Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. All featured songs are on albums that came out yesterday (October 21). Let’s get to it!

Arctic Monkeys/Hello You

Kicking things off today are British rock band Arctic Monkeys who were founded in Sheffield, England in 2002 by three 16-year-old friends, Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar), Andy Nicholson (bass) and Matt Helders (drums, backing vocals), together with Jamie Cook (guitar, keyboards). After starting out as an instrumental band, Turner became their lead singer and frontman. Arctic Monkeys are regarded as one of the first bands who effectively used social media to boost their popularity. They also hold the distinction to have released the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, released in January 2006. The band has since released six additional studio albums, including their latest The Car. Turner, Cook and Helders remain in the current line-up that also includes Nick O’Malley who replaced Nicholson on bass in 2006. Here’s Hello You, which like most tunes was solely written by Turner.

Frankie Cosmos/Abigail

Frankie Cosmos are an indie pop rock band around singer-songwriter Greta Kline. From their AllMusic bio: Guided by the succinct, sweet, and self-conscious tendencies of singer/songwriter Greta Kline, indie pop group Frankie Cosmos started as a prolific home-based solo project in the early 2010s. As a young teen in the late 2000s, she tapped into the quirky vibes of New York’s SideWalk Cafe anti-folk scene, which had given birth to the Moldy Peaches early in the decade, as well as the D.I.Y. ethos of K Records. Her songs appeared mostly online in various albums, sometimes on a monthly basis. Growing in popularity and influence, Frankie Cosmos made her studio and label debut with Zentropy in 2014. Two years later, Next Thing was her first Top 40 independent album. Though Kline had been recording with a backing band since Zentropy, the project’s first official outing as a quartet was 2018’s Vessel. This brings me to Inner World Peace, the third Frankie Cosmos release as a band. Here’s the lovely opener Abigail penned by Kline.

Archers of Loaf/Breaking Even

Archers of Loaf are an indie rock band formed in Chapel Hill, N.C. in 1991. According to their AppleMusic profile, they “were darlings of the indie world in the early to mid-’90s, thanks to an off-kilter sound that was edgy and challenging, yet melodically accessible at the same time.” During their initial seven-year run, Archers of Loaf released four albums. They broke up in late 1998 after drummer Mark Price had been diagnosed with and subsequently underwent surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. In 2011, the band reunited in its original formation, which in addition to Price also includes Eric Bachmann (vocals, guitar), Eric Johnson (guitar) and Matt Gentling (bass). After a summer tour that year, it doesn’t look like they were active thereafter until February 2020. That’s when the band released a single, Raleigh Days, their first new music since 1998. And now Archers of Loaf are back with Reason in Decline, their first new album in 24 years. Here’s Breaking Even. This nicely rocks!

Simple Minds/Who Killed Truth?

Until February 2018 when I came across their then-new album Walk Between Worlds, which I reviewed here, I essentially had forgotten about Scottish rock band Simple Minds. After a series of successful albums in the UK and other markets between the early ’80s and the mid-’90s, such as Sparkle in the Rain (1984), Once Upon a Time (1985) and Street Fighting Years (1989), the band’s popularity faded somewhat. Now they are out with their latest and 19th studio album Direction of the Heart. While the group has seen many line-up changes since they were founded in Glasgow in 1977, co-founders Jim Kerr (lead vocals) and Charlie Burchill (guitar, keyboards) are still around. Other current members include Ged Grimes (bass), Cherisse Osei (drums) and Sarah Brown (backing vocals). Let’s check out Who Killed Truth, co-written by Kerr and Burchill. While it may not be exactly WaterfrontAlive And KickingBelfast Child or Stand By Love, it doesn’t sound bad.

Last but not least, following is a Spotify playlist with the above and a few additional tunes by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

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The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random songs at a time

By now it’s safe to assume more frequent visitors know what’s about to happen. To new readers, The Sunday Six is all about enjoying the diversity and beauty of music. I make a deliberate effort to feature different music genres including some I don’t listen to frequently. While the resulting picks, therefore, can appear to be random, these posts don’t capture the first six tunes that come to my mind. At the end of the day, anything goes as long as it speaks to me.

