Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (February 19, 2020)

As the weather turns cold things are heating up here in the offices of Rock is the New Roll. Robin Thicke is back and nobody cares, Real Rock and Roll is better represented than ever with Whitesnake releasing the third record in their Love, Rock, Blues anthology series.

The mighty Kings of Leon are in fine form getting ready for the release of their new record as demonstrated here on Later…With Jools Holland.

And, the great Moon Taxi is out with a life-affirming new video for their recently released new single “Say.”

Here are five new albums that should be ticking your earlobes this week.

The Hold Steady – Open Door Policy

After returning to action in 2019 and now returning in relatively short order with their latest, Open Door Policy, the cinemascope aural landscapes the band is famous for are front and center from the opening bell with the opening salvo of “The Feelers,” a story-noir song that will drag you into a world of wheelers dealers and faith healers. The streets and alleyways Craig Finn leads us through don’t necessarily interconnect with one another, but rather they stand alone brilliantly as self-portraits and short stories. 

As per usual the spirit of Springsteen is summoned both with Finn’s vocal style as well as the songwriting most notably on “Lanyards” where the opening line “When you’re stuck out in the middle you just figure that there’s something you’re missing” would have been well placed on Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Like any great short story collection, the tomes presented here will allow you to fill in between the lines using your imagination to bring the characters and the scenes to life whether you are hanging out backstage with the horn inflected “Hanover Camera” or Having an “Unpleasant Breakfast” while you are walking down to the waters edge watching seagulls eat cigarettes. 

Joanna Connor – 4801 South Indiana Avenue

With 14 records now under her belt, it is ear-boggling that if you are like us, her latest, 4801 South Indiana Avenue is the first exposure you may be having to an artist that just might be the reigning queen of Chicago Blues sitting on the throne right there next to King Buddy Guy. Co-produced in Nashville by Joe Bonammasa and Josh Smith, The album’s title was the street address of the legendary South-side bar, Theresa’s Lounge, the record is raw and unruly in all the best of ways bringing together Hound Dog Taylor and George Thorogood house-rocking aesthetics into a burn the barn down scorcher of a record. 

“Destination” is a Jimmy Thackery tune that is enhanced mightily by the greasy organ playing of the great Reese Wynans, the back of the bar vocals on the belting “I Feel So Good” are glass shattering, and the slippery slide she lays down on Luther Allison’s “Bad News” is life-affirming.

If South-Side Boogie is your cup of tea then this early candidate for Blues album of the year is definitely your jam.

Hayley and The Crushers – Fun Sized

One part snarly Pop-Punk, another part Surf Rock with a sound that can be best described as poolside glitter trash, this 6 song E.P. could have easily been the set played at Erik Von Zippers’ home bar Big Daddy’s in any of the Bikini Beach movies. “Kiss Me If You Can” is pure Bangles-inspired glory, “Jacaranda” is early Suzi Quatro meets The Ramones, and “Suzi is a Headbanger” is about as close as you are going to come to a ballad on this one. Pure blissful escapism at its finest.

Hearty Har – Radio Astro

Certainly, if listen close, you will catch a bit of John Fogerty DNA here which makes perfect since two of the band members are actual Fogerty’s with brothers Shane and Tyler Fogerty leading the band, but this terrific set of Psychedelic, Classic Rock and vintage synth sounds is a stand-alone work of musical art that is already destined to hold a high ranking position once our best albums of the year are selected.

Full of slinky and hooky songs “Scream and Shout” could be the soundtrack of a new Addams Family movie and features a ’60s vintage spooky organ alongside a less hokey than it sounds bubbling cauldron, “Radio Man ’56” is Tom Petty on acid and is one of the best singles of the year so far, and the closest the boys get to choogling might be on the highly infectious “Calling You Out.”

Every song on this one is next-level cool. The dance-worthy “Get Down” is a particular highlight and “Canyon of the Banshee” is a pleasant curveball of a Western-Noir instrumental.

