Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday, and welcome to what to me feels like one of the busiest weeks in new music so far this year. All featured tunes in this post appear on albums or EPs released yesterday (June 2).

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats/Buy My Round

Kicking off this week’s picks is Denver, Colo.-based Americana-influenced singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff who is best known as the frontman of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, a band he formed in 2013. To date, they have released three full-length studio albums and two EPs including the latest, What If I. Rateliff has also issued three solo albums. Off the new EP, here’s Buy My Round, co-written by Rateliff and Mark Shusterman, a keyboarder and vocalist who is a touring musician with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats.

Lanterns On The Lake/Real Life

English indie rock band Lanterns On The Lake have been around since 2007. Their AllMusic bio notes the group’s music draws on Neil Young folk influences and post-rock instrumental sounds of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Low. Apart from their debut Gracious Tide, Take Me Home (September 2011), they have come out with four additional studio albums, including their latest, Versions of Us. Their current line-up features original members Hazel Wilde (vocals, guitar, piano, lyricist) and Paul Gregory (guitar) who also is the band’s producer, along with Bob Allan (bass) and Angela Chan (violin, cello, viola). Here’s Real Life credited to Wilde (lyrics) and Lanterns On The Lake (music).

Craig Stickland/Firing Line

Craig Stickland is a Canadian pop singer-songwriter who grew up in Toronto. His full-length debut studio album Starlight Afternoon, which came out in February 2020, impressively was nominated for the 2021 Juno Award for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year. From his new release, an EP titled Lost in the Rewind, here’s Firing Line. Stickland wrote this tune 15 years ago.

The Aces/I’ve Loved You For So Long

The Aces are an alternative pop band from Provo, Utah. Their origins date back to when sisters Cristal Ramirez (lead vocals, guitar) and Alisa Ramirez (drums, vocals) were eight years old. After adding McKenna Petty (bass, vocals) and Katie Henderson (guitar, vocals) in 2008, they formed The Blue Aces and released two EPs before becoming The Aces. Their first full-length album When My Heart Felt Volcanic (April 2018) followed after they had signed with Red Bull Records. Here’s the title cut from their third and latest studio album I’ve Loved You For So Long. The tune is credited to all four members of the band, as well as songwriter and producer Keith Varon.

Cowboy Junkies/Shadows 2

Canadian alternative rock and Americana quartet Cowboy Junkies were formed in Toronto in 1985. They are best known for their 1988 sophomore release The Trinity Session, which remains their best-selling album in Canada and the U.S. and their highest charting in the U.S. Except for co-founding member John Timmins who left the group before they recorded their 1986 debut album Whites Off Earth Now!!, Cowboy Junkies remain in their original formation to this day: Alan Anton (bassist), as well as siblings Michael Timmins (guitar), Peter Timmins (drums) and Margo Timmins (vocals). From their latest album Such Ferocious Beauty, here’s Shadows 2, penned by Michael Timmins.

Foo Fighters/The Teacher

Wrapping up this weekly music revue are Foo Fighters who are now out with their previously announced album, But Here We Are, their first since the untimely death of drummer Taylor Hawkins in Bogotá, Columbia in March 2022 at the age of 50 during the band’s tour in South America. A brutally honest and emotionally raw response to everything Foo Fighters endured over the last year, But Here We Are is a testament to the healing powers of music, friendship and family, the band said at the time, adding the 10 tracks run the emotional gamut from rage and sorrow to serenity and acceptance, and myriad points in between. Here’s The Teacher, a dark-sounding 10-minute track credited to the entire band.

Following is a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Foo Fighters website; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday morning, afternoon, or evening – in whichever time zone you are, I hope you’re doing great and are in the mood to join me on another journey to visit music of the past and the present century. This trip will have six stops in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2008.

Shorty Rogers Quintet/Breezin’ Along in the Trades

Let’s start today’s journey by setting our music time machine to the year 1957. That’s when the Shorty Rogers Quintet released an album titled Wherever the Five Winds Blow. Born in 1924 Milton Rajonsky, Shorty Rogers was a trumpet and flugelhorn player who was instrumental in creating West Coast jazz. According to Wikipedia, this jazz style was developed in the 1950s in San Francisco and Los Angeles and is often viewed as a subgenre of cool jazz. Rajonsky who hailed from Great Barrington, Mass. started his career in the ’40s, working with Will Bradley, Red Norvo and Woody Herman. In the early ’50s, he played with Stan Kenton. In 1952, he released his debut as a bandleader, Modern Sounds, the first of many such albums that would appear over the next 40 years. Apart from playing as a sideman, Rajonsky also became a sought-after arranger of jazz music and beyond. Notable examples of the latter include The Monkees, e.g., Daydream Believer, and Bobbie Gentry’s first three albums. Rajonsky passed away from melanoma in November 1974 at the age of 70. Coming back to Wherever the Five Winds Blow, here’s Breezin’ Along in the Trades, a beautiful original composition. Shorty Rogers (trumpet) was backed by Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet, saxophone), Lou Levy (piano), Ralph Pena (bass) and Larry Bunker (drums).

