Monday, July 31, 2017

Lilly Hiatt - "The Night David Bowie Died"

Photo by Alysse Gafkjen
For most music fans, we remember exactly where we were when we heard the news that David Bowie had passed away unexpectedly at the age of 69. I just woke up and was checking Facebook notifications. I saw a friend had posted an article to me, and when I checked I saw a story that David Bowie had died. I thought my friend was a complete imbecile that can't tell a fake article from a real one, and scrolled through my feed. The vast majority of the posts that I saw reported that Bowie had, in fact, died. It took maybe five or six before I believed it.

Lilly Hiatt heard the news the night before. In a press release she says: "The night David Bowie died, I was in disbelief. I wanted to talk to someone, but it was too late to make a phone call. I cried quietly and went to bed. The next day, I picked up my guitar and hit record on Garage Band. I started to sing and those were the first words that came out. I felt like Bowie was giving me a little gift."

The song "The Night David Bowie Died" is more of a country rock stomper and not a glammed out obvious tribute to Bowie, but it works perfectly. There are some Bowie-esque moments in here, but more in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it way, which are always the best kind of tributes.

You can watch the video for "The Night David Bowie Died" below. Lilly Hiatt's new album, Trinity Lane, will be out August 25 on New West Records. For more on Lilly Hiatt, check out her website.

Matt Pond PA featuring Laura Stevenson - "The Ballad of Laura and Mike"

The combination of Matt Pond PA and Laura Stevenson is pretty much a dream for us, and an unexpected one. Apparently we need some kind of indie rock version of TMZ, since the song, "The Ballad of Laura and Mike," is about a long distance relationship between Laura Stevenson and a member of Matt Pond PA. (Funny, I know far more about the love lives of celebrities I couldn't care less about...) The song is an upbeat, slightly faster than mid-tempo song about love, but with plenty of melancholy, being about long distance love and all. It's the kind of just shy of epic power pop we want from Matt Pond PA, with the added bonus of Laura Stevenson's vocals.

"The Ballad of Laura and Mike" will be included on Matt Pond PA's upcoming album, Still Summer. The album is due on August 11, and reports are that it will be the final Matt Pond PA album. It can be pre-ordered in various bundles here. You can listen to "The Ballad of Laura and Mike" below. Matt Pond PA are running a contest to make a video for the song. You can find details on the contest and enter here. For more on Matt Pond PA, check out their website.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Alex Lahey - "Every Day's the Weekend"

Photo by Giuilia McGauren
Alex Lahey has one true amazing talent that's perfect for a singer/songwriter. Despite the ability to sing and rhyme words, she's is brilliant at writing fantastic cheesy love songs. You know the type of song that's just goofy and corny enough that you're embarrassed by how much you love it, but you can't help it because it's just so much fun and just so... good? Her latest single, "Every Day's the Weekend," is basically if Taylor Swift started out with indie rock instead of country. And was Australian. Being a middle aged man, I shouldn't love this song as much as I do. But it's just so good that I can't help it. It's fast and happy and just soaked in sugary love. And that's what makes it so perfect.

You can watch the video for "Every Day's the Weekend" below. Alex Lahey's debut full length album, I Love You Like a Brother, will be out October 8 on Dead Oceans. You can pre-order your copy here. For more on Alex Lahey, check out her website.

The Huntress and Holder of Hands - "Borealis"

Somehow it feels like it's been forever that we've been waiting for a full length album from The Huntress and Holder of Hands with just an occasional song here and there to tease us along. Finally, we have news that MorganEve Swain's debut album will be released in September. Along with that news is the first single off Avalon, "Borealis." Judging just by this one song, it has been well worth the wait. 

"Borealis" starts off as a quiet, haunting folk song, the kind of sound that has dominated Swain's solo work. About mid-way through, the song switches moods and becomes the kind of upbeat Eastern European influenced folk song Swain and her husband Dave Lamb mastered in Brown Bird. Towards the very end, the track devolves into a metal meets Sonic Youth blast of noise before going back to haunting folk. As anyone that's been reading this blog for a decent amount of time, songs swerving off into unexpected directions is kinda my sweet spot, so "Borealis" is far more than I ever could have hoped for.

You can listen to "Borealis" below. The Huntress and Holder of Hands' debut album, Avalon, will be released on September 15. You can pre-order your copy now via Bandcamp. For more on The Huntress and The Holder of Hands, check out her website.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Coltana - "Waiting for the Storm"

Back in April, we brought you "Break Her," which was the latest single from Coltana. I ripped off their press release to describe that song as "Bikini Kill meets Arctic Monkeys." (Fun fact from their latest press release: Back when they were called Poeticat, Coltana shared a stage with everybody's favorite Game of Thrones cameo Ed Sheeran!) Their latest single, "Waiting for the Storm," doesn't quite fit that description. "Waiting for the Storm" is both more melodic and epic. Vocally, singer Catherine Martindale takes on a bit of a pop punk sound, and the song starts off with the bouncy feel your typical pop punk song would have. But then the vocals drop out for a bit, and you can feel Coltana's metal leanings breaking through. If this song had come out in the early 00's, Coltana would have been the breakout band of that year's Warped Tour.

