Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (July 30,2021)

Bring out the dancing horses, reach up for the top-shelf bottles, party like it’s 2021. Hear that gong, that’s the sound proclaiming that this is the best week of album releases so far, and the new Jason Isbell record hasn’t even come out yet.

The Black Keys are back with a video from their blues-centric latest Delta Kream.

Rock is the New Roll favorites, Georgia Thunderbolts are coyly teasing our ears with a new single, “Take It Slow.”

And, if you are in the mood for some careening down-the highway head-a banging monster energy, give a spin to this one from Lord Bishop Rocks, a song that features Vernon Reid with a killer guitar solo.

And, don’t bail out on that wave just yet. There’s more. Here are five epic records that are spinning in the offices of Rock is the new Roll this week.

Yola – Stand For Myself

Never shy about extolling the virtues about what they are doing at Easy Eye Sound down there in Nashville, it seems we feature one of their records every week, this time they may have come out with their best of the year with Yola’s new one, Stand For Myself. Building on the foundation of her debut record, Walk Through The Fire, released in 2019, this time out she displays her chops as a first-class songwriter along with all of her other skills,

Blending Americana, Pop, and soul as effortlessly as a bird in flight this time she blends classic ’70s R&B, horns, and vintage organ to create a sound that is vintage-cool while at the same time polished and smooth. The break-out single “Diamond Studded Shoes” evokes Tina at her snarling best, the title track is a burning every-person anthem. The Donna Summer disco splendor of “Dancing Away The Tears” shows off the sonic splendor of a perfect artist-producer pairing the likes of which we haven’t seen since George Martin was in the sandbox with his mates.

Quite possibly the best sophomore release from any artist in recent memory, this one is a keeper that just might be the best Soul record released in the last 10 years.

Bleachers – Take The Sadness Out of Saturday Night

With the band self-professing that this album captures that tipping point when joy finally shoves desperation out of the way, after listening to the ebullient anthem “Don’t Go Dark,” who are we to disagree. Coming in at a tight 33 minutes with the vibe going from low-fi to medium fi at the blink of an ear, the record brings to mind “Pink Floyd” in places, mid-career Bruce Springsteen in others, and The Talking Heads on the catchy “Stop Making This Hurt.”

And, what self-respecting New Jersey band could release a record without a fly-bye from The Boss himself? Here, “Chinatown” would have fit in quite nicely on the Working On A Dream sessions. And, oh yeah before we forget, “Secret Life” features a seductive guest turn from Lana Del Rey.

Durand Jones & The Indications – Private Space

Yet another soul-stirrer of a record from Durand Jones and his band featuring a two-headed monster on vocal duties with Jones and Aaron Frazier handling the hi-low harmonies. Whether you are a new school or old school R&B fan, this one will be right up your street.

“Witchoo” parties down like “Rappers Delight,” “Love Will Work It Out would make Barry White Blush, and “More Than Ever” is a silky-smooth wonder. If Donny Hathaway and Prince were the twin sons of Stevie Wonder and the family formed a trio, their million-selling record would sound like Private Space. If you have been looking for love in all the wrong places, your ship has just come in.

Various Artists – Choctaw Ridge (New Fables of the American South 1968-1973)

This various artists’ compilation mines the country sound that emerged following Bobbie Gentry’s Southern-noir classic “Ode To Billie Joe” her number one hit from 1967.

Riding the type of deep-woods storytelling that could be found between the pages of a Faulkner novel, singers like Jimmy Webb, Lee Hazlewood, and Michael Nesmith took their Nashville outsider status to the deep South to pen tunes that amounted to darker edged boy meets girl songs set on the “other side” of the other side of the tracks.

The song titles pretty much tell it all here whether it is on “The Back Side of Dallas, “Mr. Jackson’s Got Nothing To Do,” or “Chris Gantry’s”If Only She Had Stayed,” every selection has a foreboding of doom and despair right around the corner. 

Selecting a favorite from this lot would be a fools ending, however, if you were to hold a gun to our head during a game of Russian Roulette, feast your ears on “Why Can’t I Come Home” or “Saunders Ferry Lane.”

