Thursday, August 31, 2017

Jessica Lea Mayfield - "Meadow"

Photo by Ebru Yildiz
September is a ridiculously stacked release month for music, but with each song the new album from Jessica Lea Mayfield speeds up our list of "most anticipated."

The latest song is "Meadow." While her entire album Sorry Is Gone is about empowerment and taking her life back, "Meadow" feels especially along this vein. Mayfield's voice comes across particularly breezy and vulnerable in this song, even for her. As the song progresses, it becomes a little more assured and powerful. The instruments become more forceful throughout the song, too. It's a great song that harkens back to the 90's alternative singer/songwriter movement that included Liz Phair and Elliott Smith.

You can watch the great video for "Meadow" below. And, seriously, it's a great video. Unfortunately, it's about 20 years too late to be in the MTV Buzz Bin. The newest album from Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sorry Is Gone, will be out September 29 on ATO Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Mayfield, check out her Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Alex Lahey - "Lotto in Reverse"

Photo by Giulia McGauran
While I absolutely loved Alex Lahey's last single "Every Day's the Weekend," it was despite how much of a pure pop song it was. With her latest, "Lotto in Reverse," I don't have that slight problem.

"Lotto in Reverse" is a pop song, sure. But it's a pop song the way most of my beloved mid-90's post grunge alternative music was pop music. It's incredibly catchy, and Lahey's voice is far too melodic to ever be anything but pop. However, there is just enough angst and noise in the music to keep it from being too sugary. The guitars are just crunchy enough with the slightest hint of 90's aggression to keep it interesting. Not to mention that Lahey is quickly becoming one of the best lyricists of her generation. (Must be something in the water down in Australia.) It's an absolute perfect noisy power pop song.

You can watch the lyric video for "Lotto in Reverse" below. Alex Lahey's debut album, I Love You Like a Brother, will be out on October 6 on Dead Oceans. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Lahey, check out her website. Her upcoming tour dates are below.

Tue. Oct. 26 - Brussels, BE @ Botanique Witloofbar
Fri. Oct. 27 - Rotterdam, NL @ V11

Mon. Oct. 30 - Cologne, DE @ Blue Shell

Tue. Oct. 31 - Hamburg, DE @ Molotow Musikclub

Wed. Nov. 1 - Berlin, DE @ Privat Club 

Wed. Nov. 3 - Munich, DE @ Kranhalle 

Sat. Nov. 4 - Stuttgart, DE @ Keller Klub 

Sun. Nov. 5 - Fribourg, DE @ Espace culturel Le Nouveau Monde 

Mon. Nov. 6 - Paris, FR @ La Mécanique Ondulatoire

Wed. Nov. 8 - London, UK @ Boston Music Room 

Tue. Nov. 9 - Bristol, UK @ The Louisiana 

Fri. Nov. 10 - Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club 

Sat. Nov. 11 - Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute 

Sun. Nov. 12 - Glasgow, UK @ King Tut's Wah Wah Hut 

Wed. Nov. 15 - Allston, MA @ Great Scott

Thu. Nov. 16 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Fri. Nov. 17 - Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live

Sun. Nov. 19 - Washington, DC @ DC9

Wed. Nov. 22 - Toronto, ON @ The Drake Hotel - Underground

Fri. Nov. 24 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean

Sat. Nov. 25th - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry

Wed. Nov. 29 - Dallas, TX @ Club Dada

Thu. Nov. 30 - Austin, TX @ Barracuda

Sat. Dec. 2 - Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge

Sun. Dec. 3 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court

Tue. Dec. 5 - Phoenix, AZ @ The Rebel Lounge

Wed. Dec. 6 - San Diego, CA @ The Casbah

Fri. Dec. 8 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo 

Sat.Dec. 9 - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill

Mon. Dec. 11 - Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios

Tue. Dec. 12 - Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt

Wed. Dec. 13 - Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey

Lenore. - "Ether's Arms"

Photo by Kim Smith-Miller
The word "haunting" gets thrown around a lot with music. It's the kind of description I try to avoid using, but sometimes it just perfectly fits. The latest song from Lenore., "Ether's Arms," is exactly the right time. "Ether's Arms" just feels dark. While their sound is rooted in the same world of the current crop of female roots duos like First Aid Kit and The Secret Sisters, Lenore. just veer off in their own almost gothic direction. It's almost like the mainstream cousin of bands like Rasputina or Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys. Plus, it's all packaged in this lush, incredibly well produced and orchestrated package you don't normally get with bands this slightly left of center.

You can listen to "Ether's Arms" below. Lenore.'s self titled debut album will be released on September 15, and can be pre-ordered here. For more on Lenore., check out their website

First Listen, Part Two: More New Releases from August 25

And here's the rest!

