Friday, November 30, 2018

The Beths Cover "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Photo by Mason Fairey
Jeff is more of the Christmas music guy here, but every so often there will be one that I enjoy thoroughly. We've both been huge on The Beths (expect them to do quite well in our best of 2018 recap coming soon), so of course we're going to drop everything when they release a Christmas song. They've released their take on the classic "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The song starts out as traditionally and quietly as possible, complete with strings. But, seeing as it clocks in at over five minutes, it slowly turns into an indie rock epic without losing any of its old timey charm. It's a brilliant version of a classic by a band very quickly becoming one of our favorites.

You can listen to The Beths's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" below. For more on The Beths, be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter. Current tour dates are below the song, including some early spring North American dates!

Fri. Dec. 14 – Wellington, NZ @ Meow
Sat. Dec. 15 – Warkworth Town District, NZ @ Leigh Sawmill Café 
Wed. Dec. 19 – Sydney, AUS @ Lansdowne Hotel
Thu. Dec. 20 – Northcote, AUS @ Northcote Social Club 
Sat. Dec. 22 – Fortitude Valley, AUS @ Black Bear Lodge 
Wed. Jan. 23 – Dublin, IE @ The Grand Social
Thu. Jan. 24 – Dublin, IE @ Olympia Theatre (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) 
Fri. Jan. 25 – Manchester, UK @ Albert Hall (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) (SOLD OUT)
Sat. Jan. 26 – Glasgow, UK @ O2 Academy Glasgow (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) 
Mon. Jan. 28 – Nottingham, UK @ Rock City (w/ Death Cab for Cutie)
Tue. Jan. 29 – Leeds, UK @ O2 Academy Leeds (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) 
Wed. Jan. 30 – Bristol, UK @ O2 Academy Bristol (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) 
Thu. Jan. 31 – London, UK @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen 
Fri. Feb. 1 – London, UK @ Eventim Apollo (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) 
Sat. Feb. 2 – Paris, FR @ Le Trianon (w/ Death Cab for Cutie)
Sun. Feb. 3 – Antwerp, BE @ De Roma (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) 
Tue. Feb. 5 – Utrecht, NL @ TivoliVrendenburg, Grote Zaal (w/ Death Cab for Cutie)
Wed. Feb. 6 – Cologne, DE @ Live Music Hall (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) 
Thu. Feb. 7 – Berlin, DE @ Astra Kulturhaus (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) 
Sat. Feb. 9 – Hamburg, DE @ Große Freiheit 36 (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) (SOLD OUT)
Sun. Feb. 10 – Copenhagen, DK @ VEGA Musikkens Hus - Store Vega (Main Hall)
Mon. Feb. 11 – Stockholm, SE @ Cirkus (w/ Death Cab for Cutie) 
Tue. Feb. 12 – Oslo, NO @ Sentrum Scene (w/ Death Cab for Cutie)
Thu. Feb. 21-Sun. Feb. 24 – Orere Point, NZ @ Splore 2019
Tue. Feb. 26 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison (w/ Bad Bad Hats) 
Wed. Feb. 27 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo (w/ Bad Bad Hats) 
Thu. Feb. 28 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall (w/ Bad Bad Hats) 
Fri. Mar. 1 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (w/ Bad Bad Hats)
Sat. Mar. 2 – Washington, DC @ Union Stage (w/ Bad Bad Hats) 
Sun. Mar. 3 – Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church (w/ Bad Bad Hats)
Tue. Mar. 5 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom (w/ Bad Bad Hats) 
Wed. Mar. 6 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall (w/ Bad Bad Hats) 
Thu. Mar. 7 – Nashville, TN @ The Basement (w/ Bad Bad Hats) 
Fri. Mar. 8 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl (w/ Bad Bad Hats) 
Sat. Mar. 9 – Savannah, GA @ Savannah Stopover (w/ Bad Bad Hats)
Mon. Mar. 11-Fri. Mar. 15 – Austin, TX @ SXSW (w/ Bad Bad Hats)
Sat. Mar. 16 – Dallas, TX @ Not So Fun Wknd (w/ Bad Bad Hats)  
Sun. Mar. 17 – Houston, TX @ Satellite Bar (w/ Bad Bad Hats) 
Thur. May. 16 - London, UK @ The Dome 

Mykele Deville featuring Daryn Alexus - "Type Love"

Photo by Zakkiyyah Najeebah
The latest single from Chicago's Mykele Deville sounds like something I should hate. It's an uplifting rap song that, according to the press release, "... imagines a world where we are taught to fall in love with ourselves before we fall in love with others." Plus, it's quite heavy in R&B, which I hate in modern rap. The difference is that "Type Love" is a truly great song.

