Thursday, January 31, 2019

Mekons - "Lawrence of California"

Photo by Ricky Malpas
Mekons are one of the more interesting bands I need to fully explore. Depending on who you ask and what period of their forty year career you're talking about, they can be described as punk, post punk, cowpunk, alternative, and even folk. Their latest single, "Lawrence of California," can be called all of that. It's a romping, rollicking song that just plows ahead. It never quite breaks out into the all out fracas it threatens to, but that's perfectly fine. It's probably too country to be punk and too punk to be country, existing in its very own world. I don't think I could even call this outlaw country, which is the category this kind of music gets shuffled into. It just has too many noisy and strange elements. Instead, it's just the Mekons.

You can watch the video for "Lawrence of California" below. Deserted, the new album from Mekons, will be out March 29 on Bloodshot Records. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Mekons, check out their Facebook. Current tour dates are below the video, and include an interesting Green River Festival sized hole in July, so we can hope and dream.

April 2 – Newport, United Kingdom –  Le Public Space Newport
April 3 – Leeds, United Kingdom – Brudenell Social Club 
April 4 –  Brighton, United Kingdom – Patterns 
April 5 – London, United Kingdom – 100 Club 
April 6 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Cinetol
April 7 – Berlin, Germany – Music & Frieden
April 8 – Hamburg, Germany – Hafenklang
April 9 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Alice
April 10 – Frankfurt, Germany – Mousonturm 
April 11 – Linz, Austria – Stwst Stadtwerkstatt
April 12 – Vienna, Austria – Chelsea
April 13 – Reutlingen, Germany – Franz.K 
April 14 – Bad Salgau, Germany – Franziskaner 
July 14 – Chicago, IL, United States – Hideout 
July 15 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon 
July 17 – Pittsburgh, PA – The Warhol Entrance Space 
July 18 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
July 19 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg 
July 22 – Los Angeles, CA – Lodge Room 
July 23 – Big Sur, CA – Henry Miller Library 
July 24 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel 
July 25 – Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern 

Stella Donnelly - "Lunch"

Photo by Pooneh Ghana
If we were excited about the upcoming full length debut from Stella Donnelly, "Lunch" has whipped us into a frenzy. Her previous single, "Old Man," was more of a pop song than the more folk side we had expected from Donnelly. "Lunch" is back more on the folk side of things, especially at the start. As the song builds, it becomes much more layered and complex, but in a very quiet way. The song is about being a touring musician and being away from home for extended periods of time to the point that everything feels different when you come back. As Donnelly sings: You’ve got plots and persuasions and time to explain/But I’ve only got time for lunch/And I get homesick before I go away.” It's a heartbreakingly stunning song, made more so by Donnelly's voice. She really croons on "Lunch" in a way we haven't heard before, but I think we'll all want to in the future.

You can watch the video for "Lunch" below. Stella Donnelly's debut full length album, Beware of the Dogs, will be out March 8 on Secretly Canadian. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Stella Donnelly, check out her website. Current tour dates are below the video.

Fri. March 15 - Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall #
Sat. March 16 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s #
Mon. March 18 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade #
Wed. March 20 - Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom #
Fri. March 22 - Somerville, MA @ ONCE Ballroom #
Sat. March 23 - Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo #
Sun. March 24 - Toronto, ON @ The Drake Hotel #
Mon. March 25 - Detroit, MI @ Deluxx Fluxx #
Wed. March 27 - Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups #
Thu. March 28 - Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop #
Fri. March 29 - Chicago, IL @ Schuba’s #
Sat. March 30 - St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club #
Tue. April 2 - Seattle, WA @ Barboza #
Wed. April 3 - Portland, OR @ Polaris Hall #
Fri. April 5 - San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord #
Sat. April 6 - Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater #
Thu. April 11 – Berlin, DE @ Badehaus
Fri. April 12 – Hamburg, DE @ Skybar
Sat. April 13 – Rotterdam, NL @ Rotown
Mon. April 15 – Cologne, DE @ Yuca
Tue. April 16 – Brussels, BE @ Botanique 
Wed. April 17 – Amiens, FR @ La Lune Des Pirates *
Thu. April 18 - Paris, FR @ Le Pop Up Du Label
Tue. April 23 - Cardiff, UK @ Clwb Ifor Bach
Wed. April 24 - Bristol, UK @ Thekla
Thu. April 25 - Southampton, UK @ Joiners
Sat. April 27 - Brighton, UK @ Haunt
Sun. April 28 - Manchester, UK @ Yes
Mon. April 29 - Dublin, IE @ Grand Social
Wed. May 1 - Glasgow, UK The Blue Arrow
Thu. May 2 - Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Community Room
Sat. May 4 - Liverpool, UK @ Liverpool Sound City
Sun. May 5 - Nottingham, UK @ Bodega
Tue. May 7 - London, UK @ Scala
# = with Faye Webster
* = supporting Yak

