Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to the first 2023 installment of Best of What’s New, a weekly feature looking at newly released music. For first-time visitors, my picks typically fall outside the current mainstream pop charts, where I tend to find much more music that speaks to me. All featured tunes in this post are on albums that appeared yesterday (January 6), except for the last track.

Brandon Ratcliff/Tale of Two Towns

Kicking off things is Brandon Ratcliff, a young singer-songwriter who combines country, pop and R&B. From his website: From the day he was born, and even before, he was on stages, on tour buses, and in writing rooms across America, watching his family sing the music they love as the celebrated Bluegrass band, The Cox Family. Born in Cotton Valley, LA (population 962), Brandon saw first-hand how universal the stories born in small towns are. The son of Suzanne Cox, one third of the family band, Brandon watched as his mother and her siblings won Grammy Awards telling those stories to the world…After deciding to leave Cotton Valley for Nashville, Brandon’s talents quickly attracted the music business machine in town. He was offered a publishing deal at the age of 20 but decided to turn it down to develop his sound...In 2018 Brandon was signed to Monument Records, and in 2019 burst onto the scene with his debut single, “Rules Of Breaking Up,” accumulating more than 50 million streams. This brings me to Tales of Two Towns, the title track of Ratcliff’s ambitious debut double album. He wrote the tune together with Josh Jenkins and Peter Good. I like it!

Allen Epley/Thousand Yard Stare

Allen Epley was born in Louisville, Ky. and grew up in a musical family. After playing in a college band, he co-founded Orchid in 1992, which soon became Shiner, a post-hardcore/alternative rock band. After four studio albums and their split, Epley formed indie rock band The Life and Times in 2002, who remain active to this day. Since 2012, Shiner have played reunion shows and in 2020 released another album. Apart from Epley’s continued engagements with both groups, he frequently collaborates with other bands. And he also managed to record his solo debut album Everything. Let’s check out the great-sounding Thousand Yard Stare.

Anti-Flag/Nvrevr

Anti-Flag are a punk rock band from Pittsburgh, Pa., who have been around since 1988. Their current line-up includes co-founding members Justin Sane (vocals, guitar) and Pat Thetic (drums), along with Chris Head (guitar) and Chris No. 2 (vocals, bass). Anti-Flag who are known for their extensive political activism, released their debut album Die For the Government in August 1996. Since then, 12 additional albums have come out including their latest Lies They Tell Our Children. According to AllMusic, Anti-Flag have gained a “reputation for recapturing the old-school ethics of punk: fast, loud, obnoxious, and anti-everything that ends with an “ism.”” Frankly, “fast” and “loud” don’t sound like particularly attractive musical attributes to me, but when combined with a good melody can still work. Here’s Nvrever featuring Stacey Dee, guitarist and vocalist of pop punk group Bad Cop/Bad Cop. Credited to all members of Anti-Flag, the rocker first appeared as a single last November.

Iggy Pop/Strung Out Johnny

Frankly, Iggy Pop wasn’t exactly on my radar screen, so I was surprised to see a new album by the now 75-year-old “Godfather of Punk.” That said, I know his name much better than his music. Pop, born James Newell Osterberg Jr., started his music career as a drummer in various high school bands in Ann Arbor, Mich. in the mid-’60s. In 1967, he formed the Psychedelic Stooges who became The Stooges the following year. After three albums and a short break-up in between, they split a second time in 1974. Three years later, Pop began a volatile yet ultimately successful solo career, which has yielded 19 studio albums to date. Between 2003 and 2019, Pop played with different versions of The Stooges who released two additional albums during that period. Pop’s new solo album, titled Every Loser, features guest appearances from Duff McKagan (ex Guns N’ Roses bassist), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer), Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction guitarist) and the late Taylor Hawkins (former Foo Fighters drummer), among others. Here’s Strung Out Johnny, co-written by Andrew Watt, Chad Smith, Pop and Josh Klinghoffer – cool rocker!

The Hold Steady/Sideways Skull

My final pick for this week is Sideways Skull, the great new single by New York indie rock band The Hold Steady. 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 band is 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, The Hold Steady have released seven additional studio albums. Their new single, co-written by Finn, Nicolay and Kubler, is from their upcoming ninth studio album The Price of Progress, scheduled for March 31.

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

Sources: Wikipedia; Brandon Ratcliff website; Allen Epley website; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify

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Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. All featured songs are on albums that came out yesterday (October 21). Let’s get to it!

Arctic Monkeys/Hello You

Kicking things off today are British rock band Arctic Monkeys who were founded in Sheffield, England in 2002 by three 16-year-old friends, Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar), Andy Nicholson (bass) and Matt Helders (drums, backing vocals), together with Jamie Cook (guitar, keyboards). After starting out as an instrumental band, Turner became their lead singer and frontman. Arctic Monkeys are regarded as one of the first bands who effectively used social media to boost their popularity. They also hold the distinction to have released the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, released in January 2006. The band has since released six additional studio albums, including their latest The Car. Turner, Cook and Helders remain in the current line-up that also includes Nick O’Malley who replaced Nicholson on bass in 2006. Here’s Hello You, which like most tunes was solely written by Turner.

