Friday, December 6, 2019

Shopping - "Initiative"

Photo by Matt Draper
Shopping are ridiculously prolific, but somehow it always seems like we've been waiting forever for new music from them. In February our long two year wait since 2018's The Official Body will end with a new album, but for now we have a new song, "Initiative." 

The three members of Shopping may live on different continents now (Rachel Aggs and Andrew Milk are in Glasgow while Billy Easter is in Los Angeles), but the band reconvened in London to record the new album in ten days. "Initiative" doesn't rewrite the band's musical formula: It's incredibly catchy and danceable post punk. According to the press release, the song is about "... governments who shirk responsibilities but place the blame on individuals." 

You can watch the video for "Initiative" below. All Or Nothing, the new album from Shopping, will be out February 7 on FatCat Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Shopping, check them out on Facebook and Twitter. Current tour dates are below the video.

Fri. Feb. 7 - London, UK @ Rough Trade East
Sun. Feb. 9 - Bristol, UK @ Rough Trade Bristol
Mon. Feb. 10 - Nottingham, UK @ Rough Trade Nottingham
Thu. March 5 - Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios *
Fri. March 6 - Seattle, WA @ Sunset Tavern *
Sat. March 7 - Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore *
Mon. March 9 - Reno, NV @ Holland Project * 
Tue. March 10 - San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop *
Wed. March 11 - Los Angeles, CA @ 1720 *
Thu. March 12 - San Diego, CA @ UCSD *
Sat. March 14 - Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress (Spring Thing) *
Mon. March 16 - Sat. March 21 - Austin, TX @SXSW
Mon. March 23 - Tallahassee, FL @ The Bark *
Tue. March 24 - Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade - Purgatory *
Wed. March 25 - Durham, NC @ The Pinhook *
Thu. March 26 - Washington, DC @ DC9 *
Fri. March 27 - Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle *
Sat. March 28 - Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere *
Sun. March 29 - Portsmouth, NH @ The Press Room *
Tue. March 31 - Toronto, ON @ The Monarch *
Thu. April 2 - Detroit, MI @ Deluxx Fluxx *
Fri. April 3 - Fort Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail *
Sat. April 4 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean *
Sun. April 5 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry *
Tue. April 7 - St. Louis, MO @ Sinkhole *
Wed. April 8 - Lawrence, KS @ White Schoolhouse *
Thu. April 9 - Denver, CO @ Hi Dive *
Fri. April 10 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court *
Tue. May 5 - London, UK @ The Lexington
Wed. May 6 - Paris, FR @ Supersonic
Fri. May 8 - Utrecht, NL @ ACU
Sat. May 9 - Hamburg, DE @ Molotow (SkyBar)
Sun. May 10 - Copenhagen, DK @ VEGA Ideal Bar
Mon. May 11 - Berlin, DE @ Urban Spree
Thu. May 14 - Vienna, AT @ Fluc Café
Fri. May 15 - Prague, CZ @ Meetfactory
Sat. May 16 - Munich, DE @ Milla
Sun. May 17 - Bern, CH @ Reitschule/Rössli
Tue. May 19 - Winterhur, CH @ Albani
Thu. May 21 - Luxembourg, LU @ De Gudde Wellen
Sat. May 23 - Offenbach, DE @ Hafen 2

* = w/ Automatic

Ken's Best of 2019 - #8: Priests - The Seduction of Kansas

For their 2019 album The Seduction of Kansas, Priests toned down the noise from their 2017 album Nothing Feels Natural for a more dance leaning sound. That is typically the fastest way for me to lose interest, but considering I'm putting The Seduction of Kansas as my #8 album of 2019, it obviously didn't turn me off.

That's because The Seduction of Kansas doesn't lose any of Priests's edge despite having a more palatable sound. And it's still plenty edgy and weird: It doesn't take much to be more pleasant sounding than Nothing Feels Natural. "Jesus' Son" is still a guitar driven song, even if it's easy to dance to. The title track may be a straight up disco jam, but it's a dark, not exactly non-discordant one. Priests may be the only band to ever get more mainstream and weird at the same time.

