Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday, which means it’s time to take a fresh look at newly-released music! Sometimes, these weekly posts come together pretty quickly. On other occasions, they take a bit more time. This installment fell more into the latter category. It simply all depends on how much research I need to do to find new music I reasonably enjoy, based on initial impressions. All of my picks in this post appear on albums that were released yesterday (April 8). In one case it’s a single from an upcoming record.

Father John Misty/Q4

I’d like to kick off with American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer Joshua Tillman, known as Father John Misty. Tillman, who grew up in an Evangelical Christian household in Rockville, Md., has been active since 2001. Apart from having been a member of or toured with multiple bands, such as Demon Hunter, Fleet Foxes and Jeffertitti’s Nile (none of which I know), Tillman has contributed to albums by the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Post Malone and produced an album for Matthew Daniel Siskin, known as Gambles – quite an eclectic-looking mix! Since 2003, he also has released 13 solo albums, initially as J. Tillman and from 2012 onward under the Father John Misty moniker. Q4 is a track from Tillman’s new album Chloë and the Next 20th Century. Inspired by big band, jazz standards and traditional pop, it’s been compared to Randy Newman’s Sail Away and Harry Nilsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, according to Wikipedia. Check out that neat harpsichord on Q4, a tune penned by Tillman.

The Linda Lindas/Talking to Myself

I first came across and featured Los Angeles-based all-female pop-punk and garage band The Linda Lindas in early March. Founded in 2018 when they were still young teenagers, the group features Bela Salazar (guitar, vocals), Eloise Wong (bass, vocals), Lucia de la Garza (guitar, vocals) and her sister Mila de la Garza (drums, vocals). After American actress and film director Amy Poehler watched the band perform live, she asked them to record a song for her 2021 comedy-drama MoxieThe Linda Lindas also penned a tune for the 2020 Netflix documentary The Claudia Kishi Club. Last May, they signed with  Epitaph Records and released Oh!, their first single with the label. Talking to Myself, credited to Mila de la Garza and The Linda Lindas, is a song from their first full-length album Growing Up. There’s just something about the enthusiasm and energy these young ladies project!

Caitlyn Smith/Dreamin’s Free

Caitlyn Smith is a country and pop singer-songwriter. According to her Apple Music profile, she cashed out her college fund to record her debut, Learning to Be, which was released when she was just 15 [in 2001 – CMM]. Her breakthrough album, Starfire [January 2018 – CMM], named for a vintage guitar she received from her father, debuted at the top of the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart. Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” and the Dolly Parton-Kenny Rogers duet “You Can’t Make Old Friends” are just two of the hits she’s written for other artists….Garth Brooks called Smith one of the top female vocalists he’s ever heard. Colbie Caillat, Kacey Musgraves, and Maren Morris have all performed at her quarterly “Girls of Nashville” songwriting showcase. This brings me to Smith’s third and latest studio album High and the track Dreamin’s Free, a nice tune, co-written by her, Lori McKenna and Shane McAnally.

Thundermother/Watch Out

Wrapping up this week’s new music revue are all-female Swedish hard rockers Thundermother. The band, formed in Stockholm in 2010, currently consists of founder Filippa Nässil (guitar), along with Guernica Mancini (lead vocals), Mona “Demona” Lindgren (bass) and Emlee Johansson (drums), according to their website. Their debut album Rock ‘n’ Roll Disaster appeared in January 2014. Watch Out is Thundermother’s new single from their upcoming fifth album Black and Gold. “The song is about this moment in our career,” said Nässil in a press release. “It’s about rising up, being powerful women working as a team, and taking charge.” The following clip notes, “For Fans Of: AC/DC, Airbourne, D-A-D, Rose Tattoo, Aerosmith Hardrock” – sounds about right to me!

Last but not least, here’s this week’s Spotify list featuring the above and a few additional tunes. Hope you’ll find something you dig!

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Thundermother website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Another Saturday is upon us, which means it’s time to take a fresh look at newly released music. My picks for this week include melodic punk, pop country, indie rock and some contemporary reggae. All tunes appear on releases that came out yesterday (August 6).

