Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of Best of What’s New. I found a lot on the new music front this week that I like. All featured tracks are on releases that came out yesterday (Sep 16). Here we go!

Cape Francis/Gospel of Broken Arms

Getting us started today is Cape Francis, the moniker of New York-based singer-songwriter Kevin Olken Henthorn. From his website: Kevin Olken Henthorn has spent the past half-decade crafting quiet but intricate bedroom pop, gradually expanding and contracting his sound over the years. After a previous band fell through, he began the Cape Francis project as a way to express his creative energy, forging a creative partnership with producer and engineer Ariel Loh. After his third record, the reverb-drenched, winding Plateaus, Henthorn wanted to strip back, creating songs he could play by himself without requiring a full band. Writing during a lengthy early-pandemic move to Silver Lake with his partner, what started out as a back-to-basics record gradually became quietly ambitious, as Henthorn challenged himself to write more directly. The result is Don’t Let Your Heart Walk Away, his fourth and latest album. Here’s Gospel of Broken Arms.

Death Cab for Cutie/Here to Forever

Death Cab for Cutie are an American indie rock band formed in Bellingham, Wash. in 1997. Originally a solo project by Ben Gibbard (vocals, guitar, piano), Death Cab for Cutie expanded into a full band after he had released a demo, You Can Play These Songs with Chords, which became popular. Gibbard subsequently recruited Chris Walla (guitar), Nick Harmer (bass) and Nathan Good (drums). They signed with Barsuk Records and released their debut album Something About Airplanes in August 1998. Five years later, Death Cab for Cutie received broad recognition in the U.S. for their fifth studio album Plans, which peaked at no. 4 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for two Grammys. In February 2008, it received Platinum certification, making it the band’s best-selling album to date. This brings me to Here to Forever, a tune from Death Cab’s 10th and new album Asphalt Meadows. The song was co-written by Gibbard and Zac Rae (keyboard, guitar). Harmer and Dave Depper (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) complete the group’s current lineup. Catchy tune!

The Beths/When You Know You Know

On to New Zealand indie pop rock band The Beths who have been around since 2014. From their Apple Music profile: Fronted by their main songwriter, Elizabeth Stokes, New Zealand indie rock group the Beths combine energized guitar riffs, melodic hooks, and harmonized backing vocals in their impulsive, distinctly self-depreciating music. Having already won fans as a live act, the band released their first album, Future Me Hates Me, in 2018. The Beths’ 2021 live album Auckland, New Zealand, 2020 featured earworms from the debut and follow-up Jump Rope Gazers. Their third long-player, 2022’s anxious Expert in a Dying Field, was completed in a Los Angeles studio during tour. From that album, which is their latest, here’s When You Know You Know. Great tune, which in addition to Strokes (vocals, rhythm guitar) is credited to the band’s three other members Jonathan Pearce (lead guitar, vocals), Benjamin Sinclair (bass, vocals) and Tristan Deck (drums).

The Mars Volta/Backlight Shine

El Paso, Texas progressive rock band The Mars Volta came together in 2001. From their AllMusic bio: Picking up the pieces from At the Drive-In, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez formed the Mars Volta and wasted little time branching out into elements of hardcore, prog, psychedelic rock, and avant-jazz and funk. As the ever-evolving Mars Volta, they immediately impressed with 2003’s gold-certified Deloused in the Comatorium for Universal. It eschewed conventional logic to push themselves in new artistic directions, while 2005’s Frances the Mute revealed a willingness to use concepts to underscore a provocative musical approach. Fast-forward 17 years to the present and the band’s new eponymous album, their seventh and first in 10 years! Check out Backlight Shine, an intriguing tune written by Rodríguez-López.

