On Wayfinder, the follow-up to the acclaimed 2019 album Free Company, Oakland-based songwriter Taylor Vick, under her songwriting moniker Boy Scouts, chases down life’s queries to the very edge of the horizon. This is an album that’s not afraid to track down what it all means -- how life unspools around the monoliths of love and death, the heavy knots of even quotidian conflict, the task of carrying your own suffering with you day after day, the challenge of meeting other people out here in the tangled expanse of living. In a warm, expansive style that recalls the raw punctures of Lucinda Williams and Alex G, Vick once again shows herself to be a fearless seeker shedding light on the unanswerable.
Vick’s true superpower is her voice. Strands of slide guitar, organ, and strings ring under her affable, ex- pressive voice, bolstering layers and layers of harmony. There is something so honest about her songs, they feel like a late-night therapy session with your best friend.
JW Francis burst onto the scene with his critically acclaimed debut ‘We Share a Similar Joy’, with features from DIY and Line of Best Fit to being named Album of The Day on BBC 6 Music. His warm, affable melodies and comforting lyrics earned him fans on both sides of the Atlantic, and now he returns with his sophomore album WANDERKID, a concept album about a wandering anti-hero. WANDERKID hones in on JW’s dreamy soundscapes and explores themes of escapism, whilst still maintaining that sense of comfort and intimacy so beautifully demonstrated in his debut. To celebrate the release, JW is going on a 2,000 mile walking journey across the Eastern United States along the Appalachian Trail. With WANDERKID, JW Francis is further cementing his place as a future stalwart in the alternative New York scene.
To say In Heaven is about conquering grief would be oversimplifying everything Tim Showalter has achieved on the eighth studio album from Strand of Oaks. A stunning, hopeful reflection on love, loss, and enlightenment, In Heaven is a triumph in music making, and a preeminent addition to the Strand of Oaks discography.
In late 2018, Showalter’s wife, Sue, lost her mother in a car accident. Soon after, Stan, the cat they both adored, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Showalter quit drinking so he could take better care of his wife and help rebuild the life they shared. And within months, they decided to pack up and move across the country from Philadelphia to Austin, Texas. It was an irrational decision made at the height of a terrible time, but it’s one that shaped so much of what In Heaven is about.
In Heaven was recorded in October 2020 with Kevin Ratterman at Invisible Creature in Los Angeles. Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket) is featured on guitar throughout the record, while James Iha (The Smashing Pumpkins) contributed vocals and guitar for “Easter.” Bo Koster (MMJ, Roger Waters) provided keyboards, Cedric LeMoyne (Alanis Morrissette, Remy Zero) bass, Scott Moore violin, and Ratterman monstrous drums. Showalter also played a lot of synth on this record, which he hasn’t done since 2014’s HEAL. With clean sounds, Jeff Lynne-esque acoustics, and sophisticated songwriting, he approached In Heaven in a more poised and pop-leaning way than his past releases.
“I wanted to strive for something greater than what I thought I was capable of.”
The result is something extraordinary, as Showalter has crafted a poignant narrative that transcends his personal experiences and achieves a universality rooted not only in loss but joy, celebration, and newfound strength. The gorgeous opener “Galacticana” finds him telling us “I don’t want to drag you down,” a reassurance that his intentions lie in uplifting. But there’s a duality present throughout In Heaven that is palpable, as felt on “Easter,” an exuberant pop anthem featuring jaunty guitar and ethereal vocals courtesy of Iha, that both celebrates Showalter’s new life and references his efforts to “stop the boat from sinking.” It’s a powerful sentiment echoed in slow burner “Hurry,” which showcases some exceptional shredding by Broemel, and beyond, as Showalter explores mortality and a heightened sense of his own existence, intensified by a world where he no longer uses alcohol to cope.
Pairing smart, imaginative lyrics and striking arrangements, tracks like “Carbon” and its magnificent violin stand out, as does “Sister Saturn” with its funky, sinuous groove, and the sublime “Horses at Night,” which features one of Showalter’s most exquisite melodies to date. There’s also a discernible current running through In Heaven of homage to some notable losses in music—John Prine, Jeff Buckley, and Jimi Hendrix all play a part—for In Heaven is about moving beyond sadness or anger to a state of gratitude that we ever had these people to begin with. And while every song provides some clue to Showalter’s personal heaven, the jubilant “Jimi and Stan” says it all, wherein Hendrix and his beloved cat Stan are hanging out, going to shows, and looking at stars together.