The Jayhawks/Wichita

Our next stop takes us to September 1992 and Hollywood Town Hall, the third studio album by The Jayhawks. Since coming across them in August 2020, I’ve come to like this American alt. country and country rock band. Initially formed in Minneapolis in 1985, The Jayhawks originally featured Mark Olson (acoustic guitar, vocals), Gary Louris (electric guitar, vocals), Marc Perlman (bass) and Norm Rogers (drums). By the time Hollywood Town Hall was released, Rogers had been replaced by Ken Callahan. After four additional albums and more line-up changes, the group went on hiatus in 2004. They reemerged with a new formation in 2009, which still includes Louris and Pearlman, and have since released four additional albums, most recently July 2020’s XOXO. Hollywood Town Hall became the group’s first album that made the U.S. mainstream chart Billboard 200 (no. 192). Notably, it also climbed to no. 11 on the Top Heatseekers. Here’s the great Wichita, co-written by Olson, Louris and Pearlman.

The Who/I Can See For Miles

Time for a stopover in the ’60s to visit one of my all-time favorite bands. In December 1967, The Who released their third studio album The Who Sell Out. Primarily written by guitarist Pete Townshend with contributions from bassist John Entwistle and Thunderclap Newman vocalist Speedy Keen, the brilliant concept album includes a collection of songs interspersed with fake commercials and public service announcements. One of the tracks is I Can See For Miles, which also appeared separately as the lead single in October 1967. Townshend was convinced he had written a hit, yet the single “only” reached no. 10 in the UK. It did best in Canada, where it climbed to no. 8, and also charted slightly higher in the U.S., getting to no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached the top 40 in New Zealand (no. 13), Australia (no. 20), The Netherlands (no. 28) and Germany (no. 37). Yet Townshend was disappointed. To me, it was the ultimate Who record, yet it didn’t sell,” he later commented. “I spat on the British record buyer.” While I wouldn’t call the tune’s chart performance terrible, I do agree with Townshend that I Can See For Miles is one of the gems by the British rockers.

John Mellencamp/Theo and Weird Henry

Let’s move on to the late ’80s. In May 1989, John Mellencamp released his 10th studio album Big Daddy, the last under the John Cougar Mellencamp name. Musically, the record continued his transition from heartland straight rocker to roots-oriented artist, which had begun with its predecessor The Lonesome Jubilee. Lyrically, it presents a collection of largely reflective songs. “Big Daddy was the best record I ever made,” Mellencamp told The Associated Press in December 1991 in the wake of his 11th studio album Whenever We Wanted. “Out of my agony came a couple of really beautiful songs. You can’t be 22 years old and had two dates and understand that album.” For context, the AP story also quoted Mellencamp as saying, “I had a daughter who grew up and I didn’t know who she was [I assume he referred to Michelle from his first marriage to Priscilla Esterline – CMM]. I was getting a divorce [from Victoria Granucci, his second wife – CMM] and I didn’t want one.” Big Daddy became best known for its lead single Pop Singer, which topped the charts in Canada and New Zealand and peaked at no. 8 in Australia. In the U.S., it surged to no. 2 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart and reached no. 15 on the Hot 100. Theo and Weird Henry, on the other hand, is a deep cut I love. It’s got more of a heartland rock vibe.

10cc/The Things We Do For Love

Our next stop takes us back again, to December 1976. That’s when British art pop band 10cc released The Things We Do For Love as a single. Co-written by guitarist Eric Stewart and bassist Graham Gouldman, who had founded the group with Lol Creme (guitar, keyboards) and Kevin Godley (drums) in July 1972, the tune was also included on their fifth studio album Deceptive Bends from May 1977. The Things We Do For Love placed in the top 10 singles charts in the UK (no. 5), Australia (no.) and the U.S. (no. 6). In Canada, it became their second no. 1 after I’m Not in Love, which had become 10cc’s breakthrough hit outside the UK in May 1975. I’ve liked the band’s often quirky songs since my teenage years. 10cc are still around as a touring act led by Gouldman and have been on the road for The Ultimate Greatest Hits Tour, which has upcoming gigs in The Netherlands before moving on to New Zealand and Australia in June. The current schedule is here.

The Hold Steady/Constructive Summer

And once again, we’re reaching the final stop of yet another music time travel trip, which takes us to the current century. In July 2008, The Hold Steady released their fourth studio album Stay Positive – kudos to fellow blogger Graham from Aphoristic Album Reviews who recently reminded me of the New York indie rock band by ranking their nine studio albums that have appeared to date. One of the albums he suggested I check out is Stay Positive. I did and voila! The Hold Steady first entered my radar screen in late March with their most recent studio release The Price of Progress. Formed in 2003, their current lineup includes co-founders Craig Finn (lead vocals, guitar), Tad Kubler (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Galen Polivka (bass), along with Steve Selvidge (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Franz Nicolay (piano, keyboards, accordion, harmonica, backing vocals) and Bobby Drake (drums, percussion). Wikipedia  notes The Hold Steady are known for their “lyrically dense storytelling”, “classic rock influences” and “narrative-based songs [that] frequently address themes, such as drug addiction, religion and redemption, and often feature recurring characters within the city of Minneapolis.” Let’s wrap things up with Constructive Summer, the kickass opener of Stay Positive. Like all other tracks on the album, it was co-written by Finn and Kubler.

So where’s the bloody Spotify playlist? Ask and you shall receive!

Sources: Wikipedia; Associated Press/Bowling Green Daily News; 10cc website; YouTube; Spotify

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! Finding songs I sufficiently like by looking at new music through a ’60s and ’70s lens, can be tricky, but lately, it’s been a different story. This is the second straight week I’m highlighting six new tunes, and I probably could have found more, had I not decided to stop searching since there’s only so much time I can spend on this effort. All picks are on releases that appeared yesterday (April 21).

