Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Freebie: Public Enemy - Nothing is Quick in the Desert

Nothing is Quick in the Desert was originally scheduled to come out on July 4 as a free surprise download. Last weekend, news of the album leaked and earlier this week Public Enemy confirmed the album. Yesterday, Public Enemy released the album early.

Public Enemy is one of my top three bands of all time. This is based almost completely on their first four albums. It's not that anything they've released since Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black has been bad, but I tend to listen to their newer albums once or twice, and then just go back to the classics. 

Nothing is Quick in the Desert is a return to form. Maybe it's because Public Enemy have a lot to be angry about now. While their recent releases have edged into the R&B chorus trap or having references to their earlier work that seemed a bit to cutesy. Listening to a Public Enemy album shouldn't be a fully pleasant experience. Public Enemy should be a bit discordant, like the Sonic Youth of hip hop. "sPEak!" ends with the kind of noisy guitar solo that has been missing lately. That continues with "Yesterday Man," which has a distracting solo throughout the entire song. "Smash the Crowd" features a verse by Ice-T, which I'm pretty sure is their first collaboration together. 

Nothing is Quick in the Desert isn't going to replace Yo! Bum Rush the Show or Fear of a Black Planet (which is my favorite album of all time). But it's a great return to Public Enemy doing what they should. Public Enemy are trailblazers. They shouldn't be trying to stay with what is current in music. They need to do what they do best, which is what they are finally back to.

You can download Nothing is Quick in the Desert for free for a limited time via Bandcamp. 2017 is Public Enemy's 30th anniversary, and they are promising a fall tour. For more on Public Enemy, check out their website.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Helvetia Cover *censored*

Photo via Facebook
One of the best parts of seeing a Built to Spill show are the random covers they'll pull out. Some of my favorites over the past 20 years (20 years? Jesus...) have been the Peanuts theme and George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." Apparently Jason Albertini has kept the covers bug for his other band, Helvetia. While we wait for their upcoming four song EP due in September, the band has released a cover song they're calling "You and I." While that's not the actual title, you'll recognize the song almost immediately. The band blocks out the name of the original band, but will say it's off an album called Let It Be. I assume they don't want to pay for a cover they're just throwing out there for free. Their cover starts as a slightly off tune, quiet kinda acoustic version, and it slowly evolves into a rambling mess at the end. And I mean that in the best way possible.

You can listen to Helvetia's mystery cover below. For more on the band, check out their website, and keep an eye out for Sun Chasers, due September 22nd.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Winter - "Jaded"

I'm pretty sure 95% of the world can agree that the alternative scene of the early 90's was the best that decade had to offer. But, there are some of us that came of age more in the mid 90's that will always have a fondness for that era. The new song from Winter is perfect for us.

You could have played "Winter" for me and then told me it was from some band in your local scene put out in 1995, and I would have 100% believed you. It has just enough of that slacker vibe while still being fun to make it feel like that decade. Samira Winter's vocals are alter between that mid-90's breathy thing and actual singing, not to mention the guitar solos straight outta when guitar solos could go back to being guitar solos, but just barely. Plus, the song is called "Jaded," which is the most 90's of all buzzwords. Just when you think it can't get more 90's, there a speaking part right in the middle between two people. Oh, and according to the press release, the song is influenced by The Breeders, Weezer, and 10 Things I Hate About You. If you think you're going to like this song, you definitely will.

You can listen to "Jaded" below. The single is available now via Burger Records. For more on Winter, check them out on Facebook and Bandcamp.

First Listen: New Releases for June 23

Album of the Week:

Artist: Meklit
Album: When the People Move, the Music Moves Too
Quick Description: Soul/R&B with some great musicality.
Why You Should Listen: It's unlike anything else you've heard lately.
Overall Thoughts: This just came out of nowhere. I’ve never heard of Meklit before today, but I think we’ve found a new favorite here. I think my best comparison to this, to start, might be Janelle Monae if she spent more time with non-electronic instruments and less time singing about robots, but that doesn’t do this justice. There’s such a high level of musicality to Meklit’s take on R&B, to the styles being explored, that it’s just impossible to ignore. On first listen, it was almost exhausting (in a good way) trying to keep up with everything happening, and all I’ve wanted to do since diving in last week is jump back in. Even if this doesn’t end up being one of my favorite albums of the year, it’s absolutely my favorite this week and absolutely one of the best experiences from a musicality standpoint I’ve heard in some time.
Recommendation: Don't miss this one.

Artist: Bedouine
Album: Beoduine
Quick Description: A surprisingly wonderful folk record.
Why You Should Listen: You like older folk songs and miss that style.
Overall Thoughts: This wasn’t on my initial list of things to listen to this week, but then another site (Stereogum, maybe?) listed this as their album of the week and compared it to Nick Drake. Okay, I hear you. While this isn’t my favorite listen this week, or the best one, it’s pretty close – this is the closest thing to classic folk music I’ve heard in a long time, and seriously has some awesome moments. If “One of These Days” doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know if Bedouine will become a big star, whether in folk circles or overall, but she’s deserving of it and…
Recommendation: …this is deserving of your time.

