Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

This weekend, most U.S. states switch to daylight savings time. While opinions remain divided, I like the additional hour of daylight in the evening. To me, it’s also another sign that spring is finally coming. So what does all of this have to do with new music? Nothing much, except this Best of What’s New post appears on the last day of standard time. Let’s kiss standard time goodbye with some indie pop, indie rock and alternative rock. Unless noted otherwise, all tunes came out yesterday (March 12).

Lake Street Dive/Hush Money

Lake Street Dive were founded in Boston in 2004 by four jazz students at the New England Conservatory of Music: Rachael Price (lead vocals, ukulele, guitar), Mike “McDuck” Olson (trumpet, guitar, piano, organ, vocals), Bridget Kearney (bass, piano vocals) and Mike Calabrese (drums, organ, vocals). In 2017, Akie Bermiss (keyboards, organ, vocals) joined, completing the band’s current lineup. After Kearney won the jazz category of the 2005 John Lennon Songwriting Contest, Lake Street Dive used the prize money to fund their 2006 debut In This Episode… Apple Music characterizes the band’s music as indie pop. According to their website, “Their personalities, skills, and wide-ranging taste in pop, rock, R&B, and jazz have long blended together to make an impressively cohesive sound, both sophisticated and playful, combining retro influences with contemporary attitude.” Hush Money, credited to all members of the band and producer Mike Elizondo, is a track from Lake Street Dive’s newly released Obviously, their seventh studio album. Cool tune!

The Paper Kites/Climb on Your Tears (feat. Aoife O’Donovan)

Indie rock and folk band The Paper Kites were founded in 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. Sam Bentley (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Christina Lacy (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals) started writing and playing music together in 2009 when they were in high school. After gaining some traction locally in Melbourne, they were joined by their friends David Powys (guitars, banjo, lap steel, backing vocals), Sam Rasmussen (bass, synthesizers) and Josh Bentley (drums, percussion) in 2010, and started self-releasing EPs. Their first single Bloom from 2010 brought the band some international attention, gaining Platinum and Gold certifications in Canada and the U.S., respectively. In 2013, The Paper Kites released their first full-length album States in Australia (August) and North America (October). Climb on Your Tears, written by Bentley, features American singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan who joins him on vocals. The tune is from the band’s new album Roses. Check out the great sound, something I also noticed on the album’s other tracks I’ve heard so far.

Grouplove/This Is the End

Grouplove are an American alternative rock band. Their current members include co-founders Christian Zucconi (vocals, guitars), Hannah Hooper (vocals, keyboards) and Andrew Wessen (guitars, vocals), along with Daniel Gleason (bass) and Benjamin Homola (drums), who joined in 2014 and 2017, respectively. According to their profile on Apple Music, Grouplove are known for their eccentric, upbeat tunes that mix pop and electronic styles. The quintet formed in 2009 after the members attended an artists’ retreat in Greece and later met up in Los Angeles to record their self-titled 2010 debut EP. Their debut album, 2011’s Never Trust a Happy Song, reached No. 75 on the Billboard 200 and sold more than a half-million copies. In 2020, Grouplove became the first US band certified “climate positive” by the United Nations for their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint while touring. How about that! The cheerfully titled This Is the End, credited to the band, Alex Charpentier and Paul DeCourcey, appears on Grouplove’s fifth and new studio album This Is This. It’s kind of catchy!

Teddy’s Hit/Quote Yourself

Teddy’s Hit are a Dutch indie rock trio from Amsterdam, featuring Tom Ogilvie (guitar, backing vocals), Casper van der Lans (bass) and Kick Kluiving (drums, vocals). According to their profile on Spotify, While you can hear some obvious ’90s influences, the melodic fuzzy guitars and energetic catchy songwriting make up for a sound of their own. Their Soundcloud profile notes their arrangements, sounds and melodies that shine bright like the woozy and wondrous tunes of Ultimate Painting, Twin Peaks and Real Estate. The latter three are alternative and indie rock bands from London, Chicago and New York, respectively, none of which I know. Apple Music lists various singles Teddy’s Hit released between 2017 and last year, as well as an eponymous EP from 2019. Quote Yourself is a tune from Painters, which appears to be the band’s first full-length album that came out on January 22. I like this quite a bit. Check it out!

