You might know Annabelle Lord Patey as the daughter of Mary Lou Lord and Kevin Patey (Jittery Jack and Raging Teens), and also as a pretty great folk/singer-songwriter on her own. She has formed a new band with Shane McCarthy called Robot Hands, and they've just released their first single. Anyone expecting this to sound like her solo work will be surprised. "Eleanor" is more of a droney, grungey song. It's either a noisier version of grunge or a dirtier version of shoegaze. Even with the fuzz driving the song, it's still shockingly melodic. Lord Patey's vocals provide most of the melody, giving a really nice diversion from the noisier music.
You can listen to "Eleanor" below. The song is available now via Bandcamp. For more on Robot Hand, check out Annabelle Lord Patey's Facebook.
If you've been here for a while, you know that metal isn't something we cover a whole lot. That just means that when we do, it's spectacular. Boston's Glacier released No Light Ever back in 2019, but we just discovered them from playing a show with Salem Wolves and Evan Greer earlier this month, which we sadly missed. There are only four songs on No Light Ever, but it clocks in at forty-two minutes of instrumental metal. It's the kind of metal that goes between gorgeous quieter moments and loud, crushing ones within the same song. If you're looking for screaming death, Glacier won't be for you. But if you want music that's going to lull you into hypnosis and then blast you in your skull, then you've found it!
You can listen to "O World! I Remain No Longer Here." below. No Light Ever is available on Bandcamp for the "name your price" option. If you do choose free, be sure to at least give Glacier a follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Last month we brought you "Let's See Each Other" from A Place to Bury Strangers. It was still a huge noisy song, but it was more electronic than pure rock. On their latest, "Hold on Tight," A Place to Bury Strangers bring back the rock in a huge way. This new song is a huge, noisy rock song that pummels the listener while just plowing forward. Guitars swirl around bass and drums as the song drives forward, feeling much faster than it actually is. Somehow, it does all this while still having some sense of melody. It's a noisy rock song, but it doesn't quite make it to being a noise song. There is just too much of a sense of traditional structure and melody here, even if it is buried under an avalanche of distortion.
You can watch the video for "Hold on Tight" below. See Through You is due out February 4 on Dedstrange. The album can be pre-ordered here. For more on A Place to Bury Strangers, check out their website. Upcoming tour dates are below the video.
Mon. January 31 - Washington, DC @ Songbyrd # Tue. February 1 - Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s # Wed. February 2 - Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz # Fri. February 4 - Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace # Sat. February 5 - Detroit, MI @ El Club # Sun. February 6 - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle Mon. February 7 - Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club # Tue. February 8 - Minneapolis, MN @ First Ave. 7th Street Entry # Fri. February 11 - Seattle, WA @ Neumos % Sat. February 12 - Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios % Sun. February 13 - Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre % Tue. February 15 - San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel % Wed. February 16 - Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom % Fri. February 18 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar % Sat. February 19 - Tucson, AZ @ Hotel Congress % Tue. February 22 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge % Wed. February 23 - Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck % Fri. February 25 - Nashville, TN @ The High Watt % Sat. February 26 - Atlanta, GA @ 529 % Sun. February 27 - Chapel Hill, ND @ Cat’s Cradle Fri. March 4 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg ! Wed. March 9 - Hamburg, DE @ Hafenklang & Thu. March 10 - Dresden, DE @ Beatpol & Fri. March 11 - Warsaw, PL @ Klub Poglos & Sat. March 12 - Prague, CZ @ Futurum & Sun. March 13 - Bratislava, SK @ Randal Club & Mon. March 14 - Budapest, HU @ Durer Kert & Wed. March 16 - Bucharest, RO @ Control Club ^ Thu. March 17 - Sofia, BG @ Mixtape5 ^ Fri. March 18 - Thessaloniki, GR @ Eightball ^ Sat. March 19 - Athens, GR @ Temple ^ Mon. March 21 - Skopje, MK @ 25th of May Hall ^ Tue. March 22 - Belgrade, RS @ Club Drugstore ^ Thu. March 24 - Zagreb, HR @ Mochvara ^ Fri. March 25 - Bologna, IT @ Freakout Club ^ Sat. March 26 - Rome, IT @ Largo ^ Sun. March 27 - Milan, IT @ Legend Club ^ Tue. March 29 - Zurich, CH @ Bogen F ^ Wed. March 30 - Munich, DE @ Backstage ^ Thu. March 31 - Martigny, CH @ Caves Du Memoir Fri. April 1 - Paris, FR @ La Trabendo * Sat. April 2 - London, UK @ Lafayette * Mon. April 4 - Antwerp, BE @ Kavka * Tue. April 5 - Munster, DE @ Gleis 22 * Wed. April 6 - Amsterdam, NL @ Melkweg * Thu. April 7 - Groningen, NL @ Vera * Sat. April 9 - Stockholm, SE @ Hus 7 * Sun. April 10 - Oslo, NO @ John Dee * Mon. April 11 - Copenhagen, DK @ Pumpehuset * Tue. April 12 - Berlin, DE @ Hole 44 * Wed. April 13 - Cologne, DE @ MTC * # with Glove % with TV Priest & with Jealous ^ with Plattenbau * with Lunacy ! with Native Sun, GIFT
We're late to the party on this one, but I couldn't just ignore it, could I? Back in November Pom Pom Squad went on tour with Nada Surf, and it must have gone well since Mia Berrin has convinced Nada Surf's Matthew Caws to join them on a cover of Nada Surf's 1996 breakthrough hit "Popular." This is kind of a huge deal because, unless things have changed and nostalgia has softened their opinion of the song, Nada Surf aren't exactly fans of their big hit. That's too bad, because it's truly a killer song, and Pom Pom Squad prove it. This is a near perfect cover of the original. It's slowed down a teensy bit, and Berrin has perfected the 90's slacker vocals in a way that we haven't heard in literal decades.
You can watch the video for Pom Pom Squad's cover of "Popular" below. The song can be downloaded here. The video is also a recreation of the original, so you need to check it out. For more on Pom Pom Squad, check out their website.
"Cheerleader of the Universe" is a perfect example of bedroom pop. Alyssa Gengos has crafted a dreamy pop song that is going to be easily loved by people who hate pop. It has a wonderfully spacey feel. It's not quite psychedelic, but it's well on its way to psychedelia. This has that intensely personal feel of 90's bedroom recordings but with much better production. Its sparsity only odds to the personal feel. It's more like listening to a friend's private demos, if your friend was incredibly talented at both music and producing.
In a press release, Alyssa Gengos says of the new song:
“'Cheerleader of the Universe' is sort of surreal; it’s a bunch of associated phrases that form a comforting lullaby. I think of the Cheerleader as the fairy godmother inside my own head. My grandma was a cheerleader, and so was my mother, and I became one in high school as well. I never really wanted to do that as a kid – I just kinda fell into it because my friends and I decided we’d all do it together. Still, I felt like I was doing some service continuing this cheerleader mythology that my grandma had started. Now, facing the next chapter of my life, I call upon the Cheerleader of the Universe for guidance. The music video is dreamlike, matching the sentiment of the lyrics. In it, I frolic across a Southern California beach in a dress I sewed myself."
You can watch the video for "Cheerleader of the Universe" below. Mechanical Sweetness is due out on February 25 via Egghunt Records. The album can be pre-ordered and/or pre-saved here. For more on Alyssa Gengos, check out the artist's Facebook and Twitter.
Garage rock and power pop are one of my weaknesses, and luckily here in the Boston area we have a ton of artists that fit into those categories. That includes The False Positives, the current musical project of Dave Harrison of the Voodoo Dolls. "Bye Bye Baby" sees him working again with fellow Voodoo Doll Bruce Pierce, who played drums on and produced the song. "Bye Bye Baby" is that kind of timeless garage rock and power pop that could have been recorded any time in the last forty or fifty years. It's ridiculously catchy with a straight up rock 'n' roll swing underneath the entire thing. It's almost a little too sugary sweet, but The False Positives keep just enough of an edge to keep it rock enough to be interesting.
