Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. Once again, I found myself with more songs than I was able to accommodate, a nice problem to have. Following are four I decided to feature, all from albums that came out yesterday (October 7).

Disq/This Time

My first pick are Wisconsin indie rock band Disq, who according to Apple Music were founded by two teenage childhood friends. Here’s more from their profile: The roots of Disq go back to the friendship of Isaac deBroux-Slone and Raina Bock. The two grew up together, and both were surrounded by creative, artistic families. After learning several instruments and exploring pop music foundations laid by bands like the Beatles and alternative rock starting points like Weezer, the two budding songwriters formed Disq when they were still in their early teens. With Bock on bass and backing vocals and deBroux-Slone on guitar and lead vocals, the duo self-produced and released the Disq I EP in 2016. Over the next several years, the band expanded to include additional guitarist Logan Severson, drummer Brendan Manley, and guitarist/keyboardist Shannon Connor. After signing with indie label Saddle Creek, Disq released their full-length debut album Collector in March 2020. This Time, written by DeBroux-Slone, is a track from the group’s sophomore album Desperately Imagining Someplace Quiet. Great song!

Indigo Sparke/Pluto

This is the second time I’m including singer-songwriter Indigo Sparke in Best of What’s New after this installment from February 2021. According to a profile on the website of her record label Sacred Bones Records, Sparke writes with a rare and reflective power, creating music that builds and bursts as she examines love, loss, grief, and a newly realized rage. Born in Australia and now based in New York, Indigo worked as an actress before establishing herself in the Sydney music scene with her EP Night Bloom (2016). Over the next few years, she toured and collaborated extensively with Big Thief, released her single, “The Day I Drove the Car Around the Block,” to critical acclaim, had a song featured on the TV show Cloudy River, and performed across Australia and the U.S. Indigo signed with Sacred Bones in early 2021, and made her label debut shortly after with Echo [I previously featured the opener – CMM], which she co-produced with Adrianne Lenker (Big Thief), and Andrew Sarlo (producer of Big Thief, Nick Hakim, Bon Iver, and Hand Habits). This brings me to Hysteria, Sparke’s sophomore release, and Pluto, a beautiful song she wrote together with Aaron Dessner.

Surf Curse/Cathy

Next up is new music by Surf Curse, a music project by Nick Rattigan (drums, vocals) and Jacob Rubeck (guitar). From their AllMusic bio: A gritty and melodic Nevada-bred guitar-and-drum duo who later became a fixture of Los Angeles’ D.I.Y. garage and punk scenes, Surf Curse aligned themselves with the artist-run Danger Collective label where they released albums like 2017’s Nothing Yet and 2019’s Heaven Surrounds You. The sudden viral success of “Freaks,” a song they’d released years earlier, earned them a deal with Atlantic. That label has now issued Surf Curse’s fourth and new album Magic Hour. Here’s Cathy. I like their sound!

The Star Crumbles/Desperately Wanting

Before getting to the last pick, I have to call out fellow bloggers Jeff from Eclectic Music Lover and Marc Schuster from Abnominations, who brought the music project The Star Crumbles on my radar screen with recent posts here and here, respectively. The following is informed by these posts. Marc who is based in Philadelphia is actually a member of the project, which also includes his friend, Denton, Texas-based Brian Lambert. Both are longtime singer-songwriters and musicians. After they had met on Twitter, Lambert reached out to Schuster for some help with one of his songs earlier this year. Recognizing how well they worked with each other, they decided to form The Star Crumbles. Schuster and Lambert, among others, are both into ’80s music and bands like The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, New Order and Ultravox, which you can clearly hear on their first album The Ghost of Dancing Slow. They also came up with a fictitious story behind the band, which they captured in a hilarious mini-documentary. Here’s the remarkable thing from my perspective: While I used to dig much of ’80s music at the time, nowadays, I tend to be lukewarm about it. I definitely can’t say the same about The Star Crumbles and their tune Desperately Wanting, which pretty much grabbed me right away. Once again, this goes to show that at the end of the day, there are only types of music: Music you dig and music that doesn’t speak to you. Check this out!

The following Spotify playlist includes the above and a few additional tracks by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Sacred Bones Records website; AllMusic; Eclectic Music Lover blog; Abnominations blog; YouTube; Spotify

Advertisement

If I Could Only Take One

My desert island song by Utopia

Alrighty, it’s Wednesday and time again to prep for another imaginary desert island trip. Of course, in the context of this recurring feature, this means I need to pick another song to take with me – one bloody tune, not an album, though I’m not suggesting the latter would be much easier.

Plus, there are a few additional rules. The tune must be by an artist or band I’ve only rarely written about or not covered at all. And I’m doing the silly exercise in alphabetical order.

This week I’m up to “u”. Artists (last name) and bands starting with that letter include U2, UFO, Ultravox, Umphrey’s McGee, Uncle Kracker, Uncle Tupelo, Utopia and Uriah Heep. Given my above rules, U2 and Uriah Heep are out. I also just recently wrote about Umphrey’s McGee. And since I don’t feel like dancing with tears in my eyes, Ultravox are out as well.

