Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

This latest Best of What’s New installment coincides with the fifth anniversary of the blog, which was yesterday (June 25). If you’re curious, my inaugural post is here. Frankly, when I started this endeavor in June 2016, I really wasn’t sure whether I would stick with it. Lately, my time has been pretty limited to the point where I considered taking a break. But writing about music is way too much fun, so the show must go on! This brings me to my new music picks for this week: Three acts I had not heard of before, as well as a band I’ve known since the late ’70s and that is out with their first new music in a decade.

Lightning Bug/The Return

Lightning Bug are an indie pop band from Brooklyn, New York, which has been around for about 10 years. Unfortunately, there is very little official public information available on this band, so I’m largely relying on reviews by Spectral Nights, Stereogum and Americana Highways. Lightning Bug started out as a trio consisting of multi-instrumentalists Audrey Kang (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocal loops, violin, synthesizer, electronics, bowed cymbal, bowed pedal steel), Kevin Copeland (background vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, pedal steel, sampler, piano, bass guitar, bowed electric guitar, drum programming) and Logan Miley (sampler, modular synthesizer, drum programming, bass synthesizer, piano, electric guitar, electronics). After signing with record label Fat Possum in 2020, they added Vincent Puleo (bass, acoustic guitar) and Dane Hagen (drums, acoustic guitar) to the line-up. The Return, co-written by Kang, Copeland and Miley, is the opener to Lightning Bug’s third and new album A Color of the Sky released yesterday. I find the dreamy and spacy sound and Kang’s soft voice quite soothing.

The Mountain Goats/Mobile

The Mountain Goats are an indie folk rock band founded by singer-songwriter John Darnielle in Claremont, Calif. in 1991. For many years, the group’s sole permanent member was Darnielle who relied on collaborators. The first release under the name The Mountain Goats was a cassette in 1991, titled Taboo VI: The Homecoming. The first full-length album Zopilote Machine appeared in 1994. Starting with their seventh album Tallahassee from November 2002, The Mountain Goats started recording as a full band. The catalog released to date under the name The Mountain Goats includes about 20 albums and more than 25 EPs and singles. In addition to Darnielle (vocals, guitar, keyboards), the band’s current core members include Matt Douglas (flute, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, keyboard, backing vocals), Peter Hughes (bass, backing vocals) and Jon Wurster (drums). Here’s Mobile from their new album Dark in Here, which came out yesterday. Like all other tracks, it was written by Darnielle. Great sound!

Journey/The Way We Used to Be

Undoubtedly, some eyes are going to roll when they see the name Journey. Call it arena rock or pop rock or whatever else you want. Since I first heard Wheel in the Sky on the radio in Germany back in the late ’70s, I always thought Journey had some good songs. Formed as Golden Gate Rhythm Section in San Francisco in 1973 by former members of the Santana band Neal Schon (lead guitar) and Gregg Rollie (keyboards), along with George Tickner (rhythm guitar), Ross Valory (bass) and future drummer of The Tubes, Prairie Prince, the band initially was conceived as a back-up group for Bay Area artists. However, they quickly abandoned the concept, renamed themselves Journey and released their eponymous debut record in April 1975, a progressive rock album. After Steve Perry became Journey’s lead vocalist in October 1977, they adopted a much more pop rock-oriented sound and entered their commercially most successful period. Following Perry’s departure in 1998, the band brought in Steve Augeri as their new lead vocalist. Due to vocal issues his tenure with Journey ended in July 2006. In December 2007, Filipino singer-songwriter Arnel Pineda became the band’s new vocalist after Neal Schon had seen videos of him on YouTube. Journey have also been through multiple other changes in their line-up over the decades. The current formation features Schon (lead guitar, backing vocals), Pineda (lead vocals), Jonathan Cain (keyboards, backing vocals) and Randy Jackson (bass), along with new members Narada Michael Walden (drums) and Jason Derlatka (keyboards, backing vocals). On June 24, Journey released The Way We Used Be, a single and their first new music since their most recent studio album Eclipse from May 2011. Based on this Billboard story, a new album is in the works as well. It’s not exactly Who’s Crying Now, Don’t Stop Believin’ or Open Arms, but it still does sound like Journey.

Mannequin Pussy/To Lose You

Mannequin Pussy are a punk and indie rock band from Philadelphia. They were initially founded in October 2010 as a duo by Marisa Dabice (vocals, guitar) and Athanasios Paul (drums) who had met each other in school. In early 2013, Drew Adler joined on drums and Paul moved to guitar. In October that year, the band’s first album appeared as a limited cassette-only edition. It was subsequently re-released in 2014 by their new label Tiny Engines and later renamed Mannequin Pussy. In 2016, Mannequin Pussy became a four piece with the addition of Colins “Bear” Regisford on bass. Two additional albums have since come out, as well as two EPs. Dabice remains as the only original member of the band’s current line-up, which also features Regisford and Kaleen Reading (drums) who replaced Adler in 2015. To Lose You is a track from the latter from the EP Perfect, released on May 21. Kind of catchy!

