At first, Gia Margaret called her new album ‘Romantic Piano’ to be a bit cheeky. Its spare, gentle piano works share more spirit with Erik Satie, Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou and the ‘Marginalia’ releases of Masakatsu Takagi than they do with, say, a cozy and candlelit date night. But in that cheekiness lies hidden intention: across the gorgeous set, “Romantic” is suggested in a more classic sense, what the Germans call waldeinsamkeit. Its compositions conjure the sublime themes of the Romantic poets: solitude in nature; nature’s ability to heal and to teach; a sense of contented melancholy.

“I wanted to make music that was useful,” says Margaret, vastly understating the power of the record. ‘Romantic Piano’ is curious, calming, patient and incredibly moving — but it doesn’t overstay its welcome for more than a second.

Margaret’s debut, ‘There’s Always Glimmer,’ was a lyrical wonder, but when an illness on tour left her unable to sing, she made her ambient album ‘Mia Gargaret’ (another cheeky title!) which revealed a keen intuition for arrangement and composition not fully shown on ‘There’s Always Glimmer’s” lyrical songs. ‘Romantic Piano’, too, is almost totally without words. “Writing instrumental music, in general, is a much more joyful process than I find in lyrical songwriting,” she says. “The process ultimately effects my songwriting.” And while Margaret has more songwriterly material on the way, ‘Romantic Piano’ solidifies her as a compositional force.

Originally pursuing a degree in composition, Margaret dropped out of music school halfway through. “I really didn’t want to play in an orchestra,” she said of her decision, “I really just wanted to write movie scores. Then, I started to focus more and more on being a songwriter. ‘Romantic Piano’ scratched an old itch.” ‘Romantic Piano’ does indeed touch on a rare feeling in art often only reserved for the cinema — a simultaneous wide-lens awe of existence and the post-language intimate inner monologue of being marooned in these skulls of ours. How very Romantic!

“City Song” by Gia Margaret from the album ‘Romantic Piano’, out now on Jagjaguwar Recordings.

King Hannah have released a cover of Madonna’s classic ‘Like a Prayer’.

“We wanted to take this Madonna song and really let it breathe with lots of space and sparse instrumentation that slowly and subtly builds,” the duo explained. “The delicate arrangement of pulsing synths and scratchy guitars allows Hannah’s voice to take centre stage until the track eventually (in the extended version) breaks out into a noisy instrumental section fuelled by thrashing drums and distorted guitars. We wanted to take a song by such an iconic artist and drag it into the world of King Hannah.”

Next month, King Hannah will be touring the UK with Kurt Vile. Their debut album, “I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me“, was released last year. 

ELO songs were always coming on the radio when I was growing up. They were a reliable source of pleasure and fascination (except for “Fire On High” which scared the heck out of me). With this album of covers I wanted to get my hands deep into some of the massive ‘70’s hits but I am also shining a light on some of the later work (“Ordinary Dream” from 2001’s “Zoom” album, “Secret Messages” and “’From The End Of The World”, both from the ‘80’s).

Thematically, I identify with the loneliness and alienation and the outerspace-iness in the songs I chose. (I have always felt like I am part alien, not fully belonging to or in this Earth world.) Sonically, ELO recordings are like an amusement park packed with fun musical games with layers and layers of varied, meticulous parts for your ears to explore; production curiosities; huge, gorgeous stacks of awe-inspiring vocal harmony puzzles. My task was to try and break all the things down and reconstruct them subtly until they felt like mine.

Overall, I stuck pretty close to the originals’ structures while figuring out new ways to express or reference the unique and beloved ELO string arrangements. An orchestra would have been difficult or impossible for me to manage to record, nor did I think there was any point in trying to copy those parts as they originally were. Why not try to reimagine them within my zone of limitations? In some cases, I transposed string parts onto guitars, or keyboards, and I even sung some of them (as in “Showdown” and “Bluebird Is Dead”).

Recording the album was a kind of complicated and drawn-out process since I was doing all of my tracks at home in my bedroom (drums and bass were done by Chris Anzalone and Ed Valauskas, respectively [in their own recording spaces]), and I kept running into technology problems that would frustrate me and slow me up. But eventually I got it all done. A labour of love.” -Juliana

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, his indie rock trio with Shahzad Ismaily and Ches Smith, have announced a new album, “Connection”, which will be out July 14th via Knockwurst Records. This is their fifth album and Ribot calls it “the best thing we’ve ever done;” it features guest appearances from Syd Straw, keyboardist Anthony Coleman, saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, organist Greg Lewis, clarinetist Oscar Noriega, and cellist Peter Sachon.

