Tuesday, August 30, 2016

First Listen: New Releases for August 26

This was a busy week, but a really disappointing one. A handful of good albums, and a lot of disappointing and/or otherwise non-noteworthy efforts. So don't consider this a habit, but I'm treating this week a little differently.

But first, the best of the week:

Album of the Week:

Artist: Banks and Steelz
Album: Anything But Words
Quick Description: Side project from Interpol's Paul Banks and Wu Tang's RZA.
Why You Should Listen: The mix of collaborators is enough to give it a listen...
Overall Thoughts: ...and the quality is enough to keep it around. It, like a lot of collaborations, is certainly imperfect, but this is just a solid listen across the board. The production is interesting, the songs pretty solid, and it's overall just a great listen this week. What's surprising for me in particular for this is that RZA's been around forever and Interpol a fair amount of time as well, but this feels fresh and energetic in a way a lot of collaborations like this just don't. So there's a lot to like here, and it's worth your time.
Recommendation: Absolutely the best of the week.

Artist: The Album Leaf
Album: Between Waves
Quick Description: First album in six years from the electronic-tinged act.
Why You Should Listen: The Album Leaf has been underrated for a long time.
Overall Thoughts: The only downside I can give this album is that it stays on such an even keel for so long. Instead of a lot of cool peaks and valleys and often-interesting swells, this more exists on its own accord and ends up being great even still. While I would have preferred a little more oomph or impact, the result here is a pleasant and complicated listen that deserves more time than I've given it so far, and absolutely deserves some of yours.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth a listen this week.

Artist: Britney Spears
Album: Glory
Quick Description: Ninth album by one of the biggest pop stars in the world.
Why You Should Listen: Because I found it good enough to highlight here.
Overall Thoughts: Listen. No, really. Just listen. I know, because Britney Spears was the pop star in high school that represented everything wrong with music for me, complete with ironic indie covers of her biggest songs and all that. And then there was the meltdown, and the revival, and the rehabilitation, and who knows what else, and now we have Glory. And I haven't been afraid to point out that I've gained an appreciation for a lot of pop music here, but I had a friend raving about this from a leak she got a hold of and, well, it's great. Legitimately great. While it's arguably too polished and overproduced, the quality of the songs and the overall approach turns this into something kind of special. If you've (rightfully) written Britney off up to this point, you should really give her a shot, as this is a really solid album.
Recommendation: A favorite of the week.

Artist: Lewis & Leigh
Album: Ghost
Quick Description: Great Americana.
Why You Should Listen: Lewis & Leigh kind of get it in terms of making this sound work for them.
Overall Thoughts: I raved about their EP in 2014 and this album was both long-awaited and did not disappoint. Just a lovely, high-quality slice of folk-inspired music that deserves a lot of attention. If you're into this sort of music, line this one up.
Recommendation: A definite must-listen this week.

Artist: The Veils
Album: Total Depravity
Quick Description: Second album from the group that introduces some electronic aspects.
Why You Should Listen: The Veils are great, and El-P produced this as well.
Overall Thoughts: I liked the first Veils album, so I was interested in this right from the start. I learned later about El-P's involvement, and that does explain some of the sonic changes we're hearing. The result, like in the opener "Axolotl," and other songs just resonated immediately like "Low Lays the Devil." This is a complicated listen on first blush, and one I look forward to spending more time with.
Recommendation: A solid listen this week.

Artist: Carly Rae Jepsen
Album: Emotion: Side B
Quick Description: A collection of b-sides from the pop star's 2015 album.
Why You Should Listen: The b-sides help spread her musical wings a bit, and provide a deeper appreciation for Emotion.
Overall Thoughts: I tried to listen to Emotion last year and it didn't really grab me. Maybe a little to 1980s? Maybe it was trying too hard after "Call Me Maybe" hit so big? Either way, it didn't work for me. But "Cry" made it on my Release Radar playlist on Friday and I really enjoyed it, and it turns out this quick hit of b-sides not only did the trick, but got me to look back at Emotion and see what I missed. I can't guarantee that you'll have the same experience, but this is maybe worth a quick shot.
Recommendation: Might not work for you, but it's worth some time.

Artist: Dreamers
Album: This is Not an Album
Quick Description: Aggressive pop rock.
Why You Should Listen: You require loud guitars and hooks for days.
Overall Thoughts: This is not a bad album at all, but the amount of polish on it makes me wonder how much appeal it has outside of those who would only find this on the radio. You'll know 10 seconds into "Drugs" if it's for you, but it's worth highlighting just due to how up-front it is, especially in contrast to an album cover and title that seems to be a little more esoteric.
Recommendation: Worth a shot.

