2017 August

Release Radar

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August has been redeemed this week by more noteworthy releases than you can shake a stick at!  Iron & Wine (Sam Beam) gives us his first new material in 4 years as Iron & Wine with “Beast Epic”, the debut album “Invitation” from supergroup Filthy Friends (Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), plus friends), Bay Area garage/psych rockers Thee Oh Sees (now just Oh Sees)give us maybe their 16th? Album with “Orc” and finally Australian rockers King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard drop their 3rd album of 2017 (goal is a total of 5!) with “Sketches of Brunswick East”. 

Notable and esteemed rockers Queens of the Stone Age unleash their 7th album with “Villains”, Philly rock traditionalists The War on Drugs drop album number 4 “A Deeper Understanding”, Long Island band Brand New who have evolved from punk/emo to more indie rock release their long-awaited 5th album “Science Fiction”, underrated EMA gives us her 3rd proper album which is a commentary on the current social plight in the Midwest “Exile in the Outer Ring”

Something new for just about anyone who enjoys music this week.

Release Radar – Rainer Maria’s “S/T”

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The most exciting release this week is a reunion album from a band I had never listened to – Rainer Maria’s “S/T”.  I saw a recommendation somewhere in the blogosphere which is why I listened to a few singles which immediately impressed me.  The new album is not a disappointment and I’m enjoying it quite a lot.  I don’t know if it sounds like their earlier work, but I have a feeling I wouldn’t like their older albums as much as their new one. 
Rainer Maria is an indie rock/emo (I don’t consider this new album emo by any means) originally from Madison, WI but now based in NY.  First forming in 1995, the band had an EP out in ’96 which led to an album release in ’97.  They released their second album in ’99 and then another EP in ’01.  They continued to build a worldwide fan base and released their most accomplished album yet in ’03 “Long Knives Drawn”. 
They would go on to release two more albums the next two years before breaking up at the end of their ’06 tour.  Then 8 years later they reunited for a New Year’s Eve concert at the Bowery Ballroom in NY.  They played some more shows the following year.  Then this summer, they released several singles from their new album and released “S/T” today. 
After Rainer Maria broke up at their peak, singer/bassist Caithlin De Marrais moved out to the country and tried a solo career, drummer William Kuehn spent time living and studying music in the Middle East and guitarist/singer Kaia Fischer studied Buddhism in Tibet and came out as a trans person. 
The three friends found themselves all back in NY again, reflected on their significant life changes and decided to write some new music.  And I’m happy they made that decision.  “S/T” is a confident, heavy and spacious slab of indie rock that is very welcome right now.  I’ve featured three songs below to check out from their new album.
Suicides and Lazy Eyes – Driven by a bombastic beat and a fuzz heavy bass line, this song makes an immediate impact.  It’s also a good example of how the band can simultaneously mix heavy and spacious into their sound.
Lower Worlds – The band doesn’t pause between tracks on the album, kind of giving the vibe of a live show with one track moving right into the next.  The transition between “Suicides…” and this song is seamless.  But once you hear the distinctive bassline on this track you realize the song has changed.  I love the riff on this track.
Possession – Starts off a little softer, but the rhythm section kicks in hard.  I like how each of the three instruments is prominently featured in the mix and the guitar effects work really well to create a cohesive sound.  Good stuff.

Release Radar – Ron Gallo Young Lady You’re Scaring Me

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Notable new releases this week continue to remain on the lean side – Downtown Boys are getting a lot of positive press on their third album “Cost of Living” with their upbeat punk sound and multi-racial, gender-integrated bilingual line-up (with two sax players) hailing from Rhode Island. Frankie Rose has been a part of Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls and after some unforeseen delays she has released her third solo effort “Cage Tropical”.  Cormorant are a blackish metal band with progressive elements based in the Bay Area and they are releasing their 5th album today “Diaspora”.  Finally, Kesha has released “Rainbow” and it is worth checking out(who knew?).
Bob Lefsetz also decided to do a write-up on Greta Van Fleet this week after I did – http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/2017/08/10/greta-van-fleet/
This week I’m covering Ron Gallo, who’s Philly-bred but now residing in Nashville guitarist/vocalist whose band is also called Ron Gallo (Joe Bisirri on bass and Dylan Sevey).  Gallo has crafted a garage punk sound with a hint of Nashville in it.  They released their first album “Heavy Meta” back in February.  Gallo did a previous solo album, but it had a much different sound than the current release. 
Prior to his solo career, Gallo was in a band called Toy Soldiers which was more blues and country sounding.  He has abandoned that sound with his new garage punk and gritty, retro sound.  The band sounds pretty tight, and their music also features some great sharp-witted lyrics.  With song titles like “Why Do You Have Kids”, “All the Punks Are Domesticated”, “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me” you can imagine the swagger and social commentary that fuels his music. 
I like Gallo because his music stands out right now, both in sound and attitude.  The first time I heard “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me” on the radio I immediately had to find out who the artist was because it was such a unique sound (and awesome song).  Here’s a few tracks below from “Heavy Meta” which is actually worth listening to all the way through – but these songs are a good starting point.
Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me – The lead cut on the album and my favorite, I enjoy the energy from the band and Gallo’s interesting lyrics.  There’s an interesting guitar tone and a prominent bass line as well.  I don’t know if anyone remembers the Hoodoo Gurus, but Gallo’s voice sometimes reminds me of that band (who were way underappreciated).  Nice little solo at the end of the song as well.
Put the Kids to Bed – A great one-two punch to start the album, this track has a great little bassline that is prominently featured.
All the Punks are Domesticated – The second half of the album is a little slower, and this is the final cut on the album.  Even Gallo’s slower songs are interesting, due to his lyrical content and the interesting recording style on the album.  For some reason, this reminds me, just a little bit, of the Replacements.