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Holiday Ghosts - "Slipstream"

The latest single from Holiday Ghosts hearkens back to when pop music was weird. "Slipstream" will remind you of classic early alternative artists like Talking Heads, The Modern Lovers, and Violent Femmes, but it also has the 90's slacker vibe of Pavement and Beck. It turns into a crazily fun and just offbeat enough indie rock/pop song.

You can watch the video for "Slipstream" below. West Bay Playroom, the new album from Holiday Ghosts, will be released February 15 on PNKSLM Recordings. The album was recorded in band member Sam Stacpoole's childhood home, specifically his old playroom. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Holiday Ghosts, check out their Facebook.

Porteau - "River Song"

There aren't too many songs written in an Alaskan village about free will versus instinct, but the latest from Porteau fills that gap for us. "River Song" is an absolutely gorgeous and lush folk song. I use the term folk loosely here. It's definitely far too filled out to be purely folk. Instead it's almost a dream pop/folk song. Victoria Williams's voice propels the entire arrangement and gives it a kind of haunting quality during the chorus. During the verses, she has a much warmer and welcoming feel to her voice. She does this without a true change, so "River Song" is truly a singer's track.

You can listen to "River Song" below. Water's Gate, the new album from Porteau, will be released on March 15. For more on Porteau, be sure to check out their website.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Bruiser and Bicycle - "The Train"

Photo by Ariel Einbender
The latest single from Albany's Bruiser and Bicycle is an odd little offering that I'm becoming more and more obsessed with. "The Train" is a post-punk, almost shoegaze song, but with an organic, almost folk feel. But really accessible sounding while being experimental. The song starts off with a squall of high pitched guitar noise, but then a second, more palatable guitar comes in to join it. The vocals have a slight twang you don't normally associate with the Northeast, but it adds this endearing, melodic quality that helps pull the song together. "The Train" straddles the line between indie rock and folk perfectly without truly choosing sides.

You can listen to "The Train" below. Bruiser and Bicycle's new album, Woods Come Find Me, will be out February 22 on Five Kill Records. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Bruiser and Bicycle, check out their website.

First Listen: New Releases for 25 January

Now we're getting somewhere.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Better Oblivion Community Center
Album: Better Oblivion Community Center
Quick Description: Surprise album from Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes and blog favorite Phoebe Bridgers.
Why You Should Listen: Both artists are solid in their own right, but together? It's magical.
Overall Thoughts: A surprise release from Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, this is probably my favorite release of the early year. Oberst is at his best since the Bright Eyes album Cassudega back in 2007, and Phoebe Bridgers is arguably having the most undersold creative year for a musician in some time. These songs balance the tightrope of urgent and present near-perfectly, and the two artists compliment each other so well in their sounds that it is almost as if they were meant to work together from the start. Given that Bridgers is a Saddle Creek artist and Oberst guested on her awesome debut, this collaboration was probably inevitable, but we’re all better off that it exists.
Recommendation: Best of the week.

Artist: Leyla McCalla
Album: The Capitalist Blues
Quick Description: Latest album from another favorite around these parts.
Why You Should Listen: Even if the politics are wrong, the music is so, so right.
Overall Thoughts: We’ve loved Leyla McCalla and everything she’s done up to this point, but this might be her best effort yet. She comes in strong with a message to send to her audience (agree or not), and her talent in merging genres and instrumentation in a way few others can makes the whole effort shine. There are surprises galore in here, but the end result was my repeated thinking that this was something really special. Don’t miss out on it, this could have the staying power to be one of the better albums of the year alongside Better Oblivion Community Center.
Recommendation: Don't miss out on this.

