Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Freebie: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - Songs From Sidelong + More

Today is packed with highly anticipated album releases. For us, one of the most anticipated releases of all is the latest from Sarah Shook + The Disarmers, Sidelong. This morning I woke up to an email from NoiseTrade offering me some free music from Sarah Shook & The Disarmers. Songs From Sidelong + More includes three songs from Sidelong as well as three songs from Sarah Shook's 2013 solo album, Seven. We've been raving about the songs we've heard so far from Sidelong. Her deep down country sound mixed with punk and indie rock resonates hard for us. I had never heard anything from her solo album, so being able to hear a few songs from that release is welcome. Those three are more traditional alt-country. Sidelong is the album that sets Sarah Shook & The Disarmers up as a completely unique sound.

You can get your copy of Songs From Sidelong + More over at Noisetrade. After listening to these songs, you're going to want to get your own copy of Sideways. Luckily for you, it's out today on Bloodshot Records! For more on Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, check out their website.

Dharma Bombs - "Pack Your Bags"

Hailing from Richmond, VA, Dharma Bombs are pure throwback Americana. They cite The Devil Makes Three and Pokey LaFarge as influences, but I'm going at add The Two Man Gentleman Band and Squirrel Nuts Zippers as other comparable acts since they have a bit of the old timey swing sound, too. The first song off their upcoming debut album, "Pack Your Bags," is an interesting choice to introduce themselves. They're a six piece band, but "Pack Your Bags" is a minimalist folk ballad. Everyone gets a chance to shine, but almost separately. The horn section seems to get the most time as far as the instruments go, but it's mostly a quietly strummed acoustic song with forlorn male and female vocals getting the main focus. It's a beautiful song that is only going to build anticipation for their upcoming album.

You can listen to "Pack Your Bags" below. Dharma Bombs' debut album, Old Time Romance, will be out on May 11 on Crystal Pistol Records. Keeping with the Friday Freebie theme, you can download their seven song Live on WRIR release for free on Bandcamp. For more on Dharma Bombs, check out their website.

Friday Freebie: Justin Townes Earle - Kids In the Streets Singles Pack + NoiseTrade Acoustic Sessions

We're pretty excited about the upcoming album from Justin Townes Earle. The man just doesn't release bad music. Hell, the man doesn't release anything mediocre. His new album, Kids In the Street, is due out on May 26. To get us excited for the new album, or even just to tide us over, he's offering the first three singles for a free download through NoiseTrade. Plus, there are three additional live recordings from his PledgeMusic sessions thrown in for fun. 

The new songs reflect some changes in Earle's life. Since his last album, 2014's double shot of Single Mothers and Absent Fathers, Earle has gotten married and is about to become a father. Kids In the Street shows his growth as a songwriter. Instead of looking into himself, the songs look out into the world around him. Plus, he's letting his blues and soul influences out in these songs. It's not a huge change in sound. Kids In the Street fits right in with Earle's discography of country/folk releases, but it's just enough of a change to keep his sound interesting.

You can get your copy of Kids In the Street Singles Pack + PledgeMusic Acoustic Sessions (not exactly a catchy title, but accurate) for free at NoiseTrade. Kids In the Streets will be released on May 26 via New West. The album can be pre-ordered via PledgeMusic. For more on Justin Townes Earle, check out his website.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

James Elkington - "Make It Up"

Photo by Tim Harris
James Elkington was born in England but now makes Chicago his home. He started out in bands like The Zincs and The Horse's Ha, but stopped writing music around 2011. Instead, he collaborated and played with the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn, and Tortoise. This sparked a new creative energy, and he's now set to release his debut solo album.

"Make It Up" was recorded in Wilco's Loft in Chicago. His British accent and style of singing are going to remind you of Nick Drake. The main focus of the song is going to be his almost bluegrass style of guitar picking. Elkington is one hell of a guitar player, and this song really lets him show that off. Despite it being mostly acoustic, it still features a killer electric guitar solo. It's pure Americana being filtered through British eyes in an intriguing way.

You can watch the video for "Make It Up" below. James Elkington's debut solo album, Wintres Woma, will be out on June 30 via Paradise of Bachelors. It can be pre-ordered here. For more on Elkington, check out his website.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Stevenson Ranch Davidians - "Holy Life"

Photo By Angela Clement
Somehow The Stevenson Ranch Davidians have escaped my notice up until now. I feel bad, but I'm going to pretend that it's ok since they haven't released an album since 2009 (even though my main knowledge of music pre-dates 2009...). The most obvious band to compare them to would be The Brian Jonestown Massacre, based on their name and the fact that the two bands share guitarist Rob Campanella. Both bands also fit snugly into the psychedelia genre, although, based on their new song "Holy Life," The Stevenson Ranch Davidians are a little less rockin' and more pure psychedelia. It's trippy as hell without being hippie-esque. The video for the song features found footage of adults and children square dancing in the 50s or 60s with red, white, and blue and Illuminati imagery shown over the footage.

You can watch the video for "Holy Life" below. The Stevenson Ranch Davidians' first album since 2009, Amerikana, will be released on June 9 via Picture in My Ear Records. You can pre-order it now through Bandcamp. For more on The Stevenson Ranch Davidians, check out their website.