Frankie Cosmos/Abigail

Frankie Cosmos are an indie pop rock band around singer-songwriter Greta Kline. From their AllMusic bio: Guided by the succinct, sweet, and self-conscious tendencies of singer/songwriter Greta Kline, indie pop group Frankie Cosmos started as a prolific home-based solo project in the early 2010s. As a young teen in the late 2000s, she tapped into the quirky vibes of New York’s SideWalk Cafe anti-folk scene, which had given birth to the Moldy Peaches early in the decade, as well as the D.I.Y. ethos of K Records. Her songs appeared mostly online in various albums, sometimes on a monthly basis. Growing in popularity and influence, Frankie Cosmos made her studio and label debut with Zentropy in 2014. Two years later, Next Thing was her first Top 40 independent album. Though Kline had been recording with a backing band since Zentropy, the project’s first official outing as a quartet was 2018’s Vessel. This brings me to Inner World Peace, the third Frankie Cosmos release as a band. Here’s the lovely opener Abigail penned by Kline.

Archers of Loaf/Breaking Even

Archers of Loaf are an indie rock band formed in Chapel Hill, N.C. in 1991. According to their AppleMusic profile, they “were darlings of the indie world in the early to mid-’90s, thanks to an off-kilter sound that was edgy and challenging, yet melodically accessible at the same time.” During their initial seven-year run, Archers of Loaf released four albums. They broke up in late 1998 after drummer Mark Price had been diagnosed with and subsequently underwent surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. In 2011, the band reunited in its original formation, which in addition to Price also includes Eric Bachmann (vocals, guitar), Eric Johnson (guitar) and Matt Gentling (bass). After a summer tour that year, it doesn’t look like they were active thereafter until February 2020. That’s when the band released a single, Raleigh Days, their first new music since 1998. And now Archers of Loaf are back with Reason in Decline, their first new album in 24 years. Here’s Breaking Even. This nicely rocks!

Simple Minds/Who Killed Truth?

Until February 2018 when I came across their then-new album Walk Between Worlds, which I reviewed here, I essentially had forgotten about Scottish rock band Simple Minds. After a series of successful albums in the UK and other markets between the early ’80s and the mid-’90s, such as Sparkle in the Rain (1984), Once Upon a Time (1985) and Street Fighting Years (1989), the band’s popularity faded somewhat. Now they are out with their latest and 19th studio album Direction of the Heart. While the group has seen many line-up changes since they were founded in Glasgow in 1977, co-founders Jim Kerr (lead vocals) and Charlie Burchill (guitar, keyboards) are still around. Other current members include Ged Grimes (bass), Cherisse Osei (drums) and Sarah Brown (backing vocals). Let’s check out Who Killed Truth, co-written by Kerr and Burchill. While it may not be exactly WaterfrontAlive And KickingBelfast Child or Stand By Love, it doesn’t sound bad.

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

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday again, which means time to take a fresh look at newly released music. All picks appear on brand-new albums that came out yesterday (October 14). Let’s get to it without further ado!

Miko Marks & The Resurrectors/Feel Like Going Home

How many Americana and country artists can you name who are women of color? I’m thrilled to feature for the second time in Best of What’s New Miko Marks, an African-American singer drawing from both genres, as well as blues, soul and gospel. Born in Flint, Mich., she currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2005, Marks released her debut single Freeway Bound, which also was the title track of her first studio album that appeared in September of the same year. In 2006, she was named Best New Country Artist by U.S. trade magazine New Music Weekly. Marks has also won various music awards and was included in this year’s Country Music Television’s “Next Women of Country 2022” class. Feel Like Going Home is the excellent title track of her fourth and latest studio album. Initially, the tune appeared as a single back in March. As was the case for her previous album, Marks is backed by The Resurrectors, the house band of Redtone Records. I absolutely love her soulful sound and want to further explore this artist!

Souad Massi/Dessine-moi un Pays

Souad Massi is an Algerian Berber singer-songwriter and guitarist, my first such artist on the blog. From her Apple Music profile: Displaying influences as disparate as birdsong, American folk rock, Spanish flamenco, tablas from Pakistan, and Arabic lutes, all held together by a cool, sad-edged voice, Algerian singer-songwriter Souad Massi possesses one of the most unusual stories and sounds in the pop universe. Born amidst civil-war-torn Algers, her penchant for Westerns, particularly of the Sergio Leoni variety, prompted a specific interest in country music and cowboy culture. Massi joined Atakor, a rock band named after an Algerian mountain range, and in 1997 released a cassette of her own songs backed by Atakor entitled simply Souad. The cassette’s popularity brought death threats in her home country and when invited to play a festival in Paris, she chose to remain in France, where she released critically-favored records like Raoui and Deb. This brings me to Massi’s new album Sequana and the opener Dessine-moi un Pays (“draw a country for me”). While I admittedly don’t understand the lyrics, I find Massi’s music and singing really beautiful.

Enumclaw/Jimmy Neutron

Enumclaw are an indie rock band from Tacoma, Wash., named after a city located about 30 miles east of Tacoma. According to a profile on the website of their record label Luminelle Recordings, the group includes Aramis Johnson (lead vocals, guitar), Nathan Cornell (guitar), Johnson’s younger brother Eli Edwards (bass) and Ladaniel Gipson (drums). Here’s a bit more from their profile: Even though they hail from the home of grunge, their influences stretch a bit further; the group is already well on their way to becoming “the best band since Oasis,” their earliest motto. Aramis says the band led by the Gallagher brothers is a clear inspiration, given their rise from a working-class background, and not just because his own brother is in the group as well. Enumclaw are now out with their full-length debut album Save the Baby. Here’s Jimmy Neutron penned by Johnson. I like the rawness in their sound.

