A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
It’s Saturday and once again another week flew by. Welcome to my latest new music review. All picks came out yesterday (June 9).
Kicking off this post is American singer-songwriter and actress Jenny Lewis. She first became prominent as a child actress in the ’80s, appearing in a series of movies and TV sitcoms. By the mid-’90s, Lewis started focusing on music and in 1998 co-founded indie rock band Rilo Kiley. In 2004, Conor Oberst invited Lewis to record a collaboration album with Americana band The Watson Twins. Two years later, Lewis released the first album under her name only. From her latest, Joy’All, here Psychos. Like all of the remaining songs, it was solely written by Lewis.
Beau Jennings & The Tigers/People in This Town
People in This Town is a new single by indie rock band Beau Jennings & The Tigers. According to his website, Jennings is a Norman, OK-based singer and songwriter with a world of stories to tell as his recording career nears the two decade mark…From the Americana/indie rock band Cheyenne – which took him to Brooklyn, NY for the late 2000’s – to his ever-evolving solo career and penchant for home recording, Jennings explores the lives of others – both real and imagined – to craft touching, gallant pop songs with hints of Tom Petty, Wilco, Bob Dylan, and The National. The end of Cheyenne and a renewed self-reliance in his solo career led to the creation of The Tigers.People in This Town is a great rocker credited to Jennings and Tigers members Chase Kerby (guitar), Chris Wiser (organ), Michael Trepagnier (bass) and Dustin Ragland (drums).
Ultra Q are an American rock band who were formed in Oakland, Calif in 2019. They started out as a trio led by singer-songwriter Jakob Armstrong (guitar, vocals), who Apple Music notes is the youngest son of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. Enzo Malaspina (guitar) and his brother Chris Malaspina (drums) completed the initial line-up. Kevin Judd (bass) joined shortly thereafter. Saturday, credited to all four members of the group, is from their sophomore album My Guardian Angel. This tune nicely rocks!
Jess Williamson/Chasing Spirits
Jess Williamson is a Los Angeles-based singer-writer who I first covered three years ago. According to her website, she makes deeply felt songs that orbit around her powerful voice, a voice that’s strong and vulnerable, big room flawless, quietly ecstatic, and next-to-you intimate. In her most recent work, Sorceress [now her second-to-most-recent album – CMM], that voice is surrounded by a deep-hued kaleidoscope of dusty ‘70s cinema, ‘90s country music, and breezy West Coast psychedelia. Williamson’s fourth and latest Americana-flavored album Time Ain’t Accidental is now out. She wrote all of the 11 tracks by herself. Here’s the beautiful Chasing Spirits.
The Defiants/Hey Life
The Defiants are a hard rock band formed in 2015 by former members of glam metal band Danger Danger. AllMusiccharacterizes their music as filled with big guitar riffs, soaring solos, epic-scale drum sounds, and a super-sized portion of swagger, [which] recalls the glory days of the hair metal era. Their current line-up features co-founders Paul Laine (vocals), Bruno Ravel (bass, guitar, keyboards) and Rob Marcello (guitar), along with Van Romaine (drums). Hey Life, co-written by Laine and Ravel, is a song off the group’s third studio album Drive. I find this melodic hard rock very accessible.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit/King of Oklahoma
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Jason Isbell initially entered my radar screen in March 2020 when I covered his then-new album Reunions, which he recorded with his backing band The 400 Unit. Isbell first came to prominence in the early 2000s after joining alternative country rock band Drive-By Truckers as a 22-year-old. After his departure in April 2007, Isbell launched a solo career, which has yielded nine studio albums to date. The 400 Unit was first featured on his second solo album and has since appeared five additional times, including on the latest album Weathervanes. Here’s King of Oklahoma, which like the other 12 songs was penned by Isbell. I’ll be sure to spend more time with this album!
Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tunes.
A solid playlist generated by my streaming music service provider
If you’ve followed my blog for a few years, occasionally, you may have seen me make fun of my streaming music provider over their listening suggestions or the way they classified music/put genre labels on artists. Perhaps you also noticed I haven’t done that in a while. In fact, over the past year or two, it’s obvious their algorithms have much improved, and they now really do know my music taste pretty well.
Of course, one could argue an external party’s increased knowledge about your personal taste may be a double-edged sword. However, unlike other preferences, I’m less concerned about this when it comes to music. In fact, I always welcome good listening suggestions. Case in point: The latest “Favorites Mix” my streaming provider served up earlier this week.
While I wouldn’t call it the best playlist I’ve ever seen, I certainly like their picks, so I decided to share them. Before doing that in the form of a Spotify playlist, I’m briefly highlighting six of the tunes.
