Thursday, February 26, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for February 24

Another solid week. 2015 is looking really good so far musically.

Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space: So I had listened really quick to Public Service Announcement's previous stuff before this, so it didn't come as a complete surprise, but this is a really fun electronica album using audio from the early space program to really provide a pretty unique look both at the history of the program and as a unique musical entity. It's not going to be for everyone, I realize this, but if there's another group doing anything like this as a full project (as opposed to one-off individual songs), I'd love to hear it. Maybe not the best release of the week, but easily the most interesting.

The Airborne Toxic Event - Dope Machines: I don't know what it is that keeps me going back to The Airborne Toxic Event. Their style typically isn't mine, and I'm continually surprised they're still an indie act every time. The new album is still some really interesting alt-rock that doesn't sound a lot like the indie stuff that's been the most popular as of late, and perhaps that unique variant is what keeps them fresh for me. Too early to say if this album is headed toward a long-term rotation, but for now, it's definitely worth a spin in your playlists this week. Right up there with their previous albums.

Gang of Four - What Happens Next: Ken and I are split on this one. I actually kind of liked it - it's not Gang of Four as we know them, but I found a lot to like here and it's a lot of what I'd expect a modern Gang of Four to sound like. Ken thinks it's terrible and middle of the road. We might both be right on this one, and, while it's hard to call it a Gang of Four record when only one founding member of the band is still part of it, it's still worth a listen based on that alone. I personally enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Elvis Perkins - I Aubade: I know a couple people who really, really love Elvis Perkins. I've never really been able to fully get into him, but this new album is a pretty ambitious piece of dreamy folk music that, while not missing, also failed to fully hit me on first listen. This is arguably very much a grower in some regards, and I'm willing to take that trip with it, but someone who has Opinions about Elvis Perkins might be better served with this one.

Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line - Wake: When I first really started getting into bluegrass and roots music, Nora Jane Struthers's song "Mockingbird" was played in an old Turntable.FM room and I fell in love. Her second album, the first with her band, was a nice step forward in the evolution of the sound. With Wake, she's going full roots rock, and, while I'm admittedly disappointed that we're straying further away from the traditional roots music that I loved, the fact remains that this is a pretty solid album. There's a lot to really enjoy here, it has a lot to share with folks like Audra Mae and Caitlin Rose, and I'm looking forward not only to listening to this more, but hoping that this might be a launchpad for greater fame for her. Fans of the music we post on this blog in particular will enjoy this.

Screaming Females - Rose Mountain: Release of the week for me is the new album from Screaming Females. I almost wish that the new Sleater-Kinney comeback album didn't come out so recently, because this album would probably get a lot more attention otherwise. It's a really confident, straightforward indie rock/punk piece that doesn't pull any punches and finally seems to realize the sound that they've been aiming for on their previous releases. A little polish did a lot of good for their sound, and the result is a really strong album that I loved on first listen. Highly recommended.

Colleen Green - I Want to Grow Up: I believe this is Colleen Green's first label-released album after some independent releases, and the extra production values did not, thankfully, take away from the experience. I know Colleen Green isn't doing anything groundbreaking, but her stilted indie rock always feels fresh and different, and this new album is no exception. Definitely worth a listen overall.

THEESatisfaction - EarthEE: Why this group keeps flying under the radar, I'm not sure. It's very ambitious hip-hop/R&B with some political statements but otherwise just a really compelling listen. I forget what it was that got me into them to start, but I liked their first album and EarthEE might even be better than that. Worth a listen for something different.

BadBadNotGood and Ghostface Killah - Sour Soul: I didn't realize this was a collaboration between a hip hop instrumental group and Ghostface Killah until writing this, and I can honestly say I appreciate it more now for what it's trying to be than I did before, and I already really liked it. As this has largely been a few months now where we've gotten a lot of good Wu Tang music, this is another project from Ghostface where he's working with instrumental groups to help flesh things out. If you liked 36 Seasons, you'll probably love this. Really great listen.