Artist: Yonder Mountain String Band
Album: Love. Ain't Love
Quick Description: Latest from the bluegrass royalty.
Why You Should Listen: It's traditional roots music at its best.
Overall Thoughts: This is a band I was aware of before I was aware of the music they did, if that makes any sense. So there is a classic, legacy feel to this latest album that persists throughout and keeps it from being truly great, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some solid moments, most notably “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Overall, a pleasant listen that won’t blow your mind.
Recommendation: Solid, but not great.

Artist: Guerilla Toss
Album: GT Ultra
Quick Description: Aggressive electro-punk.
Why You Should Listen: It's not like anything else you'll hear this week.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over to me, and I was frankly a little apprehensive to start. Then the album kicked in and I was still a little taken aback, but there’s something very catchy and endearing about this punk-style approach to a more electronic endeavor. I don’t quite know what to make of it except that I know I really like it, and that’s ultimately what matters. I know this might be an acquired taste, but if you’re willing to give this a chance, you might just fall in love with it.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth a shot.

Artist: The No Ones
Album: Sun Station
Quick Description: Alt-rock supergroup of sorts with an EP.
Why You Should Listen: The people involved alone make it worthwhile.
Overall Thoughts: It’s probably weird to refer to things Peter Buck does as a side project when all he has is side projects now, but this is a supergroup of sorts that includes him, Scott McCaughey, and more, and it’s…well, it’s okay. It’s very jangly, has a lo-fi feel to it, and, at only four tracks, either hints at things to come or is just a one-off that exists in its own way.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: The Deslondes
Album: Hurry Home
Quick Description: Traditional roots rock.
Why You Should Listen: They are an authentic, fun act that sound well beyond their years.
Overall Thoughts: I enjoyed the first Deslondes album, and this new album does what you want a sophomore effort to do – it expands on their sound in a solid way without losing what made you love it to begin with. We have a great listen here on a whole, and some songs that could hit my rotation as much as a few songs on their debut did.
Recommendation: For a rootsy affair this week, you can’t do any better.

Artist: Verite
Album: Somewhere In Between
Quick Description: Indie pop on the fringes.
Why You Should Listen: This might cure that taste Lorde left in your mouth.
Overall Thoughts: Verite has been playing around on the indie side of pop for a little while now, and this latest listen doesn’t achieve the heights I would have liked for a proper breakthrough, but is still a solid listen on a whole. Honestly, it’s better than the pop stuff from last week, and that slots it kind of in the middle of recent releases. Not great, but not terrible. If you’re looking for something to scratch that itch this week, give it a shot.
Recommendation: Good for pop fans.

Artist: Algiers
Album: The Underside of Power
Quick Description: Bombastic mainstream rock.
Why You Should Listen: You're really looking for something large and mainstream.
Overall Thoughts: Algeirs is going big and bold on this album, and honestly? It feels like it’s all too much. I get what the attempt is here, but the result is a very loud-sounding, almost muddy listen that doesn’t really work for me. This might make some waves on the radio, but I can’t imagine liking this much if you’re really into the stuff we feature here.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Album: Murder of the Universe
Quick Description: Prog rock insanity.
Why You Should Listen: Either this is really solid and reverential, or it's a really involved spoof. Either way, it's worth it.
Overall Thoughts: Their third album in the last year or so, this is quite simply a straightforward prog rock record in all its glory, complete with fantasy literature elements and over-the-top narration and lyrics. It’s absurd, and that’s what makes it work. At this point, anything this group comes out with is worth a listen – even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense, you have to reward the ambition and appreciate the attempt. They might be the closest thing to classic Flaming Lips we have right now.
Recommendation: You have to try this.

Also out this week:

* Lydia Lunch and Cypress Grove - Under the Covers: A very interesting covers record. Parts are better than the whole.
* Crash Ensemble - Ghosts: Very solid modern classical music. Not for everyone, but might be worth a listen.
* TOPS - Sugar at the Gate: It doesn’t fit into any of the existing molds, which is both a benefit and a drawback.
* Mutual Benefit - Skip a Sinking Stone
* Unkle - The Road, Part 1: This is probably better than I’m giving it credit for, but I can’t stop wishing they would go back to the Psyence Fiction stuff.
* Jeff Tweedy - Together at Last: Tweedy goes acoustic. I’ve been cold on Wilco for a while, but this acoustic take on Wilco tracks is a fun listen on a whole.
* Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas - Telephone: Very solid modern classical music. Not for everyone, but might be worth a listen.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Petite League - "Sun Dogs"

Petite League now reside in Ridgewood, Queens, but started out in the DIY show scene in Syracuse. Lorenzo Gillis Cook started out playing solo under the name Spark Alaska, once he met drummer Henry Schoonmaker, Petite League were formed.

Petite League's latest single, "Sun Dogs," might be the jangliest pop song you ever hear. The opening guitar riff is reminiscent of early Strokes, but in a much more lo-fi way. It somehow sounds like the most polished and produced basement recording of all time. It's all gritty and lush, with one of the greatest uses of "la la la" in a chorus I've heard in years. It's the NYC ooze of The Strokes mixed with the sunshine pop of The Beach Boys, which is one of those combinations you never new how badly you needed it until you hear it for the first time.

