Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to another Best of What’s New where I typically highlight four new songs. Since I only started paying closer attention to contemporary music on a regular basis when launching this weekly recurring feature close to two years ago, most of the artists included in these posts are new to me. In this installment, that’s the case for my first three picks. The last is one of my longtime favorite artists.

Johnny Marr/Lightning People

I’d like to start with new music by English guitarist and singer-songwriter Johnny Marr, who first gained prominence in the ’80s as a co-founder of English indie rock band The Smiths. Following the group’s break-up, Marr played in various other bands, including Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Modest Mouse and The Cribs. In February 2013, Marr released his solo debut album The Messenger, which climbed to no. 10 in the UK on the Official Albums Chart. Two additional albums have since come out and another one, Fever Dreams Pts. 1-4, is scheduled for February 25, 2022. Marr has started to release songs from the forthcoming record as EPs. Here’s Lightning People, a track from Fever Dreams Pt. 2 that came out yesterday (December 17). Like the other three songs on the EP, it was co-written by him and James Doviak, co-producer and guitarist in Marr’s band. Sounds pretty good to me!

Arlie/Crashing Down

Arlie are an indie rock band from Nashville. Essentially, that’s all I know, based on this short review in Melodic Magazine. Apple Music lists an EP, Wait, from September 2018, and six singles including the latest titled Crashing Down that appeared on December 14. The tune was co-written by Hayes Helsper and Nathaniel Banks. “”Crashing down” is about this feeling of “everything I’ve built my sense of security upon might suddenly crumble” and how that can really make you re-evaluate your priorities,” Banks who is the band’s lead vocalist told Melodic Magazine. “It’s about how a dream scared me enough to snap me out of taking a lot of things for granted, and enough to make me realize how much I care about being in the physical presence of the people I love most.” When listening to the tune’s upbeat music without paying attention to the lyrics, you’d never guess the song’s topic.

Jack Kays & Travis Barker/Sideways

In connection with his debut album Mixed Emotions from January this year, Apple Music describes Jack Kays as a multi-talented artist who creates a blend of emo rap, pop-punk, and folk music that boldly grapples with questions of insecurity and addiction. This description also is a good fit for Sideways, a track from My Favorite Nightmares, a collaborative EP released December 10. Kays recorded it with Travis Barker, drummer of American pop rock band Blink-182. According to this press release, the 4-track project continues Jack’s exploration of themes surrounding mental health. The release also quotes Kays: “I feel like society loves to romanticize the successful recovery from mental illness but doesn’t like to address people during the process as they’re trying to combat and overcome it. When people listen to this project, I want those who are experiencing that to feel heard and feel accepted.” Here’s the official video.

John Mellencamp/Chasing Rainbows

Rounding out this post is John Mellencamp whose music I’ve enjoyed for more than 30 years. I trust the heartland straight-turned-roots rocker doesn’t need an introduction. Arguably, Seymour, Ind.’s most famous son who turned 70 on October 7, Mellencamp has been active for 45 years. Chasing Rainbows, released December 10, is the second upfront track from his upcoming 24th studio album Strictly A One-Eyed Jack, scheduled for January 21, 2022. Co-written by Mellencamp and John Young, the tune follows Wasted Days, which appeared on September 29 and features Bruce Springsteen. Previously, I wrote about it here. Chasing Rainbows is another reason I look forward to the new album.

Sources: Wikipedia; Melodic Magazine; Apple Music; Columbia Records press release; YouTube

17 thoughts on “Best of What’s New”

  1. Johnny Marr is who I liked best of the Smiths. He has great taste in his guitar playing. I love what I’m hearing! This is really good. I like his voice.
    Arlie…some good powerpop there! I like it.

    Of course, I like Mellencamps song…no doubt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shockingly, I agree with you Max! 🙂 Marr and Mellencamp are my favorites.

      That Marr tune has a really cool sound. The Smiths are yet another group I only by name. Without meaning to sound like a broken record, I’d like to further check them out!

      As for the Mellencamp song, it pretty much reflect what has become classic roots rock Mellencamp. In that sense, he doesn’t break any new ground, but since I like that sound, I’m fine with it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually like Marr’s singing more than Morrissey. When you listen to those old Smiths songs…listen for his jangle guitar.

        Yea Mellencamp is a given.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Four great tracks Christian. I especially love Johnny Marr’s ‘Lightning People’, and the one by Arlie is pretty good too. And that Travis Barker seems to be the go-to drummer today, playing on so many other artists’ songs.

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    1. Definitely looking forward to Mellencamp’s album.

      I also like the Marr tune but haven’t had a chance to listen to more of his music. It appears he’s releasing all songs of his upcoming album on EPs. This is already the second of four EPs, so there’s like 8 tracks already out there.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. All good tunes here. I never really got into the Smiths or even Marr as a guitarist that much. Those British strains of rock in the ’80s were so far removed from anything I knew that I just couldn’t get into a lot of those bands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Frankly, I’ve yet to explore Marr and The Smiths. I’ve heard and like a few of their songs.

      Interestingly, even though I would say I was fairly well tuned into ’80s music at the time, I don’t recall The Smiths got lots of play on my FM radio station back in Germany, and their music was pretty charts/mainstream-oriented. I guess The Smiths were much more successful in the UK than in Germany.

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      1. Same here with Smiths. “How Soon is Now” is one of their big songs. I remember Marr said he wanted an intro as distinct as ‘Layla’ That surprised me greatly as I assumed all these guys rejected everything that came before.

        We used to have an ‘alternative rock’ station here in Boston and I assume there were others. ‘Alternative’ seemed to mean, by and large, non blues-based rock. Some of it I liked (REM, U2, Clash), some I couldn’t get into.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “How Soon Is Now” definitely sounds familiar – good tune!

        The lead vocalist reminds of The Housemartins, another UK band. They had two big hits I recall: A cover of “Caravan of Love” and “Me and the Farmer”.

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