Tuesday, October 31, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for October 27

Another busy week as we race toward the end of the year...

Album of the Week:

Artist: Common Holly
Album: Playing House
Quick Description: Surprising alt-rockish debut.
Why You Should Listen: You're fully and completely enjoying this
Overall Thoughts: Album of the week for me and it wasn’t really close. I thought this would be a gentle folky thing from the limited pieces I heard, but it turns out this has a lot of interesting musical wrinkles throughout. Sometimes it’s alt-rock, sometimes it’s some interesting indie pop, but it always kept me on my toes in the best possible way. The album had me saying wow within the first track, and I was hooked by the third. This one is a late surprise entry in the best albums race, and worth your time.
Recommendation: You need to hear this

Artist: Dr. Quandary
Album: Jukebox Buddha
Quick Description: Solid, old-style electronic music.
Why You Should Listen: You grew up in the midst of the electronica explosion.
Overall Thoughts: This felt like a strange little nostalgia hit for me. I was alerted to this because a favorite twitterer and podcaster, Timescanner/Richard Penner, is featured on the first track, but this album in and of itself feels like one of those late 90s genre-bending electronic efforts that I generally love. Has a hint of found audio, an interesting narrative structure on occasion, and is ultimately likely the most interesting release of the week.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Artist: Stereophonics
Album: Scream Above the Sounds
Quick Description: Uber-popular British act with a new album.
Why You Should Listen: There are a lot of solid songs here.
Overall Thoughts: Stereophonics probably deserve a lot more attention for their contribution to the whole Britpop thing, and their new album is a good reminder of how a band that’s been around for a while can still feel their age while also remaining relevant. There’s a lot to unpack here on a whole, but the lead single “All of the Night” is a reminder about how solid songwriting can trump a lot of other issues in a variety of ways.
Recommendation: This is a solid listen from an act that has a well-earned reputation.

Artist: L'Orange
Album: The Ordinary Man
Quick Description: A well-regarded producer back with a new album.
Why You Should Listen: One of the more interesting listens this week.
Overall Thoughts: The hip-hop producer is back with another album, and this continues to work as a solid listen overall. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this album in particular except that there’s enough interesting stuff here where fans should definitely be taking a look.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Fever Ray
Album: Plunge
Quick Description: First album in years from the enigmatic singer.
Why You Should Listen: Fever Ray is always interesting.
Overall Thoughts: I was just thinking of Fever Ray about a month ago, as we haven’t heard from The Knife in ages and the last Fever Ray album was years ago. Suddenly we got a surprisingly accessible single and a new album that isn’t as weird as I would have expected. This is good – it feels a little more restrained than previous efforts, however, which might be a drawback for some longtime fans.
Recommendation: A good listen on a whole.

Artist: Adam and the Flood
Album: Move Toward Life
Quick Description: Local indie rap-folk(?)
Why You Should Listen: This is a pretty good mashup of genres.
Overall Thoughts: A localish act, the best way I can describe them is if Cage the Elephant doubled down on what “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” offered. Sort of a weird roots-hop hybrid, it often works and is sometimes a little out there, but if you’re looking for something a little different...
Recommendation: ...this is worth hearing.

Artist: Julien Baker
Album: Turn Out the Lights
Quick Description: New album from a buzzworthy voice.
Why You Should Listen: This was very close to my album of the week.
Overall Thoughts: This is the sort of folky stuff we love here. Julien Baker has an interesting voice and good instrumentation, but what comes across as unassuming at first blush slowly reveals itself to be a lot more by the time I got to the end of it. This is probably the album I am most looking forward to spending more time with soon, and you might find a lot to love here if the sort of Julia Jacklin/Erin McKeown-type stuff works for you.
Recommendation: One of the week's best.

Artist: Daniele Luppi
Album: Milano
Quick Description: Collaborative stuff with an indie bent.
Why You Should Listen: This is one of the stranger listens this week.
Overall Thoughts: This was a confusing listen if only because it’s trying to be a few things at once and it ends up being a rather muddled affair. There are a lot of features by acts we love but something in here just isn’t clicking for me. This is worth a listen because of its mere existence, but I can’t promise you’ll love what you hear here.
Recommendation: Be wary.

Artist: The Wailin' Jennys
Album: Fifteen
Quick Description: Gorgeous old-style roots music.
Why You Should Listen: You know deep down you're looking for that O Brother magic again.
Overall Thoughts: Bringing this up on Spotify, you see a group of country-fied women, and I was looking forward to a rockin’, rootsy time. Instead, I got some super soulful roots music, much of it a capella, with beautiful harmonies and lovely voices. This won me over really fast, and it’s going to defy your expectations, I’m sure.
Recommendation: Listen, you'll love it.

Artist: The Ghost of Paul Revere
Album: Monarch
Quick Description: Rootsy country folk.
Why You Should Listen: You're loving this genre.
Overall Thoughts: On the other hand, this is a record that has some really interesting things happening, but I feel like we’re in the midst of a real glut of folksy, country-style male singer songwriters who aren’t doing a lot to stand out. The Ghost of Paul Revere is fine, but I feel like I’ve heard this a dozen times this year and that’s just not enough to cut it in busy weeks like this.
Recommendation: This is fine, just inessential.