You can listen to "Sun Dogs" below. Petite League's third album, Rips One Into the Night (the last two were called Slugger and No Hitter), will be out September 1 on The Native Sound. For more on the band, check out their Bandcamp and Facebook.

Monday Mix: Recent Female-Fronted Rock

If you've noticed from my reviews as of late, I've become somewhat obsessed with a certain revival of 90s-era Juliana Hatfield/Veruca Salt-sounding acts. There's a lot of great stuff out there, and I was going to make a playlist for myself before I realized that I could just share it with you guys. So here's a fun mix for your Monday - don't consider this representative, but just a fun start.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Drab - "Well, I Wanna Die"

Somehow it's been over two years since we've brought you anything from Boston area based Drab. Yesterday they came back into our radar with a new single, "Well, I Wanna Die." "Well, I Wanna Die" is an absolutely perfect song for you if you have a fondness for a certain mid-90's realm of just under the mainstream but right on the edge of creeping out alternative. The song starts off almost painfully slowly, and it slightly builds to a crescendo that never quite comes. You keep waiting for this explosion to be the big pay off at the end, but it just never happens. This builds this insane tension throughout, which is only aided by strings and some odd percussion towards the end. The whole song feels like that dog started hanging out with Rasputina.

"Well, I Wanna Die" is available on Spotify and iTunes. For more on Drab, check them out on Facebook.

Forgotten Fridays: SKAndalous: I've Gotcha Covered

Forgotten Fridays is an occasional feature here at If It’s Too Loud... where we go back and find the lost records of our glory days. We played these on our college radio shows, put them on countless mix tapes, and then forgot they existed. Once a week we go back and remind you, and help decide if they were any good.

1996 was the height of the 90s ska resurgence. It was also the height of the 90s covers compilation craze. Since ska and covers went together beautifully, you got roughly a million albums of ska bands doing wacky covers. 

SKAndalous: I've Gotcha Covered is one of the wackier ones. There's not really any consistent theme. Sure, there are a bunch of tv and cartoon theme songs covered (Perfect Thyroid cover "Sanford and Son," The Jinkies cover "Scooby Doo" because you couldn't do anything in the mid 90s without including Scooby Doo somehow) but there are just as many legitimate songs from the 60s covered (Magadog do "Brown Eyed Girl," Bim Skala Bim cover "Sunshine of Your Love" in virtually unrecognizable fashion). But then Ruder Than You do Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," which blows out any ongoing theme they might have had.

The strangest part of SKAndalous: I've Gotcha Covered is how much fun it is. Sure it's as dated as it could possibly be, and covering "The Flintstones" as a ska song is cheesy as hell, but it's a weird little slice of nostalgia. I know the 90s wave of ska is widely considered to be a national embarrassment barely even worth an eye roll of recognition, but it's still far better than hair metal, Bush, nu metal, and anything else that can be appreciated for the nostalgia factor nowadays.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

HVMM - "Lacerate"

The new song from England's HVMM is one of the few songs that sounds unlike anything you've heard before by combining a bunch of familiar sounds. "Lacerate" probably shouldn't work, but it does. The intro is more than a little reminiscent of Gorillaz's "Clint Eastwood." It also skews heavily into Jack White's trademark noisy roots based blues sound. But then come Andy Teece's vocals. He doesn't quite rap, but he's not exactly not rapping, either, which gives the song the sound of a more roots based Sleaford Mods. It all has a Johnny Rotten trying to imitate a preacher feel to it. I know a song that combines Jack White, Sleaford Mods, and The Sex Pistols sounds like too much of a hodgepodge of sounds, but "Lacerate" somehow does.

You can watch the video for "Lacerate" below. HVMM's new album, Talk to Me Like I'm Dead, will be out September 1st on ILA. It can be pre-ordered here. For more on HVMM, check out their website.

Pinkerton/Black - How's the Weather Over There

It's been over a year since we first discovered Riley Pinkerton and her amazing debut Do You Have a Car EP. Seemingly without warning, last week she released a new EP as a duo with Henry Black: Pinkerton/Black.

Seeing as how I'm completely unfamiliar with Henry Black's solo work, I can only use Riley Pinkerton's solo release as a base for How's the Weather Over There. The new EP runs a wee bit more on the mainstream side of the whole acoustic singer/songwriter genre than Pinkerton's previous release did. Her vocals once again elevate the genre to a completely different level. She just has such a unique voice that is just simply captivating. Even on Black's songs when she's singing back up, you just get pulled in by her harmonizing. That's not to take away from Black's own vocals, but hers are just stunning. The pair seem to work best when harmonizing together. "In His Image" has dual vocals throughout, and it may just be the song of the entire EP. Stylistically, How's the Weather Over There stretches itself all over the folk spectrum. A song like "Weeping Willow" has a quiet intensity that drives it. "Looked Like Eve" has a friendlier, rambling quality. 

