Sunday, May 31, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Thirty-One: Spirit Family Reunion - "Put Your Hands Together When You Spin the Wheel"

I figured I'd end this little month long project with a blog favorite. Spirit Family Reunion is one of our favorites here, and we hope it's one of yours, too.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Thirty: Rhett Miller and Black Prairie - "Kiss Me On the Fire Escape"

I raved about the new Rhett Miller album and how well Miller and Black Prarie collaborate together. "Kiss Me On the Fire Escape" is a great example of how well their blend works together, and is a song that's been stuck in my head for a while now.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Gill Landry featuring Laura Marling - "Take This Body"

Gill Landry of Old Crow Medicine Show has his third solo album coming out next month, and he's enlisted some friends to help him out on it. The self-titled album was recorded in “... a ramshackle, shanty-ass apartment on the south side of Nashville.” "Take This Body" features Laura Marling on vocals. The track is quiet and laid back folk, with Marling's vocals creating a haunting effect behind the song. It's beautiful and eerie at the same time. 

Gill Landry's self-titled album will be out June 22 on ATO Records. It will also feature Robert Ellis, Nick Etwell of Mumford & Sons, and Odessa Jorgensen on various tracks. You can listen to "Take This Body" below, and head on over to Gill Landry's website for pre-ordering and more information.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty-Nine - Alison Wonderland - "Cold"

Because I can never get enough dance music, I've been hooked on Alison Wonderland's debut. "Cold" in particular has an edge to it that I don't hear a lot of, and it's really made the album that much more interesting as a result.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for May 26

A much smaller release week with the American holiday.

Zhala - Zhala: When it comes to acts I don't know that I seek out for this weekly post, I try not to look up anything about them until I'm done listening to the album. It's hard enough to listen to things when you carry a preconceived notion, never mind having undue expectations. This feels like a 90s-retro dance record, which is great, and it came as a pleasant surprise that Zhala is signed to Robyn's label, as the sound fits right in. Whether this has the staying power Robyn has shown remains to be seen, but this was definitely my favorite listen this week.

Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs of Karen Dalton: A tribute album of sorts for folky Karen Dalton, what turned me onto this were who they got involved with the project, including Sharon van Etten, Marissa Nadler, and Lucinda Williams. It's a good little folk compilation on a whole with artists you know, and that makes it worth a listen on its own; fans of Dalton might get more out of it.

Shopping - Consumer Complaints: Ken wrote about their lead single earlier, and I can echo the basic points out their sound - it is very reminiscent of the 70s pun thing, but almost reminds me of a more raw Moving Units if people remember them. A solid debut, and I'm looking forward to what comes next.

Eilen Jewell - Sundown Over Ghost Town: I think I became a fan of Eilen Jewell following Queen of the Minor Key, a solid, often rocking album that mixed a lot of different genres with the rockabilly/country/folk thing she had going. She's always been hard for me to pin down, which is why Sundown Over Ghost Town feels strange with how straightforward it is in comparison. It's not a bad album by any measure, it's a great throwback listen on a whole. Just be wary if you're looking for something a little more upbeat - the cover really sets the mood for the music within.

The Vaccines - English Graffiti: Both Ken and I keep confusing them with seminal twee (I called them grunge and got called out on it, fairly) band The Vaselines, so once you get past those misconceptions, you get a pretty interesting, obviously-Dave Fridman-influenced indie rock record. It still doesn't reach the heights of their debut, but the changes that are made here are really solid and make this a worthwhile listen.

A$AP Rocky - AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP: While everyone who loves rap was waiting for Kendrick Lamar's album, I was really looking forward to A$AP Rocky's newest effort. This album is a very different tone than Lamar's, and feels darker than Long Live A$AP, Rocky's label debut. On first listen, there's no song on here quite like "Wild for the Night" or "Fuckin' Problems," but it doesn't take away from it being a fairly accessible album that I hope to spend more time with, and definitely liked more than Lamar's.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty-Eight: Fawn Larson - "Anything At All"

I feel like a lot of my music exploration involves finding a way to fill the Kathleen Edwards-shaped hole in my heart. Fawn Larson comes close, especially in this song, "Anything at All," that I somehow tripped up on and fell in love with. A good mix of twang, roots, and alt-country, it's probably the most rocking song on her superlative album, but still pretty great.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Newport Folk Festival Has Something Planned with '65 Revisited

For the 7th episode of the Newport Folk Festival podcast, they focused on '65 Revisited. This year marks the 50th anniversary of when Bob Dylan went electric at Newport, probably the most legendary single performance of all time. Originally the organizers of Newport weren't going to mark the anniversary, but artists in the Folk Family started contacting them looking to be a part of it. This lead to it happening organically, and not a forced "moment" just for the sake of having a moment. The Newport organizers are being extremely tight lipped about who is performing as part of this. All we know is that it will close out the festival on Sunday, it will be full of surprises, and Bob Dylan won't be there. At this point, we don't even know what it will be. A song by song reenactment from current bands? A bunch of acoustic artists plugging in (probably the least likely)? J Mascis and Jim James having a wall of noise for 45 minutes? It could be anything at this point. Somehow this unknown element has become my most looked forward to part of the entire weekend.