Some quick notes on the rest of the week:

* Charlotte Day Wilson - CDW: Solid dreamy folk/pop, interested to hear what comes next.
* Prophets of Rage - The Party's Over: The Rage Against the Machine/Public Enemy collaboration that feels about 20 years dated, and that's even before questioning the politics of the situation.
* The Bad Plus - It's Hard: On one hand, they're back to doing jazzy cover songs, but this just feels uninspired.
* De La Soul - ...and the Anonymous Nobody: De La Soul was a highlight when I saw them live a decade-plus ago. This just feels like a lot of going through the motions, and is not essential at all.
* Ingrid Michaelson - It Doesn't Have to Make Sense: A breakup record that's far too melancholy for its own good, unfortunately.
* Cassius - Ibifornia: I remember when Cassius was the interesting house music group. This honestly deserved to be better.
* Katy Goodman & Greta Morgan - Take It, It's Yours: A covers album that has parts greater than the whole.
* Butch Walker - Stay Gold: Never quite lifts off to be the thing I know Butch Walker is capable of being.
* Cass McCombs - Mangy Love: Also feels plodding and lethargic. Not much to highlight from an artist who does more than this.

Also out this week:

* Pye Audio Corner - Stasis
* Gringo Starr - The Sides and in Between
* Mild High Club - Skiptracing
* Glass Animals - How to Be a Human Being
* Diedrich Strause - How Cruel That Hunger Binds
* The Devil Makes Three - Redemption and Ruin

Monday, August 29, 2016

J. Allen - Worry Not

I feel the need to apologize to all of you. I accidentally sat on this release for a few months and inadvertently kept it from everyone. I first told you about J. Allen last year with his fantastic single "Bring Her Back Home." Back in early spring, he released an EP titled Worry Not. While it does contain "Bring Her Back Home" and its b-side "L.B.C.," There are four brand new songs. All six songs are these painfully beautiful and sparse compositions. This is one of the reasons independent artists are so magical: A major label would insist on filling it with strings and keyboards. J. Allen chooses to let these songs breath. Allen has the chops and can write a melody right up there with the more mainstream current folk acts, but he keeps the true heart of folk intact. Worry Not is one of the true rare releases that can satisfy a top 40 audience and us music snobs.

You can listen to the album version of "Bring Her Back Home" below. For more information, check out J. Allen's website, and find him on Bandcamp.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Service - Demos

Service is a band so new they don't have a true release out yet. They're based out of Indianapolis and NYC, first coming to my attention since Russell Simins, drummer for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, is a member. Right now they have a three song demo on Soundcloud. I'm going to go the lazy route and take the description of the band's sound straight from their Facebook page, because when you're right, you're right: post-punk then punk again. The first track, "Worth Waking Up For," starts off with a feedback squall, and then aggressive, ominous post punk bass and vocals. It sucks you right in with the promise of ferocity to come. And then the guitar solo comes in. It's not a pretty solo. We're not talking "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" here. It's this ugly, drilling sound that's less played and more forced. But it's glorious. "Good Wife" has this fun, plodding beat, but then it keeps vomiting all over itself in an explosion of breakneck noise, all while having this groovy beat. These are all listed as "rough demo," and I hope they never put any polish on it.

You can listen to "Worth Waking Up For" below. To listen to all three demos from Service on their Soundcloud page. For more information on Service, check them out on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First Listen, Part Two: More New Releases for August 19

Here's the rest for this week!

Artist: Lydia Loveless
Album: Real
Quick Description: Fourth album from a blog favorite.
Why You Should Listen: Lydia Loveless is a must listen around these parts.
Overall Thoughts: I'll be the one to say it - this doesn't do much for me. Both Ken and I loved her last album, Somewhere Else, but for me, this is a continuing trend against a more polished and less rootsy sound that isn't what I'm looking for from Loveless (or, really, anyone else). It's shocking in its sterility, especially from an artist who wasn't afraid to push the envelope content-wise. I asked Ken what he thought, and it sounds like he likes it more than I but isn't fond of the pop skew either, so it's a definite "meh" from these parts. Too bad, too.
Recommendation: Not essential, but might be in your wheelhouse.

Artist: The Minus Five
Album: Of Monkees and Men
Quick Description: Scott McCaughey's love letter to the original boy band.
Why You Should Listen: You have an affinity for either The Minus Five or The Monkees.
Overall Thoughts: I can't say I have much of a love for The Monkees outside of watching reruns of the show on TV as a kid, but I'll give anything Minus Five a shot. When they try to ape The Monkees directly, the album is pretty great. The more experimental tributes (such as the 10 minute long song about Michael Nesmith) don't always hit right, though, and this results in an uneven adventure on a whole. I won't say "don't bother" with this on any part, but this needs to be taken in the context intended.
Recommendation: Might be a fans-only affair.

Artist: Ages and Ages
Album: Something to Ruin
Quick Description: Electronic-tinged indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: This is some nice, polished indie music.
Overall Thoughts: I first learned of Ages and Ages from a solid Christmas album that came out a few years back. This album is solid, but doesn't do anything especially new or different. It might be too indie for mainstream audiences, and too polished for indie ones, but this hits a weird sweet spot for me nonetheless. You'll know what you'll think within the first few tracks, but if you love solid harmonies you should bump this up your list.
Recommendation: Might not be for everyone, but worth a listen.