Nobody’s Girl – Nobody’s Girl

An Austin Americana supergroup of sorts, Nobody’s girl, named after a Bonnie Raitt song, is Betty Soo, Rebecca Loebe, and Grace Pettis. Playing it forward with a vibe that floats somewhere between Fleetwood Mac and Mary Chapin Carpenter the album is a polished gem that never misses a beat over 11 compelling tracks.

“Beauty Way,” a song that could have been on the Tusk record displays guitar player Charlie Sexton prominently, “What’ll I Do”  has a distinct ’80s Ladies dusting to it, good stuff indeed. Dismiss the thought that this may be too slickly produced or too radio-friendly and lose yourself in this wonderfully atmospheric Americana record.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (July 23, 2021)

With the euphoric sense that the lockdown releases are behind us, artists are beginning to focus on more positive themes, less political nonsense, and seem to be getting back to the basics of rock and roll. And quite frankly, we are all the better for it.

The Black Keys are digging even deeper down that well of blues with this iconic song from their Delta Kream record.

Dan Israel puts everything in perspective with this easy flowing, perfect for driving down to the sea tune, “The Hang of It.”

And Eric Bazilian, the frontman for the Hooters, takes us back to the glorious ’80s with his latest single, “Back In The ’80s.”

If all of that is not enough, here are five more nuggets that are entering our ear-waves this week.

The Peppermint Kicks – The Peppermint Kicks

A Power Pop supergroup with members of The Stompers, The Amplifier Heads, and the Shang Hi Los all representing, Peppermint Kicks lays down a hipster blend of Pop-Punk, Rock, and infectious Power Pop. “When Rock & Roll Met Your Dad” is essentially a love letter to the healing powers of rock & roll, while “Hey Fanzine!” pays homage to those great music magazines from days of yore, Creem, Rolling Stone (when they were a music magazine), Circus, and more. The spirit of Cheap Trick and The Ramones are all over this record, most notably on “Shag ’72” and the ode to pointless rock and roll “I Don’t Hear a Single.”

Coolness resides around every corner on this record that even laments the demise of the hallowed long-lost rock venues with “Johnny D’s (Play It Again)” and the lack of bands that don’t play loud anymore on the semi-loud “Stooge.”

For those of a certain age, this love letter to a time and space before corporate rock will put you in that long-lost ear space that you forgot you missed.

Rodney Crowell – Triagethis time around he

The national Texas treasure that is Rodney Crowell is back with his 18th album. A bit more introspective now, this time around he leaves the negativity to others in favor of songs of sin, mortality, and redemption. The title track compares love to forgiveness, “Something Has To Change” calls out those that darken the world, and “This Body Isn’t All There Is To Me” pretty much says it all.

Though the mood is a bit more somber from what we are used to from Rodney, after all, we are in a pandemic, let’s hold out hope that better times are right around the corner. And, what better tour guide than Rodney Crowell.

Glen Campbell – Live From The Troubadour

Given the state of his health at the time of this recording in 2008 when he opens this show from the famed Troubadour concert venue in L.A. saying it is good to be back at the Hungry I, it takes a beat to realize that he is joking. Here, on one of his last tours, Glen Campbell covers all of his musical muses. His more recent tunes, including “Grow Old With Me” and “All I Want Is You” are intermingled with Jimmy Web Classics “Galveston,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” along with the Cambell must-play Classics “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Gentle On My Mind.”

There are flashes of brilliance on display throughout the set, most notably during “Phoenix” when Cambell calls out “I wanna play one” as he drifts off into a Les Paul worthy guitar interlude. But, for the most part, the set is a poignant reminder of an artist that we have forgotten that we loved giving us one last Hurrah.

Jackson Browne – Downhill From Everywhere

Like an old relative that comes back to visit between military assignments regaling with tales of travel in far-off lands, Jackson Browne is back on our shores with another set of masterclass storytelling. And, he doesn’t seem to have changed one bit.

“My Cleveland Heart” could be the centerpiece in a movie score in the vein of “Somebody’s Baby,” The title track has a timeless feel to it and could have been on the Lawyers in Love record, and “A Human Touch” would have been perfect The Pretender fodder.

