Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Canshaker Pi - "What You're Trying To Say"

Photo by Nick Helderman
Canshaker Pi's latest song, "What You're Trying To Say," should be a complete trainwreck. Well... to be fair, it kind of is, but that's what makes it so brilliant.

"What You're Trying To Say" starts off in that moody and melodic realm of indie rock that Slint perfected. And from there they just dial up the noise and aggression throughout the song, all without really getting faster or playing any harder. It's done through increasing the noise level at different points, often to completely uncomfortable levels and amounts. By the end, everything is just going full on all at once in a crescendo of (mildly) organized chaos. This isn't an easy listen, and if you're playing this around people that aren't like-minded musically as yourself, you'll probably get asked what the hell you're listening to. But that's just their loss.

The single release for "What You're Trying To Say" will be February 3rd via Excelsior Records. You can watch the video for the song below. For more on Canshaker Pi, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

First Listen: New Releases for January 27

Lots of new releases this week combined with some poor time management for this weekend for me means we're going to do a more highlights-based First Listen this week as opposed to the more traditional.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Stef Chura
Album: Messes
Quick Description: Liz Phair-style alt-rock.
Why You Should Listen: The bar has been set for 2017's music, and it's only January.
Overall Thoughts: I spent way too much time saying "this album should not be this good" while listening to it. Ken was really, really into the lead singles, and I thought they were fine and all, but they didn't outright blow my mind. It turns out that Messes makes a lot more sense as a cohesive whole. There's a tone and structure to the album that really needs to be digested and the whole thing just works. Chura knows how to write a song, and the fact that this album largely hits that 90s-alt rock sweet spot in so many ways doesn't hurt, either. Overall, an early favorite for me this year, and one I've been impatiently waiting to get back to.
Recommendation: Best album of 2017 so far.

Artist: Allison Crutchfield
Album: Tourist in This Town
Quick Description: Solo album from a woman seemingly in a million bands.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of any of her work.
Overall Thoughts: My best comparison for this is Sadie Dupuis's solo album last year as Sad13, except that this album is a little less inspired and feels more like a draggy indulgence than anything fun. I kept wanting it to turn a corner for me, but it feels a little overdone and overproduced. It could use a good scaling back to really work for me overall, and I can't recommend it on those grounds.
Recommendation: Be wary unless you're a huge fan.

Artist: Cuddle Magic
Album: Ashes/Axis
Quick Description: Indie rock with shades of Lady Lamb.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy interestingly-structured songs.
Overall Thoughts: I think it's difficult for us here, at least, to hear Cuddle Magic without thinking of Lady Lamb due to the touring they've done together and such. The sounds are similar, too, although I feel Cuddle Magic is a little on the lighter side overall. The result of this latest album might not be the breakthrough we hope for, but it's solid indie rock record that should get some time in your rotation this week.
Recommendation: A solid release, worth a listen.

Artist: Tift Merritt
Album: Stitch of the World
Quick Description: Latest from the indie folkie.
Why You Should Listen: Tift Merritt continues to be a formidable songwriter, and this album is closer to the music that got her attention to start.
Overall Thoughts: I really liked Merritt's last album, Traveling Alone, but her last few albums have been less twang and more folk, which is fine. Stitch of the World is the first album in a decade that seems to go back a bit to the country sound that brought so many of us on board. It's still more folk, but I was surprised at the fuller sound and tone of the songs. Overall, a great listen in a week with a number of them.
Recommendation: Also worth your time.

Other really good albums worth a listen:

* Priests - Nothing Feels Natural (this is a dark horse band, this album could be pretty buzzworthy soon)
* Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound (maybe their best yet)
* Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life (we don't get it here, but maybe you will?)
* Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau - Chris Thile 7 Brad Mehldau
* Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness
* Rose Elinor Dougall - Stellular

Be wary, but might be worth your time:

* Kehlani - SweetSexySavage (lots of buzz, not sure if it's earned)
* Bel Biv Devoe - Three Stripes

Also out this week:

* TSOL - The Trigger Complex
* Sleater-Kinney - Live in Paris
* Matthew Dear - DJ Kicks
* Jimbo Mathus - Solo Blues Guitar: Jimbo Mathus Performs The Replacements' "Let It Be"
* Ty Segall - Ty Segall
* Cate Le Bon - Rock Pool

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - "Keep the Home Fires Burnin'"

Photo by poprockphotography
Country punk is kind of a thing right now, combining the twang of country with the attitude of punk. But no one is quite doing the country punk (or alt country, or outlaw country) thing quite like Sarah Shook & The Disarmers.

