Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Is it really Saturday again? Yep, the calendar doesn’t lie. Next week, we’re already headed into September and, in the U.S., Labor Day weekend – crazy! On a more upbeat note, Best of What’s New is hitting a milestone of sorts this week with its 125th installment. The occasion coincides with plenty of new music I found. The first three picks are from albums that appeared yesterday (Aug 26), while the remaining tunes came out a week ago.

Ezra Furman/Train Comes Through

I’d like to kick off this post with Ezra Furman, an indie art pop singer-songwriter from Chicago. She first came to prominence as lead vocalist and guitarist of Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, an indie rock band that was active between 2006 and 2011. After their third studio album Mysterious Power, released in April 2011, the group called it quits, and Furman launched a solo career. To date, she has released six solo studio albums, three EPs and various singles. Her AllMusic bio describes Furman as “a fiery, androgynous folk-punk provocateur” with “Lennon-esque sneer and raw, open-hearted lyrics, plus a flamboyant style, [which] have helped to make her one of the most engaging and unpredictable art-pop confectioners of her era.” Since I’m completely new to her, I could never have come up with this, but I know one thing: I’m intrigued by Furman’s new album All of Us Flames. Check out the opener Train Comes Through, which like most of the other tunes was solely penned by her.

Pat Green/Bad Bones

Pat Green is a country and Americana singer-songwriter from Texas. Here’s more from his Apple Music profile: Green comes from the rich tradition of Texas country-music mavericks carving their own niche for themselves, and he has done that with a combination of deep-down roots, alt-country innovation, and rich, reflective lyricism. Born in San Antonio in 1972, Green kicked off his career working in and around the musical hub of Lubbock. He started recording in the mid-’90s, with local legend Lloyd Maines producing. Eventually he caught the attention of Willie Nelson, who invited Green to play his annual July 4th blowout in 1998. By the new millennium, Green had signed with a major label and hit the Country Top 10 with Three Days, an album that showed off his knack for country-rocking hooks and storytelling savvy. Green’s latest album is titled Miles and Miles of You. Here is Bad Bones, co-written by Green, Jondan McBride and Sean Michael Giddings – love that funky rock-oriented sound!

Thee Sacred Souls/Lady Love

Thee Sacred Souls are a soul trio from Southern California, who just released their eponymous debut album, and, man, how sweet it sounds! From their website: For Thee Sacred Souls, the first time is often the charm. The band’s first club dates led to a record deal with the revered Daptone label; their first singles racked up more than ten million streams in a year and garnered attention from Billboard, Rolling Stone, and KCRW; and their first fans included the likes of Gary Clark Jr., The Black Pumas, Princess Nokia, and Timbaland...Indeed, there’s something inevitable about the sound of Thee Sacred Souls, as if [drummer Alex] Garcia and his bandmates—bassist Sal Samano and singer Josh Lane—have been playing together for a lifetime already...Thee Sacred Souls is a warm and textured record, mixing the easygoing grace of sweet ’60s soul with the grit and groove of early ’70s R&B…[with] hints of Chicano, Philly, Chicago, Memphis, and even Panama soul…Check out Lady Love, written by Garcia and Lane. This is so good!

Katy Guillen & The Drive/Another One Gained

Katy Guillen & The Drive is a project by singer-songwriter and guitarist Katy Guillen. Here’s more from her website: After six years of persistent touring, performing and writing with her previous project, Katy Guillen & The Girls, singer, songwriter and guitarist Guillen found herself at the painful end of two long-term relationships. Katy Guillen & The Girls reached an extensive audience through performances at Montreal International Jazz Festival and the International Blues Challenge, a tour of Sweden via Kultur i Vast, and support for artists including The Revivalists, Robin Trower and The Doobie Brothers. With their burgeoning career put on hold, Guillen and long-time drummer Stephanie Williams set off for uncharted territory as Katy Guillen & The Drive. While distinguishing themselves as a new group with a fresh sound, the two continued crafting their musical and personal identities together. After dropping two EPs in 2020 and 2021, Katy Guillen & The Drive have now released their first full-length album Another One Gained. Here’s the title track, co-written by Guillen and Williams – love this!