Diamond Rugs - Cosmetics: Ken sent this one over without any information, and I was hooked within a minute of the first song. I thought it involved Britt Daniel of Spoon given the vocals, but it's actually an indie supergroup of sorts that includes members of Deer Tick and Dead Confederate, and it's really, really solid indie rock. It's got some horns, some hooks, and overall is a really, really great listen. In a less bloated week, this would likely be my album of the week, but it's a really solid listen that everyone should be giving a shot.

Future User - #SteroidsOrHHeroin: Finally, we have Future User, a side project from Rage Against the Machine's bassist. It feels like it's straight out of the 1990s electronica movement, and whether or not that sounds appealing to you will ultimately end up being what you like or dislike about this album. It feels unnecessarily profane at times, but there are a lot of strong musical moments here as well. I confess to not knowing entirely what to make of it, so keep that in mind, but it might be worth a listen if anything about this sounds interesting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hurray for the Riff Raff - The Body Electric EP

If you've been reading this blog with any regularity, you'll know we love free music and Hurray for the Riff Raff. Now that Hurray for the Riff Raff have free music coming out, we're kind of obligated to tell you about it. To celebrate their upcoming headlining tour, they've released The Body Electric EP which features 2 tracks from Small Town Heroes (including the amazing title track), a Billie Holiday cover, and "Everyone Knows (For Trayvon Martin)." It's a great way to check them out if we haven't convinced you to yet. You're not going to find better country tinged folk for a better price than this.

To download The Body Electric EP, check over to Noisetrade. For more information on Hurray for the Riff Raff including tour dates (I highly recommend their live show if you get a chance), go to their website.

Narco States - Wicked Sun

There's nothing revolutionary about Minneapolis's Narco States. They're doing the exact same type of garage/psych rock that has been around for at least 50 years. That might be what is so fantastic about them. There aren't many bands that tap into the exact vibe of the 60s garage movement. They capture the perfect, timeless sound for anyone who's a fan of The 13th Floor Elevators, Lyres, and every band that has ever played "Louie Louie." I think that's what is what is so great about garage rock. As soon as you hear it, it screams "1960s," but it doesn't sound dated at all.

Narco States released Wicked Sun  back in December. It's an instant classic with only 8 songs. "The Architect" is a stand out track, and it crams all of the epic-ness of "Teenage Riot" into under 4 minutes. The actual epic of the album, "Invasion," is the shortest near 7 minute song in existence. You know how The Stooges always had one long, sprawling freak out per album? Imagine if that freak out was a solid song.

You can listen to and purchase Wicked Sun on Narco State's Bandcamp page. Also, be sure to "like" them on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Download Tugboat Annie's Discography for Free!

Tugboat Annie are one of those bands I hadn't thought of in years. The band formed in Buffalo back in 1990 before moving to Boston in 1996 and becoming a staple of that scene until around 2000. They always had a sound that screamed "Boston in the mid-90s," and I don't mean that in anything resembling a negative. It's poppy, aggressive alt-rock, with fuzzy guitars and catchy choruses. They played with bands like Weezer, Sunny Day Real Estate, and The Promise Ring, winning awards from Boston Magazine and the Boston Phoenix. 

Seemingly out of nowhere the band is now offering their entire discography for free on their Bandcamp page. And this isn't a "Pay What You Want" offer. It's all completely free! All 4 of their full lengths are offered, as well as 2 collections of demos. There's no other information on the page, so hurry up and download now in case they change their mind. We can only hope this is a way to remind us all of Tugboat Annie just before a reunion. But that's just my own wishful thinking.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Newport Folk Festival 2014 Photo Diary

As the Newport Folk Festival slowly starts rolling out there 2015 line up, and we sit under 4 feet of snow in the Northeast, it's a great time to look back at last summer's Newport Folk Festival. Suddenly, the absurd amounts of rain on Sunday start to seem quaint, and we start looking forward to this summer and this year's Newport Folk Festival. You can check out our Newport Folk Festival 2014 photo diary over at our Facebook page. Here's hoping to see you all at the Fort this year!