And as our musical odyssey ends in the warm embrace of “Under Heaven,” the weight of everything Showalter has manifested—the beauty, and the sadness, and the immensity of it all—hits with tremendous impact. But any sense of hopelessness or melancholy yields to a different feeling entirely, just as he intended. Perhaps we’re feeling stronger, more prepared for something. Or maybe it’s just a reminder: call your parents, text your friends, hug your pets. Listen to your favorite records. And think about what it means to be alive.
Asleep At The Wheel is celebrating their 50th Anniversary with the release of Half A Hundred Years. The nineteen tracks feature original band members, current band members and guest artists. The special guest artists are Lyle Lovett, George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris. Tracks 1 - 11 are new songs featuring the original band members. Tracks 12 -16 are old songs featuring the current band members and Asleep At The Wheel alumni. Tracks 17 - 19 are songs from the vaults that have never been released and track 14 features the current and the two previous female band members.
Austin indie folk duo make their Grand Jury debut with True Love. Recorded over winter 2020 in LA with Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Bon Iver, etc.). This album is about growth and nostalgia. Both band members got married. One had a kid. They’ve found themselves individually away from the band, but settling into their most creatively fertile moment as a duo. Artwork by Bradley Pinkerton (Harry Styles, The Weeknd, etc.).
Celebrating 10 years since they first recorded together, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga returned to the studio for another collaboration featuring the very best of the Cole Porter Songbook. Continuing the musical legacy that began with “Lady Is A Tramp,” followed by the GRAMMY winning album, Cheek To Cheek, this new recording captures the evolution of the singular creative and personal relationship of these two world famous artists. Tony, who turns 95 on August 3, 2021, has spent over 7 decades dedicated to performing the Great American Songbook and Lady Gaga who, with Tony by her side, renewed her love of the popular standard and redefined herself in the process. The album features duets as well as solo performances by both artists accompanied by Tony Bennett’s quartet, The Brian Newman Quintet, along with big band and orchestral arrangements by Marion Evans and Jorge Callandrelli.
Brandi Carlile's new album, In These Silent Days, October 2021 via Low Country Sound/Elektra Records. It's the follow-up to her 2018 album By The Way, I Forgive You, and she recorded it at Nashville's RCA Studio A with producers Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings. Tim Hanseroth (vocals, bass), Phil Hanseroth (vocals, guitar), Cobb (guitar, percussion), Jennings (piano, organ, synth), Chris Powell (drums, percussion), and Josh Neumann (strings) all appear on the album, and Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius make a guest appearance, adding backing vocals to "You And Me On The Rock."
The Bob’s Burgers Music Album Vol. 2 includes nearly every single musical morsel from seasons 7 through 9.
This 90-song smorgasbord will feature the Belcher family - Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), Linda (John Roberts), Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman) and Louise (Kristen Schaal) - as well as the show’s numerous recurring and special guests. This includes actors, comedians, and musicians Adam Driver, Tiffany Haddish, Jenny Slate, Daveed Diggs, Max Greenfield, Toddrick Hall, Aparna Nancherla, and Matt Berninger (of the National).
For fans of the show, enjoying the music of Bob’s Burgers on its own is both an irresistible to-go bag and ultimately a world unto itself. Lose yourself in the strangely epic disco celebration “Hot Pants Rain Dance”, sing along with the musical theater gem, “The Wedding Is My Warzone,” or do whatever you’re gonna do to “Sexy Little Tiger” but don’t miss the Bob’s Burgers Music Album Vol. 2. Fans, your order is up.
On September 24, Mac McCaughan will release The Sound of Yourself, his second full-length under his own name.
Throughout his musical career fronting Superchunk and Portastatic, Mac McCaughan has channeled more than his share of angst and tumult into a microphone, resulting in straight-up undeniable rock anthems. So how can a voice so familiar to others still seem foreign to its owner? On The Sound of Yourself, he explores that question fully, shooting his voice through a prism and refracting it across these songs in new and rewarding ways. In January 2021, McCaughan found himself at his home studio in Chapel Hill staring down a clean slate after wrapping up a film score and several other music projects. This setting—a distant light at the end of a figurative tunnel, and a literal room full of instruments—was integral to The Sound of Yourself. His thought process was simple: “Each day is blurring into the next, so what are we doing today? How can I disrupt this? I think what resulted was a theme of subdued... ‘joy’ is the wrong word, but it’s at least comforting if not propulsive to have something open-ended to work on every day without any kind of structure or deadline or rules.”