Artist: The Sweetback Sisters
Album: King of Killing Time
Quick Description:
Why You Should Listen:
Overall Thoughts: The Sweetback Sisters are probably going to be compared to The Secret Sisters a lot, even though their genres are not mixed in quite the same way. At the core, the idea is similar with an act giving great tribute to a sound of the past, and The Sweetback Sisters dutifully deliver. I have no issues with this album at all except that it feels somewhat light as opposed to truly having a lot of gravity. And there’s nothing wrong with light on a whole, which is probably why I enjoyed this the way I did. I’ll keep coming back to it, for sure.
Recommendation: A fun listen this week.

Artist: Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real
Album: Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real
Quick Description: Pure, unadulterated country rock.
Why You Should Listen: You like Jason Isbell and the like.
Overall Thoughts: Lukas Nelson was sent over by Ken, and I must say – this is a great listen. He’s definitely channeling the new classic country in a way that, truly? Works for me a lot better than the Sturgill Simpson types. This is serious, contemplative, and musically sound, and I was shocked as to how much I really enjoyed this. I find that I compare this a lot to Jason Isbell in my head, but this has a level of grit and grime to it that Isbell lost long ago. Overall, this was almost my album of the week in what is a busy one.
Recommendation: I can’t wait to spend more time with this and see where it goes.

Artist: Lily Hiatt
Album: Trinity Lane
Quick Description: John Hiatt's daughter gives some gritty country goodness.
Why You Should Listen: The pedigree is worth it even if the music wasn't, and the music is worth it.
Overall Thoughts: Daughter of John Hiatt, this album follows along the same lines as your Kathleen Edwards, Elizabeth Cook, Lydia Loveless-style country girl with some attitude thing. Of course, I love it. It’s pretty solid from beginning to end, balancing the country and her own personality with the massive shadow of her father’s legacy looming above it.
Recommendation: This is one of the better listens of the week, IMO.

Artist: Widowspeak
Album: Expect the Best
Quick Description: Off-center indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: This is a complex listen that deserve your time.
Overall Thoughts: Widowspeak toes the line between weird and wonderful on this record. Sometimes they’re a traditional indie band, sometimes they’re throwing you a curveball. The mystery on first listen really drew me in, and I’m not sure how well it will hold up on repeat, but I’m perfectly ready to find out. Definitely worth a listen if you’re into the sort of indie rock that’s been prevalent around these parts as of late.
Recommendation: Add this to your rotation.

Artist: Iron & Wine
Album: Beast Epic
Quick Description: Iron & Wine is back to basics in a sense.
Why You Should Listen: This feels classic yet still modern.
Overall Thoughts: After what felt like a few albums out in the wilderness with some experiments in their sound, Sam Beam and company have seemed to officially found their groove. This album isn’t soft and quiet like the early stuff, but isn’t assaultive like some of the later, either. It’s a pleasant, folky record, slotting right in with your Fleet Foxes types. Will we ever get the early stuff again? Probably not, but this isn’t a bad effort, either.
Recommendation: Worth the listen.

Artist: The War on Drugs
Album: A Deeper Understanding
Quick Description: Mainstream favorite is back with another album.
Why You Should Listen: You loved their Don Henley-style approach.
Overall Thoughts: The War on Drugs reminds me a lot of those 80s rock bands that danced along the lines of prog without actually diving in – your Genesis to a certain extent, your Mike and the Mechanics. The songs here on their second album are extremely good and really well-crafted, but my issue with this band? Everything feels like a chore. I appreciate what is being done here, but goodness is it an exhausting endeavor, and the progressively longer run times of many of these songs begs for an editor or a producer willing to say no. I get that this band scratches a very specific itch for their audience, and they may be one of the more genuinely talented acts out there at present, but I can’t help but continue to wonder what they would be if they would be they had some restraint.
Recommendation: Not for me, but might be for you.

Artist: Queens of the Stone Age
Album: Villians
Quick Description: Alt-rock heroes back with a strange album.
Why You Should Listen: QotSA are generally worth a listen even when it doesn't work.
Overall Thoughts: Speaking of embracing prog rock, here are Queens of the Stone age, a band with membership old enough to be people’s dads trying hard not to slip into dad rock and mostly becoming a weird prog metal hybrid. I’ve always been hot and cold on this band, and this album is no different – the album itself is fine, I guess, but I don’t understand the trajectory or who it is meant to appeal to. This new album feels stark and experimental in ways that just don’t work for me.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: Birds
Album: Everything All At Once
Quick Description: Great, energetic indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: You want something happier than a lot of the sad stuff out this week.
Overall Thoughts: Birds is a localish act doing something fun. My listen had me convinced that Miles Kurosky, formerly of Beulah, had a new band. It’s not, though, and that’s fine – what we get is a solid, poppy, psych-adjacent approach to indie rock that harkens back to the best Elephant Six stuff of a couple decades ago. This was probably the most fun listen of the week for me, and I’m hoping this band gets more attention, as this is a record that could really take off.
Recommendation: A must-listen.