Red Hot Chili Peppers/Tippa My Tongue

Only six months after Unlimited Love, their international chart-topper, Red Hot Chili Peppers are back with a new album, their 13th. Just like its predecessor, Return of the Dream Canteen was produced by Rick Rubin, who also had also served in that capacity for six albums in a row released between 1991 and 2011. The current members of the Chili Peppers, who have been around since 1983, include co-founders Anthony Kiedis (lead vocals) and Michael Peter Balzary, known as Flea (bass, trumpet, piano, backing vocals), along with John Frusciante (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals) and Chad Smith (drums, percussion). Here’s Tippa My Tongue, the cool funky opener. Apart from Flea’s bass-playing, I dig the guitar work on this tune. Check it out!

As usual, following is a Spotify playlist with the above and a few additional tracks by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Luminelle Recordings website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. Once again, I found myself with more songs than I was able to accommodate, a nice problem to have. Following are four I decided to feature, all from albums that came out yesterday (October 7).

Disq/This Time

My first pick are Wisconsin indie rock band Disq, who according to Apple Music were founded by two teenage childhood friends. Here’s more from their profile: The roots of Disq go back to the friendship of Isaac deBroux-Slone and Raina Bock. The two grew up together, and both were surrounded by creative, artistic families. After learning several instruments and exploring pop music foundations laid by bands like the Beatles and alternative rock starting points like Weezer, the two budding songwriters formed Disq when they were still in their early teens. With Bock on bass and backing vocals and deBroux-Slone on guitar and lead vocals, the duo self-produced and released the Disq I EP in 2016. Over the next several years, the band expanded to include additional guitarist Logan Severson, drummer Brendan Manley, and guitarist/keyboardist Shannon Connor. After signing with indie label Saddle Creek, Disq released their full-length debut album Collector in March 2020. This Time, written by DeBroux-Slone, is a track from the group’s sophomore album Desperately Imagining Someplace Quiet. Great song!

Indigo Sparke/Pluto

This is the second time I’m including singer-songwriter Indigo Sparke in Best of What’s New after this installment from February 2021. According to a profile on the website of her record label Sacred Bones Records, Sparke writes with a rare and reflective power, creating music that builds and bursts as she examines love, loss, grief, and a newly realized rage. Born in Australia and now based in New York, Indigo worked as an actress before establishing herself in the Sydney music scene with her EP Night Bloom (2016). Over the next few years, she toured and collaborated extensively with Big Thief, released her single, “The Day I Drove the Car Around the Block,” to critical acclaim, had a song featured on the TV show Cloudy River, and performed across Australia and the U.S. Indigo signed with Sacred Bones in early 2021, and made her label debut shortly after with Echo [I previously featured the opener – CMM], which she co-produced with Adrianne Lenker (Big Thief), and Andrew Sarlo (producer of Big Thief, Nick Hakim, Bon Iver, and Hand Habits). This brings me to Hysteria, Sparke’s sophomore release, and Pluto, a beautiful song she wrote together with Aaron Dessner.

Surf Curse/Cathy

Next up is new music by Surf Curse, a music project by Nick Rattigan (drums, vocals) and Jacob Rubeck (guitar). From their AllMusic bio: A gritty and melodic Nevada-bred guitar-and-drum duo who later became a fixture of Los Angeles’ D.I.Y. garage and punk scenes, Surf Curse aligned themselves with the artist-run Danger Collective label where they released albums like 2017’s Nothing Yet and 2019’s Heaven Surrounds You. The sudden viral success of “Freaks,” a song they’d released years earlier, earned them a deal with Atlantic. That label has now issued Surf Curse’s fourth and new album Magic Hour. Here’s Cathy. I like their sound!

The Star Crumbles/Desperately Wanting

Before getting to the last pick, I have to call out fellow bloggers Jeff from Eclectic Music Lover and Marc Schuster from Abnominations, who brought the music project The Star Crumbles on my radar screen with recent posts here and here, respectively. The following is informed by these posts. Marc who is based in Philadelphia is actually a member of the project, which also includes his friend, Denton, Texas-based Brian Lambert. Both are longtime singer-songwriters and musicians. After they had met on Twitter, Lambert reached out to Schuster for some help with one of his songs earlier this year. Recognizing how well they worked with each other, they decided to form The Star Crumbles. Schuster and Lambert, among others, are both into ’80s music and bands like The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, New Order and Ultravox, which you can clearly hear on their first album The Ghost of Dancing Slow. They also came up with a fictitious story behind the band, which they captured in a hilarious mini-documentary. Here’s the remarkable thing from my perspective: While I used to dig much of ’80s music at the time, nowadays, I tend to be lukewarm about it. I definitely can’t say the same about The Star Crumbles and their tune Desperately Wanting, which pretty much grabbed me right away. Once again, this goes to show that at the end of the day, there are only types of music: Music you dig and music that doesn’t speak to you. Check this out!

The following Spotify playlist includes the above and a few additional tracks by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Sacred Bones Records website; AllMusic; Eclectic Music Lover blog; Abnominations blog; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to the first Best of What’s New installment of this year’s fall season. While summer is now officially over and temperatures have started to drop, especially at night, the weather is still decent in my neck of the woods. That’s good since in an about hour I’ll be off to a 10-hour open-air music festival. So without any further ado, let’s take a fresh look at new music releases.