The playlist kicks off with Spirit in the Night, a song by Bruce Springsteen I first knew because of the rendition by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band who released it as a single in July 1975 and also included it on their sixth studio album Nightingales & Bombers, which appeared in August of the same year. Springsteen recorded the original tune for his January 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
Poor Poor Pitiful Me is a song penned by Warren Zevon. It was included on his self-titled sophomore album, released in May 1976 and produced by Jackson Browne who is also featured in this playlist. Lindsey Buckingham provided backing vocals on this cut. The following year, Linda Ronstadt recorded a gender-altered version of the song for her eighth studio album Simple Dreams (September 1977).
In August 1969, English rock band Humble Pie released their debut studio album As Safe as Yesterday Is. One of the tracks it included is Buttermilk Boy, written by guitarist and vocalist Steve Marriott. Prior to forming Humble Pie with Peter Frampton in early 1969, Marriott had been with The Small Faces, a group he also had co-founded. Frampton left Humble Pie and launched his solo career in 1971, which climaxed in 1976 with Frampton Comes Alive!
Elenore is a tune by The Turtles. Written by their lead vocalist and keyboarder Howard Kaylan, yet credited to all five members of the group, Elenore first appeared as a single in September 1968. It was also included on their fourth studio album The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands, which came out in November of the same year. While Elenore was a parody of happy-go-lucky pop songs like Happy Together, its strong chart performance in the U.S. and various other countries certainly was no joke.
At last, I get to write about English singer-songwriter Graham Parker, who is best known as the lead vocalist of Graham Parker & The Rumour. Parker (lead vocals, guitar) formed the band in the summer of 1975 together with Brinsley Schwarz (lead guitar), Martin Belmont (rhythm guitar), Bob Andrews (keyboards), Andrew Bodnar (bass) and Steve Goulding (drums). Gypsy Blood, written by Parker, is from the group’s debut studio album Howlin’ Wind, which came out in April 1976.
The final track I’d like to call out is Round the Bend by The Tubs, a British group who are entirely new to me. Their Bandcamppage notes they were formed in London in 2018 and “incorporate elements of post-punk, traditional British folk, and guitar jangle seasoned by nonchalant Cleaners From Venus-influenced pop hooks and contemporary antipodean indie bands (Twerps/Goon Sax, et al).” Round the Bend is off their first full-length studio album Dead Meat released in January this year.
Following is a link to the entire playlist:
Sources: Wikipedia; The Tubs Bandcamp page; YouTube; Spotify
It’s Wednesday, which means time to take a closer look at another tune I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date. My pick for today is Hello It’s Me by Todd Rundgren. I was reminded of this song when my friend Mike Caputo recommended the first album of the Nazz to me.
Hello It’s Me is the first song Rundgren ever wrote, in 1967 when he was 19 years old. The best-known version of the tune was included on his third solo album Something/Anything?, which came out in February 1972. It also became the double LP’s third single in December 1972. The studio banter gives the recording a spontaneous live feel. Notably, Rundgren played all instruments and sang all vocals on the first three sides of this sprawling album.
Hello It’s Me is among the tunes on the fourth side of the album, which included other musicians – in this case Mark Klingman (organ), who would become a member of Utopia, another band Rundgren formed in 1973, and prominent saxophonist Michael Brecker, among others. The song became Rundgren’s biggest hit, climbing to no. 5 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. Elsewhere, it reached no. 17 in Canada and no. 68 in Australia.
Fueled by this tune and another single, I Saw the Light, Something/Anything? also ended up as Rundgren’s most successful solo album. In the U.S., it climbed to no. 29 on the Billboard 200 and reached Gold certification (500,000 unit sales). In Canada, the album became his first to enter the charts there, peaking at no. 34.
Rundgren first recorded Hello It’s Me as a slow ballad with Nazz, a short-lived rock band he founded together with bassist Carson Van Osten in Philadelphia in 1967. Thom Mooney (drums) and Robert “Stewkey” Antoni (vocals, keyboards) joined soon thereafter. Hello It’s Me appeared as the B-side of the group’s first single Open My Eyes in July 1968 and was included on their eponymous debut album that followed in October 1968.
The song’s initial version made it to no. 66 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and reached no. 41 in Canada. The album peaked at a meager no. 118 on the Billboard 200. During the recording of the band’s sophomore album Nazz Nazz tensions emerged, which led to the breakup of the band prior to the album’s release in May 1969.
Rundgren subsequently launched a solo career. Since his September 1970 debut he has released 25 additional solo albums to date, mostly recently Space Force in October 2022. His discography with Utopia includes 10 studio, four live and four compilation albums, recorded between 1974 and 1985. Rundgren has also done lots of production work for a broad range of bands and solo artists, such as Badfinger, New York Dolls, Grand Funk Railroad, Hall & Oates, Meatloaf and XTC.
Following are additional tidbits about Hello It’s Me from Songfacts:
Rundgren wrote this song, which takes us through a phone call where the singer breaks up with a girl. It’s a remarkably realistic account, devoid of sweeping metaphors typically found in breakup songs. We hear the one side of the phone call, which starts with the familiar greeting, indicating they’ve been together a while. Then they have “the talk,” where he hashes out why they can’t be together and lets her know that she should have her freedom. All he can ask in the end is that she think of him every now and then.
