Friday, March 31, 2017

The Secret Sisters - "Tennessee River Runs Low"

Photo by Abraham Rowe
It feels like it's been forever since the last album from The Secret Sisters. Not too many musicians start off the way Laura and Lydia did. In 2009 they showed up at an audition in Nashville. They had never performed together in public, and three months later they were signed to a major label. They opened for Levon Helm and Ray LaMontagne on their first ever tour. Then, in 2015, they were left without a label and were dealing with a lawsuit and potential bankruptcy. That led them to crowdsource their third album, and luckily for them, Brandi Carlile asked to produce.

"Tennessee River Runs Low" is the first single from that album. Without a major label, The Secret Sisters are finally allowed to develop their own sound. Their first album was pure classic country (and was mostly filled with classic country covers), their second was more of the same with just enough growth, and "Tennessee River Runs Low" moves in a great new direction. Don't get me wrong. It's still a Secret Sisters song. Their harmonizing is unmistakable, and it still has a classic country sound. But it's a but more modern, even jazzy. It's a great direction for a band I adore that could have made a perfectly fine career just working the same sound for decades.

You can watch the video for "Tennessee River Runs Low" below. The new album from The Secret Sisters, You Don't Own Me Anymore, will be out on June 9. The album is available for pre-order now via PledgeMusic. For more on The Secret Sisters, including tour dates, check out their website.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

She-Devils - "The World Laughs"

Hailing from Montreal, She-Devils bring this odd and unique sound and feel to their music. Inspired as much by film and animation as they are other music, they bring a visual feel to their sound. Their latest single, "The World Laughs," mixes the world of groovy 60s Hawaiian beach movies with early new wave. They use vintage, early electronic gear to achieve this sound. When their list of influences include Gregg Araki, John Waters, and Quentin Tarantino, their sound and look make perfect sense. While this would have fit perfectly into the lounge revival of the 90s, this doesn't feel like a 90s throwback. Instead, it takes sounds that were big in the 60s, 80s, and 90s and combines them into a brand new sound while still being classic.

You can watch the video for "The World Laughs" below. For more on She-Devils, check out their website, Facebook, and Twitter. The new album from She-Devils will be available May 19 on Secretly Canadian.

Bad Breeding - "Whip Hand"

Earlier this month, I declared that Bad Breeding "... might be the freshest take on heavy music that I've heard in years." With "Whip Hand," the second single off their upcoming album, that becomes even more apparent.

What I didn't say while discussing "The More the Merrier" is that Bad Breeding reminded me of Refused. I didn't say that since sonically they don't remind me of Refused, but the way they mixed together punk and metal in this insanely new, loud, and noisy way reminded me of the first time I heard The Shape of Punk to Come. "Whip Hand" starts off with a snippet of what is best described as muzak, so I'm reminded even more of Refused's classic album. And then the onslaught of loud comes, in what can best be described as Lightning Bolt meets Hatebreed, which is a comparison I never thought I'd ever make. This is all packed into the most intense 3:01 song ever.

You can listen to "Whip Hand" below. Bad Breeding's album, Divide, will be out April 7 via La Vida Es un Mus. For more on Bad Breeding, check them out on their website and Facebook. You can pre-order Divide on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Screaming Females and Wild Rice Cover Neil Young

Photo via Facebook
Pearl Jam may have popularized the multi-band Neil Young cover with their pretty much constant cover of "Rockin' In the Free World," but they certainly don't have an exclusive over it. Screaming Females have teamed with Wild Rice to cover Neil's not quite as well known "Fuckin' Up." Recorded live at Monty Hall in Jersey City, NJ for WMFU last month, both bands (including both drummers) tear into the classic. It's a pretty faithful cover, which is helped by it being one of Young's more rocking tunes. Plus, it's a Neil Young song, so there's plenty of room for multiple Marissa Paternoster guitar solos, which are always welcome. (I counted at least four, maybe five depending on if that last one can be counted as two.)

You can watch Screaming Females and Wild Rice's version of "Fuckin' Up" below. For more on Screaming Females, check out their website. For Wild Rice, check their Facebook.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for March 24

Lots to get to today...

Album of the Week:

Artist: Desperate Journalist
Album: Grow Up
Quick Description: Poppy post punk.
Why You Should Listen: You still have some Doc Martens in the closet and want to party.
Overall Thoughts: My favorite listen of the week from a band I did not know at all prior to this release, the best way I can describe them is Bully/Wolf Alice merged with Savages to give a fairly unique post-punkish sound that still has some solid poppy elements. A lot of releases this week and few truly grabbed me the way this one did. I sent it to Ken to listen to very early on in my listen, and this might be one of those weird dark horse albums that stays in my rotation for a while. Well done.
Recommendation: Best of the week.