Billy Tibbals/Hollywood Baby

Kicking off this week’s new music revue is Los Angeles-based alternative rock artist Billy Tibbals, who was recently featured on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. From his Bandcamp bio: Moving from London to Hollywood back in 2014, Billy Tibbals quickly found a love for the city and its esoteric, debauched history. Combining this with his childhood obsession with British rock and roll, surrealist literature, and musicals from the 1940’s, Billy’s music presents a unique and fantastical view of the world around us. As a part of the exciting new wave of rock and roll music emerging from Los Angeles, Billy hopes to inspire the youth to get off their phones and come join in with the fun. Tibbals’ latest inspiration is his debut EP Stay Teenage. Here’s the excellent opener Hollywood Baby, which like all other tracks on the EP was solely written by him.

Superviolet/Blue Bower

Superviolet are an indie rock band founded by Steve Ciolek (vocals & guitar) after his previous longtime group The Sidekicks had folded in 2020. Here’s more from a profile posted on the website of Philadelphia-based Lame-O-Records, his current label: In 2020, Steve Ciolek’s long-running and much loved group The Sidekicks called it a day, and he found himself without a band for the first time in much of his adult life. Ciolek had never stopped writing, but now with endless possibilities ahead he found himself creating at a different pace. As his well of potential songs began to grow, Ciolek brought in some familiar faces to help hone them into an album, recruiting The Sidekicks’ Matty Sanders to play drums and Saintseneca mastermind Zac Little to help with writing, recording, and production. That album, Infinite Spring, is now out. Let’s listen to Blue Bower, a great melodic tune!

Holiday Ghosts/B. Truck

Holiday Ghosts are an indie rock band from southern England. From their AllMusic bio: Taking inspiration from vintage garage rock, surf, and bands like Violent Femmes, Holiday Ghosts’ clattering, playful indie tunes emerged in 2017 with the band’s self-titled debut, which also drew on early punk influences…Originally a solo project by multi-instrumentalist Sam Stacpoole, then a duo with singer/ drummer Kat Rackin (the Black Tambourines), Holiday Ghosts expanded into a full band over the course of five years, recording an eponymous debut with additional members Ben Woods (bass/vocals) and Charlie Murphy (guitar/vocals). From their fourth and latest album Absolute Reality is B. Truck credited to Sam Stacpoole and Holiday Ghosts.

The National Honor Society/As She Slips Away

The National Honor Society, not to be confused with the U.S. organization for high school students, are a band from Seattle, Wash. Other than the group’s Facebook and Bandcamp pages, which unfortunately do not provide meaningful background, I could only find this review by Spill Magazine. It notes their new album To All The Distance Between Us is their second. It came together during the pandemic. Here’s As She Slips Away, a beautiful tune with a great jangly guitar sound. It was penned by lead vocalist and songwriter John Coulter Leslie.

Jethro Tull/Ginnugagap

I trust Jethro Tull don’t need much of an introduction. Nowadays, the British rock band, which started in Lutin, England in 1967, only includes one original member, its leader, co-founder and primary composer Ian Anderson. Their latest album RökFlöte comes only 14 months after The Zealot Gene, which in turn was the first Tull album with new music in more than 2o years. I reviewed it here at the time. The band’s line-up remains unchanged from the previous album and in addition to Anderson (vocals, flutes) features Joe Parrish-James (guitars, mandolin), John O’Hara (piano, keyboards, Hammond organ), David Goodier (bass) and Scott Hammond (drums). Evidently, Anderson & co. are supporting RökFlöte with an extensive tour this year, including Europe and the U.S. Here’s Ginnugagap written by Anderson.

Ian Hunter/No Hard Feelings

Ian Hunter may no longer be a young dude, but this doesn’t prevent him from showing defiance. My final pick for this week is a tune from the ex-Mott The Hoople lead vocalist and guitarist’s new solo album Defiance Part 1. In early February, I featured the album’s great lead single Bed of Roses. As I noted at the time, Defiance Part 1 is packed with prominent guests, such as Ringo Starr, Mike Campbell and the late Jeff Beck. And, yes, according to Hunter’s website, there will be a Defiance Part 2: The second chapter will feature an equally stunning range of special guests while projecting an entirely different thematic approach and songwriting aesthetic. Coming back to Defiance Part 1, here’s No Hard Feelings featuring Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck in what I imagine is one of his final recordings. The tune was written by Hunter. And that’s all I have to say about this – for now!

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify list of the above and a few additional tracks by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Bandcamp; Lame-O-Records website; AllMusic; Ian Hunter website; YouTube; Spotify

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. To me, my last music revue feels like it just happened rather than a week ago. Anyway, all picks except for the final tune, which I say upfront is the gem here, are from albums that came out yesterday (April 7).

Blondshell/Veronica Mars

Blondshell is the moniker of Los Angeles-based indie pop rock-oriented singer-songwriter Sabrina Teitelbaum. After starting out in 2016 with a more pop-focused project named BAUM, Teitelbaum began writing more rock-oriented music during the COVID-19 pandemic. This culminated in the launch of Blondshell in June 2022 with her single Olympus. Teitelbaum followed it up with two other singles, Kiss City and Sepsis, in July and August, respectively. In December, she signed with independent label Partisan Records and is now out with her eponymous debut album. Here’s the opener Veronica Mars, which first appeared as a single in December. Like most tracks on the album, it was solely written by Teitelbaum. The building guitar sound that explodes into hard-charging rock at around 54 seconds into the song provides an intriguing contrast to Teitelbaum’s mellow vocals.