Artist: Henry Jamison
Album: The Wilds
Quick Description: Latest from the country-folk act.
Why You Should Listen: Jamison is a favorite here for a reason.
Overall Thoughts: Henry Jamison is a favorite of Ken’s as of late, and the voice that comes to mind here is a lot of early Elvis Perkins, where you have the whole folk thing going but you’re adding a little something extra on top of it. This is a pretty sweet album, and a great example of trying to find some way to break through when there are dozens doing the same thing.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: Petra Glynt
Album: This Trip
Quick Description: Strange, off-center indie music.
Why You Should Listen: You wish TuneYards were more accessible but still artsy.
Overall Thoughts: I can't say I have a ton of input on this one. This is a super interesting listen that was really reminiscent of TuneYards in many regards, but is much more mainstream-sounding. I liked this enough, and I think it needs some time to really figure out where I sit on this, but this is absolutely the challenge listen of the week for many.
Recommendation: Be wary, but you might love it.

EPs of note:

* MO - When I Was Young
* SHEL - Undercover
* The Infamous Stringdusters - Undercover, Vol. 2
* Helena Hauff - Have You Been There, Have You Seen It

Other albums out this week:

* Weezer - Pacific Daydream (sigh)
* Sol Heilo - Skinhorse Playground/
* Da Flyy Hooligan - S.C.U.M.
* Powerman 5000 - New Wave
* Bootsy Collins - Worldwide Funk
* Dub Pistols - Crazy Diamonds

Monday, October 30, 2017

Ruby Boots - "It's So Cruel"

Photo by Cal Quin
The latest single from Ruby Boots pounds some of our favorite genres into a single cohesive song. "It's So Cruel"  has the chugging guitars, beat, and attitude of the whole indie rock/garage rock sound. Plus, it's has the grooviness of the 60's go-go boots era personified by Nancy Sinatra and the glam of T-Rex. The whole thing is wrapped up in the twang of outlaw country. And those are just the obvious elements. While blending this many genres into a solitary song might create a listening disaster, this is far from what happens with "It's So Cruel." Instead, Ruby Boots has created what might be the coolest song you've heard in years. Not to mention that she's originally from Australia and now resides in Nashville, which might be the two greatest places for a musical artist to call home.

You can watch the video for "It's So Cruel" below. Ruby Boots' Blooshot Records debut, Don't Talk About It, will be out February 9. The album features Nikki Lane on backing vocals (she's also the co-writer on the album) and The Texas Gentlemen as her backing band. You can pre-order your copy here. For more on Ruby Boots, check out her website.

Friday, October 27, 2017

If It's Too Loud... Halloween 2017 Playlist

Halloween is my favorite time of the year. It's the only time of the year when visiting old cemeteries isn't "weird." It's "festive." That also means it's time for our annual Halloween playlist. Every year we try to avoid the usual "Monster Mash" and "Thriller," and instead bring you a playlist reflective of the kind of music we listen to all year round. We have classic alternative (Beat Happening, Dinosaur Jr, Tori Amos), neo-folk/country (Jason Isbell, David Wax Museum, Marlon Williams), classic rock (Bob Dylan, The Jam), some hip hop (Ghostface Killah, Swet Shop Boys), old school punk (The Cramps, Dead Milkmen, Ramones), and even some metal with Dead Cross. At just over two hours, it's perfect for Halloween parties, to put on during trick or treating, or to play during work to drown out your co-workers playing "Wereworlf of London." Happy Halloween!

Friday Freebie: Lydia Loveless - Boy Crazy and Single(s) Sneak Peek

Since starting this blog, there have been two things I've been unabashed in my love for: Free music and Lydia Loveless. My two loves have finally joined together with Boy Crazy and Single(s) Sneak Peak, yet another offering of free music via NoiseTrade. It's a sampler of the just released Boy Crazy and Single(s) collection, which was comprised of the five song Boy Crazy EP along with six non-album singles and B-sides. The sneak peak contains five of the eleven songs on the full compilation, and they definitely didn't skimp on what you get for free. Included in the sampler are "Boy Crazy," which have been the band's legendary closer for years and her cover of Elvis Costello's "Alison." If you haven't listened to us and picked up Boy Crazy and Single(s), this should convince you.

You can download your own copy of Boy Crazy and Single(s) Sneak Peak for free now at NoiseTrade. You can get your own copy of Boy Crazy and Single(s) via Bloodshot Records. You're going to want the full version for her version of Prince's "I Would Die 4 U" alone. For more on Lydia Loveless, check out her website.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dream Nails - "Tourist"

I love riot grrrl bands far more than any man in his 40s should, and I'm thrilled at this current resurgence of the sound of my college years retooled for the current generation. My most recent discovery is London's Dream Nails, who describe them selves as "feminist punk witches." With that description, how are you not going to love them? Their latest single, "Tourist," is "... about men who present themselves as a hero but all they really want to do is fetishise sad girls, make them emotionally attached and then abuse that power. We can smell those guys a mile away and they’re creepy," according to frontwoman Janey Starling. Their sound is similar to Bikini Kill, but nowhere near as aggressive, but instead with a little bit of fun. It's kind of like Bikini Kill meets Bis. 