Part nostalgic head-trip and part treatise on the state of the world, this one has something for everyone.

Velvet Insane – Rock ‘n’ Roll Glitter Suit

There is truth in advertising seeping through every poor of the sophomore record from these purveyors of Glam Rock. Starting with the insanely catchy “Backstreet Liberace” the stage is set for bringing up the ghosts of Slade, The Sweet, T Rex along with the rest of the Glam gang from the ’70s.

Right up there with Luke Spiller and The Struts this gang of Swedes drives it like they own it on the Slade worthy “Driving Down the Mountain” even display their tender side on the ballad “Midnight Sunshine Serenade”

Unless Luke and the boys come up with something out of this world later in the year, the best Rock album of 2022 has officially surfaced.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Rock Songs On Our Turntable Now

It might just be our ears playing tricks on us, but suddenly, 2021 is shaping up to be a banner year for rock as well as roll.

On that front, here are five rock and rollers we are listening to this week in the offices of Rock is the New Roll.

Samantha Fish – Twisted Ambition

The latest incarnation of Samantha Fish has her shedding her pure Blues gills in favor of a more Blues-Rock Bonnie Raitt style. If her song “Twisted Ambition,” a single released in anticipation of a proper full-length record later in the year, is any indication, it should be a scorcher.

Gorilla Riot – Drowned

This band from Manchester walks the dangerous Grunge Rock streets with aplomb as they channel their inner Pearl Jam as well as the softer corners of Soundgarden’s oeuvre.

The Picturebooks – Catch Me If You Can

This boot stomper of a track features Blackstone Cherry frontman Chris Robertson on a loose-limbed scorcher that goes down like a cocktail served by The MC-5 with Lenny Kravitz ready to buy the next round.

Georgia Thunderbolts – Be Good To Yourself

The young bucks in the Georgia Thunderbolts maintain all of the soul inherent in the Frankie Miller original while adding just enough rock and roll swagger to make this one a contemporary yet timeless classic. The new record, Can I Get a Witness, comes out on October 15.

Joanne Shaw Taylor – If That Ain’t a Reason

With his recent move to Nashville, around the corner from the Ryman, serving to inspire his creative muse, here, he handles the knob-twirling duties as a producer on this sterling true-to-form Joanne Shaw Taylor cover version of the Little Milton tune. Look for some more killer blues-influenced cuts set for release later in the year.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Songs To Enjoy This Week (July 2, 2021)

While the proper album releases are on hiatus this week and the staff here at Rock is the new Roll takes a much-deserved week off, no worries, we are not going to leave you hanging. 

Here are five choice nuggets to be enjoyed over the fourth of July Weekend.

Bros – Garbanzo Man

A brother spin-off band from Rock is the New Roll of Famers Sheepdogs the fellas have released this one from their upcoming record, Vol 2.. With Hints of Ram era Paul McCartney and Hall and Oates, this one should get some heavy rotation on your summer playlist.

Robert Jon & The Wreck – Shine a Light on Me Brother

This one is like The Blues Brothers and Blackberry Smoke doing Proud Mary. A scorcher of an anthem, this is the title track from their upcoming record.

The Moon City Masters – Starstruck

Moving a fair length away from their cool covers and disco-tinged previous works The Moon City Masters offer up a cozy American-Moonlight single that could have been on a long-lost Poco record.

Kerosene Stars – Where Have You Been

Kerosene Stars are out in front of a new record later in the year with this hook-laden summer rocker.

Everet Almond – All Out of Time

This bouncy piano gem could fit quite nicely on any Paul Weller record.

Cult Stars From Mars – Blinded By The Light

A throwback-inspired band Cult Stars From Mars (Mike Portnoy, Jeff Soto, Darian Sahhanajay) trade-in their harder-edged Rock and Roll edged for a Power Pop sheen on this Bruce Springsteen cover.

