Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday, which means it’s time to take a fresh look at newly-released music! Sometimes, these weekly posts come together pretty quickly. On other occasions, they take a bit more time. This installment fell more into the latter category. It simply all depends on how much research I need to do to find new music I reasonably enjoy, based on initial impressions. All of my picks in this post appear on albums that were released yesterday (April 8). In one case it’s a single from an upcoming record.

Father John Misty/Q4

I’d like to kick off with American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer Joshua Tillman, known as Father John Misty. Tillman, who grew up in an Evangelical Christian household in Rockville, Md., has been active since 2001. Apart from having been a member of or toured with multiple bands, such as Demon Hunter, Fleet Foxes and Jeffertitti’s Nile (none of which I know), Tillman has contributed to albums by the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Post Malone and produced an album for Matthew Daniel Siskin, known as Gambles – quite an eclectic-looking mix! Since 2003, he also has released 13 solo albums, initially as J. Tillman and from 2012 onward under the Father John Misty moniker. Q4 is a track from Tillman’s new album Chloë and the Next 20th Century. Inspired by big band, jazz standards and traditional pop, it’s been compared to Randy Newman’s Sail Away and Harry Nilsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, according to Wikipedia. Check out that neat harpsichord on Q4, a tune penned by Tillman.

The Linda Lindas/Talking to Myself

I first came across and featured Los Angeles-based all-female pop-punk and garage band The Linda Lindas in early March. Founded in 2018 when they were still young teenagers, the group features Bela Salazar (guitar, vocals), Eloise Wong (bass, vocals), Lucia de la Garza (guitar, vocals) and her sister Mila de la Garza (drums, vocals). After American actress and film director Amy Poehler watched the band perform live, she asked them to record a song for her 2021 comedy-drama MoxieThe Linda Lindas also penned a tune for the 2020 Netflix documentary The Claudia Kishi Club. Last May, they signed with  Epitaph Records and released Oh!, their first single with the label. Talking to Myself, credited to Mila de la Garza and The Linda Lindas, is a song from their first full-length album Growing Up. There’s just something about the enthusiasm and energy these young ladies project!

Caitlyn Smith/Dreamin’s Free

Caitlyn Smith is a country and pop singer-songwriter. According to her Apple Music profile, she cashed out her college fund to record her debut, Learning to Be, which was released when she was just 15 [in 2001 – CMM]. Her breakthrough album, Starfire [January 2018 – CMM], named for a vintage guitar she received from her father, debuted at the top of the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart. Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” and the Dolly Parton-Kenny Rogers duet “You Can’t Make Old Friends” are just two of the hits she’s written for other artists….Garth Brooks called Smith one of the top female vocalists he’s ever heard. Colbie Caillat, Kacey Musgraves, and Maren Morris have all performed at her quarterly “Girls of Nashville” songwriting showcase. This brings me to Smith’s third and latest studio album High and the track Dreamin’s Free, a nice tune, co-written by her, Lori McKenna and Shane McAnally.

Thundermother/Watch Out

Wrapping up this week’s new music revue are all-female Swedish hard rockers Thundermother. The band, formed in Stockholm in 2010, currently consists of founder Filippa Nässil (guitar), along with Guernica Mancini (lead vocals), Mona “Demona” Lindgren (bass) and Emlee Johansson (drums), according to their website. Their debut album Rock ‘n’ Roll Disaster appeared in January 2014. Watch Out is Thundermother’s new single from their upcoming fifth album Black and Gold. “The song is about this moment in our career,” said Nässil in a press release. “It’s about rising up, being powerful women working as a team, and taking charge.” The following clip notes, “For Fans Of: AC/DC, Airbourne, D-A-D, Rose Tattoo, Aerosmith Hardrock” – sounds about right to me!

Last but not least, here’s this week’s Spotify list featuring the above and a few additional tunes. Hope you’ll find something you dig!

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Thundermother website; YouTube; Spotify

Adele’s New Album 30 Is a Powerful Pop Revelation

Not in a million years did I ever think I was going to write a post to review an album by Adele – not to mention characterizing it as a “powerful pop revelation!” I bet many frequent visitors of my blog didn’t see this coming either. Well, I suppose music sometimes can work in mysterious ways!

On closer scrutiny, perhaps my take is only partially surprising. After all, I’ve said many times how much I dig great vocals, and there’s no doubt in mind Adele is one of the most compelling contemporary vocalists. But one could also point to other examples like Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé, and I’m not exactly jumping up and down about their music. So what’s going on here? Actually, it’s faily simple: Prompted by all the buzz this album has generated, I listened to 30 over the weekend, and it just drew me in!

While I resumed paying attention to new music about 1.5 years ago and launched my weekly Best of What’s New series, I still pretty much ignore the mainstream charts and the artists grabbing the top spots there. In the case of Adele, I didn’t track the weeks leading up to the release of 30, but only a person living under a rock could have completed missed it.