Also out this week:

* My Bubba and Elsa Hakansson - Sing Swedish Songs
* Thee Oh Sees - Orc
* Dan Zanes and Friends - Lead Belly, Baby!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for August 25

Busiest week in a while, so we're splitting this up a bit. More tomorrow!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Kitty
Album: Miami Garden Club
Quick Description: 90s-tinged electro-pop.
Why You Should Listen: This is an unexpected delight.
Overall Thoughts: I don’t know how I tripped up on Kitty however long ago, but while the rest of the musical universe is tripping over itself for their take on the new Taylor Swift song (short answer: it’s not great, but it's catchy as all get out), here’s Kitty doing some really interesting indie electro-pop with a 1990s-era sensibility that I fear is going to be completely ignored. Kitty isn’t reinventing the wheel at all here, but she is doing a good job working within the existing tropes to develop something worth your time whether you’re a fan of the genre or not. I love this album quite a bit, and I keep thinking about it long after I first heard it.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth it this week, one of the best listens of the month.

Artist: Filthy Friends
Album: Invitation
Quick Description: Indie-ish supergroup's debut.
Why You Should Listen: You like R.E.M., and/or Sleater-Kinney, and/or Young Fresh Fellows.
Overall Thoughts: A supergroup including Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney and Peter Buck of R.E.M. should honestly be better than this. The singles have been okay, and there’s definitely a hint of everyone bringing their specialty to the table, but I can’t help ending this album feeling as if it had a lot of opportunity that it didn’t grab. The parts are much greater than the whole on this one, and if you like any of the people involved you’re definitely going to come away with something positive here...
Recommendation: ...but don’t expect something amazing.

Artist: Gogol Bordello
Album: Seekers and Finders
Quick Description: Your favorite European folk punks are back.
Why You Should Listen: They've stored up more than their share of good will.
Overall Thoughts: The “gypsy punks” are back with another album. As with their recent efforts, things have become a little less angsty and energetic, and it means that what you might have loved might not ever be coming back, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t know how to put together a quality rock song. They’re a good band with a good album, and this just doesn’t reach the heights of what this band has been in the past. Take that however you may.
Recommendation: Skip this unless you're a big fan.

Artist: EMA
Album: Exile in the Outer Ring
Quick Description: Latest from the complicated, often shoegazey, indie rocker.
Why You Should Listen: EMA is always an interesting listen.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been a fan of EMA for a while, and it feels like it’s been forever since she’s put out a new record. The good news is that this is a really deliberative affair, and it is scratching that Twin Peaks itch that’s been ever-present all summer for me – a lot of fuzzy, buzzy, droney instrumentation to go with a haunting vocal style that matches it perfectly. If I have a criticism, it’s that the album stays at a fairly even keel, and it never takes off into the stratosphere as you’d expect. But part of EMA’s charm is that she defies expectations whenever possible, so this is a good sign for this album.
Recommendation: I look forward to spending more time with this one.

Artist: Gordi
Album: Reservoir
Quick Description: Chillwave pop? Why not?
Why You Should Listen: This is getting some serious buzz.
Overall Thoughts: Hyped up chill pop music is sometimes my thing, but this ultimately did not connect for me in any meaningful way. It does take a lot for albums like this to jump to the next level, and I just don’t feel as if this one does it. There’s interesting things happening, for sure, but it’s not an album that made me sit up and take attention the way I wanted it to.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Blank Range
Album: Marooned With the Treasure
Quick Description: Vocally-significant folk music.
Why You Should Listen: It's probably the best release this week in this space.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over and it sounds like it’s going to be the folky record of the week. With the point that I tend to say a lot of the same things about these albums, I’ll just say that Blank Range sets itself apart with some bold vocals to contrast with the instrumentation on first listen. It’s an interesting mix that leaves me wanting more while also wanting to come back and hear what I missed the first way through. Not a bad way to get an album out there…
Recommendation: A solid release this week.

Artist: A Giant Dog
Album: Toy
Quick Description: Houston-based punk with a fun sensibility.
Why You Should Listen: This album has some great songs throughout.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been a fan of this Texas punk act for a little while now. They’re not my favorite, but they often come out with a song that just grabs me. “Photograph” is the lead single from this album, a dirty brutally honest love song, and it boosted a lot of my anticipation for this album that, unfortunately, it doesn’t totally meet. They’re a band that has found their groove, for certain, but whether said groove is something that’s grabbing me, I’m not as certain. I’m not saying you’ll hate this if you enjoy some gritty punk stuff, but I can honestly say there’s been better stuff out there for me on a whole this year in this area.
Recommendation: This is a good album, but there are other albums like it this year that might be better.

Artist: Jack Cooper
Album: Sandgrown
Quick Description: High-quality rock music.
Why You Should Listen: This album is guaranteed to surprise you.
Overall Thoughts: Jack Cooper’s album feels like a sort of Tom Pettyish-style rock effort that has a lot going for it. The lyricism is there, the melodies solid, and it has a very unassuming tone to it that I definitely enjoyed. I’m not sure what modern thing to compare it to, which is both a good and bad thing on a whole, but I do hope this finds an audience because Cooper is really doing something special here. Try the final song on the album first and then you’ll surely want to start at the top.
Recommendation: A solid listen this week.