Artist: Luke Reed
Album: Won't Be There
Quick Description: Indie poppish singer-songwriter stuff.
Why You Should Listen: You need that album to usher in the spring/summer months.
Overall Thoughts: A member of Bent Shapes, this is a more summery indie-pop album than you might expect. Lots of jangly guitars and soft vocals pepper this album, and it results in a pretty solid side project album even though it lacks the sort of immediacy you might be anticipating, especially given what Bent Shapes often tosses out there.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Pontiak
Album: Dialetik of Ignorance
Quick Description: Genre-mashing rock music.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something later.
Overall Thoughts: I heard about this later in the weekend as a sort of hard-psych hybrid act. I can’t speak so much to their sound, as it’s something that’s unique in its own way, but I can’t 100% guarantee that it’s something that would grab most listeners. I’ll need to spend more time with it to see the results, but in a busy week…
Recommendation: Good, but might not be for everyone.

Artist: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors
Album: Souvenir
Quick Description: Latest from the folk rock favorites.
Why You Should Listen: Drew Holcomb is consistently great.
Overall Thoughts: Drew Holcomb had one of my favorite songs of 2015 in “Here We Go,” so to say that this album was highly anticipated for me would be an understatement. This new album is a continued progression in the sort of soft country/folk thing this group is so good at, and it’s got its share of catchy songs as well. Holcomb is really creating a solid niche for himself that I hope translates into broader success, especially in the wake of the mainstream success that bands such as The Avett Brothers and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats are enjoying.
Recommendation: Definitely find time for this one.

Artist: The Jesus and Mary Chain
Album: Damage and Joy
Quick Description: Comeback album from the legendary act.
Why You Should Listen: They're too important to the canon not to.
Overall Thoughts: I admit that I don’t know this band at all. This is a comeback album of theirs after a many year layoff, and I think it was midway through that I said “wow, they sound a lot like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club” before quickly remembering that everyone called them a J&MC ripoff. I asked Ken what he thought, and he essentially said it was a J&MC album, but slower. So there you have it.
Recommendation: Might be a fans-only thing.

Artist: Spiral Stairs
Album: Doris and the Daggers
Quick Description: New album from the Pavement side project.
Why You Should Listen: Spiral Stairs has often been more interesting than Pavement.
Overall Thoughts: The moniker of one of Pavement’s founding members, Spiral Stairs hasn’t released new material in a while. This new album reminds me again why I’ve enjoyed this/Preston School of Industry more than Pavement/Malkmus on a whole, as there’s just the right mix of weird and wonderful on this album to bridge the divide. It’s been a long time since I listened to Spiral Stairs, so I can’t say that I can truly compare this to previous efforts, but I can say that my first listen was a surprisingly welcome one.
Recommendation: A solid listen this week.

Artist: Samantha Crain
Album: You Had Me At Goodbye
Quick Description: Latest from the folk singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Samantha Crain is typically consistent.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve really, really enjoyed Samantha Crain for close to a decade now. She’s always done that country-tinged folk thing amazingly well, which is why this new album feels like such a strange and unnecessary departure. While her traditionalist sound still resonates, there’s a lot of extra production and instrumentation on this one that shines through on the initial listen and kind of took me out of the listen a bit. Plus, it ends up feeling more than a little uneven at the end of the day, so the whole thing feels like a rare miss. I’ll need to give it more time, but if you don’t have the capacity to fit this in…
Recommendation: Feels like a miss.

Artist: Craig Finn
Album: We All Want the Same Thing
Quick Description: Solo album #2 from the Hold Steady lead.
Why You Should Listen: Craig Finn is sort of an indie institution.
Overall Thoughts: Craig Finn is best known as the singer-songwriter behind The Hold Steady. This is his second solo album, and I’ll just say it – his solo work has never impressed me the way a lot of the output from The Hold Steady does. This new solo album is more of the same in that regard – a little meandery, a little unconventional, has some moments but never feels like a cohesive whole. I think I gave his last solo album only a few listens, and I don’t see myself spending a lot more time with this one, either.
Recommendation: I didn't like this, but you might if you're really into The Hold Steady.

Artist: Kelly Lee Owens
Album: Kelly Lee Owens
Quick Description: Debut full-length from an electronic artist.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy stilted electronic music.
Overall Thoughts: Kelly Lee Owens gets the prize for the one mid-to-high profile electronic release this week, and it’s pretty great (and was nearly my album of the week). Definitely leans on trance elements and is certainly outside of the typical/norm, but that’s also what makes it pretty great. This is the first album I really went back to after going through the releases and I’m really impressed by what we have here. If you like electronic music with some challenges to it, this is 100% worth your time this week.
Recommendation: A must-listen.