You can listen to "Bye Bye Baby" below. The song is available as a single via Bandcamp. For more on The False Positives, check out the band's Facebook.
Portland, OR's Reptaliens are more known for their synth-heavy sound, but for their upcoming album they went with a more guitar oriented approach. This was mainly due to the lockdown, but despite their new single being more rock, this new sound won't lose them any fans. "I Feel Fine" may not have any synths, but it still has a dreamy sound that fits right in with the duo's other releases. The song feels like if Belle & Sebastian went a little psychedelic, but that could also be my knowledge that Reptaliens work on a weed farm as their day job. "I Feel Fine" is an incredibly catchy indie rock/pop song that lives in the world between rock and twee.
You can watch the video for "I Feel Fine" below. Multiverse is due out on January 21 via Captured Tracks, and can be pre-ordered/pre-saved here. For more on Reptaliens, check out the band on Twitter and Instagram. Upcoming tour dates are below the video.
Mon. Jan 24, 2022 - Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court *
Tues. Jan 25, 2022 - Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge *
Wed. Jan 26, 2022 - Lawrence, KS - The Bottleneck
Thurs. Jan 27, 2022 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry *
Fri. Jan 28, 2022 - Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen *
Sat. Jan 29, 2022 - Pontiac, MI - Pike Room *
Sun. Jan 30, 2022 - Cleveland, OH - Mahall’s *
Tues. Feb 1, 2022 - Pittsburgh, PA - Thunderbird *
Thurs. Feb 3, 2022 - Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall *
Fri. Feb 4, 2022 - New York, NY - Baby’s All Right *
Sat. Feb 5, 2022 - Philadelphia, PA - The Foundry *
Sun. Feb 6, 2022 - Washington DC - Songbyrd *
Tues. Feb 8, 2022 - Asheville, NC - Grey Eagle *
Wed. Feb 9, 2022 - Carrboro, NC - Cat’s Cradle *
Thurs. Feb 10, 2022 - Atlanta, GA - Aisle 5 *
Fri. Feb 11, 2022 - Nashville, TN - The Basement *
We've been huge fans of Leyla McCalla dating back to her time with Carolina Chocolate Drops. She has one of the most unique blends of traditional folk we've ever heard, and plays her cello unlike anyone out there. Her latest single, "Fort Dimanche," expands on the unique aspects of her music. It's just about as intense of a folk song as you could possibly get, which is driven by the song's subject matter. Fort Dimanche is now a monument in Haiti, but during the reign of Francois Duvalier it was a prison infamous for torture. The song also features samples of family members of victims which gives the song a bit of a hip hop feel. McCalla has always been a special and unique artist, and "Fort Dimanche" only expands on her talent.
You can listen to "Fort Dimanche" below. The song is available as a single via Anti- Records, and can be downloaded here. For more on Leyla McCalla, check out the artist's website.
Seattle's supernowhere exist in their own musical universe that occasionally visits ours. Their latest single, "Basement Window," starts off pleasantly enough. It has that indie rock with some inflections of folk present. It's definitely not traditional folk by any means, but it's the kind of indie rock you could see playing the Newport Folk Festival one of these days. The song pleasantly swirls around you as you listen, with just enough off kilter guitar sounds to keep your attention, and to keep the song interesting. And then, seemingly without warning, the song just takes off into a not-entirely unpleasant cacophony. It's almost as if Sonic Youth decided to be beautiful and not discordant.
You can watch the video for "Basement Window" below. Skinless Takes a Flight is due out March 2 on Topshelf Records. The album can be pre-ordered here. For more on supernowhere, check out the band's Facebook.
It wasn't too long ago that it looked like Lowell, MA's Tysk Tysk Task were calling it quits, but luckily the band has regrouped and is starting to release new music again. Their latest single, "Pounding Sand," is this insanely fuzzed out grungy track. The crunch of the low end reminds me more than a little of Bleach. It even has that noisy groove that dominated more of that album than you remember. The song plods along at a mid-tempo, propelled by singer Samantha Hartsel's screams. Her vocals have always been driven by pure emotion, but particularly so on "Pounding Sand." In fact, more than a few lines of the song end with "scream" instead of an actual lyric. And, with all this, there is still the blues harmonica that we've come to love from Tysk Tysk Task. We couldn't be happier that they're back.