This still leaves me with four choices, none of which I’ve covered to date. And my pick is Utopia, aka Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. Now that I’ve figured out the artist/band, the question is which song to pick? Love Is the Answer.

Written by Todd Rundgren, Love Is the Answer is a tune from Utopia’s third studio album Oops! Wrong Planet, released in September 1977. Initially, the pop-oriented song missed the charts. Two years later, American soft rock duo England Dan & John Ford Coley recorded a version of the tune and took it to no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart. It also reached no. 10 on the mainstream pop chart Hot 100. Sounds very yachty!

Following are some additional tidbits from Songfacts:

Todd Rundgren wrote this hopeful song about the power of love for his band Utopia, which released it on their 1977 album Oops! Wrong Planet. The song became a hit in 1979 when England Dan & John Ford Coley recorded a slicker version perfect for the adult contemporary market, and scored their last of six US Top 40 hits with their cover.

In our 2015 interview with Todd Rundgren, he explained that Utopia’s Oops! Wrong Planet was a “bummer album,” and that they included this song on it to make it more uplifting. [Perhaps that made Rundgren want to bang the drum all day? CMM]

Todd Rundgren performed this song when he toured as part of Ringo Starr’s “All Starr Band” in 2015. Ringo insists on three hits from his guests, and along with “I Saw The Light” and “Bang the Drum All Day,” he wanted Todd to do “Hello It’s Me.” Rundgren didn’t think that one was a good fit in the set, as it’s a very introspective song and Ringo’s shows are very communal. Todd convinced him to go with “Love Is The Answer,” which he thought was the perfect song for Ringo – “Mr. Peace And Love” as Rundgren calls him. The plan worked: the song went over very well at these shows and fit the vibe perfectly.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

It Was 35 Years Ago…

A look back on Live Aid benefit concert – Part 1

“In late October 1984, I came home at about six o’clock in the evening and turned on the television to watch the television news. And I saw something on the screen that put my pathetic personal problems into a horrifying perspective. There in front of me were elegant men and women, moms and dads, holding their children. But they were hardly recognizable humans at this point. They were just about alive. They had the swollen heads and the bloated stomachs of children who are dying of starvation.”

“The thing is you don’t actually die of hunger. You die of a collapse of all your immune system, so you catch all sorts of diseases, but your muscles are so weakened you can’t even make a noise. And all these children were silently screaming at me in agony to die. To die of hunger is to die in complete agony. And here were these mothers and fathers in the last seconds of their children’s lives in utter despair as to what to do. And these people stared at me in my pop star live in Chelsea in London.”

The above is an excerpt from Bob Geldof’s introduction to Live Aid 35, which you can watch in its entirety on a dedicated YouTube channel, along with plenty of footage from the actual benefit concert that took place on Saturday, July 13, 1985 – just a little over 35 years ago. I’m envisaging to commemorate the 35th anniversary in a two or three-part series over the next few days – not sure yet how much time I will have to write.

Organized by Geldof, lead vocalist of Irish rock band The Boomtown Rats, and his friend Midge Ure, frontman of Britsh new wave outfit Ultravox, to raise funds of the famine in Ethiopia, the event featured concerts at London’s Wembley Stadium and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. It was attended by an estimated 72,000 people in London and close to 89,500 folks in Philly. The live broadcast was watched by an estimated 1.9 billion people in 150 countries. I was one of them and still remember it pretty well.

Queen’s performance at Wembley Stadium was one of the highlights of Live Aid

The concerts are believed to have raised around £150 million for famine relief, though the initial numbers included in news reports the day after the event were significantly lower, putting the total between £40 and £50 million. There was also some controversy over the distribution of the aid, including allegations funds had been diverted to the Ethiopian government for the purchase of arms – a truly disgusting thought!

In 2010, the BBC apologized for statements made in a previous investigation, saying there “was no specific evidence [money had been diverted to buy arms] and we’re apologising today to the Band Aid Trust and we’re also apologising personally to Bob Geldof.” I’d like to leave it at that and get to some music.

Live Aid kicked off at Wembley Stadium on July 13 at 12:00 pm British Summer Time. The first act were British boogie rockers Status Quo. Here’s their rendition of John Fogerty’s Rockin’ All Over the World, the title track off their 10th studio album from November 1997, and one of their biggest hits. Perhaps the ideal tune to start a rock & pop marathon!

Of course, in addition to organizing the event, Messrs. Geldof and Ure also got to perform. Here are The Boomtown Rats with I Don’t Like Mondays, their biggest hit, initially released as a single in July 1979 ahead of their third studio album The Fine Art of Surfacing, which came out in October that year.

I’d like to wrap up part 1 with Sting and a great stripped back version of Roxanne, featuring jazz saxophone player Branford Marsalis. Written by Sting, the tune first appeared as a single by The Police in April 1978. It was also included on their debut studio album Outlandos d’Amour from November 1978.

Source: Wikipedia; BBC; YouTube