For more information on this year's Fest (Friday tickets still remain), head on over to the Newport Folk Festival website. If you can't make it, there are some great Newport Folk Festival Presents shows coming up, mostly in Boston but also in Chicago, Nashville, Napa, and New York City. Check out these here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Freebies: Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys - Ionia

Michigan doesn't conjure thoughts of roots/Americana music, but Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys might change that. They recorded their new album, Ionia, over the course of four days last fall at home. The album is this purely chill collection of bluegrass tinged folk. It reminds me of Lake Street Dive with more folksy influences than jazz. There are still touches of jazz in the album, most particularly in Lindsay Lou's smoldering torch singer voice. Maybe a better comparison would be if The Punch Brothers and Lake Street Dive formed a super group.

One of the best features of the new album is that it's free! For the mere price of joining their email list, you can download Ionia for free! Not too shabby for a brand new album. Head on over to their website to get your copy. You can also watch a video they did for "House Together" with The Bluegrass Situation below.

The New Sleater-Kinney Video Features "Bob's Burgers"

Two of my favorite things collide in this new video for Sleater-Kinney's "A New Wave," which features the kids from Bob's Burgers furiously bopping away as they discover the band in oldest sister Tina's bedroom. Bob's Burgers is one of the few tv shows I watch religiously, and Sleater-Kinney's new album is my favorite of the year so far, which makes this video spectacular. It also perfectly captures the excitement and sheer joy of discovering that very first band that speaks to just you in a way that no other band ever has you can only get in your teen years, all in cartoon form.

You can watch the video for "A New Wave" below. Check out Sleater-Kinney's website where you can order their new album (which, if you haven't yet, shame on you) and see tour dates for their virtually sold out reunion tour with sadness because you waited 8 hours to buy tickets and it sold out. Or maybe that's just me.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Earlier today Blur surprised us with the announcement of a new album due out on April 28 to be titled The Magic Whip. And now there's a "lyric video" for a new song, "Go Out." It's a natural progression from 2003's Think Tank, but better. Not that Think Tank was a bad album... I mean, I liked it, but it just wasn't very Blur. "Go Out" sounds like if Think Tank was more of a Blur sounding album. 

This whole thing is great news since Damon Albarn, and really everyone in Blur, has been denying any new album news. As much as I like Gorillaz, I'm beyond thrilled for new Blur.

Buxton - An Unfamiliar History EP

Buxton truly has this bizarre, unique sound that took me a little while to place. They take the arena ready Americana of today (Houndmouth, The Avett Brothers, etc) and mix it with a tiny bit of 90s quirky indie rock (Pavement, The Archers of Loaf). It takes what is quickly becoming a crowded field that's frankly becoming tired, and brings this whole new level to it. 

Right now, in advance of their full length Half a Native, which is due out on March 3, Buxton is offering their An Unfamiliar History EP for free on Noisetrade. The first song, "Miss Catalina" (which you can listen to here), is this bizarre power-folk/Sonic Youth hybrid that is just epic. It comes in at a little over 4 minutes, but feels like a "Teenage Riot" style jam that is somehow poppy as hell. "Icebreaker" is this bizarre honky tonk swing that just degenerates into digital noise at one point, like Pokey LaFarge got into some psychedelics. 

Check out Buxton's website for more info on them. You can download An Unfamiliar History EP for free on Noisetrade. If you do, you'll want to keep an eye out for Half a Native, due out on March 3 on New West Records.

First Listen: New Releases for February 17

It's rare to have a week without any real clunkers, so enjoy!

Suz Slezak - When the Nighttime Comes: We've covered this album in more depth than anything else at this blog, so I don't think there's a lot new to say per se, but given that this was my first time listening to it, I was surprised at how much more I liked it than I thought I would have. For an album that's designed, at least in part, to be lullabies for little ones, it's actually a really pretty folk album that reminds me of the earlier Hem albums from long ago. Definitely the release of the week.

