Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ric Gordon - Just Can't Get Enough

Last month, Russian Winter Records was moving their office and discovered a box of the 1979 debut EP from Ric Winter, Just Can't Get Enough. They decided to digitize the album, as well as sell the original 1979 copies of the album.

Who even knew there was a punk scene in Kansas City, Missouri back in 1979? One of my favorite things about this original wave of 70s punk is how surprisingly diverse it was. Ric Gordon probably wouldn't be considered punk just a few short years later after the scene went more hardcore or artsy, but Just Can't Get Enough is a great snapshot of just how great and poppy punk could be when it started out. Songs like "Rock-N-Roll Lady" and "Just Can't Get Enough" live in the world that's more polished than early Ramones but more raw than Cheap Trick. And then you get a song like "People Run, People Hide" that somehow hints at post punk and new wave.

You can listen to "Rock-N-Roll Lady" below. You can get a copy of Just Can't Get Enough as a download, CD, or the original 1979 vinyl at Bandcamp

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for February 17

Another crazy release week, but a lot of middle-of-the-road stuff. So we'll cover the real highlights, and do quick hits on the rest.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Molly Burch
Album: Please Be Mine
Quick Description: Singer-songwritery roots-ish goodness from a Sallie Ford tourmate.
Why You Should Listen: Come for the Ford connection, stay for the great music.
Overall Thoughts: This might have stayed well below our radar had she not been listed as the opener on Sallie Ford's upcoming tour. Ken sent this over, and I knew it would be something I'd like, but I didn't expect it to be something I'd love. The songs themselves are hooky and musically interesting, but still sound challenging and strange at the same time. There's a retro feel to a lot of it, like "Wrong For You," a more traditional feel with "Why," but this album is probably going to catch your attention quickly and not let go like it did with us. And now when you inevitably go to see Sallie Ford this spring (lol like I ever go out for late concerts anymore), you have a reason to catch the opener.
Recommendation: The best of the week, a worthy listen.

Artist: Ryan Adams
Album: Prisoner
Quick Description: Prolific singer-songwriter's latest.
Why You Should Listen: Even when Adams isn't at his best, it's still a must-listen.
Overall Thoughts: If I wanted to get snarky about it, I'd note that Alex Dezen is perhaps doing Ryan Adams better than Ryan Adams is at this point, but that would drive attention away from an album that, while far from groundbreaking, might be some of his best work since the roots-tinged Cardinals records of nearly a decade ago. There's an evenness to the album that keeps it from being the sort of dynamic, fascinating listen that Adams offers at his best, but there's also not a real clunker on here worth noting. Overall, it's just a solid, if unspectacular, listen. There's better music out this week, but that doesn't mean this isn't pretty good.
Recommendation: Worth your time at some point.

Artist: Amy MacDonald
Album: Under Stars
Quick Description: Latest from the young Scottish singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Amy MacDonald has always been sneaky good, and doesn't get enough due in the United States.
Overall Thoughts: I first became fond of MacDonald on her debut album, This is the Life back almost a decade ago. She hasn't put out a ton of music since then, as this is only her third album, but this shows some continued maturity as a songwriter as well as a further modernization of her sound away from a more modern take on traditional folk-pop. This works well because it feels like it would fit into the modern radio landscape, but I won't lie - there's part of me that's wishing more for a sequel to her debut.
Recommendation: Good, solid listen this week.

Artist: Allison Krauss
Album: Windy City
Quick Description: First solo album in nearly two decades from the modern bluegrass legend.
Why You Should Listen: Allison Krauss + country classics = a no-brainer.
Overall Thoughts: If you are approaching this assuming that a leopard has changed its spots, don't. This isn't the (admittedly awesome) Robert Plant collaboration, but instead a pretty standard and lovely love letter to classic country. This means there's not a ton to say in one regard, but Krauss is such a professional and knows her way around the Great Country Songbook well enough where this listen is not going to throw any curveballs your way.
Recommendation: A great listen, but don't expect any groundbreaking material here.

Artist: Nikki Lane
Album: Highway Queen
Quick Description: Latest album from the alt-country artist.
Why You Should Listen: Nikki Lane always brings it.
Overall Thoughts: This is Lane's third album, and it's just as good as her first two. Catchy songs with a bit of swagger to go with them, it just continues to surprise me that she doesn't get a lot more attention. The latest album does feel a little more adult and less rambunctious, maybe, but that's not a bad thing. It basically outshines a lot of stuff in the genre, and should absolutely be part of your listening anyway.
Recommendation: A must this week, even when we're overloaded with roots music.

Artist: The Orwells
Album: Terrible Human Beings
Quick Description: Some solid straightforward rock music.
Why You Should Listen: The Orwells are brutally consistent and underrated.
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed their previous album, but once it disappeared from my playlists I kind of forgot about them. This album was a clear and decisive reminder that it was a mistake, as this is another solid listen. It starts out strongly with "They Put a Body in the Bayou," and by the end I was ready to give it another spin. In an era where rock music is really not terribly interesting on a whole, where a lot of bands are trying to get away from the traditional stuff, it's great to hear The Orwells doing something that sounds fresh while still being traditional.
Recommendation: Should absolutely be part of your listening this week.