Artist: PINS
Album: Bad Thing
Quick Description: Solid punkish EP.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for a quick hit of something different.
Overall Thoughts: A short EP that features Iggy Pop providing this punk-style band with some added credibility. This was a great taste of a band that I had no previous knowledge of, and in terms of doing the trick of wanting to get me to dive into the back catalog, it succeeds. Absolutely worth some time.
Recommendation: A solid, fast listen.

Artist: Sera Cahoone
Album: From Where I Started
Quick Description: Underrated folk music.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something that's just great from beginning to end.
Overall Thoughts: Sera Cahoone, perhaps better known as part of Band of Horses, is another one of those folk acts that gets caught in the overall glut of folky female singer-songwriters who do something special and get lost in the shuffle. I have really, really, really liked everything I’ve heard from her, but at no point have I ever heard her spoken about beyond the side project or in the same breath as some other up-and-comers. It’s a shame, because this album is as gorgeous as any other she’s put out to this point, and even this week, it’s lined up behind Samantha Crain and Drew Holcomb, never mind anything else coming out soon or recently. But don’t sleep on this. She might be someone who quickly becomes a favorite of yours.
Recommendation: Another must-listen this week.

Artist: Steel Panther
Album: Lower the Bar
Quick Description: Latest from the faux-metal favorites.
Why You Should Listen: You know exactly what you're getting.
Overall Thoughts: Steel Panther does dirty metal again. The joke is still stale, the musicality still spot-on. You’ll know if you want to listen to this before you fire it up, but if you’re not sure, just go pull up Powerslut instead.
Recommendation: Meh.

Artist: Rabbit!
Album: The Golden Carrot EP
Quick Description: Indie pop band is back after an extended hiatus.
Why You Should Listen: You want to be happier in life.
Overall Thoughts: Rabbit! is one of my favorite indie pop bands from almost a decade ago at this point. They had an amazing debut, a solid follow-up, their lead singer looked like Richard Alpert from Lost, and then the band fell off the face of the planet. I don’t know what happened, but recently their Twitter account started stirring and a new EP hit the landscape. I’m not going to say that this EP carries the same weight or magic that their prior efforts have up to this point, but considering the layoff? Considering that they’re seemingly repositioning themselves as even more family-friendly than they had prior? I’m not going to complain about a band that might end up being a gateway drug to indie music for my four year old, not at all. Overall?
Recommendation: A welcome return for this band.

Also out this week

* Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - The French Press
* Trementina - 810

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mountain Man Covers The Everly Brothers

Mountain Man (the Vermont folk trio, not the Worcester, MA metal band) have joined in on the Our First 100 Days project with a cover of The Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts." "Love Hurts" is one of the most perfect songs to cover, as versions from Gram Parsons and Nazareth can attest to. Mountain Man's version is virtually perfect and keeps in line with the folk/country origins of the song. Solo versions always seem to miss the harmony, but Mountain Man's specialty is harmonizing, and "Love Hurts" is made for their style perfectly.

You can listen to Mountain Man's version of "Love Hurts" below. The Our First 100 Days project is releasing a song for each of Trump's first 100 days in office. It features a new, exclusive song every day, and all proceeds will benefit organizations that work on climate change, immigration, women's rights, etc. It features a diverse and growing group of musicians including Hurray for the Riff Raff, Speedy Ortiz, Surfer Blood, Tim Heidecker, Jessica Lea Mayfield, and more. You can find more information about the project on Bandcamp. For more on Mountain Man, check out their website.

Thurston Moore - "Smoke of Dreams"

Photo via Facebook
For the first single off of his upcoming album, Rock n Roll Consciousness, Thurston Moore is going back to right where he left off from Sonic Youth. Up until now, Moore's post Sonic Youth work has been indulging in his more folky or metal sides, "Smoke of Dreams" is pure late Sonic Youth era Moore. It's a chilled out jam, much more along the lines of a jam band than the punk or post-punk that defined much of Sonic Youth's sound. In the late 90s and beyond, Sonic Youth, especially Thurston, started getting less aggressive and showing off their hippie and beat poetry inspired sound. "Smoke of Dreams" is super trippy and is perfect for anyone missing the 2000s Sonic Youth sound.

You can watch the video for "Smoke of Dreams" below. Rock n Roll Consciousness will be out on April 28 on Caroline International. It's a five song album, so I'm pretty sure this is going to be Moore's hippiest album yet. For more on Thurston Moore, check out his website.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Skating Polly - "Hail Mary"

Photo by Angel Ceballos
I always wonder why more established artists don't collaborate with their up and coming counterparts. It seems like it would help both artists reach a new base of like-minded fans. Plus, it's just cool. You get it sometimes with Trent Reznor and David Bowie, Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staples, or Jack White and Loretta Lynn. It always seems to be the younger, hipper artist writing and/or producing for the veteran artist.

