Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday Freebie: Nervous Dater - Don't Be a Stranger

When Weakened Friends recently announced their huge mega-tour, New York's Nervous Dater was set as the opener. Of course I immediately decided to check them out. If you didn't, then you really need to hurry up.

A great starting point is their 2017 release Don't Be a Stranger. It's this beautifully perfect indie rock record. If you're already into Weakened Friends, it will be pretty much impossible for Nervous Dater to not work for you. The bands each have their own sounds, but there is enough overlap to interest you. The album's opener, "Bad Spanish," might have been a frontrunner for song of 2017 if I had known of it. It's all indie rock attitude and distortion, while being settled in a groove with one of the catchiest choruses I've heard in years ("All right, I said, I'll bash your fucking head," if I heard it correctly...). "Pigeon Language" is an indie power ballad, if such a thing can even exist. "Vominos" might be the jangliest song in existence. It's just fast and fun. Every song on Don't Be a Stranger is a lesson in how to craft a perfect little indie pop rock song. 

You can listen to "Bad Spanish" below. Don't Be a Stranger is currently available for the "name your price" option on Bandcamp. If you choose the free option, be sure to at least give the band a follow on Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Salem Wolves - Shake

I'm not typically one to refer to a band's album as being both more mainstream and their best. I'm a pretty grumpy music fan, and to me more mainstream typically means it's a downgrade in quality. Shake, the latest album from Salem Wolves, shatters my music snob beliefs.

Shake is filled with arena ready garage anthems. The opener, "Cindi," is this burst of full force rock aggression but it still keeps an insane amount of melody and it's catchy as hell. "Centipede" almost has a psychedelic feel to it. Almost. "Die Like Dogs" is the closest to a classic Salem Wolves song, and is a fast out of control anthem. Plus, it has "die" in the title. "BDF" might be the song that ends up in commercials some day, and I mean that in the best possible way.

You can listen to "Die Like Dogs" below. Shake, the new album from Salem Wolves, is available exclusively on their Bandcamp. For more on Salem Wolves, check out their website. If you're in the Boston area, you can see them on September 15 playing with Ash at Brighton Music Hall, and on October 4 with King Khan & The Shrines and Gabriella Cohen at Sonia in Cambridge.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Oh Pep! - "What's the Deal with David?"

Photo by Ebru Yildiz
Comparing Melbourne's Oh Pep! to Tegan and Sara is an obvious choice. Both are female duos that play similar styles of music, but for me it's a more personal connection.

The first time I discovered Tegan and Sara was when they opened for Ben Folds at Clark University in 2000 (?). The performance was just them, and I assumed they were more of a folk duo. Sure their songs were poppy, but folk pop. Later when I heard "Walking with a Ghost" I was surprised to find out that they were much more pop than folk.

That's where I stand with Oh Pep! I first discovered them at the Green River Festival in 2016. They were playing a more folk based pop sound. I expected this when I heard their new single, "What's the Deal with David?," but the new song is almost pure pop. As I'm not the pop guy of the blog, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I still enjoyed the song. It's upbeat and impossibly catchy, even for the grumpiest of middle aged indie rock fans to enjoy.

You can watch the video for "What's the Deal with David?" below. I Wasn't Only Thinking About You..., the second album from Oh Pep!, will be out October 26 on ATO Records. It can be pre-ordered here. For more on Oh Pep!, check them out on Facebook and Twitter. Current tour dates are below the video.

Nov 02 - Supersonic - Paris, France+
Nov 03 - Botanique - Brussels, Belgium+
Nov 04 - MTC - Cologne, Germany+
Nov 05 - Paradiso - Amsterdam, Netherlands+
Nov 07 - Molotow - Hamburg, Germany+
Nov 08 - Ideal Bar - Copenhagen, Denmark+
Nov 09 - Kantine am Berghain - Berlin, Germany+
Nov 11 - Chelsea Club - Vienna, Austria+
Nov 13 - Kranhalle - Munich, Germany+
Nov 14 - Mascotte - Zurich, Switzerland+
+with Middle Kids

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Summer Magic - "A Certain Little Chord"

When a band is called Summer Magic, August 31 is a strange time to release a new album, especially when your sound mirrors your name. Maybe Kevin Bachmann is a prophet, since here in the northeast we're experiencing some of the hottest days of the year as kids start going back to school.

Summer Magic's latest single off the forthcoming Sharks and Other Dangers, "A Certain Little Chord," is more of the summery power pop we loved with "Hey!" The main difference between the two singles is the latest has a darker feel hidden behind the upbeat chorus and keyboards, which makes sense as the song is about a family falling apart. On second thought, maybe "A Certain Little Chord" is the perfect goodbye to summer for everyone.