Remarkably, it was the first song Rundgren ever wrote. In his teens, Todd was an avid listener to music but it was only when he put The Nazz together at the age of 19 that the young musician realized he’d better start penning some material. He attributes the sophistication and success of this song to the vast amount of listening he’d done by the time he wrote it.
A specific musical inspiration was the Dionne Warwick song “Walk On By,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. ” I hadn’t thought much about the songwriter’s role previous to listening to that record and realizing how different it was, how it had all the qualities of music that I admired, and yet it also was a song,” Rundgren said in his 2018 Songfacts interview. “That was the first time I really started to, in my own head, deconstruct what a songwriter was doing. That song had a lot of influence in ‘Hello It’s Me.'”…
…This song, and many others Rundgren wrote at the time, was inspired by a high school relationship that didn’t work out. He graduated in 1966, wrote the song about a year later, and recorded the original Nazz version in 1968, so that relationship was still fresh in his mind. He realized, however, that he didn’t want to keep revisiting this heartbreak, so he made a conscious effort to avoid that theme in his post-Something/Anything? output. “There’s more than just relationships to write about,” he said when speaking at Red Bull Music Academy. “There’s your whole inner life to draw on.”
In real life, Rundgren was the one getting dumped, but he flipped the story so he was breaking up with the girl. Speaking with Marc Myers in 2018, Rundgren explained that the girl was named Linda, and she was his high school girlfriend. He had long hair, and one day when he walked her home, Linda’s dad saw him for the first time and turned the hose on him – no hippie kid was going to date his daughter. A few days later, Linda acceded to her father’s wishes and broke up with him. She did it rather casually, which Todd didn’t appreciate.
Rundgren wrote the lyric thinking about how he would have liked Linda to break up with him: in a sensitive phone call where she tells him it’s important that he’s free.
Many years later, Rundgren was in Tulsa for a concert (this was likely March 31, 2003) when Linda called his hotel asking for tickets to the show. He put her on the guestlist, but never told her she inspired his most famous song. “Our lives had gone in different directions,” he said. “We had nothing to say. I also wanted to hold on to the image I have of her in high school.”
According to Rundgren, the chord progression for “Hello It’s Me” were lifted directly from the intro of jazz organist Jimmy Smith’s rendition of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”
Rundgren expected the album opener “I Saw The Light,” which was the first single from Something/Anything?, to be his big hit, even going as far as to say so in the liner notes rather tongue-in-cheek. However, his re-recording of “Hello It’s Me” eclipsed it on the charts – “I Saw The Light” stalled at #16. Both songs displayed his newfound admiration (and subsequent imitation) of Carole King following her Tapestry album.
“Hello It’s Me” was a very slow-moving hit; the Something/Anything? album was released in February 1972, and it only became a hit when radio stations started playing it over a year later and the song was subsequently released as a single. It didn’t hit the Top 40 until November 1973, and by then, Rundgren’s psychedelic album A Wizard, a True Star had been out for eight months. That album was a completely different sound, and Rundgren was in a completely different mindset. The record company didn’t put any singles out from Wizard for fear of alienating Rundgren’s fans, and Todd had a hard time performing the sudden hit that was now five years old. One of his more bizarre moments came when he performed the song on The Midnight Special wearing what looked like something from David Bowie’s closet. Rundgren’s girlfriend Bebe Buell called it his “Man-Eating Peacock outfit.”…
…The 1968 version of this song by The Nazz was originally relegated to the B-side of another single, “Open My Eyes.” Ron Robin told Songfacts how the single got flipped. Says Ron: “How ‘Hello It’s Me’ by Nazz became a ‘sort of’ hit nationally was quite an accident. I was the music director/DJ at WMEX in Boston when a record promoter came by to tell me about this new group… Nazz. He was promoting ‘Open My Eyes,’ a terrific hard driving rocker. I loved it. At home I accidentally played the flip side of the record and heard ‘Hello It’s Me.’ It blew me away. I just had to add it to our playlist at the station. After a few weeks it made it to our top 5. We were the only station in the country playing it! Several months later other stations across the country started playing it. Several years later Todd records it in his new style without Nazz and of course without Nazz lead singer Stewkey.”…
…In our 2015 interview with Todd Rundgren, he called this “a selfish song.” Said Rundgren, “It’s me, me, me – it’s all about me. I’m in charge, and all this other stuff.”
For this reason, Rundgren didn’t play it when he toured with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, as it didn’t fit in with the other songs in the show. Instead, Rundgren played a song he recorded with his band Utopia that was a hit for England Dan & John Ford Coley: “Love Is The Answer.”