This one is the new leader in the clubhouse for the album of the year.

John Paul Keith – The Rhythm of the City

Inspired as he was walking the streets of Memphis and heard Al Green’s “Love and Happiness,” a song that was recorded only a few blocks away from where he was standing blasting from a car stereo, John Paul Keith set to work creating a soundscape that would embody the spirit along with the musical textures of beloved city of Memphis. 

Walking that magical sweet-spot between Sun Records Blues, Stax Soul, and smooth R&B every song has Beale street soul embedded very deep in the DNA that pours out with every guitar chord, horn riff, and gospel refrain. “Love Love Love” sounds like it could have been recorded around the corner at “Sun Records,” “The Sun’s Gonna Shine Again” could have been produced by Al Green,” and ‘Ain’t Done Loving You Yet” could have been a back in the day Roy Orbison single. 

If John Paul White’s goal was to capture the many sounds and textures of the City of Memphis, mission firmly accomplished.

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (February 12, 2021)

 

The weather is getting colder and the music is getting hotter. Sure, the present-day recording methods are certainly not old-school, you don’t even have to be in the same room as your bandmates these days, but the Rock and Roll results are no less cool.

L.A. Witch is priming the pumps with “Motorcycle Boy” the new single in advance of proper record to be released later in the year.

The Treatment rocks as well as roll the earth with “Rat Race.”

And, Kings of Leon are back, and ready to roll with the release of “Echoing” they are announcing their return to form in fine fashion.

Here are five captivating new albums that are tickling our ear lobes this week.

The Pretty Reckless – Death By Rock And Roll

It is hard to believe that Taylor Momsen is now 27 years old. Four albums in with Death By Rock and Roll the Pretty Reckless singer has released her magnum opus with a stunner of a record that bears her rock and roll soul and pays tribute to a couple of people close to her that had recently passed away, Chris Cornell in 2017, and her best friend who died in a motorcycle accident.

The opener and title track “Death By Rock and Roll” has Momsen in great vocal form and maybe ultimately a contender for Rock song of the year, “Got So High” slows the vibe down to a delicate beauty, and the Halloween friendly one-two punch of “Broomsticks” and “Witches Burn” brings us back to the days of the Salem witch burnings and might be the strongest vocal in the set. This is a user-friendly album that will resonate long into the year.

Django Django – Glowing In The Dark

The jangle guitars, shimmering synths, and hints of Surf Rock all serve to give notice that even after four records of experimentation with New Wave, Psych, and Krautrock the U.K. Quartet is not ready to sit on their collective laurels as displayed with their new release, Glowing In The Dark. 

There is a surprise around every corner with this record. Once you settle in with the shimmering propulsion of the opener “Spirals” the bouncy Pop-fastic bass-driven “Free From Gravity” hits you between the ears, and the title track “Glowing in the Dark” will have you hitting the dance floor.

Beth Lee – Waiting On You Tonight

After stepping away from her band and the recordings she made as Beth Lee & The Breakups, Austin-based artist  Beth Lee shows that she is no one-trick Americana pony. Influenced by Nicole Atkins and Stax Soul with a healthy dose of Hope Sandoval, front-woman for Mazzy Star, her latest record produced by Chuck Prophet drummer Vincente Rodriguez jumps into ’60’s girl group on “Birthday Girl” Joan Jett rocker with “Pens and Needles” and Go-Go Girl chanteuse on the infectious “It Was Enough.” Call this an Americana record if you will. But do so at your own peril. This one is a refreshing new find that will be renting some space between your ears for quite some time.

The Barlow – Horseshoe Lounge

Not to be confused with the now-defunct Austin dive bar The Horseshoe Lounge, the joint made famous by Slaid Cleaves in his song of the same name, here, The Barlow delivers their own unique Colorado Country story-book small town anthems with a heartfelt honesty earned courtesy of thousands of road-weary miles on the road. Combining Americana, Country, and Rock with some sweet pedal steel along to way to keep things old-school, Horseshoe Lounge will remind your ears of many of the artists you hold dear including Mike & The Moonpies, The Steel Woods, and Sunny Sweeny.