Best Albums of 2021 (So Far): (099) Lovebreakers – Primary Colours

(099) Lovebreakers – Primary Colours

Sunshine Punk and Roll is the order of the day on this one. Hailing from Birmingham England with hooks a-plenty, there is an underlying edge to the otherwise jaunty guitar work presented here that lends to the theory that this debut record will be the start of something big for the band. Looking for a touchpoint, look no further than The Arctic Monkeys or the accessible side of The Replacements.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (June 25, 2021)

The year is now officially half over, and the only thing we have to say here at Rock is the New Roll is that keep your ears strapped on it’s about to get loud. Tours are starting to get announced and cranked up as many musicians have spent the downtime reflecting and writing new music and are eager to share their music with the masses. And we, of course, can’t wait to see what the six months have to offer. 

The mighty Night Ranger is back with a boffo new single and video in advance of a record coming out later in the year.

The virtual one-man bad himself Pokey LaFarge is announcing his new record scheduled for release on September 10th with the single “Get It ‘For It’s Gone.” 

And, the blazing rock duo The Picturebooks team up with the guys from Monster Truck on a single that will bring to the ear the essence of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.”

But wait, there’s more. Here are five records that we are grooving to this week here in the halls of Rock is the New Roll.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Quietly Blowing It

In these days of online singles released in dribs and drabs in advance of a proper record release, the anticipation of a proper full-length sometimes builds up to an unbearable frenzy. And, for our ears, this is one of those highly anticipated gems. After initially being introduced to the record via the Laurel Canyon-inspired song “Sanctuary,” it was as clear as the ears on our head that we were in store for an exciting listen when the proper record was released.

Holing up in his North Carolina basement at the start of the pandemic, MC Taylor used the current state of affairs as a mood-setter in an attempt to get under the covers of some of the deeper issues behind all of the turmoil swirling around him. With a certain Bob Dylan quality, the record lays bare the fragility of the moment with the gospel-tinged “It Will If We Let It.” “Glory Strums (Of The Long Distance Runner),” a song that could be the distance cousin of a classic Fleetwood Mac tune, and “Mighty Dollar,” telling it like it is. The poor man loses, the rich man wins.

Don’t sleep on this record. This one has lived up to the hype and more and is destined to take up residence in the top ten once the end of the year rolls around.

Vincent Neil Emerson – Vincent Neil Emerson

A quick listen to some of his world-weary lyrics, most notably on “Debtor’s Blues,” there is a sense that if Vincent Neil Emerson was not able to come to grips with his past through the catharsis of his songs he probably would not be alive.

“I spent my whole life/Wonderin’ why I’m down,” Vincent Neil Emerson sings, not long into his new, self-titled sophomore album. “I don’t feel easy if the blues don’t come around/And my face don’t look right without a frown.”

With life seemingly lived in the verses of a country song after enduring his father’s suicide, alcoholism, a brother’s death in a house fire, and homelessness, there is hope rather than despair prevalent with this excellent sophomore release. “Texas Moon” could have been a John Prine Song, “Learnin’ to Drown” is a sparse piano-led stunner that details the singer’s forlorn days sleeping in his car and lays out his life in under 5:00 of reflective and emotional storytelling that would make Townes Van Zant blush.

Produced by his mentor Rodney Crowell, this deservingly break-out record should cement a place for Vincent Neil Emerson in the pantheon of great contemporary Texas singer-songwriters to be mentioned in the same breath as Steve Earle, Guy Clark, and Lyle Lovett.

Amythyst Kiah – Wary + Strange

For virginal ears not familiar with Amythst Kiah one listen to her latest song “Hangover Blues” will have your ears clamoring for more. Somewhat of a genre-bending artist with a voice that floats somewhere between Nina Simone and Tracey Chapman, as a member of the Rhiannon Giddens collective her latest is a highly empowering life-affirming record that doesn’t shy away from addressing the issues of the day most notably on the powerful “Black Myself” and the topic of suicide on “Wild Turkey” that deals with her mother’s suicide.

“Hangover Blues” is as devasting of a back-end of a drinking binge anthem you will find this side of “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” the song “Sleepy Queen” has a bit of a Bill Withers tilt to it, and “Ballad of the Lost” is a gut-wrenching ballad that deals with issues of abandonment head-on.