Rundgren recorded a dark, Bossa Nova version of this song on his 1997 compilation album With A Twist. Speaking about the song in Mojo, he explained: “‘Hello It’s Me’ has become the albatross to me: everyone has attached to me the idea of the amateur singer, the amateur piano player, the funk-free boy doing his little song. But I just can’t go there anymore, I can’t even think there anymore.”…
…The 1972 single opens with three distinct notes on the bass, a part Stu Woods came up with in the studio. The album version features a few false starts due to the confusion over which musicians were supposed to play first. “When we were in the studio, a lot of people had a hard time hearing where they were supposed to come in,” Rundgren recalled to Mix magazine in 2019. “The only person who was supposed to come in on four was the bass, and everyone else was supposed to come in on one, but everyone kept coming in on four. So if you listen to the album version, you can hear all these false starts.”
Rundgren didn’t have any concrete ideas for the new arrangement and came up with it on the fly in the studio. “I hadn’t written out the arrangements,” he explained. “I had something stewing in my head and said, ‘Here are the changes to the song,’ then taught them the changes, found the feel I liked. If somebody played something I didn’t like, I’d say, ‘No, don’t play that, change it to something else.’ I wanted it to be less dirge-y than the original and have a little more energy to it. Music had evolved a little, so I wanted something that sounded a bit more contemporary, as opposed to the original stripped-down band.”
Companion album to 2021 concert film features stripped back renditions of Dylan’s early songs
Bob Dylan has been on a roll over the past few years. Since his excellent June 2020 studio album Rough and Rowdy Ways, he has released additional installments from his bootleg series, one of which I reviewed here, and a concert film, Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs of Bob Dylan, timed to his 80th birthday. The maestro has also been busy being on the road as part of his Rough and Rowdy Ways World Wide Tour, which is currently in Spain. Now he’s out with Shadow Kingdom, a companion album to the above film, and it’s a true beauty!
Folks who visit this blog frequently or are aware of my music taste otherwise know my relationship with Mr. Zimmerman has been complicated. After I had seen him for the first and to date only time in Germany in the late ’80s and felt pretty bummed, Dylan essentially fell off my radar screen. Many years later, I heard something from one of his American Songbook releases and wasn’t exactly excited either. Then Rough and Rowdy Ways happened, and everything changed. And, yes, my music taste has also evolved since that doomed 1989 concert in Dortmund.
Back to Shadow Kingdom, Dylan’s 40th studio album and second soundtrack, which dropped last Friday (June 2). For an artist who as Apple Music correctly noted “has always seemed to take unusual pleasure in turning whatever it is the public thinks he is inside-out”, at first sight, the track list includes a surprising number of well-known songs – unlike the above concert, which opened with Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door only to proceed with obscure songs thereafter. But it wouldn’t be Zimmy without a few surprises.
The first thing you notice when listening to Shadow Kingdom is the “missing” drums. All of the recordings, which prominently feature accordion and upright bass, have a stripped-back feel to them. Most of the remaining instruments are acoustic guitars and Dylan’s harmonica. This gives the album a rootsy vibe, which I liked from the get-go and did so even more with each additional round of listening, and I’m up to five now.
Another peculiar thing is there are no official credits for Dylan’s backing musicians, which is a bit strange, in my opinion. However, this Glide Magazinereview reveals some of the mystery musicians, including T-Bone Burnett (acoustic and electric guitar), Greg Leisz (multi-instrumentalist) and Don Was (upright bass). Perhaps another surprise is that Dylan’s vocals while weathered still sound pretty vibrant. Sometimes there’s even a bit of vibrato. But don’t worry, he didn’t go opera!
Okay, I would say that’s enough for the upfront. Let’s take a look at some music. The album opens with When I Paint My Masterpiece, which Dylan wrote in 1971 and which was first recorded by The Band for their fourth studio album Cahoots released in September 1971. Dylan’s original first appeared in November 1971 on the compilation Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II. It does sound slightly different on Shadow Kingdom, but you didn’t expect anything different, did cha?
Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine has been among the Dylan songs I always liked unlike some others – okay, I’ll stop the sniping! Originally, Zimmy wrote that song for his seventh studio album Blonde on Blonde, which came out in June 1966, falling smack in his ’60s period I tend to like the most.
I was quite delighted to see Shadow Kingdom features three tracks that originally appeared on my favorite Dylan album Highway 61 Revisited released in August 1965. Here’s one of them: Tombstone Blues.
Shadow Kingdom also features some “more recent” Dylan tunes. Case in point: What Was It You Wanted, off Oh Mercy, his 26th album that came out in September 1989.
Dylan’s lullaby for his eldest son Jesse Forever Young first appeared in January 1974 on his 14th studio album Planet Waves. There was a slow-pace and a fast-pace version. Dylan’s rendition on Shadow Kingdom is definitely closer to the slow version.
I’ll leave you with one more track: It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, one of the first Dylan songs I ever heard. This tune first appeared on his fifth album Bringing It All Back Home released in April 1965, the first to abandon the protest music on Zimmy’s earlier records.