"Keep the Home Fires Burnin'" is definitely not mainstream country. There's far too much old school twang without it being old timey. The obvious comparison would be their label mate Lydia Loveless, but while Loveless has more of a punk attitude, Shook has this odd 90s indie rock sensibility. Think Guided By Voices going country. For quite possibly the first time, "Keep the Home Fires Burnin'" has guitars that both twang and fuzz. 

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers' first record for Bloodshot Records, Sidelong, will be out on April 28. You can listen to "Keep the Home Fires Burnin'" below. To pre-order Sidelong, go to Bloodshot Records. For more on Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, check out their website.

Divisionists - "Say Can You"

Photo by Ian Falconer
London's Divisionists have one of the catchiest songs I've heard all year. "Say Can You" is a huge 90s throwback, in the best possible way. It's like a forgotten mid-90s power pop gem, like a cross between Polaris and Matthew Sweet. The verses and choruses are catchy enough to make this song good, but it's the guitar solos that come in like a second vocalist and truly steal the show. The guitar is just this perfect swirling persona that comes in and then fades away. Each time it returns, it's even fuzzier and more riveting than the last. "Say Can You" is a must listen.

Divisionists' debut full length, Daybreak, will be out on March 17 via Mount Watatic Records (perhaps named after the small mountain in north central Massachusetts?). You can listen to "Say Can You" below. For more on Divisionists, check out their website.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Boss Hog - "Formula X"

Photo via Facebook
The latest in an ever growing (and very welcome!) list of bands releasing their first album in XX years, husband and wife band (Cristina Martinez and Jon Spencer) are back with "Formula X," the first song off of their first full length album in 17 years. "Formula X" will be exactly what you need it to be. It's full of attitude, even though the punk side of Boss Hog is turned down just the slightest bit and the dance/groove is ramped up. It's not a huge difference, though. Boss Hog was always a pretty danceable band. It's a very welcome return from one of NYC's most underrated bands.

Boss Hog's new album, Brood X, will be available March 24 on Bronze Rat Records. Make sure to pre-order a copy here. You can listen to "Formula X" below. For more on Boss Hog, check them out on Facebook. Their current tour dates are below the song.

02/03 – London, UK @ Oslo Hackney
02/04 – Maastricht, Netherlands @ Muziekgieterij
02/05 – Utrecht, NL @ Tivoli de Helling
02/06 – Leuven, Belgium @ Het Depot
02/08 – Rouen, France @ 106 Club
02/09 – Paris, France @ La Maroquinerie
02/10 – Nantes, France @ Le Stereolux
02/11 – La Rochelle, France @ La Sirene
Live in the USA:
03/30 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
03/31 – Buffalo, NY @ The Waiting Room
04/01 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
04/07 – Washington, DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel
04/08 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Scott H. Biram - "Long Old Time"

Photo by Nate Burrell
Country music is huge right now. I know I'm not really saying anything that hasn't been known for the last 25 or so years, but somehow one of the oldest forms of popular music is bigger now than it ever was. But there are two distinct branches of country fans: Those that like modern top 40 country and those that long for "real" country. I fall into the latter, since I really could care less about bros in cowboy hats rapping about their trucks. There is very, very little that can be appreciated by both types of fans.

Scott H. Biram might be the rare artist that everyone can agree on. He falls into the Jason Isbell/Sturgill Simpson category of country that has that old feel to it while still being mainstream enough for pop country fans. "Long Old Time" feels almost ageless. You can't figure out when it was recorded. It has a bit of an effect on the vocals so it feels a bit more aged than it is, but not enough to detract from the song. Plus, it has that dark feel to it that is required for anything to be considered "real" country.

Scott H. Biram's 10th album, The Bad Testament, will be released February 24 on Bloodshot Records. You can listen to "Long Old Time" below. For more on Biram, check out his website

Uncle Space & The Boys - "Space's Blooze"

The latest song from Uncle Space & The Boys is the rare ten minute song that you wish was longer. It's an old style country rambler mixed with some 60s psychedelia, which is sort of the rage these days. What makes "Space's Blooze" different from the rest is this bizarre amount of 90s aggressive indie rock that is spread throughout the song. It's like post Washing Machine Sonic Youth decided to play around with country. It even has a few moments where microphones start to get overloaded, which appeals to my lo-fi fandom needs. "Space's Blooze" might be the finest psychedelic post-punk lo-fi noise country song you'll hear all year. 

