Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday and winter and snow have finally arrived in Central New Jersey. But this shall not prevent me from taking a fresh look at newly-released music. As is oftentimes the case in these posts, the featured artists are entirely new to me. All tracks appear on albums released yesterday (January 28). This Best of What’s New installment is the first to include a Spotify playlist that goes beyond the tunes highlighted in the post. I figured why not add a few additional new songs from each reviewed new release.

Pinegrove/Habitat

My first pick this week is a rock band from New Jersey, Pinegrove. According to their Apple Music profile, they blend ragged, emo-tinged indie rock with Americana and folk influences…and have…built a sturdy grassroots following through several well-received independent releases before signing with Run for Cover Records to release their 2016 breakout album, Cardinal. Just as their momentum was building, the band took a year-long hiatus, delaying the release of their third album, Skylight, which finally appeared in late 2018...Led by singer/ songwriter Evan Stephens Hall, along with core members Zack Levine (drums) and his brother Nick Levine (guitar), Pinegrove first emerged out of the city of Montclair in 2010 with a self-released EP called Mixtape One. Their debut album, Meridian, arrived in 2012, followed by a pair of independently released EPs and Mixtape Two. This brings me to Habitat, a track off Pinegrove’s sixth and latest album 11:11. Like all other tunes on the record, it was penned by Hall.

Immanuel Wilkins/Emanation

For the most part, I include (old) jazz in my weekly Sunday Six feature, which is why I’m particularly happy to have come across new music by a young jazz alto saxophonist called Immanuel Wilkins. From his website: The music of saxophonist and composer Immanuel Wilkins is filled with empathy and conviction, bonding arcs of melody and lamentation to pluming gestures of space and breath. Listeners were introduced to this riveting sound with his acclaimed debut album Omega, which was named the #1 Jazz Album of 2020 by The New York Times. The album also introduced his remarkable quartet with Micah Thomas on piano, Daryl Johns on bass, and Kweku Sumbry on drums, a tight-knit unit that Wilkins features once again on his stunning sophomore album The 7th Hand. Here’s the opener from that record, Emanation. It’s pretty free-form, but I still like it!

Brent Cobb/Just a Closer Walk with Thee

Brent Cobb is a 35-year-old Nashville-based country singer-songwriter who originally hails from Georgia. He made his vocal debut as a 7-year-old when he performed a Tim McGraw song with his father’s band at a Georgia festival. As a teenager, Cobb fronted Mile Marker 5, a local band that gained prominence opening up for larger acts. After meeting his cousin and record producer Dave Cobb, he recorded his debut album No Place Left to Leave, which appeared in August 2006. Just a Closer Walk with Thee is the opener of Cobb’s latest album And Now, Let’s Turn the Page…, a country gospel record. Here’s a bit more from his website. Brent Cobb follows in the footsteps of his country music heroes with his new gospel album, And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…. By offering eight familiar hymns alongside an original song written with his wife, the collection feels reverent as well as rowdy—and completely in his comfort zone. Brent cites a near-death experience as the push he needed to finally make And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…. In July 2020, the vehicle he was driving, with his young son inside, got T-boned at a rural four-way stop. I rarely listen to gospel and when I do, I usually prefer a gospel choir. But this tune nevertheless grabbed me with its warm feel.

Cloakroom/Dottie-back Thrush

I’d like to wrap up this new music review with Cloakroom, an American rock band from northwest Indiana. From their Apple Music profile: Midwestern trio Cloakroom formed in 2012, coining the term “stoner emo” to describe their lurching, guitar-heavy sound that borrowed equally from hardcore’s brawniness, the dreamy sound-webs of shoegaze, and sad-hearted ’90s indie rock bands like Hum and Red House Painters. Coming together in Michigan City, Indiana, the band consisted of guitarist/vocalist Doyle Martin, who had formerly fronted pop-punk act the Grown-Ups, as well as drummer Brian Busch and bassist Bobby Markos. [In 2019, Bush was replaced by Tim RemisCMM] Debut album Infinity arrived in 2013 and was followed the next year by the more developed double album Further Out. In 2017, Cloakroom dropped their sophomore LP, Time Well, via Relapse Records. This brings me to the band’s new album Dissolution Wave and the track Dottie-back Thrush – definitely outside my core wheelhouse. But there’s just something about their trance-like sound.