The songs on Shadow Kingdom were recorded on a sound stage in early 2021 at Village Recorder in West Los Angeles to accompany the film, which was directed by Israeli-American filmmaker Alma Har’el. The black and white film was shot over seven days while Dylan was sidelined from touring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It premiered in July 2021 via the livestream platform Veeps.com and should be available for download and rental as of today (Tuesday, June 6). Shadow Kingdom was produced by, well, nobody – right, remember no credits!
As noted at the outset, I enjoy what Dylan has done here and suspect most of his fans will agree. That said, I doubt Shadow Kingdom will give the Nobel Prize-winning singer-songwriter many if any new listeners. But this extraordinary artist has written so many great songs over his 60-year-plus-and-counting-career, he doesn’t need to prove himself any longer, plus he has always danced to his own rhythm. Last but not least, when you sell your songwriting catalog for an amount estimated at north of $200 million, you really don’t need to worry about music sales any longer! Here’s a Spotify link to the album:
Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Glide Magazine; Discogs; YouTube; Spotify
With last Friday having been very busy on the new music front, I was bound to have missed some of it. In fact, I know that even with this latest installment of Catching Up, I still will not have captured all new music I dig, but there’s only so much bandwidth I have!
Jody and the Jerms – Intuition
Intuition, released on June 2, is the latest single by British jangle pop sextet Jody and the Germs. The infectious upbeat guitar-driven tune, which is reminiscent of The Bangles, The Go-Go’s and Katrina and the Waves, is from the band’s third full-length studio album Wonder, which came out on April 21.
“Intuition is about how it feels being two-timed and cheated on,” explained frontwoman Jody Jeger in a statement. “But also how a broken heart can soon heal, and then you look back and wonder how did I let that happen and ask ‘had I listened to my intuition, the signs were there.”
Jody and the Jerms, who were formed in Oxford in 2019, released their first full-length studio album in September 2020. Their Bandcamppage describes the group’s music as a “blend of melodic and uplifting indie/alt pop” that “harks back to those untouchable days indie music enjoyed in the 90s, possessing seemingly effortlessness melodies and choruses which embed themselves in your head for days.”
Where the Song Will Find Me, released May 26, is the third single off Lucinda Williams’ forthcoming studio album Stories from a Rock N Roll Heart, scheduled for June 30. I covered the first two tracks that appeared upfront here and here, and I’m a bit puzzled I missed the latest.
Where the Song Will Find Me, a six-and-a-half-minute ballad, sound like a reflection on Williams’ desire to continue writing songs in the wake of a debilitating stroke she suffered in November 2020. While she appears to have largely recovered, she still has not been able to resume playing guitar. Following are the lyrics of the tune’s chorus:
I know they will find me Like they somehow do I know they will find me When it’s time to I know they will remind me When they are ready to be found They’ll come up behind me Not making a sound Not making a sound
Where the Song Will Find Me is credited to Williams, veteran guitarist Travis Stephens and her husband, manager, and co-producer Tom Overby. The roots-oriented singer-songwriter’s 15th studio album is shaping up greatly, and I can’t wait to listen to the remaining seven tracks! Here’s a Spotify link to what’s already out!
Sources: Wikipedia; Jody and the Germs press release and Bandcamp page; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Happy Sunday! Once again another weekend seems to be flying by but, of course, we cannot let this happen without visiting six tracks from six different decades with the magical music time machine. Hope you’ll join me for the ride!
Elliot Lawrence and his Orchestra/Alto Lament
For the start of today’s journey, let’s set our time machine to 1958. That’s when American jazz pianist and bandleader Elliot Lawrence recorded Alto Lament, a smooth track by Anthony Louis Scarmolin, an Italian-American composer, pianist and conductor. Based on what I could find, it appears the track was first included on an EP titled Definitely Lawrence! and released in 1959. Lawrence’s long career started in the 1940s. After recording and touring with his own band, he gave up jazz in the early 1960s and began composing and arranging for television, film and stage. Among others, he wrote the score for the great 1971 neo-noir action thriller The French Connection starring Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider and Fernando Rey.
Oasis/All Around the World
After this relaxed start of our trip, let’s kick it up a notch with a song that couldn’t be more appropriate when traveling across different countries: All Around the World, a catchy tune by UK pop rockers Oasis. By the time they released their third album Be Here Now in August 1997, they already had established themselves as one of Britain’s most popular ’90s bands, only three years after emerging from obscurity with their debut Definitely Maybe. Like all other songs on Be Here Now, All Around the World was penned by the band’s lead guitarist and principal songwriter Noel Gallagher.