Damon & Naomi - Fortunes: In a different week without the Slezak album, this would have really blown me away. Instead, we get a really solid folk-style quiet album meant to be a companion to a short film by Naomi, so listening to it independently might miss the point. Overall, though, a really good listen.

Elle King - Love Stuff: I won't lie - everything I read about this had me hoping that Elle King could be the next Lydia Loveless for me in terms of scratching that female alt-country itch. The first two songs had me hooked, but, by the end, it feels as if it's devolved a bit to more mainstream-sounding sterility that would have ultimately benefited from more grit and less shine. It's not a bad album, but if you've been enjoying Neko Case or Loveless or Kathleen Edwards, you're going to have to lower your expectations on this one somewhat. It's a serviceable, above-average mainstream roots-rock album, it just feels like its potential overshadows its reality.

Kate Pierson - Guitars and Microphones: Kate Pierson of the B-52s releases her first solo album this week, and I guess I was hoping for something...different? Produced by Sia, I think I expected a little wild and wacky and, on first listen, it's enjoyably straightforward. I know that the B-52s have been around forever at this point, and perhaps expecting a mellowing-out of sorts is rational, but I just wanted something a little more fun. Maybe future listens will do it.

Juliana Hatfield Three - Whatever, My Love: WHY ARE YOU NOT ON SPOTIFY?!? But seriously, this is a warm blanket hug of a 1990s alt-rock throwback that is basically exactly what I wanted from an album from the reformed Juliana Hatfield Three. While the album doesn't quite reach the heights of the lead single, it's still a really solid record throughout, and I'm looking forward to listening to this more (preferably on my music platform of choice).

And the Kids - Turn to Each Other: Ken sent this over to me as a localish act out of Northampton, MA, and it's solid, if unassuming, traditional indie rock. If you're missing out on some of the lo-fi-ish aspects of indie rock in your life, this is definitely one to give a listen to, although it didn't 100% grab me on first listen.

Mourn - Mourn: I hadn't heard of this band at all prior to Stereogum describing it by invoking the name of PJ Harvey, which will always get me interested. At under 25 minutes, it's a quick shot of post-punk in a sense, and while I get the PJ Harvey comparisons, this is largely its own beast. It's a full album, sure, but I'd love to hear a longer-form piece from them overall. It's a really solid album overall, and one I definitely think people should check out.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear - "Silent Movies"

The Newport Folk Festival often refers to their fans, crew, and bands as the "Folk Family." Quite often, the Fest features bands with family ties, from husbands and wives (Shovels & Rope), sisters (The Haden Triplets, First Aid Kit), brothers (The Avett Brothers), and even fathers and sons (Tweedy). This year, they'll bring a mother/son duo to their stage with Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. Hailing from Kansas City, the pair just released their first single "Silent Movies." It's this great pairing of the son's gruff, almost barking voice with his mother's much more aged and sweeter voice, all put together in a down home ditty. It could have been a novelty act, but once you hear them together you realize that of course they decided to make music together.

You can get "Silent Movies" right now on iTunes. You can follow them on Facebook, and watch their performance of "Silent Movies" from The Late Show With David Letterman below.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for February 10

A fairly busy week with some interesting releases within:

The Vespers - Sisters and Brothers: The Vespers had a truly great album a few years back that stayed in fairly heavy rotation for me, and hearing that this new album was on the docket got me excited. The group has certainly expanded out their sound, and that's often a mixed bag, but, for the most part, the band seems a lot more polished and mature than in past efforts. The downside to such maturity and polish is that the songs don't quite have the same oomph on first listen. I definitely reserve the right to change my mind on this, but, on first listen, this is a good album with a lot of potential to be truly great.

The Dreaming - Rise Again: I was not aware Stabbing Westward had more or less reformed as a new band, but this is their third album and it basically takes what was interesting about Stabbing Westward, removes it, and leaves the rest. Not really worth your time unless you're super nostalgic for Stabbing Westward, which really should be reserved for "Shame" and "Save Yourself" anyway.