You can listen to "Space's Blooze" below, and get your very own copy at Uncle Space & The Boys' Bandcamp. I can't find much of a web presence for Uncle Space & The Boys, so you may have to stick with Bandcamp for more information on them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for January 20

Lots to cover this week.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Cherry Glazerr
Album: Apocalypstick
Quick Description: Great, hooky alt-rock.
Why You Should Listen: Best release this week and will scratch that traditional alternative rock itch.
Overall Thoughts: I fell in love with this band thanks to "Had Ten Dollaz" from a few years ago. The new album builds on their sound while showing a lot of musical improvements throughout, and there's a good deal of fun to go along with it, too. "Nurse Rached" is a highlight, but their crazy "Nuclear Bomb" video shows where they're coming from. Overall? Best of the week, for sure.
Recommendation: A must listen.

Artist: Foxygen
Album: Follow the Leader
Quick Description: Retro rock band with another fun, puzzling effort.
Why You Should Listen: Foxygen definitely keeps me on my toes.
Overall Thoughts: I don't ever think I like Foxygen until I listen to them with an absurd, goofy smile on my face. With a name like that, I shouldn't be surprised, but this is a fun rock record nonetheless. Won't win any awards, but if you're looking for some 80s excess to start your day, you could do worse.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Kid Koala and Emiliana Torrini
Album: Music to Draw To: Satellite
Quick Description: Collaboration between the deck artist and the European alt-popper.
Why You Should Listen: Both artists are interesting...
Overall Thoughts: ...but this doesn't really work for me. I don't feel like we get the best of either person here, and the result is a bit of a long drag of an album that never truly takes off. It might be a little too chill (both in genre and in tone) for my liking, so if you're a definite fan of either artist, you might get more out of it, but for me...
Recommendation: ...a hard pass.

Artist: Mr. Tophat and Robyn
Album: Trust Me
Quick Description: Disco/techno featuring the most underrated pop singer out there.
Why You Should Listen: You like old-school techno and/or Robyn.
Overall Thoughts: At three songs, this isn't much to run on, but Mr. Tophat is a great producer and these songs had me grooving in my seat from the moment I heard them. Robyn's contribution is both solid and understated (which doesn't always happen for her) and the result here reminds me of when I got into techno music back in high school.
Recommendation: Really well done, give it a shot if you like the genre.

Artist: Austra
Album: Future Politics
Quick Description: New album from the buzzworthy electro-pop artist.
Why You Should Listen: Austra's previous efforts have been outstanding...
Overall Thoughts: ...but something is missing on first listen here. There's a bit of a starkness initially, and the lack of something truly catchy that grabbed me the way so much of Olympia did is a step backward for me on a whole. I'm going to need to spend more time with this, but there's a chance this just won't meet expectations at all.
Recommendation: Be wary in a busy week.

Artist: The Proper Ornaments
Album: Foxhole
Quick Description: Soft, pleasant indie pop.
Why You Should Listen: They're not breaking any new ground, but it doesn't feel like we're getting a ton of this twee-adjacent stuff lately.
Overall Thoughts: The Proper Ornaments are a band I know I like but I never remember until they have new music out, and then I hear their album and I think "oh, yeah, I like how this sounds." Thus the experience in a nutshell - they're not going to blow your mind, but they'll occupy 40 minutes of your time and you'll enjoy it until you fire it up again. This greatness is also their flaw.
Recommendation: Nothing crazy great, but a nice listen nonetheless.

Artist: Reyna Gellert
Album: Workin's Too Hard
Quick Description: Solid folk music.
Why You Should Listen: Nothing else like it this week, and Gellert is quite good at what she does.
Overall Thoughts: While there's a quiet, deliberative quality to this that doesn't always work, Gellert is such a good songwriter that the songs here stick in your craw a little longer than the album does. At only 7 tracks, the big negative is how short this is, but I'm hoping we'll hear more from Gellert soon.
Recommendation: A great listen this week.