Filthy Friends - "Any Kind of Crowd"

A supergroup consisting of members of Sleater-Kinney and R.E.M. is pretty much a dream match up around these parts, Jeff being obsessed with R.E.M. and me being obsessed with Sleater-Kinney. Filthy Friends is just that, featuring Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney on vocals and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck on guitar. The band also features Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M.) on bass and keyboards, Kurt Boch (Young Fresh Fellows, Fastbacks) on guitar, and drums by Bill Rieflin (R.E.M., Ministry, Revolting Cocks). The pedigree of this band is insane.

Their Record Store Day contribution, "Any Kind of Crowd," is now being offered digitally. If the phrase "Sleater-Kinney/R.E.M. supergroup" appeals to you, you're pretty much guaranteed to like it. The single goes a little more on the lighter, 90s poppier side of R.E.M. instead of the heavier Sleater-Kinney side of things. That's a bit of a disappointment for me (and probably a dream for Jeff), but the b-side, a cover of King Crimson's "Editions of You," goes more Sleater-Kinney than R.E.M., so it's virtually a perfect release.

You can listen to "Any Kind of Crowd" below. You can get your own digital copy of the single now via Bandcamp and Kill Rock Stars. Bandcamp also seems to be the best way to get info on Filthy Friends for now.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Doug Tuttle - "Only in a Dream"

We're just over a week away from the release of Doug Tuttle's third solo album, and he's shared another song off of it. "Only in a Dream" is absolutely breathtaking. George Harrison has long been my favorite Beatle, and seeing as "Only in a Dream" sounds like an outtake from All Things Must Pass, I'm fully on board. Plus, seeing how Tuttle recorded the entire album in his Somerville, MA bedroom, the production is absurdly good to rate comparison's to Harrison's classic solo debut. It's a beautiful, gently strummed song with a guitar riff that loops around and just sucks you straight in.

You can listen to "Only in a Dream" below. Doug Tuttle's third solo album, Peace Potato, will be out on May 5 via Trouble in Mind. For more on Tuttle, check him out on Facebook and Twitter.

First Listen: New Releases for April 21

A busy week!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Charly Bliss
Album: Guppy
Quick Description: Much-anticipated debut album.
Why You Should Listen: You love that late-1990s indie alt-rock sound.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been obsessed with “Ruby” since it came out, so Guppy has been on my “most anticipated” list for quite some time now. My expectations for a debut album like this were probably higher than they should have been, but the reality? This is a really, really great record. I sent it over to Ken almost immediately, and he asked if they were a Letters to Cleo cover band which is a pretty appropriate comparison on a whole – the sort of female-led alternative rock of the 1990s is alive in Charly Bliss, and I’m very excited to spend more time with this one. Not a bad song on the album...
Recommendation: ...and it’s absolutely one of the best releases of the year so far.

Artist: Emily Bell
Album: Kali
Quick Description: Austin-area singer-songwriter's new EP.
Why You Should Listen: You like an air of anthemic mystery around your rock music.
Overall Thoughts: Emily Bell put out a solo album back in 2013 that I feel like I was very aware of, yet I cannot find any record of in my collection at all. Maybe it was on Spotify once upon a time? I don’t know. Either way, she has a new EP out with a band, and this is a familiar-yet-unique sound that really piqued my interest during its short runtime. It’s got an alt-pop quality, but with some instrumentation that pulls it a little out of the mainstream lane in an interesting way.
Recommendation: I definitely recommend this one, and hope to hear more soon.

Artist: The Suitcase Junket
Album: Pile Driver
Quick Description: Off-center folk from a New England native.
Why You Should Listen: You've probably already seen him/them at a festival.
Overall Thoughts: The Suitcase Junket is well-known among festival-goers in the New England area, and the new album continues with the sort of heavier roots-influenced sound that got people interested to start. This is a solid listen, albeit perhaps a little on the long side, but if you’re a fan or are looking for some different roots options this week, this is not a bad listen to bring up.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Angaleena Presley
Album: Wrangled
Quick Description: Solid mainstream country music.
Why You Should Listen: You like Pistol Annies or radio-friendly production.
Overall Thoughts: I admittedly skipped this one to start until Ken sent it over. Pistol Annies have not really been my thing, the album cover seems on the nose, and so on. The good news here is that this is actually a pretty solid country album. Mainstream without feeling like pop country, it has some moments I caught myself singing in my head later, which is always a good sign. If Lillie Mae, a favorite from last week, is more your speed, this might not work for you, but this definitely did the trick for me on a whole.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: The Raveonettes
Album: 2016 Atomized
Quick Description: Compilation of their singles series.
Why You Should Listen: This is the best they've done in a decade.
Overall Thoughts: The Raveonettes have been around for a pretty long time now, and this surprise release might be their best in some time. They started out as an indie rock band with a bit of a hook (their early releases were all in one key, harkening back to a sort of noir/surf rock mix), and they slowly abandoned the classic 50s/60s pastiche in favor of a more traditional rock sound. This new album… it would be a mistake to call it a return to their early form, but there’s a definite familiarity here that I personally feel has been lacking in their more recent work. I haven’t wanted to go back to a Raveonettes album since Lust Lust Lust almost a decade ago, and I really look forward to spending more time with this one.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: The Black Angels
Album: Death Song
Quick Description: Latest from the Austin-based psych-rock group.
Why You Should Listen: They are almost guaranteed to surprise you.
Overall Thoughts: Black Angels put out an album a few years back that surprised me. Not as dark as the band’s name would suggest, yet still fairly different in its approach. While I don’t have a ton to say about this new album, I will say that the band surprised me again with a solid, listenable record that I definitely enjoyed and will spend some time with. With more straightforward rock music kind of underrepresented as of late, this might be a breath of fresh air if you have the interest.
Recommendation: A great listen this week.