While the pop-oriented tracks hint at sounds first explored on his 2015 album Non-Believers, McCaughan’s recent scoring work and frequent excursions down the rabbit hole of synthesizers and sequencers (see: the Moogfest-commissioned POMS and his ambient project with Mary Lattimore) add a particularly crystalline spaciness akin to The Durutti Column and Bowie’s Berlin trilogy. Also similar to the making of the Berlin trilogy, McCaughan sought out vital contributions from a slew of accomplished musicians: Yo La Tengo, Mackenzie Scott (TORRES), Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Mountain Goats, Bob Mould Band), Annie Hayden (Spent) & Michael Benjamin Lerner (Telekinesis), just to name a few.
Distant Populations, just the fourth full-length album of Quicksand’s career, comes as a comparatively swift follow-up to Interiors--which itself came a full 22 years after its predecessor, 1995’s Manic Compression. Critically lauded and deemed very much worth the wait, Interiors succeeded in reestablishing the band as the powerful and contemporary entity they had always been.
Distant Populations has a punchier, more up-tempo sound than its predecessor; its 11 songs are concise, carved sonic jewels boasting not a single wasted note; and its raw power, its gripping lyricism, leaps out from the very first listening. It is a striking step up for the band.
The songwriting itself had been no minor process: Following the release of Interiors, the band successfully toured around the world and in the process fully re-established their chemistry together. Looking forward to making the next album, the three of them—frontman/ guitarist Walter Schreifels, bassist Sergio Vega, and drummer Alan Cage—had methodically recorded various soundchecks, improvisations, and show rehearsals, and compiled the results. “Eventually, when it came time to make a record,” Schreifels says, “we would just edit down to the ones that were most exciting to us all, and then refocus on them and see if we could recapture the magic from it.”
There may be a final irony in the title of Distant Populations. Practically speaking, that’s precisely whom Quicksand recorded it for: Listeners very far away. Not a single one of these songs has ever been played live onstage. The band has dates on hold for the fall, notes Schreifels, and fingers are crossed Quicksand will be out there performing very soon. They will likely be the most memorable shows of the band’s career.
The reigning UK Queen of blues rock guitar, Joanne Shaw Taylor is releasing her newest record The Blues Album, produced by blues rock icons Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith. The Blues Album finds Joanne energetically reinterpreting hidden gems from the genre's best such as; Albert King, Otis Rush and Little Milton. After being sidelined for over a year, Joanne felt this was the best time to release an album of blues covers and she brought her best vocals and guitar playing to the table.
Reflecting on the album, McCall shares, “This, to me, felt like what I’d been dreaming about for years…Black Powder Soul is the circle of life: you’re dropped off here, by the old ship of Zion, and everything in between is life itself, from good to bad. The things that clutter up the pure soul are all in here. We all have a black powder soul that can explode, but there is redemption in all of us too.”
Flying Lotus follows the release of his sweeping epic Flamagra and his Producer of the Year Grammy nomination for Thundercat's It Is What It Is, with an expansive original soundtrack for Netflix's new anime series, Yasuke.
Flying Lotus is the executive producer & composer of Yasuke, which retells the story of feudal Japan's first African samurai who served with Oda Nobunaga. The series is directed by LeSean Thomas, stars Lakeith Stanfield and features Takeshi Koike as its lead designer.
Flying Lotus' score for Yasuke is an unforgettable titan in his musical canon, drawing enhanced influence from prior instrumental and vocal works alike, while looking towards the future uncompromisingly. The music lies heavily steeped within the legacy of jazz and electronic instrumentation, with select feature appearances by longtime friends and collaborators: Thundercat, Denzel Curry and Niki Randa.
one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden is the name of the second album by Canadian songwriter Alexandra Levy, publicly known by the moniker Ada Lea. On one hand..., it’s a collection of walking-paced, cathartic pop/folk songs, on the other it’s a book of heart-twisting, rear-view stories of city life. Ada Lea has followed up the creative, indie-rock songcraft of her debut what we say in private with surprising arrangements and new perspectives. The album is set in Montreal and each song exists as a dot on a personal history map of the city where Levy grew up.
Many of the songs on one hand came together with a blend of studio tracks and elements from the pre-recorded demos. The resulting sounds range from classic, soft-rock beauty to intimate finger-picked folk passages and night-drive art-pop. And the textures are frequently surprising due to the collage of lo-fi and hi-fi sounds that tastefully decorate the album without ever clouding the heart-center of the song. In their subtle, sonic variety, all of the album’s songs flow together with ease into one big, romantic dream for Levy’s silken vocals to float above.
Inspired by personal experience, daydreams, and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, the lyrics of one hand... center storytelling on a bigger scale. The experience and emotions of a year are communicated through Levy’s vignettes of city life. These collected stories as a whole chart the unavoidable growth that comes with experience. “All is forgiven in time. All is forgotten in time. And when the music stopped, I heard an answer” (from “my love 4 u is real”).