Edger - "Holy Armour"

Photo by Ellen Lawson
In just over 2 minutes, Minnesota's Edger may have the catchiest song of the year. It's the type of indie rock that the late 90s was built on, with shades of Superchunk and the most melodic side of Archers of Loaf. It's pure noisey indie power pop, which they do to perfection. What's interesting is the band was originally started as a two-piece post-punk/hardcore band, they naturally veered towards their current hook driven sound. I think we'll all be pretty happy they did.

Edger's debut EP, Rudiments, is due out June 10 on Land Ski Records. You can listen to "Holy Armour" below, and check out their Bandcamp.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty-Seven: Mans Zemerlow - "Heroes"

I also enjoyed the winning song for this year's Eurovision. It's perhaps too poppy for most, but I definitely liked it, and it was a worthy winner of the field.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty-Six: JD McPherson - "Head Over Heels"

This song had to grow on me a bit, but by the time it did, I had trouble deciding which parts were my favorite. The reverb guitar in the beginning? The bass line and handclaps in the middle? It's hard to say, but I've ultimately come to love this song from his most recent album. Definitely worth a listen and it might get you on board.

Monday, May 25, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty-Five - Holly Herndon - "Chorus"

After a few days of folk songs, let's make it a little weird, shall we? As I said in First Listen last week, this song is both representative of what Holly Herndon is capable of while still being fairly accessible. It won't be for everyone, but this is something really interesting and worth hearing.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty-Four - Aoife O'Donovan, Sara Watkins, and Sarah Jarosz - "Be My Husband"

These three women are among some of my favorite singer-songwriters at present, and they've been touring together recently. They've recorded a few things, and this was a Record Store Day song that really hit me. The three of them blend so well together, it's just absolutely haunting and brilliant all at once.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty-Three - The Milk Carton Kids - "Poison Tree"

I raved about this Milk Carton Kids song on First Listen earlier this week, so it seems only right to share it here. It reminds me a lot of a Gillian Welch song in a lot of ways, I'm not sure if you'll hear it too, but I really love this song.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Saying Goodbye to TT the Bear's

Via Facebook
For anyone who doesn't know, last week is was announced that Cambridge, MA club TT the Bear's was closing this summer after over 40 years. This might be the first club closing to truly upset me. By the time I was regularly going to shows (1996?), The Rat was catering to mostly punk and hardcore bands, and Avalon and Axis were always the bigger, corporate clubs (even though they've been replaced by the even more corporate and gigantic House of Blues). TT's had an equal love of national and local bands, and felt like a home base to bands like Letters to Cleo and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper even as they got too big to play a 325 person club. For an example of how great this place was in the late 90s, check out the ad to the left. Jennifer Trynin, Allstonians, Velvet Crush, Boss Hog, Bikini Kill, and a Squirrel Nut Zippers/Magnetic Fields double bill in less than 2 weeks??? Plus, it was the site of the legendary Pixies/Lemonheads pairing on "nu muzik" night back in 1986. 

When I think of TT's, I think of some of my favorite live experiences: A Letters to Cleo/Sloan benefit in 1998 that I was supposed to be on a guest list for but wasn't and had Sloan's road manager argue my way into; Wandering onto Ocean Colour Scene's tour bus after the show in 1996; The two best Rivers Cuomo solo shows in 1997 and 1998, where I learned that Matt Sharp wouldn't be on the next Weezer record (which I reported to Rebel Weezer Alliance the next morning); Frank Turner doing a quickie afternoon acoustic set for Radio BDC in 2012; Benjamin Booker in 2014, which I still can't shut up about; Mick Jones with Carbon/Silicon back in 2008; An Evan Dando solo show (with Chris Brokaw joining on guitar) that started off cranky when Evan declared he would never play there acoustic again (to be fair, the metal show downstairs at the Middle East that night was bleeding through badly enough to be confused with music coming over TT's PA), but ended with Evan and Bill Janovitz teaming up for "Love Hurts."

In a city where even beloved institutions like The Paradise are becoming Clear Channel venues complete with video screens advertising upcoming Clear Channel concerts between bands, TT's was one of the few big name hold outs. I love the club, even though it has the worst set up I've ever seen. When you enter, the stage area is to your right and behind you. The bar is to the left, with this weird open hallway space in between. There is even a bizarre divider/ledge between the bar area and the stage area. The merch table has always been kept way over on the other side of the bar, making any post show purchases a pushing contest between you and the people that sat at the bar all night and are trying to leave. But I loved it.