Artist: STL GLD
Album: Torch Song
Quick Description: Boston-based rap music wearing its politics on its sleeve.
Why You Should Listen: Timely topics, but solid rhymes and beats even if you're not on board with the message.
Overall Thoughts: STL GLD is a collaboration between Moe Pope, two-time Boston Music Award winner, and Arcitype, Boston Music Award winner for producing. The result is a really, really surprising effort that feels modern and mainstream with reach far beyond I-95. You'll get a good grasp on this album within the first few songs, but the entire thing is kind of revelatory, and if you're concerned by too much messaging, you'll find a lot to enjoy here.
Recommendation: Nearly my album of the week, a must listen.

Artist: Eisley
Album: I'm Only Dreaming
Quick Description: Newest album by the Texas indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: The group retains its dreamlike tone while maturing as musicians.
Overall Thoughts: I remember seeing Eisley for the first time, most of the band weren't even adults yet but they were writing songs well beyond their years. They never quite took off the way I had hoped, but their new album is still full of the solid songwriting I loved when I first encountered them. There's definitely an increasing maturity with the songs which doesn't hurt, but this album definitely feels more solid than their more recent efforts. I'm impressed.
Recommendation: In a busy week, carve some time out.

Worth your time this week:

* Tall Tall Trees - Freedays (strange, compelling folk rock)
* Mr Tophat - From Another Dimension (another solid disco release)
* Son Volt - Notes of Blue (solid listen, might get lost in the country shuffle this week)
* Jens Lekman - Life Will See You Now (still kind of twee-ish, but his best in a while)
* The Courtneys - The Courtneys II (solid girl-fronted punkish rock, really enjoyed this)
* Mozart's Sister - Field of Love
* Strand of Oaks - Hard Love

Also out this week:

* Animal Collective - The Painters EP
* Neville Staple - Return of Judge Roughneck
* Hayes McMullan - Everyday Seem Like Murder Here

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sheer Covers Slowdive

If you love covers as much as we do, you most likely know all about The Blog That Celebrates Itself. In case you're unfamiliar, it's a Brazil based blog that puts together these insane tribute compilations, and then gives them away for free on Bandcamp. Free covers? We're always up for that.

Last week, they released their latest, Just for Life: A Homage to Slowdive. As with most compilations put out by The Blog That Celebrates Itself, it's great, but I usually barely know any of the bands on the compilation. However, track 7 is a cover of "Joy" by Sheer. We definitely love Sheer around these parts, and knowing that one of our favorite fuzzed out guitar pop bands is doing a song by one of the finest shoegaze bands is fairly thrilling. Sheer's version has just a hint more of a pop side than Slowdive's original, but it's a very straightforward cover. 

You can listen to Sheer's version of "Joy" below. If you like what you hear, you can get the song and the rest of the compilation over at The Blog That Celebrates Itself's Bandcamp. For more on Sheer, check out their Bandcamp.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sono Oto - "How Do You Feel"

Photo by Alex John Beck
When I first read the bio for Sono Oto, I knew exactly what he would sound like. Also known as Mark Henry Phillips, he is the main behind the music for the wildly popular (ok, the first season at least) Serial podcast, as well as the sound designer for films like Cutie and the Boxer and Teenage. Obviously his debut album is going to be filled with indie orchestral soundtrack type music, a la Jonny Greenwood, right?

Judging by "How Do You Feel," my assumptions were very wrong. Sono Oto is more of a singer/songwriter project, albeit a more orchestral one. "How Do You Feel" is pretty straightforward and reminds me a lot of later Elliott Smith. The story of Sono Oto's origins go way back to 2008 when Phillips' father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He had given up on his dreams of being a full time musician and was instead a producer for NPR. So he didn't die with regrets like his father, he quit his job in favor of music. 

Sono Oto's debut album, Inheritance, is due out on March 24. You can listen to "How Do You Feel" below. For more on Sono Oto, check out his website.

Benjamin Booker Covers Penny & The Quarters

Photo by Ken Sears
It's been way too long since we've heard anything new from Benjamin Booker. It's been almost two years since we heard his cover of "Walkin' After Midnight" and almost three years since the release of his debut album. In one Instagram post, he announced that he has new music to share (at a show coming up next month) and he also shared a cover of Penny & The Quarters' "You and Me." The song was originally recorded back in the 70s, but was mostly unknown until a rediscovery in the 2011 film Blue Valentine. But, the truly important thing is we have something new to listen to from Benjamin Booker. Granted, it's an acoustic Instagram video, but it's still something new from Booker.