You can listen to "Tourist" below. Dream Girls' debut EP, Dare to Care, will be out tomorrow, October 27. For more on Dream Girls, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Persian Leaps - Bicycle Face

Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, The Persian Leaps have been an early favorite of If It's Too Loud... They have this great jangly guitar pop sound that we've compared to The Afghan Whigs and The Sheila Divine in the past. The band is back with a new EP, Bicycle Face, which may be their best to date.

The Persian Leaps haven't changed their sound on Bicycle Face. Instead they've perfected it. Bicycle Face is a collection of five incredibly tight indie rock pop songs. It reminds me a ton of the mid 90's when fuzzed out guitars and catchy as hell hooks were all the rage of 120 Minutes. The EP's opener, "Picture My Reaction," is this indie rock anthem that shoots for arenas with it's pure size and force. "Even Less" could secretly be an outtake from Superdrag's Regretfully Yours. 

You can listen to "Picture My Reaction" below. Bicycle Face is available now on Land Ski Records. You can get your own copy over at Bandcamp. For more on The Persian Leaps, check out their website. However, along with the joy of a new EP comes some potentially disappointing news. Last month's EP release show marked their last performance as a full band. Drew Forsberg has announced that they are ready to try something new on their next release. Whatever that may be, we're looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for October 20

A slower week, but an abbreviated post given my schedule blowing up again.

The Plan - Nervous Energy: This is a different one, for sure. The Plan is absolutely going the strange, stilted indie rock route with this, and the returns are interesting in and of themselves. I can’t say for sure whether I liked it, but this is an album of odd song structures and challenging listens. I didn’t love it on first listen, but this is absolutely an album I want to revisit. I recommend giving it a shot, especially in a slower week.

Various Artists - Tegan and Sara Present The Con X: A tribute/covers record of Tegan and Sara’s The Con. It’s not my favorite T&S record at all, and my familiarity with the songs has deteriorated with time. The versions here? As with any album like this, it’s hit-or-miss. Some interesting takes, other ones that just don’t work. Take what you like and leave the rest, I think.

Dori Freeman - Letters Never Read: We enjoyed Dori Freeman’s previous record, and this new one feels like a pretty solid step forward for her sound. She’s starting to remind me a bit of Nora Jane Struthers right before she kind of broke out a bit, and that’s a good sign for Freeman. I don’t think there’s a bad song on this album, and I look forward to spending more time with it.

Elizabeth and the Catapult - Keepsake: Ken was raving about their new song a few months back, and “Shoelaces” from her previous album is an all-time favorite of mine. This album, though? I regret to say that this didn’t grab me. It’s a little slower, a little more methodical, and that’s not always what I’m looking for from this act. It’s not bad, it’s just a little unexpected. If you’re looking for something a little more pop light rock, this might do it for you.

Tracy Bonham - Modern Burdens: Dunno if we’re calling this a return album or something else, but it kicks off with a new take on Bonham’s one big hit and has a ton of guests you love. I don’t know where Tracy Bonham ranks in the sort of late-1990s alt-rock thing these days, but this is a hit of nostalgia on one end and… not the best revival on the other. If there’s a sort of “fans only” thing for her, that might be where this sits.

Twain - Modern Burdens: If Andrew Bird whistled less, rode horses, and hung out with Conor Oberst, you might get Twain. This is a compliment, as this is a pretty decent record on a whole. It has the sort of alt/indie/folk thing to it that’s the rage of late, and has a lot of interesting things happening with the somewhat sparse instrumentation and above-average musicality. This is definitely one you want to keep on your radar this week.

Bully - Losing: If Wolf Alice took a step back, Bully took a big step forward with this one. A more mature, more cohesive listen across the board. Make time for this.

Margo Price - All American Made: No one else sounds like Margo Price in the current musical landscape, and this really feels like it comes straight out of the Opry. There is nothing wrong with this at all, and Margo Price is a national treasure, period.

Lindstrom - It's Alright Between Us As Is: Solid, danceable electronic music with just a hint of strangeness within. Solid listen.

Other albums of note:

* Jessie Ware - Glasshouse
* John Davis and the Cicidas - El Pulpo
* Makthaversan - III

EPs of note:

* Frankmusik - Aw17 (some of his best work)
* Grandaddy - Things Anyway
* Beach Slang - We Were Babies and We Were Dirtbags

Also out:

* Gwar - The Blood of Gods
* Willie and the Boys - Willie's Stash Vol. 2
* Colleen - A flame my love, a frequency (great minimalist electronic music)

Ruby Rose Fox Covers Leonard Cohen

Photo via Facebook
Leonard Cohen wrote "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" about a real woman who was forced to give up her child because she gave birth out of wedlock in 1960's Ontario. Because of this, she took her own life with a gun. Ruby Rose Fox covered the song as a response the mass shooting that took place during a Las Vegas country music festival. Since she recorded her version of the song and its release, it has also gained new significance with the #metoo movement of women sharing their personal stories of sexual assault and harassment to show just how wide spread it is.

Ruby Rose Fox's version of "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" and the accompanying video is haunting. It's haunting to the point that I'm hesitant to use that term since it doesn't feel strong enough. There is an occasional use of a whispered backing vocal that will just chill you to the core. The song, although beautiful, isn't a pleasant listen by any means. But that's kind of the point. It's almost a spiritual relative of Tori Amos' Strange Little Girls, which was an album of covers of songs by male singers/songwriters about violence towards women. For some reason, a listener never quite realizes how horrible these songs can be until a female voice is singing them.