That's not the case with the new Skating Polly EP. The duo, comprised of step-sisters Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse, joined up with Louise Post and Nina Gordon of the recently reunited Veruca Salt, who co-wrote the EP with them. "Hail Mary" really shows the influence. The song is just heavy and dark, and seems to combine the earlier, more indie rock leanings of Veruca Salt with the heavier, more rockin' side the leaned towards later on. Plus, Gordon and Post really showed Skating Polly how to harmonize. The result is a dark, heavy, but still accessible song perfect for 90s nostalgia nerds, both the ones who lived it and the ones who came after.

You can watch the video for "Hail Mary" below. The new EP from Skating Polly, New Trick, will be released on April 28 on El Camino Media. For more on Skating Polly, check out their website.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Flasher - "Winnie"

Photo by Michael Andrade
The latest single from Washington DC's Flasher seems pretty straightforward, but the song has a few odd elements all mixed together. It includes the band's old school DC emo sound like they had back on "Destroy." "Winnie" pulls in this new funkiness, in an almost glammed out T-Rex style groove. And then the song pulls out this great almost Mascis-esque guitar solo to close. And then there are the lyrics. Sung in a melodic, post punk meets Malkmus fashion, the lyrics are taken mostly from pundits on CNN or pharmaceutical commercials. The chorus of "These feet want to keep the beat moving" is straight out of a diabetes commercial.

You can listen to "Winnie" below. It will be released on Sister Polygon on May 5. You can pre-order your copy of the single here. For more on Flasher, check out their Bandcamp. Current tour dates are below the song.

Wed. Mar. 22 - Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn 
Fri. Mar. 24 - Durham, NC @ Duke Coffeehouse w/ NE-HI
Fri. Apr. 14 - Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR Pub w/ Leggy
Sat. Apr. 15 - Bloomington, IN @ Dunn Meadow (Culture Shock Festival)
Sun. Apr. 16 - Chicago, IL @ Township
Mon. Apr. 17 - Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory
Wed. Apr. 19 - Toronto, ON @ The Baby G (Canadian Music Week)
Thu. Apr. 20 - Montreal, QC @ Matahari Art Loft
Fri. Apr. 21 - Winooski, VT @ The Monkey House
Fri. Apr. 28 - Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong w/ Split Single, R. Ring
Thu. June 22 - Washington, DC @ Luce Foundation Center ("Luce Unplugged" Series)

Charming Disaster - "Sympathetic Magic"

Charming Disaster are a band, but there is this odd almost theatrical element to their music that gives them a touch of art project to their sound. Their songs are ..." stories about love, death, crime, ancient mythology, and the paranormal." Comprised of Jeff Morris and Ellia Bisker, the duo is about to release their new album, Cautionary Tales, next month.

The album opener, "Sympathetic Magic," starts as a pretty standard folkish, Americana song, with Morris and Bisker trading off vocals, and then intertwining separate verses over each other. And then the orchestration and theatrics come in, much more than the usual Charming Disaster song. Lyrically, the song seems to be about falling in love at a seance, sung from both sides of the meeting.

You can listen to "Sympathetic Magic" below. Cautionary Tales will be released April 21. The album "... ." You can get your copy via Bandcamp in both standard and deluxe digital formats. There is also a second song from the album, "What Remains," available to listen to on Bandcamp. Charming Disaster are also about to go out on tour. Dates are below the song. For more on Charming Disaster, check out their website.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pega Monstro - "Partir a Loica"

Portugal's greatest garage punk sister duo are back with a brand new song! We first discovered Pega Monstro with the release of Alfarroba back in 2015. "Partir a Loica" is the first song off their upcoming album Casa de Sima, their third overall.

Not being a lyrics guy, I'm completely ok with songs done entirely in other languages that I, as an ignorant American, don't understand a single word of. In case you're curious, "Partir a loica" is a common Portuguese phrase that roughly translates to "break all the dishes," and is used to mean shake things up. "Partir a Loica," the song, is pretty much a perfect garage punk song. It's catchy as can be, with crunchy sounding guitars, but yet it still has a pretty melody you'll sing even if you don't understand a single word. And then the bridge comes in just as hard as The White Stripes at their most punk.

You can listen to "Partir a Loica" below. Casa de Sima will be released on June 2 on Upset the Rhythm. You can pre-order your copy here. For more on Pega Monstro, check them out on Facebook.