Songs of note: "Jesus' Son," "The Seduction of Kansas," "I'm Clean," and "Good Time Charlie"

Jeff's Best of 2019 - #8: Marika Hackman - Any Human Friend

A sign of how great the best music of this year has been? At one point in my list, this was my #1.

Marika Hackman's third album definitely has a different feel than her first two. I went from a low-key fan to low-key obsessed thanks to this album, which is a cohesive and interesting listen that's equal parts sexual and sophisticated. There are layers here I didn't expect, songs here that lodged themselves in my head for weeks, and imagery that stuck with me long after I was finished listening. It's one of the albums I recommended more than any other this year, as well.

To Hackman's credit, this seemed to be a breakthrough release for her, with "Hand Solo" getting some radio attention and more people talking about her than I saw for her last album. Still, this is an album that feels isolated and personal even with such an expansive intent. I'm glad it exists, and every time I listen to it I'm reminded as to why it's a favorite.

Songs of Note: "Hand Solo," "I'm Not Where You Are," "All Night."

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Mountain Man Covers Wilco

Every so often Vermont's Mountain Man has been gifting us with cover songs, ranging from artists like John Denver, The Everly Brothers, Neil Young, and Fiona Apple. Their latest sees them take on Wilco's "You & I" from 2009's Wilco [The Album]. (I just realized that Wilco [The Album], one of Wilco's "new albums," is ten years old and I now feel ancient.) 

While their take on "You & I" may be less traditional than we typically hear from Mountain Man, it's still a very stripped down take, focusing on the band's three part harmonies with just the slightest bit of guitar holding it all together.

The band explains their decision to cover this particular Wilco song: “We have been band members, collaborators, friends and business partners for over 10 years now, so a song like ‘You and I,’ a celebration of creating a relationship that is totally unique and filled with mystery, seemed very appropriate.”

You can listen to Mountain Man's take on "You & I" below. The song is available now as a single via Nonesuch Records. You can get a copy here. For more on Mountain Man, check out their website.

Ken's Best of 2019 - #9: Stella Donnelly - Beware of the Dogs

We were both huge fans of Stella Donnelly's 2018 EP Thrush Metal, and her full length from earlier this year did not disappoint. Beware of the Dogs is an album of quiet but often angry songs decrying misogyny, middle aged men, and just men being scum in general. Jeff and I are definitely not the target audience for this, but Beware of the Dogs is such a great album that two middle aged music fans can't help but love it. Donnelly is part of a great Americana and alt-rock movement coming from Australia, and we simply can't wait to hear more from her.

Songs of note: "Old Man," "Allergies," "Tricks," and "Boys Will Be Boys"

Jeff's Best of 2019 - #9: Little Simz - GREY Area

I am personally particular about my rap music these days. Not really a fan of most of the really popular stuff these days, and, really, we're more of a Run the Jewels and STL GLD (the latter of which is likely my #11 this year) crew here for newer rap music.

Enter Little Simz. This album kind of blew my mind when it came out in the spring, I revisited it in the summer and fell in love all over again, and then realized that not only is it a solid album, but it's really one of my favorites this year. The title gets the mood of this perfectly: Simz's delivery matches perfectly with the sort of monotone, understated instrumentation, and the full result is something that just continually grabs my attention every time I hear it. It's a complete package that I don't want to miss a moment of instead of a series of moments, and I feel like this in particular has been criminally overlooked in a year with some decent rap releases on a whole.

Songs of Note: "Selfish," "Venom," "Pressure."

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Squirrel Flower - "Headlights"

Photo by Ally Schmaling
Next month's debut album from Squirrel Flower (aka Ella O'Connor Williams) is quickly becoming one of our most anticipated of 2020. The latest single from the album, "Headlights," is a quiet, gorgeous, ethereal song. It's as lush as it is minimal, creating a captivating sound that just draws you in and demands your attention.

Squirrel Flower says of "Headlights": "’Headlights’ takes place in a moment of solitary reflection; a glance back and a glance forward. I wrote it on tour driving through the pioneer valley in Massachusetts in some heavy fog. Suddenly I was aware of the space the car was plummeting through, both physical and temporal."

You can watch the video for "Headlights" below. I Was Born Swimming, the debut album from Squirrel Flower, will be out January 31 on Polyvinyl. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Squirrel Flower, check out her website. Current tour dates are below the video.