Also out this week:

* Bash and Pop - Anything Could Happen (first album in 25 years from the duo)
* Michael Chapman - 50 (new album from the prolific British songwriter)
* Rubblebucket - If U C My Enemies (great glitchy indie pop, a too-short EP)
* Joan of Arc - He's Got The Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands
* AFI - The Blood Album
* The McIntosh County Shouters - Spirituals and Shout Songs From the Georgia Coast
* No Sun - If Only

Hurray for the Riff Raff - "Hungry Ghost"

Photo by Sarrah Danziger
With the latest song off their upcoming album, The Navigator, Hurray for the Riff Raff move even further away from their folk/Americana roots. While "Rican Beach," the previous song they brought us from The Navigator, was a slightly harder, punk influenced roots song, "Hungry Ghost" is a pure pop song. Granted, it's not quite in the realm of Britney Spears or Kylie Minogue, but "Hungry Ghost" is the most mainstream thing Hurray for the Riff Raff have released to date. We're not talking about a huge about face like Lydia Loveless' Real was last year, but this is close. I'm going to reserve judgment until I listen to the song a few more times. I think we'll all need to move away from our expectations on what we want from a Hurray for the Riff Raff song before we can decide on "Hungry Ghost."

The Navigator will be released March 10 on ATO Records. You can watch the video for "Hungry Ghost" below. "Hungry Ghost" and "Rican Beach" are also available as part of the Hungry Ghost Tour EP which you can download for free via Noisetrade. The EP also features five of Hurray for the Riff Raff's older tracks. For more on Hurray for the Riff Raff, check out their website.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bad Boys Club - Inauguration Day

Celebration last Friday's Inauguration most likely wasn't the purpose of Bad Boys Club releasing their debut four song EP, Inauguration Day, on Inauguration Day. Bad Boys Club are kind of a Boston rock scene supergroup made up of members of Dirty Bangs and These Wild Plains. Considering both those bands share a fairly upbeat and light aesthetic (Dirty Bangs are a pretty straightforward poppy alternative rock band while These Wild Plains rock Tom Petty meets early Wilco Americana), it's quite striking how heavy Inauguration Day is. The sound is a less experimental and heavier At the Drive In, or maybe a less screamy Refused. I love when bands form side projects that sound like nothing you'd expect, and Bad Boys Club delivers in that regard. 

You can get your copy of Inauguration Day at Bad Boys Club's Bandcamp. All proceeds from the purchase will be donated to Planned Parenthood. You can listen to the first song on Inauguration Day, "SHUT DOWN/SHOT OUT," below. For more information on Bad Boys Club, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Julia Jacklin Covers The Strokes

Photo credit: Nick McKinlay
Rest easy readers: Our long fifteen day streak of not bringing you a cover song is finally over! Julia Jacklin, who is quickly becoming one of our favorites for covers thanks to her covers of Leonard Cohen and Big Thief, recently stopped by Australia's Triple J. They do a thing called Like a Version, which we apparently need to pay more attention to. She broke out a version of The Strokes' "Someday." While the original is a rambling, fun rocker, Jacklin's version is a much more slower paced dreamy version. Unless you were paying close attention, it would be easy to not even realize it's a Strokes cover since it's such a huge departure from the original, and is transformed to a laid back power ballad.

You can watch Julia Jacklin perform her cover of "Someday" below. The first minute or so of the video is an interview, so skip to 1:00 if you just want to hear the song. For more on Jacklin, check out her website.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Idle Bloom - "Hive"

I first discovered Nashville's Idle Bloom about a year ago when they came up to Boston to open up for Those Darlins on their farewell tour. At that point they only had a single and an EP to their name, and it looks as though they are about to release their first full album next month.

The first single from that album, "Hive," is yet another early contender for song of the year. It's a light and fun psych-pop (as they have dubbed their sound) song, but it's fast as hell. Usually when songs are this light and bouncy with dual female vocals, it's pretty soft and bubblegummy. "Hive" absolutely rocks with a ferocity that will shock you by how fun this song is. Despite being just over three minutes in length, "Hive" is an epic.

Idle Bloom's full length album, Little Deaths, will be out February 17. You can pre-order your copy at Bandcamp. For more info on Idle Bloom, check out their website and Facebook.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fuzzystar - "High Friends"

Andy Thomson is an Edinburgh based artist who has been working either solo or with various other musicians under the name Fuzzystar for a while now. The name Fuzzystar is a tribute to Big Star and Mazzy Star. Set to release their new album, Telegraphing, the band have made their first single available. "High Friends" is an absolute masterpiece. There is no other word for it. It starts out as a fairly mainstream sounding singer-songwriter piece, albeit a slightly left of center version of mainstream. Slowly the song builds and builds, much like a Pulp song, and adds elements of Britpop as well as indie rock. The build then drops off back into singer-songwriter territory, and then just explodes into an indie rock burner. It's all of my favorite things put into one song, and I truly can not wait for more.