First Listen: New Releases for 17 March

An interesting release week.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Frances
Album: Things I've Never Said
Quick Description: Compelling singer-songwritery tunes.
Why You Should Listen: You like arresting music that surprises you.
Overall Thoughts: I went in blind on Frances for the most part – I feel like I heard a song once upon a time, but that’s neither here nor there. This album really surprised me, which is why it’s my pick for album of the week. Haunting is the wrong word, because I feel like there’s a connotation to that idea that goes with a darker tone or a more ethereal take on the music. It’s not traditional folk, but it’s not standard/modern singer-songwriter fare, either. On first listen? It just feels different. And immediate. And essential. It’s an album that didn’t want to be in the background and kept commanding my attention, which doesn’t happen a whole lot in this way. I truly loved this, and I look forward to spending more time with it to see where its staying power ultimately resides, but do not sleep on this album. It’s truly a special one.
Recommendation: Easily my favorite of the week.

Artist: Spoon
Album: Hot Thoughts
Quick Description: Latest from the indie rock stalwarts.
Why You Should Listen: You're a big fan, and/or you realize they have enough credentials at this point to give a shot no matter what.
Overall Thoughts: Everyone is all about this Spoon album, which is the most buzzworthy release of the week and one of the most anticipated releases of this quarter. Hot take coming in, though – this album is just kind of weird. The lead single didn’t grab me, and there’s a lot of strange, somewhat experimental stuff here. I haven’t read any interviews or anything about this release, so I don’t truly know what Spoon is trying to do here, but this is really just an album that doesn’t impress. While musically fascinating, it ultimately feels weird and disjointed. Hardcore fans might love this, and maybe 25 year old Jeff might like this, but this is such a weird change of direction that I’m not at all convinced it works.
Recommendation: Be really wary. Didn't love this one at all.

Artist: Nataly Dawn
Album: The Coldplay EP
Quick Description: Pomplamoose singer covers classic Coldplay.
Why You Should Listen: The quick description isn't enough?
Overall Thoughts: Half of Pomplamoose doing an EP of Coldplay covers? Sign me up. Coldplay’s first couple albums were truly legitimate affairs, and that’s where this EP smartly pulls from. Her take on these albums is solid, and her voice lends itself well to Chris Martin’s melodies on these songs. A solid listen with minimal investment time.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: Lindi Ortega
Album: 'Til the Going Gets Gone
Quick Description: Quick EP from an underrated act.
Why You Should Listen: If you don't know her already, you should introduce yourself here.
Overall Thoughts: Lindi Ortega is one of those sneaky great alt-country acts, and I’m as guilty as anyone else by not talking about her more. This is a short EP that serves as a great taste of what she offers and has some solid songs even though I don’t know if it’s necessarily representative of her overall work. Still, if you’ve been behind on what she offers on a whole, this is as good a moment as any to jump on board. Plenty of room on the bandwagon.
Recommendation: A solid listen this week.

Artist: Real Estate
Album: In Mind
Quick Description: Indie rockers sit in the 1960s/70s.
Why You Should Listen: You miss the Byrds/R.E.M./jangle pop in general.
Overall Thoughts: As a crazy R.E.M. fan, there are countless bands aping the sound that they appropriated and made famous. In Mind is the best recent listen I can remember that's tossing that sound out there. It's just such a pleasant, relaxing listen that it just evokes a lot of the sort of laid back music that it's in tribute to. This isn't going to blow your socks off, but it's not designed to do that. It's sort of that kind of album you picture on a pleasant spring day.
Recommendation: Nice listen overall.

Artist: CJ Ramone
Album: American Beauty
Quick Description: New solo album from the Ramone.
Why You Should Listen: I mean, you know what you're getting here, right?
Overall Thoughts: CJ Ramone, one of the secondary Ramones I guess, had one of my favorite songs of a few years ago, “Carry Me Away.” The new album continues having some of the similar punk sensibilities taken from his tenure with the Ramones and with his solo work. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but it’s got that firm familiarity behind some solid songwriting. By no means is this an essential listen or terribly important in the punk canon, but you’ll find a good amount to like here nonetheless.
Recommendation: Solid poppy-punk effort.

Artist: Pinback
Album: Some Offcell Voices
Quick Description: Latest from the indie rock act.
Why You Should Listen: Pinback's been around for a long, long time.
Overall Thoughts: Pinback is a band I’ve been aware of for close to 15 years now, but I’ve never really gotten into them. This latest album is not what I expected from them, but I don’t know for sure whether it’s because it’s a shift or because they’ve always done the more quiet, introspective listen that this album appears to reflect. I didn’t love this, and I didn’t hate this, but in a week with a lot of interesting and important albums out, what was surprising to me was the complete lack of impact this album had on me by the time it was done. In an era where it’s easier than ever to get your music to the masses and it’s cheaper than ever to consume music, a band like Pinback needs a bigger splash than this.
Recommendation: It's fine, just doesn't stand out in a busy week.