You can watch the video for Ruby Rose Fox's version of "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" below. For more on Ruby Rose Fox, check out her website.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys - "Animals Like Me"

Photo via Facebook
Any regular reader of If It's Too Loud... will know that I'm fairly obsessed with Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys. One of my other favorite things is exploring abandoned places. The Live From Nowhere video series pairs bands performing live with abandoned locations. In the greatest news of the week, Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys have recorded a video for Live From Nowhere. They wrote a new song just for the space, which is an abandoned (and possibly haunted) movie theater. "Animals Like Me" is a creepy intense slow burn of a song, and the accompanying video just adds to the vibe of the song. It's intensely lit with perfect use of shadows, plus it's shot like the viewer is creeping around, spying in on the private performance.

You can watch the video for "Animals Like Me" below. To find out more about Live From Nowhere, check out their Facebook page. For more on Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys, check out their Facebook.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Freebie: Belly - Belly Noise

We haven't brought you a Friday Freebie for far too long, but, luckily, today's is a great one. As I'm sure you're all aware, Belly is back after a 20+ year break. They are currently working on new material and have started a PledgeMusic for fans to pre-order their upcoming new album, but for right now Tanya Donelly and company are giving out a four song sampler of live material and rarities. Out of the four songs, the only live one is "Dusted." The rarities are absolutely fantastic and must haves for any fan of Belly. The first two are from the 90's glory days of film soundtracks: "Thief" was originally from the Tank Girl soundtrack and "Spaceman" came from the Twister soundtrack, which I guess was a thing? The final song on Belly Noise is the absolute must have. It's a cover of "Trust In Me (The Python's Song)" from Disney's The Jungle Book. 

You can get your own copy of Belly Noise right now over at NoiseTrade. In order to pre-order the brand new album from Belly due out next year, head over to PledgeMusic. We certainly can't wait for new music from Belly, and we can barely believe it's actually happening.

Forgotten Fridays: Twisted Willie

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. We go back and remind you of their existence, and help decide if they were any good.

Oh, the mid 1990's. It was the glory days of the compilation album, where labels would just throw a bunch of bands on a cd, knowing that as long as you liked two or three of the bands, you'd but the entire album since there was no way you'd ever have any other way to get a copy of the exclusive songs. One of their favorite ways to put one of these together was a tribute album. You'd get a bunch of bands that would usually never be associated together, often covering an artist you'd never expect. 

One of these tribute albums was Twisted Willie, which is a mostly alternative tribute to Willie Nelson. Including Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings on a tribute to Willie Nelson makes perfect sense, although the Johnny Cash version of "Time of the Preacher" gives Cash a backing band of Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, and Alice in Chains' Sean Kinney, so this is hardly a classic country version. Other bands like the Supersuckers, Reverend Horton Heat, and X make perfect sense since they've always been tinged at the very least with classic country. But then you get the oddballs, like L7. Their version of "Three Days" is a little more melodic than L7 normally are, but it still sounds like L7 except for a bizarre (and fantastic!) twangy breakdown in the middle of the song. The Presidents of the United States of America might have seemed like a weird band to play a country song, but looking back twenty years later and their take on "Devil in a Sleepin' Bag" fits right in their regular catalog. Other weird choices that somehow work include songs by Jello Biafra, Kelly Deal, and Jerry Cantrel.

While the alternative heroes of the 90's playing classic Willie Nelson songs might have seemed weird in 1996, looking back and it makes perfect sense. Willie Nelson's music has always been universal, and, even though 20 year old me would never have admitted it, country music infected a lot of my favorites from back then. Twisted Willie works in ways most other tribute compilations of the time don't. Plus, a lot of the songs feature Willie joining in, because of course they do.

The Dead Milkmen - Welcome to the End of the World

My gushing fandom of The Dead Milkmen has been well documented here at If It's Too Loud..., so I'm obviously thrilled that this week saw the release of a new EP, Welcome to the End of the World. One of the biggest changes with The Dead Milkmen since their return has been their move away from "joke" songs. Hits like "Punk Rock Girl" and "Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance to Anything)" always had them unfairly labelled as a novelty band by some. Their newer material, while still including a biting sense of humor and social satire, could never be called novelty music.

Which leads the newer material to be more traditionally punk than the classic material. While most bands, especially punk bands, tend to get slower, quieter, and more melodic as they age, The Dead Milkmen are getting louder. One of my favorite style of songs that The Dead Milkmen have always done are gleeful songs about horrible things. The EP's title track, "Welcome to the End of the World," is a driving mid-tempo angry but somehow joyous song called "Welcome to the End of the World." It's not all heavy songs on the EP. "The Coast is Not Clear" has a bit of a disjointed New Order feel to it. "Tomorrow Should Have Been Here Years Ago" is almost a drum and bass song, if drum and bass was done by aging indie punk bands from the 80's and 90's. And it wouldn't be a Dead Milkmen release without a freaky surf rock track, which we get in "Battery Powered Rat."