Sources: Wikipedia; Lake Street Dive website; Apple Music; Spotify; Soundcloud; YouTube

What I’ve Been Listening to: Michael Jaskewicz/Crooked Tree

Crooked Tree is the debut solo album by Michael Jaskewicz, a singer-songwriter from New Jersey. I met him sometime in 2019 while he was performing at a bar with Cosmic Jerry Band (now called Cosmic), which then mainly was a tribute to the Grateful Dead that has since evolved into focusing on original music. In fact, they just came out with their own debut album Bloom on December 27. I finally got to listen to Crooked Tree and really dig the warm, bare bones acoustic sound.

As Jaskewicz notes in a blog post on his website, in addition to Jerry Garcia and the Dead, his influences include Warren Haynes, Bob Dylan, The Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Trey Anastasio. In an interview with Music Life Now, he also noted Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, among others. Listening to the album before I had seen that interview Taylor came to my mind as well, as did Yusuf/Cat Stevens and Marc Cohn, who is best known for his 1991 signature tune Walking in Memphis. Jaskewicz’s voice occasionally reminds me a bit of Cohn.

Under normal circumstances, Crooked Tree could have appeared last April. But as Jaskewicz pointed out in the above blog post, COVID-19 and his struggle with depression and anxiety delayed things. “I spent a lot of time wrestling with the demons in my head trying to figure out why it seemed every imaginable roadblock to my success in music was being placed before me,” he explains. “Getting ready to step out into the world with songs, only to have the world hold a giant red stop sign in front of my face was pretty much a surefire way to send my mind straight into the darkness. And boy did it ever.”

Time for some music. Here’s the opener and title song, which was inspired by Jaskewicz’s infatuation with oddly shaped trees, as well as the terminal cancer of a close friend. “As I thought of his pain and suffering aligned with the intense light of a human being he was, he became the Crooked Tree in my mind and the words started flowing, ” he told Music Life Now. “I wanted to paint a picture of how beautiful he was, how life had taken its toll on him, and how in reality we are all Crooked Trees. Our flaws make us beautiful. We should not bear shame for the mental and physical scars we have from enduring life.”

In What Is a Life Jaskewiciz muses about the factors that oftentimes limit life. In a separate blog post on his website, he explained, “The absurdity of the verses in What Is A Life are an homage to imagination. Wishes on a feather, bury the clouds and sow seeds of whim, windows of time on a golden swing…. All just random musings of the mind eventually pushed into some corner of your mind to die. Without opening your imagination, you never can truly see the beauty of things, you can’t paint the canvas of your life.”

War That Can’t be Won is a dark, powerful tune. Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics: …Future’s falling from a poison sky/Future’s calling with a look in her eyes/Blood is flowing over government gold/Seeds of vengeance will grow no more…

I’d like to call out one more track: Falling in Your Eyes, the album’s beautiful closer.

“I am so proud to have released Crooked Tree,” Jaskewicz stated. “In a past life I would have been so content with just that, but the truth is I’m already working on the follow up and my goal is to have it completed by the end of the year.”Jaskewicz appears to be on a roll. At the time of his aforementioned statement, he already had 46 completed songs. On November 30, he released a new single titled Stars In Our Eyes.

I think Jaskewicz is off to a great start and I look forward to his sophomore album.

Sources: Michael Jaskewicz website; Music Life Now; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of new music I like

This is the third installment of my new series in as many weeks. While I’m not sure I can keep it up at that rate, I’m happy that lately more newly released music makes it on my radar screen. Best of all, three of the five artists featured in this post are entirely new to me, while I had not heard from one of the remaining two in 35 years. It also turns out the fifth and most famous artist and I were born in the same town in Germany.