Artist: The Relationship
Album: Clara Obscura
Quick Description: Throwback Weezer side project.
Why You Should Listen: Any of those four words above interest you?
Overall Thoughts: The Relationship is a side project from Weezer guitarist Brian Bell. If early Rivers Cuomo songwriting was solidly evocative of the sort of pop structures of a prior time, The Relationship takes that fully to the next level, finding a way to sound modern enough while also feeling like it’s an album ripped from a different time altogether and transplanted into the current day. It has a very authentic feel, but might carry some baggage given Weezer’s more recent output. I won’t say to avoid this, because I actually really enjoyed this album, but depending on your overall feelings about Weezer, it might shade your perception.
Recommendation: Solid but weighed down by the expectations.

Artist: Charming Disaster
Album: Cautionary Tales
Quick Description: Odd-ish indie folk.
Why You Should Listen: This will be a very intriguing listen for you.
Overall Thoughts: This is a very interesting album. On first listen, it made me think of groups like The Staves or even The Civil Wars in some regards, but there’s a bit of a theatrical flair to the album that creates a bit of dissonance that didn’t 100% work for me. There’s absolutely an audience for this sort of thing that I’m often part of, and I can see myself coming back to this album on occasion, but when we have a lot of bands pulling off this sort of thing in a more substantial way, this might be one to pass on if your plate is already full.
Recommendation: Be wary, but you might love this.

Artist: Sophie Villy
Album: Planet A
Quick Description: Eastern European singer-songwriter goodness.
Why You Should Listen: A solid surprise this week.
Overall Thoughts: I really liked this album, to the point where if Charly Bliss wasn’t dominating my senses this might have been my album of the week. I love female singer-songwriters as is, and I love when the songwriting takes some turns that aren’t really expected. This is extremely melodic while also being a little weird and different, and I love nearly every moment. You owe it to yourself to give this one a shot, as it’s definitely unlike anything else out this week, or recently in general.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week.

Artist: Imelda May
Album: Life Love Flesh Blood
Quick Description: Latest from the Irish singer.
Why You Should Listen: A mainstream move from an established artist.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been a fan of Imelda May for some time, and this album is another solid effort from the singer-songwriter. This feels like a bit more of a mainstream play than my perception has generally allowed up to now, but that shouldn’t take away from this solid listen on a whole. A well-done album from someone who has put in some great work in recent years.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Tara Jane O'Neil
Album: Tara Jane O'Neil
Quick Description: Latest album from the longtime artist.
Why You Should Listen: Tara Jane O'Neil has been making great music for a long time.
Overall Thoughts: Tara Jane O’Neil makes some pleasant, folk-style music. It has an older, beautiful flair to it and feels like it comes from a different era. This latest album is still a very high-quality release, but runs the risk of being really overlooked and unnecessarily so. She’s been doing this for so long that this deserves some of your time, and you might find something you love in this gem in the rough.
Recommendation: A really great listen this week.

Artist: Ray Davies
Album: Americana
Quick Description: Kinks lead singer gives a tribute to American roots music.
Why You Should Listen: The Kinks lead singer is giving a tribute to American roots music.
Overall Thoughts: Ray Davies is best known as the lead of The Kinks, and this is an album of tribute to American roots music. As a site that loves this stuff, I unfortunately hear this more as a playing at authenticity instead. It’s extremely uneven and the parts that do work are far, far overshadowed by the parts that don’t. In a week with a lot of better stuff out there, you can probably skip guilt-free unless you’re a big fan.
Recommendation: Pass on this.

Artist: Robyn Hitchcock
Album: Robyn Hitchcock
Quick Description: The latest from the British legend.
Why You Should Listen: It's Robyn Hitchcock. What else do you need?
Overall Thoughts: It’s interesting that this came out the same week as a Ray Davies solo record, as many would argue that Hitchcock’s best days are behind him as well. I don’t necessarily know if I agree. This album is a really great listen, with some truly wonderful songs throughout – lead track “I Want to Tell You About What I Want” is one of the better songs Hitchcock has released in years – and it was a bit of a breath of fresh air from a legendary musician. Don’t let this one slip through the cracks.
Recommendation: As good as he's ever been.

Artist: Texas
Album: Jump On Board
Quick Description: Longtime British act offers their latest since their comeback.
Why You Should Listen: They always deserve a listen.
Overall Thoughts: Texas is another band that I feel like I should love more than I do. They’ve been around forever, do a solid job of providing some mainstream, radio-friendly music that straddles a few genres, but it never fully connects. I liked this album, don’t get me wrong, but like their older stuff, I wanted to love it and it never quite makes that threshold. Good for a pleasant, inoffensive listen, but not at all a requirement this week.
Recommendation: This is fine, but inessential.