Also out this week:

* Do Pas O - Join the Fucking Drum Circle (Guerilla Toss side project)
* Liars - TFCF
* A$AP Mob - Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy

Talib Kweli - "She's My Hero"

I would write about Talib Kweli's excellent new song, "She's My Hero," but I'm going to let his words explain the song much better than I ever could:

Good morning. Spending time engaging with fans on social media has allowed me to spread information about causes and events ignored by the mainstream media. It has also made me aware of important cultural events and connected me with brilliant people who make me a better human being. It was on social media that I first learned about the story of Bresha Meadows. On July 28th, 2016, Bresha Meadows shot and killed her reportedly abusive father. She was 14 years old at the time.
The first thing that struck me about Bresha was how much she physically reminded me of my own daughter. I had a similar experience when George Zimmerman killed 17 year old Trayvon Martin, who reminded me of my son. I instantly felt drawn to these children and I felt compelled to dive deeper into their lives. Leading up to shooting her father, Bresha’s grades were slipping in school, she had run away from home and had repeatedly told relatives and authorities that her father was beating up her mom and threatening to kill the whole family.
Back in 2011, Bresha’s mother, Brandi Meadows, stated in court papers that she had been cut, suffered broken ribs, a broken nose and black eyes, and that she is 100 percent sure she will be killed. She later reconciled with Bresha’s father, which is a common occurrence in abusive relationships. To this day, the father’s relatives insist he was not nearly as abusive as he was made out to be.
Bresha obviously had a different perspective, telling authorities that the gun she killed her father with was the very gun he used to threaten the family with. After sitting in juvenile detention for 9 months and facing at the very least a very lengthy prison sentence, Bresha accepted a plea deal that will allow her to be released to a residential treatment center for 6 months and then to her family. What struck me about this case was Bresha’s age. I express myself lyrically, so a lyric popped in my head while thinking about it -
“Do you kill yourself or kill the monster thats making you suicidal, decisions to heavy for the mind of a child.”
Regardless of how you feel about this particular case, whether you feel it’s a self defense issue, a domestic abuse issue, a mental health issue or all of the above, the take away for me is that we must do a better job of taking care of and protecting our children. Our children should never feel they have to make these kinds of decisions. I see my own children in Bresha’s young face, and I want to uplift their voices as much as I possibly can. Brandi Meadows has said of her daughter -
“She is my hero. I wasn’t strong enough to get out and help us all.”
That statement got me thinking about what a hero truly is, and made me want to write a song about Bresha. My hope is that this song inspires us as a community to more closely examine the dysfunction within our own families, so that we can create solutions before young people like Bresha feel like they must take matters into their own hands. I present She’s my Hero.
Using the hashtag #FreeBresha supporters of Bresha Meadows have rallied around her, setting up a GoFundMe page for the family.
You can find the latest updates on Bresha’s situation at
You can listen to "She's My Hero" below. For more on Talib Kweli, check out his website. Also, if you happen to be a fan of both Talib Kweli and Patterson Hood, they had a great conversation on the Talkhouse podcast a little while back.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Friday (on a Monday) Freebie: Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors - ENTIRE CATALOG!!!!!

Photo via Facebook
We've been pretty big on Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors for a while now. Jeff in particular has raved about Souvenir and really raved about "Here We Go." Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors just hit that sweet spot of more mainstream roots music for us, without getting too derivative or dull. The only problem is when a band has been around for over 10 years and has over 10 albums out there (including live ones), it can be daunting to get into them. Where do you start? And who has the kind of spare cash to drop on that many releases?

If that's the case, you're in luck. Thanks to NoiseTrade, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors' entire catalog is available for free! Let me repeat that. Every single album from Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors can be downloaded for FREE on NoiseTrade! This includes Souvenir, which was just released five months ago, three live releases, and more! The only thing that appears to be missing is 2007's A Neighborly Christmas, but we won't be too picky. This offer is good only until Thursday, August 31st, so get these now!

You can download all of Drew Holcomb's releases thanks to NoiseTrade. For more on the band, check out their website here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Partner - "Gross Secret"

Photo by Colin Medley
Partner doesn't make music for me. I'm a straight, middle aged male. Partner are two females in their 20s that, according to their Instagram profile, are "Gay but not for each other." Their songs have a sense of humor but stop just shy of being a novelty act. "Gross Secret" is about exactly what it sounds like: Having a secret habit or act that would make people think less of you if they discovered it. I'm a grown adult with a child and a mortgage. I'm above such things.

But Partner are just so good. "Gross Secret" is a catchy as hell, fun straight out rock song. It's like the hard rock of Eight Arms to Hold You era Veruca Salt meets the quirky humor of Cake Like. Picture the fun, more silly songs of AC/DC, but not as douchey. We should be above this kinda thing at our age, but who doesn't love a fun song that rocks just for the sake of being a fun rock song?