You can watch Benjamin Booker's cover of "You & Me" below. For more on Booker, check out his website. Let's hope we have a new album by the end of the year.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

No Sun Cover Dead Kennedys

Seemingly the only thing that No Sun and Dead Kennedys would have in common would be that they are both the western United States. No Sun are a relatively new ambient rock/shoegaze band from Salt Lake City, while Dead Kennedys are the legendary politically charged fairly hardcore 80s punk band. But, we live in strange times, so here's No Sun covering the Dead Kennedys' iconic "Nazi Punks Fuck Off." This song was chosen to make a fairly obvious political statement, and I'm pretty sure we'll be hearing a lot more covers of this particular one for the next four years are so. No Sun's take is very different from the original. The Dead Kennedys' song is this unbelievably fast hardcore blast of a song, while No Sun's just slowly grinds. 

You can listen to No Sun's cover of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" below, and get your own copy for free via Bandcamp. For more on No Sun, check them out on Facebook. You can find their current tour dates below the song.

3/9     Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
3/10    Denver, CO @ Mutiny Information Cafe
3/11    Kansas City, MO @ The Couch
3/12    St. Louis, MO @ Foam
3/13    Milwaukee, MN @ Ground Zero
3/14    Minneapolis, MN @ Safe Haus
3/15    Chicago, IL @ Quenchers
3/16    Fort Wayne, IN @ The Tiger Room
3/17    Elyria, OH @ Blank State Elyria
3/18    Toronto, ON @ The Smiling Buddha
3/19    Montreal, QC @ Brasserie Beaubien
3/20    Syracuse, NY @ The Reformed Church of Syracuse
3/21    Florence, MA - 13th Floor Music Lounge
3/22    Boston, MA @ The Middle East
3/24    Montclair, NJ @ Meatlocker
3/25    Brooklyn, NY @ St. Vitus
3/26    Wilkes Barre, PA @ The Other Side
3/27    Baltimore, MD @ The Windup Space
3/28    Philadelphia, Pa @ Kung Fu Necktie
3/29    Richmond, VA - @ The Castle
3/30    Charlotte, NC @ The Station On Central
04/1    Houston, TX @ Satellite Bar
04/2    Austin, TX @ Beerland
04/4    El Paso, TX @ The Sandbox
04/5    Tempe, AZ @ 51 West

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Weakened Friends - "Early" (acoustic)

Photo via Facebook
For some reason, the acoustic performance thing feels very 90s to me. I know bands did it before and have done it since, but the 90s seemed like a heyday of that between MTV Unplugged, acoustic albums, and import singles. 

This might be why I'm so thrilled about Weakened Friends letting us hear a brand new song from their upcoming debut album via an acoustic performance. Over the weekend, the band played an acoustic set at Sofar Studios in Boston, where they premiered the new song "Early." It starts off really acoustic performance-esque, and almost like a ballad. Further on it kicks in a bit more and gets more Weakened Friends-ified, so we can hear a bit more of what the actual album track will sound like. It's everything we would expect from Weakened Friends at this point, with vulnerable vocals mixed with noisy, fuzzed out riffs (at least, that's what I'm imagining it will sound like). I usually avoid the live performance debuts of new songs, but this isn't just lousy cell phone footage, so it's well worth your time.

For more on Weakened Friends, be sure to check out their Bandcamp and Facebook.

First Listen Part Two: More New Releases for February 10

Here's the rest of the new releases for this week.

Artist: Lupe Fiasco
Album: DROGAS Light
Quick Description: New album from the often-controversial rapper.
Why You Should Listen: This is Lupe Fiasco's best effort in close to a decade.
Overall Thoughts: Lupe Fiasco was always pretty socially conscious, but things got a little out there for him with his recent releases. DROGAS Light doesn't lose the commentary, but it does gain some memorable music backing it for the first time in a few releases. Songs like "Jump" and "Wild Child" are really reminiscent of the quality of his Food and Liquor days, and this is an album I can't wait to get back to. If Sallie Ford didn't come out with new music this week, this might have ended up as my album of the week.
Recommendation: Best rap album out since RTJ3, and one of the best of the week.

Artist: Mother Mother
Album: No Culture
Quick Description: Canadian rock group goes even more mainstream.
Why You Should Listen: It's hard to find a reason if you're a reader of this blog.
Overall Thoughts: I loved this band once. "Let's Fall in Love" is a favorite of mine, and this new album feels sort of modern new wavey and it just doesn't work. Mother Mother aren't The Killers, y'know? I don't have a lot of good to say, so I won't say much more.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: Jesca Hoop
Album: Memories Are Now
Quick Description: Latest release from the quirky singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: You like a little strangeness to go with your songwriting.
Overall Thoughts: Jesca Hoop is a lot like Joanna Newsom in a lot of ways, except the voice is a little more normal and the songs structured a little more normally. Memories Are Now is not Hoop's best album - my vote is for Kismet - but in terms of what I expect from Hoop, it's pretty solid. A decent entrypoint if you're unfamiliar.
Recommendation: A good listen in a sea of great ones this week.