You can listen to "A Certain Little Chord" below. The new album from Summer Magic, Sharks and Other Dangers, will be out August 31. For more on Summer Magic, be sure to follow the band on Facebook.

First Listen: New Releases for 24 August

A much busier week than we've been used to!

Artist: Jain
Album: Souldier
Quick Description: Second album from the French pop singer is better than the first.
Why You Should Listen: Jain is odd and unique and fun all at once.
Overall Thoughts: I forget how I tripped up on Jain's last album, but she has a very unique style that is very appealing. Her new album is somehow better than her previous efforts, with "Flash (Pointe Noir)" being an instant classic and a song, "Inspecta," that is sampling Inspector Gadget? I'm in. This is probably my favorite listen of the week, and there are too many fun things going on here to ignore.
Recommendation: A solid pop release with a lot going for it.

Artist: Whitney Ballen
Album: You're a Shooting Star, I'm a Sinking Ship
Quick Description: Debut from a new favorite here.
Why You Should Listen: Ballen is upping the singer-songwriter game here.
Overall Thoughts: Ken and I have both been enjoying the prerelease tracks, and I’m personally really happy that the full album is so good. A nice balance of solid indie rock songs, some quiet stuff, and some more energetic stuff, I get a real nice Laura Stevenson vibe from it. While I’m excited to hear more, I’m just as excited to spend more time with this one.
Recommendation: Make sure you give this a listen.

Artist: Grain Thief
Album: Stardust Lodge
Quick Description: Debut full-length from a local roots act.
Why You Should Listen: It's surprising roots music, lots of solid upbeat qualities to it.
Overall Thoughts: Along with having the best band name I’ve heard in a while, this debut makes me feel the way I did about Kingsley Flood when I first tripped up on them. I’m pleasantly surprised they’re local, love the way they’re playing the roots game, and there’s a ton of upside here.
Recommendation: One of my favorites this week.

Artist: Steady Holiday
Album: Nobody's Watching
Quick Description: Second album from the dreamy indie act.
Why You Should Listen: So far, everything Steady Holiday has done has been great.
Overall Thoughts: Steady Holiday has done some really interesting indie stuff over the years, and this one has a slightly different, raw feel to it that I’m kind of loving. If a song like “Words” can’t grab you, I have to wonder what is up. This is a great listen for those looking for something that isn’t quite lo-fi, but isn’t so glossy that it loses its heart.
Recommendation: A definite must-listen this week.

Artist: The Devil Makes Three
Album: Chains Are Broken
Quick Description: New album from the popular roots act.
Why You Should Listen: The Devil Makes Three is established enough where this should be an automatic listen.
Overall Thoughts: It’s been a while since I’ve listened, but I have to say that this seems a lot more accessible than what I’m used to or expect from them. A well-established and well-respected act on their own, maybe this one will take them to new heights, but for the rest of us we get a really fun, accessible, rootsy affair. I liked it quite a bit.
Recommendation: A good balance for this week.

Artist: Rubblebucket
Album: Sun Machine
Quick Description: Latest from the off-center indie act.
Why You Should Listen: Rubblebucket has a solid reputation for good reason.
Overall Thoughts: I think this is a good listen. I will put that out there. But part of what drew me to Rubblebucket initially was that they felt a little weird - not completely bizarre, mind you, just odd enough where there was something a little more fascinating going on. This album feels a little more straightforward, and while it's good, that does result in a bit of a disappointment for me on a whole. I'd love to see some of what drew me to them here, but that's okay.
Recommendation: Not the best of the week, but worth it if you're a fan.

Artist: Emily Kinney
Album: Oh Jonathan
Quick Description: Famous person's musical side, but good.
Why You Should Listen: It's solid poppy singer-songwritery stuff.
Overall Thoughts: Most people know her from The Walking Dead, but I've been listening to her music for a while and she has a very unique sound to her brand of singer-songwriter presentation that nearly always grabs me. This is probably my favorite effort of her's so far, and might even have the potential to put her on the map a little more musically.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Nothing
Album: Dance on the Blacktop
Quick Description: Infectious alt-rock.
Why You Should Listen: This is probably the most straightforward alt-rock we've heard in some time.
Overall Thoughts: I feel like Nothing presents itself as weirder than it is, because Dance on the Blacktop plays it about as straight as you can. It's a solid listen in a week full of them, but succeeds at being basically without pretense in an era with a lot of it.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Of note:

* The Frights - Hypochondriac (This was fun enough, but I would have been all about this if I were 16)
* DeVotchKa - This Night Falls Forever (I'm new to this band. Has a neat theatrical mood to it.)
* LAUREL - Dogviolet (Solid, dependable singer-songwriter stuff)
* Neil and Liam Finn - Lightsleeper (Pretty, but not transcendant)
* Lucie Silvas - E.G.O. (Good pop album this week)
* Simon Stalenhag - Music for DOS (Modern ambient for a digital age. Really good.)
* Ohmme - Parts
* Murder by Death - The Other Shore
* White Denim - Performance
* Olafur Arnolds - re:member