Artist: Ed Harcourt
Album: Furnaces
Quick Description: Latest from the singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Ed Harcourt has seemingly been around forever and is a consistently solid songwriter.
Overall Thoughts: This was pretty close to being my album of the week. The songwriting is just so solid and everything so tight that it's hard not to love what is going on in Furnaces. I can't say enough good things, so just listen to it. If "Loup Garou" doesn't grab you, I don't know what else to say to you.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week.

Artist: Slow Club
Album: One Day All of This Won't Matter Any More
Quick Description: Fourth album from the British rock duo.
Why You Should Listen: A softer affair where the band's name matches the sound, this is just a great listen.
Overall Thoughts: I can't say Slow Club has ever truly grabbed me, but this album might be the one to do the trick. A deliberate affair with a lot of strong songwriting and instrumentation, I think I fell for this almost immediately. While songs like "In Waves" stand out immediately, this is almost a grower in its presentation, so give it a shot.
Recommendation: Worth the time.

Artist: Big Eyes
Album: Stake My Claim
Quick Description: Melodically abrasive punk rock.
Why You Should Listen: It's the loudest entry this week, and a short quick hit at that.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know if this is outright punk, but I'll just run with it. It's loud, it's right up in your face, and it's a very enjoyable and fast romp. Songs like the title track and "When You Were 25" set a great melodic tone, and it's just a solid album from top to bottom.
Recommendation: A good listen this week.

Artist: Lutheran Heat
Album: Louder From the Other Side
Quick Description: More punkish stuff for this week.
Why You Should Listen: More traditionally punk, a little more on the abrasive side.
Overall Thoughts: Lutheran Heat is definitely doing something right, but the biggest problem they might be facing is setting themselves apart. Especially in a week where we have an album from Big Eyes, Lutheran Heat ultimately suffers from not allowing itself to stand apart. It's a good listen, but in a crowded week...
Recommendation: A good listen, but not a priority.

Artist: Lisa Hannigan
Album: At Swim
Quick Description: Third album from the former Damien Rice collaborator.
Why You Should Listen: This is her best solo work to date.
Overall Thoughts: I'm hoping that this is the album that unties Hannigan from Rice for good, because I haven't loved her solo work up to this point but this album just absolutely nails it. The positives from this album are the ways that Hannigan flirts with different genres (a more traditional singer-songwriter song in "Funeral Suit" is in the same album as a more experimental piece like "Barton"), and there's a melancholy feel to this album that brings it all full circle. If Thalia Zedek was #1 this week, and Ed Harcourt was 1A, this might be 1B. Just a superior album in a lot of ways.
Recommendation: A must listen this week.

Also out this week:

* Crystal Castles - Amnesty (I) (weird electronic sounds)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for August 19

We've got a lot of albums out this week! Enough where we're gonna split this onto two days...

Album of the Week:

Artist: Thalia Zedek Band
Album: Eve
Quick Description: Latest album from an artist widely considered to be an underground legend.
Why You Should Listen: Best release of the week from an artist that should be heard anyway.
Overall Thoughts: I blame myself for not having any prior knowledge of Thalia Zedek or any of the bands she was in. Ken sent this over, though, and wow. This is a methodical, enjoyable listen from start to finish, feeling both complex and straightforward in its structure. The term "underground" often carries harder punkish connotations, but this feels more like some well-structured indie rock than anything, and it hit just right for me. Absolutely worth your time this week.
Recommendation: A must listen.

Artist: AJJ (Andrew Jackson Jihad)
Album: The Bible 2
Quick Description: Latest album from the folk punk act.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of their prior lowbrow wit.
Overall Thoughts: After how wonderful Christmas Island was a while back, and considering how great "Goodbye, Oh Goodbye" is as a song, I had high hopes for the latest AJJ effort. Instead, this feels a little more plodding and experimental in comparison to a lot of their other work, especially more recently. The fun, on first listen, is basically nonexistent, and while I'm willing to concede that there may be more layers to this album than the first listen let on, I left this one feeling like I wanted a lot more than what I got. On first listen, I can't recommend, but it might be a grower.
Recommendation: Not impressive on first blush.

Artist: Pascal Pinon
Album: Sundur
Quick Description: Lo-fi folk music from Iceland.
Why You Should Listen: This is gorgeous folk music with a dreamlike quality.
Overall Thoughts: I think I fully fell for this two tracks in, with "53." There's a knee-jerk desire to just assume Icelandic music sounds like either Bjork or Sigur Ros, and Pascal Pinon subverts both of that in the ethereal tones coming from this music. The whole album is a great listen from start to finish, and worth it if you like folk music at all.
Recommendation: One of the better releases of the week.

Artist: Dolly Parton
Album: Pure and Simple
Quick Description: A stripped down effort for Dolly's 40-somethingth album.
Why You Should Listen: It's Dolly Parton. Come on.
Overall Thoughts: I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. It's a legacy album in a way, with Dolly doing what she wants and that's all that matters. But in a time where we've had some really painful albums from older acts, it's good to hear Dolly Parton still doing what she's doing so well.
Recommendation: I don't know if this has much lasting power, but it's worth a listen.