Ruston Kelly/Holy Shit

Singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly, who I first covered in July 2020, was born in Georgetown, S.C., grew up in Wyoming, Ohio and is now based in Nashville. He got into music at a young age and, according to Wikipedia, had a full album in high school with songs like “Bluebird” and “I’m Leavin’”. After signing a publishing deal with BMG Nashville in 2013, he co-wrote the song Nashville Without You recorded by Tim McGraw for his studio album Two Lanes of Freedom, which appeared in February that year. In 2017, Kelly released his debut EP Halloween. His first full-length album Dying Star came out the following year. Holy Shit is track from Kelly’s third and latest album The Weakness. Good tune!

Wednesday/Hot Rotten Grass Smell

Wednesday are a band from Ashville, N.C., who started out in 2017 as a songwriting project by guitarist Karly Hartzman. While attending college in Ashville, she met vocalist Daniel Gorham and recorded with him yep definitely, the first album as Wednesday. The moniker was inspired by British alternative rock band The Sundays, who were active from 1988 to 1997. Subsequently, Hartzman formed another group, Diva Sweetly. When her bandmates didn’t want to make shoegaze, she assembled new members for Wednesday and released their sophomore album, I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone, in February 2020. This brings me to the group’s new album Rat Saw God, which is their fifth. In addition to Hartzman (guitar, vocals), it features MJ Lenderman (guitar, backing vocals), Xandy Chelmis (lap steel), Margo Schultz (bass) and Alan Miller (drums). Here’s the opener Hot Rotten Grass Smell, credited to the entire band.

Lucinda Williams/New York Comeback

I’m particularly excited about my last pick for this week, New York Comeback by Lucinda Williams, the lead single single from her upcoming album Stories From a Rock n Roll Heart. Released on April 4, the great tune features Bruce Springsteen and his wife and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa. Williams first entered my radar screen in June 2022 when I saw her open up for Bonnie Raitt in Philadelphia, a great concert you can read more about here. In November 2020, Williams suffered a stroke from which she has recovered, though during the aforementioned gig, she still seemed to have some mobility challenges and did not play guitar. Stories From a Rock n Roll Heart, set for release on June 30, is Williams’ 15th studio album and the first since her stroke. According to this review by Consequence Sound, the album was recorded during her stroke recovery: At the time, she wasn’t able to write songs using her guitar and continued collaborating with her husband/manager Tom Overby while also bringing in singer-songwriter Jessie Malin to co-write three tracks and flesh out melodies. Williams’ longtime road manager, Travis Stephens, also co-wrote six songs on the album. Man, I love New York Comeback, which is credited to Williams, Overby and Malin, and I can’t wait to hear more music from the album!

Of course, the post wouldn’t be complete with a Spotify playlist featuring the above and some additional tunes!

Sources: Wikipedia; Consequence Sound; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday and I’d like to welcome you to the latest installment of my weekly new music revue. All featured tracks are on albums that were released yesterday (March 31).

The Hold Steady/Sixers

Kicking things off are New York indie rock band The Hold Steady, who I first featured in a January Best of What’s New post. Formed in 2003, their current lineup includes co-founders Craig Finn (lead vocals, guitar), Tad Kubler (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Galen Polivka (bass), along with Steve Selvidge (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Franz Nicolay (piano, keyboards, accordion, harmonica, backing vocals) and Bobby Drake (drums, percussion). Wikipedia notes The Hold Steady are known for their “lyrically dense storytelling”, “classic rock influences” and “narrative-based songs [that] frequently address themes, such as drug addiction, religion and redemption, and often feature recurring characters within the city of Minneapolis.” Since their 2004 debut Almost Killed Me, they have released eight additional studio albums, including their latest, The Price of Progress. Off that album is Sixers, penned by Finn – great tune that reminds me a bit of Son Volt.

A Certain Ratio/Holy Smoke

A Certain Ratio, aka ACR, are a post-punk group founded in 1977 in Flixton, England. The band who took their name from the lyrics of Brian Eno tune The True Wheel started out as a duo of Simon Topping (vocals, trumpet) and Peter Terrell (guitar, electronics). They were subsequently joined by Jez Kerr (bass, vocals) and Martin Moscrop (trumpet, guitar). Donald Johnson (drums), and Martha Tilson (vocals) eventually completed the line-up. After releasing eight albums over a 12-year period that began with their 1980 debut The Graveyard and the Ballroom, A Certain Ratio started to reduce their output. Since 2018, the group has picked up the pace with a string of tours and two albums including 2020’s ACR Loco and their new one, 1982. Their website characterizes Kerr, Moscrop and Johnson as the group’s core line-up, who on the latest album were joined by Tony Quigley (saxophone, keyboards), Ellen Beth Abdi (vocals) and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Steele. Here’s Holy Smoke, a cool funky tune co-written by Johnson, Kerr and Moscrop.

The New Pornographers/Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies

Next up are Canadian indie supergroup The New Pornographers. From their AllMusic bio: With their 2000 debut album, Mass Romantic, the New Pornographers established themselves as 21st century torchbearers of smart, sophisticated power pop. Hailing from Vancouver, the band’s deep roster of individual singer/songwriters and crafty instrumentalists gave them a unique, multi-voiced advantage and posed them as more of a collective or supergroup, albeit one with a surprisingly streamlined sonic identity. Spearheaded by Carl Newman, along with mainstays Neko Case, Dan Bejar, John Collins, and Todd Fancey, the New Pornographers were consistent critical favorites throughout the decade with standout releases like 2005’s Twin Cinema and 2007’s Challengers. Even as membership began to fluctuate over the coming years, they reached a new commercial peak with 2014’s Brill Bruisers. The band ended their second decade with 2019’s In the Morse Code of Brake Lights. From their ninth and latest album Continue as a Guest, here’s Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies, written by Newman.