Artist: Divisionists
Album: Daybreak
Quick Description: London-based indie act's debut.
Why You Should Listen: You like interesting music with tons of upside.
Overall Thoughts: Divisionists is a band we’ve spent some time with before, and this is their first full-length album. Calling this a mixed bag is not something I would necessarily do because of the negative connotations, because this is truly a solid album, but there are essentially two types of songs on here. Some of them are incredibly solid and compelling, and others feel like filler, and there’s no middle ground. Plenty of great albums have some songs that are merely okay, but the one flaw with Divisionists so far is just the size of the gap between the two. This should not dissuade you from checking out this album, though – when Divisionists is on, they are on, and that makes this album a great listen and one of the best of the week. It also speaks well to how bright their future is as a band, so get in on the ground floor.
Recommendation: A mandatory listen.

Artist: Your Old Droog
Album: Packs
Quick Description: Buzzworthy rap music.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy 90s-style rap.
Overall Thoughts: Your Old Droog finally offers up an album after years of EPs and one-offs. I only learned of Your Old Droog after a podcast that explored the theory that Droog was actually Nas, but that’s long gone now and what we have now is a listen that evokes the best of that 1990s rap music while still feeling new and fresh. If Drake/Future is your speed these days, this might not excite you, but I have to say that this album caught me in just the right way and I’m absolutely looking forward to spending more time with it on a whole.
Recommendation: A great rap listen this week.

Artist: Zara Larsson
Album: So Good
Quick Description: New pop album from a European contest winner.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for some pop to round out the week.
Overall Thoughts: Zara Larsson seeks to be the New Big Thing in pop music. I enjoyed this album, but I’m not sure she 100% succeeds at setting herself apart on first listen. There’s absolutely a lot to like here, but if you’re looking for a pop album that transcends a bit the way people like Tove Lo or Charli XCX try, this might not work for you. Still, if you’re into pop music, you owe yourself a listen on this.
Recommendation: Maybe worth it if you're at all interested.

Artist: Conor Oberst
Album: Salutations
Quick Description: Latest from the indie folkie.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan and continue to be even after his recent output.
Overall Thoughts: Conor Oberst is fully and completely channeling Bob Dylan now. While I didn’t mind this album all that much, it’s frankly difficult to really take seriously in that context. His delivery and, often, the songwriting – his song about losing so many famous thinkers feels especially wrought – just feels far too derivative at this point for someone with his history. Granted, he’s had a struggle of sorts over recent years and that might be informing some of this, but there’s part of me that just wants Bright Eyes/”Four Winds” again.
Recommendation: Meh.

Also out this week:

* Depeche Mode - Spirit
* Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzalez - Room 29

Monday, March 20, 2017

Benjamin Booker Covers Howlin' Wolf

Photo by Ken Sears
Benjamin Booker covering Howlin' Wolf is a complete no brainer. Booker's hyped up delta blues and gravelly voice is perfect for covering the blues legend. Booker's version feels a bit more stripped down than the original, even though it seems to be using the same instrumentation. It could be that Howlin' Wolf's is produced to sound more slick, and Booker's is meant to sound raw. Either way, it's a perfect cover.

You can listen to Benjamin Booker's cover of "Spoonful" below. It will be available on the Resistance Radio: The Man in The High Castle Album compilation, which features modern day artists covering classics. The album will also feature covers by Beck, Sharon van Etten, Angel Olson, The Shins, Karen O, and more, so you know we'll be all over it. The album will be out on April 7. To pre-order it, head over to Amazon. Benjamin Booker will release his new album, Witness, on June 2. Check out his website for more information.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Inhalt - "Walking on Glass"

Hailing from San Francisco, Inhalt (German for "content") defy the city's hippie reputation and instead offer dark, driving synth music. "Walking on Glass" offers just the slightest hint of the electronic post punk that was all the rage 10-15 years ago, but this is stripped way back. It's a little too nicely produced to truly be called minimalist, but it's right on the line of minimalism. You get this dark, brooding, and foreboding sound, that you can still dance to. 

Inhalt's upcoming album, Part Time Punks Sessions, was recorded live in a collaboration with the Part Time Punks radio show out of Los Angeles. It will be available April 14 on Cleopatra Records. You can pre-order your copy on Bandcamp. The video for "Walking on Glass" is below. For more on Inhalt, check out their website and Bandcamp.