Artist: Arc Iris
Album: Moon Saloon
Quick Description: Dreamy chamber-tinged indie music out of Providence.
Why You Should Listen: Arc Iris makes consistently beautiful music.
Overall Thoughts: Much like the first album, music from Arc Iris defies expectation and description in a lot of ways. The title track of Moon Saloon does a great job of introducing you to this world, and it's one that you might not be especially excited to leave. This is an improvement over the debut and one of my favorites this week, so give it a listen.
Recommendation: Definitely recommended.

Artist: Ryley Walker
Album: Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
Quick Description: Solid country folk.
Why You Should Listen: Fits right in with a lot of what we feature here.
Overall Thoughts: There are a lot of country-ish acts that do too much to ape the classic country model (even when it's well done). Ryley Walker on this album, to his credit, straddles that line fairly well, keeping a lot of the classic tones in play while also presenting something that feels modern and fresh. This is an album that surprised me while I listened to it, and I look forward to spending more time with it and finding what's hiding underneath.
Recommendation: A solid, classic listen.

Artist: K.Flay
Album: Crush Me
Quick Description: Quick hit EP from the indie artist.
Why You Should Listen: K.Flay is finally (finally!) breaking through, and this might be the entrypoint you were looking for.
Overall Thoughts: This EP exists more because the first track, "Blood in the Cut," is getting some play on commercials for Scream Queens, and K.Flay is getting some long-overdue attention even as she's come a long way from her awkward party rap that got me excited about what she was doing in the past. This is a good EP, and a good entrypoint to find a lot of her older stuff.
Recommendation: This is a four song EP, so it's worth the quick hit.

Artist: Courtney Marie Andrews
Album: Honest Life
Quick Description: Solid, authentic country rock.
Why You Should Listen: Andrews has a great voice and knows how to put together a great song.
Overall Thoughts: It's weird to hear this in the context of Ryley Walker, Dolly Parton, and Lydia Loveless (which we'll cover tomorrow), as all four have a relationship to country music that harkens back to the old style, but each is doing it their own way. Andrews, to her credit, is more along the Margo Price/Kelsey Waldon mold, except that she isn't really aping the sound as much as embracing it, and we quickly get songs like the title track or "Irene" that show some great songwriting chops and feel like they occupy two spaces at once. This was close to being my album of the week this week, so you can get an idea on the quality here.
Recommendation: A must-listen this week. A great album for sure.

Also out this week:

* Amos Lee - Spirit

Letters to Cleo Announce Tour Dates and a Pledge Music Campaign

We don't usually cover music news here on If It's Too Loud..., but this is Letters to Cleo after all, so...

Today Letters to Cleo announced the release date of their new EP, which will be their first new music in 17 years! (17 years? Holy shit that makes me feel old...) The EP is due out on September 30, and you can pre-order it now through their Pledge Music campaign. As with the usual download/vinyl/t-shirt/poster bundles that come with pre-orders, Letters to Cleo have raided the archives to offer some insanely rare items and a total memory lane for me. They have unworn ringer buggy shirts! The 1992 "Here & Now" indie release 7"! Promo posters for Aurora Gory Alice, Wholesale Meats & Fish, and Go! Plus there are the VIP concert experience at their five announced shows and private house concerts available, which makes me wish this blog was big enough to pony up the $15,000 for one of those. Letters to Cleo is promising even more rare items once they have a chance to go through their own personal archives.

You can pre-order your copy of the new Letters to Cleo EP at Pledge Music. Their current tour dates are below.

October 20 – The Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA  
October 22 – The Troubadour  – Los Angeles, CA
November 4 – The Double Door – Chicago, IL
November 17 – Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
November 19 – The Paradise – Boston, MA

Monday, August 22, 2016

Julia Jacklin - "Coming of Age"

Photo credit: Nick McKinlay
Regardless of how you decide summer ends, it is definitely coming to a close in the next week or so. Luckily for us, fall tends to mean better and more frequent music releases. Right now, we have another song from Julia Jacklin's debut album. As with the previous two, I'm not lamenting the end of summer if it leads to us being closer to the release of Don't Let the Kids Win.

"Coming of Age" is a little more alt rock than the previous songs, but it still squeezes just enough Americana (despite Jacklin being from Australia) to fit right in. It's a fairly straightforward bop along rock based pop song, with jangly guitars (and one that creates a feedback swirl throughout nearly the entire song). It's one of those perfect for summer songs even though the album comes out in the fall. Although, it's spring for Australia, so maybe that does make sense.

Julia Jacklin's debut album, Don't Let the Kids Win, is due out October 7 on Polyvinyl. You can listen to "Coming of Age" below. For more information on Jacklin, check out her website, and look for her upcoming tour dates way at the bottom of this post.

