Welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. All featured tracks appear on albums, which were released yesterday (February 24).
Westing/Back in the Twenties
Kicking things off are Westing, a rock band from Visalia, Calif., who until late 2021 were known as Slow Season. Together with the name change came the addition of Ben McLeod as lead guitarist, who also is a member of All Them Witches, a rock group from Nashville. Additionally, Westing include Daniel Story Rice (vocals, keyboards), Hayden Doyel (bass) and Cody Tarbell (drums). Slow Season had emerged about 10 years ago and released three albums. The reincarnated group’s first new release as Westing is titled Future. Here’s the album’s opener Back in the Twenties, which first appeared as the second upfront single about two weeks ago. It’s got a bit of a Led Zeppelin swagger. A bio that accompanies the clip of the song’s official video below notes the tune’s “message comes through clear (and loud) that however much Westing’s foundations might be in ‘70s styles, the moment that matters is now.”
Death Valley Girls/What Are the Odds
Death Valley Girls, who have been around since 2013, are a Los Angeles-based group blending garage rock, psychedelic pop and proto-metal. From their AllMusic bio: Evoking names like the Cramps, Black Sabbath, and Bikini Kill, the band was founded by drummer Patty Schemel (Hole), her six-string-wielding brother Larry Schemel, vocalist Bonnie Bloomgarden, and bass player Rachel Orosco. The group released their debut album, Street Venom, on cassette via Burger Records in 2014. Patty left the group shortly thereafter and was replaced by Laura Kelsey (the Flytraps). In 2016, Death Valley Girls issued their sophomore studio long-player, Glow in the Dark. The band moved to Suicide Squeeze Records for 2018’s Darkness Rains, and in 2020 they released their fourth full-length effort, Under the Spell of Joy. Now Death Valley Girls are out with their new album Islands in the Sky. Let’s listen to What Are the Odds, a tune co-written by Bloomgarden and Larry Schemel. I would call this song charmingly weird. It certainly rocks!
Iris DeMent/Goin’ Down to Sing in Texas
My next pick is by singer-songwriter Iris DeMent, who blends elements of Americana, country, folk and gospel. Born in Paragould, Ark. as the youngest of 14 children, DeArment was exposed to country and gospel music early on, but a bad experience during her first performance as a 5-year-old put a pause on additional such efforts. It wasn’t until the age of 25 in 1986 that she penned her first song Our Town, which changed her trajectory to becoming a songwriter. DeMent’s debut album Infamous Angel appeared six years later in October 1992. She has since released six additional albums including her latest Workin’ on a World. According to her website, it addresses the modern world — as it is right now — with its climate catastrophe, pandemic illness, and epidemic of violence and social injustice — and not only asks us how we can keep working towards a better world, but implores us to love each other, despite our very different ways of seeing. Here’s Goin’ Down to Sing in Texas, a tune her website characterizes as an ode not only to gun control, but also to the brave folks who speak out against tyranny and endure the consequences in an unjust world. Undoubtedly, DeMent won’t endear herself to everybody with her outspoken lyrics.
Philip Selway/Check For Signs of Life
Wrapping up this week is Philip Selway, who is best known as the drummer of Radiohead, the English alternative rock band he co-founded in 1985. While Selway had written songs as a teenager, he decided to focus on playing the drums for the group. Eventually, he changed his mind and released his debut solo album Familial in August 2010. It was an immediate success in the U.S. where it reached no. 7 and no. 8 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers and Americana/ Folk Albums charts. It also made the UK’s Official Albums Chart (no. 185). This brings me to Strange Dance, Selway’s third and latest solo effort. From his Bandcamp page: When Philip Selway approached some of his favourite musicians to play on his third solo record he said he imagined it as a Carole King record if she collaborated with the pioneering electronic composer Daphne Oram and invited him to drum on it. Unsurprisingly they were all sold, and so began the bringing together of an extraordinary number of gifted people, including Hannah Peel, Adrian Utley, Quinta, Marta Salogni, Valentina Magaletti and Laura Moody. Here’s Check For Signs of Life. Written by Selway, this geat-sounding tune was first released as a single in October 2022.
As usual, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring the above tracks and a few additional songs by all highlighted artists.
Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Iris DeMent website; Philip Selway Bandcamp page; YouTube; Spotify