Welcome to the End of the World is out now via The Giving Groove. You can get your copy on vinyl or a digital version here. For more on The Dead Milkmen, check out their website.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Live Shows: The Courtneys, Versing, and Weakened Friends, Great Scott, Allston, MA 10/16/17

Whenever a show I'm planning on attending gets cancelled, I always end up with a feeling of panic and a need to find another show to fill the void. After Jessica Lea Mayfield cancelled her tour and show this week at Great Scott, I started scouring the listings to see what else I could attend. Once I saw that blog favorite Weakened Friends had been added to the already tempting Monday night show for The Courtneys, I knew that would be the one. 

This was my third time seeing Weakened Friends in a little over a year, and their live shows keep getting better. I wouldn't say it's because they're getting tighter as a band. They are a bit, but they're still just sloppy enough to be completely charming. "Miserable" and "Main Bitch" are still complete highlights of any set, with new song "Hate Mail" soon to be a much beloved addition, even without J Mascis on the live version. Weakened Friends seem to be having a blast when playing, particularly bassist Annie Hoffman as she bounces around the stage. Guitarist/singer Sonia Sturino was in rare form, reminding the crowd that they could die at anytime, so we should all enjoy every day equally. Weakend Friends are beginning to hearken back to this glorious but brief time in 1997 where it was completely ok for indie bands to want to be successful. Not huge rock stars, but at least enough to quit their day jobs.

Versing was the band I knew the least amount walking into the show, but I left as a new, obsessive fan. The Seattle band was playing for the very first time in Boston, and we need them back as soon as possible. Their sound reminded me a ton of early Superdrag mixed with The Dismemberment Plan. But loud. Songs like "Call Me Out," "Body Chamber," and "Nirvana" completely won me over. (I'm not completely sure how I feel about a Seattle band calling a song and album "Nirvana," but we'll leave that for another time...) I have a feeling you'll be hearing us rave about Versing for a long time to come.

The Courtneys headlined the evening, and weren't quite what I expected them to be. The newly released album, The Courtneys II, is the epitome of 90's influenced alternapop, but live they seemed much more restrained and raw than the sheen you can hear on the album. It reminded me much more of early that dog instead of the more pop influenced sound that I expected. As much as I enjoyed their performance, it's always hard to completely focus when an unexpectedly fantastic opener like Versing has just mesmerized you. Plus, after two more energetic and frenetic performances, The Courtneys were a wee bit too downbeat for what I needed to keep me going after 11:00 pm on a Monday night. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Flat Five Covers Edgar Allen Poe

We're officially two weeks away from Halloween, so it's time for bands to start releasing special Halloween songs. Chicago's The Flat Five have presented us with a version of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," set to music. Instead of merely reading the classic poem with some moody music in the background, The Flat Five have turned it into a swinging, groovy song. This is the kind of song that would have been a huge megahit in 96-97 when retro cool was all the rage. It has the strangest vibe to it where it somehow feels like swing, beatnik, and something out of the 60's Batman show all at the same time. Odds are that this won't be the next "Monster Mash," but it's a ton of fun.

You can listen to The Flat Five's version of "The Raven" below. The single is available now via Bloodshot Records. You can get a physical copy here, or a digital version through Bandcamp. For more on The Flat Five, check out their website.

First Listen: New Releases for October 13

My time management was really, really poor this weekend from a blogging standpoint. I watched three crappy movies and an awesome one in It Follows (which has a killer soundtrack/score, by the way) instead of doing the requisite stuff for First Listen this week. Please forgive me, especially given as there's 20-something new releases out there this week.


Melkbelly - Nothing Valley: Latest entry in the female-fronted alt-rock thing, but really deserves your time. Shades of Dinosaur Jr here, easily my favorite release of the week.

William Hut and Gisli - 22: His best solo effort (duo, really) in a long time, and is the closest to classic Poor Rich Ones we’ve seen in a long time on his half. The Gisli half is gorgeous in entirely different ways, but both are worth it.

Jeffrey Martin - One Go Around: Solid roots music, lots to love here.

Stars – There is No Love in Fluorescent Light: Best Stars album in 15 years, and a return to form for a band that’s been hit-or-miss lately.

Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice: I don’t love Kurt Vile, but this album simply works from beginning to end. The two here complement each other nicely.

Beck – Colors: His best album in a long time, and one of the more enjoyable listens he’s put out at that. This is what I think of when I think of Beck, and it’s surprising he can put out something like this after being at it for so long.


Lenka – Attune: I still don’t know who she’s supposed to appeal to, but no matter – she’s good at what she does even if she’s probably not going to be your first choice popster.

Terra Lightfoot - New Mistakes: A good listen, but it can’t decide if it’s more roots or more alt-rock, and that lack of clarity dragged it down a lot for me.

Lydia Loveless - Boy Crazy and Single(s): A reissue of her first EP, which is a reminder of why we're so into her. The singles are a lot of covers, which is great.

Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers: Gorgeous Canadian folk, its only flaw is its overall lack of heft/impact.

Robert Plant – Carry Fire: If you liked Raising Sand, this is largely along those lines. It’s hard to separate the man from the album, though – if this were someone who wasn’t Robert Plant doing this, I bet I’d like it more.

King Khan – Murderburgers: A solo effort that sounds a lot like his non-solo efforts. This is fine.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Wild: This is a very reliable and dependable band. Nothing mind-blowing here, but I can see myself coming back to this over and over.

Wu Tang Clan – The Return: This is better than you think it will be, although not as great as you want it to be. Still, the grooves are great and the rapping solid.