Artist: The Dandy Warhols
Album: Why You So Crazy
Quick Description: New album from the indie vets.
Why You Should Listen: The Dandy Warhols are anything but ordinary.
Overall Thoughts: The Dandy Warhols are a band that has always defied expectations, but also has not always done the cohesive album thing very well. When they do, like with Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia (an all-time favorite) and Welcome to the Monkey House, they succeed wildly, but they also tend to just shift sounds on a whim and run with it. So what to make of this new album? For every “Be Alright” or “Motor City Steel,” two of the advance tracks and the latter of which has been in heavy rotation on my Spotify, you have a classic Dandy diversion like “Forever” or wacky asides like “Highlife” that would basically be incomprehensible to a non-fan. But with that said, I think the Dandy Warhols have been making albums for diehards like me for a decade instead of mass consumption efforts (or as close to that as they could get) from the Capitol years. So this album? I guess I dig it, as frustratingly odd as it is at times. It’s exactly what I expect from the Dandy Warhols, which is to expect nothing predictable at all.
Recommendation: Give it a shot, but no promises.

Artist: Sean Pawling
Album: Sunsinking
Quick Description: Bright, lovely little folk pop bops.
Why You Should Listen: This is the perfect antidote to a cold winter's day.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve written a few times in the past that male-fronted folk stuff doesn’t always work for me. Sean Pawling is an exception, and is exceptional in many regards. This is a bit of a poppy folk rock effort (folky pop rock?) with a very summery feel for the dregs of winter, with a breezy attitude that is going to basically have your head bopping indefinitely. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of some of Josh Rouse’s early stuff, but maybe a little brighter.
Recommendation: Either way, don’t sleep on this one.

Artist: The Exbats
Album: E is for Exbats
Quick Description: Potty-mouthed kid talks dirty in front of dad, but as music.
Why You Should Listen: You like some humor on the side of your gritty-ish punk.
Overall Thoughts: Going in, I didn’t know the first thing about this band, but this is a lo-fi adjacent father/daughter punk act that really worked for me on a whole. In an era where we have a few interesting female-fronted punk acts coming out of the woodwork, it’s definitely fun to find a diamond in the rough like this one. Let’s be clear here: if “Everybody Loves My Mom” or “Iolaus” don’t charm you, check on the status of your soul.
Recommendation: A solid listen.

Artist: Norma
Album: Female Jungle
Quick Description: Debut full-length by what should be an up-and-coming singer.
Why You Should Listen: A little weird, but a little wonderful.
Overall Thoughts: A real grower of sorts. As I started in on this, I was ready to put it aside as another oddball pop record in a market flush with them. But this is an album that really won me over with some quirky charm to go with its often-mature themes and ideas. “Jessica Rabbit” got me listening a little closer, “Like It Like That” had me surprised at its directness, and “Hysterical Wife” made me a fan. Give this the time to work its magic...
Recommendation: ...and you might get as lost in this as I did.

Artist: Katie Doherty and the Navigators
Album: And Then
Quick Description: Old-sounding folk music.
Why You Should Listen: You wish The Decemberists were more "Mariner's Revenge Song" than they ended up.
Overall Thoughts: We need more folk music with accordians. This is a gorgeous, beautiful album that may feel like it belongs at a renaissance festival at times, but in that good way where you actually feel transported away a bit. This is not going to work for everyone, and it definitely relies on ideas from another era, but if this hits the right chord for you, you may love this.
Recommendation: Give it a spin.

Artist: Josin
Album: In the Blank Space
Quick Description: Beautiful, ethereal tunes.
Why You Should Listen: You want something that's gorgeous and just a little challenging.
Overall Thoughts: I think I was a third of the way through this one when I realized how much the soundscapes reminded me of early Sigur Ros. Granted, nothing is *quite* like early Sigur Ros, but the sort of dreamy, otherworldly atmosphere that it presented brought me back with this album. The title track in particular really grabbed me and got me listening a lot closer to the whole album It's really, really pretty and I want to listen to it again and again.
Recommendation: Definitely recommended.