You can listen to "Gross Secret" below. Partner's debut album, In Search of Lost Time, will be out September 8 on You've Changed Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Partner, check out their website.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Twain - "Solar Pilgrim"

Like us, you might be familiar with the name Twain than his actual music. He's played with such current folk luminaries as The Low Anthem, Spirit Family Reunion, and The Deslondes, and has played the Newport Folk Festival. He has a new album coming out in October, and has shared the first song from that album.

"Solar Pilgrim" masterfully merges mainstream neo-folk and freak folk. At some moments it seems like he could be the next Langhorne Slim, and at others he's the next Devendra Banhart. It's a touch line to straddle, since going too far either way could be a disaster, but Twain does it expertly. It's all raw, beautiful vocals with hauntingly spare instrumentation that is still fully fleshed out. "Solar Pilgrim" is brilliant.

You can listen to "Solar Pilgrim" below. The new album from Twain, Rare Feeling, will be released October 20 on Keeled Scales. For more information on Twain, check him out on Bandcamp and Facebook. Tour dates, including some with Big Thief and Langhorne Slim, are below.

August 25-27 | Friendship, IN at Whispering Beard Folk Festival
August 26 | Austin, TX at Radio
August 27 | Austin, TX at Track House
September 13 | Holyoke, MA at Gateway City Arts with Big Thief & Lucy Dacus
September 14 | Ithaca, NY at The Haunt
September 16 | Ottawa, ON at CityFolk Festival with Big Thief & Lucy Dacus
September 17 | Cambridge, MA at The Sinclair with Big Thief & Lucy Dacus
September 21 | Johnsonville, CA at Sierra Hoedown
September 26 | New York, NY at Bowery Ballroom with Langhorne Slim
September 27 | Washington, DC at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue with Langhorne Slim
September 28 | Philadelphia, PA at Union Transfer with Langhorne Slim

BIRDS - Everything All At Once

Those of us that love indie rock far above 60's hippie stuff might get scared of a lot of the press surrounding Everything All At Once, the latest album from Brooklyn's BIRDS. Sure, the album has a lot of psychedelic elements, but based on reviews you'd think they were a jam band. Instead, BIRDS are psychedelic the way Built to Spill are psychedelic. To further the Built to Spill comparison, they're a splendid mix of earlier, poppier Built to Spill and later, 10+ minute epic song Built to Spill. The album opener, "See it All," might be the best example with it's swirling guitars, almost military style drumming, and slacker vocals. "Scatter" pulls a bit away from the Built to Spill comparisons and feels like a melding of The Strokes and Superdrag. "Get Away" might be my favorite track, and is what the early 00's garage rock boom would have sounded like if any of the bands came from southern California.

You can listen to "Get Away" below. Everything All At Once is available now on Greenway Records. You can get a physical copy here, and digital options are here. For more on BIRDS, check them out on Facebook and Bandcamp.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Melkbelly - "Middle Of"

Photo by Lenny Gilmore
Last month we brought you the newest song from Chicago's Melkbelly. I raved about it, and the closest thing to a complaint is that "Kid Kreative" didn't get quite as noisy as I wanted it to. Maybe they heard me, because "Middle Of" brings that noise.

"Middle Of" is still awash in the kind of alternative pop that dominated the post grunge mid 90's. It's an intense, but playful song. It's fast, but not hard. It's bouncy without being sugary. And then there's the noise. It has the kind of crunchy guitars that make me long for my days of college radio. It even has a Sonic Youth style instrumental break down to end the song. But it's early on, when this whiny feedback blast kicks in for far too long and makes you want to almost turn the song off. Almost. For some of us, this is pure perfection.

You can watch the video for "Middle Of" below. Melkbelly's new album, Nothing Valley, will be released on Wax Nine, aka Sadie Dupuis' imprint. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Melkbelly, check out their website.

Wed. Sep 6 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo w/ Protomartyr
Thu. Sep. 7 - Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery w/ Protomartyr
Fri. Sep 8 - Raleigh, NC @ Hopscotch Festival
Sat. Sep. 9 - Asheville, NC @ Mothlight w/ Protomartyr
Sun. Sep. 10 - Cincinnati, OH @ Northside Yacht Club w/ Protomartyr
Fri. Oct. 13 - Chicago, IL @ The Hideout (Record Release Show)
Fri. Oct. 20 - Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for August 18

A slowish week with some real gems.

Album of the Week

Artist: Rainer Maria
Album: S/T
Quick Description: Comeback album from the indie rock darlings.
Why You Should Listen: Because Rainer Maria rules, that's why.
Overall Thoughts: I got into Rainer Maria VERY late. They had already broken up by the time I discovered them, most likely in a post-Reputation haze, and they've played a few comeback shows but the new album was a long time coming. It's here now, though, and it's basically exactly what I wanted. No, there's no "Ears Ring" here, but this sounds like a band that's known for an out-of-style genre that's back together for another run. It's just simply a must-listen, and the best of the week. A very welcome return.
Recommendation: This is so good, guys.