Tue. Jan. 28 - London, UK @ The Islington
Fri. Jan. 31 - Brighton, UK @ Resident Records
Sat. Feb. 1 - Bristol, UK @ Friendly Records
Sun. Feb. 2 - Leeds, UK @ Jumbo Records
Tue. Feb. 4 - Diksmuide, BE @ 4AD * [Sold Out]
Wed. Feb. 5 - Nijmegen, BL @ Doornroosje *
Thu. Feb. 6 - Brussels, BE @ AB *
Sat. Feb. 8 - Amsterdam, NL @ Bitterzoet * [Sold Out]
Thu. March 5 - Freeport, ME @ Cadenza
Fri. March 6 - Middletown, CT @ Mac 650 Art Gallery &
Sat. March 7  - Boston, MA @ Great Scott &
Wed. March 11 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade &
Thu. March 12 - Philadelphia, PA @ Everybody Hits &
Sat. March 13 - Washington, DC @ Songbyrd &
Mon. March 23 - Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge %
Wed. March 25 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo %
Thu. March 26 - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill %
Sat. March 28 - Seattle, WA @ Barboza %
Sun. March 29 - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge %
Tue. March 31 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court %
Thu. April 2 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge %
Mon. April 6 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry %
Tue. April 7 - Chicago, IL @ Schubas %
Wed. April 8 - Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s %
Fri. April 10 - Toronto, ON @ Drake Hotel &
Sat. April 11 - Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo &
% = w/ Why Bonnie
& = w/ Cedric Noel
* =w/ Strand of Oaks

Ken's Best of 2019 - #10: Better Oblivion Community Center

I'm going to out myself a bit here. I've never really gotten into Conor Oberst, and only this year has Phoebe Bridgers really clicked with me. But for some reason the combination of the two in Better Oblivion Community Center completely connected with me. Sometimes it just works that way and you swear two artists were always meant to work together. Better Oblivion Community Center is filled with these incredible heartfelt folk-adjacent songs that take everything that is great about Oberst and Bridgers and amplifies them as a duo. This is one of those albums that I really, really liked when it was released in January, and that has only grown each time I've revisited it since.

Songs of note: "Didn't Know What I Was in For," "My City," "Big Black Heart," and "Service Road"

Jeff's Best of 2019 - #10: Slayyyter - Slayyyter

My #10 album this year is a surprise to me. I keep lumping Slayyyter in with the PC Music crowd, but that isn't very accurate - it's more that she represents an aesthetic of the deconstruction of late-1990s pop music. In some ways, it's more derivative of Peaches than PC Music in some regards, but if you don't have Britney and dubstep, you don't get Slayyyter.

So why does this work so well for me? For one, so much of this is ridiculously catchy. If you're not singing the chorus of "Daddy AF" to yourself (and, if you're in your late 30s like I am, feeling really conflicted about it), you might not have much life coursing through your veins, and "Alone" is a legit banger that feels like Christina Aguilera and Aphex Twin had a baby. Plus, there's a lot to appreciate from a melodic and musical standpoint in that it is so aggressive and off-center yet still ridiculously compelling. A late release this year, it's one I've gone back to quite a bit, and it's absolutely a favorite overall.

Songs of note: "Daddy AF," "BFF," "Cha Ching," "Alone."

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Heather Valley - "Ohio River"

Last month we called Heather Valley's single "Lovejoy" to be the height of country. And that was true based on lyrical content, although her indie/country blend is hardly traditional. Her latest single, "Ohio River," is even further than traditional country. Sure, the song has some strong country elements, but it's closer to the Pixies with a quiet dream pop chorus juxtaposed with some heavy grunge guitar filled choruses. 

According to a press release: "The song is set on February 14, 2018. Valley was in Cincinnati recording. They would wake up late in the afternoon, travel to the studio in an abandoned factory in the North End by dusk, record for hours, and walk the abandoned streets after that. The Ohio River had flooded. The flags were at half mast in mourning over Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting. It was a time of fantasy and infatuation. She had to leave the next day but wanted to hold on to the night."

You can watch the video for "Ohio River" below. Desert Message, the debut album from Heather Valley, is out now. For more on Heather Valley, check out her website.