Deville has the laid back flow of someone like Snoop Dogg, and "Type Love" has an uplifting, near hippie vibe of Arrested Development. The accompanying video was directed by McKenzie Chinn, and has a message all its own. According to Chinn: " "By using imagery and improvised choreography outside of a traditional narrative, we were able to create a dynamic and expressionistic portrait of black, masculine tenderness and softness - a mode in which black men are not often portrayed, but which is critical to dismantling toxic masculinity and advancing mental wellness for black men.” This are all themes not usually heard in hip hop, but it's about time hip hop caught up to modern America.

You can watch the video for "Type Love" below. Mykele Deville's new album, Maintain, will be out February 22 on No Trend Records and can be pre-ordered here. For more on Mykele Deville, check out his website.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Julia Jacklin - "Head Alone"

Photo by Nick Mckk
We were huge fans of Julia Jacklin's 2016 debut album Don't Let the Kids Win. It narrowly missed being in my top 10 of that year, and if I could redo my top 10 it would probably make it. Despite releasing a new album with her band Phantastic Ferniture earlier this year, she's already back again with new solo music.

"Head Alone" is mesmerizing. It's everything we loved about the Americana meets indie rock sound of Don't Let the Kids Win, but with a newfound sense of confidence. You can just hear it in her voice. While the songs off the previous album had a sense of fragility, Jacklin sounds empowered in "Head Alone."

You can watch the video for "Head Alone" below. Julia Jacklin's new album, Crushing, will be out February 22 on Polyvinyl. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Julia Jacklin, check out her website. She'll be touring the US with Black Belt Eagle Scout next year, so you'll definitely want to check that out.

Durand Jones & The Indications featuring Aaron Frazer - "Don't You Know"

Photo by Rosie Cohe
We're quietly in the middle of a soul revival, and no one is doing it quite like Durand Jones & The Indications. Their latest single, "Don't You Know," features Aaron Frazer on vocals and sounds like it's straight from the 60's or 70's. Seriously. If the press release that came with this declared it was from a lost Motown session we'd all believe it. It's an impossibly smooth classic soul song, the kind we all need to hear every so often regardless of what style of music we prefer. As much as we loved their debut album, this new song feels like a step forward even though it's a throwback to half a century ago.

You can watch the video for "Don't You Know" below. American Love Call, the new album from Durand Jones & The Indications, will be out March 1 on Dead Oceans/Colemine Records. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Durand Jones & The Indications, check out their website. Their upcoming tour dates are below the video.

Tue. Jan. 22 - London, UK @ Dingwalls
Wed. Jan. 23 - Paris, FR @ La Maroquinerie
Fri. Jan. 25 - Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso-Noord
Sun. Jan. 27 - Cologne, DE @ Artheater
Mon. Jan. 28 - Berlin, DE @ Lido
Mon. March 18 - Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
Tue. March 19 - Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
Thu. March 21 - Santa Fe, NM @ Tumbleroots
Fri. March 22 - Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
Sat. March 23 - San Diego, CA @ Casbah
Mon. March 25 - Tustin, CA @ Marty’s On Newport
Wed. March 27 - Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom
Thu. March 28 - Santa Barbara, CA @ SOhO Restaurant & Music Club
Fri. March 29 Oakland, CA @ The New Parish
Sat. March 30 - San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
Mon. April 1 - Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
Tue. April 2 - Seattle, WA @ Neumos
Thu. April 4 - Salt Lake City, UT @ The State Room
Fri. April 5 - Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
Sat. April 6 - Kansas City, MO @ recordBar
Sun. April 7 - Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room  
Tue. April 9 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Wed. April 10 - Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
Thu. April 11 - Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
Fri. April 12 - Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar
Sat. April 13 - Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
Sun. April 14 - North Charleston, SC @ High Water Festival
Tue. April 16 - Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
Wed. April 17 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Fri. April 19 - Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
Sat. April 20 - Uncasville, CT @ Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun Resort
Sun. April 21 - Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
Mon. April 22 - Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
Wed. April 24 - Cincinnati, OH @ The Woodward Theater
Fri. April 26 - Nashville, TN @ The Basement East
Sat. April 27 - Oxford, MS @ Double Decker Arts Festival
Sun. April 28 - Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
Sat. May 11 - Bloomington, IN @ Indiana University w/ Neko Case

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Way Too Early 2019 Festival Preview

It's not even December yet. Winter has barely begun (unless you're in the northeast like us) and the summer festival season is a far distant thought. Don't tell that to the following festivals, who have already started to announce their line ups. Last year some outlets began asking if festivals were dead. If these are any indication, this may be a crazy packed year.

