Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another Best of What’s New installment. My latest look at new music releases is coming together at the last minute, so without further ado, let’s get to it. All picks except for the last tune appear on albums that were released yesterday (May 6).

Halestorm/Brightside

I’m kicking things off with high-energy hard rock by Halestorm. Here’s a bit of background from their Apple Music profile: Emerging in the late 2000s, Halestorm immediately distinguished themselves in hard-rock circles thanks to powerhouse vocalist/guitarist Lzzy Hale. The Pennsylvania native showed off both a silver-plated yowl and a dynamic lower range on the band’s 2009 breakthrough hit, “I Get Off,” while later singles unleashed a belting siren call (“I Miss the Misery”) and snarling metal ferocity (the Grammy-winning “Love Bites (So Do I)”). Halestorm’s roots date back to the late ’90s, when Hale and her younger brother Arejay, a drummer, started making music together. Following the release of several EPs as a duo, the group expanded into a quartet and made their major-label debut in 2006 with the One and Done live EP. A 2009 self-titled album established Halestorm as a band eager to slip between hard rock, post-grunge, and metal. In addition to Lzzy Hale (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, piano) and Arejay Hale (drums, backing vocals), Halestorm’s current line-up also features Joe Hottinger (lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals) and Josh Smith (bass, keyboards, piano, backing vocals). Here’s Brightside, a track co-written by Lzzy Hale and Scott Stevens, off the band’s fifth and latest album Back From the Dead. I like it but can’t listen to this level of intensity for too long!

Belle and Sebastian/Prophets On Hold

For this next pick by Scottish indie-pop group Belle and Sebastian, we’re taking it down a few notches. The band started out as a project in Glasgow in 1994 by Stuart Murdoch (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Stuart David (bass). They had both enrolled in a program for unemployed musicians at Stow College where together with their music professor they recorded some demos. This resulted in the release of their first full-length album Tigermilk on the college’s label Electric Honey. The album’s positive reception led Murdoch and David to recruit additional musicians and turn Belle and Sebastian into a full-time band. In August 1996, they signed with Jeepster Records and released their sophomore album If You’re Feeling Sinister in November of the same year. Today, the group consists of Murdoch, Stevie Jackson (guitar, vocals, piano), Sarah Martin (vocals, violin, guitar, flute, keyboards, recorder, percussion), Chris Geddes (keyboards, piano, percussion), Bobby Kildea (guitar, bass), Dave McGowan (bass, keyboards, guitar) and Richard Colburn (drums, percussion). Here’s Prophets On Hold from Belle and Sebastian’s new album A Bit of Previous. The catchy tune is credited to all members of the band.

Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever/The Way It Shatters

Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever are an Australian indie rock band founded in Melbourne in 2013. According to the Apple Music profile, Playing bright, energetic indie rock with lively guitar lines, sharp hooks, and dry wit, the Australian group Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever turn the clock back to the glory days of 1980s jangle pop while giving it a tough, no-nonsense three-guitar update in the process. After two EPs, the band’s first two albums — 2018’s Hope Downs and 2020’s Sideways to New Italy — showed they were in firm control of their songcraft and sound. The band maintains their original line-up to this day: Fran Keaney (vocals, acoustic guitar), Tom Russo (vocals, guitar), Joe White (vocals, lead guitar, keyboards, harmonica), Joe Russo (bass) and Marcel Tussie (drums, percussion). The Way It Shatters, co-written by Keaney, White, Tussie and Tom Russo, appears on the band’s latest album Endless Rooms, their third full-length release. I love their sound!

Simple Plan/Wake Me Up (When This Nightmare’s Over)

Simple Plan are a Canadian pop-rock band formed in Montreal in 1999. Their members include Pierre Bouvier (lead vocals, guitar, percussion, bass), Jeff Stinco (lead guitar), Sébastien Lefebvre (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) and Chuck Comeau (drums, percussion), who have been with the group since its inception. Their debut album No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls appeared in March 2002. While the pop-punk record received mixed reviews, it enjoyed significant chart success in Canada and various other countries and reached double-platinum certification in Canada and the U.S. Simple Plan have since issued five additional albums including their latest Harder Than It Looks. Here’s the opener Wake Me Up (When This Nightmare’s Over), co-written by Comeau, Bouvier and Nate Campany. Quite catchy!