Sources: Wikipedia; Spectral Nights; Stereogum; Americana Highway; Billboard; YouTube

24 thoughts on “Best of What’s New”

    1. Thanks, Paul, very kind of you!

      I can’t believe it’s been five years. Lately, due to time constraints, I’ve found it challenging to keep going and I’ve contemplated taking a break. But the truth is my situation is unlikely to change. Plus, I love writing about music!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes as you know I hit the same thing in terms of time and had taken a break (much earlier into it than you :)) but am trying to get back more to it

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hope you get a chance to find more opportunity for blogging. again It can definitely be time-consuming.

        There’s also something else. Once you start writing recurring features, you kind of feel a certain degree of pressure to continue. Obviously, any kind of stress really is the last thing you want! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. And I found during the pandemic that there was enough pervasive stress (at least for me) that I didn’t find time even though you would think one would have more time due to everything being shut down

        Liked by 1 person

      4. We live in a quiet neighborhood in Central NJ, so we were perhaps a bit more insulated. Plus, fortunately, I’ve been able to work from home since February of last year.

        That being said, spending so much time at home has had its challenges. We also lost my dear mother-in-law last October. That was definitely rough, not to mention the challenges of organizing a funeral in the middle of the pandemic!

        At least things seem to be going in the right direction. New Jersey has come back to life, though I haven’t rushed to resume live music entertainment. But I’m so starved and definitely ready!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. So sorry for your loss Christian. That must have been even more challenging during the pandemic. We didn’t lose anyone but we had to move my mother out of her house and into retirement community and sell her house after she had a bad fall.

        I’ve also been able to work from home although some days that’s a mixed blessing

        Yes really looking forward to the return of live music – right now we have some plans for fall

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Thanks, Paul, certainly sounds like you faced some difficult challenges as well. Here’s to hoping things will continue to get better and we’ll finally return to a more normal state!

        Saturday errand duty is calling, but I’ll be back later! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I like the Lightning Bug track… I love drum intros. I heard it yesterday somewhere.
    The Mountain Goats…. love that name and I like their sound.

    I liked Journey until Cain joined and Rollie left. Their whole sound changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, that’s two out of four – I take it! 🙂

      Journey’s sound definitely has changed significantly, especially after the “Infinity” album that had both “Wheel in the Sky” and “Lights,” two of my favorite Journey tunes.

      I like some of their subsequent songs as well, such as “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'”, “Any Way You Want It”, “Who’s Crying Now”, “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Seperate Ways.” But I get this is much more pop and power ballad oriented music and not everybody’s cup of tea.

      Steve Perry was an amazing vocalist with an incredible range. I saw Journey in the early 2000s with his successor Steve Augeri who I have to say did a pretty good job hitting these incredibly high notes on many Journey songs. Sadly, eventually, he killed his voice.

      I saw Journey a second time some five years ago during their joint tour with the classic Santana band. That was with Arnel Pineda. He’s a pretty impressive vocalist as well and perhaps the only guy who can match Steve Perry’s former singing abilities.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ and Any Way You Want It I love… it has that old Journey sound. He did have a unique voice… an unnatural voice and it fit them perfectly… they were more popular after Cain… I can’t argue with that.

        It’s hard not to like bands named Lightning Bug and Mountain Goats!

        Btw I was listening to The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band yesterday… I just can’t get enough of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good tunes. I find the indie tunes in general nice if a bit lightweight. I’m not a big Journey fan but that’s not a bad tune. Of the four, MP rocks out the most. As to blog breaks, it never really occurs to me. I blog with less frequency but that’s not a break so much as a realization that less is more. Funny how the pandemic affected people differently. Thom Hicks in UK announced a break in March of last year and has not returned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking, either I do it “right” (meaning I invest the necessary time to post frequently) or I don’t do it at all. I think posting less frequently is a perfectly reasonable approach. After all, this is supposed to be fun, not some kind of obligation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right. I haven’t posted in over a week but somehow the blogosphere rolls on. “Right” for me means interesting, well-researched posts, frequency aside.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I like all four songs you’ve featured here Christian. Lightning Bug’s “The Return” is really lovely. Though I was a huge Journey fan back in the Steve Perry days, I haven’t listened to much of their music since his departure, however, “The Way We Used to Be” is quite good. And you can’t go wrong with a song from a band named Mannequin Pussy; “To Lose You” is terrific!

    Liked by 1 person

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