Tedeschi Trucks Band/Somehow
For this next pick, we shall travel back to the present. When listening to Somehow by Tedeschi Trucks Band, somehow, I keep thinking of Bonnie Raitt, one of my all-time favorite artists. Both Susan Tedeschi’s vocals and the music would make this track a perfect fit for Raitt. Written by the group’s member Gabe Dixon (keyboards, guitar, vocals) and songwriter Tia Sellers, Somehow is from their most recent studio album I’m the Moon, which came out in September 2022. Rightfully, Tedeschi Trucks Band called their fifth album the “most ambitious studio project” of their career to date. It was released in several installments, which I covered here and here at the time – terrific album!
The Kinks/Waterloo Sunset
Time to pay a visit to the ’60s. Let’s hop across the pond to London. The year is 1967 and it’s the month of September. That’s when British rock band The Kinks came out with their fifth UK studio album, Something Else by the Kinks. And indeed, that release was something else! In no small part, that’s because of the incredible lead single Waterloo Sunset, which appeared in May of the same year. Written by Ray Davies, the tale about a solitary narrator reflecting on two lovers, the river Thames and Waterloo Station is an absolute gem in the band’s catalog, at least in my book!
Roxy Music/Jealous Guy
When I first heard Jealous Guy by Roxy Music on the radio in Germany in 1981, I immediately loved it. In my youthful innocence, initially, I thought the song was the English art rock band’s own tune, not realizing they had recorded it as a beautiful tribute single to John Lennon in the wake of his senseless murder in December 1980. At the time, I already owned Lennon’s great 1975 compilation Shaved Fish, but it didn’t include Jealous Guy – definitely a miss! Originally, Lennon had recorded the ballad for his September 1971 sophomore solo album Imagine. Eventually, I borrowed a copy of that album and taped it on music cassette. Nowadays, I dig both versions equally.
James Gang/Walk Away
When you hang out with good friends, time flies – I can’t believe we’re reaching the final stop of another music time travel trip! Let’s end it with a kickass rocker by American rock band James Gang: Walk Away. Written by the great Joe Walsh, who had joined the group in early 1968, Walk Away was the opener of James Gang’s third studio album Thirds, released in April 1971. It would be Walsh’s final studio project with the band. After his departure in December 1971, he formed Barnstorm. Eventually, he was invited to join the Eagles in 1975 and continues to perform with them to this day.
As usual, the final thing I leave you with is a Spotify playlist featuring all of the above tracks. Hope there’s something you dig and you’ll be back for more!
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Happy Saturday, and welcome to what to me feels like one of the busiest weeks in new music so far this year. All featured tunes in this post appear on albums or EPs released yesterday (June 2).
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats/Buy My Round
Kicking off this week’s picks is Denver, Colo.-based Americana-influenced singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff who is best known as the frontman of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, a band he formed in 2013. To date, they have released three full-length studio albums and two EPs including the latest, What If I. Rateliff has also issued three solo albums. Off the new EP, here’s Buy My Round, co-written by Rateliff and Mark Shusterman, a keyboarder and vocalist who is a touring musician with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats.
Lanterns On The Lake/Real Life
English indie rock band Lanterns On The Lake have been around since 2007. Their AllMusicbio notes the group’s music draws on Neil Young folk influences and post-rock instrumental sounds of Godspeed You!Black Emperor and Low. Apart from their debut Gracious Tide, Take Me Home (September 2011), they have come out with four additional studio albums, including their latest, Versions of Us. Their current line-up features original members Hazel Wilde (vocals, guitar, piano, lyricist) and Paul Gregory (guitar) who also is the band’s producer, along with Bob Allan (bass) and Angela Chan (violin, cello, viola). Here’s Real Life credited to Wilde (lyrics) and Lanterns On The Lake (music).
Craig Stickland/Firing Line
Craig Stickland is a Canadian pop singer-songwriter who grew up in Toronto. His full-length debut studio album Starlight Afternoon, which came out in February 2020, impressively was nominated for the 2021 Juno Award for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year. From his new release, an EP titled Lost in the Rewind, here’s Firing Line. Stickland wrote this tune 15 years ago.
The Aces/I’ve Loved You For So Long
The Aces are an alternative pop band from Provo, Utah. Their origins date back to when sisters Cristal Ramirez (lead vocals, guitar) and Alisa Ramirez (drums, vocals) were eight years old. After adding McKenna Petty (bass, vocals) and Katie Henderson (guitar, vocals) in 2008, they formed The Blue Aces and released two EPs before becoming The Aces. Their first full-length album When My Heart Felt Volcanic (April 2018) followed after they had signed with Red Bull Records. Here’s the title cut from their third and latest studio album I’ve Loved You For So Long. The tune is credited to all four members of the band, as well as songwriter and producer Keith Varon.
Cowboy Junkies/Shadows 2
Canadian alternative rock and Americana quartet Cowboy Junkies were formed in Toronto in 1985. They are best known for their 1988 sophomore release The Trinity Session, which remains their best-selling album in Canada and the U.S. and their highest charting in the U.S. Except for co-founding member John Timmins who left the group before they recorded their 1986 debut album Whites Off Earth Now!!, Cowboy Junkies remain in their original formation to this day: Alan Anton (bassist), as well as siblings Michael Timmins (guitar), Peter Timmins (drums) and Margo Timmins (vocals). From their latest album Such Ferocious Beauty, here’s Shadows 2, penned by Michael Timmins.