Artist: Chuck Prophet
Album: Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins
Quick Description: Chuck Prophet does a very specific brand of rock, and this is sort of a concept album in that vein.
Why You Should Listen: You like this sort of thing, with sharp songwriting and straightforward instrumentation.
Overall Thoughts: While I have some positive things to say about this, I admit that I don't really get it. I feel like there's a joke I'm missing along the way, or some sort of schtick I don't understand. It may reveal itself on future listens, but I can't say I get this. I would normally just put this in "also out," but it's good enough to at least deserve some attention.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, maybe more.

Artist: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Album: Zombies on Broadway
Quick Description: Theatrical indie pop rock.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for the lovechild of Patrick Wolf and Rufus Wainwright.
Overall Thoughts: I was ultimately drawn in by the cover here, to be honest, but it turns out this was a fun, unique listen. If you like the sort of theatrics that a lot of indie pop artists are up to these days, this deserves a listen, but there's enough here to be really accessible anyway. Give it a listen.
Recommendation: A fun listen this week.

Also out this week/recently:

* Henoheno - Piggybacks (try "Notice All Your Flaws")
* Mark Porkchop Holder - Let it Slide

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

First Listen Part One: New Releases for February 10

A busier than normal week, so I'm splitting this into two days.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Sallie Ford
Album: Soul Sick
Quick Description: New album from a favorite here that will just have you asking "Sallie, who hurt you and how can we destroy them?"
Why You Should Listen: Sallie Ford somehow improved on what she was doing, and she was already doing some amazing stuff.
Overall Thoughts: Man, Sallie Ford's been through from stuff, huh? That was really my first reaction as I listened to this album, a bunch of songs that feel confessional, that drip with hurt and pain, that just feel really heavy. And yet this ends up being beautiful with a lot of inspirational tones and gorgeous music. The whole sort of bluesy thing she was doing takes a bit of a backseat here, but this isn't some sort of singer-songwritery acoustic "woe is me" record, either. It's something a lot more special than that, and it's something everyone really just needs to give a listen. It's unfair that this album is out now, because the bar has just been raised for the rest of 2017 again and it's only February.
Recommendation: A must listen. Just absolutely amazing.

Artist: Thievery Corporation
Album: The Temple of I & I
Quick Description: The electronic collective comes along with a great album that feels essential.
Why You Should Listen: You are into electronic music but haven't been jazzed by recent offerings.
Overall Thoughts: Thievery Corporation has never really been my thing. If I wanted acid jazz, I had Mark Farina, and if I was looking for more mainstream electronic music there was always Cassius for house or Orbital or The Crystal Method. Thievery Corporation didn't fit in, but something here really clicked for me. The best songs here are with Mr. Lif, unsurprisingly, but what I found was an album that I initially felt might be too long and stick around too much, but it ends up being a really enjoyable listen overall. Great for electronic music fans, but also if you're not really into the genre - you might find something to like.
Recommendation: A great listen this week.

Artist: Save Ferris
Album: Checkered Past
Quick Description: No one was asking for a Save Ferris comeback EP, but here we are.
Why You Should Listen: You have a lot of nostalgia for the ska wave of 1995.
Overall Thoughts: I'm probably being unnecessarily harsh on this, but when we have ska acts still making music that's a little interesting and different, Save Ferris comes along and drops an album that doesn't remind you of their classic stuff while offering little in the way of a reason to want to see what else they have up their sleeves. "Golden Silence" is fine, I guess, but the whole thing just feels like an unnecessary letdown.
Recommendation: Unless you were really, really hardcore into this group, don't bother. A perfectly viable Less Than Jake EP came out recently, listen to that instead.

Artist: The Sadies
Album: Northern Passages
Quick Description: The Canadian alt-country act offers another classic.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy high-quality, unassuming country rock.
Overall Thoughts: I hate calling this act alt-country because it feels more folk-rocky, but no matter - The Sadies are great and continue to be great with this latest album. I always feel like they slide under the radar and they really shouldn't, because they keep making solid music. This album is no different - it won't set the world on fire, but it's a great listen nonetheless.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth some time in your rotation this week.

Artist: Duke Garwood
Album: Garden of Ashes
Quick Description: Unassuming, quiet, but intense folk music.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of Mark Lanegan.
Overall Thoughts: I couldn't place who Garwood sounded like until I looked up the album cover for this post and saw the comparison, and then it just hit me. I'm not a Lanegan fan, but he has a very distinct style that Duke Garwood shares, and the result is an album that's pretty solid on a whole if not a little strange for the genre. You'll know if you'll like it from the first couple minutes, but it's not something you should outright ignore unless Lanegan's musical style completely puts you off.
Recommendation: Almost certainly worth your time, although it won't be for everyone.

Artist: Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
Album: Backlash
Quick Description: A blues/funk/rock mishmash.
Why You Should Listen: You like Gary Clark Jr. but wish he had a brass section.
Overall Thoughts: While I admit that this is not a genre for me typically, I can't not highlight that this is a pretty solid listen overall. Black Joe Lewis does a great job with what he does, and this ends up being a highly enjoyable listen from start to finish. Won't work for everyone, but if you like this sort of thing you'll get a lot out of it.
Recommendation: If you like the genre, it's something you should hear.