Artist: Jenny and the Gents
Album: Jenny and the Gents
Quick Description: A fun listen from a polished act.
Why You Should Listen: This is definitely different than anything else out this week.
Overall Thoughts: Ken sent this one over and it’s a fun, sometimes strange, listen. It definitely has a raw indie quality to the production, but what’s interesting about it is how catchy so much of it is and how that sort of DIY quality it puts forward in the sound makes it that much more endearing. I’m finding, as I sit on the wrong side of 30, how much more I appreciate good production, and this album is bucking that trend for me a bit where good songwriting trumps all.
Recommendation: A good listen, but it won’t work for everyone.

Also out this week:

* Incubus - 8 (this exists)
* Amy Shark - Night Thinker

Monday, April 24, 2017

Benjamin Booker - "Right On You"

Photo by Ken Sears
It's not exactly fair to claim that an artist is sharing a new sound on their second album, but that's what I'm going to do with Benjamin Booker. His 2014 self-titled album was this brilliant blast of proto-punk mixed with Kurt Cobain and Delta blues. The first song we could hear from his upcoming second album, "Witness," mixed in some more soul and some hip hop elements (and featured Mavis Staples!) The second song, "Right On You," goes off in an even different direction. There are still some hints of Booker's classic sound mixed with some soul, but "Right On You" is a little more straightforward punk along the lines of X, while throwing a tiny bit of Sonic Youth noise in there. Once again, a very unexpected sound that makes perfect sense with Booker's progression as an artist.

You can listen to "Right On You" below. His new album, Witness, is due out on June 2 via ATO Records. You can pre-order the album through your chosen outlet here. For more on Benjamin Booker, check out his website.

Julie Rhodes Covers Etta James

It's been a little over a year since Julie Rhodes released her pretty fantastic album Bound to Meet the Devil. Both of us loved her album, and, as anyone who reads this blog with any frequency knows, we also love covers. Luckily for all of us, Julie Rhodes released her cover of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind." Etta James is one of those artists I know shamefully little about, so I can't really compare the two versions to each other. Rhodes' version of the song is a seven minute plus soulful roots track. Her voice has never sounded more soulful than it has on this song. The song is far from falling into the current crop of soul artists. Her band keeps this a rock song, keeping on the Neil Young side of roots rock. This song is completely worth seven minutes (or an hour or two) of your time today.

You can watch the video for Julie Rhodes' cover of "I'd Rather Go Blind" below. For more on Julie Rhodes, be sure to check out her website.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Coltana - "Break Her"

I always hate to take a band's description straight out of their press release, but sometimes they just nail it. Blake Kendrick and Catherine Martindale were in Poeticat, until they decided to leave and form Coltana. According to the press release that accompanies their latest single, "Break Her," Coltana combines Bikini Kill and Arctic Monkeys. And that pretty much nails it. It's not a 100% accurate comparison, though. Coltana doesn't quite match the ferocity or rawness of Bikini Kill since they're a bit too polished, but they're also not quite the ready made hit makers that Arctic Monkeys are. Instead, you get something in the middle with a ton of tonal and tempo quick stops and starts that I haven't heard since the early days of the Arctic Monkeys. It's a combination that is jarring in an almost but not quite pleasant way.

You can listen to "Break Her" below. The single will be available for purchase on May 19 via Poeticat Records. For more on Coltana, check out their website.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Lusterlit - List of Equipment

Every so often we receive a music submission that we know we're going to write about before we even listen. Listerlit met as members of the Bushwick Book Club in Brooklyn. The duo writes songs inspired by different literary works, and feature guitar, bass, synth, traditional Korean drum, and accordion. That's pretty much all I need to know right there. Musically they're a bit hard to tie down. I would suppose there are some folk elements, but there's definitely a bit of a goth sound due to the use of synths. There's some elements of a stripped down PJ Harvey in there, too.

Their latest EP, List of Equipment, is comprised of five songs about different books. "Ceremony" is a dark folk-ish song inspired by Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The title track, "List of Equipment," is a throwback to the 90s throwback of 60s French pop inspired by Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. After that are songs inspired by the works of John Wyndham and Jonathan Lethem.

You can listen to "Ceremony" below. Pick up Lusterlit's latest literary inspired EP on Bandcamp. While you're there, check out their other EPs, including one inspired by Kurt Vonnegut! For more on Lusterlit, be sure to check them out on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Salem Wolves - "From the Vault"

As we all prepare ourselves to finally have a full length Salem Wolves album next month (it's been over two months since we had our first taste of the album), we can now listen to a new song from Tooth & Nail. "From the Vault" is absolutely epic. It's the Salem Wolves' garage rock n' roll sound, but this song just is them swinging for the fences in the best possible way. It sounds like they are getting themselves prepared to go out on a stadium tour, and I mean that in the best possible way. The song is loud and both dirty sounding and polished.

You can listen to "From the Vault" below. Salem Wolves' debut album, Tooth & Nail, will be out May 5. You can pre-order your copy via Bandcamp. They're also running what might be the best deal for a pre-sale of all time. For $20 you get a digital download of Tooth & Nail, a physical cd copy, a special edition t-shirt, and beer koozie. It's seriously an absurd deal. For more on Salem Wolves, check out their website.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bettie Serveert - "B-Cuz"

Bettie Serveert might be the band I rediscover the most about for the past 25 years. Yes, that's how long Amsterdam's Bettie Serveert have been bringing us their blend of indie pop, a term that never would have flown back in the 90s. They always seem to be hiding out just out of my consciousness until a new album comes around.