The Moons – Pocket Melodies

The Paul Weller personally endorsed band, The Moons, singer Andy Croft was part of Weller’s backing band, don’t stray too far from the Modfather vibe on this, their first album after a six-year hiatus.

The touchtones are as varied as you would expect given the pedigree with influences the likes of ’60’s Garage Rock, British Invasion, Brit-Pop, along with the Weller go-to genre, Power Pop.

Every song on this one is next-level cool. “Sleep” has a Sgt. Pepper era Beatles meets The Kinks aura about it and could have been produced by George Martin himself, “Maybe I’m The Perfect Man (For You)” could have been on an early Style Council record, and the orchestral George Harrison-Esque ballad “Here I Am” might be the best song of the bunch. “Far Away” even has a bit of Doug Sahm in its DNA.

Of course, the Weller co-write here, “Tunnel of Time,” is as you would expect, brilliant. Released on their own Colorama label, this one is the leader in the clubhouse for album of the year.

 

 

 

Album of the Day: American Recordings V: A Hundred Highways (For Ryan Caron)

Johnny Cash – American Recordings V: A Hundred Highways

The year was 1994, and it was not the best of times for Johnny Cash.  His health, starting to fail from a series of illnesses and decades of hard living, was seemingly bringing “The Man in Black” much closer to the end than he was ready to admit.  His latest major record label, Mercury Records, had dropped him after one last commitment record, The Mystery of Life, that was released in 1990 and included updated versions of “Hey Porter,” “Angel and the “Badman,” and “The Greatest Cowboy” that were good simply because they are very good songs, but showed none of the outlaw grit and soul that had come to personify what just may be the greatest songwriter in American History.  More than anything else, the song  “I’ll go somewhere and Sing My Songs” was clearly a metaphorical “spit in the eye” a kiss-off to the current contentious relationship he was having with the record label in particular and the music business in general. It was clear that Johnny was at some sort of foreboding crossroads in his career.

Given his particular set of circumstances along with his inability to connect with his legion of fans with new material, Johnny Cash did what he always did when times were tough. He left to reconnect with his comfort zone. He hit the road. It was on the road, with his wife June that he found spiritual peace and a safe harbor where he could be among friends that have been with him from the beginning.

It was at one of these shows, in 199 that I met Johnny Cash.  The show was crisp, professional, and everything you would expect from a showman that had been honing his craft for almost forty years. Time was turned back several decades during this performance with June providing an always passionate rendition of “Jackson,” and every standard whether it was “Ring of Fire” or “Walk the line” was delivered with an attitude that this was the first time the audience had ever heard the song, and there was no place on earth he would rather be than right here, right now, performing for you.

This fan-friendly aura was taken to the extreme when he told the audience that for anyone that was interested; he would be in the lobby after the show signing autographs.  It is there, after having to wait in an almost embarrassingly short line for a man of his legendary stature that I met Johnny Cash. The man in black himself was standing right in front of me. With cell phones and the ability to take spontaneous photos of special moments still almost two decades away, I am left with only my memory to capture the moment that this country giant, standing what seemed to be much taller than his 6’2” frame would indicate, dressed all in black of course, with a turquoise bolo tie and pearl cuff links, where he personalized for me three 8 X 10 pictures.  He then took my hand in a bone-crunching grip, looked me dead on in the eye, and said “Thanks for coming to my show Podnah, did you have a good time?”  Sometimes questions require no answer.

The Year was 2000 and it was not the best of times for Ryan Caron.  When we met him, the twelve-year-old was sitting in a wheelchair by himself at the Ronald McDonald House in Houston having just had a major part of his right leg removed as part of what would be an on-going series of treatments and operations to stay one step ahead of the cancers that were threatening to take over his body and his life. The color of his skin was grayish brown, almost the color of mud dried up in the Texas sun, and his face seemed bloated, a victim of the chemo treatments he was right in the middle of receiving.