Artist: Alexander F
Album: Alexander F
Quick Description: Garage rock/punk from the Rubblebucket guitarist.
Why You Should Listen: If you're really into Rubblebucket, this is not going to be what you expect. If you're not into Rubblebucket, the same rule applies.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over to me, and I was expecting something kind of weird and vanity project-esque given Rubblebucket's sound. What I got instead was a fairly standard garage rock record (with some surprises). It's not going to blow your mind at all, for sure, but in terms of the closest thing to a pure rock record available this week? It's pretty interesting.
Recommendation: A fairly interesting listen.

Also out this week:

* Crushed Stars - Displaced Sleepers

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ransom Pier - "Holding On"

Photo by Kyle Walker
It's been about a year and a half since we last heard from Random Pier, but luckily they are back with a brand new song. "Holding On" is exactly what we expect (and want) from Ransom Pier. It's just your good old fashioned standard Americana with a soul/blues twist. Think of Lake Street Dive mixed with Julie Rhodes. You're not getting any boundaries broken with Ransom Pier, and that's perfectly ok. Although "Holding On" does get some odd changes we haven't previously seen in Ransom Pier's previous releases, and since songs changing pace multiple times unexpectedly is kinda one of my things, I'm all for this.

You can listen to "Holding On" below. I'm not sure if it's just a single release or part of an upcoming album, but for more details you can check out their website, and get your own copy of "Holding On" at Bandcamp. They're also set to do some fairly extensive east coast touring, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

Monday Mix: If It's Too Loud... 2017 Valentine's Day Playlist

Valentine's Day sucks. We spend weeks getting faux romance crammed down our throats and then we're stuck spending a ridiculous amount of money to prove we're in love on a day that means nothing to anyone. Plus, most romantic music is outrageously terrible. You know what's better than romantic music? Break up music. Which is what the 2017 If It's Too Loud... Valentine's Day playlist consists of. I might have leaned a bit too heavily on old timey country, but is there anything better for the negative sides of love than classic country? Aside from that, there's a ton of 90s alternative, which my knowledge of sad sack 90s alternative shows what my romantic life was like back in that decade. [Note: There might be two Lemonheads songs, but one is an 80s Ben Deily song and the other is a 2000s Evan Dando one, so it's completely different.] This is perfect for anyone that doesn't give a crap about the most forcibly romantic holiday of the year or that enjoys mopey music. Enjoy!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Freebie: Shakey Graves - The Man From Taured

Remember when artists put a premium on b-sides and rarities? Every so often an artist would put out a full album of b-sides, alternate takes, demo versions, etc., but more often than not, you'd get stuck buying import singles for $10 each to get that one extra song that wasn't on the album, or even dropping $30 for the European version with an extra song or two. 

Nowadays we have an artist like Shakey Graves who just gives out rarities and alternate versions on his Bandcamp. The Man From Taured contains a couple of demo versions and an alternate take, but the rest are rarities. My personal favorite is that these are completely stripped down songs, mostly just him with a guitar. A few have backing vocals, but that's really it. As someone who finds Shakey Graves far more compelling when it's just him with a guitar on stage as opposed to his backing band, this free offering is perfect.

You can get your very own free copy of The Man From Taured over at Shakey Graves' Bandcamp. For more on Shakey Graves, head over to his website.

Lady Lamb Covers Elvis Presley

Photo by Shervin Lainez
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I love Lady Lamb and covers, especially covers that you wouldn't necessarily expect. Amazon Music has curated a playlist called "Love Me" featuring indie artists of today covering classic love songs. While recording Tender Warriors Club, Lady Lamb recorded a cover of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love." I spent all of my 20s and a good chunk of my 30s despising Elvis, mainly for never writing his own music. Recently, I've come to respect him as an entertainer, and "Can't Help Falling In Love" has always (even back when I would never have admitted it) been one of my favorite Elvis songs. Lady Lamb's take is surprisingly true to the original, but with her own signature sound. And since it was recorded at the time of Tender Warriors Club it has a sparse, vulnerable quality to it. 

You can check out Lady Lamb's cover of "Can't Help Falling In Love" over at Amazon. You'll need a music membership to hear the full thing, or you can purchase it. It's worth checking out, since there are a ton of If It's Too Loud... favorites on there: Amanda Shires, Nikki Lane, Ladyhawke, Hurray for the Riff Raff (who do the absolute classic "Be My Baby"), etc. For more on Lady Lamb, check out her website.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Michael Christmas Does a Song for Burger King

Artists doing songs for commercials doesn't have the same stigma it used to. Nowadays, it's pretty much the only way to actually get music heard by a mainstream audience. However, it still feels a bit weird when one of our favorite artists makes a song for a major corporation. Michael Christmas, our favorite Boston rapper who should be absolutely huge by now, did a song for Burger King, more specifically for jalapeno chicken fries. The most shocking part of this song is that "Make 'Em Jala" is actually a fun little song about getting jalapeno chicken fries. Plus, it's a pun, so that's always good. Besides, this was probably a huge payday for Christmas, and there's not many ways for indie artists to get those in today's music industry.