Well, they're back in since this Saturday, aka Record Store Day, will see the release of their 11th studio album, Damaged Good, on vinyl, which will be the only release of the album in a physical format in North America. Bettie Serveert are now officially legends, and "B-Cuz," although the title of the song looks more like a Boyz II Men song, helps to cement that status. "B-Cuz" is as catchy as it could possibly be and lies in that realm of song that would have been a Buzz Clip back in the day but now counts as a fun pop song.

You can watch the newly released video for "B-Cuz" below. Head out to your favorite local indie record shop this Saturday to pick up your limited edition vinyl of Damaged Good out on Schoolkids Records. For more on Bettie Serveert, check out their website.

First Listen: New Releases for April 14

A short week, likely due to the Easter holiday.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Lillie Mae
Album: Forever and Then Some
Quick Description: Your new favorite Third Man roots record.
Why You Should Listen: You love good rootsy music with a raw feel to them.
Overall Thoughts: Lillie Mae was on my radar due to some sort of Spotify mix. If you see her picture on her album covers, you’re greeted with a very specific expectation of a sort of pop sensibility, with her very modern look and such, but what you get instead is an amazingly solid set of country/roots tunes. I spent most of the album both surprised at its quality and really enjoying what I was hearing, and there might not be a bad song in the bunch. Lillie Mae, unsurprisingly, is signed to Third Man Records, and that probably explains why everything works so well here. She might be the 2017 version of Margo Price, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Recommendation: Best release of the week.

Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Album: DAMN.
Quick Description: Latest from one of the most popular rappers currently making music.
Why You Should Listen: Even if it's not your style, he demands attention.
Overall Thoughts: My favorite Kendrick Lamar song is “Backseat Freestyle,” so I don’t pretend to know a lot about what makes Kendrick Lamar great or anything like that. If I’m being honest, he’s never been my top choice. When To Pimp a Butterfly came out, I noted that it felt as epic as people thought it was, and that I couldn’t pass much in the way of judgement on it. DAMN. is a much better, much more interesting album to me, but my feelings are the same – Lamar is writing and performing in a way that’s beyond my understanding, and that’s fine. Those who are in the know appear to see this as a really, really great album and I’m happy to defer.
Recommendation: For me, I’ll be listening to it again and seeing if I can crack the code, so to speak.

Artist: Inhalt
Album: Part Time Punks Sessions
Quick Description: Enigmatic post... something.
Why You Should Listen: This is a fun and different release this week.
Overall Thoughts: nothing about the title of this album or the name of this group or even the way the opening song goes prepares you for what’s coming on this listen. I absolutely enjoyed this listen, although I don’t have a ton to say about it – it’s got a post-punk feel even if the sound isn’t quite there, and the music itself absolutely borrows from countless bands before them while still feeling unique. The enigma in this album might ultimately be a lot of the draw.
Recommendation: I’m on board.

Artist: Little Dragon
Album: Season High
Quick Description: European pop goodness.
Why You Should Listen: This isn't what you think, and that's a good thing.
Overall Thoughts: A European pop group, Little Dragon crafts off-center pop music that balances both a mainstream aesthetic and the more off-centered style that a lot of independent pop acts try to accomplish. As someone who has really embraced pop music in the last few years, I admit to this being a bit of a mixed bag on a whole, but there is more than enough here for me to be intrigued by and seek more of this out.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: Tinie Tempah
Album: Youth
Quick Description: New rap album from an underrated artist.
Why You Should Listen:'s probably better than Kendrick's...
Overall Thoughts: There are two “big” rap albums out this week (assuming Kendrick Lamar doesn’t drop a sequel to DAMN. between when I write this and when I post this), and this is the other one. While Kendrick Lamar is currently operating on an entirely different level than everyone else, Tinie Tempah’s new album is ultimately more my speed. More traditional structures with some interesting choices throughout, Tinie Tempah’s a name I’ve heard quite a bit but never in the real conversation. While it’s a shame that this will get overshadowed by the big rap release of the moment...
Recommendation:’s worthy of your time.

Artist: Chris Shiflett
Album: West Coast Town
Quick Description: Foo Fighters guitarist goes country.
Why You Should Listen: For what's basically a vanity project, this is great!
Overall Thoughts: This is not going to win any awards, nor is it going to blow anyone's mind, but in terms of a really above-average, competent listen in the country space. If you're walking into it thinking it'll be Foo-like, it's really not. But there's not much else to say. Would be worthy of your time in a busy week, but is a solid listen now as well.
Recommendation: Give it a listen.

Also out this week:

* Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, Yo Yo Ma - Bach Trios
* Fox Academy - Saint Molly

Monday, April 17, 2017

Live Shows: Sallie Ford and Molly Burch, Great Scott, Allston, MA 4/11/17

Photo via Facebook
This was my third time seeing Sallie Ford live in less than four years, and her third band I've seen her with. Interestingly enough, this was her first truly coed band (The Sound Outside had an all male line up and her first solo band was all female.) While the all female line up had a similar sound to The Sound Outside, her new band has a distinct sound of their own.