There is beauty in diversity, and this is a beautiful genre-defying record. Deep Blues meld with Rock, R&B, and Appalachian bluegrass to create an awe-inspiring textured masterpiece. If you listen to only one album this year, it should be this one.

Grateful Dead – Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses)

Mostly worthy of mention here simply because it is one of the best live records ever committed to vinyl, this 50th anniversary remastered edition captures The Grateful Dead at their accessible best.

Known for the lack of sparsity of Grateful Dead songs in favor of some choice covers, the production value on this one is pristine, the vocals are mixed perfectly, and the crowd energy is palpable but does not overwhelm the mix. Highlights include Mighty Merle’s “Mama Tried” and the extended “Sing Me Back Home,” “Johnny B. Good,” and a next-level version of “Me and Bobby McGee.”

Put the headphones on and absorb yourself in this one.

Pom Pom Squad – Death of a Cheerleader.

As fine a debut record as our ears have had the pleasure of hearing in quite some time, you can pretty much get where the band is coming from when Mia Berrin sings “You should ask your mother what she means, she says Stay away from girls like me.”

Outcast odes aside this is an up-tempo roller coaster ride of on-point songwriting, peppy festival-ready anthems, and highly accessible Indie Rock arrangements from the vantage point of an outsider that has seen what life is on the inside, and is perfectly happy living life on the fringes.

The song “Head Cheerleader” almost has an ’80s fornicating under the football bleachers John Hughes feel about it, and the Joan Jett inspired “Drunk Voicemail” is worth the price of admission alone. 

Come to experience the angst, but stay for the Tommy James meets the white rabbit rendering of “Crimson and Clover”

The 100 Best Albums of 2021 (So Far)

(099) Little Hat – Wine, Whiskey, & Wimmen

This ’50s channeling trio from Holland pays tribute in their songs and style to relatively obscure bluesmen the likes of Lazy Lester, Titus Turner, and Isaiah Ross. You will need to listen closely to really tell that this tightly constructed set of songs was not recorded by Sam Phillips in the Sun Records studio. The opener “Clema” could have been a Fats Domino special, “Cat Squirrel” a Chuck Berry ditty, and the title song “Wine, Wimmen, Whiskey” is, of course, pure John Lee Hooker. “Boogie in the Park” is a stomper that could be played anywhere in Mississippi.

Preferring not to be labelled as retro-rockers, this multi-generational (one member is 20 something, another is his 30’s and the third is in his 70’s) band doesn’t try to revive the spirit of their heroes exactly, rather they built on the momentum and create a sound and spirit uniquely their own.

The 100 Best Albums of 2021 (So Far)

(100) Caper Clowns – Abdicate The Throne

With a whiff of Madness here, some ELO there The Danish band Caper Clowns combine Power Pop, straight ahead and even a bit of Roll into a formula that is as diverse as it is intoxicating. On Be There (The Ever Changing Tome) the band channels their best 10cc impersonation and there is more than a little Rock as well as Roll on the infectious “In Your Kaleidoscope.”

With Styx, ELO and 10cc as touchstones this record has something for everyone. If you are a fan of tightly crafted Pop nuggets, your ship has come in.

Five Cool Ones – Five New Records Released This Week (June 18, 2021)

The year is pretty much half over and while the team here at Rock is the New Roll is diligently pouring over all of the fine records released so far we still found time to secure for you some really fine new records that your ears should be excited about.

In the meantime, the highly underrated and below-the-radar Rich Ragany & The Digressions release their inner Tom Petty Meets Elvis Costello on “Heartbreakers Don’t Try.”

The Daybreakers are banging out the Blues Rock in the Sabbath and Uriah Heep mold, and that is never a bad thing.

And, Hanson, yes the “MMMMMM Bop” Hanson’s, is back with a nice slice of Cheap Trick evoking Power Pop. with a tune that features Rick Nielson on the track and also on the video. Our ears are tuned for more to come from this camp.

And, on top of all of that here are five new albums that are rocking our world this week.

Kings of Convenience – Peace Or Love

Even though they never really went away, individually they have been playing on a lot of other people’s projects, the Norwegian acoustic duo Kings of Convenience has not released a proper record in about 12 years. And, musically, as well as aesthetically nary a beat was skipped with the release of Peace Or Love.