George Benson/Breezin’

Kicking is off is some groovy guitar pop jazz by George Benson. Benson started to play the guitar as an eight-year-old, following the ukulele he had picked up a year earlier. Incredibly, he already recorded by the age of 9, which means his career now stands at a whooping 57 years and counting! He gained initial popularity in the 1960s, performing together with jazz organist Jack McDuff. Starting with the 1963 live album Brother Jack McDuff Live!, Benson appeared on various McDuff records. In 1964, he released his debut as a bandleader, The New Boss Guitar of George Benson, which featured McDuff on piano and organ. In the ’70s, Benson started to venture beyond jazz into pop and R&B. Breezin’ from May 1976 is a good example. Not only did it top Billboard’s jazz chart, but it also climbed to no. 1 on the R&B and mainstream charts. Here’s the title track, written by Bobby Womack who also originally recorded it in December 1970, together with Hungarian jazz guitar great Gábor Szabó. It appeared on Szabó’s 1971 album High Contrast. Here’s Benson’s version. The smooth and happy sound are perfect for a Sunday morning!

Steely Dan/Home at Last

Let’s stay in pop jazzy lane for a bit longer with Steely Dan, one of my all-time favorite bands. I trust Messrs. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who first met in 1967 as students at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. and quickly bonded over their mutual admiration for jazz and other music, don’t need much of an introduction. By the time they met guitarist Denny Dias in the summer of 1970, they already had written a good amount of original music. Steely Dan’s  first lineup was assembled in December 1971, after Becker, Fagen and Dias had moved to Los Angeles. The additional members included Jeff “Skunk” Baxter  (guitar), Jim Hodder (drums) and David Palmer (vocals). Earlier, Gary Katz, a staff producer at ABC Records, had hired Becker and Fagen as staff songwriters. It was also Katz who signed the Dan to the label. By the time their sixth and, in my opinion, best album Aja appeared in September 1977, Steely Dan had become a studio project by Fagen and Becker who surrounded themselves with a changing cast of top-notch session musicians and other artists. In this case, the latter included Larry Carlton (guitar), Chuck Rainey (bass), Jim Keltner (drums) and Michael McDonald (backing vocals), among others. Here’s Home at Last, which like all other tracks on the album was co-written by Fagen and Becker. In addition to them, the track featured Carlton (though the solo was played by Becker who oftentimes left lead guitar responsibilities to a session guitarist like Carlton), Rainey (bass), Victor Feldman (vibraphone), Bernard Purdie (drums), Timothy B. Schmit (backing vocals), and of course an amazing horn section, including Jim Horn (what an appropriate name!), Bill Perkins, Plas Johnson, Jackie Kelso, Chuck Findley, Lou McCreary and Dick Hyde.

The Temptations/Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone

Time to start switching up things with a dose of ’70s funk and psychedelic soul, don’t you agree? Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone by The Temptations is one of the coolest tunes I can think of in this context. Co-written by Motown’s Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, the song was first released as a single in May 1972 by the label’s recording act The Undisputed Truth. While the original to which you can listen here is pretty good as well, it’s the great rendition by The Temptations I heard first and have come to love! They recorded an 11-minute-plus take for their studio album All Directions from July 1972. In September that year, The Temptations also released a 6:54-minute single version of the song. While it still was a pretty long edit for a single, it yielded the group their second no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the ’70s. It would also be their last no. 1 hit on the U.S. mainstream chart. By the time Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone appeared, the group already had seen various changes and only featured two members of the classic line-up: Otis Williams (baritone) and Melvin Franklin (bass). The other members were Dennis Edwards (tenor), Damon Harris (tenor) and Richard Street (second tenor). Amazingly, The Temptations still exist after some 60 years (not counting the group’s predecessors), with 79-year-old Otis Williams remaining as the only original member. I have tickets to see them together with The Four Tops in early November – keeping fingers crossed! Meanwhile, here’s Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone, of course, the mighty album version, coz I don’t do things half ass here! 🙂