Eddie Chacon/Sundown

This brings me to my final pick for this week, Eddie Chacon, who first became prominent in 1992 as part of Charles & Eddie, a soul music duo he had formed two years earlier with Charles Pettigrew. Their song Would I Lie to You?, off their debut album Duophonic, became a massive international hit following its release as their debut single in August 1992. Two years after their 1995 sophomore album Chocolate Milk Charles & Eddie split, and Chacon worked as a photographer and creative director. Pettigrew continued his music career but was diagnosed with cancer in the late ’90s and passed away in April 2001 at the age of 37. After an extended absence from music, Chacon performed and recorded in the late 2000s and early 2010s together with his wife Sissy Sainte-Marie in a duo called The Polyamorous Affair. In July 2020, he released his solo debut, Pleasure, Joy and Happiness. Now he’s back with his second solo album Sundown. Here’s the title track, which has a nice retro ’70s soul vibe reminiscent of Marvin Gaye – pretty neat!

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

Sources: Wikipedia; A Certain Ratio website; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday, and I’d like to welcome everybody to another installment of my weekly new music revue. According to my count, this is the 150th Best of What’s New post. All four highlighted tunes are on albums that were released yesterday (March 10).

The Nude Party/Word Gets Around

Kicking things off is a great tune from the third and latest studio album Rides On by The Nude Party. I first featured this North Carolina group in January 2022 when covering their eponymous debut from July 2018. As I wrote at the time: The Nude Party were formed in 2012 when freshman students at  Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. decided to start a band. Their members are Patton Magee (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Shaun Couture (guitar, vocals), Don Merrill (piano, vocals), Alexander Castillo (bass, vocals), Austin Brose  (percussion, vocals) and Connor Mikita (drums). At the end of their freshman year, they all moved together to a house outside of town and learned how to play their instruments. It still almost sounds a bit like a fairytale! What’s very real is Word Gets Around, a cool-sounding rocker with a ’60s vibe, credited to the entire band!

The War and Treaty/Lover’s Game

And we’re on to The War and Treaty, a hot-sounding husband and wife duo of Michael Trotter, Jr. and Tanya Blount – and I’m happy to say another act I featured before, in October 2020. Borrowing from that post: Apple Music describes their style as impassioned soul music that draws on traditional folk, country, R&B, and spirituals, often combining them all. Initially known as Trotter & Blount, they released their debut album Love Affair under that name in 2016. This was followed by the EP Down to the River in July 2017, their first music appearing as The War and TreatyHealing Tide, the first full-fledged studio album under the current moniker, came out in August 2018. The record, which featured a guest appearance of Emmylou Harris, was well received and reached no. 11 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums and no. 26 on the Independent Albums charts. Blount first became prominent in 1993, when she performed a duet with Lauryn Hill in the comedy picture Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. The following year, she released her solo debut album Natural Thing. This brings me to Lover’s Game, the smoking title track and opener of The War and Treaty’s third and new album. It’s credited to the duo and producer Dave Cobb who has also worked with the likes of Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, John Prine, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, The Highwomen and Rival Sons.

Meet Me @ The Altar/Same Language

Meet Me @ The Altar is a pop punk trio who has been around since 2015. Initially, Téa Campbell (guitar, bass) and Ada Juarez (drums) met on YouTube and developed a bond that led to their decision to form a band. Following an online audition, Edith Victoria (vocals) joined them in 2017. Three years later after they had publically been endorsed by pop punk veterans Alex Gaskarth and Dan Campbell, of the bands All Time Low and The Wonder Years, respectively, Meet Me @ The Altar went viral and were signed by label Fueled by Ramen in October of the same year. Their debut EP Model Citizen appeared in August 2021. Now Meet Me @ The Altar are out with their first full-length album Past // Present // Future. Here’s Same Language, a catchy tune.

The Luka State/Bring Us Down

Wrapping up this week’s Best of What’s New are English indie rock group The Luka State. From their AllMusic bio: A British indie rock band with a solid guitar attack and urgent melodies that are both catchy and powerful, the Luka State burst out of the mining town of Winsford, Cheshire in 2013, scoring an early success with the song “30 Minute Break.” A change in drummers coincided with a shift in the Luka State’s creative approach, as synthesizer lines began winding their way into their guitar-based arrangements on their 2015 EP The Price of Education. A steady stream of tracks followed before the band scored another success with 2018 single “Feel It.” Fast forward to March 10, 2023, and the band’s sophomore album More Than This. Here’s the opener Bring Us Down, credited to all four members of the band: Conrad Ellis (lead vocals), Lewis Pusey (guitar), Sam Bell (bass, vocals) and Jake Barnabas (drums).

This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above tracks, as well as a few additional tunes by each of the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; AllMusic; The Luka State website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday! Are you ready to listen to some new music? The featured tunes are on brand new albums that came out yesterday (March 3), except for the first, which appeared on Thursday, and the last, released on February 24.