Artist: The Two Tens
Album: On Repeat
Quick Description: Garage-style power pop.
Why You Should Listen: You always wondered what the love child of The Hives and The White Stripes would sound like.
Overall Thoughts: Some interesting power pop with a little bit of a punk bent to it, this duo has some great chops and gives a more melodic White Stripes feel to an album that doesn’t always hit the mark, but when it does nail it (like with “Not Alright”), it sounds like it’s straight out of the early-aughts garage revival. This will appeal to plenty of people here even if it didn’t quite work for me.
Recommendation: Give it a shot.

Artist: The Yawpers
Album: Boy in a Well
Quick Description: Risky folk rock.
Why You Should Listen: You don't mind when roots music takes chances.
Overall Thoughts: A somewhat schizophrenic effort that has a foundation in the rootsy genres, with songs like “Mon Dieu” having a neat rockabilly feel while others more folky, but this album combines a very low-fi feel with a little too much going on, and the result is, unfortunately, a very uneven record that ultimately didn’t work for me. I like it when bands take chances and try to shake it up...
Recommendation: ...sometimes, though, it just doesn’t succeed.

Artist: Kacy and Clayton
Album: The Siren's Song
Quick Description: Purist roots music.
Why You Should Listen: You wanted something more traditional.
Overall Thoughts: Another rootsy effort this week, this one feels a little more traditional and a little better as a result even while it wears its influences on its sleeves. This is a solid listen on a whole, and one of the better ones this week.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Amanda X
Album: Giant
Quick Description: Alt-rock revival record of the week.
Why You Should Listen: Amanda X feels really pure and solid.
Overall Thoughts: In the continuing revival of the sort of grungy 1990s alternative music, Amanda X is somewhat channeling the lo-fi corner with this album. I spent a lot of time wishing it was louder, if I’m being honest, but there are so many good songs here that I can ultimately forgive what I feel are some production errors. In a way, this album is almost what I wanted Mitski to be with Puberty II last year.
Recommendation: One of my favorite listens of the week, and you owe it to yourself to give this a listen. Just turn it up a bit.

Artist: King Gizzard the Lizard Wizard and Mild High Club
Album: Sketches of Brunswick East
Quick Description: Prolific indie rockers with yet another release.
Why You Should Listen: You're along for the ride, right?
Overall Thoughts: The band is intent on pushing out five albums in a twelve month period, and here’s the latest even though I’m still not recovered from their prog rock experiment a few weeks back. This album here is more along the psych folk lines, and is a lot more pleasant and much less aggressive. Your enjoyment may continue to rely on how much you enjoy this overall schtick, but kudos to them for mixing it up in a time where an ambitious project like this could end up with a lot of repetitive stuff.
Recommendation: Worth your time, again.

Artist: Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne
Album: Not Dark Yet
Quick Description: Surprisingly great collaboration.
Why You Should Listen: Actually, it shouldn't be surprising that this is great at all.
Overall Thoughts: Two (in my mind) underrated country artists come together in a collaboration that feels right within moments of its start. It feels fun yet serious, gritty while still professional. I have no complaints at all and can’t wait to go back, even if it’s to put their country folk take on Nirvana’s “Lithium” on repeat.
Recommendation: A must-listen.

Artist: A$AP Ferg
Album: Still Striving
Quick Description: Latest A$AP Mob release.
Why You Should Listen: You're into all things A$AP.
Overall Thoughts: As a fan of the A$AP Mob, I guess I’ll come out and say that I think the A$AP thing might be worn out for me. Either that or I just really prefer Rocky’s stuff. I didn’t love Ferg’s first record, and this one was absolutely better but just didn’t grab me at all.
Recommendation: Unfortunate, but there we are.

Artist: Dent May
Album: Across the Multiverse
Quick Description: Latest from the summery indie uke star.
Why You Should Listen: Dent May is a genre all his own.
Overall Thoughts: Dent May made a name for himself somewhat with his ukulele stuff long before ukuleles became trendy and cool. His tone has shifted to more of an indie poolside vibe now, and it works for him but also doesn’t quite make for an exciting listen. I’m a fan overall, but this album feels like more of a background thing than something I can see myself loving and enjoying. In a short week, it’s worth your time, but you might not love it the way you want to.
Recommendation: Try it, you might like it.

Artist: Grizzly Bear
Album: Painted Ruins
Quick Description: Indie chamber rock.
Why You Should Listen: Grizzly Bear has done enough solid stuff to give this a look.
Overall Thoughts: Grizzly Bear continues to do their own thing, and do it well. I’ll be honest – I thought “Two Weeks” was brilliant, but that’s ultimately where it ended for me. I haven’t loved much else of what they’ve done, and this album feels like more of the same from them. Ultimately, if you like Grizzly Bear, you’ll probably like this.
Recommendation: For the rest of us, there are other options.

