Well, the post yesterday should let you know that I’m back after a long hiatus. I apologize for such an extended silence, which was necessitated by the demands of finishing my new book (stay tuned for details soon) and deadlines for other writing and the business of life in general. But I’ve made a spring resolution, if there is such a thing, to keep this blog updated with my long-winded opinions on music new and old, so I’m back, and it’s good to be back.
Anyway, some of these touts are a bit longer in the tooth than usual, but that’s because I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over the past months that I’ve really enjoyed. So, without further ado, here are four pieces of new music to which I’ve been grooving, as well as one that maybe slipped between the cracks in its original day.
“The Lake Song” by The Decemberists: In actuality, the entirety of The Decemberists’ excellent new album What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World has been on constant replay in the CK household. I’m spotlighting this one because it’s absolutely mesmerizing, a spot-on homage to the dreamy folk of Nick Drake featuring some of Colin Meloy’s most heartfelt lyrics. This one is a true beauty, one of the best things I’ve heard this year.
“He’s Got You” by Rhiannon Giddens: Maybe you know Giddens from her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Her solo album Tomorrow Is My Turn, which received the ultimate Americana stamp from the production of T Bone Burnett, is one you should seek out. My favorite is her soulful take on She’s Got You, written by Hank Cochran and made famous by Patsy Cline. That’s how you interpret a song, folks.
Short Movie by Laura Marling: There’s so much music around these days that it’s easy to miss out on a great artist. I feel like I’ve done just that with Marling, the British singer-songwriter whose work has always received critical acclaim. Luckily, I got a listen to her new album Short Movie, and now I want to go back through the rest of her catalog as soon as possible. The album is out today, and the title track, which you can check out below, is just one of many standout tracks on the disc.
Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett: I had the chance to review this album, out today, for American Songwriter, which, as a big fan of Barnett’s earlier songs like “Avant Gardener”, was a treat. The album doesn’t disappoint, as it’s filled with the Australian performer’s unique songwriting talent. She takes the mundane details of everyday life and teases magic from them, like on the song below, “Depreston”, in which house-hunting reveals just how disposable our lives can seem.
The Reconsider Me Tout of the Week- There’s Gonna Be A Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966-69 by The Left Banke: With the passing last week of chief songwriter Michael Brown, who wrote hits like “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina”, when he was still a teenager. The band imploded far too soon after their initial success, but the band’s string-laden, ultra-melodic pop is all over this compilation, and it still sounds marvelous today.
(E-mail me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia.)
I know, I know, I’ve been promising new Touts for ages now. Hopefully, I can earn your forgiveness with this standout batch of four cool new suggestions and one unheralded older album. Here we go:
“Home (Leave The Lights On)” by Field Report: A shimmering piece of pop that fuses electronic atmosphere, swaying acoustic guitar, and a pretty melody into an impeccable whole. I would recommend you start with this lead single and then proceed directly to Field Report’s new album Marigolden, which is out today as a matter of fact.
“How Can You Really” by Foxygen: Holy Crap, I thought that Todd Rundgren was busting out a comeback when I heard this retro killer. (By the way, can we request a Todd Rundgren comeback?) Luckily, this one transcends mere imitation and stands on its own. Foxygen’s new album Foxygen…And Star Power arrives next week, and this one has me seriously curious.
“Call My Name” by Haerts: Haerts is a new band from New York determined to add to the impressive list of electro-pop with female leads. With that band name, they’re also apparently determined to confound spell-check programs everywhere. We can forgive them that if they can keep churning out pieces of irresistibly bittersweet balladry like this one. Their self-titled debut comes out October 28.
“Hey Rose” by Streets Of Lared0: You’d never know by that name but this new band is from New Zealand. These foreigners attack the American roots music they clearly love with abandon and without a slice of irony. I could have recommended any number of songs from their exciting debut full-length, cheekily titled Volume I and II and out today, but this bounding lead single is a great place to start.
The Reconsider Me Tout of the Week- Be Here Now by Oasis: Considering that even the band members itself slammed this album pretty ruthlessly in subsequent years, it’s often overlooked or flat-out disdained. Yet if you just tune in to its excessive, bombastic wavelength, you might find yourself enjoying the thing. And it has one of the band’s all-time finest ballads in “Don’t Go Away”, reason enough to check it out right there.
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia.)
You know the drill by now, folks. These are the new songs or albums to which I’ve been grooving, so I suggest you check them out to see if they’re equally grooveworthy to you.