The Wonder Years/Doors I Painted Shut

My first pick this week are American pop punk band The Wonder Years, formed in Lansdale, Pa. in July 2005. After the release of two relatively unknown EPs they split with two other bands, The Wonder Years signed with No Sleep Records in 2007 and recorded their first full-length album Get Stoked on It! Initial U.S. chart success came with their sophomore release The Upsides, which climbed to no. 42 on the Independent Albums chart. Their most successful album to date, No Closer to Heaven from September 2015, reached no. 12 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200 and also charted in the UK and Australia at no. 46 and no. 59, respectively. The band’s current line-up features co-founders Matt Brasch (rhythm guitar, vocals, percussion), Dan Campbell (lead vocals, ukulele), Casey Cavaliere (lead guitar, backing vocals), Josh Martin (bass, synthesizer, backing vocals) and Mike Kennedy (drums, percussion), along with Nick Steinborn (keyboards, piano, guitar, backing vocals, percussion). Doors I Painted Shut, credited to all members, is the opener of the band’s seventh and new studio album The Hum Goes on Forever. Nice tune!

Nikki Lane/Good Enough

Next up is Nikki Lane, a Nashville-based country singer-songwriter. From her AllMusic bio: A singer and songwriter who mixes the honky tonk atmosphere of vintage country with the clever bite of indie rock, Nikki Lane is a barroom siren whose music is tough, witty, and bold, inhabiting Nashville archetypes while upending them at the same time. Lane’s songs walk a fine line between sincerity and irony, but the passion and effectiveness of her vocals keeps her from sounding like a put-on, and her melodies mix rootsy twang and rock & roll edge with confidence. Lane introduced her talent with the 2011 debut Walk of Shame and added a soulful edge with 2014’s All or Nothin’ and 2017’s Highway Queen. With 2022’s Denim & Diamonds, she eased back on her country accents and added harder rock energy to her mix. From that last album, which is her latest, here’s Good Enough, penned by Lane.

The Black Angels/El Jardin

Psychedelic rock band The Black Angels were formed in Austin, Texas in May 2004. From their Apple Music profile: The sultry neo-psychedelic sound of the Black Angels came together in spring 2004. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Stephanie Bailey (drums), Christian Bland (guitar), Alex Maas (vocals), Jennifer Raines (organ), and Nathan Ryan (bass) took their name from a Velvet Underground classic, “The Black Angel’s Death Song.” The band’s self-titled debut EP was released in late 2005. After a string of North American dates in winter 2006, the Black Angels readied themselves for a performance at the annual South by Southwest Music Conference in March. Their full-length album, Passover, hit stores that April. Fast forward 16 years until September 16 and Wilderness of Mirrors, the sixth studio album by The Black Angeles. In addition to Maas, Bland and Bailey, the group’s current line-up includes Jake Garcia (guitar) and Ramiro Verdooren (keyboards, percussion, bass, guitar). Here’s El Jardin, credited to the band and producer Brett Orrison. Pretty catchy psych rock – check it out!

Jimmy Carpenter/Barefootin’

I’d like to wrap up this week’s music revue with some great soulful blues by Las Vegas-based singer-songwriter and saxophonist Jimmy Carpenter. Here’s some background from his website: Jimmy Carpenter, saxophonist, singer-songwriter, and arranger, began his musical journey over 35 years ago. In the ’80s, he toured the east coast with the renegade blues band, The Alka-Phonics, in the ’90s with the blues-rock band The Believers, with whom he learned about the music business. Over the years, Jimmy has toured internationally with Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery, Walter Wolfman Washington, Eric Lindell, and others. In 2012 Jimmy joined Mike Zito, his long-time friend and musical cohort, and recorded and toured as a member of Mike Zito and the Wheel. In addition to touring nationally & internationally, Jimmy has written, arranged and recorded the horns for many artists, and has gained a reputation as a master Blues, Rock-n-Roll and R&B saxophonist. Carpenter has also released various solo albums. His latest, a covers album titled The Louisiana Record, appeared on September 16. Let’s check out Carpenter’s great rendition of Barefootin’, a tune written and first recorded by R&B singer Robert Parker in 1966, his sole hit.

This post wouldn’t be complete with a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tunes by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Apple Music; Jimmy Carpenter website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday, which means the time has come again to take a fresh look at newly released music. All highlighted tunes appear on albums that came out yesterday (Sep 9).

Flogging Molly/Lead The Way

Irish-American Celtic punk band Flogging Molly, founded in 1997, are kicking off this week’s new music revue. I had only heard of their name but hadn’t been aware of their music. From their AllMusic bio: Los Angeles-based seven-piece Flogging Molly are an interesting mix of traditional Irish music and spunky punk rock. Former Fastway acoustic guitarist/frontman and Dublin native Dave King formed the band with fiddle player Bridget Regan, guitarist Dennis Casey, accordion player (and former pro skateboarder) Matt Hensley, bassist Nathen Maxwell, drummer George Schwindt, and mandolinist Bob Schmidt…Their rowdy folk-rock punk revival sound has been compared to the likes of other Irish bands such as the Pogues and Black 47, but the raucous septet opted for its own unique brashness that defied genre lines. Flogging Molly’s debut studio album Swagger was released in March 2000. The band’s international breakthrough came in March 2008 with their fourth album Float. In the U.S. it peaked at no. 4 on the Billboard 200 and charted within the top 50 in various European countries, including Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Finland and Sweden. Lead The Way, credited to Maxwell, Regan, King, Casey and Hensley, is from the group’s seventh and latest album Anthem. I love the combination of Irish folk music and rock, which in addition to The Pogues reminds me of Dropkick Murphys.

