Welcome to Best of What’s New, and I hope your Saturday is groovy. In this installment of my weekly new music revue, I decided to feature six tunes. The first five tracks are from releases that came out yesterday (April 14), while the final song appeared on April 7.
Kara Jackson is a poet, published book author and singer-songwriter hailing from Oak Park, Ill. She was named the 2019 U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate. The title is awarded annually to a young person who, according to Wikipedia, demonstrates skill in the arts, particularly poetry and/or spoken word, is a strong leader, is committed to social justice, and is active in civic discourse and advocacy. In 2019, Jackson released her debut EP A Song for Every Chamber of the Heart. Now she’s out with her first full-length album Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? Here’s Pawnshop, a great tune co-written by Jackson, Kaina Castillo and Sen Morimoto.
Fruit Bats/Waking Up in Los Angeles
Fruit Bats are an indie folk rock band around singer-songwriter Eric D. Johnson. The group I first featured in a March 2021 Best of What’s New installment, was initially founded in 1997 in Chicago as a side project for Johnson who also led space rock group I Rowboat and played guitar in several other bands. Fruit Bats evolved into a band in 2001 when I Rowboat members Dan Strack (guitar) and Brian Belval (drums) joined Johnson’s project. They released their debut album Echolocation in September that year. Since then, the group has had many lineup changes, with Johnson remaining as the only constant member. Waking Up in Los Angeles, penned by Johnson, is from Fruit Bats’ latest and 10th studio album A River Running to Your Heart – pretty catchy!
Brian Dunne/Bad Luck
Brian Dunne is a singer-songwriter based in New York City. From his website: Born and raised in Monroe, NY, Dunne learned to roll with the hits when he moved to NYC roughly a decade ago, barely scraping by at first as he forged his early career one hard-fought show at a time…In the years that followed, he would go on to release a trio of widely respected albums, share bills with everyone from Cat Power to Caroline Rose, and earn praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, who hailed “Chasing Down A Ghost” from his most recent album, 2020’s Selling Things, as “a stunner.” In 2021, Dunne landed an unexpected hit in the Netherlands with “New Tattoo,” a standalone single that reached #2 on the Spotify Viral 50 and landed him on a slew of Dutch national TV and radio programs. This brings me to Dunne’s new album Loser On the Ropes, which as his website puts it explores defeat and denial, fortune and faith, shame and redemption, all set against the backdrop of a world run by blowhards and bullshitters who manage to perpetually skate by without cost or consequence. Unlike its title may suggest, Bad Luck, written by Dunne, sounds pretty upbeat.
Hippo Campus are an indie rock band from Saint Paul, Minn. They were formed in 2013 by five students who met at Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists: Jake Luppen (lead vocals, guitar), Nathan Stocker (lead guitar, vocals), Zach Sutton (bass, keyboards) and Whistler Isaiah Allen (drums, vocals). After three EPs in 2013, 2014 and 2015, they released their first full-length studio album Landmark in February 2017. In addition to the co-founders, it featured DeCarlo Jackson (trumpet), who also had studied at SPCPA. Moonshine, credited to the group’s co-founders, Caleb Wright and Raffaella Meloni, is a pleasant pop rock tune from the band’s new EP Wasteland.
Danko Jones/Guess Who’s Back
Danko Jones are a hard rock trio formed in Toronto in 1996 by frontman Danko Jones (vocals, guitar), John ‘JC’ Calabrese (bass) and Michael Caricari (drums). Following a succession of various drummers that started in 1999, the band’s line-up has been stable since 2013 when Rich Knox joined. From a press release: Powered by a DIY punk rock spirit, and inspired by the good, great and grotesque of electrified rock ‘n’ roll, they have steadily built a colossal international fan base and become one of the most acclaimed live bands around, embraced by everyone from mainstream radio-rock fans to diehard metalheads. Along the way, they have released ten widely praised studio albums, generating a peerless repertoire of fists-in-the-air crowd-pleasers into the bargain. Now they announced their forthcoming 11th studio album Electric Sounds, scheduled to drop September 15 on German rock/metal label AFM Records, and released the first track, Guess Who’s Back. Co-written by Calabrese and Knox, it’s a pretty kickass tune from what the above-mentioned press release called “the undisputed kings of balls-out rock’n’roll.”
Greta Van Fleet/Meeting the Master
This brings me to my last pick for this week, the first track from Greta Van Fleet’s upcoming third full-length studio album Starcatcher, scheduled for July 21. Greta Van Fleet, who I covered on various previous occasions, were formed in Frankenmuth, Mich. in 2012 by brothers Josh Kiszka (lead vocals), Jake Kiszka (guitars, backing vocals) and Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), along with Kyle Hauck (drums). Other than Hauck who was replaced by Danny Wagner in 2013, the band’s line-up hasn’t changed. Starcatcher, which follows April 2021’s The Battle at Garden’s Gate, was produced in Nashville by the band and Dave Cobb, who has worked with the likes of Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, John Prine, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, The Highwomen and Rival Sons. “We had this idea that we wanted to tell these stories to build a universe,” Wagner said about what appears to be a concept album in a statement, as reported by NME. “We wanted to introduce characters and motifs and these ideas that would come about here and there throughout our careers through this world.” Here’s Meeting the Master, which appeared on April 7 – sounds pretty epic!
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tunes.
Sources: Wikipedia; Brian Dunne website; NME; YouTube; Spotify