“Almost Like The Blues” by Leonard Cohen
It was with great excitement that I learned of Cohen’s new album, Popular Problems, coming out on September 23. And the first taste of that album doesn’t disappoint. Over bongos and bass, Cohen muses on the world’s problems with the typical combination of sly humor and understated grace. What a wonder that he hasn’t lost anything off his fastball after all these years. Check it out in the link:
“Gimme Something Good” by Ryan Adams: Another hotly-anticipated album around these parts (by “these parts”, I mean my office) is Adams self-titled release on September 9. Chances are if you’ve listened to rock radio in the past month or two, you’ve heard this forceful attention-grabber which cops a vibe more Heartbreakers (can we be sure that isn’t Benmont Tench playing those creeping organ riffs?) than Heartbreaker. As direct and powerful as I’ve heard Adams in a while, this bodes well for the new release. And, for some reason, Elvira is in the video, so it’s got that going for it.
“Dangerous Days” by Zola Jesus: In a perfect world, this sepia-tinged electronic anthem would be a summer radio smash. Nika Danilova, who performs as Zola Jesus, has one of those voices that sound amazing in any setting, but in the midst of this track, it’s damn near overwhelming. Listen to the wordless belts in the outro and I guarantee you’ll want to cue thing up again. From her upcoming October album Taiga.
“Even The Darkness Has Arms” by The Barr Brothers: Words and melodies never go out of style, and this one proves that eternal fact in captivating fashion. This act based on Montreal has one album under their belt and have another, Sleeping Operator, coming out in September. This is pretty, haunting stuff that effortlessly seeps into your consciousness. Check it out below.
The Reconsider Me Tout of the Week- Cloud Nine by George Harrison: It may seem silly to ask you to reconsider an album that was a huge smash and contained an unavoidable #1 single (“Got My Mind Set On You.”) But I feel like this one gets forgotten amidst the wave of Wilbury-related albums that came out around that time. This is Harrison at his most accessible, full of killer melodies and lyrics that alternate between spiritual and sardonic. It also features perhaps my all-time favorite song about the Beatles, “When We Was Fab,” with a video that includes, Ringo, Elton, Jeff Lynne, John (via album cover), and a left-handed walrus on the bass.
(E-mail me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. Check out my books on the songs of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan in the links below.)
Here we go, folks. Another heaping helping of great new music you should be checking out pronto.
They Want My Soul by Spoon: The indie-rock mainstays are garnering some of the best reviews of their career for their new disc, out today. What I’ve heard so far certainly warrants those accolades. This stinging single, all pounding drums, jagged guitars, and Britt Daniel’s wolf howl, is a great place to start.
“She’s Not Me” by Jenny Lewis: Lewis has always been a critical darling as the singer in Rilo Kiley and as a solo artist, but here she releases something that has wide-audience appeal yet is still captivating and mysterious. It’s a standout track from her just-released album, The Voyager, even though it sounds like an American Top 40 hit circa 1977.
“The No-Hit Wonder” by Cory Branan: Getting help from members of The Hold Steady, Branan paints a rollicking, affecting portrait of a struggling musician. It’s the title track of his new album, due out on August 19, which also features an appearance by Jason Isbell. Running in such heady company might overwhelm lesser artists, but Branan’s songwriting chops here prove that he’s worthy.
“Cleopatra” by Sloan: These Canadian fellows are on their 11th album, and it’s a shame that more folks don’t know their stuff. Maybe that will change with their upcoming September release Commonwealth, which allows all four members a side of music to show their songwriting skills. Lead single “Cleopatra” is power-pop perfection.
The Reconsider Me Tout Of The Week: Lost In Space by Aimee Mann: Following up the sublime Bachelor No.2, it was almost a given that this 2002 album wouldn’t be as kindly received. And yet I find myself going back to it more and more these days, mesmerized by Mann’s typically brilliant songcraft. Take the gorgeous “It’s Not”, which you can check out below, for just one example, and then tell me how this undervalued album can possibly be considered a letdown.
No Touts next week due to a family vacation, but I’ll be back after that with more great new stuff. And I’ve also identified a new Retro Review topic. I’ll give you a hint: He has an album coming out later this year. Any guesses?
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: His 100 Finest Songs is now available all over the world at every major online bookseller.)
Things are finally settling somewhat in the CK household, which means it’s time to touch base again with my loyal readers. I promise to start thinking about another list real soon for you all, but in the meantime, here are some of the things that I’ve enjoyed listening to since the last time we talked.