The Afghan Whigs/A Line Of Shots

The Afghan Whigs are a rock band from Cincinnati, Ohio. Initially formed in late 1986 by Greg Dulli (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick McCollum (lead guitar), John Curley (bass) and Steve Earle (drums) (no relation to the “other” Steve Earle), the group released six albums until their breakup in 2001. A first reunion in 2006 was short-lived and led to the release of two new tracks that were included on a compilation titled Unbreakable: A Retrospective 1990–2006. The Afghan Wigs came together again in December 2011 and have since released three additional albums including their new one How Do You Burn? Dulli and Curley remain in the band’s current lineup, which also includes Rick Nelson (keyboards, strings, guitar, backing vocals), Christopher Thorn (guitar) and Patrick Keeler (drums). Here’s A Line Of Shots, a track off the group’s new album, penned by Dulli. Nice tune!

The Amazons/Bloodrush

The Amazons are a British rock band formed in 2014. From their Apple Music profile: Playing an arena-sized brand of indie that combines the grandeur of Arcade Fire with the muscle of Nirvana, the Amazons crafted catchy, melodic anthems built for singalongs. At the time of their formation, vocalist Matt Thomson, guitarist Chris Alderton, and bassist Elliot Briggs were already in a group together, but when they recruited Josef “Joe” Emmet — who is also a bassist — on drums, the Reading band was born. Building a grassroots following in their local scene, Thomson, then working at a supermarket, would slip demo CDs into shoppers’ baskets. Their debut EP, 2015’s Don’t You Wanna, was produced by Catherine Marks, who’d previously worked with Wolf Alice and White Lies. In May 2017, The Amazons released their eponymous debut album, which was an instant success in the UK on the Official Albums Chart where it reached no. 8. Two years later, sophomore release Future Dust followed. Once again, it made the top 10 in the UK charts, peaking at no. 9. Bloodrush is a tune from the band’s third and latest album How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me? This is great melodic indie rock!

Julian Lennon/Save Me

My last pick for this week is another tune from Julian Lennon’s new album Jude, which is now out. Back in July, I featured Breathe, one of the tracks that had been released upfront. Jude is Lennon’s seventh studio album and his first in 11 years. The title is a nod to the legendary song ‘Hey Jude,’ by The Beatles, written by Paul McCartney to comfort 5-year-old Julian following his parents’ separation, according to an announcement on Lennon’s website. “Many of these songs have been in the works for several years, so it almost feels like a coming-of-age album,” said Lennon. With great respect for the overwhelming significance of the song written for me, the title JUDE conveys the very real journey of my life that these tracks represent.” Until I learned about Jude a few months ago, I hadn’t thought we would see new music from Lennon, given his other activities over the past 20-plus years, including photography, publishing children’s books and producing film documentaries. Here’s the opener Save Me, co-written by Gregory Darling and Lennon. I really like what I’m hearing here and look forward to checking out the rest of the album!

Here’s a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tracks.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Apple Music; Julian Lennon website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and hope your weekend is off to a great start! For many folks in the U.S., with Labor Day coming up on Monday, it’s a three-day stretch off work. And, nope, even though there is this notion, the holiday doesn’t mark the end of summer! In North America, that date is September 22 this year. With that important clarification out of the way, let’s get to new music. All picks are on albums or EPs that appeared yesterday (Sep 2).

Luke Sital-Singh/Can’t Get High

I’d like to kick off this new music revue with Luke Sital-Singh, a Los Angeles-based British indie folk singer-songwriter. Here’s more from his Apple Music profile: Raised in the southwest London suburb of New Malden,…Sital-Singh released his first EP, Fail for You, in late 2012. Produced by veteran Irish producer Iain Archer (Snow Patrol, Jake Bugg), the four songs had a haunting, intimate quality that drew comparisons to Bon Iver and Jeff Buckley, and earned Sital-Singh considerable airplay in the U.K. He released a second EP in the spring of 2013 called Old Flint, which opened the door to several tours and key spots on the U.K. festival circuit, and eventually landed him a deal with British major Parlophone Records. Sital-Singh’s first full-length album The Fire Inside appeared in August 2014. Now, his fourth studio album Dressing Like a Stranger is out. Here’s Can’t Get High, a nice pop rock tune he wrote together with Nashville-based songwriter and frequent collaborator Ben Cramer, better known as Old Sea Brigade.

Mo Troper/I Fall Into Her Arms

Mo Troper is a Portland, Ore.-based singer-songwriter and guitarist. From his AllMusic bio: His music takes listeners on an emotional trip, with the beauty of his classic-style pop melodies facing up against lyrics that ask pointed, sardonic questions about the world around him...Troper’s father was an obsessive Beatles fan, and Mo grew up absorbing the influences of the Fab Four and other ’60s pop acts. At an early age, Troper had developed a passionate interest in music, and in his teens he began making his way into the Portland D.I.Y. music scene. While in high school, Troper and drummer Nate Sonefeld formed the band Your Rival, who specialized in “fun songs about horrible things.” In 2013, they released an album, Here’s to Me, through the local punk label Party Damage Records. The band soon broke up, and Troper worked with the groups TeenSpot and Sancho before he decided it was time to strike out on his own. His solo debut album Beloved was released in April 2016. Fast-forward six and a half years to MTV, Troper’s fifth studio album, and I Fall Into Her Arms. Like all other tracks except for one, the power pop tune was solely penned by Troper.