High Water Festival
Riverfront Park, North Charleston, SC
April 13-14
Shovels & Rope have been curating this hometown festival for a few years, and each year seems more ridiculously stacked than the previous one. How stacked is it, you ask? Shovels & Rope are third billed. Ahead of them on the poster is Leon Bridges and The Head & The Heart. Add to that such If It's Too Loud... approved artists like Jenny Lewis, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The War & Treaty, Durand Jones & The Indications, The Secret Sisters, Michael Nau, and Lilly Hiatt and the first festival of 2019 may be the one of the year.

Punk Rock Bowling
Las Vegas, NV
May 24-17
I have literally zero interest in ever going to Vegas, but the 11th edition of Punk Rock Bowling actually has me wishing I could go. This year's festival features bowling (of course) but the line up is beyond crazy for aging punks, with a handful of newer bands thrown in. You get Rancid, Descendents, The Specials, The Hives (who may be playing every US festival this year), Refused, The Damned, Fear, Shame, Dead Boys, Street Dogs, The Pietasters, The Coathangers, The Toasters, and a ton more.

Muddy Roots Music Fest
Nashville, TN
August 29-September 1
Put on by Muddy Roots Records, Muddy Roots Music Fest might be the smallest. It's limited to 3000 tickets, but you would never know it from the line up. It hasn't been fully announced yet, but so far they've announced Fear, The Damned, MC50, Fishbone, The Adicts, and more! Early bird tickets are sold out, but three day passes are only $125 including camping and hot showers. Plus beer is only $3.00. I'm not a huge beer guy, and I rarely drink at shows, but $3.00 beer shows that these guys truly care about the music and aren't just trying to gouge fans for a quick buck.

Jeff Tweedy - "I Know What It's Like"

Photo by Whitten Sabbatini
At this point in his career, you already know if you're going to listen to a new song or album that Jeff Tweedy is involved in. His work with Wilco and his solo work has a certain feel to it, and there are plenty of fans that have jumped off the bandwagon calling his newer output "dad rock," and there are plenty still on that love that he puts out dad rock. His newest solo single, "I Know What It's Like," is really worth a listen even if you're in the former category. Sure, the song is 100% dad rock, and it certainly isn't rewriting the Jeff Tweedy formula at all. But the man can write an amazing song, and if you just give "I Know What It's Like" a chance, you might end up falling back in love with his music. 

You can watch the video for "I Know What It's Like" below. Jeff Tweedy's solo album, WARM (which is somehow his first solo album (?)), will be out November 30 on dBPM Records. It can be pre-ordered here. On December 1 Jeff Tweedy will be performing songs from WARM via a livestream, which you can find here. For more on Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, check out Wilco's website. His current tour dates are below the video.

Thu. Jan. 3 - Los Angeles, CA @ Largo at the Coronet Theatre [SOLD OUT]
Fri. Jan. 4 - Los Angeles, CA @ Largo at the Coronet Theatre [SOLD OUT]
Sun. Jan. 6 - Los Angeles, CA @ Largo at the Coronet Theatre [SOLD OUT]
Mon. Jan. 7 - Los Angeles, CA @ Largo at the Coronet Theatre [SOLD OUT]
Wed. Feb. 27 - Iowa City, IA @ Englert Theatre w/ Buck Meek
Thu. Feb. 28 - St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant w/ Buck Meek
Fri. March 1 - Oklahoma City, OK @ Page Woodson theater w/ Buck Meek
Sun. March 3 - Dallas, TX @ Majestic Theatre w/ Buck Meek
Mon. March 4 - Austin, TX @ Paramount Theatre w/ Buck Meek

Thu. March 7 - Germantown, TN @ Germantown Performing Arts Center w/ Buck Meek
Fri. March 8 - Birmingham, AL @ Lyric Theatre w/ Buck Meek
Sat. March 9 - Macon, GA @ Hargray Capitol Theatre w/ Buck Meek
Mon. March 11 - Ponte Vedra, FL @ Ponte Vedra Concert Hall w/ James Elkington
Thu. March 14 - Tampa, FL @ Tampa Theatre w/ James Elkington
Fri. March 15 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ The Parker Playhouse w/ James Elkington
Sun. March 17 - Orlando, FL @ The Plaza Live Theatre w/ James Elkington
Tue. March 19 - Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel w/ James Elkington
Wed. March 20 - Nashville, TN @ James K. Polk Theater w/ James Elkington