You can listen to "Waiting for the Storm" below. It is out today via Poeticat Presents. For more on Coltana, check out their website.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - "Sorry Is Gone"

Photo by Ebru Yildiz
With her earlier sound, Jessica Lea Mayfield combined 90's alternative with country (if I was into bad jokes I'd say that she put the alt in alt-country, but I'll spare you that one), and with 2014's Make My Head Sing... she wore her grunge influences on her sleeve and pushed the country into the background. She has a new song out, "Sorry Is Gone," that goes just slightly back towards her country roots. Sonically, it's a little closer to 2011's Tell Me, but with some killer early 90's indie guitar work. Despite the song's light sound, Mayfield says “The whole record is about me taking my life back, without really realizing it. I realized I’m the only person that is going to look out for me. I have to be my main person. No one else.” The album features notable guest musicians Seth Avett (who Mayfield collaborated on 2015's Elliott Smith covers album) and Steve Shelley formerly of Sonic Youth.

You can watch the video for "Sorry Is Gone" below. Jessica Lea Mayfield's new album, also called Sorry Is Gone, will be out September 29 on ATO Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Jessica Lea Mayfield, check out her website.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Live Shows: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Met Cafe Courtyard, Pawtucket, RI 7/22/17

This past year's Hometown Throwdown was the first I had missed in about five or six years. I felt like taking a break, none of the opening bands were all that intriguing to me, and I felt the money for my ticket should probably be going to Christmas presents. Of course, once the shows came I was filled with regret and missed going. When it was announced that The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were going to be touring this summer, I knew I had to go. 

Being a music snob, Let's Face It would be the album I'd want to see The Bosstones do from start to finish. It's the big hit album, and they have other albums that mean a lot to me. Plus, I'm a music snob. But, 2017 is the 20th anniversary of Let's Face It and it makes the most economic sense to do this album over their others. A funny thing happened as I went back to listen to the album in the weeks before the show. I remembered how great it really is, and how much I love so many of these songs. Plus, a good chunk of these songs are ones that rarely get played live.

And that's exactly what happened. Once The Mighty Mighty Bosstones started playing, all music snobbery was gone, and I was thrilled for ever single song that night. Sure, anytime you see the Bosstones you're going to get "The Rascal King" and "The Impression That I Get," but "That Bug Bit Me" or "Nevermind?" Those are special songs to see live.

Of course, Let's Face It is only a twelve song album that has a 33 minute running time, so there was a lot more than that album to fill up the show. Most of the remaining main set was made up of songs they'll always do at every show ("Simmer Down" and "Someday I Suppose") and a lot of their newer material from this century. That might sound a bit disappointing until you realize that their newer songs hold up live just as well as their classics. "Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah" has quickly become a live staple, and "Everybody's Better" could very well be their best song. Since we were right by Dicky Barrett's birthplace of Providence, they broke out rarity "Providence Is" and "Sunday Afternoons On Wisdom Ave" to mark the occasion. For the encore, they broke out the underrated "The Old School Off the Bright," the classic "Dr. D," and "A Little Bit Ugly." It was the perfect night that satisfied both casual fans that wanted the hits and us snobs that wanted the pre-fame hits and rarities.

First Listen: New Releases for July 21

I feel like this was a slow release week, and yet I wanted to listen to most of what came out.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Nicole Atkins
Album: Goodnight, Rhonda Lee
Quick Description: Pitch-perfect classic country-pop.
Why You Should Listen: Nicole Atkins is always solid, and this is her best yet.
Overall Thoughts: Nicole Atkins is always great, and she goes full retro-country with a pitch-perfect love letter to singers of old. It’s such a fun and refreshing listen with a lot of really great songs on it, and is easily my favorite listen of the week.
Recommendation: Just give this a shot. You won't regret it.

Artist: Dizzee Rascal
Album: Raskit
Quick Description: UK grime rapper's latest.
Why You Should Listen: I've never really listened before, and if I'm this glad I did...
Overall Thoughts: I missed the boat on Dizzee Rascall, so I don’t know how this compares with his albums from his popular prime, but if this is anything close to his best, wow. Fans of Run the Jewels will love what’s here, it feels like a good blend between older rap and more modern stuff, and just the tone and quality are top-notch. Just a great listen, and I think this week I’ll be looking up some of his other albums.
Recommendation: Solid rap music.