You can listen to "In His Image" below. How's the Weather Over There can be purchased at Bandcamp. While Pinkerton/Black doesn't appear to have their own site, for more information you can check out Riley Pinkerton's website and/or Henry Black's.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Friday (on a Wednesday) Freebie: Hallelujah the Hills - Collective Psychosis Begone LIVE 1​/​4​/​2008 @ The Middle East

Usually we try to hold onto these until Friday (Friday Freebie and all...) but we couldn't wait for this one for two more whole days. Hallelujah the Hills decided to celebrate the ten year anniversary of their album Collective Psychosis by releasing a live recording of the album from 2008 for free! Collective Psychosis Begone LIVE 1​/​4​/​2008 @ The Middle East isn't the world's greatest live recording, but I tend to hate live recordings that are overproduced. Keeping in any mistakes, voice cracks, etc makes a live album more like a live performance than a studio recording, and that's exactly the point. Plus, it's a great snapshot at where one of our current favorites were ten years ago, and a reminder that delving into their much more robust than I remember back catalog is something we should all do more often.

You can get your own copy of Collective Psychosis Begone LIVE 1​/​4​/​2008 @ The Middle East for the "name your price" option over at Bandcamp. For more on Hallelujah the Hills, be sure to check out their website. Tomorrow night (June 22) they'll be playing at the News Cafe in Pawtucket, RI, and are promising to play a bunch of songs off Collective Psychosis. On August 17 they'll be playing a one night only show at the Hayden Planetarium, and will have Josh Kantor (Fenway organist), Marissa Nadler, Will Dailey, and more as special guests. You can get your tickets here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Brilliant Beast - "Star Of"

It's been a little over a year since we've heard from our favorite Minneapolis shoegaze band led by a brother and sister, but luckily Brilliant Beast are back with a new song in advance of a new release.

There have been roughly 4762 new releases from reunited shoegaze royalty this year, so it would be easy for the new crop of up and comers to get hidden. That would be a shame, since this new song from Brilliant Beast is so perfect. A lot of these reunion albums seem to forget what made the bands so great and they keep trying to update their sound to a more modern sound. They forget what we loved about them. "Star Of" is closer to the classic shoegaze sound than classic shoegaze bands sound like now. It's all swirling, fuzzed out guitars in a lush blend with vocals caught in a dream. 

You can watch the video for "Star Of" below. The new EP from Brilliant Beast, Jelly, will be out digitally and on cassette on July 7. You can pre-order the EP via Bandcamp. For more on Brilliant Beast, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

First Listen: New Releases for June 16

This week was sneaky busy, but a lot of good music!

Album of the Week:

Artist: What Cheer? Brigade
Album: You Can't See Inside of Me
Quick Description: Marching band music for hipster adults.
Why You Should Listen: They may drive your spouse mad, but the musicianship and fun is top notch.
Overall Thoughts: Every so often, while listening to something for First Listen, my wife will provide commentary. What Cheer? Brigade are a bunch of punk types who also play brass instruments, so the result is a bit of a sassy, edgy marching band quality. It turned my wife off right quick, but I was into it. It’s reminiscent of a lot of what made Gogol Bordello so awesome when they had their breakthrough, and there’s just something special and exciting about this. While I don’t think this will make it high on my year end list, this is absolutely my favorite thing that I listened to this week, and is my album of the week because of it. I mean, they do a brass version of a Brain Eno song! It’s a great reminder of how much fun music should be, and how we don’t need to necessarily slot certain acts into a mandatory style.
Recommendation: You might not love this, but I did.

Artist: Fleet Foxes
Album: Crack-Up
Quick Description: Latest from the superstars of indie folk(?)
Why You Should Listen: Fleet Foxes might not be your jam, but this works really well.
Overall Thoughts: Fleet Foxes runs hot and cold for me. A band I've always liked but never loved, this album really resonated with me. A lot of solid stuff here to go on, and it might be their best since their debut. If you've pumped the brakes on them, check this out.
Recommendation: Surprisingly solid.

Artist: The Dustbowl Revival
Album: The Dustbowl Revival
Quick Description: Rootsy party music?
Why You Should Listen: The Dustbowl Revival is a sneaky good festival mainstay.
Overall Thoughts: The Dustbowl Revival makes party music for roots revivalists. I picture this band playing under tents where the cheap alcohol is flowing and there’s an abundance of hay or matted-down grass. It’s a silly perception, but one that carries through the bombastic, fun atmosphere of their music and this album in particular. I really dug this on a whole...
Recommendation: ...and you might as well.

Artist: Darren Hayman
Album: Thankful Villages, Volume II
Quick Description: Hefner singer's second collection of songs about British villages.
Why You Should Listen: Historically important, musically sound.
Overall Thoughts: Hefner’s Hayman continues his project visiting and writing songs about the British World War I “Thankful Villages.” As with the first volume, there’s absolutely a cultural link I’m missing here, but a lot of what makes Hayman such an interesting and successful songwriter continues to shine through on this album. He’s got at least one more volume planned, and it’s a project I’m glad exists.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth a listen.

Artist: Miranda Lee Richards
Album: Existential Beasts
Quick Description: Second album in as many years from the singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Surprisingly awesome.
Overall Thoughts: The 2016 album from Miranda Lee Richards caught me by surprise when it came out, and the fact that she has a follow-up nearly slipped by me as well. As much as I liked the first record, this one might be better! A more cohesive whole, feels a little better produced, and the end result is a solid listen that I’ll be coming back to a lot.
Recommendation: A favorite this week.