You can listen to "Make 'Em Jala" below. Also, be sure to check out Michael Christmas' other music, which is fantastic. You can find out more at his Facebook and Soundcloud.

Funeral Advantage - "Please Help Me"

With the new EP from Funeral Advantage coming out later this month, we can now hear the title track, "Please Help Me." "Please Help Me" might be my favorite Funeral Advantage song yet. It's the absolute pinnacle of their dream pop meets 80s synth pop sound that they've perfected, and is just beautiful. It might not sound like The Cure, but it has that Cure feel to it. It's a sad little song that just makes you happy. 

You can listen to "Please Help Me" below (along with their previously heard song "CEOT7K"). You can pre-order Please Help Me here. It will be available on February 24 via The Native Sound. For more on Funeral Advantage, check out their website.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bleached - "Can You Deal?"

Photo by Nicole Anne Robbins
One of our favorite 90s throwback artists are back. Bleached have a new EP called Can You Deal? due out on March 3. The title track is exactly what we want from Bleached. "Can You Deal?" is poppy and catchy, but with a plethora of 90s alternative noise behind it. I always see them described as punk, but to me they're more dream punk. They have all the swirling guitars and spacey melodies of dream pop, but just a little more aggression than that moniker would allow for. 

In addition to the Can You Deal? EP, Bleached are releasing a Can You Deal? zine. The zine will feature contributions that define a who's who of the current genre ignoring indie scene including Alice Glass, Lizzo, Kate Nash, Tegan Quin, Allie Hanlon, Sadie Dupuis, and more. Bleached's Jennifer Clavin had this to say about the project:\

I create music and art because I need to. To express, to bond, to reconcile, and to connect. And to use my voice. To have it received with such a generic labeling as "girl band" and consistently referenced as "female fronted" is insulting and reductive.  The title track to this EP, “Can You Deal?” is about this experience. Last year we released a deeply personal full length album titled Welcome The Worms. It was a record about being in an emotionally abusive relationship. It was a record about getting spun out on drugs and alcohol. It was a record about totally losing myself in order to find myself.  It was also our most ambitious body of work yet, with guitar work and guitar sounds and production we had only dreamed of until then.  And yet to this day I am still fielding interview questions that have more to do with my gender than with the art I am creating. Somehow the conversation usually derails into some variation of the following question: "What is it like to be a girl in a rock band?". And the ensuing story will define us based on our sex. Why is gender pointed out in nearly all coverage of our band? Labeling me as a woman in a band just puts me in a box, and doesn’t allow everything else I am to be seen and heard. It's 2017, Can You Deal with women playing rock and roll yet? 

You can pre-order the EP here, and the zine here. Make sure you listen to "Can You Deal?" below, and head over to their website for more on Bleached.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Salem Wolves - "Can't Wait"

Photo by Scott Murry
Last week Bandcamp announced that they would be donating their share of music sold last Friday on the site to the ACLU. To help this along, Salem Wolves debuted their new song, "Can't Wait" on Friday and announced they would be donating all the profits they made through Bandcamp all weekend to the ACLU. It's now Tuesday, so... oops? Dropped the ball on that one a bit.

Anyway, "Can't Wait" is the first song we can hear from Salem Wolves' upcoming album, Tooth & Nail. "Can't Wait" is everything we want from Salem Wolves: It's rockin' with this badass groove throughout. In fact, this is the most they've shown off their surf rock side, and there's more than just a hint of doo wop in the song. In fact, this is by far the most polished we've heard Salem Wolves sound. There are little bursts of controlled chaos, but it reminds me a lot of early 80s Ramones.

You can listen to "Can't Wait" below. To get your own copy, head on over to Bandcamp. Salem Wolves' have been hinting on their Facebook that some of the recordings on Bandcamp are going to be going away soon, so be sure to get their stuff while it's still available. As for live shows, Salem Wolves are playing February 25 at Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery and March 11 at The Sinclair. Both of those are in Cambridge, MA.

First Listen: New Releases for February 3

A slightly slower release week, so I'm adding one I missed at the end:

Album of the Week:

Artist: Alex Dezen
Album: Alex Dezen II
Quick Description: Second solo album from the Damnwells singer/songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: It's super polished and never quite explodes...
Overall Thoughts: ...but I can't say a lot new about this except that I enjoyed this album a lot more than the first effort. There's no "A Little Less Like Hell" here, but it's a much more even effort and I can appreciate that. This might be a little divisive, and especially for Damnwells fans (and no, I still haven't listened to their work), but this has a bit of an adult alternative flavor that pleases me. I'm into it.
Recommendation: My favorite of the week.