Peter Gabriel/Don’t Give Up (feat. Kate Bush)

Let’s go to a different decade with another artist I’ve come to dig, which in no small part was due to this album: Peter Gabriel and So, his fifth studio release from May 1986. It’s probably Gabriel’s most mainstream-oriented album. Much of the former Genesis lead vocalist’s other solo work has been more of an acquired taste. I also didn’t pay much attention after his follow-on Us that appeared in September 1992. Fueled by the hit single Sledgehammer, which topped the mainstream charts in the U.S. and Canada, peaked at no. 3 in Australia and New Zealand, and reached the top 10 in Germany and various other European countries, So became Gabriel’s best-selling solo album. I did catch him during the supporting tour in Cologne, Germany, and still have fond memories of that gig. Here’s Don’t Give Up, a haunting duet with Kate Bush. Inspired by U.S. Depression era photos from the 1930s Gabriel had seen, he applied the theme to the difficult economic conditions in Margaret Thatcher’s mid-1980s England. While the tune is a bit of a Debbie Downer, I find it extremely powerful. You can literally picture the lyrics as a movie. I also think the vocals alternating between Gabriel and Bush work perfectly.

The Turtles/Happy Together

I suppose after the previous tune, we all could need some cheering up. A song that always puts me in a good mood is Happy Together by The Turtles. Plus, it broadens our little musical journey to include the ’60s, one of my favorite decades in music. The Turtles started performing under that name in 1965. Their original members, Howard Kaylan (lead vocals, keyboards), Mark Volman (backing vocals, guitar, percussion), Al Nichol (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Jim Tucker (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Chuck Portz (bass) and Don Murray (drums), had all played together in a surf rock-oriented band called The Crossfires. That group turned into The Tyrtles, a folk rock outfit, before becoming The Turtles and adopting more of a sunshine pop style. The band’s initial run lasted until 1970. Vollman and Kaylan subsequently launched pop duo Flo & Eddie and released a series of records between 1972 and 2009. In 1983, Vollman and Kaylan legally regained the use of the name The Turtles and started touring as The Turtles…Featuring Flo and Eddie. Instead of seeking to reunite with their former bandmates, Vollman and Kaylan relied on other musicians. The group remains active in this fashion to this day. Their website lists a poster for a Happy Together Tour 2021 “this summer,” though currently, no gigs are posted. Happy Together was the title track of the band’s third studio album from April 1967. Co-written by Alan Gordon and Garry Bonner, the infectious tune became The Turtles’ biggest hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100, climbing to no. 2 in Canada, and reaching no. 12 in the UK, marking their first charting single there.

Simple Minds/Stand by Love

I can’t believe it’s already time to wrap up this latest installment of The Sunday Six. For this last tune, I decided to pick a song from the early ’90s: Stand by Love by Simple Minds. While I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the Scottish new wave and pop rock band and don’t follow them closely, I generally enjoy their music. I also got to see them live once in Stuttgart, Germany in the early ’90s and remember it as a good show. Simple Minds emerged in late 1977 from the remains of short-lived punk band Johnny & The Self-Abusers. By late 1978, the band’s first stable line-up was in place, featuring Jim Kerr (lead vocals), Charlie Burchill (guitar), Mick MacNeil (keyboards), Derek Forbes (bass) and Brian McGee (drums). That formation recorded Simple Minds’ debut album Life in a Day released in April 1979. Their fifth studio album New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) was the first to bring more significant commercial success in the UK and Europe. This was followed by a series of additional successful albums that appeared between 1984 and 1995, which included the band’s biggest hits, such as Don’t You (Forget About Me), Alive and Kicking, Belfast Child and Let There Be Love. Today, more than 40 years after their formation, Simple Minds are still around, with Kerr and Burchill remaining part of the current line-up. Here’s Stand by Love, co-written by Burchill and Kerr, from the band’s ninth studio album Real Life that came out in April 1991. This is quite a catchy tune. I also dig the backing vocals by what sounds like gospel choir, which become more prominent as the song progresses.

Sources: Wikipedia; The Turtles…Featuring Flo and Eddie website; YouTube