St Vincent – MASSEDUCTION: I really wanted to like this more than I did on first listen. Her albums are often growers, though.

Ransom Pier – Beauty and Demise: This won’t work for everyone, but if the vocals and instrumentation work for you, it might become a near-instant favorite for you.

Dead Leaf Echo - Beyond.Desire: Reminds me of those reverb-heavy 80s indie bands. Pretty solid.


Pale Honey – Devotion: Considering how good their first album was, the direction they go here ends up being disappointingly unmemorable. One of my most anticipated albums of the month, and I don’t really know what to say about it.


Neil Finn – Out of Silence: Neil Finn is super important on a whole, but this album generally didn’t work for me.


Elin Ruth Sigvardsson - Fel

Caroline Spence – Secret Garden: Great to hear her music hold up in a stripped-down format.

Mountain Goats – Marsh Witch Visions: Why couldn’t his last album be more like this?

Also out:

Electric Six - How Dare You

The Front Bottoms - Going Gray

Monday, October 16, 2017

Dan Rico - "Flesh & Bone"

Based in Chicago and released on a French record label, Dan Rico's latest 7" is pure 70's power pop joy. "Flesh & Bone" is heavily influenced by T-Rex, which is always a good thing. In fact, it could pass as a long lost T-Rex outtake. It's a mid-tempo groove with swagger to spare. 

The b-side, "Gold Volvo," is another fantastic song. It's a ballad, but has an odd Prince meets Big Star feel to it. You get that hyped up Prince vibe mixed with the sweetness of a song like "Thirteen." This might sound like an odd mixture, but it's fairly perfect. There's also a digital bonus track. "Anyway You Want Me" is another ballad, this one squarely in the Cheap Trick/Big Star side of things.

You can listen to "Flesh & Bone" below. The 7" is available now via Shit In Can Records. You can get your own copy at Bandcamp. For more on Dan Rico, check him out on Facebook.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Film Review: Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story

Even though I consider myself a pretty die hard Bowie fan, I really know very little about how his music came to be. I know some of the names of his collaborators, but I don't know what they did. I always had the assumption that everything was David Bowie and he more or less defined how everything sounded.

That's why Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story was such a revelation for me. Mick Ronson wasn't with David Bowie from the very start, but as the guitarist for the Spiders from Mars, his influence was wildly important to Bowie. Every so often the film seems like it is veering towards telling the story of David Bowie, but the director avoids this and truly tells the story of Mick Ronson, only using Bowie as background and context.

It shows how Ronson helped turn Bowie into a true rock star, by bringing a heavier, more rock n roll sound into his music. Ronson arranged a lot of the strings on Bowie's music, and even though Bowie was credited as the producer of Lou Reed's Transformer, Ronson was the one who knew how to run the boards and did a good amount of the production work. Even though the Spiders from Mars only lasted 18 months, Ronson worked with Bowie on The Man Who Sold the World, Aladdin Sane, Hunky Dory, and The Jean Genie. It also shows off his post Bowie work with artists like John Mellancamp, Morrissey, Bob Dylan, and Tina Turner, up to his too early death in 1993.

Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story is great for those of us who are trying to expand our knowledge of David Bowie besides what we know from just listening. It's also perfect for die hard Bowie fans who might have all the information since it's filled with amazing archival footage and pictures. Plus, it has interviews with Bowie discussing the importance of his work with Mick Ronson.

Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story is available now. You can pick up a copy of the DVD or Blu-Ray here or through Amazon.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

John Davis & The Cicadas - "Contamination In the Grass"

Following up on 2013's Spare Parts, John Davis (formerly of Folk Implosion) is about to release a new album under the name John Davis & The Cicadas. This one is a concept album about "... corporate corruption in the food industry and related issues like (im)migration, mass incarceration, public health, and the stock market." Most of the songs were written back in 2010 and 2012 but were recently recorded in North Carolina where Davis now works as a public school teacher. One of the songs we can now hear, "Contamination In the Grass," is about how society disregards the soil we count on for so much of our needs. It's a moody song that is synth heavy while still feeling rootsy. Concept albums can go horribly wrong, but this one could end up being interesting based on "Contamination In the Grass" and "HFCS."

You can listen to "Contamination In the Grass" below. John Davis & The Cicadas' new album, El Pulpo, will be out October 20 on Shrimper/Revolver. It can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp. For more on John Davis, check out his website.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mr. Lif & Brass Menazeri - "Crypt of Lost Styles"

Way back in 2011, Mr. Lif was invited to play the Seattle Folk Festival. (It might seem like an odd venue for him, but for those of us who've been following Mr. Lif for a while, it makes perfect sense. Also, how aren't more folk festivals booking hip hop artists by now?) He didn't have a backing band, so he was paired up with Brass Menazeri, San Francisco's original Balkan Brass Band. It went so well that they've all joined up for an album coming out next month.

"Crypt of Lost Styles" is virtually perfect. For decades, hip hop artists have been sampling horns, and now Mr. Lif has the energy of a live brass section behind him. It's a sound that's completely obvious in how perfect it all melds, but hasn't really been done before. It's pure old school hip hop through this glorious new prism that feels familiar even though it's completely fresh.

You can listen to "Crypt of Lost Styles" below. Mr. Lif & Brass Menazeri's album, Resilient, will be out on November 3 via Waxsimile. For more on Mr. Lif, check out his website. For Brass Menazeri, check out their Bandcamp. And let's all hope for a collaborative tour.