Rock Eupora/Can You Feel the Weight?

Rock Eupora is the moniker of Nashville-based artist Clayton Waller who originally hails from Mississippi. From his website: From his earliest recordings, Waller has never been afraid to ask the big, searching questions of life. Catchy, hooky pop sensibilities have similarly been a consistent through-line in Rock Eupora’s catalogue. Featuring singable, fuzzed-out guitar hooks and stuck-in-your-head-all-afternoon choruses, the discography of Rock Eupora––including three full-length albums, two EPs, and a smattering of singles to date––brings to mind Blue Album-era Weezer or the high-energy, hard-charging, harmony-laden early Beatles singlesRock Eupora began when Waller was a senior in college. Each subsequent release has seen a broadening of scope and range. This brings me to Pick At the Scab, Rock Europa’s new album and Can You Feel Weight? Pretty catchy tune with a great sound – check it out!

Barney Cortez/Into the Void

Time to wrap up this Best of What’s New installment with one more pick: Barney Cortez, a Philadelphia-based artist who is out with his debut album Hullabaloo. Here’s some info I found on the website of his label La Reserve Records, posted in connection with the release of the album’s title track and third single back in March: Energetic, sharp-edged, and with lyrics worth sitting down to read, Hullabaloo is a fitting title track to Cortez’s upcoming debut LP, capturing the singer-songwriter’s state of mind during the time he wrote the album’s ten songs…“‘Hullabaloo’ was the perfect title for this album, because it spoke to all the turmoil and confusion I saw in the world and in myself as covid spread,” he [Cortez] continues. “It was just complete — and still is — whiplash, not knowing what each day was going to bring. The country was going through a really strange period. So I wasn’t feeling great during that time. I still try to make pop music around it, and music that feels good.” Let’s give a listen to Into the Void.

Following is a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tunes:

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Apple Music; Thee Sacred Souls website; Katy Guillen & The Drive website; Rock Eupora website; La Reserve Records website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. This time, my picks include art pop, jangle pop, jazz and garage-oriented alternative rock. Once again, all artists are new to me. All tunes are included on albums that appeared yesterday (March 11).

Jenny Hval/Year of Love

Jenny Hval is a Norwegian singer-songwriter, record producer, musician and novelist. Before she released her solo debut EP Cigars in 2006, Hval was the vocalist in a gothic metal band called Shellyz Raven and subsequently studied at the University of Melbourne. During her time there, she sang in Australian groups iPanic and Folding For Air, and released an EP with the latter in 2004. To date, she has released 10 studio albums, two of which appeared under the name Rockettothesky. Hval’s solo music has been characterized as avant-garde, art pop and experimental folk. Her Apple Music profile notes she was inspired by Kate Bush, Jimmy Somerville, and the ambitious, androgynous feel of ’80s pop. This brings me to Classic Objects, Hval’s new album, and the opener Year of Love, written by her.

Young Guv/Good Time

Young Guv is a solo project of Toronto-based guitarist and vocalist Ben Cook, a co-founder of Canadian hardcore punk band No Warning that was initially formed in 1998 under the name As We Once Were. After the band’s break-up in late 2005, Cook joined another local hardcore punk cheerfully named Fucked Up. In 2015, Cook released his solo debut album Ripe 4 Luv, the first of four that have appeared to date under the Young Guv moniker. Cook’s Young Guv music is power pop-oriented and as such very different from his hardcore punk roots. His latest album Guv III has a nice jangle pop sound. Here’s Good Time, co-written by Cook and James Matthew DeLong.

Walter Smith III & Matthew Stevens/Loping

What do you get when combining American jazz saxophonist Walter Smith III and Canadian jazz guitarist Matthew Stevens? Walter Smith III & Matthew Stevens who just released their third collaboration album In Common III, which follows In Common II and In Common from 2020 and 2018, respectively. Smith began playing the saxophone at the age of seven and has performed with many other notable jazz artists like Terence Blanchard, Roy Haynes and Christian McBride. His debut album as a leader, Casually Introducing, appeared in 2006. Matthew Stevens, who has been active since 2004, is regarded as one “most exciting up-and-coming jazz guitarists” in his generation, according to Wikipedia. His 2015 debut album as a leader, Woodwork, garnered rave reviews from critics. On In Common III, Smith and Stevens are backed by Kris Davis (piano), Dave Holland (bass) and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums). Here’s a track titled Loping composed by Stevens. I like it!