Friday’s Release Radar – Greta Van Fleet

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Notable new releases this week are lean but here’s four to investigate – Girl Ray, comprised of three 19 year old girls who started playing together in high school 3 years ago (same North London high school where the Kinks formed), have released their debut LP “Earl Grey” which has an indie pop flair with a warm vintage sound and they combine many influences to create their own sound.  Randy Newman has released his first album in 9 years “Dark Matter” and he’s always worth checking out.  Dead Cross, comprised of Mike Patton (Faith No More), Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and two other guys have released their thrash-tinged S/T debut.  Finally Rope Sect, which is a German band with a subdued gothic punk sound have dropped “Personae Ingratae” and they have an interesting sound worth checking out.
I’m not going to pass on a rock band that can capture some of the vintage Led Zeppelin sound and energy and also put their own mark on their sound (I’ll take Led Zep over the Beatles any day).  Wolfmother and Rival Sons are two bands that immediately come to mind where the soul of Zeppelin is strong.  Now we also have Greta Van Fleet coming on the scene who also bring in a whole lot of Led Zep vibe.
Coming out of Frankenmuth, MI, these young whippersnappers have been playing together for over 4 years.  3 of the 4 members are brothers (twins Josh Kiska on vocals and Jake Kiska on guitar, younger brother Sam Kiska on bass and Daniel Wagner is behind the kit).  3 years ago they recorded a live EP, and Chevy latched onto “Standing On” for an Equinox ad.  The quartet then got signed to Lava Records.
This label helped them get a song “Highway Tune” on the Showtime series “Shameless” and this song also acts as the anchor for their debut EP “Black Smoke Rising”.  It’s only 4 tracks, but a ton of fun to listen to as Josh channels a young Robert Plant on vocals (luckily Plant is alive or there would be reincarnation talk).  Yes, there’s a lot of Led Zep in their 4 original songs, but they perform with so much enthusiasm and energy it keeps things fresh.  I’m sure these guys likely kill it live, so check this band out if they’re playing in your city at a local club.  It may be your chance in the future to say you saw these guys in a small club before they were playing stadiums.  I’m eager to see what Greta Van Fleet can do when they are ready to release their debut full-length album.  Check out the songs below and don’t be surprised if they put a smile on your face!  Special thanks to Braden for pointing this band out to me!
Highway Tune – Yes, similar guitar tone to Page, and then the Plant wail kicks in.  Man, these guys could be a killer Led Zeppelin cover band.  This song is short and sweet.
Safari Song – Another great Plant wail to kick off the song.  The 3 musicians have a good chemistry and seem pretty locked in on this song (the drummer is channeling Bonham here).
– live version – these guys can really play/sing (check out the drum solo 4 minutes in)
Black Smoke Rising – What do you know, the beginning of this song doesn’t sound just like Led Zep.  And Josh kicks up his register a bit so he sounds just a little bit unlike Plant.  This song is a little bit more slowed down than the first two.  If Great Van Fleet can get their sound a few more degrees away from Zeppelin, it will benefit them going forward.

Friday Release Radar

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Its Friday!! Time again to mix up the ole playlists.
Do yourself a favor and go check-out “Baby Driver” if you have the time to see a movie.
It’s very entertaining but also one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of incorporating/immersing the soundtrack into the movie.  Many scenes have been set-up and choreographed to play out exactly in time with the music – even machine gun fire going off right on the beat of the music.  The main character is always listening to music on his ear buds (there’s a story behind that), so the music isn’t being thrown randomly into the movie.  Great soundtrack to buy as well, but with 30 songs featured it’s a double cd/album.
 Image result for haim band
Some good new releases to check out include the sophomore album from the excellent song-crafting sister trio Haim with “Something To Tell You”, Broken Social Scene are back together and “Hug of Thunder” is very good if you’ve enjoyed any of their previous releases, David Bowie has a live album from ’74 in LA “Cracked Actor” that is very good, DJ Shadow released a new EP “The Mountain Has Fallen” that features Nas and Danny Brown on two different tracks, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard released their second album this year “Murder of the Universe” which is another solid effort, and a deluxe edition of the album “Introducing” from Cuban bandleader Ruben Gonzalez is a good listen if you like Cuban music and enjoyed “The Buena Vista Social Club”.  Rapper Vince Staples also has a new album “Big Fish Theory” but I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet.
Image result for bison band
On the metal front there are excellent new releases starting with Polish death metal band Decapitated who don’t disappoint with “Anticult”, sludge metal band Bison have dropped the “B.C.” from their name, added some new elements to their sound and released a solid new album.
“You Are Not the Ocean You Are the Patient”, southern blackened death metal band Goatwhore unleashed “Vengeful Ascension”, new band Ex Eye have created a black/post/doom/jazz metal sound that actually works on their S/T debut, and Richmond, VA thrash rockers Municipal Waste have completed another fun release with “Slime and Punishment”.
 Image result for Shabazz Palaces
Finally, the new albums out today that I’m interested in hearing include Waxahatchee’s 4th album “Out in the Storm” which is garnering extremely positive reviews, the first LP from Philly band Sheer Mag “Need to Feel Your Love” which highlights their garage/punk/AOR sound and finally the first hip-hop act signed to the Sub Pop label, Shabazz Palaces, released two albums today featuring their left-field sound with “Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines” seemingly the stronger of the two.
New Music Friday is your favorite day isn’t it..