Artist: Dead Man Winter
Album: Furnace
Quick Description: Electric folk rock?
Why You Should Listen: You wish your folk music had some edge?
Overall Thoughts: The best description I can give this album is that this is basically what I’ve always wanted Fleet Foxes to be. This is folk rock, but they know how to turn it up/down more when needed and the result is a pretty great listen from top to bottom that doesn’t break much in the way of new ground but still feels fresh and different. It’s a difficult path to navigate, but I’m looking forward to spending more time on the journey with this band. And as I researched the stuff for this post, it turns out that it's the Trampled by Turtles lead singer's "electric" band, so it all makes sense.
Recommendation: Listen to this.

Artist: Katie Ellen
Album: Cowgirl Blues
Quick Description: Debut album from members of Chumped.
Why You Should Listen: Chumped was great, and this is a good time for a band like this.
Overall Thoughts: A band sprung from the ashes of Chumped, a band we absolutely loved and hated that they went away too soon, this feels like a poppier, more mainstream version of what Chumped was doing and feels like the correct evolution for everyone involved. It’s a good time for a sound like theirs, and I’m glad to see this continuing.
Recommendation: Loved this, and you should, too.

Artist: Super Best Friends Club
Album: Loveblows
Quick Description: A weird, wonderful indie pop rock album.
Why You Should Listen: This is probably unlike anything you've heard lately.
Overall Thoughts: The best way I can describe this album is if The Hidden Cameras were trying to get on the radio. Overall, this is meant to be a compliment, as this is a solid album that’s on the weird side of the aisle without being inaccessible, and the result is a listen that I feel has some layers I missed on first listen.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth your time.

Artist: Goldfinger
Album: The Knife
Quick Description: Classic punk act with a new album.
Why You Should Listen: If you know Goldfinger, you already know you wanna.
Overall Thoughts: Goldfinger has been around seemingly forever, and while they were never my cup of tea during my ska/punk phase in high school, this album is a bit of a throwback and actually a lot of goofy fun. It’s as eyerolly as some punk can get, and knowing how old these guys are it’s maybe a little hard to take seriously, but so what?
Recommendation: Music should be fun and this is a fun record.

Artist: Cornelius
Album: Mellow Waves
Quick Description: A weird and wonderful record.
Why You Should Listen: You like more challenging stuff overall.
Overall Thoughts: Cornelius is our strange listen of the week, with a lot of ethereal instrumentation to go along with challenging songwriting and soundscapes. It’s not weird in an inaccessible way, but it could be a little much for those who enjoy straightforward things. For me, though, I look for less straightforward stuff in this space, so it feels pretty mainstream (in context) to my ears. On a whole, though, this is one of the better listens this week from an act I’ll be looking for more from.
Recommendation: Great listen this week.

Artist: Tyler, The Creator
Album: Flower Boy
Quick Description: New album from the odd Future rapper.
Why You Should Listen: Tyler is divisive, but that's a reason to check it out.
Overall Thoughts: I've never actually liked any Tyler before, and this album is... well, it's something. I feel like it might be more accessible than his other stuff? I don't know, but I also never know what to expect. So with this in mind, and knowing that the Dizzee Rascal album is so good...
Recommendation: can probably pass on this.

Artist: Lana Del Rey
Album: Lust for Life
Quick Description: Latest from the indie-but-not-really singer.
Why You Should Listen: This is the album people are going to be talking about for the next couple weeks.
Overall Thoughts: Lana Del Rey is effectively trolling us at this point. She knows it, we know it, and we eat it up anyway. I like her aesthetic, even if I don't love all her songs, but she's not trying to mess with the product (for the most part). It's pointless to review this, in any case - either you like her or you don't, and this album won't change that.
Recommendation: Just listen to it.

Artist: The Hayman/Kupa Band
Album: The Hayman/Kupa Band
Quick Description: British supergroup of sorts gives a solid debut album.
Why You Should Listen: Darren Hayman leads this one up, so you know to expect some good songwriting.
Overall Thoughts: Darren Hayman of Hefner and Emma Kupa of Standard Fare head the Hayman/Kupa band, who provide a folky, sometimes twee little record that finally got a United States release. This is maybe the most peppy I can recall hearing Hayman in some time, and the album is honestly mixed at best - some numbers are great, others are a little wanting, but I find that even with the Hefner records I love, so that's no surprise. Overall, though, this is a nice little slice of British indie you should give some time.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

EPs of note:

* Nine Inch Nails - Add Violence (some of Reznor's best work in a while)
* Holy Fuck - Bird Brains (this is awesome)
* King James and the Special Men - Act Like You Know

Also out this week:

* Foster the People - Sacred Hearts Club (what even is this)
* A L L I E - Nightshade
* Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Barefoot in the Head (really only worth it if you're really into Black Crowes)

Friday, July 21, 2017

J.R. Roach Covers Jimmy Reed

Based on what we write about on here, you most likely wouldn't guess that either one of us would be obsessed with Sam Black Church. Hardcore typically isn't my thing, but they just do this bizarre, unhinged version of it that has always resonated with me. Plus, if you were coming of age in central Massachusetts in the early to mid 90's, Sam Black Church stickers covered virtually every road sign, drive-thru menu, etc. It was viral marketing before there was such a thing.