First Listen, Part Two: More New Releases for October 6

The rest for the week:

Artist: Cults
Album: Offering
Quick Description: Latest from the buzzy reverb rockers.
Why You Should Listen: Cults has made enough of a splash that they're worth a listen.
Overall Thoughts: Everyone knows "Go Outside," but this third album moves in a bit more of a poppy direction for them, and it works in the sense that they absolutely have hit their stride as a band, but this is a sound that hasn't quite stayed as relevant as one might expect. I feel like I'm damning this with faint praise, but this album is just good, but not essential in a busy week.
Recommendation: Perhaps a fans-only affair.

Artist: Liam Gallagher
Album: As You Were
Quick Description: Former Oasis frontman with his debut solo effort.
Why You Should Listen: You really liked Oasis.
Overall Thoughts: This is an okay album. It's not good, it's not bad. But Liam will always be compared to Noel, and we have a High Flying Birds record coming soon, and this is just unfortunate and unnecessary. It's fine, but there's better efforts out there.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Wolf Parade
Album: Cry Cry Cry
Quick Description: New album from the Canadian indie act.
Why You Should Listen: Wolf Parade has traditionally been fairly interesting.
Overall Thoughts: Every time I see a new album from Wolf Parade, I'm surprised because I forget that they didn't break up. The new album sounds somewhat like their older stuff, and that's fine, but there's not a lot that's exciting about this to point out.
Recommendation: Meh.

Artist: The Weather Station
Album: The Weather Station
Quick Description: New album from the Amaricana-tinged indie rock act.
Why You Should Listen: The Weather Station has been sneakily producing some solid listens lately.
Overall Thoughts: I'm trying to figure out why I love The Weather Station but have basically had it with The War on Drugs. There's the same sort of prog feel in a lot of ways, but the things The Weather Station are doing on this album is a great leap forward. If "Thirty" doesn't do it for you, I question the existence of your soul. This is one of the better listens of the week, and needs to be heard.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Yumi Zouma
Album: Willowbank
Quick Description: Latest from the retro-ish rock act.
Why You Should Listen: In a crowded field in this genre, Yumi Zouma sometimes stands out...
Overall Thoughts: ...but doesn't always on this album. There's a distinct lack of growth on this album compared to their last, and that's too bad because there's a lot to like on a whole. I still think they peaked with "Song for Zoe and Gwen," and I keep waiting to get some of that brilliance again. It's not bad, just like so much of this week, but it could be so much better.
Recommendation: Not essential this week, but might be worth some time.

Artist: Kelela
Album: Take Me Apart
Quick Description: Buzzy R&B with a unique sound.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy acts like FKA Twigs.
Overall Thoughts: This is absolutely the most interesting listen this week in a run of good albums from Kelela. I want to love this, and I generally do, but this might be a breakthrough for her that we haven't seen yet. There's a lot in the media about this one, so if you're into a more challenging R&B record that pushes the accessibility envelope, this could be worth your time.
Recommendation: A good listen this week.

Artist: Ducktails
Album: Jersey Devil
Quick Description: Laid back indie rock from a former member of Real Estate
Why You Should Listen: We like Ducktails here and this is a good listen.
Overall Thoughts: I find Ducktails hard to describe for whatever reason. Laid back seems right, but that almost seems to give the album a tone that it isn't maybe trying to put out there. The songwriting is crisp, the songs don't take a lot of risky chances, and the result is a really solid album that may not get the due it deserves. But in a busy week, it's still deserving of your time.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Matt Patershuk
Album: Same as I've Ever Been
Quick Description: Traditional rootsy country.
Why You Should Listen: Nothing like it this week.
Overall Thoughts: Instead of saying a lot of the same things I say week after week on a lot of these somewhat interchangeable country records, know that Patershuk has a really good voice for it and the songwriting here is sharper than most. More listens might reveal some really good stuff here, but for a first listen it doesn't 100% stand out.
Recommendation: Worth your time for a roots listen.

Artist: Slane vs. Termanology
Album: Anti-Hero
Quick Description: Boston-area indie rap.
Why You Should Listen: This is a good blend of old and new.
Overall Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this listen on a whole, there's a lot to love here. The instrumentation feels a little hokey and dated, but the rapping is good enough to ultimately cover for a record that feels about ten years too late in all the right ways.
Recommendation: Find time for this.


* Andrew Bird - Echolocations: River

Also out:

* The Church - man woman life death infinity
* Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Low Cards - "Suffer"

Rhode Island has quietly become a haven for a roots music revival. I recently stumbled across The Low Cards, yet another great Americana/roots/folk artist from RI and their new song, "Suffer." 

"Suffer" isn't the quiet, acoustic singer-songwriter side of the current neo-folk revival. It's a dirty, noisy blues based sound, like if early White Stripes lived down in a swamp and not Detroit. This isn't pretty music, but that's kind of the point. It's an amped up early rock n roll with a modern slant. Even if you cringe at the current crop of bands labelled "folk," you're going to love this song.

