington is one hell of a guitar player, and this song really lets him show that off. Despite it being mostly acoustic, it still features a killer electric guitar solo. It's pure Americana being filtered through British eyes in an intriguing way.

You can watch the video for "Make It Up" below. James Elkington's debut solo album, Wintres Woma, will be out on June 30 via Paradise of Bachelors. It can be pre-ordered here. For more on Elkington, check out his website.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Stevenson Ranch Davidians - "Holy Life"

Photo By Angela Clement
Somehow The Stevenson Ranch Davidians have escaped my notice up until now. I feel bad, but I'm going to pretend that it's ok since they haven't released an album since 2009 (even though my main knowledge of music pre-dates 2009...). The most obvious band to compare them to would be The Brian Jonestown Massacre, based on their name and the fact that the two bands share guitarist Rob Campanella. Both bands also fit snugly into the psychedelia genre, although, based on their new song "Holy Life," The Stevenson Ranch Davidians are a little less rockin' and more pure psychedelia. It's trippy as hell without being hippie-esque. The video for the song features found footage of adults and children square dancing in the 50s or 60s with red, white, and blue and Illuminati imagery shown over the footage.

You can watch the video for "Holy Life" below. The Stevenson Ranch Davidians' first album since 2009, Amerikana, will be released on June 9 via Picture in My Ear Records. You can pre-order it now through Bandcamp. For more on The Stevenson Ranch Davidians, check out their website.

Filthy Friends - "Any Kind of Crowd"

A supergroup consisting of members of Sleater-Kinney and R.E.M. is pretty much a dream match up around these parts, Jeff being obsessed with R.E.M. and me being obsessed with Sleater-Kinney. Filthy Friends is just that, featuring Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney on vocals and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck on guitar. The band also features Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M.) on bass and keyboards, Kurt Boch (Young Fresh Fellows, Fastbacks) on guitar, and drums by Bill Rieflin (R.E.M., Ministry, Revolting Cocks). The pedigree of this band is insane.

Their Record Store Day contribution, "Any Kind of Crowd," is now being offered digitally. If the phrase "Sleater-Kinney/R.E.M. supergroup" appeals to you, you're pretty much guaranteed to like it. The single goes a little more on the lighter, 90s poppier side of R.E.M. instead of the heavier Sleater-Kinney side of things. That's a bit of a disappointment for me (and probably a dream for Jeff), but the b-side, a cover of King Crimson's "Editions of You," goes more Sleater-Kinney than R.E.M., so it's virtually a perfect release.

You can listen to "Any Kind of Crowd" below. You can get your own digital copy of the single now via Bandcamp and Kill Rock Stars. Bandcamp also seems to be the best way to get info on Filthy Friends for now.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Doug Tuttle - "Only in a Dream"

We're just over a week away from the release of Doug Tuttle's third solo album, and he's shared another song off of it. "Only in a Dream" is absolutely breathtaking. George Harrison has long been my favorite Beatle, and seeing as "Only in a Dream" sounds like an outtake from All Things Must Pass, I'm fully on board. Plus, seeing how Tuttle recorded the entire album in his Somerville, MA bedroom, the production is absurdly good to rate comparison's to Harrison's classic solo debut. It's a beautiful, gently strummed song with a guitar riff that loops around and just sucks you straight in.

You can listen to "Only in a Dream" below. Doug Tuttle's third solo album, Peace Potato, will be out on May 5 via Trouble in Mind. For more on Tuttle, check him out on Facebook and Twitter.

First Listen: New Releases for April 21

A busy week!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Charly Bliss
Album: Guppy
Quick Description: Much-anticipated debut album.
Why You Should Listen: You love that late-1990s indie alt-rock sound.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been obsessed with “Ruby” since it came out, so Guppy has been on my “most anticipated” list for quite some time now. My expectations for a debut album like this were probably higher than they should have been, but the reality? This is a really, really great record. I sent it over to Ken almost immediately, and he asked if they were a Letters to Cleo cover band which is a pretty appropriate comparison on a whole – the sort of female-led alternative rock of the 1990s is alive in Charly Bliss, and I’m very excited to spend more time with this one. Not a bad song on the album...
Recommendation: ...and it’s absolutely one of the best releases of the year so far.

Artist: Emily Bell
Album: Kali
Quick Description: Austin-area singer-songwriter's new EP.
Why You Should Listen: You like an air of anthemic mystery around your rock music.
Overall Thoughts: Emily Bell put out a solo album back in 2013 that I feel like I was very aware of, yet I cannot find any record of in my collection at all. Maybe it was on Spotify once upon a time? I don’t know. Either way, she has a new EP out with a band, and this is a familiar-yet-unique sound that really piqued my interest during its short runtime. It’s got an alt-pop quality, but with some instrumentation that pulls it a little out of the mainstream lane in an interesting way.
Recommendation: I definitely recommend this one, and hope to hear more soon.