Even odder is this first solo offering from J.R. Roach, Sam Black Church's drummer. (He also drums for Goddamn Draculas.) It's a cover of the Jimmy Reed 1961 classic blues song "Bright Lights, Big City." It's a pretty standard cover while being amped up just slightly. It avoids the middle aged white guy doing the blues thing you'll hear at your local BBQ and Blues fest this summer, and maybe it's just my assumptions based on who Reed is, but the guitar licks have just the trace hints of a metal riff. 

You can listen to J.R. Roach's cover of "Bright Lights, Big City" below. You can get your own copy of the song at Roach's Bandcamp. For more on J.R. Roach, check out his website.

Stalagmites - "Binary"

Photo by James Byrne
If you're from Manchester, starting a band is a damned if you do/damned if you don't proposal. How do you not start a band when your city has such a rich and legendary history? But... how do you start a band when your city has such a rich and legendary history? I'm not saying Stalagmites are the next legendary Manchester band, but based on "Binary," they're off to a good start.

"Binary" borrows pretty heavily from multiple genres. It could just be that the opening (and repeated) riff is very reminiscent of "Bastards of Young," but there's more than a hint of The Replacements here. You're going to hear a ton of modern post punk, but the more palatable Interpol variety than Gang of Four. When the guitar isn't sounding like The Replacements, it swirls around on the line between shoegaze and psychedelia. It's a great blend that takes a few of the most copied genres but puts them together in a way we're not quite used to.

You can watch the video for "Binary" below. The single is available now on Veta Records. For more on Stalagmites, check them out on Facebook.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Melkbelly - "Kid Kreative"

The latest single from Chicago's Melkbelly will hit a perfect retro button if you were an indie rock fan in the 1990's. Right from the use of a "K" to spell creative in the name "Kid Kreative," you'll know the level of 90's you're getting. It's crunchy, droning guitars that just chug along with a stylistically half done guitar solo, plus fairly monotone vocals (and I mean all of that in the best possible way). It never gets quite as noisy as you want it to get, but it's a great alternative pop song in the vein of The Breeders and Cake Like.

You can watch the video for "Kid Kreative" below. Melkbelly's debut album, Nothing Valley, will be out on October 13 via Wax Nine Records (aka Sadie Duspuis' (Sad13, Speedy Ortiz) label!) It can be pre-ordered here. For more on Melkbelly, check out their Bandcamp and Facebook.

Lee Ranaldo - "New Thing"

Photo via Facebook
At this point in his career, you should know what to expect from Lee Ranaldo. He's the guy formerly of Sonic Youth that brought in the psychedelic noise and was the master of the ten minute solo heavy jam. That's why his latest single, "New Thing," is so surprising. It's a fairly straightforward mainstream almost folk song. I've always said that he was the George Harrison of Sonic Youth, but for this song he's John Lennon. It includes melodic guitar and piano (the piano is very reminiscent of "Imagine"), Ranaldo harmonizing with Sharon Van Etten, and pretty standard verse/chorus/verse format. Sure, every so often there's a burst of feedback followed by some psychedelic guitar, but this is kept to a very minimum. After a 30+ year career, Lee Ranaldo can still surprise, this time by being so normal.

You can watch the video for "New Thing" below. Lee Ranaldo's latest album, Electric Trim, will be out September 15 on Mute Records. It can be pre-ordered here. For more on Ranaldo, check out his website.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Torres - "Three Futures"

Photo by Ashley Connor
Last month we brought you Torres' first single on 4AD, and last week her 4AD debut was announced along with a new song. "Three Futures" is a slow, slow build. Dominated by strings and driven by electronic sounding drums, it's a sluggish song that doesn't gain any speed, but builds intensity. It's not a nice song in the pretty sense. It's a bit uncomfortable and foreboding in the best possible way. Torres' voice adds to the mood of the song. She's never had a traditional sound to her voice, and "Three Futures" is the best example of her vocal talents.

You can watch the video for "Three Futures" below. Torres' 4AD debut, also called Three Futures, will be out September 29. For more on Torres, check out her website.