Daisy Jones & The Six/Let Me Down Easy

My first pick this week feels a bit like the return of The Monkees: Let Me Down Easy by Daisy Jones & The Six, a fictional ’70s band loosely modeled after Fleetwood Mac, who are at the center of a new American streaming mini-TV series that debuted yesterday on Amazon Prime Video. According to this story in Variety, actors Riley Keough (Daisy Jones) and Sam Claflin (Billy Dunne), who had no prior professional singing experience, went through an intensive three-month band camp where together with their four fictitious bandmates they learned to sing and play the original music featured in the series. Some of the songs had input from Marcus Mumford, Phoebe Bridgers and Jackson Browne. The outcome is pretty remarkable. Perhaps genes also helped a bit: Keough is the granddaughter of Elvis Presley and daughter of the late Lisa Marie Presley. Here’s Let Me Down Easy, off the group’s debut album Aurora. Whether their life will continue beyond the TV series similar to The Monkees remains to be seen.

Fake Names/Don’t Blame Yourself

Unlike their name may suggest and contrary to my previous pick, Fake Names are a real band. From their AllMusic bio: An international punk supergroup, Fake Names are four musicians with long and impressive resumés who came together to play music that’s lean but full-bodied, melodic, and unpretentiously artful despite its velocity. The lineup includes former and current members of Minor Threat, Refused, Bad Religion, Embrace, Girls Against Boys, and Dag Nasty, and began as an informal collaboration between two longtime friends before it grew into a proper band who issued their self-titled debut album in 2020. While I featured them once before here in August 2021, I still don’t know all these punk bands from which they draw their members. Don’t Blame Yourself is a tune from Fake Names’ sophomore album Expendables. It’s credited to four members of the group: Dennis Lyxzén (lead vocals), Brian Baker (guitar), Michael Hampton (guitar) and Johnny Temple (bass). Brandon Canty (drums) completes the band’s line-up. Their melodic brand of punk is my kind of punk.

JAWNY/Fall in Love

JAWNY (born Jacob Lee-Nicholas Sullenger) is an indie pop singer-songwriter. Originally hailing from the San Francisco bay area, Sullenger picked up the guitar as a six-year-old and by the time he was in his early teens began writing songs. After briefly studying nursing in college, he dropped out to pursue a career in music. In 2016, the then-20-year-old relocated to Philadelphia where he started to make music under the moniker Johnny Utah. In January 2018, he released his eponymous debut EP. After signing with Interscope Records in January 2020, Sullenger changed his stage name to JAWNY and moved to Los Angeles. Fall in Love, co-written by Elie Rizek, Imad Royal and Sullenger (credited as JAWNY), is a tune from JAWNY’s first full-length album It’s Never Fair, Always True. While this song is certainly not in my core wheelhouse, it grew on me in anyway.

David Brewis/Keeping Up With Jessica

My final pick this week is new music by English singer-songwriter David Brewis. Together with his brother Peter Brewis, he is a member of English indie and art rock band Field Music, who they co-founded in 2004. To date, Field Music have released eight studio albums, two compilations, one soundtrack and one live album, in addition to more than 20 singles. During the band’s hiatus from 2007 to 2009, Brewis launched a solo music project called School of Language and has since come out with three albums under that name. His latest solo effort, The Soft Struggles, is the first to be released under his name. Here’s Keeping Up With Jessica, a laid-back lush pop tune with a jazzy vibe. Like all other tracks, it was penned by Brewis.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of all the above tunes and a few additional songs by each of the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Variety; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Happy Sunday and welcome to another installment of my weekly time travel into the wonderful world of music. As always, we will visit six tunes from six different decades in different flavors. Let’s fasten our seat belts and off we go!

Ahmad Jamal Trio/Beat Out One

Our first stop is the year 1956 and some groovy piano jazz by the Ahmad Jamal Trio. According to his website, Jamal was born in July 1930 in Pittsburgh, Pa. and already began playing the piano at the age of 3. By the age of 10, Jamal was composing, orchestrating and performing works by Franz Liszt, exploring the music of Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Nat Cole, Erroll Garner and a host of music notables... At 17, he left home at the request of the George Hudson Orchestra and began touring the country...He formed his own group in 1951 and with the help of John Hammond started his recording career with Okeh Records. This brings me to Count ‘Em 88, an album Jamal recorded with Israel Crosby (bass) and Walter Perkins (drums) in 1956 and released the same year as Ahmad Jamal Trio. Jamal who is still alive at age 92 continued to frequently tour and record well into his ’80s. Let’s listen to his composition Beat Out One, off Count ‘Em 88. And, yes, feel free to snip along!

Pretenders/Brass in Pocket

Let’s move on to 1979 and the eponymous debut album by Pretenders. Interestingly, Nick Lowe produced the English-American rock band’s first single Stop Your Sobbing but felt they were going nowhere, so didn’t continue with them – boy was he wrong! Chris Thomas, who had worked with the likes of The Beatles, Procol Harum, Pink Floyd, Badfinger and Roxy Music before, took over and the rest is history. Pretenders charged out of the gate strongly, with the album topping the UK charts, and climbing to no. 2, no. 2, no. 5, no. 6 and no. 9 in New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Australia and the U.S., respectively. Brass in Pocket, written by co-founders Chrissie Hynde and James Honeyman-Scott, became the record’s third single in November 1979 and their most successful song overall, including their only no. 1 hit in the UK. While Pretenders have had many line-up changes over the years, they are still going strong, with Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers remaining as original members. Their most recent album Hate for Sale from July 2020, which I reviewed here, sounds mighty.