You can listen to "Pounding Sand" below. The song is available now via Bandcamp. For more on Tysk Tysk Task, check out the artist's Facebook and Instagram.
Our third Christmas offering of the day is one of the more unique you've heard in a while. Bone Sound Inc has put together Slow Xmas, which features some of our favorite indie rockers performing Christmas favorites... but very slowly. Yes, you read that correctly. Slow Xmas is filled with very, very slow Christmas songs. Gymshorts put together a version of The Chipmunk's "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" that is a little country and a whole lotta slow. Elvis' "Blue Christmas" is already a slow song, right? Couldn't possibly be slower, right? Well, Jason Hawk Harris proves it can be slower. The Waitresses' "Xmas Rapping" seems to be the song to cover of the year, and Sad13 (the perfect artist to cover this song) gives us "Christmas Wrapping Slowly." Is this the best Christmas album you've heard this year? Probably not. Is it fun? Maybe? (I'm pretty sure Jeff discovering this will get be banned from his house by his wife, though.)
You can listen to Jason Hawk Harris' slow version of "Blue Christmas" below. You can download Slow Xmas for free over at Bandcamp.
DJ Nu-Mark is best known for his work as a member of Jurassic 5, but he does release his own music as well. As a Christmas treat, he just released a holiday mixtape, Funkytown Christmas. It's two tracks/sides, each around the fifty minute mark so it's quite the holiday undertaking. You get samples of instrumental holiday classics, lesser known Christmas songs, and snippets of your favorite Christmas films. It also brings in mega-hits into the mix. (There is no escaping Mariah Carey. It's pointless to even try.) Even songs you'd normally hate are impossibly charming in the hands of DJ Nu-Mark. This is perfect for literally any holiday party, even if it's just you sitting on the couch solo sipping eggnog.
You can listen to Funkytown Christmas below. You can download the mixtape via Bandcamp. For more on DJ Nu-Mark, check out the artist's website.
It's Christmas Eve, so we've got a trio of final Christmas related releases for you. The first is from On the Upbeat which has released On the Upbeat Presents... Arose Such a Clatter 2021 the follow up to last year's all ska Christmas album. As with any ska compilation released in 2021, this won't be for everyone, and apologizes to your kids and spouses on my behalf, but if you think you'll like this, you're gonna love it. Before listening to this album, I had only heard of Half Past Two (who give their cover of Weezer's "Holiday" to the compilation), but you're going to discover a bunch of new favorite ska bands on this. Just the title of the first song is going to give you a clue as to what you're in for: "I Hate the Holidays" by Backyard Heroes. Urban Crater have a straight edge Christmas anthem with "XmasX."
With an all ska Christmas compilation, you're going to get covers. Amy Gabba and the Almost Famous do a killer version of Darlene Love's beloved "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Joe Billy punks up "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," which is basically exactly what you want it to be. A ska version of Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" by The Guilty Parties is far more fun than it has any right to be. Millington's take on The Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick" may just be perfect. We get our second ska cover of The Waitresses' "Xmas Wrapping," this time from Ego and the Appropriators. And of course there's a version of The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" from The Resignators.
You can listen to Amy Gabba and the Almost Famous' version of "Baby (Please Come Home)" below. On the Upbeat Presents... Arose Such a Clatter 2021 can be downloaded via Bandcamp. It may be for the "name your price" option, but since all donations go to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, you really should give a little something.
I had my electronica (as it was called then) phase just like everyone else in the mid to late 90's. One of the biggest names that emerged then was The Crystal Method. Their sound was just huge and was perfect for both techno clubs and mainstream dance clubs, plus their song with Filter was beyond huge. They've obviously moved from the ultra-mainstream over the past twenty plus years, but they've been doing their thing all along.