Considering Soul Sick is the only album with the new band, and it is the new album after all, the majority of the night's set list came from the new album. The crowd may have been sparse (it was a late night Tuesday show with a crowd of female hipsters in their 20s and middle aged men, after all), but they were completely into the new songs like "Loneliness is Power," "Failure," and "Get Out." The crowd seemed more into the older material, but I don't see that as a knock on her new songs. Soul Sick might be the best thing she's ever released, but songs about depression and anxiety aren't exactly good time party songs like her older songs can be. I'm not sure if she's consciously chose to do it or if it was a side effect of having a new band, but songs like "Shivers" and "I Swear" were reworked slightly. The only slight problem was the set length. For someone who has four albums and at least one EP under her belt, it seemed especially short, particularly since they didn't play an encore.

Playing second this night was Molly Burch, who has one of my absolute favorites of the year so far. Usually artists tend to be a little more rocking live, especially with a full band. Her modern, slightly folky take on 60s soul felt even more stripped down and raw live than it does on her album Please Be Mine. Even though she had a full band, including a drummer, somehow songs like "Downhearted" and "Try" seemed even more intimate, as if she was the only performer. She was a great choice for a tour mate for Sallie Ford, with her retro cool but not a throwback sound perfectly complemented Ford's without being too similar. Plus, songs like "Wrong for You" and "Torn to Pieces" helped keep the theme of the evening. Again, her set felt short, but with only a ten song album and an opening slot, that should be expected.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Freebie: Dead Man Winter - Furnace

We don't normally post this late in the afternoon/evening, so you know it's a pretty big deal when we do. Dead Man Winter, Trampled By Turtles' frontman Dave Simonett's solo project, is offering up his latest album for free via Noisetrade. While Trampled By Turtles are a frolicking speedgrass band and a party every time they play live, Dead Man Winter is a more private, introspective project. Furnace is an album about the end of Simonett's ten year marriage. With titles like "This House is On Fire," "Am I Breaking Down," and "You Are Out of Control," Dead Man Winter won't be your next favorite party time band. It's not all doom and gloom, despite the topic. Along with the sense of loss and failure, divorce also brings a sense of rebirth and hope, which is reflected on this album. Even if you've never been a fan of Trampled By Turtles, you'll want to listen to this album. If you're a die-hard Trampled By Turtles fan, don't expect Trampled By Turtles 2.0. This is a completely different, more traditional folk rock sound. It's the absolute pinnacle of that genre, though.

You can get your copy of Dead Man Winter's new album Furnace for free via Noisetrade. For more on Dead Man Winter, check out their website.

R. Ring - "Steam"

Photo by Kristian Svitak
The new project from Kelley Deal (The Breeders, The Kelley Deal 6000) and Mike Montgomery (Ampline) is R. Ring. They've done some touring and released a few singles, but they are set to release their debut album on April 28. Right now we can listen to a new song from the album, "Steam." "Steam" is definitely not what I would expect from a band featuring Kelley Deal. (I'm not all that familiar with Ampline, so I can't compare it that way.) "Steam" is sparse, almost painfully so. Montgomery's vocals are the main focused, accompanied with a barely plucked guitar, Deal's background vocals (her "oooooooooo-ooooooooh"s are the hook of the song, and the very occasional string instrument in the background. Some of the other songs on the album are a bit more rambunctious, but "Steam" is quietly beautiful.

You can watch the video for "Steam" below. R. Ring's debut album, Ignite the Rest, will be available April 28 on Sofaburn Records. For more on R. Ring, check out their Tumblr and Bandcamp.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - "The Nail"

Photo by poprockphotography
"The Nail" is the song for people who say they love real country. It's a rollicking, rambling song about a terrible relationship filled with lots of arguing and drinking that you know is going to end, you just don't know who will end it first. But it's fun and exciting, so you stick with it for now. As with all good country, "The Nail" is fun sounding but lyrically it's depressing as can be. Plus, it fits right into the standard definition of outlaw country since it's probably a little too rocking for country and a little too country for rock. Plus, Sarah Shook's voice, while it does have a great twang to it, is a little too rough for country and would probably fit in better with an indie rock band. But, for those of us raised on indie rock who slowly grew to accept and love country in adulthood, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers couldn't be more perfect.

You can listen to "The Nail" below, along with the previously released "Keep the Home Fires Burnin.'" Sarah Shook & The Nails' debut album, Sidelong, is due out April 28 on Bloodshot Records. You can pre-order it here. For more on Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, check out their website.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mary Bell - Mary Bell LP

Back on May, 25 1968, Mary Bell strangled a four year old boy to death in Scotswood, England. It was the day before her eleventh birthday. In July, she convinced a friend to help her strangle another boy. He was three. She spent twelve years in prison for the murders because of her incredibly young age, and has lived the rest of her life under a new name. If you'd like to learn more about Mary Bell, My Favorite Murder did a great episode about her. It's episode Twenty Six Six Six.

Now, Mary Bell is the name of a punk band out of Paris, France. (I guess if the name isn't being used...) Mary Bell, the band, is punk AF. Their new album, Mary Bell LP, is this incredibly noisy, loud, and ferocious mix. It combines the vocal discord of Bikini Kill, the raw guitars of The Melvins, and the raw energy of early Ramones. Plus, vocally, there is just a hint of Joan Jett in there. Every track on this album is as in your face as it could be, even a song like "The plague" that starts off as kind of a ballad. With song titles like "I hate you" and "Shit on the parkway," it's not a subtle release. With so much music out there that is now considered to be punk, it's refreshing to get something that is actually punk without being a throwback.