Sitting down and talking with this ailing young man, I quickly realized that this was a unique individual that I was very lucky to be meeting.  After a few minutes of conversation, I learned that he was from Austin and had recently been making trips to Houston for testing, diagnosis, and treatments at M.D. Anderson, one of the best cancer treatment facilities in the world. His attitude was very upbeat, and he was starting to mull over in his mind whether he would get fitted with an artificial limb or go old school with a wheelchair and crutches. His biggest regret over his circumstances seemed to be the loss of his beloved dreadlocks. When it was time for my wife and me to go I shook his hand, wished him luck, did not share any contact information that would facilitate any further interaction between the two of us, and like Elvis, left the building.

In 1994 Johnny Cash delivered American Recordings the first album to be released by Rick Rubin’s American Recordings record label. The formula, largely invented by Rick Rubin himself, was to take an artist known for having a tremendous vault of material that combined with roots songwriting themes, partnered with a soulful song delivery style that could stand on its own, and strip the sound down to the bare essence of the artist.  And that is just what happened with the Grammy-winning album that reinvigorated the life and career of Johnny Cash.  Recorded mostly in Johnny Cash’s Living room, this initial volume included classic songs such as “Delia’s Gone”, “Drive On”, and “Tennessee Stud”,  turning the hipness up several notches to 11 with “Down There By the Train”, a song that was written for Johnny Cash by Tom Waits, “Beast in Me”  the signature Nick Lowe song, and the Leonard Cohen classic “ Bird on a Wire”, all were delivered with simple, minimalistic production values, a man, his voice, fading imperfections and all, and his guitar, the stuff goosebumps are made of.

The successful formula was altered slightly with each subsequent volume released. The second volume Unchained was a record of mostly covers with support provided by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  American III: Solitary Man was a response to various illnesses that were starting to cut short his touring schedule, and American IV: The Man Comes Around, more covers but this time with an accompanying video of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” that included a Johnny Cash performance that was so devastatingly ripped open his heart, pure and honest, that it not only earned the series another Grammy award, this time for best video but also served as a wake-up call to his legions of fans that this may indeed be his last album. It wasn’t.

The next album in the series American V: A Hundred Highways was to be his last proper album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave was a series of outtakes from these sessions, with song selections that had Johnny cash going down the trail towards the afterlife with themes of redemption, spirituality, roads traveled, and a life fulfilled.  Once again he selects traditional songs, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” current songwriters, Bruce Springsteen’s “Further Up (On Down the Road),” and Cash Original’s including “I Came to Believe” thematically showing that life, death, and mortality were front and center on his mind, and if this was too be his last album, he had some things to get off his chest.

In 2008 life, death, and mortality were also very much on the mind of Ryan Caron.  After our initial meeting in 2000 and a series of random, yet in what I am convinced were pre-ordained events, Ryan and I had become friends.  An unfortunate by-product of the course of treatment for Ryan was the need for him and his family to make the 180 mile trip from their home in Austin to the M.D. Anderson medical center on a somewhat regular basis.  Over the course of the next 8 years, Ryan and some combination of his mother Rachel and/or his father Howard would stay at our house for the length of time they were required to be in Houston as Ryan was receiving treatments and attending appointments.

As so often happens with friends and families that spend a lot of time together certain rituals tend to develop.  We had a couple of them.  The first night everyone would go to dinner and enjoy a nice meal.  After returning home Ryan and I would then go to Best Buy.  I would buy him a CD and we would go home and listen to it together. An excellent musician, Ryan played guitar and had a beautiful singing voice.  Music was always a very big part of his life. I would never tell him, but his music selections were never quite my musical style.  His CD picks were an extremely eclectic mix of high profile Rap groups of the day, Christian music, or harder rock groups like Shinedown, Linkin Park, or Nickleback. Being a bass player he did go with a Bootsy Collins CD during one visit which was about as close as our CD selection journeys would come to a meeting on common grounds. This pattern continued pretty much the same each visit until what turned out to be our last trip.