EPs of note:

* Scarborough - Welcome to the Monkey House (EP from Joe Scarborough of MSNBC fame - this is surprisingly competent)
* Lilith - Apology Plant (full album now pls thx)
* The Mynabirds - Be Here Now Part II
* Alice Glass - Alice Glass

Also out this week:

* Everything Everything - A Fever Dream
* Coasts - This Life Vol. 1
* KMFDM - Hell Yeah

Anna Tivel - "Illinois"

Photo via Facebook
You ever listen to a new song from a brand new artist and just know you're hearing from someone special that's going to be huge in a few years? That's how I feel while listening to the new song from Anna Tivel.

"Illinois" has that rarity in modern folk in that it will work for mainstream music fans and for more indie loving purists, the way Iron & Wine does. Listening to the song, it seems like standard singer/songwriter fare, but something just makes it more vital. Tivel has a quality to her voice that just sucks you in and makes you need to pay attention, much like Tori Amos or Cat Power. "Illinois" is about a friend of Tivel moving away for a toxic relationship and imagining her finally leaving and driving home. It's deeply personal songs like this that lead to audience members breaking out in tears during her sets. Tivel will truly be something special.

You can listen to "Illinois" below. Anna Tivel's new album, Small Believer, will be out September 29 on Fluff & Gravy Records. For more on Anna Tivel, check out her website.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Shods - "Girl I Got You"

Photo via Facebook
Back in March, we got a taste of new music from The Shods. Since then, they've started a GoFundMe to help pay for the recording of a new album. We now know a little of what the new record will sound like with the early release of "Girl I Got You." It's a very rough cut (it's not mixed or mastered, needs some more vocals, and there are some unrecorded string parts), but we'll take any new Shods songs we can get. It's definitely an "Unfinished/Rough Cut," but the foundation for a great power ballad is definitely there. Plus, hearing early, rough, demos for songs always make the finished product that much more interesting.

You can listen to the unfinished version of "Girl I Got You" below. The Shods are still looking for some financial help to finish the song and album, which will be titled Exarchia. You can find their GoFundMe here. For more on The Shods, check out their Facebook.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Duds - "Elastic Feel"

Duds are an odd band that won't be for everyone. The newest song off their upcoming album, "Elastic Feel," is just about as punk as post punk can get, without being heavy. I know I'm the same guy that always mentions that bands called "punk" today don't seem heavy enough to be truly punk, but this just is. Plus, it has some of the same quirky indie rock elements of bands like Archers of Loaf and Pavement, so it should be even further away from punk, but it's not. And then it all ends in a James Chance and The Contortions style squealing noise burst. Like I said, this won't be for everyone, but if it's your thing, you're going to love Duds.

You can listen to "Elastic Feel" below. Duds' debut album, Of a Nature or Degree, will be out September 22 on Castle Face Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Duds, check them out on Facebook and Bandcamp.

First Listen: New Releases for August 11

A solid week!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Matt Pond PA
Album: Still Summer
Quick Description: Latest from the indie rock act.
Why You Should Listen: This is their best effort yet in a series of solid listens.
Overall Thoughts: Matt Pond PA’s continuing to put out high quality records. This might be their third since the band announced they were finishing up, but I’m fine with seeing more releases if they’re this good. The title track is great indie power pop with a light touch, and of course we love “The Ballad of Matt and Laura” around these parts. Truly, they’ve put out three of their best albums in recent succession, and this is continuing along those lines.
Recommendation: A solid listen and the best of the week.

Artist: David Rawlings
Album: Poor David's Almanack
Quick Description: Gillian Welch collaborator with a new album of rootsy goodness.
Why You Should Listen: David Rawlings is responsible for some of the purest roots music going.
Overall Thoughts: Dave Rawlings is probably best known for his collaborative efforts with Gillian Welch. Considering how scant her output is, it’s great to have a new record from Rawlings this week. In a way, it’s more of that gritty, old-style country folk that he and Welch are so skilled at producing, but it does have a more modern feel to it from a production standpoint that ultimately works. Really, you can’t go wrong anyway, but this is a great listen this week regardless.
Recommendation: Make sure this hits your rotation.

Artist: Jeremy Pinnell
Album: Ties of Blood and Affection
Quick Description: Roots rock with a very populist sound.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking to dip your toe in the mainstream, not dive right in.
Overall Thoughts: It’s kind of odd to hear Jeremy Pinnell’s purist country in a week with a Dave Rawlings release. This feels like what you’d expect from so-called “Outlaw Country” a decade ago, which is all well and good, but when you have people like Sturgill Simpson changing the game a bit, this starts being a little less solid. This is not a bad album by any measure – it just feels a little out of place. It’s too traditional to be alt-country, too left-of-center to fit into the modern mold. It’s fine that it stakes its own ground in the modern era, but my takeaway was “yeah, this is great, but I still would rather hear X” during certain songs.
Recommendation: Absolutely give this a listen, don’t get me wrong – this just might not hit the notes you want it to.