According to TT's calendar, they have a final week of farewell blowout performances scheduled starting on July 17 and finishing up on the final night TT's will be open, July 25. I'm hoping the stays more retro than their 40th anniversary week of shows was a couple years back. So far only Scruffy the Cat on the 25th has been announced. I'm hoping for a Letters to Cleo reunion, and maybe recreating the Lemonheads/Pixies bill? I'd settle for an Evan Dando/Ben Deily duo show. Billy Corgan has also been quoted as calling TT's his favorite club, so who really knows.

Goodbye, TT's. Hopefully I'll be able to get inside you for one last legendary night.

Live Shows: Courtney Barnett & Chastity Belt, The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA 5/18/15

This summer gives you many options on the 90s nostalgia circuit. If you want to see middle aged men 15 years passed their prime with their current nameless hired backing bands for grossly inflated prices, you have the Summerland Tour, Under the Sun Tour, and more. However, if you want to see acts just hitting their prime that capture the spirit of the 90s better than Sugar Ray ever could, you need to check out the current Courtney Barnett tour.

Before Courtney Barnett, Chastity Belt brought their own blend of 90s nostalgia to the stage. One unimpressed audience member standing near me remarked that he found them too monotonous. And yes, they were, if you just listened to them on the surface. Once you actually focused on them, you realized that each member was seemingly playing their own song, almost unrelated to each other, in a way that just looped around and around. Then they would all pull their parts tightly together. Basically, they were a less aggressive Sonic Youth with drone instead of feedback. Great stuff, and I wished they had more time to play with their sound on stage.

But, everyone was there to see Courtney Barnett. She may have seemed a little jetlagged (she did play a show in Australia on Saturday, and this show was in Boston on Monday, so holy yikes!), but aside from a quip to an audience member that she had no idea where she was or what time it was, she didn't let it affect the show. She played this loose set, bringing more noise to her songs than even remotely evident on her album. For people who bought tickets to her show because it was a Newport Folk Presents event, there is nothing that could have prepared them for the sonic force they encountered. Her bass player, Bones Sloane, played like he was auditioning for Slayer. Barnett live is equal parts the energy of Kurt Cobain and the slacker stylings of Evan Dando. She definitely wears her influences proudly, with two 90s covers displayed prominently (The Breeders' "Cannonball" and The Lemonheads "Being Around"). 

Barnett may be playing smaller venues now, but based on how far in advance her show at The Sinclair sold out and how rabidly the audience accepted her, she won't be for long. You'll want to make sure to check out this tour when it comes your way. Her set at this year's Newport Folk Festival just rocketed to the top of my "must see" list.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty-Two: Elina Born and Stig Rasta - "Goodbye to Yesterday"

It's Eurovision season, and I spent some time earlier this week trying to listen to what I could find from this year's entrants. The field is full of dull ballads this year, unfortunately, but one of the songs that absolutely jumped out at me was the Estonian entrant above. It reminds me of one of my favorite songs from The Dears, and it's a song that's been haunting me since I heard it. I hope we get more from either of them, or, if we're lucky, both.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for May 19

Let's jump right in.

Hot Chip - Why Make Sense?: Everyone, at this point, knows "Ready for the Floor." The electronic group is back with a new album that remains out of touch both with the song that made them big and current electronic trends, but this one is still a pretty solid record with a lot of interesting and sometimes complicated parts. I really enjoyed this one in a way I didn't like their previous effort, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with this album.

The Milk Carton Kids - Monterey: I really should love The Milk Carton Kids, and the previous efforts are ones I've liked, but hardly loved. Monterey may have finally changed that or me, as this is a strong, understated folk album with a lot going for it. I really enjoyed listening to the whole thing, and then the final track, "Poison Tree," came on and I was hooked for good. It's just a really solid listen from start to finish, and absolutely worth your time this week.

Madeson Ward and the Mama Bear - Skeleton Crew: I didn't know anything about this duo before listening to the album, and my first thought was that it reminded me a lot of The Handsome Family or a similar folk group with unexpected vocals. I liked this, but I think the tone and the overall musical qualities may not be for everyone. It's definitely an album I'm going to be listening to more.

Faith No More - Sol Invictus: Faith No More hasn't released any music in a very long time, and Sol Invictus is, ultimately, an affair that fans of the band (or hardcore Mike Patton fans) will enjoy but one I can't really recommend beyond that. In a year where we've had a lot of reunions and returns, this one falls flat on a few levels for me.

Holly Herndon - Platform: My pick for album of the week is one I didn't expect. I didn't know of Holly Herndon before this week, but her glitchy, chopped-up take on electronic music is really appealing to me, and the complexity of the compositions here are something to be impressed with. A song like "Chorus" both has the melodic chops to maybe provide a good idea as to what we're looking at while still maintaining the challenging weirdness that's front and center here. I love this album, and it's one I'm rushing to get another listen on, as it's unlike anything I've heard of late. I recommend everyone give this a shot, but I know it's not for everyone.

Barna Howard - Quite a Feelin': Easily the throwback folky album of the week, Barna Howard's album works well as a very straightforward album that didn't grab me in any specific way on first listen, but still left me looking to hear more. In a crowded week, it's difficult to stand out, but this is worth a listen.

