This week, ears down might be the best week of new releases in this crazy year. With some of the long-awaited records just now seeing the light of day alongside some epic quarantine episodes treating us to some sweet cover songs not to mention some real Rock and Roll, there is never a dull moment.
Band of Heathens has been particularly productive with their creatively superb Remote Transmissions quarantine specials with their latest, a cover of Tom Pett’s “Walls” with a zoom inspired video that also features Robert Ellis.
Grace Potter continues to class up the joint with her Monday Night Twilight Hour and her song “Let You Go” from her 2015 album Midnight.
And, Rock is the New Roll favorites The Dunwells have really stepped up their game with almost daily live streams of excellent music.
Here are five excellent new records that are demanding our ear time this week.
Tokyo Motor Fist – Lions
Unfortunate name, great band, the Tokyo Motor Fist sound is not as heavy as the name would imply. More Def Leppard than Led Zeppelin the vibe is early to mid-eighties Rock and Roll. If Night Ranger and The Babies spawned a Rock and Roll love child his name would be Tokyo Motor fist. The band, consisting of former members of Trixter, The Alice Cooper Band, Rainbow, and Blue Oyster Cult has had their Rock credibility stamped long ago and with songs like “Youngblood,” “Around Midnight” and the Joe Eliot inspired “Mean It” the retro bus is gassed up and ready to go.
The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers
Aukland, New Zealand based The Beths generate dynamic, propulsive four-part chorus anthems that are tailor-made for the summer festival circuit, if we can ever get back to summer festivals being a thing, that is. Leader and sole Beth in the band Elizabeth Stokes is a twice-nominee for the Taite Prize, New Zealand’s most prestigious music award. This, their sophomore record with its harmony-driven sparkling gems that bring to mind The Pixies, The Breeders with a touch of Go Go’s thrown in for ear-measure should be high up there in your summer listening library.
Rufus Wainwright – Unfollow The Rules
When it comes to producing elegant and lush Pop symphonies there are not many artists that do it as gloriously well as Rufus Wainwright. This makes us extremely glad to experience his return to Pop glory after having been distracted by producing his own opera and releasing a record of Shakespeare’s sonnets. This from a guy that uncannily reproduced Judy Garland’s Live from Carnegie Hall almost note for note. With Unfollow The Rules is a set of lush theatrical gems with Pet Sounds worthy production courtesy of Mitchell Froom who has worked with Sir Paul, Elvis Costello, and Crowded House among others.
The daringly beautiful “Early Morning Madness” will certainly stand up as one of his best works, and “Peaceful Afternoon” is a love song for the new millennium.
Ray Wylie Hubbard – C0-Starring
If there ever was any doubt, and there should be none, that Ray Wylie Hubbard is one of the more respected of the OG honky-tonk songwriters in the game today just take a gander at the guest turns on this, his appropriately monikered new record, Co-Starring.
Ringo Starr, Tyler Bryant, Don Was, Joe Walsh, Chris Robinson, Aaron Lee Tasjan, The Cadillac Three, Pam Tillis, Paula Nelson, Elizabeth Cook, Ashley McBryde, Larkin Poe, Peter Rowan, Ronnie Dunn
Highlights and artful turns of the phrase are everywhere on this record including the drum fill from “Get Back” courtesy of Ringo on “Bad Trick,” and the latest in a long line of audience participation anthems for Ray that will definitely be a part of his live shows in the years to come with R.O.C.K. featuring Tyler Bryant.
Margo Price – That’s How Rumors Get Started
This record has experienced some release delays over the last couple of hectic months, but we can emphatically say that it was worth the wait. Weighing in at a tidy 10 tunes in right about 35 minutes, there is not a wasted note or lyric in the lot. Much more expansive than her self-funded Third Man Records debut release, now, three albums in, Margo Price is certainly hitting her artistic stride. Contemporary sounding with a dusting of retro-ness as opposed to the other way around that seems to be the fashion of the day, Sturgill Simpson has taken over the production reins on this one and the result may be a contender for Americana album of the year.