Sheryl Crow/Live With Me

I just couldn’t resist and throw in two bonus tracks by two of my long-time favorite artists who need no introductions. Technically, these aren’t new songs, but both appear on newly released albums. First up is a great cover of Rolling Stones tune Live With Me from the soundtrack of Sheryl, a documentary directed by Amy Scott about Sheryl Crow, which debuted yesterday evening on Showtime. From a previous statement on Crow’s website: An intimate story of song and sacrifice, “Sheryl” navigates an iconic yet arduous musical career while the artist battles sexism, ageism, depression, cancer, and the price of fame, before harnessing the power of her gift. A career spanning album package including her classic hits and several new tracks will accompany the film, released via Big Machine Label Group, in cooperation with Universal Music Group. Co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Live With Me first appeared on the Stones album Let It Bleed from November 1969. Crow’s rendition features Jagger on harmonica.

Neil Young & The Restless/Heavy Love

Wrapping up this new music revue is Heavy Love, a great rocker by Neil Young & The Restless. It appears on the EP Eldorado, which originally was released in April 1989 in Japan and Australia only. As of April 29 this year, it’s available worldwide. Heavy Love and Cocaine Eyes, which I featured in a previous Best of What’s New installment, are not available on any other recording, while the three remaining tracks Don’t Cry, On Broadway and Eldorado subsequently appeared on Young’s 17th studio album Freedom from October 1989, though in different mixes. The EP is also included in Young’s latest archives vinyl box set titled Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 13, 14, 20 & 21. Like Cocaine Eyes, Heavy Love would have been a great addition to Freedom.

Here’s a Spotify playlist with the above tunes except for Neil Young, as well as a few additional tracks. Young earlier this year asked that his music be pulled from there in protest to Spotify providing a platform to prominent podcaster Joe Rogan who has been criticized for promoting misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Sheryl Crow website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

With highs in the low ’60s and high ’50s yesterday and today, respectively, dare I say it, it does feel a bit like spring. Or perhaps global warming, since having spring in mid-February really sounds way too early? In any case, looks like it’s short-lived: In typical New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area fashion, tomorrow, the forecast high is 35.

What the heck does any of this have to do with music? Nothing, so why don’t we get to some new releases! All my picks this week appear on albums that came out yesterday. Once again, it’s a mix of artists who are entirely new to me and two names I’ve known for a long time, though I can’t claim deep familiarity with their music either.

Spoon/The Devil & Mr. Jones

Kicking it off today are Spoon, a rock band from Austin, Texas, formed as a trio in 1993. They named themselves after a song by German avant-garde group Can. Only Britt Daniel (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion) and Jim Eno (drums, percussion, programming) remain as original members in the band’s current line-up, which also includes Alex Fischel (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals), Gerardo Larios (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) and Ben Trokan (bass, keyboards). Spoon, whose music Apple Music characterizes as being inspired by new wave, power pop and soul-influenced rock, released their debut album Telephono in April 1996. The Devil & Mr. Jones, penned by Daniel and fellow Austin songwriter Andrew Cashen, is a track from Spoon’s 10th and new album Lucifer on the Sofa. Good tune!

alt-j/Bane

alt-j are an English alternative rock band. According to their Apple Music profile, they wear their geeky math side with pride, right down to their name, a reference to the keyboard shortcut for a delta (triangle) sign. But it was their proclivity for the liberal arts that brought them together in 2007 at Leeds University, where lead singer/guitarist Joe Newman, guitarist/bassist Gwil Sainsbury, and drummer Thom Green studied fine art and keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton read English literature. The quartet first started tinkering with minimal equipment in their dorm rooms, but soon after graduation their sound had evolved into multilayered melodies that mixed, mashed, and manipulated elements of indie pop, trip-hop, folk, dubstep, psychedelia, and a capella harmonies. It all came together beautifully on tracks like “Breezeblocks” and “Tessellate” from their 2012 debut album, An Awesome Wave, which garnered them the coveted Mercury Prize. Fast-forward 20 years to The Dream, the latest album by alt-j who since Sainsbury’s departure in 2014 have been a trio. Here’s Bane, credited to all three members. Admittedly, it’s outside my core wheelhouse but there’s something about it!

Eddie Vedder/Try

Eddie Vedder is a name I first and foremost associate with Pearl Jam, the Seattle rock band he co-founded in 1990 and whose lead vocalist and guitarist he remains to this day. In addition to his work with Pearl Jam, Vedder has also released three solo albums starting in 2007 with Into the Wild, which was based on his contributions to the soundtrack of a biographical adventure drama picture of the same name. Vedder’s latest effort, Earthling, is his first solo record in nearly 11 years since Ukulele Songs, a folk-oriented album released in May 2011. Here’s Try featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica, one of three prominent guests on Earthling. The other two are Elton John and Ringo Starr. Mrs. Mills, the tune with Ringo on drums, is included in the Spotify playlist at the end of the post. Try was co-written by Vedder, former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist and drummer Josh Klinghoffer and Chad Smith, respectively, and producer Andrew Votman, aka Andrew Watt. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Stevie Wonder play on a rock song, but he proves he’s definitely up to the task!

Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators/The River is Rising

Closing out today’s Best of What’s New is Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist Slash (born Saul Hudson). In addition to the band he’s best known for and joined shortly after they were formed in 1985, Slash has been involved in various other music projects. Primarily, that was the case following his departure from Guns N’ Roses in 1996 until his return in 2016. One of these projects has been billed to Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. The first album Slash recorded with that backing band was Apocalyptic Love, released in May 2012. The fourth and latest is appropriately titled 4. Here’s the opener The River is Rising, which first had appeared as the lead single in October 2021. Co-written by Hudson and Kennedy, the tune has some of that Guns N’ Roses swagger in it, minus Axl Rose whose voice I find a bit difficult to take after a few songs.

Last but not least here’s the above noted Spotify playlist. Hope there’s something for you.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Welcome to the first Sunday Six of 2022 and once again Happy New Year! Frequent visitors of the blog know what’s about to unfold. In case you’re here for the first time, welcome, and I hope you’ll be back for more. The Sunday Six is a weekly recurring feature celebrating music in different flavors from the past 70 years or so, six tunes at a time I typically present in a zig-zag fashion. Ready to embark on my first music mini-excursion of 2022? Fasten your seatbelt and let’s go!

Regina Spektor/New Year

Since it’s the beginning of 2022, I thought why not kick off this installment with a song titled New Year. It’s a nice ballad by Regina Spektor, a Russian-American singer-songwriter and pianist. Spektor, who was born in 1980 in Moscow, then the Soviet Union, has lived in the U.S. since 1989 when her parents emigrated to New York. After studying classical piano until she was 17, Spektor started to become interested in other music, including hip-hop, rock and punk. She initially gained prominence as part of New York’s so-called anti-folk scene. According to Wikipedia, anti-folk emerged in the 1980s to protest the mainstream music scene with mocking and clever lyrics. In July 2001, Spektor self-released her debut album 11:11, a jazz and blues-influenced record. New Year is a bonus track from her seventh and most recent studio album Remember Us to Life that appeared in September 2016.

Miles Davis Quintet/Airegin

Next, let’s turn to a great jazz standard composed in 1954 by tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. The tune was first recorded in June that year by the Miles Davis Quintet for a 10″ LP titled Miles Davis with Sonny Rollins. In addition to Davis (trumpet) and Rollins (tenor sax), the musicians included Horace Silver (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums). Rollins also made four additional albums with Davis, in addition to 50-plus studio and live records as a bandleader over a 60-year recording career, as well as more than 20 albums as a sideman. The latter included The Rolling Stones’ 1981 studio album Tattoo You.

Bronski Beat/It Ain’t Necessarily So

While I’ve never been a synth-pop fan, I’ve always loved It Ain’t Necessarily So by Bronski Beat. The timing of featuring this tune isn’t coincidental. Sadly, the trio’s co-founder Steve Bronski passed away on December 7, 2021, at the untimely age of 61. Bronski who due to a stroke in 2018 had limited mobility, reportedly died from smoke inhalation due to a fire at his apartment in London, England. In addition to him (keyboards, percussion), Bronski Beat also included Jimmy Somerville (vocals) and Larry Steinbachek (keyboards, percussion). It Ain’t Necessarily So, composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by his brother Ira Gershwin, is from Gershwin’s 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. Bronski Beat recorded the tune for their debut album The Age of Consent released in October 1984. Here’s the official video – such a cool rendition!

The Yardbirds/For Your Love

English blues rock group The Yardbirds are best known for featuring three of the top British guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Clapton replaced the band’s first lead guitarist Anthony “Top” Topham in October 1963. When Clapton left in March 1965, he recommended Jimmy Page as his replacement. But Page declined and Jeff Beck took over on lead guitar. Page ended up joining the group on bass in 1966 and switched to lead guitar after Beck’s departure in November that year. The Yardbirds split in 1968 and reformed in 1992, including original members Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar, bass) and Jim McCarty (drums). They are still around with McCarty remaining the sole founding member in the current line-up. For Your Love, first released as a single in the UK in March 1965, became the band’s first hit. It marked a departure from their blues roots to a more commercial sound, which was the key reason for Clapton’s departure. For Your Love was written by Graham Gouldman who subsequently co-founded 10cc. That harpsichord played by organist Brian Auger and the different sections of the song are just cool!