Artist: Weezer
Album: Weezer (Teal Album)
Quick Description: Weezer enjoys their newfound resurgence a little too much.
Why You Should Listen: You know only pain.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been trying to refrain from using main review space to be negative about music. After doing this for a few years, it works better as a positive recommendation space rather than a way to slag bad music. I need to make an exception here, however, because of how much of a missed opportunity this album is. I love cover albums. I love at least the equivalent of three Weezer albums (Blue, Pinkerton, and probably a dozen highlights from 2000-present). This? It’s cold, it’s lifeless, it almost feels like a cash grab after the success of “Africa,” and it just isn’t any good.
Recommendation: Just... no.

Of note:

* Mozes and the Firstborn - Dadcore (Think if FoW and Jeff Rosenstock had a kid who started a band at his college’s frathouse.)
* LIP TALK - D A Y S (If FKA Twigs was more accessible, she might be LIP TALK.)
* Mono - Nowhere Now Here (Mogqai-esque epic instrumental rock.)
* FIDLAR - Almost Free (Solid, retro-esque punk.)
* Bob Sumner - Wasted Love Songs
* Swervedriver - Future Ruins
* Telyscopes - Perfume
* Kid Koala - Music to Draw To: Io
* Sarah Louise - Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars
* Eerie Wanda - Pet Town

Seven Song Albums:

* Julia Kent - Temporal


* Hockeysmith - Tears at My Age
* Julia Michaels - Inner Monologue Part 1
* Chelsea Paolini - Medicine Cabinet
* duendita - Direct Line to My Creator

Also out:

* Rudimental - Toast to Our Differences
* Lindi Ortega - Liberty: Piano Songbook
* Sneaks - Highway Hypnosis
* Michael Franti & Spearhead - Stay Human Volume II

Monday, January 28, 2019

John Shakespear - "Swinging for the Fences"

Photo by VQnC
Nashville's John Shakespear has previously been in soul bands in Boston and Cambodia (and we're super curious which Boston bands), and now he is set to release his debut solo album. The first single, "Swinging for the Fences," has us excited for his album. The song doesn't break new ground. It's on the poppier side of the alt-country thing, and is very similar to the more laid back side of Wilco or bands like Dawes and Delta Spirit. But Shakespear is absurdly good at that sound. "Swinging for the Fences" has a summery feel that goes beyond the baseball reference of the title, and the subject of the song. It's also more catchy than you can imagine, and could be a candidate for song of the summer if it wasn't being released in January.

You can watch the baseball themed video for "Swinging for the Fences" below. There is no word on a release date for John Shakespear's debut album, but to keep tabs on him, check out his website and Facebook.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Julia Jacklin - "Pressure to Party"

Photo by Nick Mckk
Julia Jacklin's latest single, "Pressure to Party," is her most fun solo song yet. Most of her solo work tends to be on the singer/songwriter folk adjacent side of things, of which she has reached complete perfection, and we're huge fans. "Pressure to Party" is a bouncy, fun, 90's style alternative pop-rock song. There's is still enough of her Americana feel to keep things from going all out Letters to Cleo or Veruca Salt, and keeps the track from sounding like a alt-rock throwback. It's a slight style change more on the lines of her music with Phantastic Ferniture than her usual solo material, but you'll hear no complaints here.

You can watch the absurdly fun video for "Pressure to Party" below. It's a one shot video that stars Jacklin's siblings and the band Body Type, and really is a must watch. Julia Jacklin's new album, Crushing, will be out February 22 on Polyvinyl. For more on Julia Jacklin, be sure to check out her website.

Durand Jones & The Indications - "Morning in America"

Photo by Rosie Cohe
Durand Jones & The Indications just nail the whole neo-soul thing. Their latest single, "Morning in America," sounds like it could have been released in the 60's. The only truly modern aspect is the hip hop drum beat and a fuzzed out indie rock guitar solo to end the song. Despite it's calm and chill vibe, "Morning in America" is an overtly political song. It's written by drummer Aaron Frazer, the band says about the song:

"The lyrics speak to how many of us feel every day in this time of political and environmental uncertainty— flitting between anger, despair, anxiety but ever returning to a sliver of hope that there’s still a path forward.

We so often divide ourselves by our differences. Acknowledging those differences is crucial; listening to those different from us is crucial. But viewed solely through that lens, we are fragmented and few. When we look at the country along economic lines, however, a different picture emerges. Suddenly people of all of colors, in every part of this country, can find themselves on the same side, united by a shared struggle to simply survive in the richest nation to ever exist.