The techno lifers are back with a new song, and this time they've enlisted Boston's Billy Dean Thomas and VAAAL for this one. "Act Right" is going to make fans of The Crystal Method quite happy, even if you haven't really been paying attention to what they've been releasing since you were in high school or college. And adding in The Queer B.I.G. for a song? How can you go wrong? Thomas is one of the most engaging performers in the Boston hip hop scene and they are long overdue for a break out. It's always great to see favorites from our youth teaming up with current favorites this well. Who would have thought we'd be this excited about a new Crystal Method song in 2021?
You can listen to "Act Right" (Extended Mix) below. The Trip Out is due out in February 2022 on Ultra Music. For more on The Crystal Method, check out the artist's website. For more on Billy Dean Thomas, check out their website.
There is a great tradition of Boston bands covering 'Til Tuesday's iconic "Voices Carry" that started off with Gang Green in 1986 when the original was still fairly current. The latest to carry the "Voices Carry" torch is Gretchen Shae & The Middle Eight who released their version earlier this month. This new version starts off like The Middle Eight are trying to out New Wave 'Til Tuesday, but there is a lot of crunchy rock guitar in here. What truly carries the song is Shae's vocals (no pun intended, I assure you). She has a punk rock growl in her voice that draws the listener in. While this version of the iconic song is definitely a heavier and more rock one, it's truly a tribute to the original classic.
You can listen to "Voices Carry" below. The song is available as a download over at Bandcamp. For more on Gretchen Shae & The Middle Eight, check out the band's Facebook.
The latest song from Benny the Butcher reminds me of a combination of two contrasting 90's hip hop styles. Like with most modern hip hop that has a slight throwback feel, "Mr. Pyrex Man" gives me some Wu-Tang Clan vibes. It has that sparse feel with instrumentation that wasn't associated with hip hop previously. In the case of this song, it sounds almost like wind chimes, but wind chimes with a menace. Yes, that may sound bizarre, but it fits. Somehow, Benny the Butcher is also giving me the feel of Puff Daddy's smooth and crossover hit production. There aren't many rappers that can remind you of Wu-Tang and Puff Daddy, but Benny the Butcher pulls it off.
You can watch the video for "Mr. Pyrex Man" below. The song will be available on Black Soprano Family's compilation Long Live DJ Shay which is due out in early 2022. It's currently available as a single here. For more on Benny the Butcher, check out the artist's Facebook and Twitter.
We're obviously huge fans of cover songs here at If It's Too Loud... We loved Something Merry's TV Tunes: A Retrospective of TV Theme Songs that was released last year, so we're thrilled to find out this year they've released One-Derful! It's another Boston based compilations of bands covering songs, this time one hit wonders! There is a lot to like here, with some bands making the songs all their own and others doing quite faithful versions. Some work better than others, with some more faithful versions killing it and other less faithful ones working perfectly. I recommend checking out all the songs, since some covers I thought I'd hate I ended up loving. We have existing favorite artists here, with Mint Green (Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn"), oldsoul (Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta"), and Kitner (Semisonic's "Closing Time"), along with some artists I need to check out more of like Rat Tally (Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag"), Macseal (Modern English's "Melt With You"), and Divine Sweater (Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky").
You can listen to Mint Green taking on "Torn" below. One-Derful! is out now via Something Merry and can be downloaded via Bandcamp. It allows for the "name your price" option, but since it's a benefit for the Chris Atwood Foundation which creates recovery ready communities through free harm reduction and recovery support services, resources, and education, you should donate something for the album.
Worcester, MA isn't known as a musical hot spot, but that's starting to change. The city has had more than a few bands spring forth from the city or the surrounding area in the past few years, often in the metal and punk side of things. Waiver Wire is on the punk side, particularly the pop punk side. The band's latest single, "Battery Health," is just pure classic pop punk bordering on emo. (Ok, maybe a little more than bordering, but I'm not quite ready to call it full on emo.) While "Battery Health" may fit squarely into the classic pop punk format, including a killer pop punk intro, the song does set itself apart with some killer guitar work that is more reminiscent of Western Massachusetts indie rockers than Central Massachusetts punk. It's a fun unpretentious song from a band we're looking forward to hearing more from.
You can listen to "Battery Health" below. The song is available as a download via Bandcamp. For more on Waiver Wire, check out the band's Twitter and Facebook.