Aug. 25 - El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles CA, USA w/ Julien Baker (Solo)
Aug. 26 - Berlin, New York City, NY, USA w/ Hollis Brown (Solo)
Aug. 31 - London, UK @ The Lexington – SOLD OUT
Sept. 2 - Vlieland, Netherlands @ Into the Great Wide Open
Sept. 3 - Salisbury, UK @ End of the Road Festival 2016
Sept. 4 - Stradbally, Ireland @ Electric Picnic 2016
Sept. 6 - Stockholm, Sweden @ Bar Brooklyn, Debaser (Solo)
Sept. 7 - Oslo, Norway @ Revolver Upstairs (Solo)
Sept. 8 - Copenhagen, Denmark @ Himmeriget Bar (Solo)
Sept. 9 - Berlin, Germany @ Dodo Beach Record Store (Solo)
Sept. 10 - Haldern, Germany @ Pop Bar (Solo)
Sept. 11 – Belgium @ Leffinge Leuren Festival (Solo)
Sept. 17 - Ottawa, ON, Canada @ Cityfolk
Sept. 18 - Toronto, ON, Canada @ Toronto Urban Roots Festival
Sept. 20 - Chicago, IL, USA @ Martyrs' $
Sept. 21 - Madison WI, USA @ The Frequency
Sept. 22 - Champaign, IL, USA @ Pygmalion Music Festival
Sept. 23 - Cincinnati, OH, USA @ Midpoint Music Festival
Sept. 24 - Washington, DC, USA @ DC9 Nightclub $
Sept. 25 - New York, NY, USA @ The Bowery Ballroom $
Sept. 27 - Philadelphia, PA, USA @ Boot & Saddle $
Sept. 29 - Montreal, QC, Canada @ Divan Orange $
Sept. 30 - Boston, MA, USA @ Great Scott’s $
Oct. 1 – Pine Plaines, NY, USA @Huichica Festival
Oct. 4 - West Hollywood, CA, USA @ Troubadour $
Oct. 6 - Portland, OR, USA @ Doug Fir Lounge $
Oct. 7 - Vancouver, BC, Canada @ Biltmore Cabaret $
Oct. 8 - Seattle, WA, USA @ Neptune Theatre
Oct. 24 - Berlin, Germany @ Maze
Oct. 25 - Cologne, Germany @ Blue Shell #
Oct. 26 - Munich, Germany @ Unter Deck #
Oct. 27 - St Gallen, Switzerland @ Palace #
Oct. 29 - Zwolle, Netherlands @ Let's Get Lost Festival
Oct. 30 - Brussels, Belgium @ AB Club #
Oct. 31 - Rotterdam, Netherlands @ Rotown
Nov. 2 - Paris, France @ Le Pop-Up du Label
Nov. 3 - Brighton, England @ The Haunt #
Nov. 4 - Nottingham, England @ Bodega #
Nov. 5 - Glasgow, Scotland @ CCA #
Nov. 6 - Newcastle, England @ The Cluny #
Nov. 8 - Manchester, England @ Manchester Gorilla #
Nov. 9 - Bristol, England @ Thekla #
Nov. 10 - London, England @ Koko #
Nov. 11 - Dublin @ Grand Social
Nov. 18-19 - Mullumbimby Music Festival, NSW, Australia
Nov. 25 - Paradise Music Festival, VIC, Australia
Nov. 26-27 - Queenscliff Music Festival, VIC, Australia
Dec. 2-3 - Fairgrounds Festival, NSW, Australia

$ w/ Marlon Williams
# w/ Whitney

Friday, August 19, 2016

Salem Wolves - "Shameless"

After releasing a ton of fantastic singles over the past couple of years, Salem Wolves are finally set to release their debut album. (Of course, it's easy for the guys who just listen to the music to think a debut album has taken too long when we don't have to record or pay for it...) Tooth & Nail doesn't seem to have a release date yet, but you can listen to its first single, "Shameless." 

"Shameless" is the perfect Salem Wolves song. It's furiously dark, gritty surf inflected punk with some serious pop leanings. Being this poppy and heavy is impossible for 99% of the bands out there, but Salem Wolves pull it off wonderfully. "Shameless" isn't going to break any new ground, and they don't need to. 

You can listen to "Shameless" below. Salem Wolves have a couple of shows coming up at the end of the month: August 27 at Ralph's in Worcester, MA and August 29 in their namesake Salem, MA at OPUS. For more information, check out their website

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First Listen: New Releases for August 12

I'm hoping this week is evidence that we're out of the summer slump!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Ruby the RabbitFoot
Album: Divorce Party
Quick Description: New album from folkie-turned-pop artist.
Why You Should Listen: A shift in sound works out really well.
Overall Thoughts: We first got a hint of Ruby the RabbitFoot's change in approach with her cover of Madonna's "Take a Bow" from last year, and I found the early songs released from this to be a little jarring. But hearing the album in full, I was feeling like this is sort of like what we might expect Madonna to sound like if she were just starting out now (and that's before getting to album highlight "Wild Cherry Chapstick," which opens with a declaration from Ruby where she admits to having a "sex dream about your brother"). This is a really solid listen and one I'm really looking forward to spending a lot more time with, it's a fun one. Might be jarring for those seeking more of the folk stuff that we all fell for a few years back, but this felt like a natural transition to me.
Recommendation: Absolutely the best of the week.