Telegraphing will be out April 28 on Satellite Sounds. You can listen to "High Friends" below. For more on Fuzzystar, find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Chapman - "Winter in Memphis"

Photo by Constance Mensh
Following the trend of an elder statesperson of rock/folk pairing with a younger artist as a producer, Michael Chapman has paired with Steve Gunn for his upcoming album, 50. The first track from that album, "Winter in Memphis," also features Steve Gunn's band. The song sounds dark... probably because it is. "Winter in Memphis was written way back in 1999 when Chapman ended up being stuck in Memphis during a blizzard. It's about how many poor and homeless were dying on the streets during the storm with most citizens not seeming to care. It's a rambling folk song, but Gunn brings things indie rock noise into it that fits the subject matter and Chapman's voice perfectly. It's a nearly seven minute folk song that chugs along at an angrily medium pace and occasionally devolves into feedback heavy guitar solos, but it leaves you needing to hear more.

50 will be out January 20 on Paradise of Bachelors. You can listen to "Winter in Memphis" below. For more on Michael Chapman, check out his website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Funeral Advantage - "CEOT7K"

We were pretty big fans of Funeral Advantage's 2015 release Body Is Dead, and judging by the first single of their upcoming album, Please Help Me, this is an early candidate for album of the year. "CEOT7K" isn't a huge departure from The Smiths meets The Stratford 4 dream pop sound of Body Is Dead. In fact, it's not a departure at all, but instead a giant leap forward. "CEOT7K" is gorgeously lush. I have always had a connection to music that sounds light and pretty but is actually sad and dark. Please Help Me comes from a much darker place than Body Is Dead. Allow me to quote Funeral Advantage's Bandcamp page for the album:

If 'Body Is Dead' came from a place of hope, 'Please Help Me' comes from a place of desolation and confusion. Written during the disintegration of a long term relationship, the record works through the existential feelings of hopelessness and meaninglessness that followed. 

Please Help Me will be available on February 24. You can pre-order a copy via Bandcamp. Make sure to listen to "CEOT7K" below, and check out some tour dates below that. For more information on Funeral Advantage, check out their website.

First Listen: New Releases for January 13

First big new release day of 2017, so let's dive in!

Album of the Week:

Artist: The xx
Album: I See You
Quick Description: Long-awaited third album from the minimalist electronic act.
Why You Should Listen: The xx has always been essential, and this might be their best yet.
Overall Thoughts: My first thought on listening to this was that it felt departure-like. The album still has its minimalist tendencies, but with some different sounds and tones it feels new and fresh while still having the same overall vibe. I figured I'd like this, but I kept being impressed throughout my first listen, and this is absolutely something I'll be revisiting as soon as possible.
Recommendation: A must-listen for any music fan this week.

Artist: The Flaming Lips
Album: Oczy Mlody
Quick Description: Latest album by the always-getting-weirder alt-rock group.
Why You Should Listen: Even when they fail, it's an interesting failure.
Overall Thoughts: The Flaming Lips haven't been ones to play the expectation game, and when I saw this on the release docket, I couldn't help but think how they were poised for a second breakthrough with Yoshimi and The Soft Bulletin however long ago. Then they got super weird, and I wasn't into it, but Oxzy, while far from what we'd call "mainstream," is a less strange, more chill affair. Any other band, we'd call this an adventure into ambient soundscapes, but for the Lips, this is something more. There might be deeper meaning, there might just be better drugs, but I found this album to be improved from their output in the last decade. Whether this implies songs we'll be able to groove to again or anything like that, who knows, but this album is absolutely a) not for everyone and b) maybe the most interesting release this week.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, whether it's for you or not.

Artist: Sanna Hansson and the Swatchmen
Album: Bye Bye Strawberry Pie
Quick Description: Theatrical indie pop reminiscent of April Smith and the Great Picture Show.
Why You Should Listen: You like well-crafted songs with some flair to them.
Overall Thoughts: I liked this EP quite a bit. The songs are sharp and hooky and have a lot going for them. There's an over-the-top theatrical part to it that doesn't always work, but the style is more than okay and works in this sort of format. As an EP, this is great. I would love to see where this group is going with a full album, though.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, plenty to like here.

Artist: The Band of Heathens
Album: Duende
Quick Description: Americana act's anticipated new album.
Why You Should Listen: Band of Heathens are sneaky good, and I always forget that until they have a new album.
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoy Band of Heathens. They consistently impress me in the way they approach their music and how different they feel even while walking a well-worn path. Duende is the band locked in, doing what they do so well and it's just a pleasant listen from start to finish. The issue is less that this isn't a quality record and more that it runs the danger of being overlooked being the time of year and how busy this week is. Don't make that mistake.
Recommendation: A must-listen this week.