Rodell Duff/Tell Me Twice

Rodell Duff who originally hails from Trinidad & Tobago is a Texas-based country singer. From his website: He moved to Houston, TX as a kid[, which] has been his home since then. Music has always been a part of his life. From being in the choir during his school years, to now garnering over 7 million plus streams on Spotify with just 5 releases under his belt. Now residing in Kemah, TX, Rodell Duff has been all over Texas performing in front of live crowds. He recently opened up for acts such as The Josh Abbott Band, Michael Ray & Corey Kent, just to name a few. His first official single “Wrecked” was released in 2021 & ended up landing on Spotify’s “Hot Country” playlist. Rodell Duff has now released his first EP, Red Dirt Cursed, and I like what I’m hearing. Check out opener Tell Me Twice, which Duff co-wrote with Dylan Maloney, Eric Dodd and Haley Ganis.

The Front Bottoms/Hello World

Wrapping up my new music picks for this week are The Front Bottoms, an indie rock duo from Woodcliff Lake, N.J. Consisting of Brian Sella (vocals, guitar) and his childhood friend Mat Uychich (drums), The Front Bottoms were formed in 2006. Uychich’s brother Brian Uychich (keyboard, vocals) completed their original line-up, which recorded their first two self-released albums. In September 2011, The Front Bottoms’s eponymous third album appeared, their first released with a record label. Following the departure of Brian Uychich, Ciaran O’Donnell (guitar, trumpet, keyboards) joined as an official member in 2012. After the release of their fourth studio album Going Grey in October 2017, The Front Bottoms became a duo. Their music has been eclectic, blending elements of pop, rock and punk. This brings me to Hello World, a tune from their latest pop rock-oriented EP Theresa.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above and some additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; AllMusic; Rodell Duff website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Is it really Saturday again? Yep, the calendar doesn’t lie. Next week, we’re already headed into September and, in the U.S., Labor Day weekend – crazy! On a more upbeat note, Best of What’s New is hitting a milestone of sorts this week with its 125th installment. The occasion coincides with plenty of new music I found. The first three picks are from albums that appeared yesterday (Aug 26), while the remaining tunes came out a week ago.

Ezra Furman/Train Comes Through

I’d like to kick off this post with Ezra Furman, an indie art pop singer-songwriter from Chicago. She first came to prominence as lead vocalist and guitarist of Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, an indie rock band that was active between 2006 and 2011. After their third studio album Mysterious Power, released in April 2011, the group called it quits, and Furman launched a solo career. To date, she has released six solo studio albums, three EPs and various singles. Her AllMusic bio describes Furman as “a fiery, androgynous folk-punk provocateur” with “Lennon-esque sneer and raw, open-hearted lyrics, plus a flamboyant style, [which] have helped to make her one of the most engaging and unpredictable art-pop confectioners of her era.” Since I’m completely new to her, I could never have come up with this, but I know one thing: I’m intrigued by Furman’s new album All of Us Flames. Check out the opener Train Comes Through, which like most of the other tunes was solely penned by her.

Pat Green/Bad Bones

Pat Green is a country and Americana singer-songwriter from Texas. Here’s more from his Apple Music profile: Green comes from the rich tradition of Texas country-music mavericks carving their own niche for themselves, and he has done that with a combination of deep-down roots, alt-country innovation, and rich, reflective lyricism. Born in San Antonio in 1972, Green kicked off his career working in and around the musical hub of Lubbock. He started recording in the mid-’90s, with local legend Lloyd Maines producing. Eventually he caught the attention of Willie Nelson, who invited Green to play his annual July 4th blowout in 1998. By the new millennium, Green had signed with a major label and hit the Country Top 10 with Three Days, an album that showed off his knack for country-rocking hooks and storytelling savvy. Green’s latest album is titled Miles and Miles of You. Here is Bad Bones, co-written by Green, Jondan McBride and Sean Michael Giddings – love that funky rock-oriented sound!

Thee Sacred Souls/Lady Love

Thee Sacred Souls are a soul trio from Southern California, who just released their eponymous debut album, and, man, how sweet it sounds! From their website: For Thee Sacred Souls, the first time is often the charm. The band’s first club dates led to a record deal with the revered Daptone label; their first singles racked up more than ten million streams in a year and garnered attention from Billboard, Rolling Stone, and KCRW; and their first fans included the likes of Gary Clark Jr., The Black Pumas, Princess Nokia, and Timbaland...Indeed, there’s something inevitable about the sound of Thee Sacred Souls, as if [drummer Alex] Garcia and his bandmates—bassist Sal Samano and singer Josh Lane—have been playing together for a lifetime already...Thee Sacred Souls is a warm and textured record, mixing the easygoing grace of sweet ’60s soul with the grit and groove of early ’70s R&B…[with] hints of Chicano, Philly, Chicago, Memphis, and even Panama soul…Check out Lady Love, written by Garcia and Lane. This is so good!