Artist: Syd
Album: Fin
Quick Description: Some modern hip-hop/R&B.
Why You Should Listen: In an era with a lot of experimentation in this genre, Syd works well.
Overall Thoughts: Syd isn't a name you might know off the top, but as a DJ for Odd Future, you know what you're getting into to a point. While this is lacking in the sort of super-memorable songs that we get from others in this space, the positives in this album are in the consistency and in the influences she clearly draws from. It's an album that has a lot going on, and more layers than I expected on First Listen. I'll be diving back in on this shortly for more, as it's absolutely the most interesting listen of the week.
Recommendation: A must-listen this week.

Artist: Surfer Blood
Album: Snowdonia
Quick Description: Latest album from one of the better indie rock bands out there.
Why You Should Listen: Because Surfer Blood should be much more famous than they are.
Overall Thoughts: I was only really exposed to Surfer Blood in the last few years. This new album is so good, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why more people weren't into this and why they aren't a much more famous band than they are. This album is a pretty tight collection of songs on a whole, and if you haven't gotten on board yet, maybe this is the time to do it? It's great indie rock, plain and simple.
Recommendation: A favorite from this week, almost my album of the week.

Artist: Elbow
Album: Little Fictions
Quick Description: A new Elbow record that sounds like an Elbow record.
Why You Should Listen: Elbow is consistently good even though they've always existed in that second tier of British imports.
Overall Thoughts: I always liked Elbow back when Coldplay et al were hitting it big, and I've kept up with them even when the American attention tapered off. Little Fictions is noteworthy in that it feels like an Elbow record from start to finish, with some soaring instrumentation and the distinct vocals. Overall, a great listen, but if you haven't liked Elbow up to now, this might not change your mind.
Recommendation: A good listen.

Artist: Porcelain Raft
Album: Microclimate
Quick Description: Light, airy, indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: A soft quality to it that's lacking from a lot of releases these days.
Overall Thoughts: It's somewhat amusing that this album came out the same week as Elbow's, as it has some very Elbow-esque tendencies on a whole. A solid listen for sure, but the more ethereal stuff might throw off other listeners. For me, it was a good but not great listen, but one that deserves a slot in a slow week.
Recommendation: Good listen, not for everyone.

Out recently:

Artist: Ninet Tayeb
Album: Paper Parachute
Quick Description: Israeli rock with some heavier moments.
Why You Should Listen: The sound is pretty unique even while it doesn't break any new ground.
Overall Thoughts: Her song "Superstar," with a fairly basic anthemic chorus and some some traditional Hebrew themes throughout, was a Discover Weekly find for me that I really loved. The album is finally out and it's pretty solid - while the slower tracks don't always work, when Tayeb brings the rock to the table it's a wonderful, catchy good time.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth a listen as something a little different.

Also out this week:

* Less Than Jake - Sound the Alarm (a nice nostalgia trip, definitely enjoyed it)
* Moon Duo - Occult Architecture Volume 1
* Ron Gallo - Heavy Meta

Monday, February 6, 2017

Live Shows: Lady Lamb and Henry Jamison, 3S Artspace, Portsmouth, NH 2/4/17

Photo by Ken Sears
To support her latest EP, Tender Warriors Club, Lady Lamb is touring around playing acoustic shows in living rooms and other smaller, alternative, more intimate spaces. In Portsmouth, NH, she played 3S Artspace, one of the few traditional venues on the tour. Oddly enough, 3S Artspace is almost five times the size of the Portsmouth venue she played with a full band two years ago, but who can complain with a Lady Lamb show, right?

Anyone who has seen a Lady Lamb live show in recent years knows that there's a point where the band goes away and Lady Lamb plays a few songs solo. This was an entire set of that. In the past four years, I've seen Lady Lamb as both a trio and as a larger ensemble that borrowed in members of Cuddle Magic, Xenia Rubinos, her dad, etc. This was my first time seeing her perform an entire set solo. While her much earlier work might be ideal for a solo act, her last few releases are much more complex and have enough multi-instrumentation that even a larger band than her trio have trouble recreating it fully. This allowed for completely different takes on some favorite songs. She described the evening's rendition of "You Are the Apple" as "wonky," but no one in the crowd seemed to mind. It also allowed for the return of her banjo, which was dearly missed during her 2015 tour. This also allowed a song like "Little Brother" to make a welcome return. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen that one performed live since 2013. After her main set, Spaltro came back for a version of "Crane Your Neck." This just reiterated how special this current tour is.

One thing truly striking about this performance was how many extremely young kids were at this show. Young as in they're probably still in grades with single digits. A few of these girls had made up their own little hand gestures for certain songs. 10-15 years ago (ok, maybe even 5 years ago) this would have annoyed me to no end. Maybe I'm just old and a dad now, but the other night I found this endlessly endearing. It could be because it's great to see kids into any musical artist that didn't start on The Disney Channel. Lady Lamb seemed to appreciate the greatness in this, as she stopped the show to interact with them a few times. Let's see these girls get that type of interaction at a Taylor Swift show.