Smash Mouth/Walkin’ on the Sun

Retro group Smash Mouth were formed in San Jose, Calif. in 1994. The initial line-up consisted of Steve Harwell (lead vocals), Greg Camp (guitar), Paul De Lisle (bass) and Kevin Coleman (drums). By the time they recorded their debut album Fush Yu Mang, Michael Klooster had joined on keyboards. Released in July 1997, the album included Walkin’ on the Sun, the band’s debut single. Written by Camp, the tune surged to no. 2 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100, hit no. 3 in Canada and reached no. 7 in Australia. It also became a top 20 hit in the UK (no. 19) and charted in various other European countries – smashing!

10cc/Dreadlock Holiday

I’d like to end this first 2022 Best of What’s New installment on a groovy note with Dreadlock Holiday by 10cc. Released in July 1978, this catchy funky tune was the lead single of the English band’s sixth studio album Bloody Tourists that appeared in September of the same year. Co-written by two of the group’s founding members, Eric Stewart and the above-mentioned Graham Gouldman, Dreadlock Holiday was based on real events Stewart and Moody Blues vocalist Justin Hayward had experienced in Barbados, and Gouldman had encountered in Jamaica. The tune was a no. 1 in the UK and also became 10cc’s first no. 1 hit outside the UK, topping the charts in Belgium, The Netherlands and Australia. I recall this song got lots of play on my favorite mainstream pop FM radio station in Germany at the time. 10cc remain active and with Gouldman still have an original member. The current line-up also includes Paul Burgess (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Rick Fenn (guitar, backing and lead vocals, bass, keyboards) who already were around for Dreadlock Holiday. The group has announced a UK tour starting in March 2022. I love it (Eh!).

Last but not least, here’s a playlist with the above tunes. Hope you enjoy!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Hard to believe it’s Saturday again. Today also marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., which I find even more mind-boggling. While this blog is focused on music and rarely addresses other topics, having lived in New York at the time, this sad milestone is something I simply cannot ignore.

Like many other folks, especially those living in America in September 2001, I still remember aspects of this day, as if everything just had happened yesterday: The beautiful late summer weather; my boss telling the staff a jet plane (the first one) had just crashed into the World Trade Center; crossing 7th Avenue from my office in midtown Manhattan in the early afternoon and strangely not seeing any smoke when looking south or anything else unusual, other than more people walking in the street; making it onto a crowded subway train later in the day (after service had been restored) to get back to my apartment in Queens; watching the images of the carnage on CNN over and over again in disbelief…

I also remember something else, and this is the final point I’d like to make about 9/11. In the wake of the attacks, this country came together in many remarkable ways. There was a true sense of community and coping together. Political and other differences apparently didn’t matter much any longer. I just wish some folks who like to divide us would remember that spirit. The country could really use it today!

On to newly released music. This Best of What’s New installment features three music acts that are entirely new to me, as well as well as an artist I’ve listened to for more than 40 years. There’s some indie, some rock, some pop and some alternative, making for a good variety of music. Let’s get to it!

Colleen Green/I Wanna Be a Dog

I’d like to start with Colleen Green, an indie pop artist based in Los Angeles. According to her Apple Music profile, she is known for her sweetly gritty, lo-fi pop sound. Influenced by bands like the Ramones, Sublime, and the Descendents, Green’s early self-recorded tapes like 2010’s Milo Goes to Compton and 2011’s Cujo, were breezy punk- and new wave-inflected productions featuring Green’s home-blended mix of vocals, guitars, keyboards, and simple drum-machine beats. She has retained her lighthearted spirit even as her music has grown more ambitious and musically organic, as on 2015’s I Want to Grow Up and her 2019 EP, Colleen Green. Born in 1984 in Dunstable, Massachusetts, Green spent time in Boston before moving to Oakland in 2009 with a handful of friends. Once there, they began playing live shows in their living room. However, after experiencing some health problems, Green moved to her brother’s house in Los Angeles. It was during this period, armed with little more than a guitar and a drum machine, that she began writing and recording music at home. After releasing an EP and a cassette tape in 2010, Green secured a deal with Hardly Art Records and released her sophomore album Sock It To Me in March 2013. I Wanna Be a Dog is a nice track from her new album Cool that dropped yesterday (September 10) – reminds me a bit of Sheryl Crow!