The Mysterines/Life’s a Bitch (But I Like it So Much)

Wrapping up this post is new music by The Mysterines, an alternative rock band from Liverpool, England. Their members are Lia Metcalfe (vocals, guitar), Callum Thompson (guitar), George Favager (bass) and Paul Crilly (drums). According to Apple Music, Metcalfe is a fan of The Doors with a passion for poetry like her hero Jim Morrison [who] started writing songs at the age of nine. Her teenage years provided more meaningful material to write about, much of which formed a basis for songs on Reeling [the group’s debut album]…The Mysterines specialize in an emotive brand of garage rock that takes inspiration from a variety of sources. Musically, the debut albums by The Strokes and Arcade Fire were the blueprint for youthful swagger and experimentalism, respectively; the films of directors Alejandro Jodorowsky and Terrence Malick provided canvases on which the quartet could imagine new soundtracks. Here’s the opener Life’s a Bitch (But I Like it So Much). I dig the tune’s raw sound.

As usual, following is a Spotify playlist with the above and a few additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Nothing strange and nothing to spit on

After a 62-day streak of publishing one post each day (my initial goal was 50 days, after I had reached 40 posts in a row), I’ve decided that starting from next week, I’m going to reduce the frequency of blogging back to what it used to be, which is about three to four posts a week. While I love writing about my favorite subject music, publishing seven days a week has taken a significant amount of time – time I obviously haven’t been able to spend otherwise.

Along with this reduction in posting frequency, I’m also planning a few other changes. This includes retiring Wednesday’s Hump Day Picker-Upper posts and replacing them with a new weekly feature I’m going to unveil next Wednesday. I’m also considering consolidating some of my current blog categories. The current number of 20 does seem to be a bit excessive. Obviously, any reduction in categories and reindexing of previous posts are more of behind-the-scenes changes.

Since this is a music blog, of course, this post wouldn’t be complete with at least one song. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first tune that came to mind in the current context is one of my favorite songs by David Bowie: Changes.

Written by Bowie, Changes first appeared on the British artist’s fourth studio album Hunky Dory from December 1971. The song was also released separately as the record’s first single in January 1972.

To my surprise, Changes didn’t chart in the UK at the time it came out. In the U.S., it initially climbed to no. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. It re-entered that chart in 1974 and peaked at no. 41. In the UK, the song resurfaced as well and got to no. 49, but it wasn’t until 2016 following Bowie’s death. Wikipedia doesn’t list any other chart placements – strange!

Here’s some additional background on the great tune from Songfacts: This is a reflective song about defying your critics and stepping out on your own. It also touches on Bowie’s penchant for artistic reinvention. Bowie wrote this when he was going through a lot of personal change. Bowie’s wife, Angela, was pregnant with the couple’s first child, Duncan. Bowie got along very well with his father and was very excited to have a child of his own. This optimism shines through in “Changes.”

According to Bowie, this started out as a parody of a nightclub song – “kind of throwaway” – but people kept chanting for it at concerts and thus it became one of his most popular and enduring songs. Bowie had no idea it was going to become so successful, but the song connected with his young audience who could relate to lyrics like “These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

Bowie played the sax on this track, and his guitarist, Mick Ronson, arranged the strings. Rick Wakeman, who would later become a member of the prog rock band, Yes, played the piano parts at the beginning and end. Bowie gave Wakeman a lot of freedom, telling him to play the song like it was a piano piece. The piano Wakeman played was the famous 100-year old Bechstein at Trident Studios in London, where the album was recorded; the same piano used by Elton John, The Beatles and Genesis.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

As another eventful week is drawing to a close, the time has come again to venture into the world of newly released music. This latest Best of What’s New installment features great power pop, indie pop rock and art pop from the U.S. and rock from the U.K.