Sophisticated harmonies, lush intricate guitar interplay, and wistful Indie Pop is the order of the day. The two songs that feature a guest turn from Feist are perfectly complementary to the nuances of the album as a whole with “Love is A Lonely” thing as sparse as you might think given the song title.

This is a good gentle mood setting of a record that would serve nicely as an afternoon-listen precursor to kicking out the jams later in the evening. If you are a fan of the new Brothers Brother record or the latest from Catus Blossoms, then The Kings of Convenience is your new mellow jam.

Husband – Cut The Light

There is not an awful lot to be found in terms of an on-line presence regarding this U.K.-based band that seems to specialize in stylistic anthems with a lead singer that floats somewhere between Bono and Iggy Pop. The songwriting is smart and evocative and the arrangements are sometimes brood-ridden and pulsating, often in the same song.

Cut The Light is their debut record, yet it sounds like the product of a band that has spent many years honing their craft. Introduce yourself with a first-listen of “What A World,” a song that has a bit of a mid-era Bowie quality to it, and work your way through “Cages,” an epic crescendo of a song that will take you on a journey in a taut, brilliantly constructed 3:04 that will leave you wanting to learn more about this enigmatic band.

Styx – Crash of the Crown

Crash of the Crown is the 17th proper Styx studio album and even after all these years under the bridge the band still sounds like Styx. And, that is a very good thing. With the core of the OG band, James Young, Tommy Shaw, and Chuck Pannoza present and accounted for going strong and sounding great, and the gang vocals led by Dennis DeYoung’s extremely able replacement Lawrence Gowen are Stirling vintage Styx.

“Our Wonderful Lives” could have been from the Grand Illusion sessions, “Reveries” has a bit of a rock savoir-faire inherent in the song that would have fit in nicely on Pieces of Eight, and “Monster” could have even come from the Equinox days.

Starting from the Queen sounding opener “The Flight of Our Lives” to the closing refrains of “Stream” This a great record by a once, now, and future great band.

The Tremelo Beer Gut – You Can’t Handle …. The Tremelo Beer Gut

Sort of the Danish version of Los Straitjackets, the capsule bio of the band that declares “If you were to listen to just one Danish instrumental, Spaghetti Western, surf band influenced by Dick Dale, Duane Eddy and Ennio Morricone, who has been intermittently making music since 1998, make it The Tremolo Beer Gut” pretty much tells you all you need to know about these Surf-Noir rockers.

This new release coming 13 years after their last proper long-player is another rousing slab of retro rockers that are tight, surf-inspired originals that stand on the shoulders of Dick and Duane but also maintain a personality all their of their own thanks to the bobbing and weaving of the textures with different nuances exposed song to song. The relaxed swing of the bluesy “Date at the Slow Club” would be among the slower songs in the set with the Spy-Noir of “Codename Tremstar” ramping up the Austin Powers vibe several notches.

With Jon Spencer along with his wife Cristina making an appearance on the Surf-Western influenced “Hey Hello,” The stage is set to light up the Tiki torches, crank up The Mai Tais, and party like it’s 1959.

Amy Helm – What the Flood Leaves Behind

Returning to her dad’s studio built in Levon’s Woodstock home, Amy Helm delivers a set of gospel-tinged beauties that bring the funk with “Breathing,” plays it forward with Dad’s mandolin on “Are We Running Out of Love,” and professes true love on “Terminal B.”

With every song ringing true and honest with clear vocals in the Mary Chapin Carpenter mold along with a set of songs that seem to embrace the past while at the same time setting the dials towards an optimistic future. 

“Sweet Mama” may be one of the best songs that your ears enjoy all year.

Five Cool Ones – Five New Albums Released This Week (June 11, 2021)

As we scramble to put together the best albums of the year (so far) list there are still a ton of really good records to digest. For the Rockers out there Kiss has released a from the soundboard live album from 2001, and we are not sure why, and Black Sabbath have remastered their 1972 album sabotage. 

