Category Archives: New Music

Today’s Top 5: Retro Sounds (aka New Music, Vol. XXII)

The lazy, hazy days of summer are upon us, and while my intent today was to delve deep into the Natalie Merchant Collection – well, I’m feeling lazy and, thanks to the Delaware Valley’s patented humidity, my thought process is as hazy as the sky looks from my window. Even with the a.c. running, the thick air has seeped into my skull and clouded the synapses, making analysis more of a chore than it should be.

So, instead, I’m tripping into the past with new songs that sound like they could’ve been released in the late 1960s in preparation for another sojourn into the sunny sounds of the Summer of Love, which I plan to post on July 4th (if not sooner).

1) Lucy Rose – “No Good at All.” I suppose I should have heard of Lucy Rose before March of this year, given that she’s been turning ears since 2012. But it wasn’t until she released “Floral Dresses,” which features backing vocals by the Staves, that she appeared on my radar. This, the second single from her forthcoming Something’s Changing album, possesses a wondrous retro vibe.

2) Lia Pamina – “Sycamore Tree.” Elefant Records is one of my favorite labels – just about everything it releases sounds like a lost treasure from yesteryear. This sweet song was written and produced by Joe Moore (the Yearning).

3) The Primitives – “I’ll Trust the Wind.” The Coventry-based indie-pop band, another Elefant Records act, is probably best known for their 1988 hit “Crash.”

4) Sundowners – “Ritual.” I don’t know much about this Liverpool-based group beyond the inclusion of this track on Mojo’s June Children of Pepper CD compilation. I like them.

5) Hannah’s Yard – “Better Together.” Hannah & Co. cover the Jack Johnson song from the singer-songwriter’s 2005 In Between Dreams album. I’m cheating a bit by including it, I know, as  it’s not exactly retro – but Hannah’s voice is timeless.

And one bonus:

6) The Parcels – “Overnight.” They’re an Aussie band that’s now located in Berlin, and they blend ‘70s-era disco and pop. This song conjures Blondie and Chic.

Today’s Top 5: New Music, Vol. XX

It’s a question I’ve asked before, though in a different context: If the George Santayana axiom that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it is true, and I believe it is, what do we make of people who couldn’t care less about said past?

In every facet of life, history holds lessons that can be applied to today and tomorrow. Faces, places and specific circumstances change, but human actions and behaviors generally remain on the same rinse-repeat cycle until we, as a people, realize that the past is not and need not be prologue. (Or something like that.) It’s how history is made.

That said, I’d add a second sentence to the axiom: Those who fail to recognize the present are sure to repeat it, too. And the sad reality of today is that much good music gets lost because of the sprawling maze that’s become the “music industry.” What reigns supreme at the top of the charts is never the be- and end-all of the current scene, of course, but many folks – both young and older, though mostly the older – seem to assume that’s the case. And while much of that chart-topping music is good – there’s so much more that deserves to be heard.

So after a weekend spent looking back, I thought it might be best to spend some time surveying the present. Which leads to today’s top 5: New Music, Vol. XX.

1) Beau + Luci – “Deeper Well.” According to their website bio, these two sisters – who describe themselves as “flower children with rock-and-roll souls” – hail from the swamplands of Southern Georgia. Here, they cover the classic song “Deeper Well,” which was originally written and recorded by folk-country singer David Olney in 1989 before being slightly retooled by Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois for Emmylou’s classic Wrecking Ball album.

And here they are, again, performing their own “Like a Drum.”

2) House and Land – “The Day Is Past and Gone.” Another duo act. According to their label’s bio, Sally Anne Morgan and Sarah Louise met when Sarah opened for the Appalachian old-time band the Black Twig Pickers, for whom Sally plays fiddle. This song is intense:

3) Joan Shelley – “Where I’ll Find You.” The Louisville-based singer-songwriter released her fourth album, an eponymous set produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, to wondrous reviews last month. Here she is singing one of its tracks on Later…with Jools Holland.

4) The DuPont Brothers – “Attention Spans.” I discovered this duo, siblings from Vermont, the old-fashioned way when they opened for Garland Jeffreys at the World Cafe Live earlier this month. They stunned me with their songs, harmonies and guitar licks.

5) Stevie Parker – “Without You.” The Bristol-based, Adele-influenced singer has a voice…and enough heartbreak to fill an album’s worth of songs. She’s good.

And one bonus…

Paul Weller – “Woo Sé Mama.” Granted, Weller is far from a new act. But A Kind of Revolution, which kicks off with this catchy number, is a new album from him.

Today’s Top 5: New Music, Vol. XIX

I’m forever shocked when I read or hear someone about my 50-plus age (give or take a decade) trash the collective talent of today’s younger artists. Here’s the truth: There is much good-to-great music being made by new and relatively new singers and bands, just as there always has been. Courtney Marie Andrews, for instance:

If I’ve listened to Honest Life once, I’ve listened to it 200 times in the past few months. But you’re forgiven (somewhat) if you haven’t heard of her. It’s become easier and easier to miss up-and-coming acts due to our ever-splintering, niche-driven pop culture.

The highways and byways of popular music are littered with artists who failed to breakthrough to the big time, of course. Talent alone has never guaranteed success – luck and circumstance, and drive, play and have always played a major role. That said, below are a handful of new and relatively new-to-me singers and bands, some of whom I’ve featured before – and others that I will again.

1) Hannah’s Yard – “Close Enough.” Hannah’s Yard is an acoustic collective from the English town of Olney, Buckinghamshire, that features a lead singer, Hannah Layton Turner, whose voice is that of an angel. Their songs remind me of Melody Gardot and Norah Jones, among others, and are quite addictive. (Their debut album, Beginnings, is due out May 12th.)

2) Holly Macve – “The Corner of My Mind.” The bayou by way of Brighton? Yep. Macve mixes moodiness, melody and mesmerizing vocals into a tasty elixir.

3) Natalie Gelman – “Photograph.” The singer-songwriter and her band had the good fortune of opening for Bon Jovi recently thanks to Bon Jovi’s opening-act contest. (That’s something more veteran acts should be doing.) Here’s video of the final song of their set:

4) Bully – “Trying.” At last week’s Juliana concert, we met a cool dude who’d flown in from Detroit to attend Juliana concerts in Cambridge, Philly and Virginia. He recommended this band, who he’s seen a dozen times – and, after listening to them a bit, I hear what he hears in them.

5) Fazerdaze – “Lucky Girl.” New Zealand’s Amelia Murray, aka Fazerdaze, is a wonder – I’d say she creates teenage symphonies to God, but given that she’s in her 20s…she creates twenty-something symphonies to God. (Here’s an excellent profile of her.) One listen and you should be hooked.

And two bonuses…

6) The Courtneys – “Silver Velvet.” The Vancouver trio conjure the Bangles with their jangly pop, but, at the end of the day, influences mean nothing if the songs suck. Theirs don’t. If anything, their music sticks in the head like bubblegum on the sidewalk. (Maybe that’s not the best metaphor. But they’re damn good.)

7) Jen Gloeckner – “Row With the Flow.” Gloeckner’s latest release, VINE, is an atmospheric (and very trippy) outing that channels the likes of Mazzy Star and Pink Floyd, among others.