Katy Guillen & The Drive/Another One Gained

Katy Guillen & The Drive is a project by singer-songwriter and guitarist Katy Guillen. Here’s more from her website: After six years of persistent touring, performing and writing with her previous project, Katy Guillen & The Girls, singer, songwriter and guitarist Guillen found herself at the painful end of two long-term relationships. Katy Guillen & The Girls reached an extensive audience through performances at Montreal International Jazz Festival and the International Blues Challenge, a tour of Sweden via Kultur i Vast, and support for artists including The Revivalists, Robin Trower and The Doobie Brothers. With their burgeoning career put on hold, Guillen and long-time drummer Stephanie Williams set off for uncharted territory as Katy Guillen & The Drive. While distinguishing themselves as a new group with a fresh sound, the two continued crafting their musical and personal identities together. After dropping two EPs in 2020 and 2021, Katy Guillen & The Drive have now released their first full-length album Another One Gained. Here’s the title track, co-written by Guillen and Williams – love this!

Rock Eupora/Can You Feel the Weight?

Rock Eupora is the moniker of Nashville-based artist Clayton Waller who originally hails from Mississippi. From his website: From his earliest recordings, Waller has never been afraid to ask the big, searching questions of life. Catchy, hooky pop sensibilities have similarly been a consistent through-line in Rock Eupora’s catalogue. Featuring singable, fuzzed-out guitar hooks and stuck-in-your-head-all-afternoon choruses, the discography of Rock Eupora––including three full-length albums, two EPs, and a smattering of singles to date––brings to mind Blue Album-era Weezer or the high-energy, hard-charging, harmony-laden early Beatles singlesRock Eupora began when Waller was a senior in college. Each subsequent release has seen a broadening of scope and range. This brings me to Pick At the Scab, Rock Europa’s new album and Can You Feel Weight? Pretty catchy tune with a great sound – check it out!

Barney Cortez/Into the Void

Time to wrap up this Best of What’s New installment with one more pick: Barney Cortez, a Philadelphia-based artist who is out with his debut album Hullabaloo. Here’s some info I found on the website of his label La Reserve Records, posted in connection with the release of the album’s title track and third single back in March: Energetic, sharp-edged, and with lyrics worth sitting down to read, Hullabaloo is a fitting title track to Cortez’s upcoming debut LP, capturing the singer-songwriter’s state of mind during the time he wrote the album’s ten songs…“‘Hullabaloo’ was the perfect title for this album, because it spoke to all the turmoil and confusion I saw in the world and in myself as covid spread,” he [Cortez] continues. “It was just complete — and still is — whiplash, not knowing what each day was going to bring. The country was going through a really strange period. So I wasn’t feeling great during that time. I still try to make pop music around it, and music that feels good.” Let’s give a listen to Into the Void.

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

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Apple Music; Thee Sacred Souls website; Katy Guillen & The Drive website; Rock Eupora website; La Reserve Records 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. All picks are from albums that came out yesterday. Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Kolby Cooper/Woke Up Hungover

Kicking us off today is Kolby Cooper, a young country singer-songwriter from East Texas. Here’s more from his Apple Music profile: Possessing a honeyed twang and an enduring affection for the smoother sounds of ’90s country, Kolby Cooper wasn’t as gritty as some of his peers on the Red Dirt circuit of the Southwest during the last days of the 2010s...Kolby Cooper started playing guitar at the age of 12, inspired equally by classic country and ’90s alt rock. His adolescence turned out to be tumultuous. His father died of cancer when Cooper was 14 and shortly afterward, he started writing songs, eventually finding his way to local talent competitions. When he was 18, Cooper became a father and husband in short order. Initially, he planned to attend nursing school but he decided to give the music business a shot. His 2017 debut single Every Single Kiss was followed by an EP, Vol. 1, in February 2018, and Cooper’s first full-length album Good Ones Never Last in 2019. Woke Up Hungover is a tune from his second and latest album Boy From Anderson County To The Moon – country rock with a pleasant dose of pop!

Cass McCombs/Music Is Blue

Cass McCombs is an eclectic singer-songwriter hailing from California. After playing in numerous bands in the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest during the ’90s, McCombs launched a solo career in 2001 with his debut EP Not The Way E.P. Two years later, A, his first of now 10 studio albums appeared. McCombs’ music has blended elements of different genres, such as rock, folk, psychedelic and alt country. Music Is Blue is the opener of his new album Heartmind. As happens most of the time with artists I feature in Best of What’s New, I’m completely new to Cass McCombs, but I sure like what I’m hearing here!

Silversun Pickups/Stillness (Way Beyond)

Silversun Pickups are an indie rock band from Los Angles, formed in 2000. Five years later, they released their debut EP Pikul. Their debut album Carnavas made the U.S. Billboard 200, reaching no. 80, and peaked at no. 5 on the Independent Albums chart. It has since been certified Gold in the U.S. The group’s sophomore album Swoon peaked at an impressive no. 7 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Independent Albums chart. It also enjoyed success outside the U.S., especially in Australia and Canada where it climbed to no. 14 and no. 23, respectively. The group’s current line-up includes founding members Brian Aubert (lead vocals, guitar) and Nikki Monninger (bass, backing vocals), along with Joe Lester (keyboards, guitar) and Chris Guanlao (drums, percussion) who joined in 2002. This brings me to Stillness (Way Beyond), the first track of their sixth and latest studio album Physical Thrills. Like the other 13 songs on the album, it’s credited to all four members of the band. I like it – check it out!