Fuzzystar - "Telegraphing"

One of the highlights of 2017 has been the discovery of Fuzzystar, led by Andy Thomson of Edinburgh. We've had one song per month from Fuzzystar, and since this is March, here is the third song from the upcoming Telegraphing.

The title track, "Telegraphing," is Fuzzystar's most accessible song yet. It's just a perfect little mid to late 90s indie power pop song. Thomsen's droning vocals seem to be the main focus of this particular song. The guitars seem to be taking a bit of a backseat and are there to help lead and support the singing. Vocally, it's a bit of an odd mix of J Mascis and Lou Barlow. Musically, it's like J Mascis wrote a song for Ash, who didn't dare try to pull of the typical Dinosaur Jr batshit guitar solo.

Next month we'll finally get to hear the entire album for Telegraphing. It will be out on April 28 via Satellite Sounds. You can listen to the song "Telegraphing" below. For more on Fuzzystar, check them out on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Weezer - "Feels Like Summer"

We try to stay fairly positive over here at If It's Too Loud... and just bring you the best new music that we stumble on. We don't want to do the snarky music critic thing and mock hard working bands trying to make it just because we think we're funny. But every so often a band we used to love releases something so horrible that we're forced to warn you about how bad it is. Once again, that band is Weezer.

I used to love love LOVE Weezer. They're the band most people most closely associate with me still to this day. They just released the first song off their upcoming 11th album. That song, "Feels Like Summer," is awful. Just plain awful. They're a band that's been around for 20+ years and they're not even targeting teens and 20-somethings anymore. This sounds like a play for tweens, like they're trying to get on a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon show. It's the kind of song that you see a band on stage playing instruments, but you don't actually hear what sounds like instruments being played. This is what I'm pretty sure Imagine Dragons or Maroon 5 probably sound like now.

Weezer will release their 11th album sometime this year, and will probably feature a duet with Ariana Grande and at least one song will show up on Kidz Bop. The video for "Feels Like Summer" is below, but, seriously, don't bother. Just listen to The Blue Album or Pinkerton before how horrific their output is now completely taints these albums for you.

Lillie Mae - "Over the Hill and Through the Woods"

Photo via Facebook
Lillie Mae may look familiar, seeing how she plays in Jack White's live band. The two are continuing to work together, as White is releasing her debut album, Forever and Then Some, on his Third Man Records label.

The obvious comparison to Lillie Mae is Margo Price. They're both Americana tinged country singers on Third Man Records and produced by Jack White. On "Over the Hill and Through the Woods," the first single from the upcoming album, Mae defines her sound. The song is a more sparse and stripped down version of the retro country thing, but is somehow just as slick as Margo Price's debut. This next part might sound weird, but just go with me on this: It's more raw but somehow more smooth at the same time. I know that makes no sense, but you'll understand when you listen to the song. It's like if 1950s country had 1980s country production values.

Lillie Mae's debut album, Forever and Then Some, will be out on April 14 via Third Man Records. You can watch the video for "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" below. For more on Lillie Mae, be sure to check out her Twitter and website.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The New Year - "Recent History"

Photo courtesy of The New Year
The New Year has long been one of those bands I keep meaning to get into, but always seem to get distracted. The main appeal to me is the inclusion of the criminally underrated Chris Brokaw on drums, even though I'm more familiar with him on guitar. Plus, add in Matt and Bubba Kadane from Bedhead, and you have the makings of an obscure indie rock supergroup.

Luckily for me (and everyone else), The New Year have a new album coming out in April, their first in nine years! The first single off the new album, "Recent History," is this perfect blend of laid back but intense indie rock. It starts off with a long, 1:30 slowly building instrumental, to the point where you start to assume it's an all instrumental song. And then the vocals come in. It's not soft enough to be whispering, and it's a little too much singing to be speaking. If you came of age to the 90s indie scene, you're going to love this.

Snow, the new album from The New Year, will be out April 28 on Undertow Music. You can listen to "Recent History" below. For more on The New Year, check out their website and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for March 10

Slowing down a bit...

Album of the Week:

Artist: Valerie June
Album: The Order of Time
Quick Description: Gorgeous folk music.
Why You Should Listen: Valerie June is incredibly good and is quickly reaching "criminally underrated" status.
Overall Thoughts: I loved her debut album, and it's clear with this new album that she's sticking to a winning formula even while trying a few different things. "Astral Plane" hit a little early and the instrumentation behind the haunting vocals was just so arresting every time it came through. It's a great step forward, perhaps better than her debut, and is absolutely one of my favorite listens of 2017 so far.
Recommendation: A must listen, no excuses.