Artist: The Regrettes
Album: Feel Your Feelings Fool!
Quick Description: Fun pop-punk debut.
Why You Should Listen: If you dig The Coathangers but wish they were a little on the lighter side, this is for you.
Overall Thoughts: Very nearly my album of the week, this was an album I was waiting on ever since a song of theirs popped up on Discover Weekly for me. It's fun, female-led punk rock, and it might be a little too glossy for some, but for someone like me who loves this sort of stuff? Sign me up. Just a great listen this week.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week. Give this a listen.

Artist: The Infamous Stringdusters
Album: Laws of Gravity
Quick Description: The prolific Americana act comes back with another great listen.
Why You Should Listen: The Stringdusters remain an underrated group in the bluegrass sphere.
Overall Thoughts: If you've been following this genre, you know the quality you're getting here. If you're new, this is a perfectly fine entrypoint for the band, as it's a definite return to form for the band and represents a good deal of what they can do. If you like Americana, you owe it to yourself to listen.
Recommendation: An obvious pick.

Artist: Nonstop to Cairo
Album: Dabble Heavy
Quick Description: Some solid Long Island ska.
Why You Should Listen: If you haven't listened to ska since it was okay to enjoy Sublime, this isn't a bad place to dive back in.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this one over to me and it wasn't previously on my radar. I went through a ska phase during the Reel Big Fish/Less Than Jake era in the mid-1990s, and I can't say I've kept up even though certain songs tend to break through my consciousness. This album was a nice nostalgia trip for me, and while I wouldn't call it a perfect record, it has a lot going for it. It feels new and modern while still holding the same ska notes, which is important for a genre not known for breaking out of its own boundaries. This won't be for everyone...
Recommendation: ...but for ska fans, give it a listen.

Artist: SOHN
Album: Rennen
Quick Description: New electronica from an acclaimed artist.
Why You Should Listen: SOHN's debut was well-received.
Overall Thoughts: This was a week where I liked most everything that came out. Graded on a scale, this is near the bottom, frankly, but at no fault of the album, which is a solid electronic album that ultimately does nothing to stand out on its own. Perhaps too quiet, perhaps overshadowed by other releases, perhaps it's just relying too much on how the first album went, but, on a whole, this is inessential.
Recommendation: If you have a lot to listen to this week, skip it.

Also out this week:

* Brandon Can't Dance - Graveyard of Good Times
* Irma Vep - No Handshake Blues
* Soul Scratch - Pushing Fire (solid soul/funk)
* Chavez - Cockfighters (first new release in decades)
* Of Montreal - Rune Husk (a weird, kind of low-energy EP)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Joel Gion - "Tomorrow"

Photo by Lilly Creightmore
Joel Gion is best knows as a percussionist for The Brian Jonestown Massacre, but he has started emerging on his own as a singer and songwriter. Gion's upcoming sophomore album is due to be released something in the spring of this year, but before that, he has a new single coming out on January 27. "Tomorrow" was recorded early in 2016, and was critical of the Democratic party's campaigns. Looking back at the 2016 election, it's more about still being able to enjoy life no matter how ridiculous the world gets around you. While it's not quite as psychedelic as his other band is known to get, the song is groovy as hell in its own right. The forthcoming album was recorded in between multiple legs of The Brian Jonestown Massacre's touring schedule, and features multiple members of the band helping out.

You can listen to "Tomorrow" below. You can get a copy over on Bandcamp. For more on Joel Gion, check out his website and Facebook.

Friday, January 13, 2017

RAYS - "Drop Dead"

I haven't been this excited about a debut single since Mothers' "Too Small for Eyes" over a year ago, so bear with me while I fanboy all over this one. Haling from Oakland, CA, RAYS have just released "Drop Dead." The song is this jangly, poppy as hell kinda post punk jam that sounds like they should be from Manchester, UK and not Oakland, CA. The song is just bratty and fun, but also intense and angry. And then there's just this total Sonic Youth-esque breakdown towards the end where all the musicians are going off in these bizarre noise filled directions, all while staying somehow true to the song. It's the kind of song that, once it's over, you'll wonder what the hell just happened. And then you play it again. And again. And again.

RAYS' self-titled debut album will be out on March 31 via Trouble in Mind. You can listen to "Drop Dead" below. For more on RAYS, be sure to check them out on Tumblr.