Over the prior 8 years, the young man’s life had been a roller coaster ride of tests, high hopes, periods of time where he thought he might be out of the woods, a lot of needles, a lot of heart, and an abundance of perseverance. Just like Johnny Cash.

This particular visit that would consist of testing, diagnosis, and consultation would and turn out to be a pivotal one as his condition was worsening and his spirit which had always been higher than anyone in the room was beginning to falter. If I ever had any doubts about how he was feeling internally about his future they were all washed away on our musical journey with Ryan’s final selection American V: A Hundred Highways.

Ryan, to my knowledge, was not a country music fan, we had never talked about Johnny Cash or any other country star for that matter, except of course for Willie Nelson, and this was about as far from his prior musical selections as you can get. But then we listened to the album together and it all made sense, really hit you between the eyes with a 2 X 4 kind of sense.

I really think that after chemotherapy, 20 radiation treatments, losing his right leg at the hip joint, his right lung, and most of his left jaw, that Ryan had become tired.  He was sick and tired of being sick and tired, just like Johnny Cash.

It did not take me long to realize that this album came as close to expressing in 12 dramatic stories the state of mind that Ryan must have been experiencing at the time. From the opening track “Help Me” where Johnny Cash pleads to The Lord to help him walk another mile, to “A Legend in my Time” that speaks to picking yourself up and dusting yourself off when you come up against a set-back, and “I’m Free From The Chain Gang Now,” this album seemed to be pretty much the soundtrack for Ryan’s current state of emotional affairs.

Ironically enough, after 8 years of intimate knowledge of his medical condition and even spending time visiting with him in hospital rooms at M.D. Anderson during a time period when we were both receiving treatments, it wasn’t until listening to this album together that any thought of him not getting better even entered my mind, until I heard the opening lyrics of “Like the 309” that is.

It should be a while before I see doctor death/so it would sure be nice if I could get my breath/well I’m not the crying nor the whining kind/till I heard the whistle of the 309.

And then the line in “Further on Up the Road”

Got on my dead man’s suit and my smiling skull ring/my lucky graveyard boots and a song to sing/I got a song to sing that keeps me out of the cold/and I’ll meet you further on up the road.

I looked at him, he looked at me, and it was then I knew.

But there was still more work to do. In the span of fewer than six months, Ryan graduated from high school receiving a diploma in a ceremony where he was the only student that walked since the entire proceedings had been recreated exclusively for him as he was too sick to attend the actual ceremony.  He got married to his high school sweetheart and could be found wearing his fedora and playing his guitar in coffee houses throughout the Austin area. With studio time donated by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, he and a couple of friends recorded a stunning version of his favorite song, “Pride and Joy”, a song that could be a soundtrack to his life.

In short, he lived the last few months of his life much the same as the eight years following his diagnosis where he was a national spokesperson for the Sunshine Kids, was very active in his church and school activities, appeared in a National Nike commercial with Lance Armstrong, and was featured on several local news programs as a mentor and inspiration for fellow cancer victims.

On February 5th, 2012 it will have been eight years since Ryan Caron passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and friends.  A few hours before he died he called me to say thank you and to say goodbye.

Goodbye Ryan, We miss you.

–Walt Falconer

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (February 5, 2021)

The year is bobbing and weaving along quite nicely and is shaping up to be a pretty fine one on the music front. While the number of new releases might not be up to the cornucopia of riches we have seen a couple of years back, the diversity and the quality week after week is definitely first-rate and prime cut material.

Rock is the new roll Retro Rockers Cats In Space are out with a live video from their latest release, Atlantis.

Chuck Mead delivers a spirited version of “Daddy Worked The Pole.”

And, we are starting to see the delightful David Gray bubbling to the surface with some new music with “Heart and Soul.”