This song was inspired by The Poor People's Campaign, a movement started by Martin Luther King Jr. shortly before his assassination. It functions today as a nonpartisan organization that promotes intersectionality and inter-movement unity as a tool of addressing systemic injustices."

You can watch the video for "Morning in America" below. American Love Call, the new album from Durand Jones & The Indications, will be out March 1 on Dead Oceans/Colemine Records. The album can be pr-ordered here. For more on Durand Jones & The Indication, check out their website. Current tour dates are below the video.

Fri. Jan. 25 - Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso-Noord
Sun. Jan. 27 - Cologne, DE @ Artheater
Mon. Jan. 28 - Berlin, DE @ Lido
Mon. March 18 - Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
Tue. March 19 - Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
Thu. March 21 - Santa Fe, NM @ Tumbleroots
Fri. March 22 - Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
Sat. March 23 - San Diego, CA @ Casbah — SOLD OUT
Mon. March 25 - Tustin, CA @ Marty’s On Newport — SOLD OUT
Tue. March 26 - Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom — SOLD OUT
Wed. March 27 - Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom — SOLD OUT
Thu. March 28 - Santa Barbara, CA @ SOhO Restaurant & Music Club
Fri. March 29 - Oakland, CA @ The New Parish — SOLD OUT
Sat. March 30 - San Francisco, CA @ The Independent — SOLD OUT
Mon. April 1 - Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
Tue. April 2 - Seattle, WA @ Neumos
Thu. April 4 - Salt Lake City, UT @ The State Room
Fri. April 5 - Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
Sat. April 6 - Kansas City, MO @ recordBar
Sun. April 7 - Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room  
Tue. April 9 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Wed. April 10 - Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
Thu. April 11 - Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
Fri. April 12 - Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar
Sat. April 13 - Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
Sun. April 14 - North Charleston, SC @ High Water Festival
Tue. April 16 - Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
Wed. April 17 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Fri. April 19 - Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
Sat. April 20 - Uncasville, CT @ Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun Resort
Sun. April 21 - Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
Mon. April 22 - Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
Wed. April 24 - Cincinnati, OH @ The Woodward Theater
Fri. April 26 - Nashville, TN @ The Basement East
Sat. April 27 - Oxford, MS @ Double Decker Arts Festival
Sun. April 28 - Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
Sat. May 11 - Bloomington, IN @ Indiana University w/ Neko Case
Sun. Sep. 15 - Telluride, CO @ Blues & Brews Festival

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Kofi The Spiderman - Cruel and Unusual

It's incredibly rare for us to hear an album and wonder exactly what we're listening to. For an artist to completely ignore the conventions of a genre so much that you wonder if it's even technically in that genre any more. The latest EP from Kofi The Spiderman does this.

Cruel and Unusual is by default hip hop, but it won't fit into anything you consider hip hop. It's minimal, but mostly because musically it doesn't sound like hip hop that you know. The most familiar element is the sparse sample of The Beatles's "Blackbird" in "Get the Money." Aside from that, it's strange notes and sounds stuttering and rambling along to match Kofi The Spiderman's mumbling rap. This is hip hop stripped down to it's bare bones, like The Ramones did with rock back in the 70's. It's just such a strange and unique release, unlike anything I've heard before. All music fans need to check this out.

You can listen to "Nurse Ratchet" below. You can listen to and purchase Cruel and Unusual on Bandcamp.

Lady Lamb - "Even in the Tremor"

Photo by Shervin Lainez
We're pretty obsessed with Lady Lamb here at If It's Too Loud... In fact, she was the very first artist we ever wrote about, so we're obviously going to be thrilled with new music from her. "Even in the Tremor" fits right into Lady Lamb's previous work, even while it sounds nearly completely differently. As soon as the song starts off with just Aly Spaltro's voice and some menacing drum beats, you know we're in new territory. As the song goes on, it does take on Lady Lamb's sense of uplifting, and while this isn't an electronic song, there are some decidedly dance elements to it, making it quite possibly one of the more awkward dance songs I've ever heard. "Even in the Tremor" is an epic song that has quiet moments. 

