This week seemed to be an unusually fertile time for new music- for me, anyway. I added just over 100 new songs, and have so far rated 25 of them high enough to make several Top playlists in my library. Since that percentage stands out as being unusually high, even though I still have quite a few left to hear and rate I thought it warranted a blurb or two.
Let’s get to it.
I don’t know much about Chairlift, but had heard good things from numerous sources over the past few years. That prompted me to download their outstanding Daytrotter session this week, and it didn’t disappoint – quite the opposite. If it prompts me to stop what I’m doing and tweet about it, as I did as soon as I’d heard the second cut, it’s a keeper.
Ditto The Drums- always heard great things, even sampled a bit of a track or two from their last album, but nothing stuck until their Daytrotter session, released just yesterday. Excellent stuff.
A non-new but very nice surprise for me came with the latest Jane’s Addiction release. The Great Escape Artist came out way back in October and totally passed me by. I’d never been a huge fan but have always appreciated most of the efforts of Mr. Farrell and company. “Just Because” and “Three Days” from way back, for example, are fantastic workout songs. But I heard a cut from this one while visiting out in Vegas last week so when I got home I looked it up and snagged it. I’ve only heard 4 of its 10 tracks as of yet, but have rated them all high enough to make some of the Top playlists. Dave Navarro’s guitars are a welcome return, and even with some borderline ponderous/pedantic phrasing and lyrical choices, the songs just plain rock. Listen to “Irresistible Force,” the song from Vegas, here.
The next great find- and it really is, considering it sent me off on a chase for their backlog and cross-referenced work with others- is also from late last year. This Unknown Science from Joy Kills Sorrow is wondrous. Technically flawless, this Bluegrass outfit could be just another proficient set of players if not for the magical sounds of Emma Beaton’s vocals and the enchantment of Bridget Kearney’s often heartbreaking lyrics. Slightly reminiscent of Crooked Still, with whom they’ve shared some players and some history, I believe – definitely some crossover school-wise- and though not mentioned I have to think that since several of them attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music they must have crossed paths with Sarah Jarosz at some point, too (who’s across town at Boston’s Conservatory.) JKS’s canon is just as light and lacy as some of Jarosz’s most touching pieces while still providing the sturdy bones necessary for a strong, lasting tune. See their “Such Sweet Alarms” below, recorded in the Acoustic Guitar offices late last year. (Also check out Kearney’s work with Lake Street Drive. Like this one: “Neighbor Song” – if you have Spotify.)
Bowerbirds represent a discovery from one of my other great sources for new music: Paste magazine. Between the two, Daytrotter and Paste account for probably 50% of everything new I hear every week. Paste’s mPlayer is a ridiculously affordable and deeply rich way to taste weekly samples of new stuff. The broad net it casts inevitably means that not everything makes the cut every week for me, but there is always – without fail – at least one revelation with each delivery. Bowerbirds, though, wasn’t on one of the mPlayer samples- I saw the link to “In the Yard” on a sidebar while browsing the Paste site and (happily) clicked on it. Another beautiful acoustic guitar and an angelic voice- what’s new about that, right? Wrong. Can’t wait to hear more from them. (And click soon, before Paste changes that sidebar, since I couldn’t readily find another link to it.)
I can, will and do thank The Line of Best Fit for the next two: Army Girls and The Darcys each have a great track on the collection TLOBF offered as a free download this week called Oh! Canada 20. I’m about halfway through it, and so far it’s been fairly hit or miss overall but the ones that stand out (like these two) are great. Army Girls’ “Always” is a slow burn with a driving beat that builds crashingly, and The Darcys offer an interesting, if surprising, take on Steely Dan’s “Peg”.
I’m even later to the party on Bombay Bicycle Club than I was on Jane’s Addiction and Joy Kills Sorrow. Their latest came out back in September and though it was on my list (the master Liner Notes list I keep in my phone for supposedly easy reference to things I’m meaning to check out. . .) I only got around to them now. Shame on me- I wish I’d discovered them sooner. Also, in a bit of reverse synchronicity, very shortly after discovering how good A Different Kind of Fix is almost all the way through, I found out I’d be traveling for work to the NJ/NYC area, and that the Club was playing at the Bowery Ballroom. Perfect, I thought – if they weren’t already sold out. Bummer. (But I was able to find tickets to a different show on the next leg of the trip, at the Wildflower Pavilion in the Rockies outside of Denver, so it’s hard to complain.) Check out BBC’s “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep.”
I know next to nothing about Hospitality. (Which sounds odd in my ears since I spent almost 20 years in the hotel business. . .) Their Daytrotter session from January is mighty: 4 of its 6 songs made the higher ratings and Top playlists. They have a song on one of the newest mPlayers from Paste, too, and it’s worth checking out, as well.
Lastly, what more can be said about The Punch Brothers? I came back from Vegas on Monday, wearing the traditionally heavy cloak of melancholy that always drapes me upon leaving there, and found that the pre-order of their latest album, Who’s Feeling Young Now?, was awaiting me when I got home. I’d even been one of the fortunate few to have scored pasteboard coasters autographed by the band. But then I popped it in and forgot all about paper coasters, and plane rides, and the melancholy jacket started slipping, the smallest bit, off my shoulders. I’ve often said that it’s impossible not to smile and be happy when listening to good, fast bluegrass tunes (or to weep at the slow ones), and that was never more true than on this first listen. “Flippen (The Flip)” is like a house burning down, and forced a heartfelt “God DAMN!” from me when I first heard its end. (Fortunately I was in my car at the time. . .) “Soon or Never,” at the other end of the gamut, cut right to my center, and was almost spooky in its applicability to a recent real life situation. The rest is just as good, and I’m looking forward to playing it heavily in the coming weeks, and months, and years. See “Flippen” below.
So all in all a pretty great week, music-wise. And I still have a nice, deep backlog to get through, so maybe even more sonic discoveries await. Let me know what you think, and what you’ve recently heard that’s lit you up.