Thu. March 21 - Indianapolis, IN @ Egyptian Room @ Old National Centre w/ James Elkington
Fri. April 12 - Savannah, GA @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts
Sat. April 13 - Decatur, GA @ Amplify Decatur Music Festival

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Dani Bell & The Tarantist - "Mystery"

Photo by Kristy Walker
Dani Bell & The Tarantist don't sound like a band from San Diego should sound. I couldn't tell you what that sound should be (Sublime, maybe?), but these guys certainly aren't it. Their latest single, "Mystery," is this odd blend of dreamy pop music. Sure, "Mystery" is pop, but it's hardly top 40 style pop music. There's just enough of a rock element to the song. Plus, it's just a little too... weird? It sound more like Bjork collaborating with Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys, but trying to make a megahit song. (Also, fun fact for fellow history nerds: According to their press release: "During the Italian Renaissance, tarantism was a phenomenon of psychological hysteria attributed to the bite of a tarantula spider. Those bitten would experience a short period of extreme apathy, followed by prolonged bout of unrestrained dancing ecstasy, which would temporarily remit the illness."

You can watch the video for "Mystery" below. Dani Bell & The Tarantist's new album, Wide Eyed, will be out January 18 on The Redwoods Music. For more on Dani Bell & The Tarantist, be sure to check them out on Facebook.

First Listen: New Releases for 23 November

The record labels are too busy shopping to release much new music this week, so this also covers some interesting ones we missed.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Various Artists
Quick Description: Charity compilation from a Boston label that provides emo-esque covers of Carly Rae Jepson's E-MO-TION
Why You Should Listen: This is a solid effort around a solid album, and you may even see this as benefiting a solid cause!
Overall Thoughts: The pop album of our era gets a rock treatment, with great efforts for "Boy Problems," for "I Didn't Just Come Here to Dance," and "Making the Most of the Night." I am all about this and you will likely be as well whether you're a fan of Carly Rae, of the associated acts, or none of the above. It's great fun.
Recommendation: A must hear.

Artist: Moving Units
Album: This is Six
Quick Description: Latest from the dance-rock vets.
Why You Should Listen: Moving Units has somehow figured out how to make their sound current while not losing what makes them great.
Overall Thoughts: At eight songs, this is a shorter effort for the act, but no matter - the music is still solid and they are staying well within their lane while still feeling fresh. I am continually impressed that this band has stayed relevant even as this style has faded, but that should not be an indication to skip this one. Instead, either enjoy the nostalgia of a decade ago or enjoy something new.
Recommendation: Listen to this.

Artist: My Brightest Diamond
Album: A Million and One
Quick Description: Latest dancey effort by the singer.
Why You Should Listen: This is an interesting and ambitious listen on a whole.
Overall Thoughts: I can't say I'm terribly familiar with My Brightest Diamond on a whole, but this album made me want to hear a lot more. This is a pretty danceable record with some interesting-but-poppy efforts on songs like "Champagne" that make this work on a whole.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: Oldsoul
Album: Coy
Quick Description: Solid indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: This has a deliberative quality to it that's often lacking in indie rock like this.
Overall Thoughts: One of two bands this week I found through the Carly Rae tribute, Oldsoul is a band I've come to really like and the fact that they have two songs on the album referencing Twin Peaks doesn't hurt. There is a lot of great stuff happening on this album ("Good Girl" a solid highlight), and while it doesn't have a grungy quality like many of the current indie acts out there, this has an early Death Cab feel that I am finding very appealing right now.
Recommendation: Don't let this one slip under your radar the way it slipped under ours.

Artist: Art Brut
Album: Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out!
Quick Description: A return to form for the British indie act.
Why You Should Listen: They have some stone cold classics, and this album is very reminiscent of them.
Overall Thoughts: I've loved Art Brut from the day I first heard them. The delivery is weird, they're not quite like anything else (except perhaps a nerdy Blur's "Parklife" all the time), and yeah. They haven't produced new music in years, but this is like they haven't missed a beat. A favorite this week, for sure.
Recommendation: Art Brut has always been a must-listen, this week is no different.