* Ron Gallo - It's OK to Always Love Your Company Elsewhere
* Baeilou - Inside Under
* Bassnectar - Reflective (Part 3)

Also out:

* Nonpoint - X
* Basement Revolver - Heavy Eyes
* Interpol - Marauder
* Blood Orange - Negro Swan

Monday, August 27, 2018

Live Shows: Belly, Royale, Boston, MA 8/23/18

Despite being a fan of Belly since the early 90's, I never got a chance to see them live. They had called it quits before I was really going to shows, so I missed out. I've seen Tanya Donelly a bunch of times, but never Belly. I had to miss the 2016 reunion because of a family vacation. Luckily, it wasn't a one-off tour, so last Thursday I finally got my chance.

Belly currently tours in an odd way that works out for them. They don't have an opening act, but instead play two one hour sets with a twenty minute break in between. As much as I love an up and coming opener, can anyone really argue with two hours of Belly? And what a two hour show it was. If you haven't seen Donelly perform live for a while, you forget just how captivating her voice can be. In contrast to Donelly's angelic voice was Gail Greenwood headbanging through her set while playing bass, possibly left over from her time with L7. The band played with a large LED screen behind them, mostly displaying the Belly logo, but also other imagery and videos. This might have made it the most high tech show I've been to in years.

Seeing as Belly just put out a new album, Dove, one would expect for a large amount of the setlist to come from the new album. Out of twenty-two songs, ten were from Dove. The only shocking thing about the new songs is how well they stand up to the classics. Sure, the new ones didn't get the same reaction as the old ones, but we haven't been listening to them and attaching memories to them for two decades. But, god... the classic songs... You forget how great they can be. "Dusted" was a particularly great song played live. They did the megahit "Feed the Tree" midway through the second set, but it was the kind of crowd that was more excited for "Gepetto." "Super-Connected" brought back more joy than I could have thought possible. A Belly show in 2018 has enough nostalgia for everyone attending, while still being a great enough band to make the crowd care about their new songs.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Friday Freebie: The Tenth - Boys We Don't Know

A musical project from two actresses should be a complete nightmare. When I first heard about The Tenth, the musical project from Taylor Blackwell (Dolphin Tale 2, Magic City) and Harley Quinn Smith (Yoga Hosers, daughter of filmmaker/podcaster Kevin Smith), I didn't think there was any way it could be good. But, somehow it is. It's not Bob Dylan or Radiohead, but their debut EP, Boys We Don't Know, is a blast. Each song is about a different boy (complete with an intro track to explain the backstory). They describe it as bubblegum punk, and that basically describes it perfectly. It's fun, a little bratty, and we're way too old to be enjoying this as much as we are. If you care about the breakdown, Blackwell takes the lead for the first three songs, Smith sings the last, and they both provide backing vocals on the other's songs. 

You can listen to "Kyle" below. Boys We Don't Know, the debut EP from The Tenth, is available now for free on Bandcamp. If you don't toss them any cash for the download, be sure to at least give them a follow on Instagram.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Callow - "Always About the Ones Who Have It All"

Photo by Alanso Cat
San Francisco's Callow are self described as "noir folk." While the noir part is spot on, that description is greatly exaggerating the definitions of folk. Their new single, "Always About the Ones Who Have It All" is a dark, organic song that starts off incredibly slowly and slowly builds up intensity. It does seem to alternate between having a more quiet somewhat folk sound and a blustering and crashing noise base. It's like the classic quiet/loud/quiet formula brought to a disturbing extreme. It's the rare song that can make the folkies and noise rock fans satisfied.

You can watch the video for "Always About the Ones Who Have It All" below. Mothdust, the new album from Callow, will be out October 19. For more on Callow, be sure to check out their website.

Weakened Friends - "Blue Again"

We've been following Weakened Friends for so long we feel almost like proud parents bringing you this news: We finally have a release date for their debut full length album! The Portland, ME trio have released the debut single off the album (besides the already heard and J Mascis featuring "Hate Mail") "Blue Again." Weakened Friends have always specialized in a heavily 90's influenced indie rock, but "Blue Again" just straight up brings the rock. It starts off pretty standard alt-rock based, with Sonia Sturino's voice not quite matching the temp of the song as she she seems to get more desperate and frustrated, until she and the song explode. It's absolutely glorious.