Artist: Sammy Brue
Album: I Am Nice
Quick Description: Debut album by an artist destined to become a favorite around these parts.
Why You Should Listen: A solid listen that shows a ton of promise.
Overall Thoughts: Sammy Brue is 15 years old. You’d never know it from listening to this album, because this feels so authentic and pure in its approach, and that’s probably why this works on its own. Knowing how young he is, it’s easy to kind of nitpick some choices and also easy to recognize that this is just the start of some really solid songwriting rather than the endpoint. For now, though, find some time to enjoy this. If he continues to put out work at this consistency, it’s a name we’re going to know for the next thirty-plus years.
Recommendation: A great listen, can't wait for more.

Artist: Sarah Jane Scouten
Album: When the Bloom Falls From the Rose
Quick Description: Pure rootsy country.
Why You Should Listen: This is the comfy blanket listen of the week.
Overall Thoughts: The surprise of the week is Sarah Jane Scouten, who reminds me a lot of an early Nora Jane Struthers in many regards. The album takes off early and ends up being a fun, albeit standard, rootsy folkish album. I really enjoyed it, and I’m hoping more listens will show it has some staying power to boot.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Artist: Moby and the Void Pacific Choir
Album: More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse
Quick Description: A surprise second release from Moby's uber-political rock effort.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoyed the first effort.
Overall Thoughts: Moby continues his work with the Void Pacific Choir, and the same urgency and sound shift for Moby is evident on this shorter record. This post-punk effort feels more like a collection of b-sides than some of the great listens of the first record, but it’s also a deliberately messy affair that requires a little more time to really register. I’ll give it that, but I still question whether this resonates with Moby fans, or post-punk fans, or what audiences it’s for at all.
Recommendation: A little iffy, but not a waste of time at all.

Artist: Alison Moyet
Album: Other
Quick Description: Chamber pop? Sure!
Why You Should Listen: This is the most interesting release of the week.
Overall Thoughts: Because we haven’t had our share of theatrical singer-songwriter efforts as of late, here is Alison Moyet providing a record that is lacking in a significant focus, but has so many high-quality moving parts that we can largely avoid criticizing it too much. What I wish it had in a standard, cohesive effort, it replaces in what is actually a pretty interesting listen on a whole, complete with some standout tracks and memorable moments. If you like ambitious pop records, this might be worth some of your time.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Palehound
Album: A Place I'll Always Go
Quick Description: The hit sound of the moment with a band we love.
Why You Should Listen: This is right in the current wheelhouse.
Overall Thoughts: Palehound is a favorite here, and for good reason – they fit into a lot of the sound we love for acts like these, and considering the renaissance of sorts we’re experiencing in this genre, Palehound is hitting their stride at the right time. Is this as good as, say, the Diet Cig or Charly Bliss records this year? I don’t know yet, but it’s making a case for itself with this effort, one that feels both more mature and more urgent. I expected to like this, and I’m hoping that I find as much to love in it as I did in other albums like it this year.
Recommendation: Lots of fulfilled potential here.

Artist: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Album: The Nashville Sound
Quick Description: Isbell's first album with The 400 Unit in some time.
Why You Should Listen: It's Jason Isbell, come on.
Overall Thoughts: Jason Isbell has pretty much reached “institution” status at this point, and I think what makes him great, whether it’s solo or with the 400 Unit, is that he’s able to evoke a lot of gravity in his songs that other artists cannot. That weight can make listening to his albums a different experience on a whole, but that’s not bad – this latest album continues along the vein of the high-quality material we expect, and the addition of his backing band gives a slightly different tone to the proceedings.
Recommendation: Overall, a solid listen.

Artist: Lorde
Album: Melodrama
Quick Description: Long-anticipated second album from the pop singer.
Why You Should Listen: Lorde is absolutely one of the more interesting popsters going.
Overall Thoughts: I’m into “Green Light,” I (like everyone else) was into “Royals,” and so this album was definitely one I was looking forward to. I hate to say that it just did not connect for me in a meaningful way. Lorde is a talented songwriter, but we’re getting something that’s ambitious and different while lacking that interest piece to keep you hooked. Leading with “Green Light” didn’t help, as it means we hit the high water mark immediately. I’ll give this a little more time, but in a time with a lot of solid pop efforts available, this doesn’t appear to make the grade.
Recommendation: Give Katy Perry another listen instead.

Other releases of note:

* Portugal the Man – Woodstock: Still a weird band making a lot of good music. Not sure how I feel about this one.
* Hundredth – RARE: A dark metal band goes more shoegaze, and the results… well, you’ll either like this or you won’t.
* Ride – Weather Diaries: First album in a long time from this comeback act. It works, but probably doesn’t rate with their classics.
* Beth Ditto – Fake Sugar: I had high hopes for this, but it ends up being a bad pop album instead of channeling anything that resembles the best of The Gossip.
* Big Boi – BOOMIVERSE: Big Boi is really good at rap music, but not so good at keeping his sound current. Good for me, but not necessarily for those on, say, the Kendrick/Drake/Future trains.
* Dead Heavens - Whatever Witch You Are
* Jason Loewenstein - Spooky Action

EPs of note:

* Bernice – Puff: Fuzzy, airy singer-songwritery stuff. A good taste of what might be to come.
* Anya Marina – Serious Love: Latest EP from the increasingly-chameleonlike singer. Honestly a mixed bag, but the highs are very high.
* Frankmusik – Ss17: Frankmusik has been doing this sort of introspective pop for a while now, and I’m starting to lose a little interest, if I’m being frank (heh).
* Magic Shoppe – High Goodbye: Magic Shoppe channels their inner 1997-era Oasis with solid results.