Of note:

* Ed Harcourt - Beyond the End (Gorgeous, quiet instrumentals.)
* Holly Golightly - Do the Get-Along (Solid listen from a British vet.)
* Surface to Air Missive - Surface II Air Missive
* Cheer Up - Sleep Debt
* Big Jay McNeely - I'm Still Here - Big Jay Sings the Blues


* Rachel Baiman - Thanksgiving
* Oneohtix Point Never - Love in the Time of Lexapro
* Death From Above 1979 - Heads Up Demos
* Cults - Offering B-Sides and Demos
* The Room in the Wood - The Mars EP
* Lake Street Dive - Freak Yourself Out

Monday, November 26, 2018

Matt Pond & Chris Hansen Cover Led Zeppelin

One of my favorite things about Matt Pond is the frequency that he releases cover songs. For Thanksgiving he decided to give us all an early gift (even though he's been spoiling us recently by offering us free downloads of his first and brand new albums) and cover Led Zeppelin's "Thank You" with Chris Hansen. I've been developing an appreciation for Zeppelin late in life (most of my college years were spent despising anything that could be considered classic rock because I just had to be that guy...), so this cover is right up my current alley. The Matt Pond & Chris Hansen version of "Thank You" is shockingly close to the original. Pond even does an amazing Robert Palmer on the vocals. They do inject the dreaminess that we would expect from anything Matt Pond related, so it's basically everything we ever want in a cover song.

You can listen to Matt Pond & Chris Hansen's cover of "Thank You" below. It's also available as a free download. For more on Matt Pond & Chris Hansen, be sure to check out Matt Pond's website.

Hallelujah the Hills - Bootleg: LIVE Improvised Set - February 3, 2018

Back in February (which seems like it was roughly fifty years ago) I was lucky enough to attend a night of improvised rock with The Sheila Divine and Hallelujah the Hills at Lilypad in Somerville. It was a unique (obviously) and special night, and it felt like something that would be gone forever once it was over. Luckily Hallelujah the Hills recorded their performance and have now made Bootleg: LIVE Improvised Set - February 3, 2018 available on their Bandcamp. This isn't the type of release that's going to propel them to superstardom, but for fans of experimental music it's a treat. It's always fun to hear a band try new things, especially if they're typically a pretty straightforward rock band. 

You can listen to Bootleg: LIVE Improvised Set - February 3, 2018 below. If you like what you hear, it's only a dollar at their Bandcamp. For more on Hallelujah the Hills, check out their website. If you prefer their more mainstream work, you can pre-order their forthcoming album here.

Friday, November 23, 2018

2018 Christmas Music Roundup

I've wanted to do this for years, but I'm finally getting to it this year. There are new Christmas albums out, and of those of interest? Well...

The Nice List

Ingrid Michaelson's Songs for the Season is basically exactly what I look for in traditional holiday fare. Far too many singers, when going for the more typical songs, make it more about them than make it about the music. Michaelson wisely gives us a presentation of Christmas music that has her identity stamped on it without overpowering the whole production. There may not be a better pop singer to do this these days, so make sure this hits your rotation.

JD McPherson's Socks is a great set of Christmas originals by someone who has kept his music in the retro side of things for years now. I've loved a lot of his music, and Socks just has that old time radio feel to it that feels appropriate for the season.

The Old 97's Love The Holidays is an appropriately goofy and fun Christmas album that combines the personalities of the band with the seasonal songs, both traditional and original. Nothing cringeworthy at all here, just a fun listen that actually reminds me a lot of the superlative Christmas Caravan from the Squirrel Nut Zippers 20-odd years ago. Make sure you grab the version with the traditional holiday songs at the end, as that turns a good album into a great one.

The Naughty List

Eric Clapton's Happy XMas is fine, I guess. Clapton is a legend in his own right, and I guess I just would think that someone of his stature and his love for music would have something that didn't sound so paint-by-numbers. If this didn't have Clapton's name on it and you heard it, I don't believe anyone would even give it a second glance, sadly.

The Mavericks' Hey! It's Christmas! is not the joyless affair Clapton's is, but it is surprisingly mediocre in the grand scheme of things. When we have a glut of rootsy holiday fare this year, it's probably on the upper end of solid listens but still isn't quite what I hoped it would be.

Rodney Crowell's Christmas Everywhere is at least thematically appropriate in sounding as curmudgeonly as the song titles suggest, but the schtick gets old fairly quickly for me. There are solid moments, for sure, but on a whole it is not what you're likely to be looking for.

The WTF List

No one was asking for The Monkees Christmas Party, but we got it in our stockings anyway. I don't want to abuse them too much, but their continued efforts at renewed relevance just hasn't worked for me, and this Christmas album (which includes some heavy hitting collaborators) isn't helping. Not a failure as much as just strange.

William Shatner's Shatner Claus is exactly what you think it is, and if that sounds appealing to you, well, you're in for a treat. Otherwise...