The first single is the album’s blistering title track. “This song’s (and the album’s) title began with a sculpture by our friend (and Ceramic Dog bassist Shahzad Ismaily’s daughter) Anika (age 6),” says Ribot. “A kind of house made by sticking toothpicks into Halloween candies. It’s an odd shaped house, kind of like the frame of a geodesic dome…if it wasn’t a dome. The little structure is home to a drawing of a smiling gingerbread man. Very homey. But, as we all know, it was the gingerbread man’s problematic home that caused him to ‘run as fast as he can.’ And what struck us about this home, apart from its odd beauty, was the fragility of its toothpick design, in which Anika perfectly captured the fragility of our contemporary attempts at human connection, the shadow hanging over our post-everything ‘homes.’ Everything else, the words, and the beat — which, music nerds take note, lays a 4/4 drum beat on top of a 3/4 melody — came later. 

Marc Ribot Ceramic Dog Vocals, Composer, Lyricist, Guitars: Marc Ribot Drums, Composer: Ches Smith Vocals, Composer, Bass: Shazad Ismaily

Released on: 2023-05-22

Jess Williamson’s “Time Ain’t Accidental” is the sound of a woman running into her life and art head-on, on her own terms for the first time in a long while. With a vocal dynamic kindred to Linda Rondstadt and Emmylou Harris, Williamson blends the emotional immediacy and story-telling of traditional country with the artful, wholly honest transmissions of songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Terry Allen. The album’s reckoning with loss, isolation, romance, and personal reclamation signals both a stylistic and tectonic shift for Williamson: from someone who once made herself small to an artist emboldened by her power as an individual.

After recently releasing the critically-acclaimed Plains album “I Walked With You A Ways” with Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee, Jess Williamson’s “Time Ain’t Accidental” is the sound of a woman running into her life and art head-on. With a vocal dynamic kindred to Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, Williamson blends the emotional immediacy and story-telling of traditional country with the artful, wholly honest transmissions of songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Terry Allen. The album’s reckoning with loss, isolation, romance, and personal reclamation signals both a stylistic and tectonic shift for Williamson: from someone who once made herself small to an artist emboldened by her power as an individual.

Jess Williamson – “Time Ain’t Accidental” from the upcoming album ‘Time Ain’t Accidental’ out June 9th, on Mexican Summer Records.

First written by Elvis Costello (who released his version in 1979), Tegan and Sarah covered “Girls Talk,” which Dave Edmunds recorded in 1978, for the season five soundtrack to Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, its final season. ““We were thrilled to cover Dave Edmunds’ ‘Girls Talk’ for the finale episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” they say. “This remarkable series has been a constant source of inspiration, captivating us throughout the past four seasons. Being included in the final moments of such a beloved series felt beyond exciting. We hope fans of the show will enjoy our rendition of this iconic song once they’ve wiped away all their tears.”

So if you watch Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which, you should!!) you might’ve heard some familiar voices last night during the Season 5 finale!! … YUP that was us! Singing David Edmund’s version of Elvis Costello’s “Girls Talk.”

Julian Casablancas’ other band, The Voidz, are back! “The track started with a very simple question… what would it feel like if God whispered into your ear ‘you are my most magnificent creature.’ What would that feeling sound like? What would its bassline be? With that, Beardo blew The Voidz conch shell, and we assembled from the various corners of the earth to which we had been summoned for previous quests. From the deserts of the Sahara, to the truck stops of the midwest – we reunited in California to answer this question. the response? …from the fiery bones of eternity, the dragon’s voice, awakened after millennia in waiting, spewed forth a sonic fist of impertinence in the shape of a New Pirate anthem, where nothing is what it seems, nor is it otherwise”

The track started with a very simple question… what would it feel like if God whispered into your ear “you are my most magnificent creature”. we reunited in California to answer this question.