You can listen to "Fire fire" below. Physical copies of Mary Bell LP are available through Danger Records and Le Turc Mecanique, or you can download a copy for free via Bandcamp. For more on Mary Bell, check them out on Facebook and Tumblr.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Clustersun - "Raw Nerve"

Hailing from Sicily, Clustersun are set to release their sophomore album next month. "Raw Nerve," the first single from Surfacing to Breath, is heavily influenced by classic shoegaze bands like Ride and The Jesus and Mary Chain. But it's not quite shoegaze, no matter how swirly the guitars might be. There's a classic rock psychedelia throughout the song, and it's a bit too heavy to be pure shoegaze. Plus, the band adds this epic, kinda glammed out element, like a Placebo song. And then the second half just devolves into this insane Sonic Youth style breakdown with the musicians going in their own directions, but somehow all staying together. 

You can watch the video for "Raw Nerve" below. The latest album from Clustersun, Surfacing to Breath, will be out May 19 on Seahorse Recordings. For more on Clustersun, check them out on Bandcamp and Facebook.

First Listen: New Releases for April 7

Some solid stuff out this week!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Diet Cig
Album: Swear I'm Good at This
Quick Description: Debut from an indie-alt duo.
Why You Should Listen: This is one of the great releases of the last few months.
Overall Thoughts: After I listened to this amazing album, I went back to their first EP because I knew I had listened to it and I couldn’t figure out why it didn’t register with me. If you were thinking “that’s nice” with the EP, then strap in, because this debut effort is a much more full affair. Lots of that great 90s-esque alt-rock sound, but with a modern indie sensibility that is just so good. The lyrics are extremely current, which provides an extra novelty factor, and the overall feel of the thing is both immediate and fun. This is absolutely a duo to watch, and this is absolutely one of my favorite recent listens.
Recommendation: Do not let this slip by.

Artist: KOLARS
Album: Kolars
Quick Description: Poppy punky duo's debut.
Why You Should Listen: Somewhat derivative, but scratches a specific itch.
Overall Thoughts: KOLARS, on first image alone, seems like it’s going to be something a little more harsh. The result is something different, though – perhaps a more toned-down idea of the guitar+drums duo that was popularized by The White Stripes and The Black Keys. I think my chief complaint is not that this is a bad listen, as it’s a pretty solid effort all things considered. Instead, it just never takes off with the amount of potential it shows. I kept waiting for the album to go into that next gear that never materialized, and kept a good album from being great. With that in mind, this is a second-tier listen in a week of a lot of top-tier efforts.
Recommendation: If you have time, check it out, but this is not mandatory.

Artist: K.Flay
Album: Every Where is Some Where
Quick Description: Indie rap gal goes mainstream.
Why You Should Listen: You like her old stuff or her new. Really, just listen.
Overall Thoughts: K.Flay will always be that independent rapper putting out free music on the internet for me. The fact that she’s matured into a mainstream artist getting actual attention is a shocker to me, but here we are with an album that is quite good, compiles a lot of her recent efforts, and is a great introduction to someone who, until recently, was flying under the radar. If you came here for “Blood in the Cut,” the full album will give you a great introduction to what she offers on a whole. I’ve found other releases of K.Flay’s more compelling, but this isn’t bad.
Recommendation: Worth a listen.

Artist: Timber Timbre
Album: Sincerely, Future Solution
Quick Description: Classic-style alt-rock.
Why You Should Listen: You like 80s Bowie?
Overall Thoughts: If I were a conspiracy theorist – and I’m totally a conspiracy theorist – I’d argue that David Bowie didn’t actually die last year. Instead, he decided to start a band called Timber Timbre who would make music that would remind people fondly of some of his mid-career efforts. Of course, this band has been around for a while and I can’t speak to any of their older efforts, but the Bowie is strong in this one, and if you’re looking for an interesting listen that will tickle a few nostalgia centers in your brain, you can do worse. But Bowie isn’t on an island with Tupac and Elvis, sorry to say.
Recommendation: A decent listen.

Artist: Cold Beat
Album: Chaos By Invitation
Quick Description: Solid retro-esque indie rock.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something a little different, yet familiar.
Overall Thoughts: I didn’t know this band from a hole in the ground before Ken sent this over, but this is absolutely a favorite of the week. It absolutely has the sort of modern-80s synthy chill vibe at times that so many bands are trying on for size lately, but other songs reach for a more standard rock/post-punk idea (like “Thin Ice”) which would not work outside of the context of this album. It’s a really fascinating listen from a band I need to learn more about, and they have a back catalog to explore, so off I go. Either way, if you haven’t heard this band yet...
Recommendation:'re in for a treat.

Artist: Various Artists
Album: Resistance Radio: The Man in the High Castle Album
Quick Description: A cool covers album from the Amazon show.
Why You Should Listen: Fun covers are always a plus, even if the result is hit-or-miss.
Overall Thoughts: A promotional soundtrack of sorts for Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, this is a bunch of modern acts covering a bunch of standards from the post-World War II era. The greatest comp for this was the Stubbs the Zombie soundtrack from a decade or so ago, and that was better. While this compilation absolutely fits the tone of the show, independent of the show it just feels boring and uninspired. There are a few gems here and there, but on a whole I can’t say I especially enjoyed it. Lots of potential lost.
Recommendation: Pull what you like from it and ditch the rest.