While two of these acts are well established and have been around for many years, all are new to me. Broadening my music universe by “discovering” artists and bands is a key reason why I enjoy writing the series. All of the featured songs were just released yesterday. Let’s get going!

Matthew Sweet/Stars Explode

Matthew Sweet is a singer-songwriter who played in various bands during the ’80s and was part of the vibrant local music scene in Athens, Ga., before gaining traction as a solo artist in the ’90s. According to his profile on Apple Music, he skillfully navigates the line between the power pop underground and the mainstream end of alternative rock. Matthew Sweet was a master of potent pop tunes and catchy melodic hooks, but he also knew how to make his songs rock, and his inspired use of incisive guitar work gave his songs an edge that was fresh and satisfying. Sweet spent most of the ’80s in the background, performing with the groups Oh-OK and Buzz of Delight, playing in Lloyd Cole’s backing band, and releasing a pair of overlooked solo albums (1986’s Inside and 1989’s Earth) as he honed his skills. His this solo album Girlfriend from October 1991 brought him commercial breakthrough. Between 2006 and 2013, Sweet collaborated on a series of cover albums (Under the Covers Vol. 1 – Vol. 3) with Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles. Stars Explode, written by Sweet, is from his 15th studio album Catspaw. It illustrates he hasn’t lost his ability to write catchy power pop tunes that nicely rock. Sounds like Sweet is right up my alley, so I’m planning to further explore his music.

Beach Bunny/Good Girls (Don’t Get Used)

Beach Bunny are an indie pop rock band formed in Chicago in 2015. The group started as a solo project by vocalist and guitarist Lili Trifilio who released her debut EP Animalism in 2015. Following the third EP Crybaby in 2017, Beach Bunny became a full-fledged four-piece group. In addition to Trifilio (vocals, guitar), their current lineup features Matt Henkels (guitar), Anthony Vaccaro (bass) and Jon Alvarado (drums). Beach Bunny’s first full-length studio album Honeymoon appeared in February 2020. Good Girls (Don’t Get Used) is the opener of the group’s latest EP Blame Game. Like the three other tracks on the EP, the song is credited to Lili Trifilio and Beach Bunny. The catchy track reminds me a bit of some early Taylor Swift tunes I’ve heard.

You Me At Six/Beautiful Way

You Me At Six are an English rock band formed in 2004 in the greater London area. Apple Music notes post-hardcore and alt-rock influences in their music. I don’t know the band and take this at face value. After two self-released EPs in 2006 and 2007, their debut album Take Off Your Colours came out in October 2008. It peaked at no. 25 on the British albums chart and yielded two UK award nominations. Their fourth album Cavalier Youth from January 2014 topped the UK and Scottish albums charts and also made the Billboard 200, reaching no. 124. The band’s current core lineup consists of co-founding members Josh Franceschi (lead vocals), Chris Miller (lead guitar), Max Helyer (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) and Matthew Barnes (bass, backing vocals), as well as Daniel Flint (drums) who has been with the group since 2007. Beautiful Way, credited to all members of the band, is from You Me At Six’s seventh studio album Suckapunch. The track’s guitar part drew me in – it definitely has something!

Midnight Sister/Foxes

Rounding out today’s new music collection is the duo of Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian, professionally known as Midnight Sister. A profile on Apple Music describes their style as art pop with a cinematic flair…Both natives of the San Fernando Valley [Calif.] and graduates of the same high school a few years apart, they met when Balouzian, a classically trained musician, wrote the score for a short film scripted by Giraffe and her sister, a friend of Balouzian’s. When he followed up by sending some instrumental music to Giraffe, and she returned it with vocals, they liked the results and decided to keep working together. Midnight Sister was Balouzian’s first pop project aside from doing arrangements for Tobias Jesso, Jr. and Alex Izenberg, and Giraffe’s first musical endeavor. Their full-length debut album Saturn Over Sunset appeared in 2017. Foxes is a track from their sophomore release Painting the Roses. It’s an intriguing tune with portions that sound Beatle-esque.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; YouTube