Hawthorne Heights/The Rain Just Follows Me

Hawthorne Heights are a rock band formed in 2001 in Dayton, Ohio as A Day in the Life – and yep, that was a reference to the Beatles song. After signing with Confined Records, the band released their debut album Nine Reasons to Say Goodbye as A Day in the Life. By the time of their next release, The Silence in Black and White from June 2004, the band had changed their name to Hawthorne Heights. It looks like this album and the follow-on, If Only You Were Lonely from February 2006, have been their most successful releases to date, both in terms of chart performance and sales. The group’s current line-up includes founding members JT Woodruff (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano, keyboards) and Matt Ridenour (bass, backing vocals), along with Mark McMillon (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chris “Poppy” Popadak (drums, percussion, backing vocals). The Rain Just Follows Me, credited to all four members of the group, is the melodic title track from the band’s new album that also came out yesterday.

Sting/If It’s Love

The former frontman of The Police who after the group’s breakup launched his solo career in 1985 doesn’t need an introduction. On September 1, Sting announced a new album titled The Bridge that is scheduled for November 19. This coincided with the release of lead single If It’s Love. From the announcement: The Bridge was written in a year of global pandemic and finds Sting ruminating on personal loss, separation, disruption, lockdown, and extraordinary social and political turmoil...He [Sting – CMM] explains, “These songs are between one place and another, between one state of mind and another, between life and death, between relationships. Between pandemics, and between eras – politically, socially and psychologically, all of us are stuck in the middle of something. We need a bridge.” While this sounds like a somewhat grim description, If It’s Love is an upbeat pop tune penned by Sting, illustrating not all is doom and gloom. “I’m certainly not the first songwriter to equate falling in or out of love with an incurable sickness, nor will I be the last,” Sting commented in the above announcement. “’If It’s Love’ is my addition to that canon where the tropes of metaphorical symptoms, diagnosis, and downright incapacity are all familiar enough to make each of us smile ruefully.”

Pedro Samp/Harlequeen

Concluding this Best of What’s New installment is new music by Pedro Samp, a young talented music artist and multi-instrumentalist who was born in Rio de Janeiro and is based in Reigate, a small town located approximately 23 miles south of London. Samp already was exposed to music as a three-year-old, listening to his dad’s CD collection. Coincidentally, it included The Police. At the age of 11, he traded with one of his friends a Nintendo video game and two Led Zeppelin CDs for a Fender Stratocaster – gotta love this! By the time Samp was 19, he already worked on scoring movie soundtracks and also was the lead guitarist and songwriter for Crooked Kings, a UK indie band that toured nationally. After leaving the group, Samp launched a solo career in October 2019. To date, he has released 14 singles including his latest, Harlequeen, which came out on August 28. Samp does all the writing, singing, recording and arranging by himself. In addition to his main instrument the guitar, he plays bass, piano, synthesizer and also produces his own beats. Admittedly, it took me a couple of listens to appreciate this tune. Now, I’m kind of hooked! 🙂

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Sting website; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

This latest Best of What’s New installment coincides with the fifth anniversary of the blog, which was yesterday (June 25). If you’re curious, my inaugural post is here. Frankly, when I started this endeavor in June 2016, I really wasn’t sure whether I would stick with it. Lately, my time has been pretty limited to the point where I considered taking a break. But writing about music is way too much fun, so the show must go on! This brings me to my new music picks for this week: Three acts I had not heard of before, as well as a band I’ve known since the late ’70s and that is out with their first new music in a decade.

Lightning Bug/The Return

Lightning Bug are an indie pop band from Brooklyn, New York, which has been around for about 10 years. Unfortunately, there is very little official public information available on this band, so I’m largely relying on reviews by Spectral Nights, Stereogum and Americana Highways. Lightning Bug started out as a trio consisting of multi-instrumentalists Audrey Kang (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocal loops, violin, synthesizer, electronics, bowed cymbal, bowed pedal steel), Kevin Copeland (background vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, pedal steel, sampler, piano, bass guitar, bowed electric guitar, drum programming) and Logan Miley (sampler, modular synthesizer, drum programming, bass synthesizer, piano, electric guitar, electronics). After signing with record label Fat Possum in 2020, they added Vincent Puleo (bass, acoustic guitar) and Dane Hagen (drums, acoustic guitar) to the line-up. The Return, co-written by Kang, Copeland and Miley, is the opener to Lightning Bug’s third and new album A Color of the Sky released yesterday. I find the dreamy and spacy sound and Kang’s soft voice quite soothing.