Holly Miranda - Holly Miranda: I was a big fan of Holly Miranda's 2010 effort, The Magician's Private Library. It was a strange mix of styles and ideas that pushed the envelope in a few places and got me excited about what's to come. Her self-titled follow-up doesn't feel as new or fresh, but it is still challenging and difficult in its own way. She's had an interesting last five years, and it does come across on first listen, and is one of the better releases as a result. Definitely worth your time.

Total Babes - Heyday: Total Babes are back with a new quick hit of an album, and it's exactly that - a quick hit that comes and goes very quickly, and is a fun indie punk album as a result. I enjoyed this quite a bit, and you'll know within moments whether it fits what you're looking for.

Brandon Flowers - The Desired Effect: The new Brandon Flowers (lead singer of The Killers) is the type of solo album from a frontman that you love to hate. It's an excuse to dabble in a bunch of genres where little of it makes sense and it just gets you kind of angry/antsy. Unless you're a Killers fan, skip this.

Bhi Bhiman - Rhythm and Reason: Bhiman has excelled in being a bit chameleonlike in his ability to swap out genres and tone in his songs with this latest album, which sounded different than what I expected and yet something entirely enjoyable. It's political without being preachy, the songs are catchy without being simplistic or pandering. It's really a solid listen, and should absolutely be part of your rotation this week.

Kopecky - Drug for the Modern Age: Kopecky, formerly The Kopecky Family Band, have a new album that really brings the radio-friendly rock music to the forefront. I hear a lot of Bleachers in this in a way, a lot of old OK Go, and if that sort of thing appeals to you, you'll find a lot to like. In many ways, this album is a breath of fresh air, but it might be too polished for others. Worth a listen.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty-One: The Barr Brothers - "Never Been a Captain"

If I had to choose a word to describe "Never Been a Captain," it would be haunting. It's sort of bluesy, sort of folksy, but the production provides a bit of a soulful darkness that has been sticking with me since I first heard it. I'll be looking at their new EP closer later on, but for now, this song is worth a listen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Fury Things Cover Hüsker Dü's "New Day Rising"

Back in March, we wrote about a split EP from Minnesota's Fury Things and Brilliant Beast. Now Fury Things are back with a new EP, Saskatchewan EP, which especially got our attention for featuring a cover of Hüsker Dü's classic "New Day Rising." Since we love covers, bands from Minnesota, and Hüsker Dü here, we kind of need to make sure you all know about it. The cover stays completely true to the original, which makes me wonder if I would have preferred Fury Things to try to make it their own or not. Currently I can't decide.

Saskatchewan EP is available as a free download. Head on over to Fury Things' Bandcamp to get your copy. You can listen to their cover of "New Day Rising" below.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twenty - Sofia Talvik - "Big Sky Country"

I raved about Talvik's latest album a couple weeks ago, but I really didn't spend enough time on how much I like the title track. I don't always spend a lot of time on lyrics, and "Big Sky Country" is a really great story of the Scandinavian singer-songwriter's time spent touring the United States over almost sixteen months a few years back. I missed her on the tour (and I'm still kicking myself for it), but, especially when the general feeling toward describing America in general is negative in the standard non-country songwriting, it's interesting to hear a positive listen from an outsider perspective. I really like this song, I hope you give this and her album a shot.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Nineteen - Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors - "Here We Go"

I'm still a fan of Drew Holcomb's latest album with his band, The Neighbors. "Here We Go" jumped out and grabbed me the moment I heard it and I am still addicted to it months later. It's a genuinely fun song to sing along to, and the fact that the video is just as fun and goofy only adds to its endearing charm.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: Jon Fine - Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear)

Prior to reading Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear), I had never heard of Jon Fine or his main band, Bitch Magnet. What's truly great about the memoir is that unlike most music biographies or memoirs, you really don't have to. While it does focus on Fine's experiences starting an aggressive, fairly experimental indie rock band in the 80s and 90s, it's written primarily as a music fan with insider information. This makes it perfect for anyone with interest in the 80s and 90s indie rock scene, and more along the lines of Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 than a typical musician's memoir.

Since Jon Fine makes his living nowadays primarily as a journalist rather than a musician (he's appeared in BusinessWeek, The Atlantic, and GQ, and is an editor at Inc. magazine), this might be the best written musician memoir I've ever read. It focuses more on the feeling and emotion of discovering new music and being part of the indie community than it does on separate events. Plus, Fine is a huge music snob, which will make any reader of this blog happy. He presents opinions of bands as facts rather than opinions (He really doesn't seem to like the Pixies) which I'm guilty of more than anyone else I know. Plus, he talks about the issue of getting aging music fans to come out to a show when they might have work the next day or need to get a babysitter. This is pretty much one of this blog's mission statements, so it's quite relevant to our readers.