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ash Shakur - "Made It"

Photo by Robin Hodge
I know I can be a bit of an anglophile, but there is just something about rap coming out of England that American rap is lacking lately. The latest single from London's Ash Shakur shows that difference. "Made It" is a laid back, nostalgic rap track that keeps the sound moving forward. It has that upbeat feel reminiscent of classic De La Soul and the jazz background of Digable Planets. While it does have some 90's hip hop throwback to it, it doesn't sound like a pure nostalgia trip and stays with a new sound. Uniqueness in hip hop can be a rare thing in this millennium, so we should all latch on to what we can find.

You can listen to "Made It" below. For more on Ash Shakur, be sure to check him out on Instagram and Soundcloud.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

First Listen: New Releases for 16 November

Entering into the end-of-year phase...

Artist: Hooverphonic
Album: Looking for Stars
Quick Description: Longtime UK act with a new album.
Why You Should Listen: Hooverphonic have a long track record.
Overall Thoughts: Somehow I am nearing 38 years of age and never listened to Hooverphonic before. This is probably a little too polished for my tastes on a whole, but there are so many catchy tunes on here that I almost don’t mind. I think “Horrible Person” hooked me in for good, but there are solid hooks throughout this whole thing that I can’t help but recommend it. And for me, I’ll be saving their “best of” for later.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Deena Abdelwahed
Album: Khonnar
Quick Description: Well to the left-of-center electronic music.
Why You Should Listen: You want a fascinating, rewarding challenge.
Overall Thoughts: I spent most of my time listening to this wondering why I liked it so much. In a way, it’s sort of like of you took Ben Frost, Sophie, and Kaitlyn Auriela Smith and put it in a blender. It’s a weird electronic effort, but with a little more accessibility to go along with the true strangeness that goes along with it. “Fdhiha” really sold me on this as something a lot more special, but the mix of sounds and instrumentation makes this something a little special.
Recommendation: If you’re feeling adventurous, you'll be happy.

Artist: Spose
Album: We All Got Lost
Quick Description: Maine rapper back with more music.
Why You Should Listen: He's better than the nerdcore label he is often described with suggests.
Overall Thoughts: I was first turned onto Spose with the Humans project a few years back. The Maine rapper’s latest drops references left and right and is so infectious I can’t really handle it. While there’s nothing especially special about Spose’s delivery or anything like that, where things get interesting is the total package. I can’t really compare it to anything else, which is often what I look for in rap/hip-hop these days. “The Bugs Are Really Bad Out Here” is probably a good example of this, but fair warning – it’ll probably make you want to hear the rest.
Recommendation: A solid rap album this week.

Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins
Album: Shiny and Oh So Bright Volume 1: No Past. No Future. No Sun.
Quick Description: Longtime alt-rock legends back with a new album.
Why You Should Listen: Corgan is a bit of a blowhard and his output has been sketchy over the last 15 or so years, but this is a bit of a return to the basics.
Overall Thoughts: Shockingly, this is good! Billy Corgan has an individual all his own, but the various incarnations of the Pumpkins over the last few years have not been great. Add in the inherent pretentiousness, and yeah. But this album? It's good! It feels like a lot of the old Pumpkins stuff in some regards, but still modern in other ways. Yeah, there's no "Today" on here (and I'm the weirdo who likes Adore more than any other Pumpkins effort) but that's okay. This is actually worth the time!
Recommendation: A surprisingly great listen.

Artist: Kississippi
Album: Sunset Blush
Quick Description: Indie alt revival stuff great for fans of Tancred or Waxahatchee.
Why You Should Listen: This will scratch the itch you might have had from the female-fronted alt-rock revival of last year.
Overall Thoughts: We completely missed this one when it came out in the spring, and I needed to make sure I gave it a minute. This is a rock-solid debut album from a singer-songwriter who isn't staying in the general alt-rock lane, but still puts together a compelling debut that is both one you'll want to hear again as well as one where you can't wait to hear what happens next. Solid songwriting, and a great listen.
Recommendation: Add this to your rotation.

Artist: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Album: Upside-Down Flowers
Quick Description: Latest from the dreamy alt act.
Why You Should Listen: Andrew McMahon continues to defy description, but we'll run with it.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know how to approach this album, really, but I didn't want to leave it alone, either. This is a solid listen, with a lot of dreamy, airy compositions throughout that are both friendly enough to have broad appeal while still being a little weird. That should appeal to you if you're reading this, at least.
Recommendation: Give it a listen.

Artist: Anderson .Paak
Album: Oxnard
Quick Description: Solid new album from an R&B favorite.
Why You Should Listen: If you didn't love his first album, this might change your mind about him.
Overall Thoughts: Anderson .Paak's first album wasn't my thing. Not a fault of his, for the record, just not something I typically go for and the multi-genre R&B thing wasn't working for me. I didn't think I'd be into this second album, but I found myself instead very into the whole package. It felt more adventurous, more mature, and very sure of itself and where it was going, and I dug that a lot. Will it have staying power for me? That remains to be seen, but for now, I was pleasantly surprised.
Recommendation: Worth the time this week.