Pete RG - Lightning Strikes: I don't know who Pete RG is, but Ken sent this one over and it's sort of like a solo piece from the lead singer of Editors or Interpol. It's got some pretty good songs on it, so it's worth a listen, but I had a hard time shaking the similarities overall.

Jeff Austin - The Simple Truth: Jeff Austin, best known for his work with Yonder Mountain String Band, offers up a pretty interesting solo album that keeps the bluegrass-tinged tone while trying to stretch its wings a bit. Probably a little more polished and mainstream-sounding than I was looking for on first listen, it's still a pretty great listen overall and one that I'm looking forward to spending more time with. If you've found the more recent rootsy stuff being released a little lacking, you'll probably find a lot to like here.

JD McPherson - Let the Good Times Roll: If there's anyone else doing the whole retro-throwback rock and roll today better than JD McPherson, I haven't heard them. This album feels like it's straight out of the 1960s/70s, and the aesthetic itself is pitch perfect. While it's not going to be for everyone, it's retro in a really great way and I found myself enjoying this even more than his previous releases. Absolutely worth a listen.

The Districts - A Flourish and a Spoil: The Districts sound like an alt/indie rock band that are literally twice their age. This is both a blessing (because they have nowhere to go but up) and a curse (because the way this album comes across has a good deal of expectation). This is a solid, albeit unexceptional, debut album with a ton of potential. A few solid songs here and there and an album with some potential to grow on you as well. This is definitely a band to look out for in the future, but something to look out for in the short term.

Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear: My most anticipated release this week by far was the new Father John Misty, his previous effort being a favorite of mine. The new album, I suppose, couldn't possibly meet those expectations, but is still a pretty solid indie folk effort and cements him as one of the better musicians in the genre. A few memorable songs here and there, a few moments that could be growers, and an attempt to move past the previous album, and this will be worth a listen in your rotation this week.

Rhiannon Giddens - Tomorrow is My Turn: Perhaps unsurprisingly to longtime readers of the blog, Rhiannon Giddens's debut solo album is far and away the release of the week. Much like pretty much every other Carolina Chocolate Drops-related solo release over the last year or so, this album is a tour of a variety of different styles and concepts that still ends up providing a cohesive thought from start to finish. Giddens has a great voice to begin with, and the instrumentation and musicality of this record in particular is outstanding. Great for fans of the Carolina Chocolate Drops for sure, but if you're into any sort of folk-style music and like a little adventure to go along with it, this is absolutely worth your time. Great album.

Also out this week:

* Bob Schnieder - King Kong Volume 1

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dorthia Cottrell - "Kneeler"

Photo by Jordan Vance
On first listen, "Kneeler" by Dorthia Cottrell is a beautiful, acoustic song. It's pretty typical female singer/songwriter fare, except there is this intense sense of foreboding throughout that isn't typical with the genre. Turns out Dorthia Cottrell is the singer of doom metal band Windhand, which helps account for the somber vibe. Acoustic solo projects of metal bands usually are just terrible, but "Kneeler" shows a completely different side of dark music. Since neither of us are metal people, it would have been easy for us to miss this track. Instead, I'm looking forward to the full length.

Dorthia Cottrell's self-titled debut is out on March 3 on Forcefield Records. You can listen to "Kneeler" below, and check out her website here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Newport Folk Festival Has a Podcast and a Spotify Playlist

For the past few years, the Newport Folk Festival has had a Spotify playlist updated by festival producer Jay Sweet. As acts get announced during their rolling line up announcement, songs will be added by each festival performer. I've been following each year's list for the past few, and it's a great way to keep up with bands that are playing, and to hear the lesser known bands before getting to the Fort. So far there are only 3 acts on the playlist (Courtney Barnett, Sturgill Simpson, and Haunt the House), but those are the only 3 bands announced for this year so far. You can find the Newport Folk 2015 Spotify playlist here.

