Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (July 15, 2022)

There is a distinct anticipating in the air as the artists and the record companies are gearing up for the summer season.

Auckland, NZ’s four-piece, The Beths, has released a new video for “Expert In A Dying Field” from the album of the same name to be released in September.

Singer-songwriter Beth Orton has released “Forever Young,” no not that one, in advance of an August release date.

And, The Black Angels are zooming up our radar with the intoxicating “Firefly.”

But, don’t change the channel just yet. Here are 5 choice nuggets for your listening pleasure.

Beabadoobee – Beatopia

Beabadoobee is Indie DIY singer songwriter Bea Kristi. Famous for theTic Toc hit single, “Coffee,” her sophomore full-length is very much a fully formed affair.

Part Pop, part Psychedelic, there is even a distinct ‘90s Indie Rock feel on “10:36.” With “Talk” a summer anthem for those of a certain age.

This record is as perfect a pairing of singer-songwriter fare and Pop sheen as you will find all year.

Arlo McKinley – This Mess We’re In

Emerging out of the other side of a tough year of personal losses in the last couple of years, Arlo McKinley’s second effort is, more than anything else, about change.

“Dancing Days” mourns the death of his mother, and “Back Home” laments the death of his Beth friend to addiction.

The songwriting is crisp, the vocals front and center in the mix, and the messaging circling around addiction and mental health is perfect for the times.

Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters – Heavy Denim

One of those bands that built their chops on touring with a Grateful Dead-worthy road dog mentality, and if you would be so lucky as to stumble into a bar where they happened to be playing.

The songs presented here, gritty and character-driven, have been stripped down from their usual barroom fare to a more laid-back approach with a flavor of Dire Straits carrying the day.

“Doing Wrong For All The Right Reasons” has a real Sturgill Simpson aura about it, while “… Turned and Walked Away” is a strong vocal turn in the Charley Crockett mold.

Elf Power – Artificial Countrysides

Elf Power, out of Athens Ga., is another of the bands along with Apples (In Stereo) and Neutral Milk Hotel associated with the Elephant 6 collective. With hints of early R.E.M. as well as Vic Chestnutt, a former band collaborator, there is a pastoral cohesiveness to the record that makes for a pleasant listen.

The title track “Artificial Countrysides” would have fit in quite nicely on R.E.M.’s Murmer, and “Dark Rays” could have been on any of the self-titled Peter Gabriel albums.

A nice pastoral listen with hints of progressive rock and British folk to make things a bit more relaxing.

Tami Neilson – Kingmaker

Don’t let the Bond-theme swagger of “Kingmaker” the title track on Tami Neilson’s eclectically pleasing latest release sway your opinion. Shirley Bassey Bombast aside, there is a dangerous curve around every corner on this one. “Careless Woman” has a bit of R&B girl-group gravitas while “Baby, You’re A Gun” would be perfect fare for Kill Bill 3 should Tarrantino ever design to make another one.

The great Willie Nelson is even on board and featured on “Beyond the Stars,” while ’60s mojo in the dojo vibes is essenced on “Mama’s Talkin’.” Things even go lower and slower into Laura Nyro’s territory on “I Can’t Forget.”

If you are scoring at home, this record ticks off many of the cool genre boxes including Classic Country, ’60s Chanteuse, R&B, Rockabilly, Western-Noir, ’70s Rock, and more. Highly eclectic, indeed.

Five Cool Ones: Five Cool Albums Released This Week (August 14, 2020)

As we roll into the dog days of the Pandemic there seem to be a lot of cover songs and cover-centric albums out in the atmosphere. Where typically an artist will release covers between albums, or as part of a contractual agreement to release a certain number of albums, these days it is more about musicians not being able to get into the studio, and instead are digging into their treasure chests of favorite artists that influenced them. I for one, think it’s great.

Rock is the new Roll favorite Pitbull lends his “Fireball” spin paying tribute (sort of) to Frankie Valli.

Our favorite female duo First Aid Kit absolutely slay Willie’s “On The Road Again” leaving us scratching our heads wondering why this is the first time this ode to artists and their burning desire to get back on the road has been covered during the pandemic.

And, another Rock is the New Roll favorite, Lizzy Hale jumps in on they Whitney classic “I Will Always Love You,” and does so quite admirably.

Here a five cool records our ears are spinning to this week.

Whitney – Candid

The mellow Indie Pop band Whitney is essentially the duo of Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, formerly of the highly excellent band Smith Westerns. On this, their third proper full-length record, they offer up a set of covers that with the possible exception of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” a collaboration with the band Waxahatchie, are more B-side selections from some of their favorite artists as well as musicians that have influenced them.

The smooth stylings here float dangerously close to Yacht Rock territory, but here, presented as they do on this record, it is definitely not a bad thing. You can be forgiven if you have never heard of the musician Moondog, not many of us have, but here, Whitney spins his song “High on a Rocky Ledge” into a sort of Hall and Oates anthem, their version of The Roches “Hammond Song” is frankly better than the semi-annoying original, and on “Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying” the tempo picks up slightly on the Labi Siffre song.

There’s a lot to enjoy and explore on this one.

Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings

A splendid return for the Scottish band Biffy Clyro. Somewhat of a start and stop affair with frenzied Pop anthems interspersed with introspective balladry, sometimes in the same song, the diversity in textures is one of the things that makes this highly listenable record so special and intriguing. There are plenty of festival-ready anthems to savor here most interestingly “The Champ” and “Tiny Indoor Fireworks.”

Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern

This one is going to be a candidate for the end of the year best-of lists, for sure. From the opening salvo “We Were Alright” where the song “Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” is namechecked, it is clear why this was the last artist that John Prine signed to his Oh Boy record label.

A hard-worn semi-overnight success McKinley was discovered by Oh Boy record major-domo Jody Whelan after seeing him play the High Watt in Nashville where he was subsequently introduced to John Prine. When you combine his Appalachian drawl of a voice, his age-weary experience at age 40 along with his detailed minds-eye songwriting talent, it is clear that the torch is well passed.

Tanya Donnely and the Parkington Sisters- Tanya Donnely and the Parkington Sisters

Here, presented to us is another covers record that eclectically interprets artists and songs that have not received the amount of exposure that they deserve. Tany Donnely, formerly of Throwing Muses, The Breeders, and Belly delightfully weaves her magic around “Ocean Rain,” her too spot-on take on the Pretenders “Kid,” the clear hi-lite “Let Me Roll It” as well as a couple more deep nuggets from the past. “Different Drum” should never again be sung by anyone other than Linda Ronstadt. By official decree, of course.

Levellers – Peace

From across the pond, Brighton, England, The Levellers are one of those bands that seem tailor-made for the major festival circuit. Not to say that they are not a great band, they are, however you could very much see in your minds-ear the fest-fans being whipped into a frenzy dancing wildly to the likes of “Food Roof Family” and the equally ear-catching”Generation Fear.” Don’t sleep on “Born That Way” either. This may be one of the best songs of the year.