Artist: Chuck D as Mistachuck
Album: Celebration of Ignorance
Quick Description: Legendary rapper presents some current rhymes.
Why You Should Listen: You hate the president or love Chuck D. Or both.
Overall Thoughts: The opening track calls out the president for "building walls" while praising LeBron James for building schools, if you had any question where Chuck D was coming from in the current political environment or where his music is going. For someone generally allergic to protest songs (and, while I'm far from a Trump supporter, also as someone lacking in protest music that supports his side of things), this was a fun listen on a whole. Plenty to like in any direction, and it's a strong reminder as to how much of a master Chuck D is at this.
Recommendation: Add this to your rotation.

Of note:

* Eelke Kleijn - Moments of Clarity (Straightforward electronic music. It works.)
* Rose Droll - Your Dog (An experimental artist from California, this is a strange but interesting listen with a lot going for it.)
* Real Kids - 28:18:39 (Yeah, Felice is in his mid-60s, but it still rocks.)
* The Good, The Bad, and The Queen - Merrie Land (A perfectly good album I have no interest in listening to again.)
* Static Future - Oh Master!
* Neurotic Fiction - Pulp Music
* Priors - Priors
* Hurry - Every Little Thought

Seven Song Albums:

* Njomza - Vacation


Rachel Sumner - Anything Worth Doing (Don’t sleep on this one just because it’s an EP, this solo effort from the Twisted Pine frontwoman is one of the best releases this week)
* Esben and the Witch - Nowhere
* Claire George - Bodies of Water
* GHXST - Gloom
* Ocean Colour Scene - Ocean Colour Scene
* Liv Dawson - Bedroom EP

Also out:

* Mark Knopfler - Down the Road Wherever (To be clear, I’m not saying this is bad as much as it’s not good.)
* Mumford and Sons - Delta
* Rhye - Blood Remixed
* Lusts - Call of the Void

Fox Face Covers "There'll Be Some Changes Made"

Photo via Facebook
Milwaukee Record has a monthly video series called "Public Domain" where they have local musicians perform songs in the public domain. The latest has Fox Face covering the standard "There'll Be Some Changes Made." The song was published back in 1921 and has been recorded by musicians such as Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, and Tony Bennett. Obviously Fox Face are quite different from those other artists, with their current take on riot grrrl and punk. Fox Face absolutely destroy their version, making it completely their own. It's loud, angry, and more than a little metal at times. I'm honestly not familiar with earlier versions of this song at all, but I hope it ends up sticking around for Fox Face.

You can watch Fox Face perform "There'll Be Some Changes Made" below. For more on Fox Face, be sure to check them out on Facebook and Bandcamp.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Live Shows: Weakened Friends and Nervous Dater, Great Scott, Allston, MA 11/15/18

I've seen Weakened Friends a few times, but always as an opening band. This past Thursday marked my first time seeing them headline a show, so despite the terrible early winter weather I knew I had to make the hour plus drive into Boston to see them make a triumphant semi-homecoming show to celebrate their great new album Common Blah. Plus, they were bringing Nervous Dater with them, so bad weather or not I had to go in.

The first thing I noticed at the venue was how young the crowd seemed to be for the show. Maybe it was the weather being awful enough to keep anyone over the age of 22 home, but this was the youngest crowd I had been in for a long time. I assumed that their opening slots for bands like The Sheila Divine, Letters to Cleo, and Juliana Hatfield would have brought out some other aging Gen-Xers, but we were few and far between.

But sometimes young crowds can be great, particularly with energy. And this crowd was stoked to be there. Despite Weakened Friends focusing on their album released less than a month ago, they seemed to know every single word of every single song already. They did pepper the set with material from their previous EPs, and as much as I loved hearing favorites like "Crshd" and "Main Bitch," hearing the new songs was fantastic. Keeping with my early Weezer comparisons we've mentioned on this blog before, singer/guitarist Sonia Sturino always seems like she's going through something heavy while singing and bassist Annie Hoffman seems like she's having the best time ever. The same can be said for the crowd, who can obviously relate to a lyric like "I hate everything you're saying get away from me / I hate everything we're doing it's a waste for me" while joyously singing.