Whether to consider these songs fiction or memoir remains unknown. On one hand, Levy says “Why would I try to write a story that’s not my own? What good would that do?” but on the other hand, she is quick to note the ways that language fails to describe reality, and how difficult this makes it to tell an actually true story. The poetic misuse of the word “sewing” in the album’s title serves as a nod to the limitations words provide. What does it mean to sew the garden? And how can we appreciate its carefully knit blooms when the rearview mirror is so full of car exhaust?
Eternal Blue - Spiritbox - After being named among Exclaim!'s New Faves last year, Spiritbox have detailed their debut album. The Victoria, BC-based metal outfit will share Eternal Blue from Rise Records.
The 12-track Eternal Blue includes previously shared singles "Holy Roller," "Constance" and "Circle with Me." "Yellowjacket" boasts a feature from Architects' Sam Carter, while the latest to arrive from the LP, "Secret Garden," can be heard alongside a music video below.
Vocalist Courtney LaPlante said of the song: "I think this is the most scared I've been to put out a song... I want to continue to showcase the fluidity that is inherent in heavy music, and even though this is just one part of a full body of work that may not sound exactly like this song, it is a song that we love and are obsessed with. I celebrate variation."
LaPlante added of Eternal Blue, "I must say that although we never intended to wait so long to do this record, I think it did help the songs become stronger... We have had enough time to release the exact music we would like to put out into the world, with no need to compromise. Every single note and every single syllable is the music that we have always dreamed of making and we are very proud of it."
SPIRITBOX / ETERNAL BLUE
Mute are excited to announce the release of José González’s fourth studio album Local Valley, out September 17th on limited edition indie exclusive green vinyl, black vinyl, CD and digital formats.
Local Valley is a natural continuation of the styles that José has developed over the years both solo and with his band Junip. The album strikes a balance between stripped back arrangements—just Jose’s intimate vocal and exquisite nylon string guitar work—and tracks driven by groovy drum machine loops and other percussive elements.
With songs sung in English, Spanish and Swedish, Local Valley invites us to look beyond our tribal instincts and join together in a more harmonic state. The album explores our shared humanity and the scientific-based existential questions we face together on our quest to understand ourselves and our place in the cosmos.
José González has tallied over 1 billion streams, 150+ licensed TV, film, and video game uses, and has a major presence at radio stations around the globe. This year, he has been selected by National Geographic to be an Earth Day Ambassador alongside Willie Nelson, My Morning Jacket, Yo Yo Ma, and more.
The album cover and physical packaging of Local Valley showcases the beautiful hand drawn artwork of Swedish designer Hannele Fernström.
José plans to tour with Rufus Wainwright in the Fall of 2021.
The album cover you’re looking at might lead you to conclude Charley Crockett is on one hell of a roll. You wouldn’t be wrong. Ten records in six years is some kind of prolific. The latest, a double album, suggests the artist has some songs worth paying attention to. It’s clear that he’s invested as much time in the studio, recording storytelling songs, and making storytelling videos, as he has barnstorming around the United States and Europe playing live shows.
Not bad for a thirty-seven-year-old late bloomer.
Charley Crockett has been a fairly remarkable artist to follow. He’s got a sound. He’s got something to say. He has a look. And there’s a gauzy veil of mystery surrounding him suggesting he knows more than he’s letting on.
All those records in such a short amount of time have come with a “No Two Alike” guarantee, particularly the last three releases: the darkly prescient Welcome to Hard Times; the semi-autobiographical, hard-core country-roots The Valley; and 10 for Slim, his tribute of songs by the obscure and wholly authentic Texas honky-tonk maestro James Hand.
His voice is one-of-a-kind. His distinctive, plaintive vocals crack unapologetically with emotion, and he phrases his lines around the beat like a jazz singer, while he expounds upon personal relationships and the world beyond.
Now comes Charley’s tenth album in his six-year career. In the Crockett tradition, it is as ambitious and ground-breaking as each piece of recorded music he’s put out so far. And it’s not just an album. It’s a double album of Charley Crockett originals, each song going the distance to further define this singer-songwriter-performer-artist who came out of the proverbial nowhere.
Charley has endured the collapse of the recording industry, no money, petty crime, societal ennui, the Covid-19 pandemic, open heart surgery, one-night stands, long distance rides in a van, loud truck stops and diners serving stale lukewarm coffee to get to where he is now.
His reward – and yours – is this collection of Charley Crockett originals.
Sad, uplifting, hard, and sweet, complex and delicate all at once, his songs are like life its ownself, just like the songs’ creator: like nothing you’ve heard or seen before, a genuine Texas original.
JOE NICK PATOSKI