Early James/Pigsty

My final pick for this week is new music by Early James (born Fredrick James Mullis Jr.), a singer-songwriter from Alabama. Shortly after he had received his first guitar as a Christmas present at the age of 15, he started writing his own songs. James Taylor and Johnny Cash were among his early influences. Here’s more from his AllMusic bio: Early James draws from a deep well of American roots music. Backed by upright bassist Adrian Marmolejo, James’ expressive voice and stripped-down blend of Southern blues, country, folk, and jazz evokes Jason Isbell by way of early Tom Waits and Harry Chapin. In 2019, James inked a deal with Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound and headed into the studio to lay down tracks for a debut album. The deeply southern and luminous Singing for My Supper, which featured a full-band, was released in 2020. James is now out with his sophomore album Strange Time To Be Alive, and based on what I’ve heard thus far, it sounds mightily sweet. Here’s a sample: Pigsty.

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist that features the above and a few other tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Welcome to another installment of The Sunday Six. After a two-week hiatus, it’s nice to get back into the blogging groove again. At the same time, taking a break wasn’t a bad thing, especially in this case where I used some of the time for a long-sought vacation in Germany to see some family and friends again. Following is a small collage of photos from my visit.

From top left clockwise: Karlsruhe Palace; village of Buschhoven, in which I grew up; Frankfurt/Main; and Königstein, a health spa in the Taunus region close to Frankfurt

Time to get to some music. Three of the picks are inspired by my recent visit to Germany.

Sonny Rollins/In a Sentimental Mood

Our journey today starts with beautiful music by American tenor saxophone great Sonny Rollins, who is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential jazz musicians. Over an incredible 70-year-plus career, Rollins has recorded more than 60 albums as a leader and appeared on many additional records as a sideman. He has played with the likes of Charlie ParkerMiles DavisDizzy Gillespie,  Thelonious MonkMax Roach and Modern Jazz Quartet. In a Sentimental Mood, composed by Duke Ellington, Manny Kurtz and Irving Mills, is among Rollins’ earliest recordings as a leader. It appeared on a 1956 compilation album, Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet. On this particular tune, he was backed by John Lewis (piano), Milt Jackson (vibraphone), Percy Heath (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums). My kind of music to ease into a Sunday morning.

Wolf Maahn/Irgendwo in Deutschland

Next, we jump to 1984 and the first German-language song featured in The Sunday Six: Irgendwo in Deutschland (somewhere in Germany), the title track of the third studio album by German rock artist Wolf Maahn. The singer-songwriter, actor and producer, who was born in Berlin in 1955 and grew up in Munich, initially started his music career in 1976 as a founding member of the Food Band. Mixing soul, jazz, pop and rock, this group sang in English. Wolf Maahn’s “German language music career” kicked off in the early ’80s with the studio album Deserteure. He gained broad national popularity in the mid ’80s, starting with the Irgendwo in Deutschland album. I listened to that song in my rental car on the day I arrived in Germany. That’s when I decided I would feature it in a Sunday Six.

Arthur Conley/Sweet Soul Music

I’m in the mood for some soul and the other day I remembered a tune I’ve always loved, loved: Sweet Soul Music, a big U.S. hit for Arthur Conley in 1967, climbing to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, it peaked at no. 7 on the Official Singles Chart. The song, which also became the title track of an album Conley released the same year, was co-written by him and Otis Redding – and Sam Cooke. It’s a version of Cooke’s Yeah Man, a tune that appeared on Cooke’s first posthumous studio album Shake from January 1965. Initially, they didn’t give him any credit. Cooke’s estate eventually sued Conley and Redding and received songwriting credit and a settlement.

Del Amitri/Always the Last to Know

During my visit to Germany, I met my former bandmate and longtime music buddy who always gives me great trip listening tips. The next two picks are inspired by him. First, he reminded me of Scottish alternative rock band Del Amitri, who were formed in Glasgow in 1980. During their initial run until 2002, they released six studio albums and two compilations. Since the band reemerged from hiatus in 2013, it looks like they have mainly been a touring act. Only one live record, one compilation and one studio album have since appeared. Always the Last to Know takes us back to their third studio album Change Everything released in June 1992. Written by Justin Currie (vocals, guitar, piano), who remains with Del Amitri to this day, the tune also became the album’s lead single in April 1992 – a nice melodic pop rock tune!

The Sadies/Stop and Start

This next pick is from the new album by Canadian band The Sadies, Colder Streams, released on July 22. From their AllMusic bio: One of the most accomplished bands to emerge from the North American indie and roots rock scene, the Sadies are an eclectic group founded by brothers Dallas Good and Travis Good, who crafted a distinctive sound, absorbing influences from traditional country, surf music, and garage rock, and blending them into something unique with their estimable instrumental skills. The band’s best work emphasized mood as much as melody, and they were open to collaboration with artists they respected, cutting albums with Neko Case, John Doe, Gord Downie, and Andre Williams. Here’s Stop and Start, credited to all four members of the band at the time of the recording. Sadly, Dallas Good died unexpectedly on February 17, 2022, at the age of 48 from a recently detected heart condition.

The Knack/My Sharona

And once again, we’ve reached the final stop of yet another Sunday Six. Let’s wrap up with a fun tune by Los Angeles power pop band The Knack: My Sharona, their first single that became an international sensation, topping the charts in the U.S., Canada and Australia, peaking at no. 3 in New Zealand and reaching the top 10 in the UK, Switzerland, Spain and Italy. The song’s huge popularity also propelled the band’s debut album Get the Knack to no. 1 in the U.S., Canada and Australia – a level of success the band never managed to replicate. After their third album, they split for the first time in mid-1982. The Knack had a few reunions thereafter until their permanent end in February 2010, following the death of the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist Doug Fieger from cancer at the age of 57.

Here’s a playlist of the above tunes. Hope there’s something there you like.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify