Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Hard to believe it’s Saturday again. With a four-day get-away from home, somehow, this week felt even shorter than usual. All picks in this latest Best of What’s New installment appear on albums that came out yesterday (April 29).

Bloc Party/Day Drinker

Kicking things off today are English alternative rock band Bloc Party. According to their Apple Music profile, the group began in 1999, when Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack decided to form a band inspired by their love of Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Pixies, and DJ Shadow. They landed their big break when Okereke got the demo of “She’s Hearing Voices” to BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq, who played it on his show. During the band’s formative years, Okereke studied English Literature at King’s College London but dropped out after Bloc Party signed with Wichita Recordings. Silent Alarm [their 2005 debut album – CMM] was nominated for Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize and was named Album of the Year by NME. Their sophomore album, A Weekend in the City, hit No. 12 on the US charts and made the Top 10 in the UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand. In addition to co-founders Okereke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Lissack (lead guitar, keyboards), Bloc Party’s current lineup includes Justin Harris (bass, backing vocals, synthesizer, glockenspiel, saxophone) and Louise Bartle (drums, percussion, backing vocals), who each joined the band in 2015. Here’s Day Drinker, the opener of Bloc Party’s sixth and new studio album Alpha Games. Even though it’s not in my core wheelhouse, I find this tune pretty catchy.

Willie Nelson/Live Every Day

I trust Willie Nelson, who has been active for 65-plus years, doesn’t need an introduction. Yesterday, the American country legend turned 88 years and released his 72nd solo record A Beautiful Time, featuring original songs, as well as covers by The Beatles and Leonard Cohen, among others. The record comes only five months after The Willie Nelson Family, a collaborative album by Nelson, his sons Lucas and Micah, his daughters Paula and Amy and his sister Bobbie Nelson. Live Every Day, co-written by Nelson and Buddy Cannon who produced the album with Nelson, offers some smart advice and shows Nelson in admirable shape: Live every day like it was your last one/And one day you’re gonna be right/Treat everyone like you wanna be treated/See how that changes your life…

The Head and the Heart/Every Shade of Blue

The Head and the Heart combine pop with indie-folk and Americana. Founding members Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion), Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), Charity Rose Thielen (violin, guitar, vocals), Kenny Hensley (piano), Chris Zasche (bass) and Tyler Williams (drums) met through a series of open mic nights at a local club in Seattle in the summer of 2009. After their well-received self-released and self-distributed eponymous debut album, the band signed with Sub Pop in November 2010. The label remastered and expanded the album and re-released it in January 2011. Johnson left shortly after the group’s third album Signs of Light had come out in September 2016 and was replaced by Matt Gervais (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards). Every Shade of Blue, credited to Casey Smith, Jesse Shatkin, Nate Cyphert, Samuel Dent and the entire band, is the title track of the group’s fifth and latest album.

Trombone Shorty/Good Company

My last new music pick for this week is by New Orleans-based Trombone Shorty who is best known as a trombone and trumpet player. Born Troy Andrews, he has worked with some of the biggest names in rock, pop, jazz, funk and hip hop. To give you a flavor of the 36-year-old’s career, already at the age of four, Andrews appeared on stage with Bo Diddley at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. By the age of six, he became the leader of a brass parade band. In 2005 when he was 19 years old, he toured around the world with Lenny Kravitz as a member of his horn section. Since 2002 Andrews has also released numerous albums, both as a bandleader and as a sideman. This brings me to Lifted, which according to his website, is Trombone Shorty’s second release for Blue Note Records [and his 12th recording as a bandleader, based on WikipediaCMM]. Apple Music categorizes the album as jazz, but it’s also pop, funk and soul. Here’s the groovy closer Good Company, co-written by Andrews, Chris Seefried and Cobi Mike.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify list with the above and some additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Trombone Shorty website; YouTube; Spotify

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Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Is it only me, or is 2022 already starting to feel old? Regardless of my sentiment, let’s focus on the positive – it’s Saturday and time to take a fresh look at newly-released music! Unlike some of the recurring feature’s other previous installments, this week, I didn’t have much of a challenge to identify four picks I sufficiently like to highlight in a post. Next week, it could be entirely different, so I should enjoy it while it lasts! All tunes are on albums that appeared yesterday (January 14).