Fine also gets into the financial reasons a ton of smaller bands broke up in the late 90s and early 00s. I don't think I've ever heard of higher rents associated with the housing boom vs aging and dwindling audiences as a factor ever before, but it makes perfect sense. He also interviews fellow musicians such as Clint Conley of Mission of Burma and Lou Barlow from Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr, which helps this feel more like it's about the scene than just a memoir. It also documents Bitch Magnet's semi-successful reunion tour in the 10s. I know we can all relate to his experiences with band reunions.

If you love the 80s and 90s indie rock scene, you'll need to read Your Band Sucks. It perfectly states what it was like discovering this bizarro music that barely anyone you knew had ever heard about, and then discovering fellow fans. It truly captures the excitement and community you felt. Plus, Fine is the only other one I've ever heard complain about having a great old school t-shirt collection that is now out of fashion since no one wears XL anymore.

Your Band Sucks: What I Sat at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear) is out tomorrow on Viking. You can order it from Amazon. Also, do yourself a favor and seek out Bitch Magnet's music. They're my new favorite band I'm roughly 20 years late for.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Eighteen - Kingsley Flood - "Set Me Off"

We're fans of Kingsley Flood here at the blog, and I revisited their new EP from earlier this year and forgot how much I loved "Set Me Off," so I figured I'd remind you all about how great and catchy this song is as well. If the first five seconds don't get you, you may not have a soul.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Seventeen - Albert Hammond Jr - "Born Slippy"

As much as I wish this was a garage rock cover of the Underworld song, this ends up being a fun, rather understated and complex rock song. I didn't love it at first, but the more I go back to it the more I enjoy it. While I haven't liked a lot of the output from The Strokes as of late, but this leads me to believe the new album from Hammond will be worthwhile.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Sixteen - Sea of Bees - "Test Yourself"

I giggle every time I think of their band name, but Sea of Bees has a new song from their upcoming album that is catchy as all get out. Sing-along bits, a catchy chorus, hooks for days, it's really the total package. It's not on Spotify yet, so we're stuck with this for the time being, but this song alone has made this album one of my most anticipated summer albums. Looking forward to it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Live Shows: Lady Lamb & Rathborne, Press Room, Portsmouth, NH 5/13/15

Photo by Ken Sears
My days of going to see the same tour multiple dates are pretty much over. I just saw Lady Lamb at one of her album release parties back in March, so normally I wouldn't feel the need to see her two months later. But this is Lady Lamb we're talking about, and the Press Room holds 85 people. The last venue I saw her in, The Sinclair, holds 525 and she sold that out easily. There won't be many more chances to see her in such an intimate venue, so I had to make the trip up to Portsmouth to see her again.

The Press Room has a very odd set up. Shows here take place upstairs from the restaurant, but the upstairs still has tables with people eating. If you get there before the show starts, you either sit at the bar or mill about awkwardly between tables where people are eating while you are constantly in the way of the waitstaff. But the venue is extremely intimate. There really isn't a typical stage. There is a small ledge at the very back of the room where the drum kit sat, but the rest of the band stood on the floor at the same level with the audience, with only monitors and amps designating where the performance area ended and the audience began. In fact, Aly Spaltro apologized to the portion of the crowd that wasn't right up front if they wanted to see her, as she's not exactly the tallest of performers. To rectify this, she stood on a chair during her solo songs ("Sunday Shoes," "Between Two Trees," and show closer "Ten). 

Photo by Ken Sears
It was a remarkable show, with her three piece band sounding remarkably tight. Six weeks of playing together virtually every day will do that. Spaltro's voice did sound a little ragged and tired. She did cancel a couple shows due to illness earlier in the tour, which could have been the culprit. Aside from cutting out a few times, the tour exhaustion didn't affect her voice at all, and it retained the same power she displayed back in March. It was also the first time I saw her without her banjo, but I understand not wanting to lug an instrument from coast to coast for one, maybe two songs per night. "Crane Your Neck" has become quite the set closer (She did play "Ten" immediately afterwards, but it was almost an encore. She would have had to push through the crowd and then push back in order to play a true encore), and I doubt anyone at the show would have had it any different.

Opener Rathborne went to high school with Lady Lamb, which could have gone horribly wrong. Choosing a high school friend to go on tour isn't always an artistic choice, but Rathborne fit perfectly. He was playing with a drummer he hadn't met until the tour started, but six weeks of touring made them tight. As it was a male/female rock duo, it invites comparisons to The White Stripes and Shovels & Rope, so here goes: If The White Stripes are the noisy indie rock version of the blues and Shovels & Rope are the noisy indie rock version of country and rockabilly, Rathborne is the noisy indie rock version of 60s pop. Great stuff, and I look forward to coming across him again someday.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Fifteen - Lusts - "Mouthwash"

When we think of throwbac/retro-style acts, I don't know if we think much of bands like Lusts, that certainly hit upon the sort of rock music we saw get popular about a decade ago, but awash in production values that would fit right into the early 1980s and songwriting that reminds me of some of my favorite R.E.M.-inspired songs, in a sense. This is an EXCELLENT song, and I definitely want to dive in more with this band and see what else they offer. Maybe my favorite song of this series so far.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