Artist: The Suitcase Junket
Album: Pile Driver
Quick Description: Off-center folk from a New England native.
Why You Should Listen: You've probably already seen him/them at a festival.
Overall Thoughts: The Suitcase Junket is well-known among festival-goers in the New England area, and the new album continues with the sort of heavier roots-influenced sound that got people interested to start. This is a solid listen, albeit perhaps a little on the long side, but if you’re a fan or are looking for some different roots options this week, this is not a bad listen to bring up.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Angaleena Presley
Album: Wrangled
Quick Description: Solid mainstream country music.
Why You Should Listen: You like Pistol Annies or radio-friendly production.
Overall Thoughts: I admittedly skipped this one to start until Ken sent it over. Pistol Annies have not really been my thing, the album cover seems on the nose, and so on. The good news here is that this is actually a pretty solid country album. Mainstream without feeling like pop country, it has some moments I caught myself singing in my head later, which is always a good sign. If Lillie Mae, a favorite from last week, is more your speed, this might not work for you, but this definitely did the trick for me on a whole.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: The Raveonettes
Album: 2016 Atomized
Quick Description: Compilation of their singles series.
Why You Should Listen: This is the best they've done in a decade.
Overall Thoughts: The Raveonettes have been around for a pretty long time now, and this surprise release might be their best in some time. They started out as an indie rock band with a bit of a hook (their early releases were all in one key, harkening back to a sort of noir/surf rock mix), and they slowly abandoned the classic 50s/60s pastiche in favor of a more traditional rock sound. This new album… it would be a mistake to call it a return to their early form, but there’s a definite familiarity here that I personally feel has been lacking in their more recent work. I haven’t wanted to go back to a Raveonettes album since Lust Lust Lust almost a decade ago, and I really look forward to spending more time with this one.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: The Black Angels
Album: Death Song
Quick Description: Latest from the Austin-based psych-rock group.
Why You Should Listen: They are almost guaranteed to surprise you.
Overall Thoughts: Black Angels put out an album a few years back that surprised me. Not as dark as the band’s name would suggest, yet still fairly different in its approach. While I don’t have a ton to say about this new album, I will say that the band surprised me again with a solid, listenable record that I definitely enjoyed and will spend some time with. With more straightforward rock music kind of underrepresented as of late, this might be a breath of fresh air if you have the interest.
Recommendation: A great listen this week.

Artist: The Relationship
Album: Clara Obscura
Quick Description: Throwback Weezer side project.
Why You Should Listen: Any of those four words above interest you?
Overall Thoughts: The Relationship is a side project from Weezer guitarist Brian Bell. If early Rivers Cuomo songwriting was solidly evocative of the sort of pop structures of a prior time, The Relationship takes that fully to the next level, finding a way to sound modern enough while also feeling like it’s an album ripped from a different time altogether and transplanted into the current day. It has a very authentic feel, but might carry some baggage given Weezer’s more recent output. I won’t say to avoid this, because I actually really enjoyed this album, but depending on your overall feelings about Weezer, it might shade your perception.
Recommendation: Solid but weighed down by the expectations.

Artist: Charming Disaster
Album: Cautionary Tales
Quick Description: Odd-ish indie folk.
Why You Should Listen: This will be a very intriguing listen for you.
Overall Thoughts: This is a very interesting album. On first listen, it made me think of groups like The Staves or even The Civil Wars in some regards, but there’s a bit of a theatrical flair to the album that creates a bit of dissonance that didn’t 100% work for me. There’s absolutely an audience for this sort of thing that I’m often part of, and I can see myself coming back to this album on occasion, but when we have a lot of bands pulling off this sort of thing in a more substantial way, this might be one to pass on if your plate is already full.
Recommendation: Be wary, but you might love this.

Artist: Sophie Villy
Album: Planet A
Quick Description: Eastern European singer-songwriter goodness.
Why You Should Listen: A solid surprise this week.
Overall Thoughts: I really liked this album, to the point where if Charly Bliss wasn’t dominating my senses this might have been my album of the week. I love female singer-songwriters as is, and I love when the songwriting takes some turns that aren’t really expected. This is extremely melodic while also being a little weird and different, and I love nearly every moment. You owe it to yourself to give this one a shot, as it’s definitely unlike anything else out this week, or recently in general.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week.

