Posts Tagged ‘NY’

Kristin Slipp, also a member of Dirty Projectors, is the voice of Brooklyn– and Philadelphia-based collective Cuddle Magic, who recorded their new album Bath in a bathroom. You can preview its twinkling, understanding “Working On Me” here.

Big news: we have a new song out today, “What If I,” and we’ll have a new album out soon. It’s called ‘Bath’ and it’s coming out on July 3rd on Northern Spy.

Please take a moment right now to pre-save the album, follow us on your chosen streaming platform, and listen to “What If I” (the link below should let you do all three of those things). It’s the first song we all wrote together and we’ve been wanting to release a recording of it for a long time. We love how it turned out and hope you do, too!

Band Members
Benjamin Lazar Davis, Alec Spiegelman, Kristin Slipp, Christopher McDonald, Cole Kamen-Green, David Flaherty

The album is released on July 3rd by Northern Spy Records, and you can pre-order the digital version of it by visiting the band’s Bandcamp page now.

The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser’s fourth solo album is unashamedly old fashioned. It’s certainly not what you’d call a change of pace, after all, the band’s debut artwork was a sepia photograph from 1910, and he was only 21 then. Leithauser has evolved in the 19 years since – The Walkmen no longer even exist – but the storytelling intent signalled by that photograph and the three working class factory boys it depicted remain at the heart of his solo work, and provide the concept for this record; a storybook of sorts, with each song telling a different person’s tale. It’s the kind of record which defined the 70s singer/song-wiriter mould, making it feel joyously traditional, and not just because of amounts of upright piano which would make Randy Newman blush.

Produced and mixed by Leithauser alone in his DIY studio The Struggle Hut, there is a decidedly homely quality to the music. The album is bookended by “The Garbage Men” and “The Old King”, two songs which feature his wife and daughters as backing vocalists, and even their pre-school teacher sings on half the songs too. Eschewing the sleek production of Electric Lady Studios, which must have been mere blocks away, gives the album the raucous feeling of a bar-room jam.

The impact of his previous album, a collaboration with Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, has not been lost. Like Batmangij’s productions, the drums on these songs resonate loud in the mix, cutting through sweaty saxophone riffs, jubilant piano and Leithauser’s own signature bellow, and ‘bellow’ he does. He seems to only have this mode – one where you can almost hear the veins straining – but while some variation may wouldn’t have gone amiss, amongst the chaos of these songs he makes himself heard.

Despite this, Leithauser is eager to ensure that it’s the characters of his tales which sit at the heart of the album. The swinging “Cross-Sound Ferry” recounts a world-wise stranger he met on the ferry from Orient Point to New London, while vaudeville lead single “Hear They Come” depicts a friend of his hiding from life’s problems in a cinema, the lights coming up as the real world refuses to stay outside.

“Don’t Check the Score” is made distinct with chanting female vocals, erupting into a beauteous crescendo with piano from Stuart Bogie and clattering percussion. It reminds of the down ’n’ dirty musical theatre of Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs, but not as much as the off-kilter vamps all over it’s successor “Til the Ship Comes In” which delivers the delicious shanty “I love you now / I loved you then / gonna love you / til the ship comes in!” When the backing instrumentation drops out to leave Leithauser booming those words into an empty room, the album is at its most powerful.

This isolated moment is part of the power of the record. Unlike the songs of obvious parallel Springsteen, Leithauser tells these tales from the rear view mirror, looking back. The woozy drum beat which opens “The Stars of Tomorrow” announces itself as a moment where Leithauser is about to leave it all on the floor. The story is one of a Polish woman he met one night in the wake of a terrible fight with her husband, about to vanish in her red Chevy Silverado truck. Leithauser excuses himself from the song halfway through to pronounce: “I’m just a singer / and you’re just in my heart / I wish you the best of luck / I wish you a brand new start”.

Like all of these songs, this is just one page from a journal recited aloud by a man in a DIY studio with only these memories for company. The album as a whole is a tribute to muses like these; the man who wrote “The Rat” and “In The New Year’ revealing the loves of his life: a smorgasbord of people who animate his pen and breathe lives lived into his songs.

The stirring and singular harmonies of Hamilton Leithauser make the failed dreams, broken promises and anxiety in “The Garbage Men” feel like an uplifting fairy tale.

Official Audio for “The Garbage Men” from Hamilton Leithauser’s album “The Loves of Your Life

Magana creates haunted Alternative Pop, which is as emotional as it is atmospheric and as beautiful as it is beguiling. Golden Tongue is the debut EP but Jeni Magana has taken the long road to get here. Born in California, Magana was classically trained in her youth before attending Berklee College in Boston and moving once more to New York City where she found herself writing songs, working with a variety of bands (Oh Odessa, Annie & The Beekeepers), creating commercial jingles and even working as a studio and touring musician for artists as unexpected as the Dropkick Murphys. This bizarre musical education shines through on the masterfully eclectic Golden Tongue EP. Magana is a very whole artist but this debut sounds vital and energetic, full of microscopic melodies and shuddering instrumentation.