Quasi/It’s Hard to Turn Me On

If you happened to read my most recent Best of What’s New installment, the name Quasi should ring a bell. Or perhaps you knew this American indie rock band from Portland, Ore. all along. They were founded in 1993 by former husband and wife Sam Coomes (vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass) and Janet Weiss (vocals, drums). This next tune takes us to April 1998 and Quasi’s third studio album Featuring “Birds”. At that time, they were still a duo, at least in the studio, playing all instruments except for one track. Quasi’s music frequently features flavors of the ’60s. After expanding into a trio from 2007 to 2011, they’ve been back to being a duo since Mole City, their second most recent album. Here’s It’s Hard to Turn Me On, penned by Coomes. I just find their retro and at times slightly weird sound pretty charming!

Barbara Blue/The Shoals (feat. Davor Hačić)

Next, we return to the present and the Shoals – that would be Muscle Shoals, Ala, baby! You may have heard of FAME Studios where artists like Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Duane Allman and Gregg Allman recorded. The session musicians who worked at FAME became known as the Muscle Shoals Horns and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, aka the Swampers – famously referenced in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic Sweet Home Alabama. In other words, Muscle Shoals is holy ground in music. As such, when coming across a song titled The Shoals the other day, I paid attention immediately. It turned out to be a track on the new album From the Shoals by Barbara Blue. The Memphis-based blues and soul vocalist, who apparently is known as the “reigning queen of Beale Street,” has been active since 1977. The album, her 13th independent release, came out two weeks ago on January 27. It was recorded at the NuttHouse Recording Studio in Sheffield, Ala., about 3 miles away from FAME. Here’s the great funky and soulful opener The Shoals, co-written by Blue and her Croatian songwriting partner Davor Hačić. Love this! Based on what else I’ve heard thus far, the album sounds sweet as well.

The Smiths/This Charming Man

Time to pay a visit to the ’80s, specifically, October 1983. That’s when English indie rock and jangle pop band The Smiths, who had come together the previous year in Manchester, released their second single This Charming Man. And charming it was indeed. Co-written by guitarist Johnny Marr and vocalist Morrissey, the tune was the band’s first to make the mainstream UK Singles Chart, where it peaked at no. 25. It also became the first of the group’s multiple singles to top the UK Independent Singles Chart. Notably, in 1992, five years after The Smiths had broken up, the single was reissued and got to no. 8 on the UK Singles Chart. While I find the ego clashes between Marr and Morrissey that led to The Smiths’ breakup and subsequent litigation over royalties brought by former members Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce less than charming, I love the tune’s jangly guitar sound.

The Yardbirds/Heart Full of Soul

Our final destination on today’s time travel is June 1965. Did you really think I’d skip the ’60s? No way! On June 4 of that year, The Yardbirds released their single Heart Full of Soul in the UK. Written by Graham Gouldman who in 1972 would become a co-founder of 10cc, Heart Full of Soul was The Yardbirds’ first single after Jeff Beck had replaced Eric Clapton as lead guitarist. The tune appeared three months after For Your Love, which had also been penned by Gouldman. Heart Full of Soul climbed to no. 2 in the UK, a notch higher than For Your Love, which had reached no. 3 there. In the U.S., where Heart Full of Soul was released on July 2, 1965, the picture was reversed. For Your Love reached no. 6, while Heart Full of Soul climbed to no. 9. Notably, The Yardbirds initially recorded Heart Full of Soul with an Indian sitar player but didn’t like the outcome. According to Beck, he couldn’t get the 4/4 time signature right, so Beck ended up emulating the sitar on his guitar, using a fuzz box.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above tunes. As always, I hope there’s something you dig.

Sources: Wikipedia; Ahmad Jamal website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Once again, another week flew by and Saturday is upon us. This means the time has come to take a fresh look at newly released music. So without any further ado, let’s do just that!

Quasi/Doomscrollers

Kicking off this new music revue are indie rock band Quasi, who were formed in Portland, Ore. in 1993 by former husband and wife Sam Coomes (vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass) and Janet Weiss (vocals, drums). From 2007 to 2011, they were a trio featuring Joanna Bolme on bass. Quasi’s self-produced and self-released 1993 eponymous debut was followed by R&B Transmogrification in March 1997, their first label release. Eight additional albums have since come out, including their latest Breaking the Balls of History. Released on February 10, it’s Quasi’s first new album in 10 years. Here’s Doomscrollers, which like all other tunes was penned by Coomes and Weiss. It’s what I would call a weirdly catchy song that you may like better after listening to it a few times. You also gotta love that video clip!

Index For Working Musik/1871

My next pick for this week are Index For Working Musik, who according to this account from Louder Than War, are a project that includes members of English indie-rock bands TOY and The Proper Ornaments. Their Bandcamp profile notes the project’s origin dates back to late 2019 and tells a strange background story I won’t recap. It seems to me Index For Working Musik deliberately want to create some mystery around them. Their members include Max Oscarnold and Nathalia Bruno, who apparently had worked with each other before, along with Bobby Voltaire (drums), E. Smith (double bass) and J. Loftus (guitar). 1871, co-written by Oscarnold, Bruno and Robert Syme, was released on February 8 as the third single of their upcoming album Dragging the Needlework for the Kids at Uphole, scheduled for February 17. I had to listen to the tune more than once, but it really grew on me.