You can watch the video for "Even in the Tremor" below, and try to figure out how Lady Lamb is the only person in the entire Aztec or Mayan ruin. Even in the Tremor, the new album from Lady Lamb, will be out April 5 on Ba Da Bing Records. For more on Lady Lamb, check out her website. Current tour dates are below the video.

Wed. April 10 - Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom *
Thu. April 11 - Montreal, QC @ Le Ministere *
Fri. April 12 - Toronto, ON @ Drake Hotel *
Sat. April 13 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe *
Mon. April 15 - Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop *
Tue. April 16 - Detroit, MI @ Deluxx Fluxx *
Wed. April 17 - Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall *
Fri. April 19 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry *
Sat. April 20 - Milwaukee @ Back Room at  Colectivo *
Mon. April 22 - Omaha, NE @ Reverb Lounge *
Wed. April 24 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge *
Fri. April 26 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court *
Sat. April 27 - Boise, ID @ The Olympic *
Mon. April 29 - Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett *
Thu. May 2 - Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret ^
Fri. May 3 - Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern ^
Sat. May 4 - Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios ^
Mon. May 6 - San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall ^
Wed. May 8 - Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room ^
Thu. May 9 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar ^
Fri. May 10 - Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar ^
Mon. May 13 - Austin, TX @ Antone’s ^
Tue. May 14 - Dallas, TX @ Club Dada ^
Thu. May 16 - St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway ^
Fri. May 17 - Nashville, TN @ The High Watt ^
Sat. May 18 - Atlanta, GA @ Aisle 5 ^
Sun. May 19 - Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight ^
Tue. May 21 - Raleigh, NC @ Kings ^
Wed. May 22 - Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel ^
Thu. May 23 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry @ The Fillmore ^
Thu.. May 30 - Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere ^
Fri. May 31 - Boston, MA @ Royale ^
Sat. June 1 - Portland, ME @ The State Theatre ^

* = with Renata Zeiguer
^ = with Katie Von Schleicher

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Running Red Lights - "Calls of Prudence"

Usually when you hear a nostalgic song, there is a sense of wistfulness and joy. The latest single from Running Red Lights is the exact opposite. "Calls of Prudence" is a bleak indie rock/folk meets soul song. It feels like a song truly about loss. It's not nostalgic in a "Hey, remember ALF?" way, but instead about truly missing a phase of your life that is just gone now. Singer Scarlett says about the song: "One day, I was feeling particularly nostalgic and found myself reflecting on the days when I was young and could get blissfully drunk without having anyone or anything to answer to, without regard for the time that I was wasting." Missing the days when you could get drunk without repercussions may seem a bit superficial, but it's more about missing as time when you could just do what you want without having to worry about the responsibilities of adulthood. I think we can all relate to that, especially when it's in such a lovely, dark, and moody package.

You can listen to "Calls of Prudence" below. For more on Running Red Lights, be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Live Shows: Bill Janovitz, The Burren, Somerville, MA 1/19/19

One of the best things about living in the Boston area are shows like last Saturday night's Bill Janovitz performance at The Burren. The Buffalo Tom frontman played a laid back solo set at a 100 person dinner venue in the back room of an Irish pub. Such a small venue and Janovitz's easy rapport with the audience made this an incredibly intimate show, particularly with the special guests for the evening.

The set list was made up almost entirely from social media audience requests. This truly lead to a unique song selection. You got Buffalo Tom favorites like "Fortune Teller," "Mineral," and "Dry Land." In fact, "Taillights Fade," the most obvious choice for a Buffalo Tom song, wasn't requested but added by Janovitz as one of the few non requests. The crowd was also versed in Janovitz's solo career, requesting songs from way back to his 1996 solo album Lonesome Billy, "Mary Kay" (an ode to Mary Kay Letourneau and her inappropriate but still ongoing relationship with a then twelve year old student), and "Walt Whitman Mall (Banyan Tree)." There were also some excellent cover requests, such as Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman" and Hank Williams's "You Win Again."