This Year's Prescott Park Arts Festival is Pretty Ridiculous

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down (Photo by Ken Sears)
Located in Portsmouth, NH, Prescott Park is this absolutely beautiful and scenic public park right on the river. While just about every public park in America will have weekly music, it's usually the local marching band or jazz ensemble, mostly for senior citizens and families with small children. Prescott Park Arts Festival put on amazing shows every year with a TON of If It's Too Loud... approved artists. I've only made it up there once for a Carolina Chocolate Drops show in 2013, but it hasn't worked out. This year I'm planning to make the trek a bunch. One of the best parts is the cost. They get a lot of acts that I'd normally be priced out of (you know, the $50+ range), but they only ask for a suggested donation around $10. Sure, you can cruise right in without paying anything, but you really should to keep this alive. You can see their full schedule here, with more to be added. This is a list of shows that will be most relevant to our readers:

June 17: Neko Case with Jennifer O'Connor
July 1: Yonder Mountain String Band
July 8: Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
July 12: Milk Carton Kids
July 15: Steve Earle & the Dukes
July 24: The Devil Makes Three
July 29: Trampled By Turtles

First Listen: New Releases for May 13

An interesting week overall. Let the folktacular begin!

Rhett Miller - The Traveler: Rhett Miller of The Old 97s teams up with Decemberists side project Black Prairie for what is a really fun, solid rootsy album. Collaborations can always be hit or miss when it comes to situations like this, and what I like most about this specific album is that you can absolutely hear Miller's influence and Black Prairie's influence meshing throughout. The instrumentation we'd expect remains the same, Rhett Miller's voice doesn't seem out of place, and it doesn't sound too much like either side. A really well-done album, and easily the best release of the week.

Della Mae - Della Mae: Della Mae's third album is a continuation of their interesting take on Americana music. I'm not sure why I'm always surprised when I enjoy their music - it might be that I confuse them with similarly-named acts or that their sound doesn't stand out when you initially hear it, but then you have songs like "For the Sake of My Heart" that just stick to you and don't let go. It's probably not for everyone, but I know it works a lot for me. Definitely recommended.

The Tallest Man on Earth - Dark Bird is Home: I know I remember listening to The Tallest Man on Earth's previous album, and, while I think I liked it, it didn't leave much of a lasting impact. Dark Bird is Home, on first listen, feels like it might be a change of pace in that regard, as it is a pleasant and breezy listen throughout. Kristian Matsson's voice continues to be distinctive and interesting, and the result is an album that really demands some attention. I'm absolutely looking forward to spending more time with this one.

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell - The Traveling Kind: In a follow-up to their pretty solid album a couple years ago, The Traveling Kind does not come across as upbeat and interesting as the previous, although Harris's voice continues to be absolutely arresting. I can't say I love this on first listen, and I'm not even sure I'll end up liking it, but the pedigree this comes from is reason enough to give it a shot.

The Weather Station - Loyalty: Man, this album. A really pleasant folk album for sure, but, on first listen, I can't tell you what it is that sets it apart from so many of the other albums like it (especially this week) except that it feels gorgeous. When I listened to this, I felt like I was experiencing something special, and that perception can go a long way. Easily one of the most buzzed-about releases of the week, if not the month, and it's deserving of the praise. Fit this one into your rotation.

Steve Aoki - Neon Future II: Steve Aoki is one of the most in-demand DJs out there right now, and his new album... well, it's not the type of electronic music I typically reach for. The collaborations are interesting, for sure, and this is absolutely club/party music, but my tastes have strayed far enough from this that the album itself otherwise feels a little flat and uninspired. Then again, the guy is making millions DJing, so what do I know?

Patrick Watson - Love Songs for Robots: I saw Ex-Machina over the weekend, which was essentially a story about AI and, in a way, love. Love Songs for Robots doesn't have anything to do with AI or Ex-Machina, nor, on first listen, does it sound like it has anything to do with robots. What it is, however, is another strong effort from Watson, who has really become an expert at this sort of quiet-yet-epic-sounding indie rock that just works for me. Definitely give this a listen, especially if you've been a fan in the past.

Icky Blossoms - Mask: I still don't know how Icky Blossoms fits in on Saddle Creek, but this second album is definitely a quality listen even if it's a step away from the more straightforward indie-electro that their debut did. This feels more rock with electric influences, and when it absolutely works (especially in the early tracks) it's spot on. I enjoyed a lot of this, and not other parts, so this may be better in parts on a whole.

Surfer Blood - 1000 Palms: I'll put it this way - I listened to this Surfer Blood album roughly 2 hours before writing this, and I can't say I remember even a single note from it. That should probably tell you something about this record on a whole, which is unfortunate.

Jello Biafra and the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All-Stars - Walking on Jindals: Jello Biafra does New Orleans Jazz songs on a live album? I'm on record as not quite understanding Biafra's schtick, so your enjoyment of this will probably be based on how much Jello Biafra you can tolerate.