Billy F. Gibbons has a new video out and, yes there are girls and cars front and center as you would expect from the ZZ Top frontman.

Sir Tom Jones paid a visit to the NPR Tiny Desk for a performance of cuts from his latest record. “Another Cup of Coffee” is worth the price of admission alone.

And, Rich Ragany & The Digressions bring their Elvis Costello meets Tom Petty stylings to the front of the line with their new song that celebrates the challenge of just taking on the day.

On top of all that there is a bevy of new tune-slices to savor this week. Here are five of them we particularly like.

Sleater-Kinney – Path of Wellness

Going a bit back to their roots with Path of Wellness, Sleater-Kinney’s latest release, and the first in quite some time without drummer Janet Weiss is a rocker of a record that takes textures of the best of ’90’s girl-power Rock and Roll. 

There is more than a little Patti Smith dusting in “Down The Line,” “Complex Female Characters” is a powerful snarling anthem, and “Bring Mercy” could have been a protest anthem from the seventies.

For a band that never really breaks up but seems to disappear for years at a time, the beauty in their art is that they seem to come back around at the exact time when they are sorely needed.

Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

One of the more anticipated records of the year, Wolf Alice after teasing us with several singles is finally out with their new record, Blue Weekend.

Much more dialed back here than the back of the arena howl of 2017’s Vision of Life, this set of songs were designed to be played in more intimate settings perhaps even on the set of …Later With Jools Holland. That’s not to say that there is not a lot to like here, there certainly is. “Delicious Things” is a swooping Florence and the Machine-worthy anthem, “Lipstick on the Glass” is exquisite Dream-Pop escapism, and “How Can I Make It Ok” is Ellie Rowsell and the band’s version of a power ballad.

Sandwiching the entire set between the opening slow burn of “The Beach” and the end of the evening whirling dervish beauty of the closer “The Beach II” tells us that trying to figure out what is around the corner for this band might be very much a fool’s errand.

Brad Marino – Looking For Trouble

With more than a little Greg Kihn in the DNA of Brad Marino and his latest record Looking For Trouble, if you are looking for a record that will make you smile and take you back to the carefree no-responsibility days of your youth this is your jam.

There is a tinge of slightly less frenetic Flamin’ Groovies on “Looking For Trouble,” a dusting of Devo by way of The Knack on “Something For Nothing,” and The Ramones as produced by Phil Spector come to mind with a listen of “What Do You Know.”

With more hooks than an episode of “dangerous catch,” there is not a bad song in this batch of Power Pop perfection. This is Rock and Roll at its accessible best. If You love Rockpile, The Romantics, The Greg Kihn Band, or even The Georgia Satellites, you will love this record.

Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real – A Few Stars Apart

Generously prolific during his year in lockdown Lukas Nelson, son of Willie, turns off the news and gets a bit more philosophical on his latest record, A Few Stars Apart.

Where Willie the elder starts and Lukas begins is an ever-present question on this album with “We’ll Be Alright” a perfect touchstone that could have easily been a hit single on Dad’s Red Headed Stranger and is a tune that will likely turn up on our top songs of the year list.

The song “Wildest Dreams” could have been a Tom Petty song, and the perfectly placed closer “Smile” has Lukas smiling and contemplating acceptance and forgiveness while he lays out in the sun. Sounds like a great thing to do.

Aquarian Blood – Bending The Golden Hour

An intoxicating new find here in the halls of Rock is the New Roll, Aquarian Blood is a Memphis husband-and-wife-duo that blends Country, Americana, and Psychedelic Folk into a blender that is uniquely mysterious as well as highly listenable.

“Waited” sounds like it could have been recorded in Joshua Tree State Park with the coyotes howling instead of their home studio in Memphis, “Alabama Daughter” has an eerie low-fi vibe that grabs your ears and drags them close to the speaker, while “Night Train” is a spooky noir sounding tune that would fit in quite nicely as the theme song for a new season of True Detective. 

Not their first album, but clearly their most ambitious. 43 songs were ultimately recorded for these sessions before the “Sophie’s Choice” selection process whittled them down to 17, clearly indicating there may be another record hitting our shores in the relatively near future. And, that is a very good thing.