Artist: Hurray for the Riff Raff
Album: The Navigator
Quick Description: A slight shift in sound doesn't change how good an album this is.
Why You Should Listen: Hurray for the Riff Raff is a favorite around these parts, and this is a highly-anticipated listen.
Overall Thoughts: When we got a sneak peek of "Living in the City," I know I was surprised and concerned. While HftRR definitely updated their sound and production for Small Town Heroes, this felt like a radical shift for the act. Thankfully, The Navigator does spread its musical wings, but in a way that feels both familiar and fresh. There's plenty to love here as a fan, and plenty that I hope to spend more time with.
Recommendation: Great listen, one of the best this week.

Artist: Charli XCX
Album: Number 1 Angel
Quick Description: Songwriter/producer offers a "mixtape" through traditional channels.
Why You Should Listen: She's one of the most important pop artists going right now.
Overall Thoughts: I was frankly surprised this hit Spotify given its inconsistent treatment of mixtapes, but this is being advertised as such and I'll run with it. The tone behind it feels a little indie and disjointed, which is part of the point, but I can't say it works the way Sucker does nor is it supposed to. If this is how she wants to experiment, that works for me, but it's not going to be the same experience.
Recommendation: Be wary.

Artist: The Shins
Album: Heartworms
Quick Description: New album from the indie darlings.
Why You Should Listen: The Shins are one of the most important indie bands in the world.
Overall Thoughts: For the first album we've gotten from them in five years, I think the surprise is how upbeat this felt on first listen. Not to say that James Mercer and company are typically sad sacks, but I haven't associated "upbeat" with them since Chutes Too Narrow. So with that in mind, this is a surprising album, and pretty high quality. Possibly on the upper end of their releases on a whole.
Recommendation: Check this one out.

Artist: Laura Marling
Album: Semper Femina
Quick Description: Latest from the Mumford-adjace folkie.
Why You Should Listen: Laura Marling has gotten progressively better with each album, and this is her best yet.
Overall Thoughts: I feel bad that Marling will be forever linked with Mumford and Sons since she's so good on her own, but this is the first album of hers that truly stands out on its own as a whole rather than with the various parts. It's a gorgeous listen with a lot of layers I look forward to listening to further, and I can't wait to revisit it.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week.

Artist: Greg Graffin
Album: Millport
Quick Description: A folk album from the lead singer of Bad Religion.
Why You Should Listen: It's legitimately the best folk album I've heard in ages.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this one over to me and let me know what it was right away. I was ready to roll my eyes, but wow this was good. It's not trying to reinvent the wheel, and there's no punk aspects to it (outside of the concept that folk music in and of itself is pretty punk), and the result is a really great listen. I want to be listening to it right now. This was nearly my album of the week, and might still make my top albums list if it holds up on more listens. Just great.
Recommendation: A must listen this week.

Artist: Ha Ha Tonka
Album: Heart-Shaped Mountain
Quick Description: Some solid rootsy rock music.
Why You Should Listen: This is not the band you think they are if you've never heard of them before.
Overall Thoughts: Ha Ha Tonka has been around for some time, and I always had this picture of them in my mind as a weird indie band. This is really my first experience with them, and I was surprised as to how much I enjoyed it. It's fairly straightforward, no-frills rock music, but there's something really compelling about it nonetheless. I need to spend more time with it, but...
Recommendation: ...this deserves your attention.

Artist: Sunny Sweeney
Album: Trophy
Quick Description: Mainstream country for people who hate mainstream country.
Why You Should Listen: It's Kacey Musgraves with the attitude of Elizabeth Cook.
Overall Thoughts: I don't recall, at this point, what got me hooked on Sunny Sweeney except that I liked her previous album. This one, on first listen, feels a lot more raw and urgent. Sweeney needed that with her sound, in my opinion, as Trophy feels like the sort of album that's made to set you apart from your peers. That's huge in her genre, and I hope it works. This is a great listen, nonetheless.
Recommendation: Solid listen.

Artist: Tennis
Album: Yours Conditionally
Quick Description: Latest from the indie rock seafarers.
Why You Should Listen: Tennis isn't always straightforward, but when they're on, they're on.
Overall Thoughts: Tennis is like that pop group from before you were born, and sometimes they're great and sometimes it's not. This new album has a similar pedigree to Cape Dory in that it was conceptualized on a boating adventure, but it lacks that same sort of fresh, airy feeling. I wanted to love this and ultimately couldn't.
Recommendation: Not saying skip it, but don't make it the first thing on your list.

Also out this week:

* The Picturebooks - Home is a Heartache (solid listen)
* The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - Front Porch Sessions (super-raw blues/folk)
* Bush - Black and White Rainbows (legitimately terrible)