You can listen to "Blue Again" below. Weakened Friends's debut album, Common Blah, will be out October 19 on Don Giovanni Records. You can pre-order the album here, including a pretty sweet cd and t-shirt bundle for $24.99. For more on Weakened Friends, check out their website. Current tour dates are below the song.

8.30 - Halifax, NS @ The Seahorse Tavern 
9.01 - Bar Harbor, ME @ Lompoc 
9.13 - Syracuse, NY @ Spark Art Space 
9.14 - Waterbury, VT @ Zenbarn 
10.12 - Bangor, ME @ Bangor Arts Exchange
10.19 - Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall * 
10.20 - Brooklyn, NY @ Trans-Pecos *
10.21 - Richmond, VA @ The Capital Ale House *
10.24 - Raleigh, NC @ Kings Barcade *
10.25 - Asheville, NC @ Fleetwoods *
10.26 - Atlanta, GA @ Smith's Olde Bar *
10.27 - Gainesville, FL @ THE FEST *
10.30 - Paris, FR @ Pitchfork Music Festival  
10.31 - Brighton, UK @ The Hope & Ruin  
11.2 - London, UK @ The Old Blue Last
11.8 - Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen *
11.9 - Detroit, MI @ Deluxx Fluxx *
11.10 - Toronto, ON @ The Monarch *
11.11 - Montreal, QB - Casa del Popolo *
11.14 - Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground Showroom *
11.15 - Boston, MA @ Great Scott *
11.16 - Philadelphia, PA @ Everybody Hits *
11.17 - Washington, DC @ Songbyrd *

* w/ Nervous Dater

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Public Practice - "Fate/Glory"

Photo by Colin Sussingham & Josie Keefe
The new single from New York's Public Practice might be my favorite thing we've brought you in months. "Fate/Glory" brings you the groove of our favorite post punk songs in a very Talking Heads/Gang of Four way. It also has this sense of fun, almost like a disco party is threatening to break out at any moment. There is also the slightest hints of riot grrrl towards the end, in a sense of noise and menace. So if you want your post punk to be both a fun 70's party and somewhat terrifying, you'll need to check out "Fate/Glory."

You can listen to "Fate/Glory" below. Public Practice's debut EP, Distance is a Mirror, will be out October 26 on Wharf Cat Records. You can pre-order a copy here. Live dates are below the song.

Thu. Aug. 23 - Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere Rootop (PopGun 10 Year Anniversary Party)
Wed. Sept. 12 - Brooklyn, NY @ The Glove (w/ Bambara)
Fri. Oct. 5 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (w/ Shame)

J Mascis - "See You At the Movies"

Photo via Instagram
Any time J Mascis releases new music will always be a big deal at If It's Too Loud... November will see the release of Elastic Days, his new solo album. Judging by the first single, "See You At the Movies," Elastic Days will be exactly what we expect and want in a Mascis solo album. The first single is much prettier than Dinosaur Jr is. Mascis's solo work tends to be calmer and almost folky. "See You At the Movies" is exactly that, and is even almost orchestral in some places. You add in some of Mascis's guitar solos (a more tame version than Dino Jr's thunderous ones), and you've got a classic Mascis solo track. It's a typically great song, but at this point I'd like to see Mascis mix things up a bit.

You can listen to "See You At the Movies" below. Elastic Days will be out November 9 on Sub Pop Records. There are some pretty reasonable pre-order bundles available, including a CD and t-shirt for $24.99. Those are through J's Kung Fu merch store. If you just want the album, you can get that here. For more on J Mascis, check out his website.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Black Belt Eagle Scout - "Soft Stud"

Photo by Jason Quigley
Black Belt Eagle Scout is the stage name of Portland based Katherine Paul. According to the press release, she is an indigenous queer musician, which definitely flavors her music. "Soft Stud," the first single from her debut album, combines elements you don't normally pair together. It starts off with this crunching guitar riff normally associated with some form of guitar rock. But when Paul's voice kicks in with her light and melodic feel, you know the song won't be what you thought it was going to be. The explosion that was promised at the beginning never comes, and instead you get a lovely mid-tempo song complete with harmony and keys that's more Colleen Green than The Hives.

You can listen to "Soft Stud" below. Mother of My Children, the debut album from Black Belt Eagle Scout, will be released on September 14 via Saddle Creek. The album can be pre-ordered here. For more on Black Belt Eagle Scout, check her website. Current tour dates are below the song.