But it was the special guests that made the night truly unique. When Janovitz announced he was bringing up a guest, I started wondering what Boston indie rock legend would be taking the stage. Turns out it was Janovitz's nineteen year old daughter Lucy. The two did a duet of Big Thief's "Paul" before they were joined by Bill's brother Scott (who opened the show with a selection of covers (including a countrified version of Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives") and Andy Santospago for Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." Moments like this, along with Bill and Scott Janovitz's back and forth sibling rivalry (Scott called himself the Frank Stallone of the Boston music scene) and Bill's repeated jokes about having to end the show on time so the cover band could take over (which was real, unfortunately) made for one of the more personal concert experiences I've had in months, and a great start to 2019.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Prefab Messiahs - "(Don't Give Up On) Beautiful Things"

Worcester, MA's favorite reunited psychedelic garage rockers are back with a new single! Last week The Prefab Messiahs released a video for "(Don't Give Up On) Beautiful Things." The song, and video, and quite heavy on the psychedelic side of "psychedelic garage." You get some classic 60's style harmonizing, and everything is tied up into a beautifully swirly package. There is even a "Bah bah bah" in the chorus as catchy as anything The Archies ever wrote. But there is a great primal garage rock beat throughout, and some fierce guitars that come in like buzzsaws to draw in the non-hippies.

You can watch the video for "(Don't Give Up On) Beautiful Things" below. The song is available now via Bandcamp. For more on The Prefab Messiahs, be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Bis - "Sound of a Heartbreak"

Bis dropped off my radar after 1997's The New Transistor Heroes. Turns out they broke up in 2003 and reformed in 2009. They released a new album in 2014 which I completely missed, and are now set to release a fifth album next month.

I always loved their insanely high energy bubblegum alternative pop music. I'm not sure if that's what I need in my 40s, but neither does Bis. They are also twenty years older, after all. "Sound of a Heartbreak" is still insanely energetic and upbeat. It's completely music to bop around to. But, it's much more mature and adult than anything off The New Transistor Heroes. It feels like a natural progression for the band. They're not trying to recapture their youth or the magic of their earlier albums, but they're hardly becoming an easy listening band, either. This is exactly what aging Bis fans will want from their Scottish heroes, even if they forgot about them for a time.

You can watch the video for "Sound of a Heartbreak" below. Slight Disconnects, the new album from Bis, will be out February 28 on Last Night from Glasgow. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Bis, check out their website.

First Listen: New Releases for 11/18 January

After the holiday lull, it appears we are fully and completely back in the swing of things.

Artist: Pedro the Lion
Album: Phoenix
Quick Description: Reunion album from the indie rock favorites.
Why You Should Listen: One would assume it would be good, but it turns out it's great.
Overall Thoughts: Dave Bazan's solo stuff never 100% grabbed me, and I admit to never quite catching on to Pedro the Lion back in its heyday. This return album may not be a return to form, and might rock slightly harder than expected, but I will say that it was a super compelling release that grabbed me almost immediately. There are a lot of interesting things happening here, and I think it's one of my favorite listens this week. It's just a solid, mature-sounding indie rock record, and I feel like those have been lacking as of late.
Recommendation: A must-listen as one of the best of the week.

Artist: Neyla Pekarek
Album: Rattlesnake
Quick Description: Upbeat-sounding roots stuff.
Why You Should Listen: Different than most releases in this area, it might be the mood-setter you need.
Overall Thoughts: This might be the most fun record of the week in many regards. I did not know Neyla Pekarek by name prior to learning that she was a member of the Lumineers, and this solo release is a raucous, roots-tinged affair with a lot going for it. Reminds me a lot of some of the more upbeat roots stuff that I’ve heard over the years – not quite Lake Street Dive or The Whiskey Gentry, but along those lines. Either way, a fine way to start out the year in this genre.
Recommendation: Give this a listen.

Artist: Guster
Album: Look Alive
Quick Description: New record from the longtime Boston-area natives.
Why You Should Listen: You loved Guster in college, you can admit it.
Overall Thoughts: Guster will always be noteworthy, both coming from New England where the band is from, and how central they were to that early-aughts musical time that peaked with “Amsterdam” 15 or so years ago. The band added a member, changed its sound up considerably, and has never quite been the same as they were with Lost and Gone Forever or Goldfly (both 20 years old now?!) even though they had some minor pop hits. So a band I loved became a band I was just fine with, and now we have a new album and it’s actually kind of weird and wonderful in all the right ways. A lot of the oddball charm that got me to love the band to start is present here even if they’re not a band with two acoustic guitars and a set of bongos anymore. I can’t promise you’ll love this (or even like it), but there are songs here, like “Overexcited” and “Hard Times,” that definitely resonated when I heard them. So don’t miss this one, especially if your original instinct was to skip it.
Recommendation: Worth a spin.