David Duchovny - Hell or Highwater: Going in on this, I fully expected a bit of a trainwreck. Agent Mulder shouldn't be a musician. And yet, this album? Surprisingly decent! I don't think I'd be as impressed if it weren't for Duchovny's name recognition, so with the understanding that there is some grading on a curve happening here, this is actually a fairly credible sounding rock record. It's pretty derivative, sure, but so are a lot of things. I'm actually recommending listening to this one, as it's one that I'll probably go back to a few times. It's a good listen, I promise.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Fourteen: Kehlani feat. Coucheron - "Alive"

I confess to not knowing the first thing about Kehlani or Coucheron or this song in general except that I heard it and liked it. It's breezy, the instrumentation is good, and it feels awfully accessible in a way that you might expect it to show up in some television show in the next few months and watch as it catches fire. Either way, this absolutely makes me want to check out more from her, so this is a pretty good start.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Free Music: Torres - A Strange Hello

Our love of Torres has been pretty well documented on If It's Too Loud..., so when she puts out some music for free we are pretty much obligated to tell you about it. Last week A Strange Hello was released on NoiseTrade. There's nothing new on it, but it is comprised of 5 songs from both her self-titled debut and her just released Sprinter. If you've been on the fence about checking her out or picking up some of her music, this free sampler is a perfect starting point. It's just unique rock driven singer/songwriter material in the vein of Tori Amos and PJ Harvey done to absolute perfection.

Head over to NoiseTrade to download your copy of A Strange Hello. Make sure to check out Torres' website for more information, and be sure to check out her on tour, hopefully coming to a city near you.

Wed. May 13 - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill @
Fri. May 15 - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge @
Sat. May 16 - Seattle, WA @ Barboza @
Sun. May 17 - Vancouver, BC @ Electric Owl
Wed. May 20 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
Thu. May 21 - Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle @
Fri. May 22 - Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory @
Sat. May 23 - Toronto, ON @ The Garrison @
Wed. May 27 - Brooklyn, NY @ Baby's All Right @
Sun. May 31 – Barcelona, ES @ Primavera Sound
Thu. June 25 - Allston, MA @ Great Scott
Fri. June 26 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
Sat. June 27 - Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
Sun. June 28 - Washington, D.C. @ DC9
Tue. June 30 - Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
Wed. July 1 - Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
Thu. July 2 - Chattanooga, TN @ Rhythm & Brews
Fri. Sep. 4 – Sun. Sep. 6 – Dorset, UK @ End of the Road Festival
* with Jenny Lewis
@ with Aero Flynn

Landshapes - "Ader"

Photo by Stephanie Sian Smith
Landshapes are the kind of band that England used to have a ton of. They're fun, a little weird, completely danceable, and that great blend of alternative and pop without being completely studio manufactured. The band was formerly known as Lulu and the Lampshades, but took on a new musical sound after discovering guitar pedals, and a mis-billing in Paris gave them the name Landshapes. "Ader" is available on their newest album, Heyoon. The band describes their sound as "wonky pop," which sounds pretty much right. It takes classic British dance bands like Pet Shop Boys, mixes in 90s Brit pop, and brings it all to the current day.

Heyoon is out now on Bella Union. You can order it here. To keep track of Landshapes, head over to their website or like them on Facebook or Twitter.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Thirteen: Metric - "The Shade"

We haven't heard from Metric in a while, and the announcement of a new song and album this year was pretty great. This is a bit of a slow burn of a song - I wasn't so jazzed about it as it started, but, by the end, I was already singing along and checking Spotify to add it to a playlist (spoiler alert: it's on Spotify). Either way, if the new Metric album is going to be like this, we'll probably be in for a treat.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Twelve: Looper - "Oh, Skinny Legs"

Looper is a group my friend Adam got me into a very long time ago. Sort of a side/adjacent project of Belle and Sebastian, they were sort of the electronic arm of the Jeepster Records and pretty much disappeared until randomly releasing a new album earlier this year. I'll talk more about the album later, but one of the songs from it, "Oh, Skinny Legs," while not modern sounding at all, is still right along the lines of what was expected.

Oh, and by the way? You probably know at least one Looper song and don't know it.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sauna Youth - "Transmitters"

Sauna Youth are one of those bands where you kinda already know what they'll sound like before you even hear them, and if "Transmitters" is any indication, you'd be right. Sauna Youth is obviously a play on Sonic Youth, so they'll obviously be noisy. But it's also a fairly silly name, so they need to have some sense of fun. 

They formed in Brighton back in 2009, moving to London and forming their current line up in  2011. They released their debut album, Dreamlands, back in 2012. Since then, all four members have also performed as Monotony, and next month their sophomore release as Sauna Youth, Distractions, comes out.

Distractions comes out June 8 on Upset the Rhythm. For more information on Sauna Youth, you can like them on Facebook and check out their Bandcamp.