Foo Fighters/The Teacher
Wrapping up this weekly music revue are Foo Fighters who are now out with their previously announced album, But Here We Are, their first since the untimely death of drummer Taylor Hawkins in Bogotá, Columbia in March 2022 at the age of 50 during the band’s tour in South America. A brutally honest and emotionally raw response to everything Foo Fighters endured over the last year, But Here We Are is a testament to the healing powers of music, friendship and family, the band said at the time, adding the 10 tracks run the emotional gamut from rage and sorrow to serenity and acceptance, and myriad points in between. Here’s The Teacher, a dark-sounding 10-minute track credited to the entire band.
Following is a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tunes.
Happy Wednesday and welcome to another installment of Song Musings, my weekly feature about tunes I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date. The Tragically Hip are a very recent discovery for me, which I guess is tragic, given they were Canada’s best-selling band between 1996 and 2016 – well, better late than never, and I have to thank my fellow bloggers for finally bringing them on my radar screen. My song pick is Wheat Kings.
Credited to all five members of the group – Gord Downie (lead vocals), Paul Langlois (guitar, backing vocals), Bobby Baker (guitar), Gord Sinclair (bass, backing vocals) and Johnny Fay (drums, percussion) – Wheat Kings appeared on the Hip’s third studio album Fully Completely, released in October 1992. While that album spawned six singles, Wheat Kings wasn’t among them, if I see this correctly.
Wheat Kings is about David Milgaard, who was wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of Gail Miller, a nursing student, in 1969 in Saskatoon and spent 23 years in prison. Milgaard was 16 years at the time of his arrest. He had been on a trip across Canada with two friends and was staying at a third friend’s house, close to where Miller’s body was found. Pressured by significant publicity around the murder, evidently, the local police coerced Milgaard’s friends into making false statements.
Milgaard was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in January 1970, one year after Miller had been killed. Milgaard unsuccessfully appealed his conviction in 1971 and later attempted suicide due to harsh prison conditions, which among others included rape. Finally, after Milgaard’s family had tried to clear his name for many years, he was released from prison in April 1992. In July 1997, he was fully exonerated after a DNA test of semen samples on the victim’s clothing confirmed it had not originated from Milgaard – an incredible story!
It wasn’t a coincidence The Tragically Hip wrote Wheat Kings. Songfactsnotes that Milgaard’s aunt reached out to the band, hoping they would support the cause to free a wrongfully convicted and incarcerated man. And they did. After learning from her about the case, the Hip helped the family gather signatures for a petition to reopen the case and raise funds for Milgaard’s legal defense. Milgaard’s release prompted them to write the song.
Following are some additional insights from Songfacts:
In the book Top 100 Canadian Singles, Gord Downie explained the inspiration for this song. “[It’s] about David Milgaard and his faith in himself,” he said. “And about his mother, Joyce, and her absolute faith in her son’s innocence. And about our big country and its faith in man’s fallibility. And about Gail Miller, all those mornings ago, just lying there, all her faith bleeding out into that Saskatoon snowbank.”
The title is a reference to the farmers in Saskatchewan, where the crime took place. They were known as “wheat kings” after developing a popular strain of wheat that fueled the area economy.
The Tragically Hip are distinctly Canadian, and this song opens with the sounds of loons, a bird that appears on the one-dollar coin in the country. According to guitarist Rob Baker, the man who recorded the sounds threatened legal action, so the band agreed to make a donation to the conservation group Ducks Unlimited in his name.
Including Miles and Miles by The Heavy Heavy in my most recent Sunday Sixfeature made me listen to Life and Life Only, the June 2022 EP, on which the tune by the UK band initially appeared. After starting to check it out, I quickly realized their retro-inspired rock sound is right up my alley.
Led by Will Turner and Georgie Fuller, the five-piece group from the seaside resort town of Brighton in Southern England create what their Bandcamppage describes as “unfettered rock-and-roll that warps time and space, sitting at the reverb-drenched collision of psychedelia and blues, acid rock and sunshine pop.” Their website name-checks Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, British Invasion pop acts like The Hollies and folk-blues duo Delaney & Bonnie. I would add The Mamas and the Papas and Jefferson Airplane.
I noticed there’s another recent release by The Heavy Heavy, which is also titled Life and Life Only. This album, which came out in March, combines the songs of the EP with four additional tracks, including covers of tunes by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Father John Misty and Jonathan Wilson, as well as a live and an acoustic version of two original songs.
Apparently, The Heavy Heavy are pretty prolific. Their website refers to “hundreds of songs” they have written and recorded in just the past two years. They have also toured “relentlessly” in the United States and Europe and appeared on U.S. national television, including CBS Saturday Morning, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. That certainly ain’t no joke!
