Category Archives: New Music

Today’s Top 5: New Music, Vol. LVIV

Fall has (finally) arrived to our neck of the proverbial woods, which means our front lawn will soon be cluttered with leaves from trees that are not rooted on our property, or even on those adjoining ours. No, the wind whips them up and down and across the street(s), and for whatever reason they amass at our house as if attracted by a magnet. It’s maddening – as is what’s been an interminable commute home of late. Thursday, I left work at 5:45 and exited the turnpike at seven. Friday’s crawl clocked a similar runtime.

Yes, of course, those are penny-ante annoyances. In the words of the noted philosopher Roseanne Rosannadanna (1946-89), “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

And on that note, here’s today’s Top 5: New Music, Vol. LVIV.

1) First Aid Kit – “It’s a Shame.” “Lately, I’ve been thinking about the past. How there is no holding back, no point in wasting sorrow on things that won’t be here tomorrow.” Those aren’t my words, but First Aid Kit’s. They released a new single this week, which means a new album is (hopefully) near. “It’s a Shame” delves into the dark side of life on the road, loneliness, and moving on while others stay put, and the fleeting relationships that form as a result. It’s not a new topic for the sisters Söderberg, of course, but it’s well executed. And those harmonies…

2) Neil Young – “Powderfinger.” Hitchhiker just gets better with every listen. While stuck in traffic on the ride home Friday, I played it, then played it again. And this morning, while out and about doing mundane errands, I played it yet again. It’s a hypnotic set that – and I don’t say this lightly – is in the running for my fabled Album of the Year honors.

3) Erin O’Dowd – “Queen of the Silver Dollar.” Erin’s full-length debut, Old Town, is due in early December for those of us who backed her on Kickstarter, and I can’t wait. She possesses the voice of a world-weary angel. Here, in the first of hopefully many “Porch Swing Sessions,” she shares her spin on this Shel Silverstein classic, which has been recorded by everyone from Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show to Barbi Benton(!) to Emmylou Harris.

4) The MonaLisa Twins featuring John Sebastian – “Waiting for the Waiter.” The Liverpool-based duo, who may well be best known for their Beatles covers, turn in this bluesy original about…is it a metaphor? Could be. Could be not.

5) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Sea Town.” Can a day go by without me listening to Courtney? Yes. But then I hear a song such as this, the b-side to her recent “Near You” single, and it’s like a flip switches inside my soul and I want to listen to no one but her…

And one bonus…

6) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Near You.” What I said above. Times two.

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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.