First Listen: New Releases for June 14

Album of the Week:

Artist: Waxahatchee
Album: Out in the Storm
Quick Description: Latest from the indie singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Katie Crutchfield has improved with every album under the Waxahatchee moniker, and this is her best yet.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know how to describe this, even now, because Waxahatchee has always filled its own little nook in the indie world. Trying to compare it to anything else is a little bit of a challenge, and that's fine - at its core, it's a unique indie listen, and this is no different. But this album also gives us songs like "Silver" and "Never Been Wrong" that speak to a positive evolution in her sound that just works for me. I can't recommend this enough, and I hope it has some solid staying power.
Recommendation: Easily the best of the week.

Artist: RAC
Album: EGO
Quick Description: Turntablist/DJs continue their pop ways.
Why You Should Listen: They've traditionally been interesting.
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed this DJ/turntable collective’s previous album, but this one just feels… weird. Some songs are solid – the Rivers Cuomo effort is fine, the MDNR song a definite plus, but on a whole, this feels more like going through the motions more than anything.
Recommendation: Probably skip it.

Artist: Kabells
Album: Ten Flowers
Quick Description: Strange, poppy music.
Why You Should Listen: This is definitely the most interesting listen of the week.
Overall Thoughts: Sometimes these songs have a whistle to them where I think it’s Andrew Bird singing falsetto with an electronica backing effort. Other times this feels like the standard pop efforts that are a little left of center and won’t get a ton of radio play. I can’t say this did much for me at all, and I can’t say I fully grasp the intentions here.
Recommendation: I didn't love this, but you might.

Artist: Siobhan Wilson
Album: There Are No Saints
Quick Description: Solid singer-songwritery stuff.
Why You Should Listen: A fascinating listen this week.
Overall Thoughts: In what kind of looks like a slowish week, I took a flier on this one and I’m glad I did – this is a unique singer-songwritery take, has some folk elements but also pushes out a lot of fuzzy elements and takes plenty of risks.
Recommendation: Absolutely try this one out.

Artist: Dishwalla
Album: Juniper Road
Quick Description: The latest 1990s revival.
Why You Should Listen: You loved "Counting Blue Cars."
Overall Thoughts: As much as we’re loving the 1990s revival around these parts, this was not an album anyone was asking for and is really not an album we needed. They’re also trying to be a little heavier than what they’re famous for, and none of it works.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Shabazz Palaces
Album: Quazars vs. The Jealous Machines
Quick Description: Off-center rap music.
Why You Should Listen: The weirdest rap album you'll hear this year.
Overall Thoughts: Some really dark, perhaps almost gothic in a way, rap music. There was a moment when Tricky, the trip-hop guy, was experimenting in this space a bit, and this felt very reminiscent of that effort. As for this, I don’t think it was bad, but I can definitively say it wasn’t for me. If you’re looking for something really different, give this a shot...
Recommendation: ... but your mileage may vary.

Artist: Offa Rex
Album: The Queen of Hearts
Quick Description: British folk with the Decemberists.
Why You Should Listen: If the Decemberists don't get you on board, the rest of this should.
Overall Thoughts: This was a surprise! I did not anticipate a collaboration between the Decemberists and a British folk singer, but here we are – the album itself is fun, feeling both modern and traditional, and it toes that line perfectly. Colin Meloy’s voice on the tracks where he’s featured as a vocalist are perfect, and Olivia Chaney often sounds like she was transported from two generations ago.
Recommendation: One of my favorite listens this week, and just a great little piece of music overall.

Artist: Oh Wonder
Album: Ultralife
Quick Description: New album from the poppy duo.
Why You Should Listen: Oh Wonder isn't forging a new path, but they still sound new and fresh in their space.
Overall Thoughts: Oh Wonder is sort of like the poppy cousin of The Head and the Heart in my brain. I can’t think of many acts that sound like them, but what they do generally works. This latest album is Oh Wonder hitting their stride, and it’s pretty solid. Even songs like “Bigger Than Love,” which try to be a little less traditional, have a lot going for it.
Recommendation: On a whole, a solid listen this week.

Artist: Twisted Pine
Album: Twisted Pine
Quick Description: Great straightforward bluegrass.
Why You Should Listen: You like your roots records to be no-nonsense.
Overall Thoughts: This is just a fun, light bluegrass record, no way around it. Pretty vocals, great instrumentation, and it doesn’t try to jump outside of what it does really well. If you’re into the more “progressive bluegrass” that’s made some waves in the last decade, you’ll probably be bored by this, but as someone who really enjoys the traditionalist side, this is a gorgeous modern take.
Recommendation: Absolutely give this some time this week, it’s a lovely listen.

