Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday and I hope everybody is enjoying their weekend. This also means it’s time to take a fresh look at newly released music. All picks appear on albums, which were released yesterday (November 4).

Big Joanie/Cactus Tree

Kicking us off today are Big Joanie, a black all-female punk trio formed in London in 2013. From their website: Championed by BBC 6Music, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan, Big Joanie are a London-based Black feminist punk band who combine the fury of nineties riot grrrl with synth-heavy post punk. Following their 2018 debut album ‘Sistahs’ on Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz’s label Daydream Library Series, the band secured a coveted run of support slots playing with Bikini Kill, Gossip, Sleater-Kinney and IDLES. Ahead of their second album, set to come out on Daydream Library in the UK and Kill Rock Stars in the US, Big Joanie are ready to bring their unique brand of feminist punk to the entire world. Big Joanie are Stephanie Phillips (guitar and vocals), Estella Adeyeri (bass guitar and vocals), and Chardine Taylor-Stone (drums and vocals). Their aforementioned second album Back Home is now out. Here’s the opener Cactus Tree, penned by Phillips. It’s safe to say Big Joanie are the first black punk band I’ve ever encountered, not to mention all-female. More importantly, these ladies have an interesting and I find distinct sound – not even sure I’d call it punk. Check this out.

The Lone Bellow/Cost of Living

Next up is another trio, The Lone Bellow, an Americana and roots group that began as a song-writing project for Zach Williams (guitar, lead vocals). Following an accident his wife had, which led to temporary paralysis, Williams began writing in a journal to cope with the situation. At the urging of friends, he learned how to play guitar and turned his journal entries into songs – what a cool story! After starting out as a solo act in New York City, he joined with Brian Elmquist (guitar, vocals) and Kanene Donehey Pipkin (mandolin, bass, keyboard, vocals). In January 2013, they released their eponymous debut album. Cost of Living is a song off Love Songs for Losers, the fifth and latest album by The Lone Bellow who are now based in Nashville. I love their harmony singing and warm sound!

Emily Nenni/Useless

Emily Nenni, according to her website, is a California-born and Nashville-based [country] singer and songwriter [who] chronicles her life through delicate songcraft rife with honky-tonk spirit and spiked with just the right amount of soul...Growing up in the Bay Area “in a family of music nerds,” her father worked in radio…Mom and dad took her to countless concerts as a kid and regaled her with endless tales of music lore. Emily’s mother introduced her to the likes of Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Hank Williams, while her father spun James Brown and John Coltrane. Following high school, she attended Columbia College with a major in audio engineering. After a year, she dropped out and saved up enough money to move to Nashville…Eventually, she linked up with producer and frequent collaborator Mike Eli. Together, they cut her independent debut LP, Hell of a Woman, in 2017. Next up, she joined forces with Teddy and The Rough Riders for the I Owe You Nothin’ EP before serving up 2020’s Long Game EP. This brings me to On the Ranch, Nenni’s label full-length debut, and Useless, a tune she co-wrote with Michael Elias LoPinto. While other tracks on the album are traditional country, this song has more of a country-rock vibe – not bad!

Turnover/People That We Know

My last new music pick for this week comes from an American band called Turnover, formed in Virginia Beach, Va. in 2009. From their AllMusic bio: Turnover emerged in the early part of the 2010s, quickly outgrowing their emo and punk roots to create a more introspective sound that incorporated the lushness of dream pop and the tender melodies of indie pop. 2015’s Peripheral Vision marked the beginning of their transformation as it dialed down the distortion and added touches of shoegaze haze and summery vocal harmonies. Further works saw them branching out into wistful introspection (2017’s Good Nature) and soft pop (2019’s Altogether.) By the time of 2022’s Myself in the Way, they had cooked up a slick slowcore-meets-disco sound inspired by Quincy Jones and Chic. Turnover are Austin Getz (vocals, keyboards), Nick Rayfield (lead guitar), Danny Dempsey (bass) and Casey Getz (drums). Here’s People That We Know, credited to the entire band, from their above-mentioned latest album. The smooth and groovy tune drew me in.

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

Sources: Wikipedia; Big Joanie website; Emily Nenni website; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify

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The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Welcome to another installment of The Sunday Six where I’d like to present six songs from the past six decades or so. The rules are there are no rules, and pretty much any music genre goes, as long as I like the track. I suppose this means the outcomes may vary. At the end of the day, my goal is to celebrate great music, which can come in many different flavors.

Kenny Burrell/Saturday Night Blues

I’d like to start today’s mini-journey with a great bluesy jazz instrumental by American jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. Burrell started picking up the guitar in 1943 as a 12-year-old. Among his influences were jazz guitarists Charlie Christian, Oscar Moore and Django Reinhardt. Burrell’s recording debut occurred in 1951 with Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet while he was a student at Wayne State University. The first album he recorded under his own name was Introducing Kenny Burrell, released in September 1956. Subsequently, an enormous amount of additional records appeared, both featuring Burrell as a leader, as well as a sideman to many other jazz artists, especially organist Jimmy Smith. Saturday Night Blues is from Midnight Blue, a Burrell album from May 1963. Other musicians on the recording include Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Major Holley (bass), Ray Barretto (conga) and Bill English (drums). This tune may be called Saturday Night Blues, but for me, it works just as well for a Sunday morning!