Fri. Aug. 31 - Columbus, OH @ Wexner Arts Center #
Sat. Sep. 1 - Detroit, MI @ Deluxx Fluxx *
Sun. Sep. 2 - Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen ^
Tue. Sep. 4 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Spirit Lodge #
Wed. Sep. 5 - Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall #
Thu. Sep. 6 - New York City, NY @ Bowery Ballroom #
Fri. Sep. 7 - Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA #
Sat. Sep. 8 - Richmond, VA @ The Camel #
Sun. Sep. 9 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat (Backstage) #
Tue. Sep. 11 - Durham, NC @ The Pinhook #
Wed. Sep. 12 - Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn #
Thu. Sep. 13 - Tampa, FL @ Crowbar #
Fri. Sep. 14 - Tallahassee, FL @ The Wilbury #
Sat. Sep. 15 - New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa #
Mon. Sep. 17 - Austin, TX @ Barracuda #
Tue. Sep. 18 - Ft. Worth, TX @ Main at South Side #
Wed. Sep. 19 - Norman, OK @ Opolis #
Thu. Sep. 20 - Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck #
Fri. Sep. 21 - St. Louis, MO @ Off-Broadway #
Sat. Sep. 22 - Davenport, IA @ Village Theater #
Mon. Sep. 24 - Lexington, KY @ The Burl #

Wed. Sep. 26 - Omaha, NE @ Reverb $
Fri. Sep. 28 - Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive $
Sat. Sep. 29 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Diabolical Records $
Sun. Sep. 30 - Boise, ID @ Funky Taco $
Wed. Oct. 3 - Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett $

* = with Varsity
^ = with Shortly
# = with Saintseneca
$ = with Guerrilla Toss

First Listen: New Releases for 17 August

Is summer over yet?

Album of the Week:

Artist: Still Corners
Album: Slow Air
Quick Description: Dark, synthy, poppy goodness.
Why You Should Listen: This album sounds so unique and out of nowhere...
Overall Thoughts: I heard "Black Lagoon" early on and fell in love with it, so the fact that we get an album is awesome. It more than exceeded my expectations: it's a dark album without feeling brooding, it has an atmosphere all its own. I'm shocked at how great this ended up being, and I think people who have an affinity for gothy-ish stuff from the 1980s will find a lot to like here.
Recommendation: Easily my favorite this week.

Artist: Mitski
Album: Be the Cowboy
Quick Description: New album from the popular indie musician.
Why You Should Listen: Mitski is making some of the most critically-acclaimed indie music going.
Overall Thoughts: If Puberty 2 was Mitski’s coming out party, Cowboy is the culmination of all the pieces coming together. Much more confident and mainstream, this is a record that is as good as you think it is but loses points based on its relative safety compared to her earlier work. I grade this with a high bar because Mitski herself set it; if this were a debut artist’s album, we’d likely fall all over ourselves on it. Instead, this is a super impressive listen that might not reach the heights she has set.
Recommendation: A must-hear this week.

Artist: Our Girl
Album: Stranger Today
Quick Description: Highly-anticipated (at least for me) debut album.
Why You Should Listen: Our Girl has a unique mix of sounds.
Overall Thoughts: This act had an EP out some time ago that I was really into, so the anticipation for this record in particular is super real. The result is an album that is fuzzy and fun in parts, and reminiscent of a lot you already listen to while not completely being that thing. Rare spot to fill, but Our Girl does it.
Recommendation: A favorite this week.

Artist: Kovacs
Album: Cheap Smell
Quick Description: Interesting neo-soul.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something different and adventurous from what's normally put out here.
Overall Thoughts: I don’t know if there’s a major drive to fill the Amy Winehouse-sized void in the pop landscape, but it definitely feels like Kovacs is trying. I don’t know anything much about this act, but there’s a bit of attitude to go along with the excellent vocals that make this a little more worthwhile than a lot of the retreads out there.
Recommendation: Might not work for everyone, but I liked this.

Artist: Conner Youngblood
Album: Cheyenne
Quick Description: New album from a favorite around these parts.
Why You Should Listen: It's a nice mix of sounds that will be a perfect soundtrack to the end of your summer.
Overall Thoughts: I know I’ve listened to a lot of his recent output, but this new album is resonating with me a little more. Sort of the weird love child of Bon Iver, Wayne Coyne, and Maximilian Hecker, this is an oftentimes compelling listen with a lot of layers I look forward to exploring. It has a very vast, open atmosphere to it that I’m really loving.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth a listen.

Of note:

* Ninja Sex Party - Cool Patrol (musical humor can be hard, and this sometimes works. If you liked Partner, this is similar)
* Death Cab for Cutie - Thank You for Today (I never thought they’d be making semi-interesting adult contemporary fare 20 years later, but here we are)
* Slaves - Acts of Fear and Love (solid rock music, a little uneven at times)
* Mountain Lions - We Are (specifically what feels like an odd/different take on the pop folk that keeps breaking through) might be the thing that keeps it from taking off.)
* Thee Oh Sees - Smote Reverser
* Great Lake Swimmers - The Waves, The Wake


* Ludwig Goransson - Black Panther: Wakanda Remixed
* mewithoutyou - [untitled]e.p.