Slowdive - "Star Roving"

Photo by Ingrid Pop
Slowdive have always made me feel like such a poseur. Of course I know Slowdive, and of course I love them. But they've always been one of those bands that I always seem to forget about, and then when I'm reminded I wonder why I don't listen to them constantly. Considering yesterday they released their first song in 22 years, I'm going to be reminded of them much more regularly over the next year, which is fine by me. The shoegaze legends skipped the early 2000s nu-gaze movement and have been brought out of retirement in the current shoegaze resurgence. Coming back after two decades is always a tricky thing, but, judging by "Star Roving," Slowdive's return will be epic. It's not reminiscent of 90s shoegaze, it's like a lost Slowdive song has just resurfaced. I absolutely can not wait for this new album.

You can watch the video for "Star Roving" below. You can purchase your own copy of the song here. For more on Slowdive, be sure to check out their website.

Friday Freebies - Kelly McRae's "The Wayside" and Tracy Bonham's "Live at Levon Helm's Studio"

Two favorites around here have free music up at Noisetrade! Get on it!

* Kelly McRae's great 2016 album The Wayside is free for two weeks
* Boston institution Tracy Bonham has a handful of live tracks

Get to downloadin'!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Boston Calling's 2017 Line Up

So far, the line ups for the 2017 festival season have been... let's just say disappointing. With the exception of Shovels & Rope's High Water Festival, it just seems like every other festival has given up on even trying. Festivals aren't being curated anymore, it's just grab every band that you can. Plus, I don't even know half of the bands on the line ups, and even though we're old guys here, we're not THAT out of touch.

Well, god bless the 2017 Boston Calling festival. Just when it seemed like they were giving up on the old guys and just going for what the kids ages 12-22 were listening to, this morning they released this line up. There are a ton of If It's Too Loud... approved bands, plus not only a mixture of old and new artists, but an actual diverse line up. No genre feels like it's just an add on: everything is equally represented (ok, maybe not country, but we can deal with that). Seriously, check out the line up below. Classic alternative (Buffalo Tom! Tool! Weezer! Piebald! Sigur Ros!!!), hip hop (Run the Jewels! Flatbush Zombies! Chance the Rapper!), folk (Brandi Carlile! Hiss Golden Messenger! Bon Iver!), and more. This just could be the line up of 2017.

Boston Calling tickets are available now. For more information, check out bostoncalling.com.

Bruising - "What It Feels Like"

For only having a handful of songs out, Bruising have a very specific sound, especially their guitars. Their latest single, "What It Feels Like," epitomizes Bruising's sound. Although it clocks in at just over 2:30, it's a slow song, bordering on being a power ballad, albeit a punky shoegaze infested one. The guitar is really what holds everything together for "What It Feels Like." Droney and fuzzed out are cliches for this type of music, but there's a reason we all use those descriptions. Somehow Bruising pulls passed all that, and while the guitar in "What It Feels Like" is droney and fuzzed out, it's an actual guitar solo throughout a huge portion of the song.

"What It Feels Like" will be available as a split 7" with Personal Best via the Too Pure Singles Club. You can listen to the song below, and head over to here to get a copy. For more on Bruising, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Greg Graffin - "Making Time"

Photo via Facebook
As much as I love Bad Religion, I can't really say I'm a huge fan of their more recent output. It's not horrible, but it just doesn't have the same impact that their earlier work does. Maybe it's success or just getting older, but it happens to most bands. Considering that, I was cautious at best when I decided to listen to "Making Time," the latest solo song from Greg Graffin. The Bad Religion frontman is releasing Millport, what appears to be an acoustic, folk album. Trust me, I know exactly what you are thinking. And I agree. When I first started listening to "Making Time," I was debating if I should even tell all of you about it since I was just going to trash it. But then something odd happened: I might like this. Graffin's voice is somehow oddly well suited to laid back acoustic folk songs, and I never thought I'd hear Bad Religion mixed with a banjo. My only complaint is that musically it's a bit too generic and middle of the road. There is some potential here, but I'm not sure if "Making Time" meets it.

You can listen to "Making Time" below. Greg Graffin's solo album, Millport, will be out on March 10 via Anti-. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Greg Graffin and Bad Religion, check out their website.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for the Week of January 6

Three new releases this week and another late 2016 find round out this early-year slow week.