The Mountain Goats/Mobile

The Mountain Goats are an indie folk rock band founded by singer-songwriter John Darnielle in Claremont, Calif. in 1991. For many years, the group’s sole permanent member was Darnielle who relied on collaborators. The first release under the name The Mountain Goats was a cassette in 1991, titled Taboo VI: The Homecoming. The first full-length album Zopilote Machine appeared in 1994. Starting with their seventh album Tallahassee from November 2002, The Mountain Goats started recording as a full band. The catalog released to date under the name The Mountain Goats includes about 20 albums and more than 25 EPs and singles. In addition to Darnielle (vocals, guitar, keyboards), the band’s current core members include Matt Douglas (flute, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, keyboard, backing vocals), Peter Hughes (bass, backing vocals) and Jon Wurster (drums). Here’s Mobile from their new album Dark in Here, which came out yesterday. Like all other tracks, it was written by Darnielle. Great sound!

Journey/The Way We Used to Be

Undoubtedly, some eyes are going to roll when they see the name Journey. Call it arena rock or pop rock or whatever else you want. Since I first heard Wheel in the Sky on the radio in Germany back in the late ’70s, I always thought Journey had some good songs. Formed as Golden Gate Rhythm Section in San Francisco in 1973 by former members of the Santana band Neal Schon (lead guitar) and Gregg Rollie (keyboards), along with George Tickner (rhythm guitar), Ross Valory (bass) and future drummer of The Tubes, Prairie Prince, the band initially was conceived as a back-up group for Bay Area artists. However, they quickly abandoned the concept, renamed themselves Journey and released their eponymous debut record in April 1975, a progressive rock album. After Steve Perry became Journey’s lead vocalist in October 1977, they adopted a much more pop rock-oriented sound and entered their commercially most successful period. Following Perry’s departure in 1998, the band brought in Steve Augeri as their new lead vocalist. Due to vocal issues his tenure with Journey ended in July 2006. In December 2007, Filipino singer-songwriter Arnel Pineda became the band’s new vocalist after Neal Schon had seen videos of him on YouTube. Journey have also been through multiple other changes in their line-up over the decades. The current formation features Schon (lead guitar, backing vocals), Pineda (lead vocals), Jonathan Cain (keyboards, backing vocals) and Randy Jackson (bass), along with new members Narada Michael Walden (drums) and Jason Derlatka (keyboards, backing vocals). On June 24, Journey released The Way We Used Be, a single and their first new music since their most recent studio album Eclipse from May 2011. Based on this Billboard story, a new album is in the works as well. It’s not exactly Who’s Crying Now, Don’t Stop Believin’ or Open Arms, but it still does sound like Journey.

Mannequin Pussy/To Lose You

Mannequin Pussy are a punk and indie rock band from Philadelphia. They were initially founded in October 2010 as a duo by Marisa Dabice (vocals, guitar) and Athanasios Paul (drums) who had met each other in school. In early 2013, Drew Adler joined on drums and Paul moved to guitar. In October that year, the band’s first album appeared as a limited cassette-only edition. It was subsequently re-released in 2014 by their new label Tiny Engines and later renamed Mannequin Pussy. In 2016, Mannequin Pussy became a four piece with the addition of Colins “Bear” Regisford on bass. Two additional albums have since come out, as well as two EPs. Dabice remains as the only original member of the band’s current line-up, which also features Regisford and Kaleen Reading (drums) who replaced Adler in 2015. To Lose You is a track from the latter from the EP Perfect, released on May 21. Kind of catchy!

Sources: Wikipedia; Spectral Nights; Stereogum; Americana Highway; Billboard; YouTube

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

L.A. Singer-Songwriter Pearl Charles’ New Sophomore Album Is an Indie Pop Gem

When I first listened to Imposter by Pearl Charles yesterday, I immediately decided to include the tune in my latest Best of What’s New installment. It’s a track from the L.A. singer-songwriter’s great new album Magic Mirror, to which I’ve since listened in its entirety. Charles’ second full-length album was released on January 15.

According to an artist profile on the website of her record label Kanine Records, the 29-year-old has been playing music since the age of 5. Charles got her professional start at 18 when she teamed up with L.A. fellow musician Christian Lee Hutson to form country duo The Driftwood Singers. After their EP We Will Never Break Up had come out, Charles joined garage rock band The Blank Tapes as drummer. Two years later, she decided to go solo and released an eponymous debut EP in 2015.