Artist: Dani Bell and the Tarantist
Album: Wide Eyed
Quick Description: Complex, provocative music.
Why You Should Listen: It's got many interesting parts.
Overall Thoughts: Not sure what it is about this one that grabbed me as much as it did, but this is a really solid listen that I feel has a lot of interesting layers and pieces to go with it. Many things set it apart, from the instrumentation to the vocals, but I am sure that, especially in a week as busy as this for releases, that you’ll find something to like in this one.
Recommendation: A top listen this week.

Artist: Malibu Ken
Album: Malibu Ken
Quick Description: Tobacco and Aesop Rock team up.
Why You Should Listen: If you know both of these guys, it works as well as you'd imagine.
Overall Thoughts: Aesop Rock is a great rapper. Tobacco does some truly original music, and handles distorted and compressed instrumentation unlike anyone else. Aesop Rock's voice lends itself perfectly as a result, and this turns into a really rock-solid album without a bad moment and with a lot of truly good ones. This is a keeper, and one that might linger for a while.
Recommendation: Should be a mandatory listen this week for anyone who likes rap music.

Artist: Maggie Rogers
Album: Heard It In a Past Life
Quick Description: Long-awaited debut album from the singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: "Alaska" was a legitimate hit way back whenever.
Overall Thoughts: So I truly feel as if we have been waiting for this album forever. "Alaska" came out in 2016, and it felt like Rogers could be the next big thing, and then we only got a trickle of music out from her over time. The final result of this album? It's as good as we may have expected. On first listen, the best songs are the ones we already know, but that doesn't take away from this being an album that feels a lot more confident and sure than one may expect. I really look forward to spending more time with this, and not only because I've been waiting two years for it.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Artist: Sharon Van Etten
Album: Remind Me Tomorrow
Quick Description: Latest from the popular indie singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: Sharon Van Etten hit "must listen" status a while ago.
Overall Thoughts: So I've liked Sharon Van Etten from the start, she has a lot of great songs and albums, and so on. This is absolutely her most musically ambitious effort, and feels like a cohesive unit rather than finding any sort of specific songs. For me, the question is out there as to whether the ambition here is as successful as I want it to be. This is a complicated listen that I'm definitely looking to spend more time with, but it definitely didn't uncover all its secrets on a single exposure. Either way, Van Etten is so good that I will want to hear this a few more times anyway, and I can't say that about all the musicians out there.
Recommendation: Might not work for everyone, but I reserve the right to change my mind.

Artist: Deerhunter
Album: Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared
Quick Description: New album from some indie favorites.
Why You Should Listen: Deerhunter remains pretty popular with a lot of audiences.
Overall Thoughts: Highlighting this because Deerhunter has never totally grabbed me, but this one absolutely has. There's a quiet-yet-urgent feel to this album that connected to me on first listen, and I do not want to ignore that.
Recommendation: Could be up your alley.

Of note:

* Toro Y Moi - Outer Peace (I liked it a lot, but definitely feels like a Toro Y Moi record. Not much else to say about it.)
* Juliana Hatfield - Weird (Has its moments (like "Do It With Music") but I wanted this to be better than it was.)
* The Delines - The Imperial (interesting listen on a whole with a lot of potential. Looking forward to spending some more time with this one.)
* Steve Gunn - The Unseen In Between (Superlative folk music.)
* Mike Posner - A Real Good Kid (Not quite my thing, but some interesting efforts here.)
* Ultramarine - Signals Into Space
* Liz Brasher - Painted Image
* Frances Cone - Late Riser

Seven song albums:

* Dodie - Human (Youtuber with a really, really solid effort here. I kind of love this.)


* Mattiel - Customer Copies
* Ea Kaya - Fragile But Strong as Hell

Also out:

* Angelic Milk - Divine Biker Love
* Mom and the Mailman - Mom and the Mailman
* Alice Merton - Mint
* Little People - Landloper
* Crane Like the Bird - Crane Like the Bird
* MC Chris - #MCChrisIsGoodMusic