Hypnotic Eye by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: It’s good to know that some things in the rock and roll world don’t change much. Knowing that TP is out there keeping the flame alive is reassuring; knowing that he’s releasing material that can stand proudly alongside his best is thrilling. Out today, Hypnotic Eye features the Heartbreakers at their fiercest (Mike Campbell is in particularly ripping form), while Petty’s songs are attheir most incisive and invigorating. My full review of the album will be available at the American Songwriter site soon. In the meantime, take a listen to the thundering kickoff track “American Dream Plan B” below.
“Back To The Shack” by Weezer: Just when you count out Rivers Cuomo and the boys, they fire back at you with an impossibly catchy, righteously rocking track like this one. It certainly speaks well of their upcoming fall album Everything Will Be Alright In The End. As self-referential as ever, Cuomo promises a return to form for the band and then wills it into existence with the track itself.
“Start Again” by Bishop Allen: From the album Lights Out, due on August 19, this buzzy new single has the deadpan New Wave rush of classic Cars. It’s been five years since these Brooklynites debut album, but, based on this exciting evidence, the new album will be worth the wait.
“War On The East Coast” by The New Pornographers: I’ve been in the bag for these power poppers since I heard “The Laws Have Changed” a decade or so ago. Dan Bejar takes the lead on this one, and, as usual, adds just a touch of dreamy introspection to the sugar rush. The new album, Brill Builders, arrives next month, and the first two singles have me drooling in anticipation.
The Reconsider Me Tout of the Week: The Invisible Band by Travis- Sometimes it feels like an album gets dismissed because the tastemakers decide that a band’s time in the spotlight has already passed. That’s my roundabout way of saying that I can’t understand why this gorgeous 2001 album from Travis didn’t gain more of a foothold here in the U.S. Nonetheless, the evidence of its excellence is there for anyone who wants to seek it out, including this track, “The Cage”, my personal favorite.
See you next week with more Touts. Don’t forget to e-mail me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia.
After a week hiatus, the TT’s are back. Four new ones and a Reconsider Me tout for you once again, and I strongly urge you all to check this stuff out.
“Rabbit” by Amy LaVere: You can’t go wrong with anything off LaVere’s recently released album Runaway’s Diary, but this single is a haunting standout. The open spaces left in the atmospheric music allow for LaVere’s musings on the titular roustabout, which actually serve to reveal even more about the longing and loneliness of the narrator. Really lovely stuff, and you can see the video below.
“You In Your Were” by Kevin Drew: There’s a funny official video to this single from the former leader of the Broken Social Scene featuring Zach Gallifinakis making fun of the bizarre title, but it interrupts the music several times, so the link below is to a simple YouTube video. A dreamy bit of electro-pop with just a hint of melancholy on the edges, this is the second fine single, following “Good Sex”, from Drew’s new album Darlings.
“Open My Eyes” by Rival Sons: Those first two touts a little too mellow for you? Check out Rival Sons from Long Beach, who put together some Zeppelinesque riffs and rhythms with a lead singer who recalls Paul Rodgers with his bluesy bellow on this new single from their just-released album The Great Western Valkyrie. That title alone makes it worth checking out, right? Check out the video below.
“Chasing A Feeling” by The Narrative: The Narrative are Suzie Zeldin and Jesse Gabriel, and they come from New York City with a blend of rootsy guitar, synthesizer buzz, and pretty harmonies. This first single zigs musically every time you think it’s going to zag, at least until everything coheres in a soaringly bittersweet chorus. Their new EP isn’t coming out until this fall, but this first single recommends it highly already.
Reconsider Me Tout of the Week- Black And Blue by The Rolling Stones: Mick Taylor was out, Ronnie Wood wasn’t quite in yet (even though he appears on the album cover, his contributions to the album are minimal), and the Stones essentially used the album to audition new guitarists. As a result, this 1976 release is often considered a transitional one for the band, and yet its eight tracks show the band deftly handling funk (“Hot Stuff”), reggae (“Cherry Oh Baby”) and soulful balladry (“Fool To Cry.”) There’s not a lousy song in the bunch, and “Memory Motel”, which you can find in the link below, is simply an epic heartbreaker.
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. My new book, Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: His 100 Finest Songs, is available for pre-order now at all major online booksellers and will be arriving next week.)
I hope everyone had a great long weekend. Here is a bunch of music to get you started for the week.
“Afraid Of Nothing” by Sharon Van Etten: Van Etten’s fascinating new album, Are We There, comes out today. This is the gorgeous, atmospheric opening track, which seems to hang in mid-air without moving, a pretty good match for the relationship the lyrics describe. Van Etten’s voice is just mesmerizing on this track and throughout the album. Check out my review of Are We There at American Songwriter, and check out this lovely track below.
Our Year by Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison: This married duo is well-known to country and roots music fans from their solo careers, but their second album-length collaboration, Our Year, arrives today. It’s full of great song choices and effortless harmonies. I reviewed this one as well for American Songwriter, and it’s a nice collection. The title track, a Zombies cover, is the finest track, but I couldn’t find a link. Instead, here’s the duo’s feisty cover of “Harper Valley PTA.”
“Instant Disassembly” by Parquet Courts: They don’t get much buzzier than this band, whose “Stoned And Starving” was ubiquitous a year ago and whose new album Sunbathing Album arrives to great anticipation a week from now. This new single, a great rambler that sounds like an update on Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” should deservedly increase the hype. The lyrics are alternately humorous and heartbreaking, a jaunty guitar riff the narrator’s only friend. Here is the SoundCloud link.
“The English And Western Stallion” by Freeman: In case you don’t recognize the band name, it’s taken from Aaron Freeman, who, once upon a time, was known as Gene Ween from the band Ween. All of that is just trivia; what counts here is the stirring pop on display on this new single, a fantastic melody and crisp arrangement providing some serious catchiness. Freeman self-titled new album doesn’t arrive ’til July, but this is a great way to kick things off.
The Reconsider Me Tout of the Week- Some Fantastic Place by Squeeze: There are a bunch of Squeeze albums that deserve reconsideration, as the band’s popularity, especially in America, never bounced back after unlikely hit single “Hourglass.” I’m fond of this ’93 release, which reunites the core members with Paul Carrack, who sang the classic “Tempted” for the band and sings lead on this album on “Loving You Tonight,” featured in the link below. The songwriting smarts of Chris Tifford and Glenn Tilbrook are undeniable on this album, so check it out if you haven’t already.
(E-mail with your own Touts at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. My new book, Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: His 100 Finest Songs, arrives in June, but you can pre-order now at all major online booksellers.)
Here we go again with another round of touts, including a couple of great new albums just released.
Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst: Check out the American Songwriter site for my four-star review of this excellent new album out today. Suffice it to say that this is Oberst at his best, feeling everything a little bit too much, pulling no punches on the state of the world and all the people therein, yet providing a little catharsis for us all with his powerful rants. Plus, the music is as focused and catchy as anything he’s ever released. Check out the gorgeous opening track, “Time Forgot,” below, and then look up the whole album.
“When The Crowd Cheers” by The Roots: This first single from their new album And Then You Shoot Your Cousin features a haunting piano figure that keeps trickling around Questlove’s insistent beat, while the verses from Greg Porn and Black Thought toy with rap cliches only to reveal the flawed humanity of the protagonists. It all leads up to a chorus that sounds like one that little girls might sing while skipping rope until you consider the implications of the lyrics. Great stuff, and a great video you can check out below.
“Luv Hold Me Down” by Drowners: The fact that this band is made up of New Yorkers along with a Welsh-born frontman should tell you a little bit about their sound. There’s a lot of first-album Strokes in their guitar approach. But the tunefulness is a little more light-footed and European. Anyway, it all comes together on this insanely catchy single, which appears on their self-titled album that came out in January. The YouTube link is below.
“Every Time I Fall In Love” by Clare Bowen: I admit I bailed out on season 2 of Nashville; I got lot a little bored with the soap opera stuff and the DVR is overloaded as it is. Then I heard this song by chance, and I remembered why I watched in the first place: The music. Bowen sings the heck out of this exquisitely-written heartbreak ballad. Now they’ve got me again; looks like I’ll be searching out the episodes I missed before Season 3.
The Reconsider Me Tout of the Week- On The Border by The Eagles: I know what you’re thinking. The Eagles have sold a gajillion records; why do we need to reconsider anything of theirs? I feel like this album gets lost a bit in the band’s catalog between the hit-laden early years and the Hotel California peak. For my money, this 1974 release has the best non-single material of any of their albums, including the sarcastically funky title track, a gorgeous take on Tom Waits’ “Ol ’55”, and, the best Eagles song you’ve never heard, “My Man”, where former member Bernie Leadon movingly eulogizes Gram Parsons. Check the latter song out in the link below, and them move on to the entire album.
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. My new book, Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: His 100 Finest Songs, arrives in June, but you can pre-order it now at all major online booksellers.)
Here’s another quintet of Touts for your perusal.