Also out this week:

* Royal Blood - How Did We Get So Dark
* Hey Violet - From the Outside
* The Drums - Abysmal Thoughts
* The Cold Stares - Head Bent

Friday, June 16, 2017

Live Shows: Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys, Hayden Planetarium, Museum of Science, Boston, MA 6/15/17

Photo by Dave Green
A Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys show is always an event. They're a band that truly puts on a performance, not just a concert. Seeing them live is as much a visual experience as it is an auditory one. Last night, the band took over the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science for a one night only event.

I had expected something more on the lines of the old style laser light shows last night. Back in my youth, the planetarium was always hosting Laser Floyd or Laser Zeppelin shows on weekends. (The only one I ever went to was Laser Nirvana back in 1996...) Instead Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys were accompanied by computer animation projected across the screen of the planetarium. It was a slightly odd experience. Usually when at a concert you watch the band and not a screen. The band members circled the projector in the center of the room and played, so any audience member could only see the band by leaning forward in the chair, and then they could only see about half of the performers. It was interesting experiencing such dynamic live performers with the attention drawn away from themselves.

The animation was perfectly suited to the music the vast majority of the time. Visuals such as floating through a castle, odd green creatures, and swirling psychedelic graphics worked the best. One odd choice was the use of animated snowflakes during "Old Skin," which I'm pretty sure isn't about snow. The best use of visuals along with music was during "Baba Yaga," which featured Walter Sickert's artwork, animated and moving about. As great as the experience was, I do wish more had been like this.

As for the actual musical performance, it truly was a unique Army of Toys show. The band was much more reserved, and traded in their more bombastic songs for more restrained ones. There were quite a number of choices that I didn't fully recognize, and I consider myself to be somewhat of an obsessive fan. Even the louder songs were played a bit more calmly, most likely in reverence for the setting. The songs can really be allowed to stand for themselves in this setting, unlike a rock club where the band has to be loud and attention grabbing. The entire audience's attention was already held by the visual experience. One unique highlight was a medley that contained Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" and Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades."

The Museum of Science is putting on two more concerts this summer, with Niki Luparelli & The Gold Diggers July 20 and Hallelujah the Hills August 17. For more information, check out their website.

Guerilla Toss - "Betty Dreams of Green Men"

Being a grumpy old man in the world of indie rock, to me noise rock should be something loud and most likely aggressive. If it's loud enough, like Lightning Bolt, maybe people can do some kind of moshing to it, but it's most likely music that you listen to while stroking your chin and paying attention. It's certainly nothing that you could possibly dance to. That would be preposterous.

Guerilla Toss continue to prove me wrong. "Betty Dreams of Green Men" is the noisiest dance song you might ever hear. It has a groove throughout that Deee-Lite would be envious of. There's a perfect chant along chorus about aliens that will be driven into your skull as deeply as anything Taylor Swift has ever put out. Luckily, "Betty Dreams of Green Men" is just discordant enough to be interesting, but it might be your daughter's entry away from top 40 into actual good music.

You can listen to "Betty Dreams of Green Men" below. Guerilla Toss's new album, GT Ultra, will be released on June 23 and can be pre-ordered via Bandcamp. For more on Guerilla Toss, check out their website.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Banditos - "Healin' Slow"

Just when I has Banditos pigeonholed as a psychedelic southern garage rock band, their new song goes in a completely new direction. "Healin' Slow" features Mary Beth Richardson on vocals, and her vocals are the star for this track. It's a southern rock blues slow jam, with the instruments holding off as minimalist as can possibly be for the genre. Richardson's voice is the main focus, and once you hear this song, you'll understand why. I wouldn't say she has a spectacularly beautiful voice, but she has this odd power behind it that just draws you in and makes you want to pay attention. "Healin' Slow" is a song that could have ended up as a pretty generic ballad, but Richardson's seemingly effortless vocals and the rest of the Banditos' ability to remain in the background makes this one a must listen.

You can watch the video for "Healin' Slow" below. Banditos' newest album, Visionland, will be out June 23 on Bloodshot Records. For more on Banditos, check out their website.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Julia Jacklin - "Eastwick"

Photo by Nick McKinlay
Although you may have to wait three more months for an actual copy of her new 7", we can now listen to the new single from Julia Jacklin. "Eastwick" was inspired by a night watching Dancing With the Stars, of all things. It starts off very quietly, as a fairly standard singer/songwriter offering. Jacklin's voice has never sounded more beautiful and vulnerable than it does in "Eastwick." But, a strange thing happens throughout the song. It builds so gradually and slowly, that it eventually becomes a mid-tempo almost noisy power ballad by the end without you even realizing it. It starts off as a really good song to one of the best you'll hear all year, all in the span of four minutes.

