As we careen toward summer and massage our ears to get them ready for a veritable slew of new records to be released, in short order, there are a few choice nuggets sitting on our doorstep to savor this week.
There are 8 million stories in the Naked City, “Charyse” is just one of them so says Adam Weiner in discussing the song and video from the 2020 Low Cut Connie release, Private Lives.
The revamped ’70s Glamster Band Sweet is resurfacing with the release of “Set Me Free” from their upcoming new record Isolation Boulevard, a tribute to the 1974 album Desolation Boulevard. The single, with a bit more of a metallic edge, features Cats in Space singer Paul Manzi lending his immense pipes to the re-formed band.
And, one-man-band Jonathon Sabiston operating under the name Wild Spelks delivers a surprisingly cool Weezer meets Teenage Fanclub sounding slice of melodic Alt-Rock heaven with the release of “Dreamer.”
Here are five more records that are vibrating through the halls of Rock is the new Roll this week.
Peter Case – The Midnight Broadcast
A name you might know from his great Power Power band The Plimsouls and their iconic ear-worm of a song “A Million Miles Away,” Peter Case is back with a new solo record that that shows that Case is no one-trick Pop pony, but rather a Springsteen level songwriter of the highest order. The opener “Just Hanging On,” a song that he wrote on the piano in a church when he was 15, would have fit in quite nicely on Darkness on the Edge of Town,” and “Captain Stormalong” is a delicate and hushed tune meant to evoke the spirit of driving through the American night with the radio down.
There is a lot to savor here including the ethereal “Farewell to the Gold” as well as a rendition of Dylan’s “Early Roman Kings.” “Oh, The Morning/President Kennedy” is a revelation and could have been a Leon Russell song.
Israel Nash – Topaz
Recorded in isolation is his newly-built Quonset hut recording studio in Texas, Israel Nash, with Topaz, has created a swirling, subdued blend of Soul-Folk goodness with a touch of Muscle Shoals backing smoothness thrown in for good measure.
Co-produced with Adrian Quesada of the Soul-Rock combo Black Pumas every song on this album is designed to take you on an escapist head trip that falls somewhere between The Black Pumas, fuzzy era Neil Young, and Father John Misty.
Light one up put on a good pair of headphones and groove baby groove.
Blue Water Highway – Paper Airplanes
New Age Americana band Blue Water Highway walk that delicate line between Country and Pop with a glorious dexterity that draws from their background growing up in the Texas Coastal area where they call Lake Jackson home.
With three-part harmonies that can melt butter, on their third proper record, the songwriting has stepped up several notches most notably on the title track where the trials of taking things to the next level during a pandemic are mused upon, and on “Me and the Electric Man” where a son pays tribute to his hard-working father.
This band and this record will separate themselves from the listening pack with successive listens.
Lake Street Dive – Obviously
Make no mistake about it, Boston’s Lake Street Dive has developed their Adult Contemporary Pop sheen to glistening perfection, if it’s not broken don’t fix it. And, they certainly don’t mess with the formula on Obviously a pleasant album that would have played quite nicely as a Christmas gift for your music-loving mother a few months back.
The songs are a cool blend of Vintage Soul and Burt Bacharach Pop with “Same Old News” a ’70s inspired gem bringing forth the spirit of Roberta Flack and Danny Hathaway, and “Anymore” a tune that could have been an “Easy Lover” era love ballad from back in the day.
No surprises are rendered here, but if we don’t have Carly Simon or The Carpenters to hit-up our ears at least we have Lake Street Dive.
Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday
After originally having turned down the role of Billie Holiday fate intervened and Andra Day who two took her stage-performer name in honor of Lady Day, the nickname for Billie Holiday, after never having acted before finally acquiesced and accepted the role of a lifetime.
Vocally here Day is more than up for the challenge and her rendition of the groundbreaking “Strange Fruit” certainly will hold up as one of the best contemporary versions of the civil rights anthem, and the song that Diana Ross made famous, “Lady Sings the Blues,” is delivered with the perfect sense of fragility that certainly makes a believer out of the listener.
Ultimately, the best deliverable on this sweetheart of a record is the arrangements and contemporary production techniques that have been employed to bring to life the songs that have previously never been delivered to our ears with the love, fidelity, and sonic goodness that was long overdue for masterworks of this caliber. That buzz you are hearing is from the Oscar committee slam-dunking this one for best movie soundtrack with Soul as the runner-up.