Moreish Idols/Nocturnal Creatures

Moreish Idols are a new five-piece art rock band from South London, England. According to a review by All Music Magazine, the group features Jude Lilley (guitar, vocals), Tom Wilson Kellett (guitar, vocals), Dylan Humphries (bass clarinet), Caspar Swindells (bass, backing vocals) and Solomon Lamey (drums, backing vocals). Their debut EP Float appeared in August 2022. Now, the band is out with their new single Nocturnal Creatures, released on February 8. The tune was produced by Dan Carey who runs UK record label Speedy Wunderground and more recently has also worked with indie rock and post punk bands like Foals, Wet Leg, Fontaines D.C., Geese and Goat Girl. “Nocturnal creatures can teach us to be more observant, in case they dig up your treasure and bury their bones,” the band said in a statement. While I have no idea what that means, I know this bouncy tune speaks to me. Check out the official video.

The Men/Hard Livin’

Last but not least is some kickass rock by Brooklyn, New York-based band The Men. From their AllMusic bio: The Men began as an abrasive punk group before vastly expanding their sound to incorporate influences from country-rock to soul in addition to more accessible song structures. Initially forming as a trio in Brooklyn in 2008, they first made a national impact with the blistering noise rock of 2011’s Leave Home, their second album. Released in 2012, Open Your Heart proved to be a breakthrough for the band, receiving rave reviews. It also signaled their shift beyond punk, and the Men continued to redefine their sound with ambitious, eclectic albums such as 2014’s Tomorrow’s Hits. The Men are co-founders Nick Chiericozzi (vocals, guitar, saxophone) and Mark Perro (vocals, guitar, keyboards), as well as Kevin Faulkner (bass, lap steel) and Rich Samis (drums). Hard Livin’, credited to all members of the group, is the opener of their new album New York City, which came out on February 3. Did anyone say rock is dead?

This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above tunes and a few additional tracks by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Louder Than War; Index For Working Muski Bandcamp page; All Music Magazine; AllMusic; YouTube, Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to another Saturday and my latest revue of newly released music. All picks this week are from albums that appeared yesterday (January 27).

White Reaper/Fog Machine

Kicking off this post are American garage rock band White Reaper. According to their profile on Apple Music, they are making retro style bubblegum punk mixed with some arena rock. Formed by childhood friends in Louisville, Kentucky, the group named themselves after a spooky decoration they came across in a Halloween story. They released a critically acclaimed EP in 2014, followed by their 2015 debut album, White Reaper Does It Again. Pitchfork named their sophomore LP, The World’s Best American Band, one of the 20 Best Rock Albums of 2017. White Reaper’s lineup includes Tony Esposito (guitar, vocals), Hunter Thompson (guitar), Ryan Hater (keyboards), Sam Wilkerson (bass) and Nick Wilkerson (drums, percussion). Fog Machine, credited to the entire band, is a tune from their fourth and latest studio album Asking for a Ride. It rocks and is pretty melodic!

H.C. McEntire/Turpentine (feat. Amy Ray)

H.C. McEntire is a singer-songwriter from Durham, N.C. From her AllMusic bio: Blessed with a perfect country voice and the uncompromising determination of a punk rocker, H.C. McEntire (also known as Heather McEntire) is best known as a member of the bands Mount Moriah and Bellafea, as well as for her work as a solo artist. With Mount Moriah, McEntire began exploring the atmospheric side of Southern roots music, and in her solo work, she dug deeper into this territory, mixing the artful side of indie rock with melodies and vocal lines that harken back to traditional country and folk. Her solo debut, 2018’s Lionheart, introduced her new variations on her style, and 2020’s Eno Axis upped the indie rock side of the formula. Now McEntire is out with her third album Every Acre, and I love what I’ve heard thus far. Here’s Turpentine, co-written by McEntire, Luke Norton, Daniel Faust and Casey Toll, the bassist of Mount Moriah, and featuring Amy Ray of contemporary folk duo Indigo Girls – a beautiful tune with a great roots rock sound!

The Arcs/Behind the Eyes

The Arcs are a garage rock band formed in 2015 by singer-songwriter and record producer Dan Auerbach as a side project to The Black Keys, his blues rock band together with drummer Patrick Carney. Apart from Auerbach (lead vocals, guitar), The Arcs currently also include Leon Michels (keyboards, guitar), Nick Movshon (bass) and Homer Steinweiss (drums, percussion). Richard Swift, another member who was featured on the group’s 2015 debut album Yours, Dreamily, passed away in July 2018 at the age of 41 due to complications from hepatitis, as well as liver and kidney distress. This brings me to Behind the Eyes from The Arcs’ sophomore album Electrophonic Chronic, a track credited to all members of the group and Russ Pahl who also provides steel guitar.

Vusi Mahlasela, Norman Zulu & Jive Connection/Prodigal Son

My last pick for this week is South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela, who according to a bio on his website is simply known as ‘The Voice’ in his home-country, South Africa, celebrated for his distinct, powerful voice and his poetic, optimistic lyrics. His songs of hope connect Apartheid-scarred South Africa with its promise for a better future. Raised in the Mamelodi Township, where he still resides, Vusi became a singer-songwriter and poet-activist at an early age teaching himself how to play guitar and later joining the Congress of South African Writers. After his popular debut on BMG Africa, “When You Come Back,” Vusi was asked to perform at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994. Vusi has toured globally and shared the stage with Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Paul Simon, Josh Groban, Ray LaMontagne, Natalie Merchant, Taj Mahal, among many others. A news announcement describes his latest release, Face to Face, as a lost recording from the archives in January with a 2002 collaboration between…Vusi…, singer-songwriter Norman Zulu and Swedish jazz/soul collective Jive Connection. Check out the amazing opener Prodigal Son, which drew me in right away!

Here’s a Spotify playlist of the above tunes and some additional tracks from the four featured albums and artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; AllMusic; Vusi Mahlasela website; YouTube; Spotify