Robert Palmer/Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley

British songwriter and vocalist Robert Palmer joined his first band The Mandrakes in 1964 as a 15-year-old high school student. After playing in two other groups, he co-founded soul/rock band Vinegar Joe in 1971. Follwing three albums, the group disbanded in 1974, and Palmer launched a solo career. In 1984, he formed English-American supergroup The Power Station, together with Duran Duran members Andy Taylor (guitar) and John Taylor (bass), as well as former Chic drummer Tony Thompson. The following year, Palmer left the group that subsequently disbanded to record his next solo album, the highly successful Riptide. It featured the single Addicted to Love, which became a no. 1 in the U.S. and Australia, as well as a top 5 hit in the UK, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. Palmer recorded six additional solo albums and one 1996 reunion album with The Power Station. He died from a sudden heart attack in Paris in September 2003. Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, written by Allen Toussaint, is the groovy title track from Palmer’s debut solo album that came out in September 1974.

Tracy Chapman/Give Me One Reason

For this next pick, let’s jump to the ’90s and a great tune by Tracy Chapman I recall the song somewhat surprised me coming from her at the time it appeared. The singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio burst on the scene in April 1988 with her eponymous folk-oriented debut album. Her singles Talkin’ ‘about a Revolution and especially Fast Car struck a chord with many listeners, including this blogger. Chapman has since released seven additional studio albums and two compilations. According to this website, Chapman is still in the music business but not really active lately. From a 2015 interview: “Being in the public eye and under the glare of the spotlight was, and it still is, to some extent, uncomfortable for me, but there are some ways by which everything that has happened in my life has prepared me for this career. That has made me perhaps not the ideal person for this job.” I certainly hope we’ll hear more from Tracy Chapman. For now, let’s listen to Give Me One Reason, a terrific blues tune penned by Chapman. It appeared on her fourth studio album New Beginning from November 1995.

Meat Loaf/Dead Ringer for Love

As widely reported, Meat Loaf passed away during the night of January 20 to January 21. While it’s safe to assume his operatic, heavily produced output isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, many people bought his music. How many? How about 65 million-plus records sold worldwide! Meat Loaf whose real name was Michael Lee Aday was rock opera on steroids. His bombastic productions were somewhat comparable to Queen and ELO. Altogether, the Texan released a dozen studio albums between October 1977 (Bat Out of Hell) and September 2016 (Braver Than We Are). Aday struggled with health issues, including severe back problems, which largely sidelined him since the mid-2010s. I recall reading somewhere last year that he was working on new music. Here’s one of my favorite Meat Loaf songs: Dead Ringer for Love from his sophomore album Dead Ringer that appeared in September 1981. Written by Aday’s longtime songwriter Jim Steinman, who passed away in April of last year at the age of 73, the tune features Cher on vocals. Hot patootie, bless your soul, I really loved your rock & roll!

Lenny Kravitz/The Chamber

I trust most readers have heard of American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and actor Lenny Kravitz. Following challenges in his early career, where some clever music industry officials told him he didn’t sound “black enough” (what does this even mean?!) while others opined his music embraced too many influences of terrible artists like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles (you just can’t make this stuff up!), Kravitz has established himself with more than 40 million records sold worldwide and multiple awards. I think these smartass industry folks have since shut up. Here’s a cool groovy tune called The Chamber from Kravitz’s 10th studio album Strut released in September 2014. It was co-written by Kravitz and Craig Ross, who also played guitar and handclaps on the album. The song had first appeared in June that year as the lead single. Be careful, boys and girls, the video may harm you. And, Lenny, how could you, that bass groove sounds way too much like Chic!

Parquet Courts/Watching Strangers Smile

And once again this brings me to the sixth and final pick for this installment, a tune by Parquet Courts. ‘Who?’ you might think? I kind of had a similar initial reaction when I stumbled upon this New York City-based rock band, founded in 2010 by then-University of North Texas students Andrew Savage (vocals, guitar) and Austin Brown (vocals, guitar, keyboard). Sean Yeaton (bass, backing and lead vocals) and Max Savage (drums, percussion, backing vocals) completed the line-up, which remains in place to this day. Wikipedia notes the group’s music has been characterized as indie rock, post-punk, art punk and garage punk. To date, Parquet Courts have released eight studio albums. Here’s what appears to be their most recent tune, Watching Strangers Smile, a non-album single that came out on January 12 this year. I think it sounds pretty cool – check it out!

Here’s a Spotify playlist featuring all of the above picks. Hope you find something that’s for you.

Sources: Wikipedia; About Tracy Chapman website; YouTube; Spotify