Archive for the ‘New Music’ Category

The end of the decade is nigh. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize it until this week, but the clock’s hands are tick-tick-ticking closer to midnight. Before this annus horribilis gives way to the Year of Visual Acuity, however, listen to this:

That’s the opener to Leslie Stevens’ new album, Sinner, which as a whole conjures a century’s worth of country music in its 10 tracks, echoing everyone from Glen Campbell to Dolly Parton to Gram Parsons to Emmylou Harris and her Spyboy band. It’s the kind of album you play once, and wind up playing again and again, each time hearing something new. Her vocals are a thing of ever-shifting beauty, soulful and sweet and pure, and the songs are strong and sure.

It’s traditional. Alternative. Unique. Her voice trembles, rises and falls, dynamic and dramatic, in sync not just with the lyrics but the soul. Some are story-songs. Others are from the heart.

Here’s a live rendition of another of the album’s highlights:

Leslie Stevens is currently on tour in the States, and thankfully isn’t bypassing my neck of the woods. You can see where she’s playing, and buy Sinner, at her website. (It’s also available via the normal streaming sites.)

The good news: I now know my way to and from the local Wal-Mart. The bad news: I now know my way to and from the local Wal-Mart. 

I’m being somewhat facetious, of course, essentially joking to make a larger point: Since arriving in the Tar Heel State last month, I haven’t listened to music in the car – not via the radio or CD, and definitely not via the iPhone-aux jack connection, as my aux jack crapped out late last summer. Instead, my travelin’ companion has been Siri via Apple Maps. “Turn right,” she instructs. Turn right, I do – only to watch the app re-route because I turned one street too soon.

Such is life in the modern age, I suppose.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Finds, Old Souls.

1) Lucy Rose – “Conversation.” The British songstress has a knack for crafting songs that sound like they were lifted fully formed not just from her subconscious, but from yours and mine, too. (It’s as if she taps into the universal synapse, in a sense.) Such is the case with this, the lead single from her forthcoming album, No Words Left, which is due out on March 22nd.

2) Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen.” Van Etten’s looking over her shoulder in this tune, which is a taste of her forthcoming Remind Me Tomorrow album. Sonically speaking, it reminds me of Anna Calvi’s first Bowie-drenched album. (Not a bad thing, in my book.)

3) The Bangles – “Talking in My Sleep.” From the 3×4 compilation, which finds the Bangles, Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade covering each other’s songs. In this case, it’s the Bangles covering Rain Parade. (Side note: I hear my youth reverberating in the grooves…)

4) Juliana Hatfield – “Lost Ship.” Yeah, I offered my first impressions of Weird, the new Juliana album, last week. This song, one of its stellar tracks, has been ricocheting around my brain since I first heard it in mid-December. It’s just freakin’ great.

5) Jade Bird – “What Am I Here For.” The Brit singer-songwriter, who melds Americana with old-fashioned rock and pop, delivers an astounding performance in this month-old clip.

And two bonuses…

6) Linda Ronstadt – “1970s interview.” An excellent interview from The Old Grey Whistle Test in which Linda discusses her career, the Eagles and more. About the songs she sings: “I pick them. They have to be about me, in a way.”

7) Another insightful interview with Linda, this one from 1977:

 

By 2007, our music collection was in disarray. We had three CD towers that each fit 400 discs, a sprawling mass of smaller CD racks behind and beside them, plus stacks and stacks, and stacks, of jewel boxes. They took up the entire front end of our old apartment, plus plenty of space in the “den” (which was basically a cramped walk-in closet), where additional racks and stacks could be found. Oh, and did I mention that each of the towers had snapped at the base? Or that, while certain – usually newer – CDs were within reach, finding specific titles often turned into an hours-long chore? You’d sort through one pile, then another, and then another, and hopefully find what you wanted by day’s end. It was a headache and a half.

That’s why, that January, I invested in an expensive ($199) 500-gig Western Digital external HD, encoded every track as a 256 or 320 kbps MP3 – about 2500 discs at the time – and then boxed everything up. In a sense, I created our own private Spotify. In the years that followed, we continued to purchase and rip CDs, but – like many others – also we began buying downloads via iTunes, Amazon Music, Bandcamp and HDTracks, and then subscribed to Apple Music. When a CD, I rip before listening, as I listen to encoded files via my MacBook, iPhone or Pono Player – either via my THX-branded Logitech computer speakers or my Bluetooth-equipped stereo system. 

I also re-ripped many of the same discs, this time as FLAC files, three years back, though they’re housed in a separate library. 

But now that we’re preparing to move – and, at least for a time, downsize to an apartment – the question is: Do we want to ship 20+ boxes of CDs across the country just to put them in storage for the next six or 12 months? Especially since we don’t actually listen to them? And what of our hundreds of LPs, some of which date back decades? Do we get rid of them, too?

No. And yes. Over the past few weeks, we’ve combed through everything, removing must-haves (special editions, autographed CDs, select favorites, and some where one or both of us are thanked in the credits), and stacked the boxes in the living room. We will part with them. Most LPs, though none that I’ve acquired in the last few years, will be sold, too. The only question is how much we’ll make from one of our life’s main pursuits. (I already know the answer: Not much.)

The reason that our CD collection continued, and continues, to grow: We buy new releases from old favorites, of course, but also releases from new and relatively new artists. We’re out of the mainstream in that regard. A recent survey by Deezer shows that most folks experience what’s dubbed as “musical paralysis” by 30 years of age. They stop seeking out new sounds and artists, and instead listen to the same-old, same-old, over and over, and over, again. The demands of life, work and raising kids, and competition from TV and video games, has made the music-discovery process too much of a time-sucking chore.

What’s a chore to one, of course, is pure joy to another. I can’t imagine not digging through the digital bins of Apple Music and YouTube, or flipping through the pages of Mojo and Uncut, in search of something new.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Our Own Private Spotify (aka New Music, Vol. LXXIII).

1) Paul Weller – “Gravity.” Weller’s recent True Meanings album is one of the year’s best, and in weeks to come – if I can carve out the time – I hope to review it. For now, here’s the video for “Gravity,” which he released this week.

2) American Aquarium – “The World Is on Fire.” Echoes of Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle can be heard in the North Carolina band’s stellar work. This performance is from a recent appearance on Last Call With Carson Daly.

3) Jill Sobule – “Nostalgia Kills.” The singer-songwriter has released a new album, her first in four years. And, as the title track indicates, it’s a stellar set. (“We have to keep moving or die…”) 

4) Stonefield – “In the Eve.” I know next-to-nothing about this Aussie band, which was featured in Paste Music’s “Daytrotter” sessions this week, other than they’re four sisters, they’re a tad retro, and very cool. I look forward to digging into their oeuvre in the weeks ahead.

5) Mary Lou Lord – “Lights Are Changing.” The Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter’s 1998 album Got No Shadows was issued on vinyl for the first time this week, and if we weren’t busy boxing things up I’d have already ordered it. This cover of the Bevis Frond tune is one of many highlights of the album, which features support from such luminaries as Shawn Colvin, Roger McGuinn, the Bevis Frond’s Nick Saloman, and Elliott Smith. McGuinn performs on this song, in fact. (Of note, Mary Lou also covered it on her self-titled 1995 EP. The main difference: Juliana Hatfield sings back-up on that version.)

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.