Artist: Suzanne Santo
Album: Ruby Red
Quick Description: Genre-straddling singer-songwriter stuff.
Why You Should Listen: This is a solid and unique listen this week.
Overall Thoughts: I don’t know what drew me to this album or what, but this was a great listen on a whole. Suzanne Santo is making some interesting stuff here, and there’s a bit of a folk/country feel to this while still feeling more like a gritty solo rock record. It’s always difficult to straddle the line this way, but Santo mostly pulls it off in this album. Some of the more soaring vocals might be a turnoff for some listeners, but it wasn’t a negative for me
Recommendation: Overall, a positive listen.

Artist: Dan Wilson
Album: Re-Covered
Quick Description: Semisonic singer and songwriter sings songs he scribed.
Why You Should Listen: Dan Wilson's won Grammy awards for this stuff.
Overall Thoughts: I missed this one last week, and I’m disappointed that I did given how much of a fan I’ve been of Wilson’s post-Semisonic work. His work as a songwriter? He doesn’t write for a lot of acts that I consider myself a fan of, and this album of performances of songs others made famous works for what it is, but since I don’t know a lot of the originals… I will say that his take on “Someone Like You” is really great and I think his voice is better for it than Adele’s (#hottake) but on a whole...
Recommendation: ...I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Artist: Jen Cloher
Album: Jen Cloher
Quick Description: New album from a talented singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Her influences ring proudly and it works really well.
Overall Thoughts: A very interesting release this week. Cloher feels like a cousin of folks like Courtney Barnett who are turning the whole singer-songwriter thing on its ear a bit. This doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into any specific genre, which is to its benefit, but it’s hard not to hear a lot of favorites, from Barnett to Liz Phair, influencing the proceedings. This is a great listen, and was one of my favorites this week.
Recommendation: Definitely worth giving a shot.

Artist: Guided by Voices
Album: How Do You Spell Heaven
Quick Description: Latest from the indie rock superstars.
Why You Should Listen: Guided by Voices may as well be Pavement considering their importance.
Overall Thoughts: GBV has been around forever, Robert Pollard one of the most productive songwriters in modern times, and with the amount of music he puts out, GBV hasn’t had an album full of gems in a while. For this album, there are definitely a few solid tracks (“Steppenwolf Mausoleum” is a true highlight) mixed in with a lot of forgettable stuff, which could probably define GBV anyway.
Recommendation: Listen once, take what you like, and move on. No losses here.

Artist: Downtown Boys
Album: Cost of Living
Quick Description: Political Providence punks with a timely new record.
Why You Should Listen: They're a favorite around here for good reason.
Overall Thoughts: A political punk favorite here at the blog, the new album accomplishes what it seeks to do. There’s a lot of this that isn’t my style, and I don’t think I would agree with much of anything they would have to say within their politically-charged lyrics, but there’s a real fun urgency here that pushes the punk aesthetic they’re putting forward into a different gear than many of their peers. This could be a breakthrough of sorts for them given the climate (especially after this weekend), so if you like your punk rock with a side of ideology, keep your eyes on this one.
Recommendation: Will scratch this itch if you have it.

Artist: Frankie Rose
Album: Cage Tropical
Quick Description: Busy singer-songwriter gives us a new solo record.
Why You Should Listen: It's maybe the best work she's put out.
Overall Thoughts: Another favorite of mine this week. While I’ve really been into the whole 1990s alternative aesthetic as of late, I feel like the synthy stuff has been more hit-and-miss. Frankie Rose has been in a number of solid bands over the last decade, and this solo take is some great songwriting. I feel like the overall tone of it doesn’t always hit the mark, but when it’s clicking on all cylinders it’s arguably better than anything she’s done post-Dum Dum Girls.
Recommendation: You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check this out.

Artist: Oneohtrix Point Never
Album: Good Time Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Quick Description: Movie music from a challenging electronic artist.
Why You Should Listen: Oneohtrix Point Never is doing some of the most interesting electronic music since Aphex Twin's height.
Overall Thoughts: I’m never going to complain about new music from Oneohtrix Point Never, even if it’s in a soundtrack/score form. This is challenging and atmospheric and sparse while maintaining the urgency I’m looking for, and that’s kind of this act in a nutshell anyway.
Recommendation: You should give this a shot.

EPs of note:

* Jess Penner - Imagination (Jess Penner offers an EP of takes on family-friendly classics. This might be a little *too* on the nose from a quirk standpoint, but I won’t sit here and say I didn’t enjoy it.)

Also out this week:

* The Districts - Popular Manipulations (fairly basic alt-pop/rock)
* Donnacha Denney et al - Tessallatum (interesting modern classical)
* Kesha - Rainbow (as someone who likes pop music, this is Not My Thing.)