Elvis Costello & The Imposters/Magnificent Hurt

I’d like to start with a longtime artist who I trust doesn’t need much of an introduction: Elvis Costello, who started his recording career in 1977 and has been on a roll over the past few year. After Hey Clockface from October 2020 and a Spanish re-interpretation of his 1978 sophomore album This Year’s Model released in September of last year, he’s out with a new studio album, The Boy Named If. Based on sampling some of the tunes, I’m quite excited about it. As reported by Ultimate Classic Rock, Costello is backed by The Imposters, “essentially the classic Attractions lineup minus bassist Bruce Thomas, replaced by Davey Faragher.” UCR characterizes The Boy Named If as sounding similar to Look Now, his 30th studio album from October 2018. I’ve listened to some of Costello’s early music, especially his 1977 debut My Aim Is True, which I dig. Clearly, I have much more to explore. Meanwhile, here’s the Magnificent Hurt. I love that cool retro sound – check out that seductive keyboard!

The Lumineers/Reprise

The Lumineers first entered my radar screen in July 2017 when I saw them open for U2 in New Jersey. Prior to that, I had only heard their 2012 hit Ho Hey. This prompted me to review their sophomore album Cleopatra released in April 2016. At the core, The Lumineers are songwriters Wesley Schultz (vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums, piano), though there have been additional members over the years. At the time they started collaborating in the early 2000s, they performed under various different names, including Free Beer, 6Cheek and Wesley Jeremiah. In 2005, they became The Lumineers. When I saw them in 2017, they were a trio that also included cellist and vocalist Neyla Pekarek who left the following year. Reprise, co-written by Schultz and Fraites, is a track off their fourth and latest studio album Brightside. They also played most of the instruments.

Cat Power/Pa Pa Power

Cat Power (born Charlyn Marie Marshall) is a singer-songwriter born in Atlanta, Ga. According to her Apple Music profile, Growing up in the South, Charlyn “Chan” Marshall was influenced by church hymns, country music, the blues played by her musician father, and her stepfather’s rock ’n’ roll records. After seeing a man wearing a trucker cap emblazoned with the words “Cat Diesel Power,” she named her first band Cat Power, before adopting the moniker for herself. Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Two Dollar Guitar’s Tim Foljahn were so impressed by her live performances that they became her bandmates during the mid-’90s. Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl contributed to 2003’s You Are Free, the first Cat Power album to make the Billboard 200 chart…After helping Marshall through a time of self-doubt, Lana Del Rey collaborated with her on the feminist anthem “Woman,” which became one of Cat Power’s biggest hits. The single appeared in August 2018. To date, Marshall has released 11 studio albums, including her latest, a collection of covers appropriately titled Covers. Here’s Pa Pa Power, co-written by Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields who make up the rock duo Dead Man’s Bones (gotta love that name!) and included the tune on their 2009 eponymous debut album. I’m intrigued by Cat Power’s sound!

Punch Brothers/Church Street Blues

Let’s wrap things up with Punch Brothers, a folk band that has been around since 2006. Wikipedia notes their music has been described as “bluegrass instrumentation and spontaneity in the structures of modern classical” and “American country-classical chamber music” – couldn’t have said it any better! 🙂 Their current members include Chris Thile (mandolin, vocals, mandola, bouzouki), Gabe Witcher (fiddle, vocals, drums), Noam Pikelny (banjo, vocals, steel guitar), Chris Eldridge (guitar, vocals) and Paul Kowert (double bass, vocals). Since their debut album Punch, which remarkably gave the Punch Brothers a chart-topper right from the get-go on Billboard’s Bluegrass Albums, five additional full-length records by the group have come out. Their latest is titled Hell on Church Street. Here’s the opener Church Street Blues, written by guitarist and singer-songwriter Norman Blake. He first recorded the song for his 1976 studio album Whiskey Before Breakfast. Punch Brothers do a beautiful job with their rendition. I really dig the warmth that comes across in their music, which makes me want to hear more, even though I don’t listen much to bluegrass. But beautiful music remains beautiful, no matter the genre!

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring the above tunes. Hope there’s something for you there!

Sources: Wikipedia; Ultimate Classic Rock; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify