Archive for the ‘2018’ Category

I planned to trip back to September 18, 1984, this morning and bore into my first two published reviews – in the Ogontz Campus News, the weekly newspaper for what’s now known as Penn State Abington. But my archives are not as organized as, say, Neil Young’s. From the time I hit on the idea – Friday – to Saturday afternoon, when I finally located said newspaper, something happened: I discovered two new-to-me artists whose music made me feel young again.

So, here’s today’s Top 5: New Music, Vol. XLI.

On Friday night, while browsing the Paste Magazine sessions (always a rewarding endeavor), I stumbled across singer-songwriter Jillette Johnson’s four-song set, which was live-streamed earlier in the day. 

Her latest album is All I Ever See in You Is Me (2017) and, based on the above performance, I’ll be checking it out this week. 

Then, Saturday morning, a fan post on the Nanci Griffith Facebook Fan Page recapped a Nanci tribute in Austin that was organized and hosted by Austin-based singer-songwriter Nichole Wagner. That led me to look Nichole up on YouTube. Here’s her boss rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s classic “Tougher Than the Rest,” a track that has been covered by a coterie of cool artists in the past, including Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin.

That led me to check out her own songs – and, as I’m apt to say, wow. Just wow. I’m looking forward to her forthcoming album, which is slated for release on July 13th.

Another group that I came across on Paste’s YouTube channel, albeit earlier in the week: Haerts. They’re originally from Munich, but moved to Brooklyn some time ago.  Very cool retro vibe and harmonies. As Diane just remarked, “they’re fabulous.”

Another band with a cool retro vibe: the UK-based Treetop Flyers, who borrowed their name from a Stephen Stills song. Here’s the lead single from their forthcoming self-titled set, “Needle.”

I’ve mentioned Mikaela Davis’ Delivery, due out July 13th, before. Here’s the funky “Get Gone” as performed live at the Layman Drug Company in Nashville.

I’ll close out with what a classic track for the bonus – Willie Nelson’s “Living in the Promiseland,” which I’ve returned to quite often in recent months. The David Lynn Jones-penned song was a No. 1 hit for Willie that same year, and the cornerstone of Willie’s 1986 Promiseland LP, which I believe was the first album of his I purchased.

When we moved from the apartment to the house in the spring of ’14, I assumed the outdoor yard work would be a relative breeze – especially since we have a guy to mow the lawn. But the side of the house features a column of bushes and flowers and things that, quite frankly, I have no idea what they are, just that they’re green, grow, and grow close to and onto the front porch and house, and sprawl into the driveway. And the lawn guy just does the lawn. Which means that, every so often, I have to cut everything back.

And, this morning, I did just that. I spent close to two hours cutting this and grabbing that, and stuffing full four big paper refuse bags. All in all, I’d rather have been here, at my desk, reading this or that blog, listening to music new and old, or surfing the waves of YouTube, where one clip leads to another and then another and, before you know it, you’ve whiled away the day pruning the good from the bad.

There’s much good music, these days. And, as always, there’s much bad. If you’re on the lookout for the former, here are five artists and acts that, in my estimation, are worth the download. 

1) Whitney Rose – “Can’t Stop Shakin’.” I learned yesterday that the honky-tonkin’ Texas transplant from Canada – she hails from the land of Anne of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island –  is slated to play the City of Brotherly Love come November. Here, she and her band perform “Can’t Stop Shakin'” in the Netherlands:

2) Middle Kids – “Mistake.” I drove Diane to the airport early Friday morning – as in, we left home at 3:45am, as she had a 6am flight – and then headed into work, only to discover once I arrived that I left my work laptop at home. Argh! I dutifully drove home, and did the roundtrip in less time than it normally takes to go one way. And this intoxicating song from the Aussie rock band served as the perfect pick-me-up when WXPN’s morning show featured it at 5:25am. Here they are performing it on CBS This Morning’s “Saturday Sessions” a few weeks back:

3) Anna Calvi – “Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy.” The British operatic rocker – one of David Bowie’s spiritual heirs, in a way – unveiled this video today. It’s the first taste of her forthcoming album, Hunter, which promises to be a tour de force. She explained in a lengthy Instagram post on Monday that “I’m hunting for something – I want experiences, I want agency, I want sexual freedom, I want intimacy, I want to feel strong, I want to feel protected and I want to find something beautiful in all the mess. I want to go beyond gender. I don’t want to have to chose between the male and female in me. I’m fighting against feeling an outsider and trying to find a place that feels like home.”