First Listen: Holiday Edition

With few noteworthy releases over Thanksgiving (those are at the bottom of this post; we'll have more that we missed next week) and some interesting Christmas releases, let's go holiday crazy!

Nice List:

Josh Rouse - The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse: A pleasant, low-key holiday record from a singer-songwriter who has been at it for a long time and nearly always puts out quality work. Completely inoffensive and worth taking some time.

Various Artists - A Punk Rock Christmas Volume 2: As with any compilation like this, you're going to take and leave what is worth hearing here. With that said, this has enough good to at least give it one solid spin and add the stuff you like to a playlist.

Molly Burch - The Molly Burch Christmas Album: Beyond this being a truly solid entry into the holiday release schedule, Burch totally understands how silly the whole affair is and the lack of overall seriousness in this album makes it a little fun, too.

* Letters to Cleo - OK Christmas: The only downside to this is that it's only four songs.
* Andrew Bird - HARK!: Andrew Bird is brilliant, and so is this. Another one I wish was a full-length.
* Sasami - lil drmr bb: A very indie take on some classics. Won't be for everyone, but I really like Sasami so it worked for me.

Naughty List:

Various Artists - You Wish: A Merge Records Holiday Album: I wish this was better. I like a good original Christmas song, and there have been some great indie classics over the last couple decades. This, however, is more miss than hit.

Kasey Musgraves - The Kasey Musgraves Christmas Show: I haven't watched this holiday special yet, but this album isn't making me think I need to postpone Baby Yoda for an evening to catch up. I'd prefer another straightforward Musgraves holiday album as opposed to the equivalent of taping the audio off of an Amazon special.

* Rob Halford - Celestial: Why?
* Piebald - Piebald Presents to You, A Musical Christmas Adventure: Like the comma in this title, it's unnecessary.

Thanksgiving Releases:

Of note:

* Suzanne Sundfor - Music for People in Trouble: Live from the Barbican (Less a live performance and more an experience. I tend to be harsh on live albums and this was really good.)


* Still Corners - Live in Studio
* Sarah P. - Maenads
* Scott and Charlene's Wedding - When in Rome, Carpe Diem
* Ellen Allien - La Musica Es Dios
* clipping. - The Deep
* Keane - Retroactive EP2

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Whiffs - "On the Boulevard"

In October we gushed about "Shakin All Over," the latest song from The Whiffs. Right now they have a new single, "On the Boulevard." As much as we loved "Shakin All Over," the latest song might have us completely obsessed. "On the Boulevard" is a near perfect slice of old school power pop mixed with garage rock. It's like they somehow found a way to mix Big Star with The Box Tops. This is the kind of rock 'n' roll that just doesn't get made any more. If the press release had said that this was a lost recording from an obscure, forgotten 60's band, you wouldn't question that at all. The Whiffs might end up being your new favorite band by this time next year.

You can listen to "On the Boulevard" below. Another Whiff, the new album from The Whiffs, will be out December 6 on DIG! Records. You can order your copy here. For more on The Whiffs, check them out on Facebook.

Tysk Tysk Task - On the Radio EP

Every so often we'll stumble upon a band by accident and immediately become completely obsessed. That is the case currently with Lowell, MA's Tysk Tysk Task. I can't remember how I first came across them, but they'll been in my "I need to check them out" mental folder for a while, and I strongly wish I had done so earlier.

Earlier this year they released On the Radio EP, and it just doesn't sound like anyone out there. Well, it does sound like a lot of someones, all somehow mixed together into one of the more unique sounds you're going to hear this year. It's a lo-fi, stripped down version of early White Stripes, some of the primal force of Cake Like, and maybe even some Violent Femmes thrown in. Plus, their Bandcamp bio quotes Boston Hassle which compared them to "... a raw and female-fronted version of Nirvana Unplugged," which I can't unhear. That's what is so compelling with Tysk Tysk Task: It's so raw and immediate, but it's exceptionally well done and polished while still being abrasive. I can't wait to hear more from this band.

You can listen to "The Arsonist's Daughter" below. On the Radio EP is available now on Tysk Tysk Task's Bandcamp. For more on Tysk Tysk Task, check them out on Facebook and Instagram