Another great aspect of the night was how all bands watched each other's sets from right up front, singing along with all the words. You would think after seeing each other play for weeks at this point that Weakened Friends and Nervous Dater would have had enough of each other's sets, but you'd be wrong. Much like how I first discovered Weakened Friends after seeing them on a bill with The Sheila Divine, after this tour was announced I looked up Nervous Dater and was instantly smitten. They might be the absolute perfect band to tour with Weakened Friends, both lyrically and sonically. Singer Rachel Lighter claimed to have run out of banter early in the tour, but they still let the songs shine through. Somehow their songs are even catchier live, and brought out the same joyous singing from the crowd despite lyrics like "It's fine / I said / I'll bash my fucking head through the wall."

Friday, November 16, 2018

Mercury Rev and Margo Price Cover Bobbie Gentry

Photo by Ken Sears
Green River Festival 2016
Mercury Rev are probably not the most obvious choice to release a full album of Bobbie Gentry covers. Psychedelic indie rock and the classic 60's and 70's country star may seem like an odd pairing, but if their version of "Sermon" is any indication, this could be an early candidate for Album of the Year. The Delta Sweete Revisited (covering the entirety of 1968's concept album The Delta Sweete) has Mercury Rev pairing with a different singer for each song. For "Sermon," they join with Gentry superfan Margo Price. The result is near perfection. Mercury Rev fills the song with a shoegaze level of backing fuzz mixed with rhinestone country while Price's vocals soar above the whole mixture. It's somehow very fitting to the original while completely re-imagining the song. 

You can listen to Mercury Rev and Margo Price's cover of "Sermon" below. The Delta Sweete Revisited will be out February 8 on Partisan/Bella Union. The album will also feature collaborations with Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Hope Sandoval, Beth Orton, Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab, and more. You can pre-order the album here.

Harker Moon - "Muma Says"

Harker Moon only formed in London back in 2017, but they've been playing live shows regularly and have gained a loyal following. They've released their debut single, and now those of us outside of the UK can finally check them out.

"Muma Says" is a mesmerizing blend of soul and rock, not unlike what we've come to love from Benjamin Booker. What sets Harker Moon apart from their soul/rock contemporaries is a decidedly strong jazz influence, and, since they're British, there is a definitely influence from bands like Arctic Monkeys. "Muma Says" is this smooth blend of rock, soul, and jazz with just enough grit and edge to keep it sounding interesting.

You can listen to "Muma Says" below. For more on Harker Moon, be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Living Hour - "Bottom Step"

Photo by Chelsea Neufeld
Based in Winnipeg, Living Hour have crafted this gorgeously lush and intricate sound. On their latest single, "Bottom Step," the band bring you a quiet, laid back song that is simply a must hear. Sam Sarty's voice is the main focus, as the song slowly builds and other instruments wander in and out at will. "Bottom Step" reminds me a bit of a more organic version of Mazzy Star. Even though the song does build, it never quite reaches a crescendo and instead ends when it feels it should.

You can listen to "Bottom Step" below. Living Hour's new album, Softer Faces, will be out March 1 on Kanine Records. You can pre-order your copy here. For more on Living Hour, be sure to check out their website.

Argonaut - "Girl Talk"

Photo via Facebook
The latest single from the United Kingdom's Argonaut is a bizarre little minimalist indie dance song. The focus of "Girl Talk" are the vocals, which is a rarity in the indie rock world. Particularly the way they have gang vocals swirling around background vocals. The instrumentation is particularly minimalist to the point that you almost stop even noticing it by the end of the song. It's almost like an electronic version of a Beat Happening song. Somehow this works and makes for one of the more fun songs I've heard in a while.

You can watch the video for "Girl Talk" below. It's off the Argonaut's new EP, which is titled The New Argonaut EP, and is available though keymailrecords. You can get your copy here. For more on Argonaut, be sure to check out their website.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

And the Kids - "Champagne Ladies"

It looks like all of those And the Kids songs that haven't sounded familiar live are about to get much more familiar! The Western Massachusetts band has just announced a new album, and with it a new single and video. "Champagne Ladies" could make And the Kids huge very quickly. It's an incredibly fun and quite danceable song with the less than cheerful refrain of "Life is a bastard / Life Wants to kill you / Don't get old." It's bright and sunny and a little more mainstream than most of And the Kids's previous songs but still just odd and fun enough to satisfy their longtime fans. For the video, the band is dressed all fancy-like and traipsing around what might be Northampton, MA with golf clubs, tennis rackets, and other recreational choices of the wealthy.

You can watch the video for "Champagne Ladies" below. When This Life is Over, the new album from And the Kids, will be out February 22 on Signature Sounds. You can pre-order a copy over at Bandcamp. For more on And the Kids, check out their website.