Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday and I hope everybody is enjoying their weekend. This also means it’s time to take a fresh look at newly released music. All picks appear on albums, which were released yesterday (November 4).

Big Joanie/Cactus Tree

Kicking us off today are Big Joanie, a black all-female punk trio formed in London in 2013. From their website: Championed by BBC 6Music, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan, Big Joanie are a London-based Black feminist punk band who combine the fury of nineties riot grrrl with synth-heavy post punk. Following their 2018 debut album ‘Sistahs’ on Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz’s label Daydream Library Series, the band secured a coveted run of support slots playing with Bikini Kill, Gossip, Sleater-Kinney and IDLES. Ahead of their second album, set to come out on Daydream Library in the UK and Kill Rock Stars in the US, Big Joanie are ready to bring their unique brand of feminist punk to the entire world. Big Joanie are Stephanie Phillips (guitar and vocals), Estella Adeyeri (bass guitar and vocals), and Chardine Taylor-Stone (drums and vocals). Their aforementioned second album Back Home is now out. Here’s the opener Cactus Tree, penned by Phillips. It’s safe to say Big Joanie are the first black punk band I’ve ever encountered, not to mention all-female. More importantly, these ladies have an interesting and I find distinct sound – not even sure I’d call it punk. Check this out.

The Lone Bellow/Cost of Living

Next up is another trio, The Lone Bellow, an Americana and roots group that began as a song-writing project for Zach Williams (guitar, lead vocals). Following an accident his wife had, which led to temporary paralysis, Williams began writing in a journal to cope with the situation. At the urging of friends, he learned how to play guitar and turned his journal entries into songs – what a cool story! After starting out as a solo act in New York City, he joined with Brian Elmquist (guitar, vocals) and Kanene Donehey Pipkin (mandolin, bass, keyboard, vocals). In January 2013, they released their eponymous debut album. Cost of Living is a song off Love Songs for Losers, the fifth and latest album by The Lone Bellow who are now based in Nashville. I love their harmony singing and warm sound!

Emily Nenni/Useless

Emily Nenni, according to her website, is a California-born and Nashville-based [country] singer and songwriter [who] chronicles her life through delicate songcraft rife with honky-tonk spirit and spiked with just the right amount of soul...Growing up in the Bay Area “in a family of music nerds,” her father worked in radio…Mom and dad took her to countless concerts as a kid and regaled her with endless tales of music lore. Emily’s mother introduced her to the likes of Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Hank Williams, while her father spun James Brown and John Coltrane. Following high school, she attended Columbia College with a major in audio engineering. After a year, she dropped out and saved up enough money to move to Nashville…Eventually, she linked up with producer and frequent collaborator Mike Eli. Together, they cut her independent debut LP, Hell of a Woman, in 2017. Next up, she joined forces with Teddy and The Rough Riders for the I Owe You Nothin’ EP before serving up 2020’s Long Game EP. This brings me to On the Ranch, Nenni’s label full-length debut, and Useless, a tune she co-wrote with Michael Elias LoPinto. While other tracks on the album are traditional country, this song has more of a country-rock vibe – not bad!

Turnover/People That We Know

My last new music pick for this week comes from an American band called Turnover, formed in Virginia Beach, Va. in 2009. From their AllMusic bio: Turnover emerged in the early part of the 2010s, quickly outgrowing their emo and punk roots to create a more introspective sound that incorporated the lushness of dream pop and the tender melodies of indie pop. 2015’s Peripheral Vision marked the beginning of their transformation as it dialed down the distortion and added touches of shoegaze haze and summery vocal harmonies. Further works saw them branching out into wistful introspection (2017’s Good Nature) and soft pop (2019’s Altogether.) By the time of 2022’s Myself in the Way, they had cooked up a slick slowcore-meets-disco sound inspired by Quincy Jones and Chic. Turnover are Austin Getz (vocals, keyboards), Nick Rayfield (lead guitar), Danny Dempsey (bass) and Casey Getz (drums). Here’s People That We Know, credited to the entire band, from their above-mentioned latest album. The smooth and groovy tune drew me in.

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

Sources: Wikipedia; Big Joanie website; Emily Nenni website; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify

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Ten Days of Tapestry

A legendary album turns 50 – part IX

We’re almost there. Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of Carole King’s Tapestry, her iconic album from 1971, which I’ve been celebrating with this series over the past eight days. Up to now, I’ve explored all of side A, i.e., I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, It’s Too Late, Home Again, Beautiful and Way Over Yonder, and the first three tracks on side B: You’ve Got a Friend, Where You Lead and Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Next up: Smackwater Jack.

Smackwater Jack is Tapestry’s second tune Carole co-wrote with Gerry Goffin. Unlike Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Smackwater Jack wasn’t released until Tapestry. It’s a great mid-tempo bluesy rocker. Rolling Stone’s Jon Landau called it an “uptempo shuffle.” In particular, I dig the piano work including Ralph Schuckett’s electric piano, and Danny Kortchmar’s electric guitar. Also, as a retired bassist, I have to call out Charles Larkey’s great bassline.

In addition to its music, Smackwater Jack stands out lyrically. It sounds less personal and less emotional than the other tunes on Tapestry. This doesn’t make it any worse; in fact, I think it’s a great outlaw story told in a very cinematic fashion you could picture in a Western movie.

Check out this excerpt from the lyrics: …The account of the capture/Wasn’t in the papers/But you know, they hanged ol’ Smack right then/Instead of later/You know, the people were quite pleased/’Cause the outlaw had been seized/And on the whole, it was a very good year/For the undertaker…

Smackwater Jack also appeared separately as Tapestry’s second single, paired with So Far Away. Like the album’s first single It’s Too Late/I Feel the Earth Move, Billboard treated it as a double A. It peaked at no. 14 on the Hot 100.

Interestingly, Quincy Jones covered Smackwater Jack as the title track of his studio album that also appeared in 1971. I had not been aware of this. I can’t say I like it as much as Carole’s original version. Still, I think Jones deserves credit for making the tune his own by giving it a funky soul vibe – check it out!

Sources: YouTube; YouTube