Starcrawler/Runaway

Starcrawler are a punk rock band from Los Angeles, founded in 2015. Their current members include Arrow de Wilde (lead vocals), Henri Cash (guitar), Bill Cash (pedal steel guitar, an unexpected instrument for a punk band – CMM), Tim Franco (bass) and Seth Carolina (drums). AllMusic characterizes their sound as “somewhere between the punk/hard rock of fellow L.A. natives the Runaways and the shock tactics of legendary metal band Black Sabbath.” AllMusic also notes “crunchy guitars, melodies that boast a bit of glam-influenced swagger (even when they’re in a minor key), and a heavy rhythmic stomp” to describe the band’s sound. Starcrawler who released their eponymous debut album in January 2018 are now out with their third studio project She Said. Let’s check out Runaway – I would call this punk with a tasty dose of pop!

Ringo Starr/Free Your Soul (feat. Dave Koz and José Antonio Rodriguez)

Wrapping up this week’s new music revue is a man who needs no introduction. Ringo Starr, who in July turned 82, has been on a remarkable roll, having released a full album and three EPs since October 2019, including his latest, aptly called EP3. One of the four tracks is called Free Your Soul. From a July 29 press release: Written by Ringo Starr and Bruce Sugar, the soothing, rhythmic sound of “Free Your Soul” transports the listener to an island beach on a clear warm night under a full moon. With Ringo on vocals, drums and handclaps, the song also features Dave Koz on tenor sax and José Antonio Rodriguez on nylon guitar, Nathan East on bass, Bruce Sugar on keyboards, percussion and horn arrangement, and Billy Valentine, Zelma Davis and Maiya Sykes providing backing vocals. When you’re Ringo Starr, I suppose you don’t have much if any problem finding a little help from some great friends. I can hear some of Sade’s Smooth Operator in this relaxing tune, especially in the beginning – to be clear, it’s meant to be a compliment!

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

Sources: Wikipedia; Cape Francis website; Apple Music; AllMusic; Ringo Starr website; YouTube; Spotify

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The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Another Sunday is upon us, which means time again for a new journey to celebrate the music of the past and present in different flavors, six tunes a pop. Before we get to that, just a quick reminder to readers in the U.S. that as of 2:00 a.m. this morning, we’re back to daylight savings time, except for Hawaii and Arizona (sans the Navajo Nation who observes DST). While I won’t get into debating the merits of DST, I like the fact that it reminds me we’re one step closer to spring.

Stan Getz and João Gilberto/Girl from Ipanema

I love the saxophone, so I’m always looking for great players I could feature in The Sunday Six. The other day, I came across Stan Getz. When I started reading about him, it didn’t take long to get to Brazilian jazz writer and guitarist João Gilberto and a song I’ve always loved: Girl from Ipanema. The popular bossa nova tune was written in 1962 by Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim, with Portoguese lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. American lyricist Norman Gimbel subsequently wrote the English lyrics. Brazilian bossa nova singer Pery Ribeiro first recorded the tune in 1962, but it was the rendition by Getz and Gilberto, featuring Gilberto’s wife Astrud Gilberto (nee Astrud Evangelina Weinert) on vocals, which became a hit. Appearing on the album Getz/Gilberto from March 1964, Girl from Ipanema climbed to no. 5 on the mainstream charts in the U.S. and Canada, reached no. 8 in New Zealand and peaked at no. 29 in the UK. Feel free to groove along!

Sade/Your Love Is King

Let’s stay on the smooth side with smooth operator Sade (nee Helen Folasade Adu) and the British group that carries her name, who make their second appearance on The Sunday Six. Once again, I decided to pick a tune from their great debut album Diamond Life, released in July 1984: Your Love Is King, which first appeared in February that year as the lead single. The tune was penned by Sade together with saxophonist Stuart Matthewman who remains a member of the group to this day. The single made a strong debut in the UK where it surged to no. 6. It also did very well in New Zealand (no. 2) and Ireland (no. 7). In the U.S., the best performance was on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart (no. 8). By comparison, it only got to no. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100. Interestingly, the picture in the UK and U.S. was reversed for Smooth Operator. What probably is Sade’s best-known and my favorite tune reached no. 19 in the UK and no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Ramones/I Wanna Be Sedated