Fake Names/It Will Take a Lifetime

Fake Names are a supergroup featuring members from Swedish and American punk bands I’m not familiar with. According to this review in Broadway World, the line-up includes guitarists Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Bad Religion) and Michael Hampton (S.O.A., Embrace, One Last Wish), lead vocalist Dennis Lyxzén (Refused, International Noise Conspiracy, INVSN) and bassist Johnny Temple (Girls Against Boys, Soulside). In May 2020, Fake Names released their eponymous debut album. It Will Take a Lifetime is the opener of their new self-titled EP. The tune is credited to all four members. The recording also includes guest drummer Brendan Canty (Rites of Spring, Fugazi). I rarely listen to punk but find this pretty accessible. Obviously, it’s not hardcore, which isn’t my cup of tea, plus it’s pretty melodic!

Allison Ponthier/Cowboy

Allison Ponthier is a singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, New York, who originally hails from the Dallas area. This feature in Atwood Magazine describes her music as “equal parts Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves, and Phoebe Bridgers.” Cowboy is from Ponthier’s debut EP Faking My Own Death. The tune first appeared in March as her debut single. “”Cowboy” is the story of when I moved from my hometown in Texas to Brooklyn and ended up coming out as a queer person,” Ponthier explained to Atwood Magazine. “I was always trying to run away from different aspects of myself, and I guess it was time to live my truth as a gay cowboy.” According to the publication, “Ponthier is quickly asserting herself as one of 2021’s freshest and most exciting new singer/ songwriters.” While I know way too little about her music to comment on the statement, I find Cowboy pretty intriguing.

Laura Stevenson/Continental Divide

Laura Stevenson is a folk and indie rock-oriented singer-songwriter from Long Island, New York. According to her Apple Music artist profile, Stevenson is the granddaughter of Harry Simeone, an arranger and conductor who was co-credited with writing the Christmas classic “Little Drummer Boy.” Simeone’s wife, Margaret McCravy, sang for Benny Goodman’s Orchestra in the 1930s under the name Margaret McCrae. By her late teens, Stevenson was already writing her own songs and performing locally when she befriended members of band the Arrogant Sons of Bitches. They temporarily disbanded in 2004, and when lead singer Jeff Rosenstock quickly formed the ska-punk collective Bomb the Music Industry!, Stevenson was enlisted as keyboard player. She continued to play solo shows during her time with the group, with members often contributing to her backing band. Credited as Laura Stevenson & the Cans, she made her solo recording debut in 2009 on a split EP with BTMI, adding the three-track “Holy Ghost!” later the same year. Her full-length debut, A Record, followed on Asian Man Records in 2010 and included collaborations with Rosenstock. Fast-forward 11 years to Stevensons’ new and self-titled sixth album, for which she wrote all tracks. Here’s Continental Divide – check out that great warm sound – very nice!

Sizzla/On a High

When being asked about reggae music, I’m quick to say I dig it because it’s groovy and makes you want to move. The truth is I mostly base this on Bob Marley, the only reggae artist I’ve explored beyond just a song or two. Perhaps tellingly, I had not heard of Sizzla (born Miguel Orlando Collins), who according to Wikipedia is “one of the most commercially and critically successful contemporary reggae artists.” Well, if they say so. Sizzla was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. In 1995, he met Jamaican record producer Philip “Fatis” Burrell, who produced his debut album Burning Up that appeared in September of the same year. Sizzla is a prolific recording artist who has since released more than 50 additional albums, frequently several during the same year. On a High, written by Collins, is the title track of Sizzla’s new album. Feel free to groove along!

Sources: Wikipedia; Broadway World; Atwood Magazine; Apple Music; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

This week’s Best of What’s New installment brings another nice mix of great new music. From country to blues to soul to singer-songwriter style, it’s all there. Or how about a Boston-based band with a very unique sound they describe as Americana funk? Or a neo soul collaboration’s beautiful cover of a well-known Tracy Chapman tune? I hope I’ve sufficiently whetted your appetite to read on!

Ray Wylie Hubbard/Bad Trick (featuring Ringo Starr, Don Was, Joe Walsh & Chris Robinson)

While Ray Wylie Hubbard has been active for more than 50 years, I don’t believe I had heard of him before, but I simply couldn’t skip a tune featuring Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh among the guests! Hubbard’s online bio states he is the secret handshake amongst those who know, which to me suggests he may not exactly be a household name. Hubbard was born in Soper, OK on November 13, 1946. Beginning in 1965, during semester breaks from his studies at the University of North Texas, he spent the summers in Red River, N.M., where he started playing music in a folk trio called Three Faces West. During that time period, he wrote a tune with the lovely title Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother, which was first recorded by country artist Jerry Jeff Walker in 1973. It helped Hubbard sign with Warner Bros. Records and release his debut Ray Wylie Hubbard and the Cowboy Twinkies in 1976. Seventeen additional country, folk and blues-oriented albums have since appeared. This includes Co-Starring, which came out on July 10 and features the above tune, which was co-written by Hubbard and his wife Judy. Hubbard told Apple Music he had met Ringo about five or six years ago. When Ringo learned about Hubbard’s new album, not only did he offer to play drums on Bad Trick but also ask his brother-in-law Joe Walsh and Don Was to join on guitar and bass, respectively. The fourth guest is Black Crowes co-founder and lead vocalist Chris Robinson. Check out the fun video!