You can watch the video for "Eastwick" below. The 7" for "Eastwick" will be available September 15 on Polyvinyl Recording Co. For more on Julia Jacklin, check out her website. She also recently did a performance for NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series, which you can watch here. Jacklin is currently out on tour. Her dates are below the video.

Wed. June 14 – Bergen, NO @ BergenFest
Fri. June 23 – Netherlands @ Down The Rabbit Hole Festival
Sun. June 25 – Glastonbury, UK @ Glastonbury Festival
Thu. June 29 – Denmark @ Roskilde Festival
Fri. July 7 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer*
Sat. July 8 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club*
Tue. July 11 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop*
Fri. July 14 – Henham Park, UK @ Latitude Festival
Sun. July 16 – Riga, Latvia @ Positivus Festival
Fri. July 21 – Byron Bay, NSW @ Splendour In The Grass
Sun. July 23 – Los Angeles, LA @ FYF Fest
Wed. July 26 – Brooklyn, NY @ Union Pool
Sat. July 29 – Newport, RI @ Newport Folk Festival
Sat. Aug 5 – Sun. Aug 6 – Happy Valley, OR @ Pickathon Festival
Thu. Aug. 10 – Oslo, NO @ Oya Festival
Fri. Aug. 11 – Gothenburg, SE @ Way Out West Festival
Sat. Aug 12 – Haldern, DE @ Haldern Pop
Fri. Aug. 18 – Brecon Beacons, UK @ Green Man Festival
Sat. Aug. 19 – Hasselt, BE @ Pukkelpop
Sun. Sept. 3 – Wiltshire, UK @ End of the Road Festival
Thu. Nov 2 – Portsmouth, UK @ Wedgewood Rooms
Fri. Nov 3 – Bristol, UK @ Thekla
Sat. Nov 4– Leeds, UK @ Belgrave Music Hall
Mon. Nov 6 – Glasgow, UK @ Oran Mor
Tue. Nov 7 – Manchester, UK @ Gorilla
Wed. Nov 8 – Nottingham, UK @ Rescue Rooms
Thu. Nov 9 – London, UK @ O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Mon. Nov. 13 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
Wed. Nov 15 – Toronto, ON @ The Drake
Fri. Nov. 17 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas
Sat. Nov. 18 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore
Sun. Nov. 19 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
Mon. Nov. 20 – San Francisco, CA @ CafĂ© Du Nord

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for June 9

A solid week.

Album of the Week:

Artist: The Secret Sisters
Album: You Don't Own Me Anymore
Quick Description: Long-awaited third album from the folkies.
Why You Should Listen: This is a gorgeous, amazing album.
Overall Thoughts: I won’t lie – the second Secret Sisters album didn’t grab me the way the first one did. This new album sounded promising given the early music that was released, and the whole album is a nice, familiar relief. I loved every aspect of this, which is why it’s my album of the week – it’s taken a few albums, but they’ve really perfected their sound. The harmonies are spot on, the music absolutely gorgeous. There is nothing negative I can say about this, and it’s an album that needs to be on your list for listening this week.
Recommendation: A must-listen, easily the best of the week.

Artist: Katy Perry
Album: Witness
Quick Description: Pop starlet's latest.
Why You Should Listen: It's not what you think.
Overall Thoughts: I was actually kind of excited when I heard that Taylor Swift, in the most petty pop star fashion imaginable, put all her music back on Spotify on the day that Katy Perry’s new album came out. They have some sort of feud going, I don’t pretend to know the details, but the end result is that they don’t get along to the point where at least one wants to sabotage the other’s career. So I had it all planned out – I hadn’t heard TayTay’s new album yet, so I’d do a fun tale-of-the-tape thing for yesterday for the two albums. The problem? 1984 is really dull and uninteresting. ESPECIALLY compared to Witness, which is a Katy Perry album that, at least for me, upended what I believe Katy Perry to be. It feels different and ambitious and feels like an attempt to break out of whatever it is she typically does. While 1984 is pop music distilled into its purest, glossy form, Witness feels like someone trying to spread their wings and get out of the polished stuff a bit. It’s a little long and doesn’t always work, but it’s something I found worth listening to. And sure, at the end of the day? I’ll take Carly Rae any day of the week. But if your entire vision of Katy Perry is one of really obnoxious pop star nonsense, this might change your mind without any visuals to go along with it.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Zephaniah Ohora & The 18 Wheelers
Album: This Highway
Quick Description: Great traditional country.
Why You Should Listen: This is a throwback like so many others, yet seems to do it so effortlessly.
Overall Thoughts: We cover a lot of this throwback country folk stuff here, and there’s a habit to make it all out to sound the same or that it’s not breaking ground. I think there’s a bit of a perception that it’s simple music at its core, and that anyone could do it. Zephaniah Ohora is great because, as far as I can tell, he makes the easy sound super difficult to perfect and then does a good job perfecting it. Toward the end of the album, Ohora presents a version of “Somethin’ Stupid” that immediately became a favorite version for me, and it really personifies how really great this record is. A great listen from start to finish.
Recommendation: This is so great, you need to listen to it.