4) Mikaela Davis – “Other Lover.” In March 2017, Diane and I were lucky enough to see the Staves at the World Cafe Live. Mikaela – who plays harp – opened. As I said in my review at the time, “When I first saw the harp on stage, I braced for a set of elevator music. Far from it. She was, in a word, hypnotic.” And those weren’t empty words on my part – they were preceded by action: I purchased her five-song EP, Pure Divine Love (The Mission Sessions), after the show. Anyway, next month – just in time for my birthday – she’s releasing her first full-length effort, Delivery. Here’s the latest teaser track…

5) Amilia K. Shirer – “Lightning.” Sometimes I hear an artist or band, like the Stone Foundation, and wonder why I’ve never heard of them before. Here’s another. Amilia K. Shirer released a few albums in the early 2000s, placed songs on various TV shows, and…well, I’m not sure of her entire backstory. But I am sure that the 2017 album this song is from, Wow and Flutter, is just plain great. After one listen, you’ll swear it’s been with you forever. (Among the supporting players: guitar great Gurf Morlix, former Lone Justice/X guitarist Tony Gilkyson, and bassist extraordinaire Daryl Johnson.)

And speaking of the Stone Foundation… I discovered the British soul band a while back via Paul Weller, who produced their 2017 album Street Rituals. They are, in a word, phenomenal. Here’s hoping that they tour the States someday soon…

A laconic four-track dispatch from far across the time-space continuum: That, in a nutshell, is Still. Three of the four songs are “new,” though two date to years long ago – i.e., 2000, when the band debuted seven new songs while on tour. For reasons known only to them, they failed to follow-up the live sets with a studio offering.

The opener, “Quiet, The Winter Harbor,” is one of those older songs. It features a melancholic piano motif and (typically) mesmerizing Hope Sandoval vocal, with the lyrics seemingly about being lost in the ocean of life: “Save me/‘cause I’m still sinking/and you got a harbor close to shore.” A guitar eventually wafts in, and the melody pushes forth and pulls back like the tide at dusk.

The second track, “That Way Again,” also dates to 2000. It’s primarily an acoustic-driven number, and is another hypnotic gem. The title track, then, is the only truly new song. It’s short, essentially a tone poem about love slipping away: “Your eyes are warm still/but inside you’ve just escaped.”

The final track is another older tune, this time a reworking of the title song of Mazzy Star’s classic 1993 opus So Tonight That I Might See. It hews close to the original with its spacey vibe, pulsating like a variable star…or a lost Velvet Underground track. Either way, it’s a guaranteed contact high. It, like the EP as a whole, is potent stuff.

Freakin’ phenomenal. That, in a nutshell, sums up the latest single from Rylie Bourne. It conjures the outlaw country ethos of yore, with a taut rhythm, stinging guitar, and confessional lyrics that are equal parts self-reflection and self-recrimination. “You think you know who I am/but I know who I’ve been/and I don’t see that changing anyhow/I haven’t walked the line/not the way I’m supposed to/I’ve been so unkind/to ones that I am close to…”

And, of course, there’s that voice. It engulfs the soul.

In an interview with Music Central Update, Rylie explains that the song’s inspiration was a past relationship. “I was in a situation in which I could feel myself changing as a person, and not for the good. We were both unhappy and I was doing and saying things that I wouldn’t normally. I no longer felt true to myself.” (It’s an interview well worth reading, so check it out.)

To my ears, the song sounds like a lost track from Hank Williams Jr.’s Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound or The Pressure Is On. In fact, and perhaps it’s due to me listening to the tune on repeat during my morning commutes this week, but “Untrue” brought me back to a specific sonic odyssey from my own bygone outlaw days, aka the mid-‘80s. When heading home from the Penn State mothership in Happy Valley, I often ferried passengers, who paid for gas and the tolls. On this day in question, it was myself, my roommate, and two freshmen. As we pulled out of the dorm’s parking lot, I asked them, “so what kind of music do y’all like?” 

“Anything but country,” came the reply from one. The other agreed.

My roommate chuckled. He knew what was coming, if only from the glint in my eye. And, with that, I pushed a cassette into the tape deck, and the woozy title track to Hank Jr.’s Whiskey Bent staggered from the speakers. Some tapes were albums in full, but at least one was a mix – not all outlaw, but it was all country and country-flavored – Lone Justice, Flying Burrito Brothers, Jason & the Scorchers, possibly Dwight Yoakam.

“Untrue” would have fit right in. It’s traditional, rebellious, country and rock. It smokes.