Here are five records that are particularly enticing our ear-buds and dazzling our senses this week.

DeWolff – Wolffpack

It’s official folks. With the release of Wolffpack, the terrific new record from Dutch Psych-Rocker trio DeWolff, the band has moved with a bullet to the number one spot on our list of great bands that are saving Rock and Roll stepping ahead of The Struts. At least for the moment. This new record doesn’t just stand on its laurels and imitate the great rockers of the past so much as they build on a template of infectious melodies, delicious organ riffs, and swirling guitars. The opener “Yes You Do” is an organ drenched propulsive stunner worthy of Deep Purple, “Do Me” is as close to a ballad as you are going to find here, and “Lady J” travels a bit into Blues territory.

With full fan participation, the band released three songs every two weeks for ten weeks through their Wolffpack subscription service allowing subscribers to get an early listen as well as to participate in selecting the tracking order of the album. If you are looking for funky swamp grooves, dizzying organ drenched jams, and top-down drive worthy anthems then this new DeWolff record is most definitely your jam and the leader in the clubhouse for the best Rock album of 2021.

Bones Owens – When I Think About Love

The self-titled debut album from Bones Owens is not set to be released for another three weeks yet, however, this early e.p. release with six highly addictive tunes should be more than enough to wet our collective whistles and give us a glimpse of what we can look forward to from this exciting young artist.

Drawing on Hill Country Blues, Swampy Roots Rock as well as Americana influences in the Creedence Clearwater mold this Nashville transplant is ready to let his own light shine after performing with the likes of Yelawolf, Mikkey Ekko, and Whiskey Myers. His current single “White Lines” and the almost Brit Rock feel of “Keep It Close” are just two examples of this tip of the iceberg moment from an artist that should be around a very long time.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In

It is hard to believe that It has been four years since the Diva of Soul Sharon Jones passed away. Thankfully, to keep her memory alive, Daptone records has mined the vaults and repackaged several of their flagship artists’ best cover songs delivering a set of 13 tasty morsels mostly performed for tribute albums or film soundtracks. Some, like the faithfully rendered Stevie Wonder classic “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” play it pretty close to the vest not varying the blueprint, while other songs, most notably “This Land Is Your Land,” that has a bit more passion and defiance in the delivery, play the song forward.

Her impressive band The Dap-Kings shine as per normal setting into the groove on “Rescue Me” and funking it up on the Prince deeper cut from Purple Rain “Take Me With You.” The entire record is first-rate, however, it is on the more obscure, rarely covered tunes that Jones really hits the mark. Bob Marley’s “It Hurts To Be Alone” is delivered with knee dropping passion and the out of left field version of the Musique disco anthem “In The Bush” is staggeringly great.

Here’s hoping the Dap Tone mine has more gems like this one to be unearthed as a reminder of a great talent that has left us way too soon.

The Staves – Good Woman

The sister trio’s first self-penned record in six years, the group has drawn from heavy real-life experiences including the death of their mother, a couple of dissolved relationships, and the birth of eldest Emily’s child to use as inspiration for what it means to be a good woman.

The vibe goes from the mellow gold opening title track to the Carole King inspired “Waiting on Me To Change” in the blink of an ear. The textures and the drifting between individual, then two-part, and plenty of three-part harmonies are what makes this record really shine.  There are enough subtle differences in the sibling’s voices to ensure that a listening sameness never kicks in, and when they all come together in a glorious whole all is right with the world.

Aaron Lee Tasjan – Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!

Blending Americana and Blues along with good-old ’70s era singer-songwriter flair, Aaron Lee Tasjan never fails to deliver intoxicating, exquisitely produced music of the highest order. With clear production nods to The Travelling Wilburys on “Up All Night,” cool era Jeff Lynne E.L.O. on “Computer of Love” and Roy Orbison by way of Brian Wilson on “Dada Bois,” the retro textures of the record never seems to overwhelm the proceedings and only serve to complement the modern production and knob-twirling that is ear-pleasing at every turn.