Sparse and haunting sounds made by electric guitar and voice. Haunted Alternative Pop from Brooklyn’s Jeni Magana. “Golden Tongue” EP out now on Audio Antihero Records.

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Band Members
Jeni Magana

released May 1st, 2020

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The Brooklyn foursome Pom Pom Squad are fine purveyors of rough-edged indie rock. On their 2019 sophomore EP, “Ow”, lead singer Mia Berrin takes listeners along on a journey to find her best self, and that means untangling past hardships. Her often painfully vulnerable songwriting meets gnarled guitars, and this collision is demonstrated most powerfully by the EP’s slow-building climax “Again” and anthemic indie-punk highlight “Heavy Heavy.”

Pom Pom Squad’s 2019 debut EP Ow also incorporated the rebel cheerleader aesthetic, with a grungy, inextricably punk sound. At the core of Pom Pom Squad is inverting the normalized conventions of what it means to be a woman, to be queer, to grapple with identity.

“Red With Love” is reminiscent of Soccer Mommy and Patience-era Mannequin Pussy, but it also holds its own. Pom Pom Squad frontwoman Mia Berrin’s wry, breathy vocals add an extra layer of charm and grit to the song, which perfectly contrasts the haute designer dresses Berrin wears in the video and the gleam of pom poms strewn around the crowd.

“A funny thing happened—after performing, writing and recording songs that are mostly about my depression for the last few years, I started to feel really really good,” Berrin says. “Which isn’t to say that I don’t still deal with the darker parts of my brain, but it posed an interesting writing challenge. ‘Red With Love’ is my first proper love song and a pretty unguarded look into my heart, my relationship anxiety, and my acceptance of my own queerness.”

POM POM SQUAD IS Mia Berrin, Mari Alé Figeman, Shelby Keller Ethan Sass

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Prince Daddy & the Hyena’s ability to transform rock-bottom defeatism into a raucous group activity. “Lauren (Track 2)” was, without a doubt, among the most fun song released in 2019, and the way Prince Daddy carry this energy over to other tracks on the album Cosmic Thrill Seekers, where Kory Gregory opens “Trying Times” by bellowing about how “every day’s been a bad day for so long,” or wails lines like “stupid fucking life, it’s only getting harder” moments before a killer outro on “Klonopin,” signals an optimistic turn for a genre that often invites isolation among its listeners.

Even the softest moments on Cosmic Thrill Seekers such as the acoustic intro to opener “I Lost My Life,” or the mid-track breather on closer “Wacky Misadventures of the Passenger”—are disrupted by Gregory’s yawps before heavy electric guitars hit as hard and unexpectedly as the depression that fueled so much of the record’s lyrics. There’s never really a moment of peace, but such brief periods of seemingly personal anxiety spouted by the vocalist are immediately filled by a massive support system in the form of Gregory’s dense backing band, at times even featuring a full brass section. The cyclical structure of the album—“Passenger” transitions smoothly back into track one—has been widely noted for its analogue to mood cycles, but there’s been little talk about the group-therapeutic nature of the record’s sound.

For plenty of bands of this caliber, an album is just a springboard for hectic live shows. But Cosmic Thrill Seekers offers anyone who feels pretty confident that they’ll die the next time they’re alone in their bedroom an opportunity to thrash in each others’ company.

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Maggie Rogers is back with a new song. The track, “Love You for a Long Time,” follows her nomination for Best New Artist at the 2020 Grammy Awards. Check out the song below.

This past January, Maggie Rogers released debut album “Heard It in a Past Life”. In a press release, Rogers said of the new track, “It’s a song about love in all its forms—romantic love, the love I feel for my friends, the love I feel for my band, and the love I’ve shared with all of you. I wanted it to sound like the last days of summer. I wanted it to sound as wild and alive as new love feels.

For a long time, I’ve introduced myself as a banjo player from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I’m a hiker and an environmentalist. I’m an optimist. I’m loud.
I’m still all those things, but I went quiet for a few years. I cut my long hair short. I got a cat named Cat Stevens. I fell in love. I moved to New York,

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One thing you won’t be able to avoid on Bambara’s “Stray” is death. It’s everywhere and inescapable, abstract and personified  – perhaps the key to the whole record. Death, however, won’t be the first thing that strikes you about the group’s fourth – and greatest – album to date. That instead will be its pulverising soundscape; by turns, vast, atmospheric, cool, broiling and at times – on stand out tracks like “Sing Me To The Street” and “Serafina” – simply overwhelming

Bambara are twin brothers Reid and Blaze Bateh, singer/guitarist and drummer respectively, and bassist William Brookshire – have been evolving their midnight-black noise into something more subtle and expansive ever since the release of their 2013 debut Dreamviolence. That process greatly accelerated on 2018’s Shadow On Everything, their first on New York’s Wharf Cat Records and  a huge stride forward for the band both lyrically and sonically.