Artist: SZA
Album: Ctrl
Quick Description: First proper album from the buzzworthy R&B singer.
Why You Should Listen: Her first release was really noteworthy.
Overall Thoughts: I really liked SZA’s debut mini-album, and I’ve been waiting for the next thing from her for some time. Unfortunately, this full-length does not feel nearly as unique and groundbreaking as her debut, and that’s a shame. It feels like rote soulful R&B, and in a busy week – and a busy genre, lately – this just doesn’t stand out. I really wanted more from this and it doesn’t deliver on a whole.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: Glen Campbell
Album: Adios
Quick Description: The country legend's final album.
Why You Should Listen: Glen Campbell deserves 40 more minutes of your time, even if this wasn't pretty solid.
Overall Thoughts: Listening to Glen Campbell these days is difficult. My mother is in the last late stages of Alzheimer’s, and knowing that Campbell is going through the same trajectory doesn’t make this farewell album any easier. Campbell always had a purity of sorts to his approach, and while his voice is wavering a little more on this album, this is a worthy, albeit sad, curtain call for the country legend.
Recommendation: Worth at least one listen.

Artist: Kronos Quartet
Album: Folk Songs
Quick Description: The contemporary classical act goes a little more modern.
Why You Should Listen: It's pretty and it has some of your favorites featured.
Overall Thoughts: Kronos Quartet is the classical instrumental go-to for the indie set, I feel, and their latest album is a series of collaborations with some of our favorites here. It’s musically interesting, it’s contextually exciting, and there are a lot of solid musical parts to this whole that make it a worthwhile endeavor. The Rhiannon Giddens stuff in particular is an attention-grabber at first listen, so definitely give this one a fair shot.
Recommendation: Absolutely a fun, interesting listen.

Artist: Rancid
Album: Trouble Maker
Quick Description: The latest from the punk rock royalty.
Why You Should Listen: I mean, it's Rancid. You have to ask?
Overall Thoughts: Rancid has been around forever, and this new record… well, it’s Rancid. I’m not sure what to expect in terms of anything new, but it’s that classic slice of punk rock that feels familiar. This won’t bring along any new fans, and there’s no “Time Bomb” or anything like that, but it’s a solid traditional punk record.
Recommendation: You know what you're getting here.

Artist: London Grammar
Album: Truth is a Beautiful Thing
Quick Description: Gorgeous light rock.
Why You Should Listen: No other group sounds like this.
Overall Thoughts: I see a lot of people refer to London Grammar as a purveyor of torch songs, and okay, sure. For me, they fill a niche hole that I didn't realize I wanted filled, and it just works. This new album has a seemingly fuller sound than their last, and it's just so, so pretty. You won't find anything else recently that does what London Grammar is doing here, and that alone is a reason to check them out.
Recommendation: A great listen.

Artist: Allie X
Album: ColleXion II
Quick Description: Indie pop with a mainstream bent.
Why You Should Listen: You like pop music but don't care to admit it.
Overall Thoughts: It's frankly strange to listen to this the same week as Katy Perry, given that Perry is trying new things while Allie X, instead of doing some stuff that made her interesting in the past, stays in her lane. I was obsessed with the initial mix of "Old Habits Die Hard," and the new take feels kind of sanitary and bland... a good take on this album on a whole, honestly. I wanted more than I got, and ultimately...
Recommendation: ...this was a disappointment.

Artist: Phoenix
Album: Ti Amo
Quick Description: Latest from the French indie favorites.
Why You Should Listen: They get a little weird?
Overall Thoughts: I think what's striking about this album is that it feels like a recent Ra Ra Riot record while still maintaining that purity that comes from what Phoenix does. They've never been a favorite of mine, but they know how to write a great indie rock song and this album is less about those and more about mixing it up a bit. I'm into it, moreso than anything since Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
Recommendation: Really solid listen.

Artist: Big Thief
Album: Capacity
Quick Description: Highly-anticipated sophomore effort from the indie act.
Why You Should Listen: You recognize "Masterpiece" as the song it is.
Overall Thoughts: I'll say two things about this album: 1) It's not what you think it is in that it doesn't sound completely like their first album, and there is not a song on here that's quite like the breakthrough "Masterpiece" was, and 2) this album is one of the best of the week, if not the year, because it's such a really gorgeous, well-crafted album from start to finish. I was taken aback by how quiet and seemingly introspective it was on first listen, and while I'm not sure it lands quite the way I expected after their first album, that doesn't matter. This album is simply great.
Recommendation: A high-quality, must-listen effort.

Artist: Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, James McAlister
Album: Planetarium
Quick Description: A concept album about the Solar System from some indie rockers and a classical composer.
Why You Should Listen: This is just weird enough to be fun, but still fun enough to not be too weird.
Overall Thoughts: Sufjan Stevens put out an ambitious, strange album called The Age of Adz however many years ago. An experiment in electronic sounds and such, it was probably a little divisive even though I was into it. This concept album absolutely has those touchstones throughout, but I don't mean to diminish the other efforts as well - Nico Muhly's influence is probably the clearest, where the way this is structured has a modern classical feel to it without being completely incomprehensible. I've written about "challenging" albums before, and this certainly qualifies, but not in a way where I feel it would be inaccessible to most listeners. It's weird, but it's wonderful.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Also out this week:

* Chuck Berry - CHUCK
* American Epic: The Collection