Artist: Kelsey Waldon
Album: I've Got a Way
Quick Description: Traditional twangy country music.
Why You Should Listen: Waldon's a throwback of the best variety.
Overall Thoughts: Both Ken and I are in love with Margo Price's album this year, but I wonder if Kelsey Waldon would be getting more attention if she didn't exist, because this is some solid, traditional stuff on a whole. I really enjoyed this listen and it fits right in with what seems to be a trend bubbling under the Americana landscape as of late. Perfect for fans of classic country, but also those who have dipped their toes into the Kasey Musgraves/Margo Price/Sturgill Simpson waters.
Recommendation: I consider it a must listen.

Artist: Atmosphere
Album: Fishing Blues
Quick Description: Quality independent rap.
Why You Should Listen: Anything associated with Doomtree is worth a listen at this point.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over to me, and I was digging it, and I look the group up and find they're associated with Doomtree, so I'm sold. This is fairly straightforward rap, plenty of pretty solid storytelling throughout, and if you like rap with an older-school flavor, you should give this a spin.
Recommendation: Definitely an enjoyable listen this week.

Artist: Young the Giant
Album: Home of the Strange
Quick Description: Latest album from the modern rock act.
Why You Should Listen: Young the Giant is consistently good, and this album continues in this vein.
Overall Thoughts: I wouldn't ever call Young the Giant my favorite band or a favorite band, but at this point I think they need to be put in the conversation as one of the better current rock acts out there. The consistency in their releases continues with Home of the Strange, which both feels like a step forward and distinctly like their old stuff at the same time. "Amerika" sets the tone early and the rest of the album continues along that vein, which is ultimately all we can ask. Just a good listen overall, and a perfect album for mainstream rock fans.
Recommendation: A solid listen this week, especially if you like straightforward alternative rock.

Artist: Jeff the Brotherhood
Album: Zone
Quick Description: New album from the indie alt-rockers.
Why You Should Listen: Jeff the Brotherhood has a lot of banked goodwill...
Overall Thoughts: ...but this might have exhausted it. After how great their album from a few years ago was, this is the second album in a row that ultimately feels less like a solid album and more like a bit of a chore. Much of this album plods along, lacking a lot of interesting things to grab your attention early on, and then it's over. Just a disappointing listen from a band I liked a lot. I just want more "Black Cherry Pie."
Recommendation: Skip this one, there are better rock albums out this week.

Artist: Of Montreal
Album: Innocence Reaches
Quick Description: Latest offering from the prolific Elephant 6 act.
Why You Should Listen: This is the best Of Montreal album in close to a decade.
Overall Thoughts: Of Montreal hit it surprisingly big with The Sunlandic Twins back in 2005, and the follow-up, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer was a real solid album as well. Since then, for whatever reason, Kevin Barnes hasn't really nailed down what he wants the project to be. They were always the weird-yet-accessible indie psych arm of the E6 Collective, but the dancing with electronic elements that brought them some extra ears really distorted how a number of their albums went. Innocence Reaches feels a lot like what I feel their best album, Satanic Panic in the Attic, was - some strong poppy songwriting with enough electronic elements to feel modern and interesting. The songwriting is still delightfully strange and stilted, and not every song works (but that's always been true of the group and is just as much a testament of how prolific Barnes is as a songwriter), but whether this is meant to evoke the earlier times or not, it absolutely does. For me, I find it to be a welcome surprise.
Recommendation: Definitely worth a listen this week, especially if you were ever a fan.

Artist: Evening Bell
Album: Dying Stars
Quick Description: Some folkish/noirish music out of Seattle.
Why You Should Listen: This is an interesting, yet accessible listen.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this over to me with simply the note "this is for you." He wasn't wrong, this scratches a few itches of mine, and I think I was in for good at "Tail Light," which has a dark brooding sensibility to it. The whole album is along these lines and just feels right throughout. If you like a lot of our favorite stuff in the more folky avenue, you would probably dig this.
Recommendation: A recommended listen this week.

Artist: Blind Pilot
Album: And Then Like Lions
Quick Description: First album in a while from the folk rock act.
Why You Should Listen: Blind Pilot knows what they're doing, and this is a solid folk rock album.
Overall Thoughts: I can't say a whole lot about this except that this is an album that is evocative of Travis for me in a lot of ways, and feels very comfortable. I recommend not because it's the best album of the week, but more because of how consistently good it is at what it does. If the opening track doesn't catch you, I don't know what else to say. This is good.
Recommendation: A solid release this week.

Also out this week:

* Savior Adore - The Love That Remains
* Kindling - Everywhere Else (band from Northampton, MA)

James Williamson and Petra Haden - "Blues Jumped the Rabbit"

To continue his collaborative singles series, James Williamson (Iggy and the Stooges) has teamed with Petra Haden (That Dog, The Haden Triplets) for "Blues Jumped the Rabbit." While his previous single with Lisa Kekaula was traditional Hawaiian and children's music, his collaboration with Petra Haden is very traditional blues and folk. It's a wild change from the proto-punk riffs Williamson churned out in The Stooges and Haden's 90s alternative That Dog and much more in line with The Haden Triplets. It's a beautiful and melancholy song. Also, the single benefits Project Hawai'i which benefits homeless children in Hawaii. 