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (January 29, 2021)

There is swirling energy surrounding the music we are being exposed to this week. With sparse pandemic inspired lo-fi efforts co-mingling with euphoric “let the sunshine in” party anthems, the musicians that we love are delivering their music to our ears in the most creative of ways.

New Zealand’s own and appropriately named Kiwi Jr. is out with a new video in support of their highly approachable new record Cooler Returns.

Rock is the new Roll favorite Imelda May is out with a seductive single with “Just One Kiss” featuring Noel Gallagher and Ronnie Wood.

And, completely out of left field, we don’t remember asking for it, and not really sure if we like it, a new version of the iconic “American Pie” has been dropped on our ear-step. This time out the vocal Country group Home Free teams up with Don McClean to take us to the levy. This cover does stand ears and shoulders above what we got from Madonna, but the jury is still out on this one. At least for us, anyway.

Here are five new records to wrap your ears around this week.

Weezer – OK Human

There is a certain supremely pleasing Joie-de-vie that Weezer brings to everything that they do, and despite the volume of material they release there is almost never a dud in the yearly package of fireworks they deliver. Largely held as a secret until just last week, OK Human is a soaring record that is a welcome and sharp contrast to the sparse lo-fi Bedroom Pop that has been, mostly by necessity, the norm for most post-pandemic releases.

Written mostly on the keyboard instead of the guitar, the large orchestra seems to take the place of the standard four-piece delivery of the songs quite effectively mostly due to the subtle production and the delicate placement of the strings on these tunes that never seem to stray from the core Weezer vibe we all know and love.

Baio – Dead Hand Control

Three records in, Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio certainly seems to have hit his stride with his latest Synth-Pop effort, Dead Hand Control. With the tracks seemingly flowing seamlessly into one another, the groove takes on the atmosphere of a dance floor that could be could set in the ’80s in places and the present-day in others.

Mixed in with the epic 7 minutes or greater shoe-gaze worthy tracks the likes of “Caisse Noire,” and the closer “O.M.W.” that features fellow vampire Ezra Koenig, are shorter more concise contemplations referencing the end of times, a theme that seems to be prevalent throughout the record. This one will wash over you and fully envelop all of your senses.

Steven Wilson – The Future Bites

Much to the dismay of his hard-core Progressive Rock fan-base, and to the immense pleasure of the rest of us, with his new record, The Future Bites, Steven Wilson, the reigning king of Progressive Rock, is exploring his inner Pop and Electronica sides. “12 Things I forgot” is an epic pop song, and things can’t be any less prog than an appearance from Elton John on the highly addictive “Personal Shopper,” a song that might have fit in quite nicely on an early Moody Blues record. If it takes synthesizing a long ambient drone down to bite-size nugget size morsels in order for us to savor the elegance and truly experience the genius of Steven Wilson, then color us in.

Goat Girl – On All Fours

Signed to their label, Rough Trade, when they were teenagers, the members of Goat Girl are now firmly developed and cynical along with the rest of us. Most of the lyrical content embodied in each of the songs on their new record touches on angst, social injustice, or both. Returning after a three-year absence while they honed their craft following their debut record, this time out they tackle gentrification, homelessness, anxiety, and depression on a bed of Synth-Pop energy into a batch of songs that demand a listen.

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul – Macca To Mecca!

Sure the original cavern club is no longer there having been torn down, paved over, and made into a parking lot, but here we get the next best thing with Little Steven and his band delivering a scorching set of vintage Rock and Roll songs live from the new Cavern Cavern, a club that has been faithfully restored into a pretty much exact replica of the original iconic venue that made The Beatles famous.

Cheating just a bit here, the opener “I Saw Here Standing There” was actually recorded at The Roundhouse in London, not the revamped Cavern Club, but all can be forgiven since Sir Paul himself makes an appearance on the song. The remainder of the record bristles with energy as Little Steven and his band use every inch of the cramped stage to deliver a lovingly vibrant set of songs that include “Some Other Guy,” “Soldier of Love,” “All You Need is Love” and “Slow Down,” all songs the Beatles would have likely played at the club back in the day.