Newport Folk Festival 2015 Line Up Update

As we get closer to the 2015 Newport Folk Festival, and as more artists are being announced, it's becoming more and more clear that this year is going to be a truly special one. We have some returning regulars like The Decemberists, Brandi Carlile, First Aid Kit, Shakey Graves, and Spirit Family Reunion, but the real excitement are some of the artists playing the Fort for the first time. Courtney Barnett was a fantastic early addition, and I've been wishing hard for J Mascis for years. I'm not so secretly hoping he doesn't go for an all acoustic set and he brings a few of his affects pedals with him. Just something about him playing one of his Dinosaur Jr songs acoustic and then hitting a pedal to bring this wall of noise seemingly out of nowhere is just thrilling to me. Last week they announced Tommy Stinson to the line up. I don't know if that makes it more or less likely that The Replacements will end up being announced, but a guy can hope. It's also the time of year that artists start announcing their summer tour line ups, which leads to searching for Newport sized holes. Right now I'm seeing possibilities in Jason Isbell, Emmylou Harris, and The Devil Makes Three all making return visits. Sure, there are a ton of artists listed that I have never heard of before they were announced at Newport, but I had also never heard of David Wax Museum, Sallie Ford, First Aid Kit, Benjamin Booker, or others before they were announced to be playing. Discovering these artists is half the fun.

Saturday and Sunday are sold out this year, but tickets for Friday are still available. Since Friday includes Tallest Man on Earth, Watkins Family Hour, Calexico, Angel Olsen, and more, you might want to move on those ASAP. You can pick up yours here.

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Eleven: Modest Mouse - "Lampshades on Fire"

For what we've seen from some frankly disappointing efforts from established acts this year, it's probably fun to look back at some of the better ones. Modest Mouse's first single in ages, "Lampshades on Fire," fits the bill of being very Modest Mouse while also feeling rather new and fresh. This song came out a few months ago and I'm still really into it, so that should say something right there, and it also makes me think I should maybe take a second look at the album.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Ten: Alessia Cara - "Here"

If you've been reading my posts here/know me at all, you know that it usually takes something interesting for me to really get into hip-hop or R&B. Thus my love of FKA Twigs, Naomi Pilgrim, and the like. Thus enters Alessia Cara, another song sent over to me that is left-of-center and fully engaging. A different song that isn't something that connects right away, I'm glad I gave this a full shot because now I can't really stop listening to it. It's a pretty interesting song, and it won't be for everyone, but it's definitely worth your time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Nine: Little Boots - "Better in the Morning"

There is a new Little Boots song! And a new Little Boots album! I'll go and say this outright, too - this might be her best song yet. I know people are partial to "Remedy," but this song is just such a solid straightforward listen that it's hard for me to not be completely excited by it. It feels like a great mid-1990s Europop song, and that's just awesome to me. Definitely give this one a listen.

Friday, May 8, 2015

31 Songs a Day for May: Day Eight: Alpine - "Foolish"

My friend Liz sends me pretty much everything Alpine does, and I've always enjoyed it, but this song in particular, "Foolish," is really one I'm hooked on. I love the airy quality of it, it still feels modern even though it's aping a lot of retro sounds, and it has me really excited for their upcoming album. Plus, this video is really amusing to me, so there's that, too.

First Listen, Part Two: New Releases for May 5

We saved the best for last this week.

Hop Along - Painted Shut: Hop Along is a band I only know because they're touring with Field Mouse (a blog favorite here). Within a few moments of this album, you see why they match up with Field Mouse so well, and get hit right in the nostalgia with a sound that sounds like so much you've already heard, but can't place. Expertly done indie rock with very few flaws (the more indie/anti-folk songs near the end do feel a little out of place), it's definitely one of the best releases of the week, and arguably the year. I can't recommend this highly enough.

Metz - II: Metz's second album is absolutely the heaviest thing on the docket this week. It's a short affair, pretty heavy, but has a number of good moments throughout. Not really my sort of thing in general, but if you're looking for something on the heavier side this might work for you.

Best Coast - California Nights: I mentioned back in November how Best Coast's recent EP was something that changed my mind on the band. Hearing "Heaven Sent" a few months back, I was absolutely floored, and the new album is really some great indie pop/rock from start to finish. A little grungy with tons of hooks and a bunch of memorable songs, I rank it up there with Hop Along this week. Absolutely a wonderful album, and is required listening this week.

Mac McCaughan - Non-Believers: This solo album from the Superchunk frontman doesn't sound a lot like Superchunk, but still has a lot of familiarity around it to really be appealing. On first listen, the power pop elements are there but ultimately feel rather subdued, although I'm not sure what expectations I would have went into going in anyway. Overall, it's definitely a good listen, but in a crowded week.

The Orange Peels - Begin the Begone: Back at the height of my indie-pop love, I ended up on a discussion list for The Orange Peels, thinking it was more about indie pop in general (which it sort of became). I got into the band that way and never entirely kept up, but I always enjoyed what I heard and this new album isn't any different. It's not really standing out from the crowd, to be sure, but it is a pretty quality indie pop record. Definitely worth a listen.