Also out:

* Animal Collective - Tangerine Roof
* Open Mike Eagle - Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes
* The Stubborn Lovers - Mother Road

Monday, August 20, 2018

Live Shows: Mavis Staples, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Portsmouth, NH 8/16/18

Mavis Staples at the 2014 Newport Folk Festival
Photo by Ken Sears
I've seen Mavis Staples twice so far, but each time was at the Newport Folk Festival. Until this past Thursday, I had yet to see her own show, mainly since I'm fairly cheap when it comes to concert tickets. This is the beauty of the Prescott Park Arts Festival: You can see a legendary artist like Mavis Staples for $8.00.

The thing I noticed most about this particular Mavis Staples performance was that it was much more rockin' than I had expected. She chose to stick to much more upbeat and uplifting songs than previous times I had seen her. The quietest song she played was "You Are Not Alone," from her collaboration with Jeff Tweedy. A noteworthy song that was missing from the setlist was "The Weight," which I had assumed she always played. The evening of rock/soul/funk included three fantastic covers: Talking Head's "Slippery People," Funkadelic's "Can You Get to That," and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." Each of these covers were completely her own, and if you weren't heavily familiar with the originals, you'd never know they were covers. The gospel side of Staples was also missing, but her voice and music is a religious experience all their own.

Since Thursday was also the day the world lost Aretha Franklin, the performance also included a moment of silence for the lost artist. The majority of the set was made up of songs from The Staples Singers (five total). One of these songs brought the highlight and low point of the performance: During "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend," Staples walked out to the front of the stage to shake audience members' hands. While doing this, she met a baby named Mavis, which delighted her to no end, and was brought up many times for the rest of the set. But, this also led to a ridiculously long line of people waiting to shake Staples's hand and greet her. Literally dozens of people took this opportunity. I know that getting to shake a living legend's hand and telling her how much you enjoy her music is exciting, but this just went on for far too long, even after Staples mentioned that her back was hurting from bending over to greet fans. The woman is 79, maybe we shouldn't make her potentially injure herself for our own amusement. After the song was finally allowed to end, Staples sat down on a bench for a bit and then closed with "I'll Take You There." One of the finest nights I've spent in Prescott Park.

Salem Wolves - "Shake"

My fervor for Salem Wolves has been fairly well documented here at If It's Too Loud..., and based on their new single "Shake," that won't be abating any time soon. "Shake" takes their amped up almost ready for stadiums garage rock and cranks it up a few notches. It's loud, and starts off very reminiscent of MC5's "American Ruse." That quickly goes away, and it becomes a song all its own. "Shake" is a fast, loud rocker with tons of noise and some stutters while it plows forward, stopping for nothing. It's also somehow the most accessible thing Salem Wolves have released so far.

You can listen to "Shake" below. The new album from Salem Wolves, also called Shake, will be out August 25. You can pre-order your copy on Bandcamp. For more on Salem Wolves, check out their website. If you're in the Boston area, you can see them live on August 23 at O'Brien's Pub and September 15 at Brighton Music Hall.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Forgotten Fridays: Propellerheads - Decksanddrumsandrockandroll

I should preface this by saying that there are a handful of albums that kind of define my love for music, and this is one of them.

It's probably not entirely correct to call this album "forgotten," per se, since there are certain songs like "Bang On" that soundtracked movies for close to a decade after this album was released. But when it came out in 1998, it was the height of the whole "electronica" thing in the United States, and while acts like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers were hitting it big, purer electronic acts like Orbital weren't getting quite a foothold and the sort of DJ/producer culture wasn't quite resonating the same way.

Then came this album. I'm sure it was "History Repeating" that got my attention, since I've always loved Bond themes and Shirley Bassey is a legend and this song is incredible in its own right. But what sets Decksanddrumsandrockandroll apart is just the whole package effortlessly jumps from breaks and big beat to big band to even a symphonic-electronic hybrid of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" toward the end.

A 20th anniversary version came out earlier this year and I only tripped up on it this week. It largely holds up, and I didn't realize how my knowledge of acts like De La Soul and The Jungle Brothers are rooted in their guest appearances on this album. The duo never did another album again - one of the two battled an illness shortly after the album came out and I guess they both kind of went their separate ways - but this is one of those acts that I really wish had done more together. It's such an iconic album for me, and you probably know more of it than you realize. If you're rediscovering it today, congratulations. If this is the first time you're hearing it, welcome aboard.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Goon Sax - "Make Time 4 Love"

Photo by Ben O'Connor
Despite breaking the internationally recognized rule that only Prince could use letters as words in song titles, Australia's The Goon Sax's new single is pretty great. "Make Time 4 Love" continues the new fangled Australian trend of throwing back to the 90's for inspiration. This time they go back to '97/'98 when bands were throwing back to the 60's and having a groovy/crooner feel to their songs. Singer Louis Forster (To make you feel old, he's the son of Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens) isn't exactly a crooner, but it gives the song a fun, indie vibe. The song is mostly a fairly sparse groovy indie song, except for the use of horns towards to end to help flesh out the song. It's a fun sound, bordering on quirky without quite going over the edge.