Jackson Browne/A Little Soon to Say

It’s safe to assume Jackson Browne needs no introduction. Ever since I listened to the Running on Empty album in the late ’70s or early ’80s, I’ve loved the singer-songwriter. By the way, while researching the post, I realized Brown was born in Heidelberg, Germany, which also happens to be my place of birth. That’s where the commonalities end! 🙂 Browne released his latest song last Friday shortly after he had learned a test for COVID-19 had come back positive – yikes! While he had written A Little Soon to Say prior to the pandemic, Browne told Rolling Stone he decided, “Just put it out now while these things are so uncertain.” Fortunately, his symptoms appear to be mild and he is currently at home in quarantine.

Kendall Rucks/Bloom

From her website: With her powerful vocals and sultry sound, Kendall Rucks fuses elements of rock, blues and dream pop to create music that is both provocative and captivating. A Florida native now based in Los Angeles, Kendall has recently released her latest single SKIN THE SUN while also juggling multiple writing and recording projects. With her band, The Zodiac Mafia, Kendall is preparing for a US tour in 2020 as well as the release of multiple new singles…With artist inspirations such as Fiona Apple, Lana Del Rey, and Cat Power as well as groups like Nirvana, Radiohead and Garbage, Kendall makes music that is deep, thought-provoking and has soul with a sultry edge. Apparently, her bio is slightly outdated. Released March 6, Bloom is Rucks’ most recent single. Pretty good – reminds me a bit of Tanita Tikaram.

Cory Vincent/I’d Love to Change the World

With that title, how could I not have selected this tune during these crazy times? From Vincent’s website: What do you get when you combine the hard edged, dreary sounds of the Pacific Northwest with the soulful, southern themed voicings of the blues? The fans of Cory Vincent have appropriately coined it, “Grunge Blues.” Drawing inspiration from genre-blending trailblazers like Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, and Jack White; Cory’s songwriting is a throwback to an era where the song was the king…Born and raised in the small town of Sedro-Woolley, Cory’s passion for music and songwriting began at young age, with a heavy influence of Country music from legends like Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Garth Brooks. It wasn’t until the age of 13, when his father brought home the Stevie Ray Vaughan album “Texas Flood,” that Cory decided to pick up the guitar. Often saying that there are way too many influences to list, Cory sums up his guitar background as follows- “I play guitar because of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) changed the way I thought about guitar, and Warren Haynes confirmed it all!” All sounds good to me! I’d Love to Change the World is his latest single that came out on March 15. Written by Alvin Lee, the song was first recorded by British blues rock band Ten Years After for their sixth studio album Space in Time from October 1971.

Kings Ransome/Solo

From the band’s website: Kings Ransome started years ago as Vannare when future rock icon Porter Dowdy realized his dream of holding a guitar every day for the rest of his life. He teamed up with longtime friend, shampoo model candidate, and bassist Davis Huggins to do this band thing. Funk/fusion drummer Matt Malphrus joined the gang with a charming smile and a stellar high school football career. Not long after – enter guitarist Leo Santana. With hair that contains more rock’n’roll than most people have in their whole body, Leo upped the band’s sound and image. The guys created a kickin’ EP, but the singer quit during recording. Luckily Porter knew a guy. Trey Duncan had quit his job and was trying to pay the bills as a solo artist. Porter called him the day he told his girlfriend he needed a band to boss around, and the rest, as they say, is history. Credited to all members of the band, Solo is their most recent single that came out on January 1. Nice guitar-oriented rock – check it out!

Heinz Rudolf Kunze/Die Zeit Ist Reif

Wow, the last time I had heard from Heinz Rudolf Kunze was some 35 years ago when the German singer-songwriter and book author suddenly was everywhere on the radio with Dein Ist Mein Ganzes Herz (rough translation: You’re my everything). Some critics called Kunze “Oberlehrer” (secondary schoolteacher) for his often didactic lyrics. Including his 1981 debut, he has released 28 albums to date. Cowritten by Kunze and Heiner Lürig, Die Zeit Ist Reif (the time is now) is from his most recent album Der Wahrheit Die Ehre (pay attention to the truth), which was released on February 21. It’s a nice pop rock ballad.

Sources: Wikipedia; Kendall Rucks website; Cory Vincent website; Kings Ransome website; YouTube