Artist: Dropkick Murphys
Album: 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory
Quick Description: The Boston Irish punks offer more beer-soaked rockers.
Why You Should Listen: You're a contractually-obligated New Englander or enjoy this sort of thing.
Overall Thoughts: Regardless of how I feel about the Dropkicks, they'll be forever intertwined with the Red Sox in these parts, and they've become a Boston institution the way the Bosstones were before them. The new album sounds like the sort of Irish punk sea shanties that we assume they keep pumping out, complete with songs about the Marathon Bombing and and so on and so forth. As someone who generally isn't a fan, I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed this on a whole. I don't know if I'll go back to it often, but (especially in a slow week) this might be worth your time.
Recommendation: A surprisingly fun listen.

Artist: Gone is Gone
Album: Echolocation
Quick Description: Sludgey, epic metal from a supergroup of sorts.
Why You Should Listen: You really need some heavier music in your life.
Overall Thoughts: This is a group consisting of members of Queens of the Stone Age, Mastodon, and At the Drive In, and it sounds like it. Whether that's a good or bad thing is completely up to your tastes, but this is not a listen I was completely on board with, even though it had its moments. If you like metal, this might be a little strange for you, and if you don't like metal, the metal elements might be a turnoff. So, ultimately, I don't know who this will appeal to, but it's still an interesting listen nonetheless.
Recommendation: Be wary, but you might find something to love.

Artist: David Bowie
Album: No Plan
Quick Description: Posthumous EP release from the legendary rocker.
Why You Should Listen: It's Bowie. C'mon.
Overall Thoughts: Ken liked Blackstar more than I did, but this release, billed as the final four songs he recorded, is really solid. I'm definitely into it, and it made me revisit Blackstar and really appreciate it a lot more. There's a stark feeling to this, and if there was any question that Bowie knew his fate during the recording of the final album, this should put it to rest. A beautiful piece of art, and a bittersweet goodbye.
Recommendation: Absolutely give this a listen.

Artist: Tattletale Saints
Album: Tattletale Saints
Quick Description: Rock-friendly roots. Or is it roots-friendly rock?
Why You Should Listen: You've always wondered what the love child of Shovels & Rope and Knopfler/Harris would sound like.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know how I tripped up on this, but I was shocked at how it seems to meld two genres together in a very different way. The result here is a rootsy record that I really enjoyed in part because of how it continually threw off my expectations as to what a rootsy record should sound like. It's not Rockabilly, but it's not alt-country, either. Part of the beauty is the enigma, and so...
Recommendation: ...you should absolutely give this a go.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ken's Most Anticipated Albums of 2017

Photo by Emily Ulmer
that dog.
Title and release date TBD
I've been a die hard That Dog. fan for over 20 years, to the point that I went to see them open up for the Foo Fighters way back in 1996. The band broke up in 1997, and reunited for a handful of reunion shows in 2011. Now, thanks to a Kickstarter that raised double what they were looking for, that dog. is set to release their first album in 19 years. Reunion albums, particularly ones where the band has taken almost two decades off, can be pretty iffy, but I'm staying hopeful on this one.

Ryan Adams
Prisoner, February 17
A new Ryan Adams album is always something we get excited for, but this one has a little more buzz for than usual. If you've ever been through a divorce, you start getting obsessed with other peoples' divorce stories. Prisoner is Ryan Adams' divorce album, recorded written as least partly during Adams' very high profile divorce from Mandy Moore. With song titles like "Do You Still Love Me?" and "Anything I Say to You Now," it could skew a little bit on the emo side of things, but I have faith in what Adams' can pull off here.

Sallie Ford
Soul Sick, February 10
Sallie Ford's newest album, and first with her new band, promises to be a great one. Part of me hates to say this, but I'm drawn to songs about personal struggles and difficulties. She has said that Soul Sick is about "... insecurity, anxiety, and depression." Ford's blend of modern, indie rock soul is already filled with her vulnerability. Soul Sick promises to be one of the best albums of 2017, and possibly Ford's career.

Crystal Fairy
Self-Titled, February 24
I love supergroups. There's just something so exciting about some of your favorite artists all coming together to make music together. Buzz Osborne of The Melvins is in more than his share of supergroups, but this time he's joining with Melvins' bandmate Dale Crover, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of At the Drive In and The Mars Volta, and Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes. Judging by their song "Drugs on the Bus," Crystal Fairy will be just as heavy, groovy, and trippy as you want them to be.

Salem Wolves
Tooth & Nail, release date TBD
We've been following Salem Wolves' for a while here at If It's Too Loud..., and every one of their singles has been something we've celebrated. This year they're finally going to release a full album, Tooth & Nail. An entire album filled with their trademark garage punk mixed with surf sounds like a dream. We're looking forward to anything Salem Wolves' put out this year.