You can watch the video for "Make Time 4 Love" below. We're Not Talking, the new album from The Goon Sax, will be out September 14 on Wichita Recordings. You can pre-order it here. For more on The Goon Sax, check them out on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Baeilou - "Mourning Mantra"

Photo by Cinque Mubarak
Hopefully you remember when we brought you the haunting, Poe inspired single from Baeilou, "Eleanora." Mia Pixley and her cello Baeilou are back with another single, "Mourning Mantra." The new single seems much more straightforward neo-Americana than the previous one. It's very minimal, and a cello is going to sound a bit out of place in any rock/folk song. But "Mourning Mantra," despite it's tempo changes, is a pretty upbeat pop cello song... for the first minute and a half. After that, the mood shifts dramatically. The song becomes more moody and beautiful, and even when the pace picks back up, it is much more classical than it was previously.

You can listen to "Mourning Mantra" below. Baeilou's upcoming EP, Inside Under, will be out August 24. For more on Baeilou, check out the artist's website and Facebook.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Town and The City Festival Will Be Your October Music Highlight

When I first heard about The Town & City Festival happening in Lowell, MA, I assumed it would be limited to local Lowell area bands, and maybe a Boston band or two with Lowell ties. "A Fall Celebration of Music and Art in Lowell" just gives off a local vibe. When the line up was announced yesterday, to say I was pleasantly surprised would be a huge understatement. There are some local artists playing (Arlen, D-Tension) but there are some huge favorites of ours, also. Playing are "new" favorites like Kingsley Flood and Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys. But somehow the festival are legends Edo G, Damon and Naomi, and Kristin Hersh (!?!?!?!?!!!). And they are throwing in a bunch of artists that we always see listed and mean to check out but never quite get around to it (Abbie Barrett, Analog Heart, Frank Morey, Oldsoul). Of course, there are more to be announced, but you can check out the current line up on the poster to the left.

The Town and The City Festival will take place October 19 and 20 in various venues around Lowell, MA. Early bird two day passes for $35 will go on sale today at noon. For more information, check out the festival's website.

First Listen: New Releases for 10 August

Some great ones this week.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Bear Grass
Album: LEFT
Quick Description: Gorgeous and compelling indie folk.
Why You Should Listen: It's reminiscent of so many things, yet exists as its own unique album.
Overall Thoughts: Wow. I had never heard of this band coming in, but I was intrigued through song one and in love by the end of the second. This album is a weird hit of mid-2000s indie with some folk rock elements and a really fragile-sounding structure that I fell for over and over again. I told Ken how much I liked it early on, and he told me that he nearly presented it as “guaranteed to be in your 2018 top 10,” and… well, he might not be wrong.
Recommendation: An amazing album seemingly out of nowhere, and definitely one of the best of the year.

Artist: The Beths
Album: Future Me Hates Me
Quick Description: Debut album from a favorite here.
Why You Should Listen: This is probably the indie rock album of the summer.
Overall Thoughts: If it weren't for Bear Grass, this would be my favorite this week. I got turned onto this band years ago thanks to their EP, where album track "Whatever" first got released and my favorite Beths song, "Idea/Intent," didn't make the new album's cut. This is better produced, louder, more melodic, and just a realization of a band hitting their stride at just the right time. I fear that this isn't quite poppy enough to hook in enough people, which means that a LOT of people are going to miss out on one of the best albums of the summer.
Recommendation: Do not miss this.

Artist: Lola Kirke
Album: Heart Head West
Quick Description: Debut full-length from another folkie type.
Why You Should Listen: Some of her songs will blow your mind.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been fairly obsessed with “Monster” since I first heard it, and the album largely met my heightened expectations. The album gives me a bit of an grittier version of early Tristen vibes in some regards, and songs like “Supposed To” really do a good job of keeping on board. If you like most of what we push here, this should be on your list.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Artist: Odetta Hartman
Album: Old Rockhounds Never Die
Quick Description: Follow-up to the solid 222
Why You Should Listen: Odetta Hartman is getting some solid buzz.
Overall Thoughts: I liked this well enough, but this was a much-anticipated release for me that I hoped to love. Instead, we have a rootsy album with a lot of solid moments and many unexpected twists and turns, but a first listen does not provide the sort of throughline I was ultimately hoping for.
Recommendation: Good, just not great.