Artist: The Dears
Album: Times Infinity Volume Two
Quick Description: The latest from the Canadian indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: They were so good early on that it's hard not to want to try them again.
Overall Thoughts: I feel like I’ve been waiting for The Dears to replicate the brilliance of their first album for 15 years. This one doesn’t do it for me, unfortunately, being a bit of a mishmash of genres and ideas that never seems to fully flow together. Lots of talent here, but I never feel as if the execution is there for me anymore.
Recommendation: A miss.

EPs this week:

* Coldplay - Kaleidoscope (They've become a ridiculous band over the last decade, but they know how to write an anthemic song better than anyone)
* Best Ex - Ice Cream Anti-Social (awfully close to the pop side of things, but it works when it works)
* Railroad Earth - Captain Nowhere (Solid if unspectacular)
* The Radio Dept. - Teach Me To Forget

Also out this week:

* Sheer Mag - Need to Feel Your Love
* Psychic Temple - IV

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Dead Milkmen - "Only the Dead Get Off at Kymlinge"

Photo via Facebook
My long term love of The Dead Milkmen has been well documented here, so I'm thrilled that we can say that there's a new Dead Milkmen song! Not very long ago, the thought of new music from these guys was limited to merely wishing for some unheard tracks being unearthed, but here we are two albums and multiple singles into new Dead Milkmen music this century.

The Dead Milkmen have a new EP coming out this fall, and we can now hear the first song from it. "Only the Dead Get Off at Kymlinge" fits right into the reunited band's sound. It's a little more rocking than their 80's and 90's output, and the band is losing the novelty tag that was wrongly placed on them for too long. The song is about an urban legend about a Swedish ghost train station, so this hits so many of my buttons. It's a driving, fun song about a ghost train. If that doesn't appeal to you, then you're just wrong.

You can listen to "Only the Dead Get Off at Kymlinge" below. The Dead Milkmen's new EP, Welcome to the End of the World, will be out in the fall on The Giving Groove. 50% of all profits after taxes will be donated to Girls Rock Philly. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on The Dead Milkmen, check out their website.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Brilliant Beast Covers Stereolab

With our love of cover songs, we look forward to each and every tribute album put out by The Blog That Celebrates Itself. This week saw the release of Stereolab in, Metronomic Underground Versions, their collection of Sterolab covers. To our particular delight was track one, which features one of our favorites, Brilliant Beast, covering "Wow and Flutter."

Brilliant Beast, with their noisier version of shoegaze, might seem like an odd band to take on Stereolab, and they are. That's one of the main reasons this cover works. The original is a typically light and airy Sterolab song, with a jangly guitar. Brilliant Beast have a heavier version with a far crunchier guitar. It somehow still maintains the feel of the original, albeit louder and with more rock.

You can listen to Brilliant Beast's cover of "Wow and Flutter" below. You can download your own copy of Stereolab in, Metronomic Underground Versions for free via The Blog That Celebrates Itself's Bandcamp. For more on Brilliant Beast, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

The Furniture - "OPBD"

Photo via Facebook
Despite our love of Hallelujah the Hills, we have yet to write about bass player Nicholas G Ward's other band. They just released "OPBD," which is an odd little ode to his hometown of Peabody, MA. It works as a tribute to all of Massachusetts' uncool cities and towns. In true Massachusetts style, it's done mostly by stating simple facts and talking down about other areas, most notably California and the Great Lakes. Musically, "OPBD" is a rock song with just enough quirks to keep it interesting, almost like a more beer soaked Archers of Loaf. It's a fun song that clocks in at 2:02, which is the perfect length for a song like this.

You can listen to "OPBD" below. It can be downloaded for free via Bandcamp. For more on The Furniture, check them out on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Live Shows: Deer Tick, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Portsmouth, NH 7/7/17

Photo by Ken Sears
Deer Tick have always had a bar band feel to them. Maybe it's the fact that a ton of their songs are about booze. Maybe it's the fact that the first time I saw them they bought everyone in the club a beer. Maybe it's the copious amount of beer I've seen them drink onstage. Because of all that, a family friendly arts festival in a public park with a 7:00 start time was an odd venue for them, but last Friday it seemed to work.

Playing on a stage still set up for a family production of Mary Poppins, Deer Tick opened the show with one of their already released songs from their upcoming two albums. Unfortunately, the sound was a bit off so I couldn't tell which one. (The show started about 30 minutes late while they ironed out some issues due to the heavy rains that had just ended two hours before the show started.) Luckily, the issues were fixed by the second song, and the rest of the show sounded great.
Photo by Ken Sears

One great thing about a band playing without a new release out is that they're free to play whatever they wanted without worrying about their new album. Deer Tick played a few new songs, but a huge amount of their set was taken from their first two albums, War Elephant and Born on Flag Day. War Elephant was represented by perhaps my three favorite songs from their set: "Ashamed," "Dirty Dishes," and "These Old Shoes." The version of "Little White Lies" and "Song About a Man" from Born on Flag Day were more highlights. The band played a loose and laid back set while still being a rock band. At one point while they made some adjustments to the drum kit, John McCauley played the theme from Super Mario Bros. 