Let’s get to some music from the album version of Life and Life Only. Here’s the cool opener All My Dreams. The gorgeous multipart harmony vocals and the retro organ sound are a total turn-on. Immediately, it feels like traveling back to the late ’60s!
Go Down River is the first track Fuller and Turner recorded as The Heavy Heavy. “I’d had this song a while and couldn’t quite finish it, but then once Georgie added her vocals it all came together,” Turner recalls on their website. “The male-female harmonies gave it this whole new sound; it just felt like lying in the green grass on a hot sunny day.” Another outstanding tune!
Man of the Hills is “a groove-heavy homage to Turner’s otherworldly hometown” of Malvern, notes the group’s website. While I’m not familiar with the spa town in the English countryside of Worcestershire, I know this: This song certainly rocks!
Since I just covered Miles and Miles I’m skipping it here and go the catchy Why Don’t You Call, which features more seductive harmony singing.
Frankly, I could highlight any of the album’s remaining tunes. I’d like to leave you with one more track, which is one of the aforementioned covers: Real Love Baby, written by Joshua Tillman, aka Father John Misty, who recorded and released it first as a non-album single in 2016.
Life and Life Only is beautiful with a seductive late ’60s flower power vibe. It’s perfectly timed for summer. Here’s a Spotify link to the album.
Sources: Wikipedia; The Heavy Heavy website; The Heavy Heavy Bandcamp page; YouTube; Spotify
Lately, I’ve been finding lots of great new music. But despite spending more time than ever on this task I still miss many releases. That’s why several weeks ago, I decided to launch a feature to capture some of what I overlooked as short takes. Initially titled The Follow-up, going forward it will be known as Catching Up, a more appropriate title, in my view. Today, I’d like to highlight two albums that dropped on May 19.
Luke Enyeart – Phases
Luke Enyeart (pronounced N-Yurt) is a guitarist, singer-songwriter and producer who is based in Minneapolis, Minn. I first came across his name in April 2020 as one of the co-writers of Waiting On…, a song by R&B artist Jessy Wilson from her May 2019 album Phase, which I reviewed here. In addition to writing for other artists and touring as a lead guitarist with the likes of Ryan Bingham, Katie Pruitt and Yola, Enyeart has been penning his own tunes and in 2018 released his debut EP Happier Now. Now he’s out with his first album, Phases.
Enyeart’s Spotifyprofile characterizes his original music as “drawing from his influences of ’70s yacht rock, funk, folk, R&B, blues, and contemporary low-fi indie. ” While that’s quite a stew of different genres, the profile adds, “there is a common denominator of soulful groove and catchy guitar riffs with straightforward-earnest lyrics.”
Except for the funky opener Still Tryin’, which Enyeart co-wrote with Jacob Peter and Kosta Galanopoulos, the remaining eight tracks are solely credited to him. One of the tunes that particularly spoke to me is Turn It Around. In addition to vocals by Enyeart, who also plays most of the instruments, the mellow song features nice alto saxophone action by Steve Frieder.
Other tracks I’d like to call out include Changes and Pillow Talk and the groovy Need, which each feature neat slide guitar, as well as the acoustic-oriented jazzy Green. Overall, this album has a pleasant laid-back feel – the kind of music I can picture hearing while laying in a hammock in the shade on a hot summer day. Phases was produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Enyeart in his own home studio. This young artist is a true multi-talent!
The Milk Carton Kids – I Only See the Moon
The Milk Carton Kids are an indie folk duo from Eagle Rock, Calif., featuring singers and guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, who have been around for 12 years. Their compelling harmony singing reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers. Pattengale and Ryan are also mighty fine acoustic guitarists.
Before getting to their sixth and latest studio album I Only See the Moon, here’s a bit more background from their AllMusicbio: A Grammy Award-nominated neo-traditional folk duo from Los Angeles, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan formed the Milk Carton Kids in early 2011, shelving their solo careers in favor of a collaborative project that focused on harmonized vocals, entwined acoustic guitars, and rootsy songwriting. They released their first two albums — the live Retrospect and studio LP Prologue — later in 2011, at which time they also began a pattern of persistent touring.
Known on the road for their adversarial, Smothers Brothers-evoking comedic banter as well as their virtuosic guitar skills (Pattengale’s intricate picking and Ryan’s airtight rhythm guitar), they added a backing band to the project for the first time in 2018 with their fourth studio album, All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do. The duo pared things down for subsequent releases including 2023’s I Only See the Moon.
Off I Only See the Moon, here’s Body & Soul. Like all except one of the other nine tracks, the song was solely written by Pattengale and Ryan. It’s the most invigorated tune on the album, which otherwise has a more melancholic feel. As such, one could argue the song doesn’t represent the album; however, it’s the song I latched on the most!