You can listen to "Blues Jumped the Rabbit" below. For more information on James Williamson, check out his website. For more on Petra Haden, check out hers. "Blues Jumped the Rabbit" is available digitally now with a physical release date of August 19.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Friday Freebie: Oh Pep! and The Mountain Goats - We Who Walk Behind the Rows: 2016 Tour Sampler

I know, I know. It's Monday, not Friday. But sometimes life gets in the way of us letting you know about great free music. The Mountain Goats are bringing Oh Pep! out on the road with them next month and they've teamed to bring us the free We Who Walk Behind the Rows: 2016 Tour Sampler. It features four songs from each band, including Oh Pep!'s fantastic "Doctor Doctor" and The Mountain Goats' odes to wrestling "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" and "Foreign Object." Oh Pep! and The Mountain Goats are a great pairing for a sampler and a tour. Oh Pep!'s dreamy take on folk pop is just different and similar to The Mountain Goats' more standard mainstream Americana to keep things interesting.

You can get your copy of We Who Walk Behind the Rows: 2016 Tour Sampler for free via Noisetrade. For more information on Oh Pep!, check out their website. The Mountain Goats also have a website you should check out. We've also included their current joint tour dates below (even though there aren't any New England shows).


Sunday September 18th -- Baltimore, MD, Rams Head Live
Monday September 19th -- Richmond, VA, The National
Tuesday September 20th -- Charlottesville, VA, Jefferson Theater
Thursday September 22nd -- Bloomington, IN, Buskirk-Chumley Theatre
Friday September 23rd -- Bloomington, IL, The Castle Theatre
Monday September 26th -- Iowa City, IA, The Englert Theatre
Tuesday September 27th -- Milwaukee, WI, Pabst Theatre
Wednesday September 28th -- Madison, WI, Majestic Theater
Friday September 30th -- Omaha, NE, The Waiting Room
Saturday October 1st -- Kansas City, MO, Madrid Theatre
Sunday October 2nd -- Columbia, MO, The Blue Note
Monday October 3rd -- Maquoketa, IA, Codfish Hollow Barnstormers

Friday, August 12, 2016

Jonny Fritz - "Are You Thirsty"

Jonny Fritz feels like he should be a household name. The artist formerly known as Jonny Corndawg (I've typed Corndawg instead of Fritz at least three times already) has played Newport, recorded with Dawes as his backing band, and sang on Middle Brother's "Middle Brother." While he's known, he's not your aunt knows his name famous yet. 

Fritz takes another shot at superstardom with his upcoming album Sweet Creep. It was produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket and he once again enlists Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith of Dawes to record the album, which they did in three days. The first song, "Are You Thirsty," is just about as laid back and spacey as current country and folk gets. Fritz has this unique ability to sound both retro and futuristic at the same time. 

Sweet Creep will be out October 14 on ATO Records. You can watch the video for "Are You Thirsty" below. For more information on Jonny Fritz, check out his website

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Nots - "Inherently Low"

Photo by Don Perry
If my only complaint about "Entertain Me," the previous song from Nots' upcoming album Cosmetic, was that it was too short at seven minutes, imagine how I feel about their new under three minute song. But "Inherently Low" works at 2:52. It's a little more straightforward post-punk than "Entertain Me" was, while it still has some of the more spectacular Sonic Youth style noise that I've heard in over ten years. It's a pretty spectacular second song from what is shaping up to be an album of the year contender. 

The second album from Memphis' Nots, Cosmetic, is due out on September 9 on Goner in the US and Heavenly Recordings in the UK. You can listen to "Inherently Low" below. For more information on Nots, check them out on Facebook. You can also pre-order Cosmetic on iTunes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

First Listen: New Releases for August 5

Another slowish week, but with one highly anticipated release and one awesome surprise.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Field Mouse
Album: Episodic
Quick Description: New album from an indie/dream-rock blog favorite.
Why You Should Listen: Field Mouse's debut album was my favorite album of 2014.
Overall Thoughts: Episodic is not Hold Still Life. It's a little more raw, a little more mature, and a lot of the reverb/dreamlike status of it has been put aside. The changes are really solid, though, and the result is an album that, on first listen, I am really into. The slow trickle of songs over the course of the last few months acted as a solid preparation of what came, and the result is just a great album across the board and one that might be a favorite of this year again. If the first Field Mouse album didn't quite do it for you, definitely give this a shot as it has a little more polish. But if you're already a fan, you're going to find a lot to like here as well. Just a great listen.
Recommendation: A must-listen this week.

Artist: Powerslut
Album: The Second Coming
Quick Description: Boston rock band that feels like Steel Panther's bratty, witty little sister.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy tongue-in-cheek rock music with fun, risque lyrics.
Overall Thoughts: This album opens with a song called "Leopard Print Butt Plug," and their most popular song on Spotify at the time of writing is from their first album, and that song is "Commuter Rail Me." So you kind of know what you're getting from the very start with Powerslut, which was absolutely the most fun I had listening to an album in a while. This is not a typical genre for me (the hard rock space), and I might have to consider playing it when my son isn't around, but you get equal parts absurdity and charm from songs like "Sad Waste (Of Your 20s)" and current favorite "Switch Hitter," so...
Recommendation: Definitely the fun release of the week, but it might not be for everyone.