Last year saw Gray Bouchard & The Dedications cover Stevie Wonder's "Someday at Christmas." Hopefully a cover from these guys will become an annual tradition, because this year sees them taking on The Kinks' fairly immortal "Father Christmas." "Father Christmas" is the kind of song you've probably heard roughly a hundred times this year if you've wandered out in public at all, but Gray Bouchard & The Dedications have a fresh take on the classic. As expected, the cover has a little more of a heavier take, but just slightly. "Father Christmas" might just be a perfect song for Bouchard to cover. It allows for a huge, glammed up rocker, and Bouchard puts a little extra menace on the infamous machine gun line. At times they threaten to go into an almost metal territory, but it stays faithful to the original classic holiday power pop original.
You can listen to Gray Bouchard & The Dedications take on "Father Christmas" below. The song is available as a download via Bandcamp. For more on the band, check out their Facebook.
Dropper is the musical project of Andrea Scanniello, who wrote their debut album while working in a bowling alley. This was the obvious inspiration for the band's new single "Memoirs of Working in a Bowling Alley." The new song is a groovy as hell indie rock song with the swagger of early country. It's a little jangly and dripping with the kind of annoyance you can only get from working in a service industry/customer service job. Plus, the song has more than a few moments of pure beauty, and a killer guitar solo. What more are you looking for in a song?
Andrea Scanniello says of the band's new single:
"I’ve spent my entire adult life working in various service industry jobs- some more soul sucking than others. One of these jobs was spraying bowling shoes at the local lanes. “Memoirs” is about working these types of jobs and how at times it makes you question humanity and never want to speak to a soul ever again; that emotional drain that can only be experienced when you’re dealing with shitty drunk people night after night."
You can listen to "Memoirs of Working in a Bowling Alley" below. Don't Talk to Me (which is also the refrain of "Memoirs of Working in a Bowling Alley) is due out February 11 on Dirt Dog. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Dropper, check out the band's website.
There are few things in life I consider as sacred as The Muppets. That being said, The Muppet Christmas Carol is a blind spot in my Muppets knowledge. It came out when I was sixteen, so I would have been much too self conscious of being considered cool and adult to watch it. Plus, I'm more of an A Muppet Family Christmas guy. But, if Housebound Ska Collective are going to cover a song from The Muppet Christmas Carol, I'm going to check it out. "It Feels Like Christmas" is incredibly true to the original. Sure, there are horns in this version, and a few "Hey! Hey! Hey!"s thrown in there, but the Collective keep it more of a tribute to the original and completely avoid the tongue in cheek vibe of most ska covers. This is a Christmas cover that you can not miss.
You can watch the video for Housebound Ska Collective covering "It Feels Like Christmas" below. For more on Housebound Ska Collective, check out their Facebook.
I first heard Calicoco's 2018 album in March of 2019. I made the comment that if I had heard Float when it was released it would have definitely made my top 10 of 2018. This year I heard Underneath on time and it's my #1 album of 2021. Underneath combines two of my favorite styles of music. Giana Calioli's vocals still embody that 1950's style crooner sound, but on this new album they are put over giant indie rock epics. The album starts off with "I Hate Living With Me," an absolute monster of a song that just swirls and swirls and swirls around itself with fuzzy and hypnotic guitars while Calioli's vocals somehow command your attention above all of the chaos. This is what sets an album like Underneath apart from so many others. Music this noisy or loud isn't usually this beautiful, and with such compelling vocals. It's almost like early 90's Sonic Youth mixed with early Smashing Pumpkins and a little bit of when Tori Amos started playing with a full band. There are also some songs of just quiet, simple beauty like "Cuore Mio" and "I Was the Devil" just to give you a sonic break. But Underneath is one of the best indie rock albums of the century.
Songs of note: "I Hate Living With Me," "Strangers," "Heal Me," and "I Was the Devil"
On a typical new release week, I have a list and Ken has a list, and he sends over things he believes I might find interesting or that have been sent over to us via artists or publicists. Often, I go in knowing nothing about the artists at all, and thus "First Listen" is really and truly a "first listen" in all facets.