 

 

 

 

Album of the Day: Foxy Shazam – Burn

When Foxy Shazam came out with The Church of Rock and Roll in 2012 it was almost as if our Rock and Roll Dreams had been answered. Bringing over-the-topness back to Rock and Roll and pushing the envelope to the extreme with the bombast of “Holy Touch” and the otherworldly wail of the title track, throwing down Glam, Pomp, and a whole lot of audacity, it looked for one flicker of a moment that the devil spawn of Freddie Mercury had finally been born, and the race with the devil was headed to the Sunset Strip circa 1987. Until that is, Eric Nally and the band crashed and burned in ways that would have made The New York Dolls blush.

That’s why their latest record Burn is such a treat to the ears. The high camp is still front and center, albeit turned down to levels normal humans can endure, and from the lead-off title track it is clear that this rebooted version of the band that channels Mick Jagger, James Brown, and Justin Hawkins from The Darkness is pressing forward with fairly straightforward Pop anthems with a swashbuckling style that is more Three Musketeers than Pirates of the Caribbean. And that is a very good thing.

The Song “Dreamer” is early Queen by way of Supertramp, “In My Mind” has a bit of Bruno Mars Mojo to it, “Doomed” somehow rhymes china and vagina without and it actually works, and the auto-tuned close “Into The Wild” does take a wide left turn but ends up to be trippy instead of entirely offense to the years.

In short, from what these band of renegades delivered with this album, they might be one record away from creating their opus.

Five Cool Ones: Five New Albums Released This Week (January 22, 2021)

Things are rocking as well as rolling right along entering the new year. We have a lot of really hip releases as several artists are stepping their toes into the waters fully understanding that we will likely have problems remembering these tasty morsels when it comes to putting together our best of the year lists.

David Gray is representing full-on with a sublime tune from his quarantine bunker.

Our boy, Allen Stone is bringing the voodoo down for Jam in the Van.

And, Austin’s own, Black Pumas represented with pride performing at the Biden inaufuration.

On top of all that, here are five really good records released this week.

James Yorkston – The Wide, Wide River

Here. the Scottish singer-songwriter joins forces with The Second Hand Orchestra on a set of songs that run the gamut from Baroque-Pop to Pastoral Folk on to the Indie-Folk brilliance of “There Is No Upside.”

Rhye – Home

If you are hip to the Rhye scene you understand. While this record does not deviate too much from the norm it is nonetheless a record that demands some of your ear-time. Sensual sonically pleasant musings that are perfect for a Sunday afternoon or a night of rekindling that fire that burns within you.

The Dead Daisies – Holy Ground

Here in the halls of Rock is the New Roll we have been waiting for this one for a really long time. Glen Hughes, the voice of Rock and Roll, fronting the Dead Daisies. If you like good old fashioned Rock and Roll brought to you by a frontman that has scorched the earth with Deep Purple, then this is your jam.

Cub Scout Bowling Pins – Heaven Beats Iowa

Shhhhhhh, don’t tell anybody but Cub Scout Bowling Pins is actually a side-piece band of Guided By Voices. Certainly in the Indie Rock Mold, and certainly in the wild and wonky Robert Pollard Vein, this is about as good as it gets. The title track should be in consideration for top ten of the year honors.

John Diva & The Rockets of Love

This band could very well have been stapled up to a telephone pole in the Sunset Strip back in the glory days without blinking a mascara wearing eye. These guys make no bones about their influences that fall squarely in the Motley Crue, Poison, RATT mold. They are even more old school than Guns ‘N’ Roses for that matter. But love ’em, or loathe em’ and we stand firmly in the love them camp, if you like your rock on the roll side, John Diva and his band of hooligans are your jam.