Artist: The Octopus Project
Album: Memory Mirror
Quick Description: Latest from the off-center indie act.
Why You Should Listen: The Octopus Project, while weird, typically offer something worth hearing.
Overall Thoughts: The Octopus Project was a band that always felt “weird mainstream” to me, but also one that I associate more with electronic sounds than anything else. So my perception absolutely skewed my enjoyment of this, which feels both more accessible and less mainstream than my perception of the group. The result?
Recommendation: Something that is far from essential in a very busy week.

Artist: Karen Elson
Album: Double Roses
Quick Description: Long-awaited sophomore effort from the singer/songwriter/model.
Why You Should Listen: The Ghost Who Walks was essential when it came out.
Overall Thoughts: It’s unfortunate that Karen Elson is probably known better for being Jack White’s wife for a time than her modeling or her music. Especially given that her first album was extremely well done, even if it carried that Third Man influence. It’s been nearly 7 years since that debut, and the new album is absolutely a different tone in a sense, but one that likely reflects the journey she’s been on. With that said, it’s decent, but far from memorable in the way her first album was in that sort of underlying, under-the-radar sense.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, but not for everyone.

Artist: Fujiya and Miyagi
Album: Fujiya and Miyagi
Quick Description: Compilation of their recent EPs.
Why You Should Listen: F&M are critically underappreciated.
Overall Thoughts: Largely, but not completely, a collection of work from their three previous EPs, this listen is up-and-down, but has enough moments to make it worthwhile. I’d still love a proper LP from them at some point soon, but for now, if you’ve been waiting to listen to the EPs, this is as good a time as any to jump in.
Recommendation: Be wary.

Artist: Future Islands
Album: The Far Field
Quick Description: Latest album from the band following their breakthrough a few years back.
Why You Should Listen: They're nothing but interesting.
Overall Thoughts: Future Islands rightfully hit the cultural zeitgeist with “Waiting on You,” which I think was just as much for the very interesting live performances on television of the song as it were for the song itself. I’ll be honest? The rest of their album did not grab me the way that single did, but sometimes bands make a bad decision in trying to replicate that moment (hi Guster), and sometimes it’s a good decision. It’s not to say this album is a dozen versions of “Waiting on You,” but the feel of it remains more friendly and accessible, and that works for me. For longtime fans, this might be a departure of the sellout variety, but I see this as a fulfillment of some really solid potential from this band.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: The New Pornographers
Album: Whiteout Conditions
Quick Description: New album from the indie stalwarts.
Why You Should Listen: As if I need to explain this band to anyone.
Overall Thoughts: I don’t know what it says when you hear a new album from a band that’s been fairly prolific over recent times, and your reaction is “man, it’s great to have them back.” This sounds like classic-ish New Pornographers. While the song structures have changed a bit, and it’s not crazy poppy the way, say “From Blown Speakers” or “My Slow Descent into Alcoholism” were from their early work, this feels a lot more essential and enjoyable than anything since pre-Challengers, which has been a long time. So if you’ve hopped off the bandwagon, it might not be a bad thing to hop back on here.
Recommendation: This is worth your time.

Artist: San Fermin
Album: Belong
Quick Description: New album from the chamber folk (is that a thing? I just made it a thing) act.
Why You Should Listen: Their music is always pretty and fascinating.
Overall Thoughts: San Firmin is one of those weird chameleon bands for me. I loved their last release but never really spent a ton of time with it. I loved listening to this new album, which is a quiet and straightforward affair with well-structured songs and a light touch. When I heard a song from it on my Spotify Release Radar later, I was like “wow, that’s great” and then realized I was already loving the album. So this album might not have the sort of staying power that you might be seeking out, but it’s so good that it’s difficult for me to dismiss it.
Recommendation: Definitely one of the better releases this week.

Artist: Arca
Album: Arca
Quick Description: Weird, wonderful electronic sounds.
Why You Should Listen: It's the strangest, most bizarre listen this week.
Overall Thoughts: I have one friend who may or may not read this who will be appalled by this comparison, but I’ll make it anyway – this album really felt like what I’d expect Aphex Twin to sound like if RDJ attempted to go mainstream. It’s weird and wonderful and challenging and fun, and it’s everything I want in electronic music that isn’t dancey Europop, which means it’s not for everyone and maybe not even for you. But I liked this a whole lot...
Recommendation: ...and I think you might as well if you give it a shot.

Quick hits:

* The Whiskey Gentry - Dead Ringer (This was strangely compelling even though it felt way too mainstream country for me to fully embrace)
* Cold War Kids - La Divine (A very disappointing listen from a band that doesn’t even feel like it’s trying)
* Guided by Voice - August By Cake (32 tracks from a band way, way outside their prime is way too many. This was a tough listen for someone who only marginally likes this band to begin with, your mileage may vary)
* Father John Misty - Pure Comedy (If Cold War Kids didn’t try enough, I could argue that Father John Misty is trying too hard here. Feels overly engineered and lacks a real compelling hook on a whole)

Also out this week:

* Miracle Legion - Annulment
* The Upper Crust - Delusions of Grandeur
* Bad Breeding - Divide
* Steady Holiday - Terror EP
* Annie Hardy - Rules