Time to speed things up with American punk rock pioneers Ramones. Unlike the title may suggest, I think it’s safe to assume I Wanna Be Sedated won’t put you to sleep. While the Ramones, formed in New York in 1974, never achieved any significant commercial success, they still became highly influential in the punk rock genre. In fact, according to Wikipedia, they are often cited as the first true punk rock group. I Wanna Be Sedated, written together by co-founders Dee Dee Ramone (bass), Joey Ramone (lead vocals) and Johnny Ramone (guitar), appeared on the band’s fourth studio album Road to Ruin, which came out in September 1978. At the time, Marky Ramone (drums) rounded out their line-up. The song also became the b-side to the single She’s the One, released in parallel with the record, one of the group’s numerous non-charting singles. I find this a pretty catchy tune and wonder whether it may have had more success as an A-side.

4 Non Blondes/What’s Up

The next stop on our music journey are the ’90s and what must be one of the best-known tunes of that decade. Yes, What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes certainly hasn’t suffered from under-exposure, but it’s what I would call an epic tune I continue to enjoy. I was reminded of the song when I caught it on the radio the other day while driving my car. Luckily, it’s not exactly a 911 but a sexy Japanese compact SUV, so when you hit the accelerator, nothing overly dramatic happens – probably a good thing when you listen to a kickass tune like this. If I see this correctly, 4 Non Blondes were largely a one-hit-wonder. They only released one studio album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More!, in October 1992. What’s Up was penned by the group’s lead vocalist and main songwriter Linda Perry. The band, which was active from 1989 to 1994, at the time of What’s Up also featured Roger Rocha (lead guitar), Christa Hillhouse (bass) and Dawn Richardson (drums).

The Cars/Sad Song

Every time it comes to The Cars, I feel that while I hardly know anything about the American new wave and pop rock group, I am familiar with a good deal of their songs. The group was mainly active between 1976 and 1988. During that period, they recorded six of their seven studio albums and scored 13 top 40 hits in the U.S. alone. Their biggest was Drive from July 1984, which climbed to no. 3 in the U.S., Ireland and Switzerland, and reached the top 10 in many other countries. I decided to pick a tune from their reunion and final album Move Like This, which came out in May 2011: Sad Song. Written by frontman Ric Ocasek, who passed away in September 2019, it was one of the group’s few singles that didn’t make the Billboard Hot 100. Sad Song did reach no. 33 on the Mainstream Rock chart. This sounds like classic Cars. Perhaps a more cheerful title would have helped.

Julian Lage/Emily

And once again we have reached the final stop of this music excursion. Hope you’ve enjoyed the trip. I will leave you on a quiet and relaxing note with beautiful guitar jazz by Julian Lage. Borrowing from a June 2021 post when I featured him for the first time, according to Apple Music’s profileLage has been widely acclaimed as one of the most prodigious guitarists of his generation. The New York-based musician boasts a long resume as a desired sideman with artists as diverse as Gary Burton, Taylor Eigsti, John Zorn, Nels Cline, Chris Eldridge, Eric Harland, and Fred Hersch, to name just a few. Equally important is his reputation as a soloist and bandleader. He is equally versed in jazz, classical, pop, and show tunes, and has spent more than a decade searching through the myriad strains of American musical history via an impeccable technique and a gift for freely associating between styles, tempos, keys, and textures that adds to his limitless improvisational spirit. Emily, composed by John Mandel and John Mercer, is a track from Lage’s most recent album Squint, released in June 2021. Check out his beautiful tone!

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist featuring the above tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random songs at a time

Welcome to the second installment of this feature, which I spontaneously launched last Sunday. Now I guess I gotta keep feeding the bear! 🙂 The good news is in music the possibilities are endless. With that being said, let’s start it nice and easy, before we finish it nice and rough!

Donald Fagen/I.G.Y.