Artist: Jake Shears
Album: Jake Shears
Quick Description: Solo debut from the Scissor Sisters frontman.
Why You Should Listen: It's solid cabaret-ish pop.
Overall Thoughts: The Scissor singer has a solo album which definitely has a mainstream cabaret feel to it that is fully and completely on-brand in one regard, but also would fit right in on a lot of pop radio stations. This really does not go too far off of the classic SS mold, and that’s perfectly fine.
Recommendation: Worth a listen if you're a fan.

Of note:

* Tomberlin i At Weddings (quiet, haunting folk stuff)
* Lights - Scorpion Side B (acoustic cover of a Drake album I’ve never heard)
* War and Treaty - Healing Tide (bluesy roots for people who might not like bluesy roots)
* The Coral - Move Through the Dawn (their best effort in years)
* Bird Streets - Bird Streets
* The Perceptionists - Low Resolution
* Kathryn Joseph - From When I Wake the Want Is
* Miles Kane - Coup de Grace
* Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis - Wild! Wild! Wild!


* Tigerman Woah! - Do It All Again
* FOXTROTT - Meditations II
* Sammy Brue - Down With Desperation

Also out:

* Stella Sommer - 13 Kinds of Happiness
* Shooter Jennings - Shooter
* Liz Cooper and the Stampede - Window Flowers
* Foxing - Nearer My God

Monday, August 13, 2018

Jack Drag - "Hope Revisited"

Photo via Twitter
Last month we were thrilled to share a new single from the recently exhumed Jack Drag. "Little Lies" seemed to lean a bit more towards John Dragonetti's work with The Submarines than his earlier work with Jack Drag, but we were still thrilled to have Jack Drag back.

Now we have a second single, "Hope Revisited." The new single is still poppier than Jack Drag's 90's output, but considering a lot of that were four track home recordings, it's too be expected. "Hope Revisited" has some of the slightly off kilter arrangements I love about Jack Drag. Sure, it's a pop song, but just barely. The these odd driving verses with lines that seem to just run on into each other with virtually no breaks until you hit the chorus, which stops dead just as it starts. Even though it's largely electronic, something about the song feels organic, earning it the moniker "sci-fi folk."

You can listen to "Hope Revisited" below. Jack Drag's new album, 2018, will be out this fall on Burger Records. For more on Jack Drag, check out his Twitter.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Kings of Spade - "Way She Goes"

Kings of Spade will not sound the way you think they sound. First, look at the band picture to the left. Now, realize that they are from Hawaii. To make things even stranger, their upcoming album was produced by Dave Cobb, a well known Nashville producer.

I'm sure even though none of these things match up, you have a general idea of their sound, right? Did you picture a 70's soul fueled barrage of party ready funk with plenty of falsetto vocals? Nope, I didn't think so. I guess the singer has a mohawk and there are some elements of ska in the guitars sometimes? And it does have more of a rock element than top 40 or R&B. But that's about as close as you'll get to what you expected. The chorus is absurdly catchy, and could very well break out into a big enough hit that we're all embarrassed we ever liked it.

You can watch the video for "Way She Goes" below. Kings of Spade's self titled album will be out on October 19 on Soundly. For more on Kings of Spade, be sure to check out their website.

Adrianne Lenker - "cradle"

Photo by Shervin Lainez
We've both been huge fans of both of Big Thief's albums, so we're pretty excited that Adrianne Lenker is proving to be absurdly prolific and is releasing a solo album this year. "cradle" is the first single off of her solo album, and it's what I had expected in the best possible way. Big Thief's music isn't exactly hard rock, but it's definitely rock with some fantastic guitar flurries. "cradle" is decidedly more quiet and introspective. Lenker's vocals are barely a whisper above a barely plucked guitar. Harmonizing background vocalization fills out the song to give it not quite a lush sound, but definitely a fuller sound. 

You can listen to "cradle" below. abysskiss, the new solo album from Adrianne Lenker, will be out October 5 on Saddle Creek. You can pre-order your copy here. For more on Adrianne Lenker, check out her website.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thee MVPs - "American Dreamin'"

Sometimes you just want a big, dumb loud rock song. London's Thee MVPs seem to understand that need, and they have delivered with "American Dreamin.'" It has everything you want in a loud garage rock anthem. There isn't a shred of harmony or singing in the vocals. Virtually everything is shouted. It has a loud, plodding beat that seems to hiccup itself along. The guitar trails along in a noisy squall almost the entire way through, with just enough noodling during the solo to make it fun. "American Dreamin'" isn't high art, but sometimes rock shouldn't be. It should just be rock.

You can watch the video for "American Dreamin'" below. You can get the single via your favorite platform here. For more on Thee MVPs, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.