Every so often, Ken sends over an album that blows me away. This year, it was Madi Diaz.
History of a Feeling is Diaz's fifth(!) album, but a first for me. The album is probably the rawest and most honest record I've heard since Julien Baker's Turn Out the Lights from however long ago, and this is even more nakedly brutal in its approach. It's one thing to put a bad relationship on blast using metaphor and painting a picture; it's another to lead an angry chorus with "I hope you fuck her with your eyes closed/and think of me." The whole record is an exercise in rage, and it feels as cathartic to me as much as I hope it was for Diaz.
The raw, unadorned musicality of this album resonates in so many ways. I would have really loved this record during my more emotionally stunted college years. As a 40-year-old man in a wonderful marriage, I can still relate heavily to the purest forms of sentiment dripping from each song. It's stark and it's significant, and that goes a long way for me.
I don't know when I was sure this was my favorite album of the year, but I'm definitely not surprised. It's just an incredible work of art.
Songs of note: "Rage," "Crying in Public," "Think of Me," "Man in Me," "New Person, Old Place"
In something that sounds like it was a fever dream, English electro-punks Sleaford Mods have released a cover of Yazoo's "Don't Go." Even if you're not sure if you know "Don't Go," you do. It's one of those early 80's New Wave songs that is simply inescapable. Sleaford Mods do a fairly straightforward cover of the song, albeit one that seems much more DIY and grime slathered than the original. It's an ultra-minimal take on the New Wave classic that sounds like a home recording... in the best possible way. It sounds more like an early 90's home computer recording than a more polished modern day home recording, but that fits right in with Sleaford Mods entire aesthetic.
You can listen to Sleaford Mods' version of "Don't Go" below. For more on Sleaford Mods, check out their website.
While every year there are new versions of "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," I can't even think of the last time I heard "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" let alone a new cover of the song. The Buckleys have given us a new version of the semi-forgotten Christmas favorite. The Australian band have updated the version slightly. It doesn't sound quite like 2021, but it also doesn't sound like a 1940's swing song like the original was. This new version is a little more funk and country, but with enough 1940's swing to keep it true to the original. Like any good Christmas song, this one is a ton of fun.
Sarah Buckley says of their version of the Christmas classic:
"We are so excited to release our fresh new spin of a 1940s holiday classic! Ten years ago, we used to perform a Rockabilly Christmas Special as a young family band and this was one of the songs we used to play. To now be releasing it as our first official Holiday single, infused with Rockabilly, Swing, even hints of Surf Rock guitar and a 1940s style brass section from Nashville, is a dream come true.
"We wanted to give Christmas a whole new sound with this song and make it feel both nostalgic and fresh at the same time. It's been a tough year for everyone and as we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now, our goal is to get people feeling good and having a boogie with us to celebrate this wonderful time of year!”
You can watch the Studio 54 inspired video for "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" below. You can stream and download the single here. For more on The Buckleys, check out their website.
I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I stumbled onto Sierra Ferrell's song "Jeremiah" a little over a year ago. It was one of those times when you hear a song from a new artist and just drop everything to hear more. It's combination of classic country mixed with a little jazz and some 60's groovy cool absolutely sucked me in. Once she released covers of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Jingle Bell Rock" last year, I was completely smitten with Ferrell's music.
And then Long Time Coming was finally released. I had such an anticipation for this album that it should have been a disappointment, but it wasn't. I don't think any album this year is as fun as Long Time Coming is. The songs on this album mix together classic country, traditional folk, and jazz into one of the warmest and most familiar sounds I've heard in years. Plus, Ferrell is balancing between the worlds of serious folk musician and having a little throwback hokeyness masterfully. A song like "Bells of Every Chapel" has a birdsong in it like an early Disney animated movie, which should seem ridiculous, but in Ferrell's hands it's impossibly charming. This is the kind of album that can melt the heart of even the crustiest, cynical aging Gen-Xer.
Songs of note: "The Sea," "Jeremiah," "Bells of Every Chapel," "At the End of the Rainbow," "In Dreams," and "Whispering Waltz"