Artist: Imelda May
Album: Life Love Flesh Blood
Quick Description: Latest from the Irish singer.
Why You Should Listen: A mainstream move from an established artist.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been a fan of Imelda May for some time, and this album is another solid effort from the singer-songwriter. This feels like a bit more of a mainstream play than my perception has generally allowed up to now, but that shouldn’t take away from this solid listen on a whole. A well-done album from someone who has put in some great work in recent years.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Tara Jane O'Neil
Album: Tara Jane O'Neil
Quick Description: Latest album from the longtime artist.
Why You Should Listen: Tara Jane O'Neil has been making great music for a long time.
Overall Thoughts: Tara Jane O’Neil makes some pleasant, folk-style music. It has an older, beautiful flair to it and feels like it comes from a different era. This latest album is still a very high-quality release, but runs the risk of being really overlooked and unnecessarily so. She’s been doing this for so long that this deserves some of your time, and you might find something you love in this gem in the rough.
Recommendation: A really great listen this week.

Artist: Ray Davies
Album: Americana
Quick Description: Kinks lead singer gives a tribute to American roots music.
Why You Should Listen: The Kinks lead singer is giving a tribute to American roots music.
Overall Thoughts: Ray Davies is best known as the lead of The Kinks, and this is an album of tribute to American roots music. As a site that loves this stuff, I unfortunately hear this more as a playing at authenticity instead. It’s extremely uneven and the parts that do work are far, far overshadowed by the parts that don’t. In a week with a lot of better stuff out there, you can probably skip guilt-free unless you’re a big fan.
Recommendation: Pass on this.

Artist: Robyn Hitchcock
Album: Robyn Hitchcock
Quick Description: The latest from the British legend.
Why You Should Listen: It's Robyn Hitchcock. What else do you need?
Overall Thoughts: It’s interesting that this came out the same week as a Ray Davies solo record, as many would argue that Hitchcock’s best days are behind him as well. I don’t necessarily know if I agree. This album is a really great listen, with some truly wonderful songs throughout – lead track “I Want to Tell You About What I Want” is one of the better songs Hitchcock has released in years – and it was a bit of a breath of fresh air from a legendary musician. Don’t let this one slip through the cracks.
Recommendation: As good as he's ever been.

Artist: Texas
Album: Jump On Board
Quick Description: Longtime British act offers their latest since their comeback.
Why You Should Listen: They always deserve a listen.
Overall Thoughts: Texas is another band that I feel like I should love more than I do. They’ve been around forever, do a solid job of providing some mainstream, radio-friendly music that straddles a few genres, but it never fully connects. I liked this album, don’t get me wrong, but like their older stuff, I wanted to love it and it never quite makes that threshold. Good for a pleasant, inoffensive listen, but not at all a requirement this week.
Recommendation: This is fine, but inessential.

Artist: Jenny and the Gents
Album: Jenny and the Gents
Quick Description: A fun listen from a polished act.
Why You Should Listen: This is definitely different than anything else out this week.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this one over and it’s a fun, sometimes strange, listen. It definitely has a raw indie quality to the production, but what’s interesting about it is how catchy so much of it is and how that sort of DIY quality it puts forward in the sound makes it that much more endearing. I’m finding, as I sit on the wrong side of 30, how much more I appreciate good production, and this album is bucking that trend for me a bit where good songwriting trumps all.
Recommendation: A good listen, but it won’t work for everyone.

Also out this week:

* Incubus - 8 (this exists)
* Amy Shark - Night Thinker

Monday, April 24, 2017

Benjamin Booker - "Right On You"

Photo by Ken Sears
It's not exactly fair to claim that an artist is sharing a new sound on their second album, but that's what I'm going to do with Benjamin Booker. His 2014 self-titled album was this brilliant blast of proto-punk mixed with Kurt Cobain and Delta blues. The first song we could hear from his upcoming second album, "Witness," mixed in some more soul and some hip hop elements (and featured Mavis Staples!) The second song, "Right On You," goes off in an even different direction. There are still some hints of Booker's classic sound mixed with some soul, but "Right On You" is a little more straightforward punk along the lines of X, while throwing a tiny bit of Sonic Youth noise in there. Once again, a very unexpected sound that makes perfect sense with Booker's progression as an artist.

You can listen to "Right On You" below. His new album, Witness, is due out on June 2 via ATO Records. You can pre-order the album through your chosen outlet here. For more on Benjamin Booker, check out his website.

Julie Rhodes Covers Etta James

It's been a little over a year since Julie Rhodes released her pretty fantastic album Bound to Meet the Devil. Both of us loved her album, and, as anyone who reads this blog with any frequency knows, we also love covers. Luckily for all of us, Julie Rhodes released her cover of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind." Etta James is one of those artists I know shamefully little about, so I can't really compare the two versions to each other. Rhodes' version of the song is a seven minute plus soulful roots track. Her voice has never sounded more soulful than it has on this song. The song is far from falling into the current crop of soul artists. Her band keeps this a rock song, keeping on the Neil Young side of roots rock. This song is completely worth seven minutes (or an hour or two) of your time today.

You can watch the video for Julie Rhodes' cover of "I'd Rather Go Blind" below. For more on Julie Rhodes, be sure to check out her website.