Photo by Ken Sears
The crowd was definitely used to the typical public park folk show, and stayed seated on blankets and lawn chairs for the vast majority of the show. A very small handful of people stood standing and dancing to the left of the stage, but most people were fine sitting just about as far from the stage as they could be. A very small group of preschoolers and toddlers used the walkway typically reserved for dancing for actually dancing. McCauley rewarded the kids participating in the show by handing out guitar picks, and then hopping off the stage to let some kids take turns playing his guitar. He might be creating the next generation of rock stars, and bless him for that.

It seemed that his act reminded the crowd that shows are much more fun if you're actively participating, and they came more alive for "Ashamed." For the final song of the main set, "Let's All Go to the Bar," renamed "Let's All Go to the Park" for the night, finally brought the crowd alive. People came running down from out of nowhere and filled up the area in front of the stage. Who knows how much fun the show could have been if everyone had that much energy for more than a single song?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

First Listen: New Releases for July 7

We're back into a strong swing after the American holiday...

Album of the Week:

Artist: Great Grandpa
Album: Plastic Cough
Quick Description: More female-fronted 1990s alt-rock, nearly as good as the rest.
Why You Should Listen: Hits the right nostalgia buttons while still feeling new and fresh.
Overall Thoughts: A question I never asked until I heard this album was “what if Speedy Ortiz was trying to be more like a grungy version the 1990s revival we’ve been seeing lately?” The answer appears to be Great Grandpa (who have the best band name I’ve seen in some time). The lead track hit my radar some time ago, and I’ve been waiting for this release for some time. It’s very, very good, and I’m impressed by the choices and risks it takes musically – the band could have played things a little safe and worked toward a poppy indie rock record with some radio friendly songs ready and waiting for that breakout, and they instead went with some really interesting song structures and bold decisions. It mostly works – when it doesn’t work it can be a little jarring, which is what keeps this album from the Diet Cig/Charly Bliss/Daddy Issues echelon, but if those are the 1A releases in this space, Great Grandpa is a solid 1B and really deserves your time.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week.

Artist: Lucy Rose
Album: Something's Changing
Quick Description: Singer-songwritery stuff that feels unique.
Why You Should Listen: You're into the singer-songwriter thing with some flair.
Overall Thoughts: I don’t quite know how I tripped up on this one overall, but this falls into that somewhat-theatrical, somewhat torchy singer-songwriter space that we’ve seen a fair number of releases from as of late. This album is perfectly fine, but I can’t say it ever reaches the sort of heights or interests on a whole that I would hope or expect on a whole. There are some solid highlights – “Soak It Up” in particular is a song that should get more attention than it will – but on a whole this is an album that will be a solid listen for many people but nothing that will blow your mind.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, but it might not work for you.

Artist: Public Service Broadcasting
Album: Every Valley
Quick Description: Found audio act's new album.
Why You Should Listen: The structure of their music is sound even if it's a little weird this time around.
Overall Thoughts: Our favorite found audio instrumentalist group is back with a new album that has a bit of a dystopian feel to it, unsurprisingly. The experience is what I come to expect at this point from the group, with the actual traditional songs littered in feeling both interesting and out of place. If I’m being honest with myself, listening to this as compared to, say, their album about the Space Race a couple years back doesn’t feel the same, and I know I should be listening to this less as a “this is an album to enjoy musically” and more as an aural art project, but it’s hard to separate the medium and the message here. Worth it for fans, but this might not be the best entry point for this act or this genre.
Recommendation: Listen to The Race for Space first, and if you like that, then come to this one.

Artist: Tristen
Album: Sneaker Waves
Quick Description: Blog favorite is back with maybe her best album yet.
Why You Should Listen: Tristen has mastered a mixing of genres.
Overall Thoughts: A favorite around these parts, we fell in love with her with her country-tinged folk album from a few years back, and her diversion into keyboard pop was interesting but ultimately divisive for a lot of fans. Her new album came about pretty fast given the relative silence over the last four years (save a poetry collection that was published in the meantime), but when “Glass Jar” hit, it burrowed into our brains and wouldn’t let go. The end result of this new album? On first listen, it’s definitely more country-tinged pop than electronic keyboard, but it appears that this is the sweet spot in combining all of Tristen’s influences into a tight package. The songwriting is sharp, the musicality is the best we’ve seen so far, and the result is a really solid listen that is an album I can’t wait to get back to. Absolutely a highlight of the week, and a solid way to truly kick off the second half of the year.
Recommendation: Nearly my album of the week. Find time for this one.