Black Pumas/Fast Car

Based on sampling a few tunes, Black Puma sound like a really cool, relatively new band. According to Apple Music, it’s a collaboration between producer and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Quesada and singer-songwriter Eric Burton, who fuse cinematic neo-soul, light psychedelia, and a touch of urban grit. No matter how you characterize their music, it simply sounds great. Quesada and Burton joined forces in 2018 and released their eponymous debut album in June 2019. Their latest single Fast Car is a cover of the Tracy Chapman tune that appeared on her eponymous debut record in April 1988. I’ve loved that tune from the very first time I heard it when it came out. Things around Chapman seem to have been quiet for a long time. Perhaps this great remake will help bring her back on the radar screens of folks who dig but have forgotten about her.

Twisted Pine/Don’t Come Over Tonight

Don’t Come Over Tonight is a track from Right Now, the forthcoming sophomore album by Twisted Pine, a Boston-based band with a unique sound that’s hard to describe. Here’s how a short bio from their web site puts it: Praised by NPR for their “upbeat, poppy vibe; energetic, driving rhythms; and virtuosic solos,” Twisted Pine will release their sophomore full-length Right Now on August 14, 2020 (Signature Sounds). Exploring a sound they call Americana funk, Twisted Pine takes traditional music in exhilarating directions. Bassist Chris Sartori writes, “This album is easier to feel than describe. We’re rooted in bluegrass, continually inspired by explorers like Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Sierra Hull. Right Now takes this heritage into a new dimension. Our bluegrass is jazzy, our indie folk is poppy, our grooves are funky.” Twisted Pine [Kathleen Parks, fiddle; Dan Bui, mandolin; Chris Sartori, bass; Anh Phung, flute] grooves with fearless improvisation and intricate arrangements. The band has been around since 2013. Their eponymous debut album appeared in July 2017, followed by the EP Dreams in January 2019. Don’t Come Over Tonight was written by Parks. It’s quite unusual, yet pretty cool, in my opinion. These guys are virtuoso musicians and great vocalists. Check it out!

Ruston Kelly/Rubber

Ruston Kelly is a 31-year-old singer-songwriter who was born in Georgetown, S.C. and grew up in Wyoming, Ohio. 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 Tim McGraw recorded 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. Released on June 10, Rubber is a track from Kelly’s forthcoming sophomore album Shape & Destroy scheduled for August 28. In October 2017, he married singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves, who as reported by Rolling Stone also performs on the album. Apparently, they since filed for divorce.

Mick Hayes/Autumn Romance

Mick Hayes is another great sounding artist with relatively little publicly available information, even though the blues guitarist and vocalist has a website and a Facebook page – I just don’t get it! At least his website links to various reviews of his most recent album My Claim to Fame, which was recorded at the legendary FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, Ala., appeared on May 29 and includes the above tune. According to American Blues Scene, Hayes’ love affair with Muscle Shoals began when he was a young man growing up in upstate New York, where he would browse record shops with wall to wall music from Ray Charles to Aretha Franklin to Duane Allman to Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke.  Rock and Blues Muse notes Hayes and his band have spent the last decade playing up to 200 festival and club gigs a year and have opened for Duke Robillard, Samantha Fish, and Delbert McClinton. AllMusic also lists a 2016 album, Segue, by Mick Hayes Band. The cool thing about My Claim to Fame is that not only did Hayes record it at FAME but, as American Blues Scene pointed out, he also worked with studio musicians who recorded with artists like Ray Charles, Etta James and B.B. King. Oh, and Hayes co-produced the record with John Gifford III, who assisted with engineering Gregg Allman’s final studio album Southern Blood – sounds like the stars truly aligned for Hayes!

Sources: Wikipedia; Ray Wylie Hubbard website; Twisted Pines website; Rolling Stone; American Blues Scene; Rock & Blues Muse; YouTube