“Drawn to poppy hooks and catchy choruses, Charles draws on what she loves about the 60s, 70s and 80s while developing her unique style as a solo artist,” her Kanine profile states. Charles’ first full-length album Sleepless Dreamer came out in 2018. Rough Trade described as “The best country pop we’ve heard in years” and Buzzfeed called her “A modern June Carter meets Lana Del Rey.

This brings me to Magic Mirror. Here’s the Abba-esque opener Only for Tonight, which reminds me a bit of Dancing Queen. It was co-written by Charles and indie singer-songwriter Hank Fontaine. This is one catchy tune!

Here’s What I Need, another catchy song. Co-written by Charles and Carrick Moore-Gerety, it has a bit of a ’70s Fleetwood Mac flair. In addition to the singing, I really dig the pedal steel guitar work.

The title track is a beautiful piano-driven ballad. Charles wrote it together with Lewis Pesacow who also produced and engineered the album, and provided keyboards and guitar.

All the Way, which was co-written by Charles and Morgan Nagler, is another great tune. It features nice slide guitar work reminiscent of George Harrison.

Let’s do one more: Sweet Sunshine Wine. Yet another catchy track, it was solely written by Charles.

I think Apple Music hit the nail perfectly on the head in their artist profile: “Charles has a knack for writing melodic, low-key indie pop with a jangling country tone.” I certainly do look forward to more music from this talented singer-songwriter.

Sources: Wikipedia; Kanine Records website; AllMusic; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Lately, I feel I sound like a broken record. Yet another busy week is coming to an end, which once again didn’t leave me with an opportunity to blog. Finally, I was able to carve out some time to take a look at newly-released music.

This Best of What’s New installment features different flavors of rock and some indie pop. Two of the artists are relatively young and were unknown to me, while the two remaining songs come from famous acts. One is a post-mortem, previously unreleased cover of a Bob Dylan tune by an artist who sadly passed away in January 2016. The other one is going to knock off your socks if you’re into early ’70s rock.

Lande Hekt/Undone

Lande Hekt is a founding member of British punk and indie rock band Muncie Girls, which was formed in 2010 in Exeter, England. Their debut album From Caplan To Belsize appeared in March 2016, followed by sophomore Fixed Ideals in August 2018. Undone is a song from Hekt’s solo debut cheerfully titled Going to Hell, which was released today (January 22). Like all of the 10 other tracks, the tune was written by Hekt. According to a review on Bandcamp Daily, she played all instruments herself except for the percussion. The album has a bare-bones homemade feel to it, which is part of what drew me in.

Pearl Charles/Imposter

Pearl Charles is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. According to her artist profile on Apple Music, she has a knack for writing melodic, low-key indie pop with a jangling country tone. After coming up through the Los Angeles lo-fi and garage scenes, she made her full-length debut in 2018 with Sleepless Dreamer, a finely crafted slice of warm country-pop. She followed it up three years later with Magic Mirror. A lifelong musician, the L.A. native first gained exposure as one-half of lo-fi Americana duo the Driftwood Singers, who released a pair of EPs and one full-length in 2012. A stint playing drums for garage pop act the Blank Tapes introduced her to the crew at Burger Records, who offered to release her first solo effort, a 2015 self-titled EP. Imposter, written by Charles, is a catchy tune from her new album Magic Mirror released on January 15. I’m definitely curious to hear more of her music.

David Bowie/Tryin’ to Get to Heaven

This previously unreleased cover of Bob Dylan’s Tryin’ to Get to Heaven appeared as a single on January 8, which would have been David Bowie’s 74th birthday. As reported by NME, Bowie who died from liver cancer in January 2016 just two days after his 69th birthday, recorded this version in 1989 while working on LiveAndWell.com, a limited edition live album that first came out in November 1999. On January 15, it was re-released as part of the Brilliant Live Adventures series of six concert albums. Originally, Dylan recorded Tryin’ to Get to Heaven for his 30th studio album Time Out of Mind from September 1997.

The Black Crowes/Charming Mess

On January 9, The Black Crowes announced a 30th-anniversary re-issue of their excellent debut album Shake Your Money Maker, which features Charming Mess, a previously unreleased and “recently unearthed” song. The reissue, which includes 4LP Super Deluxe, 3CD Super Deluxe, 2CD, Standard CD & LP, streaming and download formats (jeez, they’re not kiddin’ around here!), is set for release on February 26. Co-written by the band’s founding members Christopher Robinson and his brother Richard S. Robinson, Charming Mess feels like taking a trip back to the early ’70s and listening to a Faces tune – just awesome! After a hiatus from 2002 to 2005 and a breakup in January 2015, The Black Crowes reunited in November 2019 for a planned tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut album. The rest is COVID! Now it appears the tour is set to kick off in Tampa, Fla. on June 25. They’re scheduled to play in my neck of the woods in mid-July – man, that should be a cool show and definitely something I’d consider, depending on where things are with the pandemic.

Sources: Wikipedia; Bandcamp Daily; Apple Music; NME; The Black Crowes website; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Another week flew by that was pretty busy, which hardly left any opportunity to focus on music. And even as I’m writing this on a Saturday, I feel pressed for time. While this sucks it’s a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, so I don’t want to wine too much about it.

Perhaps it’s not a coincidence the music in this latest Best of What’s New installment is on the quiet side – no crunchy rockers or the kind of smoking hot blues I dig this week. I still like what I found and hope so will folks who read this. All of these tracks are on releases that appeared yesterday (December 11).

David Nail/Roach Motel

Let’s kick it off with David Nail, a Nashville-based country singer-songwriter who was born and grew up in Kennett, Mo. In 2002, he recorded an eponymous album that generated a charting country single, Memphis, but due to staff changes at his then-label Universal Music Group Nashville, the record never appeared. His first released album became the appropriately titled I’m About to Come Alive in August 2009. After putting out three more solo albums, Nail formed David Nail & The Well Ravens in July 2018, an independent project with longtime colleagues Jason Hall and Andrew Petroff. They independently released the album Only This And Nothing More in September 2018. Roach Motel is from Nail’s new solo EP Bootheel. To me, this tune has a Bruce Springsteen feel, which is what drew me in right away.

Helios/Never Will You Be Without

It’s safe to assume ambient music isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. I like it on occasion, especially when I’m in the mood to relax. Behind Helios is composer and multi-instrumentalist Keith Kenniff, who according to his Apple Music profile is also known for his neo-classical work as Goldmund. His recordings as Helios typically mix moody synthesizer textures and slow, glitchy beats with fragile melodies played on pianos, guitars, and other acoustic instruments. After establishing the Helios sound and gaining a cult following for his early releases, particularly 2006’s Eingya, Kenniff became an in-demand composer for film, television, and advertising. He remained prolific, regularly issuing albums as both Helios and Goldmund, in addition to making shoegaze/indie pop along with his wife, Hollie Kenniff, as Mint Julep…Keith Kenniff was raised in rural Pennsylvania, where he learned to play drums, guitar, and bass. He began playing piano while studying percussion at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and began recording music as Helios in 2001. Never Will You Be Without is a track from the new album Domicile, Kenniff’s 12th released as Healios.

Taylor Swift/champagne problems

Taylor Swift needs no further introduction. While I’ve always respected Swift for being an artist who writes her own songs and also is a musician and liked some of her early tunes, I haven’t closely followed her. In part that’s because some of her more recent releases I’ve heard sound too much like contemporary mainstream. Regardless how you feel about her, there’s no question Swift who only turns 31 tomorrow is a very talented and accomplished artist. I mean, who am I to judge her in the first place? Plus, champagne problems, a tune from Swift’s new album evermore, sounds very different from the aforementioned mainstream pop. Apple Music characterizes it as “cozy home-studio vibes for more bare soles arrangements and bare-soul lyrics, casually intimate and narratively rich.” Wow, that’s many words I couldn’t have come up with myself, which is why I also could never make it as a music critic! However you want to describe it, I just like champagne problems, which was co-written by Swift and William Bowery, and that’s good enough for me to feature the tune here. Admittedly, it does make me curious to take a closer look at the rest of the album.

Randall King/Around Forever

Randall King is a country singer-songwriter from Lubbock, Texas, and an artist I probably would have ignored as recently as 5-10 years ago when I pretty much didn’t listen to country music. Well, I guess things have changed since then. Blame it in part on John Mellencamp, an artist I’ve loved for many years, and his transition from straight heartland rock to roots/Americana/country-oriented music. Another factor is the evolution of the country genre itself where you have massive crossover action. According to his Apple Music artist profile, King has an ear for steel guitar and the genre’s classic Americana roots. Inspired by country legend George Strait, King released his debut EP, Another Bullet, in 2016. He collaborated with Americana group Flatland Cavalry in 2016, singing a duet with frontman Cleto Cordero on the honky-tonk rocker “Hard Livin’ Illene.”His first album, 2018’s self-produced Randall King, was a major breakthrough, debuting in the Top 10 on iTunes’ Top Country Albums chart. Around Forever, written by King together with singer-songwriters Josh Miller and Will Bundy, is a tune from King’s new EP Leanna.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; YouTube