Last but not least, here’s the above-noted enhanced playlist.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Immanuel Wilkins website; Brent Cobb website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

This week, Best of What’s New is appearing a day earlier, coinciding with the date when most of the featured music was released. One exception is the last tune. You may be surprised my latest picks include a song by a Disney teenage actress-turned pop artist who has enjoyed significant mainstream success.

While I generally continue to be underwhelmed by the music that dominates today’s mainstream charts, this doesn’t mean I would never listen to an artist just because they have been on the Billboard Hot 100 or other mainstream charts in recent years. This latest installment also features some indie rock, country and pop-oriented punk/grunge.

The Fratellis/Half Drunk Under a Full Moon

The Fratellis are an indie rock trio from Glasgow, Scotland, who have been around since 2005. They took the name from the criminal family in the 1985 American comedy picture The Goonies. Originally founded as a four-piece, The Fratellis became a trio after their third live performance. Their lineup remains unchanged to this day, featuring Jon Fratelli (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Barry Fratelli (bass) and Mince Fratelli (drums, percussion). It only took less than 10 shows for the band to be signed to Fallout Records, where their debut album Costello Music appeared in September 2006. It became an instant success in the UK, peaking at no. 2 on the Official Albums Chart. In 2007, The Fratellis won the Brit Award for Best British Breakthrough Act. To date, the band has released five additional studio albums, four EPs and various singles. Half Drunk Under a Full Moon, written by John Lawler (Jon Fratelli), is the opener and title track of the band’s new album. Quite catchy!

Canaan Smith/Catch Me If You Can

Canaan Smith is a country singer-songwriter from Nashville, Tenn. According to his Apple Music profile, Smith began playing guitar as a coping mechanism after his brother died in a car accident. The album Bronco [his debut from June 2015] is named in his brother’s honor. Well before his own songs found an audience, Smith scored a Top 10 Country hit as cowriter of Love and Theft’s “Runaway.” “Love You Like That,” the first single from Bronco, spent almost an entire year climbing Billboard’s Country Airplay chart before landing at No. 1. When his college pals Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line launched Round Here Records in 2019, Smith was their first signing. Catch Me If You Can, co-written by Smith, Kelley, Hubbard and Jason Affable, is a nice uptempo country rock tune from Smith’s new sophomore album High Country Sound. Smith is sharing vocals on the tune with Georgia-based singer-songwriter Brent Cobb on vocals.

Demi Lovato/Dancing with the Devil

Frankly, other than her name, I hadn’t known about Demi Lovato. Lovato who was brought up in Dallas started playing the piano as a seven-year-old and picked up the guitar three years thereafter. She started her professional career in 2002 as an actress on the American children’s TV series Barney & Friends. Her acting breakthrough came in 2007 to 2008 with roles on Disney Channel TV series As the Bell Rings, followed by TV film Camp Rock and sitcom Sonny with a Chance. Lovato sang four songs of the Camp Rock soundtrack, one of which, This Is Me, became her first single in June 2008. Featuring Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, the tune debuted at an impressive no. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was followed by her debut album Don’t Forget from September 2008, which debuted at no. 2 on the Billboard 200. From the outside, it appeared Lovato was on top of the word. In reality, she struggled with bipolar disease, anorexia, self harm, alcoholism, and cocaine and heroin addiction, and suffered sexual assault as a teenager. This brings me to Dancing with the Devil … the Art of Starting Over, Lovato’s 7th and new release. The album, which is accompanied by a documentary of the same title, addresses her past in compelling detail. It was really Lovato’s soul-baring lyrics that caught my attention. Check out the title track Dancing with the Devil. “I wrote this song with a really good friend of mine named Blush at the end of 2018,” Lovato told Apple Music. “That was a very difficult year for me, and I wanted to tell that story in a song. It was really important to me that I introduced that song in the documentary…It’s so significant and means so much to me.” This is pretty deep stuff!

Kali Masi/Guilt Like a Gun

There’s very limited public information available on Kali Masi. According to their Bandcamp profile, Kali Masi is an American punk rock band from the Chicago. They’ve been heavily touring and self-promoting for the last 6 years; steadily evolving the heavy, emotive, and urgent sound found on their 2017 LP ‘WIND INSTRUMENT’ and the much anticipated 2021 followup ‘[laughs]. Well, the wait is over. [laughs] appeared on March 26. Here’s Guilt Like a Gun. I really like this tune, both in terms of the sound and the quite catchy melody. It reminds me a bit of Green Day’s pop-oriented grunge rock.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Bandcamp; YouTube