Artist: Haley Bonar
Album: Impossible Dream
Quick Description: Latest album by the folk-tinged power popper.
Why You Should Listen: Haley Bonar always makes a solid album.
Overall Thoughts: Last War was a favorite of the week when it came out in 2014, so this follow-up was a pleasant surprise. The new album builds on some of the louder, rawer elements of the last album while still being a really solid listen. Worth it for anyone who likes a lot of our favorites here.
Recommendation: Another solid listen this week.

Artist: Dinosaur Jr
Album: Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
Quick Description: Latest album from the indie-grunge favorites.
Why You Should Listen: Dinosaur Jr have been around long enough to always at least give a listen.
Overall Thoughts: Ken is more the Dinosaur Jr guy here, but for me, this sounded like what I expected from a band that's been at this on and off for as long as they have. Nothing especially jumped out at me, but it's not a bad listen, either. In a slow week, though, it's especially dangerous to not really have much that's exciting in place, so that this is just fine is probably the biggest condemnation.
Recommendation: Not a mandatory listen, but you know if you'd like it.

Artist: Prinze George
Album: Illiterate Synth Pop
Quick Description: A debut Prinze George album that does what it says on the tin.
Why You Should Listen: Prinze George has been good for a while now and this debut album cements them in the conversation for solid indie pop.
Overall Thoughts: Prinze George does the synth pop thing well, and they know it well enough to be able to be a little self-deprecating in the album title. This is, however, a really good listen and one that has a slightly different and perhaps more mature feel to it than other albums in this space. Very enjoyable, but one I need to spend more time with.
Recommendation: A very good album, give it a try.

Artist: Jonah Tolchin
Album: Thousand Mile Night
Quick Description: Rootsy blues-tinged rock.
Why You Should Listen: Only album like it this week, sounds very sincere and authentic...
Overall Thoughts: ...which may be this album's sole downfall. The album is very good, with a classic, rustic sound that almost feels too pure in its formulation. The first two songs are both really well-crafted folk/blues tunes that feel out of place in a modern context. This is the point, but I do wonder how well it holds up on extra listens. Still, something I really liked and if you're here for the more roots/folk-type stuff, this one is for you this week.
Recommendation: Really excellent.

Artist: Minden
Album: Sweet, Simple Things
Quick Description: Fun indie pop.
Why You Should Listen: A nice, sweet palate cleanser musically.
Overall Thoughts: I don't have a ton to say about this except that I was utterly charmed by this Spotify find, and songs like "Never Spayed" might just charm you, too. What sets Minden apart in this case is how you can absolutely sense the fun within the music, and that can go a long way with me.
Recommendation: A fun, quick listen to end the week.

Also out this week:

* Arkells - Morning Report (straightforward mainstream alt-rock)
* The Dead Daisies - Make Some Noise (hair metal supergroup)
* Nels Cline - Lovers

Friday, August 5, 2016

Drive-By Truckers - "What It Means"

Photo by Danny Clinch
American Band is either going to propel the Drive-By Truckers into superstardom or push them even further into cult band status. They've never shied away from airing their politics, but there's a big difference from "... goddamn Reagan's in the White House..." and their latest song, the Patterson Hood written and sung "What It Means." "What It Means" is about possibly the most sensitive subject in America today: The shootings of unarmed black men. It was written in the wake of the Ferguson decision and the death of Trayvon Martin, but it could be about any of the recent deaths. The most specific it gets is about Trayvon Martin: "And that guy who killed that kid down in Florida standing ground / Is free to beat up on his girlfriend and wave his brand new gun around." The Drive-By Truckers aren't fucking around on this album.

American Band is due out September 30 on ATO Records, and make sure you pre-order the album. You can watch the lyric video for "What It Means" below. For more information on the Drive-By Truckers, check out their website. And make sure you go see them live. I don't think anyone has ever regretted it. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Evening Bell - "Tail Light"

Photo by Hilary Harris
You don't usually think of Seattle and country music going together. Seattle is typically loud, and even when grunge was considered groundbreaking it was still grounded in classic psychedelic rock. And it's dark. Seattle bands just sound dark as hell. Well, Evening Bell are a country band from Seattle. And, since they're a country band in Seattle, it's dark country grounded in psychedelic classic rock. Also, Caitlin Sherman, one of Evening Bell's main singer/songwriters, brings her fascination of film composition to the songs, giving them this grand and majestic cinematic quality. Most country in 2016 either falls into the mainstream bro country or a complete throwback to classic country. Evening Bell are the increasingly rare blend of country that sounds completely fresh and unique. 

Evening Bell's debut album, Dying Stars, will be released August 12. You can watch the video for "Tail Light" below.  For more information on the band, check out their website and Facebook.