This recent USA Today story lays out the elaborate PR campaign to create buzz leading up to November 19, the day the album dropped. Some of the elements included the October 15th release of lead single Easy On Me, the November 1 revelation of the album’s official tracklist, and the November 14 CBS special Adele One Night Only. The latter featured three then-still-unheard tunes from 30, along with other songs from previous Adele albums, as well as an interview with Oprah Winfrey. As reported by entertainment outlet Deadline, the TV special attracted 11.7 million viewers, surpassing the 2021 Oscars!

Adele One Night Only

30 is Adele’s fourth studio album and her first new release in six years after 25. From the very first line of the opener Strangers By Nature, it becomes evident 30 is very personal. Adele tackles heavy subjects like divorce, motherhood and the pitfalls of fame, and she doesn’t hold back. No question this was part of the reason why I started paying close attention as I was listening to these tracks for the first time. I simply had not expected this!

Adele co-wrote all of the songs, working with various songwriters and producers, especially Greg Kurstin and Dean Wynton Josiah Cover, professionally known as Inflo. Her extensive involvement in songwriting is actually nothing new and was also the case on her previous albums. But it’s something I had not realized since I never cared to check! I have a lot of respect for music artists who write their songs; even more so, if they also are true musicians. Adele plays acoustic guitar and, according to Wikipedia, performed acoustic sets early in her career. She also played guitar and bass on some of the songs on her 2008 debut album 19 – again something that was new to me!

Let’s get to some music. Here’s the aforementioned opener Strangers By Nature, co-written by Adele (credited by her full name Adele Adkins) and Ludwig Göransson, a Swedish composer and producer. Like most other tracks on 30, the song is on the quiet side. It starts with I’ll be taking flowers to the cemetery of my heart, the above line that got my attention. The fact it sounds like music from an old movie isn’t a coincidence. “I’d watched the Judy Garland biopic,” Adele told Zane Lowe during an extended interview for Apple Music. “And I remember thinking, ‘Why did everyone stop writing such incredible melodies and cadences and harmonies?'”

Next up is the album’s above-mentioned lead single Easy On Me. Co-written by Adele and Kurstin, the powerful tune is about Adele’s fraught childhood, her lost marriage and the lessons learnt and unlearnt about family, love and abandonment along the way, noted British Vogue. “My son [Angelo James – CMM] has had a lot of questions. Really good questions, really innocent questions, that I just don’t have an answer for,” Adele told Vogue. “I just felt like I wanted to explain to him, through this record, when he’s in his twenties or thirties, who I am and why I voluntarily chose to dismantle his entire life in the pursuit of my own happiness. It made him really unhappy sometimes. And that’s a real wound for me that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to heal.” This is tough and authentic-sounding stuff, and it evidently resonated. The Washington Post reported Easy On Me set new streaming records on Spotify and Amazon Music.

Perhaps the most personal tune and the one that touched me the most is My Little Love, another song Adele wrote for her son Angelo. It features excerpts from conversations between Adele and the young boy who was born in October 2012, as well as voice memos she recorded to capture her struggles with the situation. Frankly, it’s a tear-jerker some people might find a bit too intense, but I think it’s pretty powerful. Call me crazy, the soft music almost reminds me of something Marvin Gaye could have recorded. I just find this incredible!

30 isn’t all about sorrow and regret. One example is Can I Get It, which picks up the tempo and with some whistling in the chorus sounds more upbeat. Adele created this song together with Swedish songwriters and producers Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster, known as Shellback. The lyrics are a clear indication Adele is ready to move on from her recent divorce. Pave me a path to follow/And I’ll tread any dangerous road/I will beg and I’ll steal, I will borrow/If I can make, if I can make your heart my home…In fact, Adele recently started dating American sports agent Rich Paul. Musically speaking, the tune isn’t so much my cup of tea, but it nicely breaks up an otherwise largely somber album.

The last track I’d like to call out is Hold On, one of the co-writes with Inflo. It’s another reflective tune but with a silver lining. “I definitely lost hope a number of times that I’d ever find my joy again,” Adele told Apple Music about the song. “But I didn’t realize I was making progress until I wrote ‘Hold On’ and listened to it back. Later, I was like, ‘Oh, fuck, I’ve really learned a lot. I’ve come a long way.”

Before wrapping up this post, it feels right to give Adele the final word about this remarkable album: “I was certainly nowhere near where I’d hoped to be when I first started it nearly 3 years ago,” she wrote on her website. “Quite the opposite actually…I’ve learned a lot of blistering home truths about myself along the way…It was my ride or die throughout the most turbulent period of my life. When I was writing it, it was my friend who came over with a bottle of wine and a takeaway to cheer me up…I’ve painstakingly rebuilt my house and my heart since then and this album narrates it.”

I think we’ve just witnessed the release of an album that is going to dominate the charts, will be included in many year-end lists, and win a bunch of Grammys next year. This would add to the 33-year-old’s impressive accomplishments to date. According to Wikipedia, Adele has sold more than 120 million records, making her one of the world’s best-selling music artists. Her sophomore release 21 was certified 17 X Platinum in the UK, and became the world’s best-selling album of the 21st century in 2011 with over 31 million sold copies. Adele’s accolades include 15 Grammy Awards and nine Brit Awards.

Sources: Wikipedia; USA Today; Deadline; Apple Music; British Vogue; The Washington Post; Adele website; YouTube