An added way to prepare for the festival this year is a new podcast. The Newport Folk Festival podcast debuted last Friday. Based on the description, it will be an ever changing format, helping to introduce new bands (the 1st episode profiles Rhode Island natives Haunt the House), give a behind the scenes look at the festival, and showcase memories from fans and bands. If this 1 episode is any indication, it will be a must listen for all of the Folk. You can download or stream the episode here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for February 3

This is Ken filling in for Jeff this week. I'll try not to let my crankiness from New England snow fatigue seep into my reviews, but no promises. It's an interesting and varied week, so let's get started!

Chadwick Stokes - The Horse Comanche: Chadwick Stokes is best known as a member of Dispatch and State Radio. I never really got into Dispatch, and I had dismissed State Radio as more of the same until I saw them at this insane Tom Morello/Nightwatchman show 7 years ago. Since then I've been converted. His solo album starts off a little slow and Jack Johnson-ish, but really picks up by the 4th song, "I Want You Like a Seatbelt." It's an upbeat singalong that sounds like it was perfected on one of his house show tours. "New Haven" features blog favorite Lucius, who are a welcome addition to any song. My personal favorite is "Walter (First Hello)," which closes out the album.

Murder By Death - Big Dark Love: I first became aware of Murder By Death when they opened for Clutch. Seeing them back then, they were this bizarre blend of gothic hard rock folk and became one of those bands I always meant to listen to more, but forgot to for the most part. I'm a little disappointed with this album, as it seems a bit more mainstream and accessible than I expected. It's almost like a lounge singer for arenas. The title track, "Big Dark Love," is fantastic and just builds to this epic by the end. "Natural Pearl" is more on the country end, and more in line with what I remember them being. It's still worth a listen, just not what I wanted it to be.

The Church - Further Deeper: The Church are right at the top of bands I'll hear something by randomly, make a mental note to listen more, and then never do. It might be weird to start with their 25th album, but here we go. I really like this album, as it combines the moodiness of gothic new wave with the noisiness of 80s/90s indie rock. "Vanishing Man" might be the strongest track. It does lose some steam towards the end, with songs like "Old Coast Road" being a little too orchestral for my taste. Still a solid album worth a listen.

The Notwist - Messier Objects: Jeff sent this one over to me when he asked me to cover First Listen this week, and I think I may be the wrong person to review this. I just didn't connect with this album at all. It's all this foreboding, instrumental, film score sounding music. It feels like the kind of local band Sonic Youth would have open for them in the late 90s, and I sat through way too many art school projects like this. Just not for me.

Barnstar! - Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!: I'm shocked that this is my favorite release of the week. Being in the Boston area, I've seen the name Barnstar! but have yet to hear them. They're a modern take on bluegrass and country, and just a cool, laid back record. The album features a number of covers (and you know we love covers), most notably The Hold Steady's "Sequestered in Memphis." Even if this doesn't sound like your thing, you should check it out.

Two Gallants - We Are Undone: I probably would never have discovered this album if I wasn't looking through the release schedule for the week, but I'm glad I did. It's countrified alt-rock, kind of like Wilco meets The Sheila Divine, with a little bit of The White Stripes thrown in. Be sure to check out "Fools Like Us."

Also out this week:

Butch Walker - Afraid of Ghosts
Bob Dylan - Shadows in the Night
Diana Krall - Wallflower

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mary Lou Lord - "My Buddy Valentine"

It's been far too long since there's been any new music from Mary Lou Lord. Her last album, Baby Blue, was released way back in 2004, so by my calculations it's been 11 years. That changed yesterday when Mary Lou posted "My Buddy Valentine" on Soundcloud. "My Buddy Valentine" was recorded in honor of Buddy Holly, making the anniversary of his death a fitting day to release it. The song was recorded with Dave Mattacks on drums and Maryanne Window, ans was co-written by Nick Saloman (The Bevis Frond). Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Backstreet Angels should finally see release this year! The song is typically upbeat for Mary Lou, and she hasn't lost a thing in the past decade. It's so thrilling to have her truly back.

For more information on what Mary Lou Lord has been up to, and to keep track of developments on the new album's release, you can like her on Facebook. She also has an official website, but I'm not sure how often that gets updated.