I’d like to kick things off with some smooth pop jazz from the great Donald Fagen, who together with Walter Becker was the mastermind behind one of my favorite music acts of all time, Steely Dan. I.G.Y., which stands for International Geophysical Year, is the opener to Fagen’s solo debut album The Nightfly. Released in October 1982, it remains my favorite Fagen solo effort. I.G.Y., which ran from  July 1957 to December 1958, was a global project to promote collaboration among the world’s scientists. The tune, written by Fagen, also became The Nightfly’s lead single in September 1982.

Paul Simon/Train in the Distance

For some reason, that Paul Simon song randomly popped into my head the other day, so what could be a better selection for this feature? Of course, this may pose the question what’s going to happen when something like Itsy Bitsy Spider suddenly comes to my mind – well, I guess we have to wait and see. As for Train in the Distance, I’ve always dug this tune. Simon wrote and recorded it for his sixth solo album Hearts and Bones from November 1983. Interestingly, the track wasn’t released as a single…Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance/Everybody thinks it’s true/Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance/Everybody thinks it’s true…Love the soothing sound of that song and the great image of the sound of a distant train.

Sade/Smooth Operator

Let’s do another smoothie – after all, it’s Sunday morning! Smooth Operator was the first Sade tune I recall hearing on the radio in Germany back in the ’80s. It’s on the British songwriter and vocalist’s smash debut album Diamond Life from July 1984. Sade, also professionally known as Sade Adu, began her career as a model before becoming a backing vocalist in a British band called Pride. Subsequently, she and three other members of the band, Paul Anthony Cook, Paul Denman and Stuart Matthewman, left to form a group named after her, Sade. Co-written by Ray St. John, another member of Pride, and Sade, Smooth Operator also appeared separately as a single in September 1984 and became a major international hit. Yes, the tune about a con man and pimp sounds like gentleman club music. I still love Sade’s soulful singing and the smooth jazzy sound.

World Party/Ship of Fools

My dear long-time music friend from Germany reminded me of this great tune yesterday, which is a perfect fit to our crazy times. Ship of Fools was the debut single by World Party, released in January 1987. World Party was the name of a music solo project by Welsh multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and record producer Karl Wallinger. He started it in 1986 after his departure as keyboarder of The Waterboys. Ship of Fools, written by Wallinger, was also included on World Party’s 1986 debut album Private Revolution. Wallinger’s love of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and other ’60s music is quite evident, both sonically and visually. In fact, the vocals on Ship of Fools at times remind a bit of Mick Jagger. In 2001, Wallinger was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, which required surgery and put his music career to a near-full stop for five years. He was able to resume touring in 2006, though no additional World Party albums have appeared since Wallinger’s dangerous health episode. Based on World Party’s website, the project appears to have been on hiatus since 2015. No idea what Wallinger is doing these days.

Leon Russell/Crystal Closet Queen

Let’s get it going with some great rock & roll from Leon Russell. When my streaming music provider recently served up Crystal Closet Queen as a listening suggestion, I decided right away to feature this tune in my next Sunday Six installment. Why? Coz I can! Plus, that’s the beauty of a feature about random songs. Composed by Russell, the tune is from his second solo album Leon Russell and the Shelter People, which came out in May 1971. This really cooks!

The Spencer Davis Group/Gimme Some Lovin’

To wrap up this collection, what’s even better than a rocker like Crystal Closet Queen? Yep, you guessed it correctly – more rock! I’ve always loved this gem by The Spencer Davis Group. When then-18-year-old Steve Winwood hits and holds those keys of his mighty Hammond B3, it still sends chills through my spine, not to mention his amazing soulful voice! Co-written by Winwood, Spencer Davis and Steve’s older brother Muff Winwood, Gimme Some Lovin’ appeared as a non-album single in October 1966 and became one of the band’s biggest hits. The title is also a good motto we should all embrace, especially these days.

Sources: Wikipedia; World Party website; YouTube