José González’s previous band Junip enlisted Sharon Van Etten for a new version of their song “Line of Fire” for the soundtrack to new Disney+ documentary “Wild Life. “I was a fan of José González before I had the opportunity to tour with Junip in 2010,” Sharon says. “I was lucky enough to get to sing with him on stage all those years ago. I was able to witness José and his band go so quickly from sweet and sentimental to direct and piercing through their performances, not to mention how José’s guitar playing and songwriting deliver this specific gut punch that is unique to he and his band’s production.

It was challenging to learn the complicated melody that José wrote and I worked hard to honour his phrasing. It was a welcome reconnection after not having been able to perform with him in some time. A welcomed reunion set to the backdrop of such a beautiful story.”

We toured with Sharon in 2010 and performed a duet towards the end of the run of shows and so it felt natural to reunite when asked to be part of a soundtrack for the National Geographic documentary Wild Life from Oscar-winning filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. It chronicles the close relationship of conservationist Kris Tompkins, the first CEO of outdoor brand Patagonia, and her husband Douglas Tompkins.

New version of the Junip classic “Line Of Fire” featuring a stunning collaboration with acclaimed singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. Released alongside the Disney+ premiere of the National Geographic documentary ‘Wild Life’ which features the new rendition.

The TUBS –  ” Dead Meat “

Posted: May 26, 2023 in MUSIC

Terrific debut album from former Joanna Gruesome members Owen Williams and George Nichols with vocal assistance on much of the album from former bandmate Alanna McArdle. Williams and Nicholls have not lost their touch one bit writing thrilling two-minute guitar earworms that mash together a few different sympatico genres: punk, post punk, power-pop and British folk. There’s a lot of snarl and angst here — mental health and its burdens / complications are recurring lyrical themes — but never without an emphasis on hooks and melody.

London group The Tubs return to Trouble In Mind with their hotly anticipated full-length album entitled “Dead Meat”. The band were formed in 2018 from the ashes of beloved UK post-punk band Joanna Gruesome by former members Owen ‘O’ Williams and George ‘GN’ Nicholls. By incorporating elements of post-punk, traditional British folk, and guitar jangle seasoned by nonchalant Cleaners From Venus-influenced pop hooks and contemporary antipodean indie bands (Twerps/Goon Sax, et al).

“Dead Meat” is resplendent in hi-fidelity strum & thrum, incorporating fleeting elements of post-punk and indie jangle, but the group’s penchant for trad British folk and Canterbury folk-rock takes a noticeable, caffeinated step forward. Echoes of Fairport Convention’s decidedly English chime cross swords with singer Owen Williams’ lyrics directing Bryan Ferry’s “thinking man’s libertine” persona into a more dolorous outlook. Many songs (like “Round The Bend” and “Duped”) soar with an urgent strum under Williams’ acerbic lyrics, recalling a younger fiery Richard Thompson.

They languish in an aching, bitter resignation (of both the situations described and the protagonist’s place in it), particularly near the album’s second half. Others like the previously released “I Don’t Know How It Works”, “Two Person Love” and “Illusion” (re-presented here as “Illusion Pt. II” and all rerecorded from their original 7-inch versions) up the urgency, implying that the journey for the person described in each tune is not over and may be even more desperate than before. The band has never been tighter and more dynamic, often imperceptibly ratcheting up the tension, an extra guitar strum overdubbed, a barely audible organ / synth cranking under a chorus or bridge, or unexpected backups from current Ex-Vöid (and ex-Joanna Gruesome) vocalist Lan McArdle. The Tubs are poised to take over your stereo – there’s no point in resisting.

As much as I enjoy La Luz’s albums — their 2021 self-titled fourth album is wonderful — the spectral folk bandleader Shana Cleveland makes on her solo albums is even better. Her debut, “Night of the Worm Moon”, was one of 2019’s more underrated albums and she’s now followed it up with the equally bewitching “Manzanita”. Named for the evergreen shrub that grows in California and is known for its medicinal properties, the record was made while embracing motherhood and beating breast cancer. “This is a supernatural love album set in the California wilderness,” Cleveland says. The 14 songs on the album are alive with mellotron strings, otherworldly pedal steel, desert wildlife and insects, big skies and bigger hearts. Cleveland’s breathy voice is the perfect delivery device for it all.

Check out this KEXP presents Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles performing live in the KEXP studio. Recorded June 26th, 2015.

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