Opener Henry Jamison played a fairly brief set. It was extremely well received by the crowd, to the point that Jamison mentioned how rare it was to have an audience actually listen. He played a set of fairly standard singer-songwriter fare that was heightened by his ability to actually write a pretty great song. He appears to be in the early stages of a career that has great promise in the next few years. I'd expect to see a decent amount of him here in the future.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Walter Sickert Covers Mr. Rogers

Our political climate is all sorts of batshit bonkers right now. We're at the point where even the theme songs from children's shows of our youth can be politically charged in the right context. Enter Walter Sickert covering the Mr. Rogers classic "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" With absolutely no explanation necessary, we all know exactly what is meant by a song we used to sing when we were four. This particular cover is a Walter Sickert solo jam, with just him singing while plunking away at a piano. And it's just as creepy (but somehow turns out beautiful?) as you'd expect.

One of the main points of the cover is to highlight that for the entire month of February, any money that Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys earn on their Bandcamp will be donated to ACLU Nationwide. You can listen to "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" below. You can find Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys' Bandcamp here.

Friday Freebie: Ron Gallo - Heavy Meta Sampler

You probably know Ron Gallo for making some headlines for playing one of his songs in the middle of traffic in downtown Nashville back in December. The good news is, he's not just a gimmick and has a shitload of talent. The better news is that you can get three songs from his just released today album, Heavy Meta, for free via Noisetrade. (This is for a limited time, so you'll want to download these ASAP.) Gallo does this insane blend of punk, proto-punk, protest folk, and just the tiniest bit of metal in his songs. It reminds me of a mix of At the Drive In, MC5, and Tom Morello's solo work. His original songs are this frantic blend of energy, noise, and hooky melodies. It all just feels vital and important. Plus, he throws in two Danzig covers (including "Am I Demon?," my own personal favorite Danzig song) at the end, so you know I'm sold. 

You can get your copy of Heavy Meta Sampler for free via Noisetrade. But, seriously, just get the sampler for the Danzig covers since you're going to want to own the full album after hearing this free download. You can get your copy of Heavy Meta on Bandcamp or Amazon. For  more on Ron Gallo, check out his website.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fuzzystar - "Angel Transported"

Our new favorite Edinburgh based musician is letting us all hear another song off his upcoming album. Andy Thomson, aka Fuzzystar, has put "Angel Transported" out there for the public to hear. Last month I slightly embarrassed myself gushing about "High Friends," and I'll probably do the same with this one. "Angel Transported" is different from "High Friends." "High Friends" mashed together multiple genres in a rambling, building epic. "Angel Transported" is shorter and a more straightforward song. It reminds me of a combination of earlier, more poppy Built to Spill and Guided By Voices. 

Fuzzystar's new album, Telegraphing, will be out April 28 on Satellite Sounds. You can listen to "Angel Transported" below. "Angel Transported" will be available as a single on February 24. For more on Fuzzystar, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Alex Lahey - "Wes Anderson"

Photo by Kane Gibbered
Judging by my regular taste in music, Alex Lahey's "Wes Anderson" should be just a bit too pop for me. But, somehow it just hits this bizarre itch for me. It somehow combines Go! era Letters to Cleo with later Pulp. I'm not usually a lyrics guy, so it's even weirder that this song is connecting on such a deep level for me. "Wes Anderson" is a pure upbeat love song, so there are some fairly corny lines like "Every day with you's my lucky day," but then there are these nuggets ("You're the best night's sleep I've ever had" is my favorite) that are as perfect as anything Evan Dando wrote in "Mallo Cup." (I have no idea why all these Australians are popping up and crushing it with 90s alt rock nostalgia, but I will never complain about this.)

Alex Lahey's debut EP, B-Grade University, is out now on Dead Oceans. You can watch the video for "Wes Anderson" below. For more on Alex Lahey, check out her website. She's leaving Australia for a tour soon, so find her dates below the video.

Mon. Feb. 13 — London, UK @ Roundhouse w/ Tegan & Sara
Tue. Feb. 14 — Manchester, UK @ Albert Hall w/ Tegan & Sara
Wed. Feb. 15 — Bristol, UK @ O2 Academy w/ Tegan & Sara
Fri. Feb. 17 — Glasgow, UK @ O2 ABC w/ Tegan & Sara
Sat. Feb. 18 — Birmingham, UK @ O2 Institution w/ Tegan & Sara
Sun. Feb. 19 — Dublin, IE @ Vicar Street w/ Tegan & Sara
Mon. Feb. 20 — London, UK @ Old Blue Last
Sat. March 11 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
Sun. March 12 — San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
Tue. March 14 - Sat. March 18 — Austin, TX @ SXSW
Mon. March 20 — Chicago, IL @ Schubas
Wed. March 22 — Washington, DC @ DC9
Thu. March 23 — Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
Fri. March 24 — Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade NYC
Sat. March 25 — New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
Sun. March 26 — Boston, MA @ Great Scott