Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

This latest selection of newly released music marks a bit of a milestone: It’s the 50th installment of Best of What’s New. With one exception, the recurring feature has appeared each week since I started it on March 21, 2020. While I doubt any new releases can truly reach my favorite artists and songs from the ’60s and ’70s, it’s still encouraging to me that I keep finding new music I like. My picks for this week include contemporary jazz, indie folk rock, rock and a form of post-rock called math rock, a genre I had never heard of before! All tunes came out yesterday (March 5).

Gretchen Parlato/É Preciso Perdoar

Gretchen Parlato is a contemporary jazz vocalist. Her profile on Apple Music describes her as a forward-thinking jazz singer with an emotive, languid style and a bent toward mixing various musical influences into a modern creative jazz aesthetic. A California native, Parlato grew up listening to a variety of musical genres before focusing on jazz. In 2001, Parlato became the first vocalist ever admitted into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. Three years later, she won first place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition. Subsequently, she has appeared on a bevy of other artists’ albums, including recordings by bassist Esperanza Spalding, pianist Kenny Barron, and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, among others. Since her independent eponymous 2005 debut, Parlato has released five additional albums including the latest, Flor (Portuguese for flower). According to her website, Flor is a gorgeous synthesis of original material, American popular music, European classical music, and Brazilian standards. It exemplifies the many ways in which motherhood has reconnected Parlato to her own inner child, revisiting the enchantment of falling in love with music for the first time, particularly the various Brazilian genres she became enamored with as a young teenager. Here’s the opener É Preciso Perdoar, credited to Brazilian composers Alcyvando Luz and Carlos Coqueijo, and Parlato. Check out her beautiful vocals and the laid back groove of this tune. I love this!

Fruit Bats/The Balcony

Fruit Bats are an indie folk rock band around singer-songwriter Eric D. Johnson. The group was initially founded in 1997 in Chicago as a side project for Johnson who also led space rock group I Rowboat and played guitar in several other bands. Fruit Bats evolved into a band in 2001 when I Rowboat members Dan Strack (guitar) and Brian Belval (drums) joined Johnson’s project. They released their debut album Echolocation in September that year. Since then, the group has had many lineup changes, with Johnson as the only constant member. The Balcony, written by Johnson, is from Fruit Bats’ new album The Pet Parade, their eighth. While according to the band’s website, many of the songs were written prior to the pandemic, Johnson and the other musicians had to self-record their parts separated from each other at their homes. Yet everything came together quite nicely. Here’s the official video for The Balcony. The footage may be a bit creepy, but the music is quite catchy.

Kings of Leon/The Bandit

While the name Kings of Leon immediately rang a bell, I believe this is the first time I’ve actually listened to any of their music. Formed in Nashville, Tenn. in 1999, this rock band has been a family affair for the past 20-plus years. The lineup includes brothers Caleb Followill (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jared Followill (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) and Nathan Followill (drums, percussion, backing vocals), and their cousin Matthew Followill (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals). Initially, Kings of Leon enjoyed significant chart success in the UK before starting to gain similar traction in the U.S. with their fourth album Only by the Night. It peaked at no. 4 on the Billboard 200 and is their best-selling album to date. The Bandit, a tune from Kings of Leon’s new studio release When You See Yourself, is credited to all members of the band. “I really dug deep into my love of Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson and stuff like that,” Caleb told Apple Music. “I was like, ‘I’m going to write a song about a bandit, and then a bounty hunter who’s paid to find this man.’ In the meantime, they become such a part of each other’s life that they’re the two people that matter the most to them. The chase is more thrilling than the catch.” I have to say based on this great song, I’d like to further explore the band.

toe/The Latest Number

Let’s wrap things up with Japanese rock band toe, which were formed in Tokyo in 2000. According to their Apple Music profile, Toe are a primarily instrumental rock quartet…consisting of guitarists Mino Takaaki and Yamazaki Hirokazu, drummer Kashikura Takashi, and bassist Yamane Satoshi. Often categorized as post-rock or math rock, their free-flowing, highly melodic songs feature splashy yet tightly controlled drumming and dynamic guitar interplay, as well as occasional electronic elements and additional instruments such as vibraphone and Rhodes piano…Restless live performers, Toe have toured at home and abroad with bands such as the Album Leaf, Mogwai, and Envy, in addition to notable appearances at festivals such as Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival. Having established their jazz-influenced instrumental sound with several EPs and full-lengths such as 2005’s The Book About My Idle Plot on a Vague Anxiety, Toe incorporated more vocals on later releases such as 2015’s Hear You. The Latest Number appears on the band’s new live album ‘DOKU-EN-KAI’ that captures a 2019 gig at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. The tune was first included on a 2018 EP titled Our Latest Number. As such, technically, it’s not exactly their latest number. But it’s on a newly released album, and that’s good enough for me. Plus, how often do I get to write about Japanese rock bands? And they’re not just some band from Tokyo; these guys are remarkable musicians!

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Gretchen Parlato website; Fruit Bats website; YouTube

9 thoughts on “Best of What’s New”

  1. The Fruit Bats…now that is a name. It’s catchy and very likeable…very out there video to say the least.

    Kings of Leon…they have been really successful. I’ve liked some of the things I’ve heard from them through the years. This is not bad at all.

    Toe…I instantly liked what I heard when it kicked in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As oftentimes is the case with “Best of What’s New,” all of these artists are new to me. Even Kings of Leon, though I recognized their name right away.

      While I feel like further exploring each of the artists, I’m most intrigued by toe. Admittedly, that’s in part because they’re a Japanese outfit – something I feel you don’t encounter often!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No you don’t hear that everyday. Graham has posted about a Japanese ban called Tricot I believe.

        Living where I do I hear the Kings of Leon a lot here.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. When I realized toe are a Japanese band, I was intrigued and really didn’t know what to expect. The minute I started listening, I was impressed with their instrumental skills. While I’m not a drumming expert, what this guy is playing sounds pretty complex and yet it neatly flows! I also like their guitar action.

      As for Kings of Leon, I guess it’s really weird. I recognized their name right away, yet I cannot seem to remember whether I had heard even one tune before. I’m afraid this includes “Sex on Fire”!

      Sometimes I really do feel I live under a rock!😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Looking forward to hearing the new Kings of Leon…congratulations- almost a year with this feature and keeping up with what is new in music!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I will join in the “How could you never have heard Kings before?” chorus. Hell, they were on the cover of Rolling Stone. They were pretty damn big before they disappeared somewhere. I know they had at least one on-stage implosion. Believe it or not I actually once watched a documentary about them. They are from deep (by their own admission) hillbilly church country. I dig them. They came to my attention recently for this reason which I half-understand:

    “The Kings of Leon will unfurl their new album on Friday with a unique release strategy. Yes, “When You See Yourself”, the Nashville rock band’s album, will land on streaming sites and in stores. But it will also be the first major release to arrive as a non-fungible token (NFT), a type of cryptocurrency. NFTs operate on a blockchain, but unlike Bitcoin, they do not hold money. This release will hold three types of crypto tokens, including original art, fan perks, and exclusive music.”

    Liked by 1 person

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