“Still Knocking At The Door” by Papercuts: Melancholy psychedelia never goes out of style, does it? From The Beatles, Procol Harum, and onward, minor-key chords, strings, and spaced-out melodies have proved pretty durable, and this San Francisco collective led by Jason Quever gets it just right on this beauty of a single. Makes me want to check out their new album Life Among The Savages, available now.
“100 Different Ways Of Being Alone” by Bettysoo: Someone should let Paul Simon know that there are more ways of being alone than getting there. Bettysoo is coming off a pretty lengthy hiatus since her last album, but she sure doesn’t sound rusty on this sumptuous folk-pop groover. Her new album, When We’re Gone arrives on May 27, but you can check out this track via CMTEdge.com in the link below.
“Goshen ’97” by Strand Of Oaks: This pounding country-rocker reminds me of some of the classic hits of .38 Special. Alt-rock legend J. Mascis chips in on guitar, joining Strand Of Oaks frontman Tim Showalter for a furious assault that gets in and out in three minutes and leaves you wanting more. That’s quite the tease for the upcoming album Heal, out in June. The YouTube link is below.
All Or Nothin’ by Nikki Lane: Sometimes artists that are heavily hyped fail to deliver on that promise on record. Nikki Lane’s new album, her second, doesn’t fall into that trap. The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach helps out with production that suits Lane’s sassy delivery. She shows throughout the album that she’s a multifaceted artist, capable of handling blues, rockers, and weepers with equal aplomb. The title track for the album, out now, is in the link.
The Reconsider Me Tout of the Week- Change Everything by Del Amitri: Most Americans know this Scottish band from their peppy ’95 hit “Roll To Me.” But Change Everything, from 1992, bucked the grunge trend with bittersweet melodies and open-hearted lyrics from frontman Justin Currie. Check out the shoulda-been-a-hit ballad “Be My Downfall”, and then go find this album post-haste.
(E-mail me at email@example.com or follow me on @Twitter to suggest some Touts of your own. My new book, Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: His 100 Finest Songs, arrives in June, but you can pre-order now.)
Another batch of touts for you today, including a new feature, the Reconsider Me Tout of the Week. Each week, I’ll pick an album that’s been out for a while that was maybe underrated or lost in the cracks the first time around, hopefully tuning some people on to something they might have missed. First, though, the new music touts:
Montibello Memories by Matrimony: I was lucky enough to review this album, out today, for American Songwriter, and I was really impressed by the way this family-oriented band (a husband, his wife, and her two brothers) blend styles with such sure-handed skill. They can pull back for tender moments, then just as smoothly send songs into the rafters. There are bits of the roots-pop movement of bands like the Lumineers or Mumford & Sons, and also bits of indie-rock grandeur a la Arcade Fire, but ultimately the uniqueness of Matrimony is what stays with you. Check out the rousing album-opener “Southern Skies” below.
Ebb & Flow by Judith Owen: This album also comes out today and is an expert rehashing of the Southern California soft-rock scene from the 70’s. Owen made the wise move of hiring Leland Sklar, Waddy Wachtel, and Russ Kunkel to create this sound, which was wise because they were the ones who helped originate in the first place on albums by Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and the like. Throw in Owen’s sturdy melodies and evocative vocals, and you’ve got an unassuming gem. The link below is to one of the loveliest tracks on the album, “One In A Million.”
“Peaches” by In The Valley Below: This single came out last year, but I’m mentioning it now because this California duo’s first EP Man Girl arrives today. I love the back and forth of vocalists Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail and how powerful it is when those voices then come together over accompaniment that is part rock grit and part electronic dreaminess. This duo is definitely one to watch moving forward; I know I’m anxious to see if the entire EP lives up to this outstanding start. Check out the nifty video below.
“June” by Frances Cone: Just released as part of their self-titled EP (that’s the band’s name, not the singer’s or anyone else’s in the band), “June” features a cool arrangement full of open spaces and unexpected instrumental fills, evoking an atmosphere that lies somewhere between wonder and melancholy. Vocalist Christina Cone glides above it all in chill-inducing fashion. The link below is to the YouTube link of the video.
The Reconsider Me Tout of the Week: Perfect Symmetry by Keane
My UK readers will probably think I’ve gone mad, since this album was a critically-acclaimed, commercial success in Britain. But trust me when I say that American critics seemed to bail on the band following Under The Iron Sea, while “Somewhere Only We Know” is still the only single from the band that receives widespread airplay. If you don’t know this band or this album, look it up, take a listen, and bask in the pop grandiosity of the tunes. The link below is to the sweeping closing ballad “Love Is The End”.
(Send along your own unheralded songs and albums, and maybe they’ll make the Touts in the future. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia.)