You can listen to "Suffer" below. To get your own digital copy, head over to The Low Cards' Bandcamp. For more on The Low Cards, check out their website

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for October 6

A busy week, so we're splitting this in two:

Album of the Week:

Artist: Alex Lahey
Album: I Love You Like a Brother
Quick Description: Debut full-length from someone who we've come to love very quickly here.
Why You Should Listen: This is the best mix of indie, alt-rock, and an older aesthetic I've heard in a while.
Overall Thoughts: Ken’s spent a lot of time raving about Lahey, and both of us had very high expectations for her debut full-length. Somehow she didn’t just meet them, she exceeded them easily. Sing-along choruses, a nice wall of sound that both hits hard and doesn’t overwhelm, an instrumental aesthetic that seems fully rooted in current times while still borrowing heavily from 80s and 90s soundscapes? There’s no flaw in this record at all, and it’s easily my favorite of the week. Unless you’re really, really anti-alt-rock, this has to get into your rotation this week, because Alex Lahey will probably end up being your favorite new musician on the block.
Recommendation: Best of the week, a best of the year candidate, and maybe your new favorite.

Artist: JD McPherson
Album: Undivided Heart and Soul
Quick Description: Latest from the rocker with a classic sound.
Why You Should Listen: His last album was great and he knows how to craft a tune.
Overall Thoughts: JD McPherson had one of my favorite songs in recent memory in “Head Over Heels.” This new album kind of leans into that song a bit, with a lot of well-structured pop rock to go along with everything. This isn’t a bad thing at all in this case, as McPherson has found a unique (to this era) sound that works for him. But if you’re looking for a little more variety, it might not be here as you might expect. This is a good listen, it’s simply surprising that it doesn’t take as many chances as one would expect.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: Ane Brun
Album: Leave Me Breathless
Quick Description: The oddest covers album of 2017.
Why You Should Listen: Ane Brun's voice is unique and has offered a number of great songs.
Overall Thoughts: A singer I’ve enjoyed for a while, this is an interesting-yet-puzzling collection of cover songs ranging from the classic to the confounding – no one is asking for a version of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” as far as I know, but if you were, there’s one here. Her voice is so unique and interesting that the takes on these songs is enough to give this a listen, but for me, this was just one of those weird curiosities rather than a really solid album.
Recommendation: Listener beware.

Artist: Best Girl Athlete
Album: Best Girl Athlete
Quick Description: Genre-hopping sophomore indie effort.
Why You Should Listen: You don't mind surprises in your indie music.
Overall Thoughts: This was an album I picked out solely due to the title of the act. Within the first song I was first impressed by the way the songs were structured, but then there was a rap break. The approach here appears to be to confound expectations whenever possible, and the result is an album that I definitely liked, but found myself questioning a lot of the choices more than really just being able to enjoy what I was hearing. This isn’t to say this is a bad album; it’s just a weird listen with a lot of strangeness seemingly baked in.
Recommendation: I’m not 100% sure it works.

Artist: Silver Torches
Album: Let It Be a Dream
Quick Description: new album from an indie folkie.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of the more quiet side of indie music.
Overall Thoughts: This album reminds me of an old band, Fuck, that hasn’t been heard from in a very long time. Quiet, kinda weird, kinda folky, very unexpected. This album is good, but almost too unassuming, and it’s an album I put on and then it ended and I could barely remember much else except the overall tone. I’ll come back to it, but in a busy week you absolutely want to be more memorable than this.
Recommendation: Not essential in a busy week.

Artist: Kele Okereke
Album: Fatherland
Quick Description: Bloc Party lead singer with an introspective effort.
Why You Should Listen: This is not what you expect at all.
Overall Thoughts: If you asked me what direction a proper Kele Okereke solo album would go, I do not think chamber pop would make it anywhere in the top 30. But here we are, with a very introspective, gentle chamber pop record that would probably be a lot more enjoyable if the Bloc Party baggage wasn’t being towed behind it. Look at it on its own, however, and it’s an interesting album with a lot of positives going for it. The songwriting is great and the musicality behind it impressive. It’s just hard to shake where this is coming from given how long Okereke has been in the musical consciousness.
Recommendation: A weird listen that I didn't love, but didn't hate.

Artist: Dhani Harrison
Quick Description: George Harrison's son's first proper album.
Why You Should Listen: You're a Beatles completist, or just curious.
Overall Thoughts: George Harrison’s only son doesn’t sound like what I expected him to sound like, and that might be a positive in his corner. On the other hand, when we’ve had the “famous kids” albums in recent years, like Harper Simon or Liam Finn, they’ve offered some truly memorable moments both to strike away from their heritage and to make their own names. Harrison appears to be keeping it a little closer to the chest, and that’s fine. It just might not land for everyone as a result.
Recommendation: Not great, but not bad either.

Artist: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Album: The Kid
Quick Description: New album from the indie electronic act.
Why You Should Listen: Smith is getting significant buzz over the last year.
Overall Thoughts: I didn't get to write about it, but I loved her last mini-album. This is definitely in a more pop(ulist) direction, and it's a little off-putting on first listen, but I was hooked by the end and simply can't wait to dive back in. This is a solid listen for anyone, but especially those who like the sort of indie electro stuff I've featured here lately.
Recommendation: Should be something on your list this week.

EPs of note:

* Mirah - Sundial
* Surf Rock is Dead - We Have No Friends

Also out:

* Pearl Jam - Let's Play Two
* The Darkness - Pinewood Smile