Artist: Charley Pride
Album: Music In My Heart
Quick Description: Country legend has a new album.
Why You Should Listen: It's Charley Pride, do I need to explain?
Overall Thoughts: a new album from an old country legend, and... it sounds like a new album from an old country legend. Pure sounds, standard stuff here. Not going to blow your mind at all, but it's a fun and pleasant listen, and it's good to hear other folks getting on board.
Recommendation: Solid if unspectacular, but it's worth a listen nonetheless.

Artist: Jasmine Guffond
Album: Traced
Quick Description: Haunting electronica.
Why You Should Listen: The most redeemingly-challenging listen this week.
Overall Thoughts: This is very challenging, very experimental indie electronica, and I loved it. I don't know how often I'll go back to it, but this sounds like it just came out of the new season of Twin Peaks, and it has an urgent, crazed feel to it that's designed to be a little awkward.
Recommendation: If you're up for the challenge, don't miss this.

Artist: This is the Kit
Album: Moonshine Freeze
Quick Description: New album from an alt-folkie.
Why You Should Listen: Better production and better songwriting equals a solid album.
Overall Thoughts: I seriously enjoyed the first album from This Is The Kit. The new album here is a more mature, better sounding effort in many ways - all aspects of the presentation are improved, and there are a lot of highlights to point to. The first two songs, especially "Hotter Colder," really set the tone the rest of the way, and if you are into weirder folk sounds, this is absolutely something that's deserving of your energy. It's an album that sticks to your guts, and I can't wait to come back for more.
Recommendation: Make sure this hits your rotation this week.

Artist: Toro y Moi
Album: Boo Boo
Quick Description: Latest from the funky indie act.
Why You Should Listen: Toro y Moi is always interesting.
Overall Thoughts: Toro y Moi has never grabbed me, so I'm not sure what it is about this album that really caught my notice. IT's got a very 80s feel to it, almost to a fault at times, but then you get songs like "Inside My Head" that just seem to make sense. This is weird and funky at times, and it reminds me of The Weeknd in some ways, which feels both right and wrong. I think there's a lot of ambition here that's worth exploring, so I recommend that you give it a shot, but this might not work for everyone.
Recommendation: A solid listen that might not work for everyone.

Artist: Broken Social Scene
Album: Hug of Thunder
Quick Description: Return album from the indie legends.
Why You Should Listen: Broken Social Scene are super important to
Overall Thoughts: If you came into indie music at a certain time, Broken Social Scene was kind of the hipster gold standard. I regret to say that I've never quite understood the appeal - they're good, but not godly - and this revival of sorts is more of the same. If you still love them the way you did in your 20s, run with it. For me, there's better stuff out this week.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Sarah Jaffe
Album: Bad Baby
Quick Description: Sarah Jaffe's latest that finally reaches the potential of where she's been heading musically.
Why You Should Listen: Jaffe is an interesting songwriter doing her best work.
Overall Thoughts: Sarah Jaffe started out as a bluegrassy, rootsy artist, but went electronic a while back and has said that it was her intention all along, using the roots stuff as a way to advance things. Not to say I haven't liked her electronic stuff, but this album feels like a great leap forward for her on a whole. The songs are tight and interesting, and this feels like what was meant to be for her work.
Recommendation: Worth a listen for sure.

Artist: Shakey Graves
Album: And the Horse He Rode In On
Quick Description: Two EPs from a favorite here.
Why You Should Listen: Shakey Graves does really interesting folky music.
Overall Thoughts: Shakey Graves would be called an anti-folk artist were he debuting a decade ago, I think. His odd, wonderful take on folk music here is a welcome surprise from his first and more traditional release, and I think those who like slightly more adventure who read this will find something to like here.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Chris Bell
Album: Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star
Overall Thoughts: As a general rule, I don’t like to highlight reissues or compilations of existing material for First Listen, but I did want to take a moment to point out how great this collection is. Chris Bell was a key member of Big Star, an influential rock act that seems to finally be getting their proper due in the last decade or so. R.E.M. cites them heavily as an influence (Mike Mills has even worked with members since R.E.M. split), and we’re seeing a good number of Big Star covers hitting the airwaves. This is a collection of some of Chris Bell’s pre-Big Star work, and it is great. I can’t stress this enough – this might be completely new to you, and if it is, you’re in for a treat. The remaster sounds great, the songs are awesome, and this is almost certainly going to send me down a very deep rabbit hole for Big Star/Chris Bell music next week. I highly recommend taking an hour and checking this one out, fan of Bell/Big Star or not. You won’t be disappointed.

EPs of note:

* Air Traffic Controller - Echo Papa
* DJ Shadow - The Mountain Has Fallen
* Olga Bell - America

Also out this week:

* Haim - Something to Tell You
* Melvins - A Walk With Love and Death