The album was rapturously received by the press, listeners and their peers. NPR called it a “mesmerising…western, gothic opus,” Bandcamp called the “horror-house rampage” “one of the year’s most gripping listens,” and Alexis Marshall of Daughters named it his “favorite record of 2018.”  Shadow also garnered much acclaim on the this side of the Atlantic. Influential British 6Music DJ Steve Lamacq, dubbed them the best band of 2019’s SXSW, and Joe Talbot of the UK band IDLES said, “The best thing I heard last year was easily Bambara and their album Shadow On Everything.”  The question was, though, how to follow it?

To start, the band did what they always do: they locked themselves in their windowless Brooklyn basement to write. Decisions were made early on to try and experiment with new instrumentation and song structures, even if the resulting compositions would force the band to adapt their storied live set, known for its tenacity and technical prowess. Throughout the songwriting process, the band pulled from their deep well of creative references, drawing on the likes of Leonard Cohen, Ennio Morricone, Sade, classic French noir L’Ascenseur Pour L’Echafraud, as well as Southern Gothic stalwarts Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews.

Once the building blocks were set in place, they met with producer Drew Vandenberg, who mixed Shadow On Everything, in Athens, GA to record the foundation of Stray. After recruiting friends Adam Markiewicz (The Dreebs) on violin, Sean Smith (Klavenauts) on trumpet and a crucial blend of backing vocals by Drew Citron (Public Practice) and Anina Ivry-Block (Palberta), Bambara convened in a remote cabin in rural Georgia, where Reid laid down his vocals.

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The finished product represents both the band’s most experimental and accessible work to date. The addition of Citron and Ivory-Block’s vocals create a hauntingly beautiful contrast to Bateh’s commanding  baritone on tracks like “Sing Me to the Street”, “Death Croons” and “Stay Cruel,” while the Dick Dale inspired guitar riffs on “Serafina” and “Heat Lightning” and the call-and-response choruses throughout the album showcase Bambara’s ability to write songs that immediately demand repeat listens.

While the music itself is evocative and propulsive, a fever dream all of its own, the lyrical content pushes the record even further into its own darkly thrilling realm. If the songs on Shadow On Everything were like chapters in a novel, then this time they’re short stories. Short stories connected by death and its effect on the characters in contact with it. “Death is what you make it” runs a lyric in “Sweat,” a line which may very well be the thread  that ties these stories together.

If your PR piece touts Sharon Van Etten and Bob Boilen as big fans, there’s a good chance I’ll (eventually) open that email. And I’m glad I finally got around to Kate Davis. In a nutshell, this is wonderfully executed mid-tempo indie sung by someone with a lovely voice. “Trophy” is out on 11/8 on Solitaire Recordings. Here’s some more info on Kate.

Kate Davis’ story is one of elegant artistic evolution. Having grown up in the spotlight as a jazz prodigy, she performed in the Grammy Jazz Ensemble, won ASCAP’s Robert Allen Award, played slots at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and collected fervent endorsements from Herbie Hancock, Ben Folds, Alison Krauss and Jeff Goldblum among others. But — Kate outgrew her accolades. Days spent practicing and performing standards became nights spent writing — cathartic indie rock. Forbidden chord progressions emerged like diary entries, documents of an internal reaction to routine. Time intended for technique slipped into secret listening sessions of Beach House, Elliot Smith and TV On The Radio.

In the same bright, arresting croon that ignited her youthful stardom, Davis created confessionals. Now 28 and audibly matured, Kate is prepared to properly share the artifacts from her late night craft, a full length reaction to ritual required of perfection, an outburst from the pedestal. Throughout twelve tumultuous tracks, she poetically reflects upon the intricacies of what it is to live, ruminating on topics too close to her heart — identity, self-worth, loss.

The Hold Steady had three different focal points – guitarist Tad Kubler was a classic rock riff machine, emulating the bar band rock of Thin Lizzy. Vocalist Craig Finn was inspired by hip hop, weaving interlocking narratives of Catholic teenagers in sin and redemption in Minneapolis. Keyboardist Franz Nicolay added an extra layer to their sound, his piano and organ drawing comparisons to Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Between 2004 and 2006, the Hold Steady released three albums “Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday”, and “Boys and Girls in America”  that set a different standard for what indie rock could sound like. When their Brooklyn peers were mining postpunk and dance music, the Hold Steady channeled Springsteen, Thin Lizzy and ‘70s hard rock radio to back Finn’s bleeding heart missives about bad girlfriends and boring boyfriends, summer beers with your best friends, lovers who were bad news, kids getting high by the river and waking up in different cities. There was nothing like his voice, either; he sounded like someone nursing the world’s worst head cold while trying to talk through a mouthful of margarita mix. On top of kick-ass guitar riffs, he invented an entire universe in a ubiquitous speak-sing cadence with the persistence of a drunk stranger yelling a story at you.

The Hold Steady peaked with three great records in the 2000s; 2005’s Seperation Sunday featured their densest narratives, 2006’s Boys and Girls in America was their most accessible, while 2008’s Stay Positive was their most eclectic. Nicolay left the band before 2010’s Teeth Dreams, and without Nicolay, and as Finn moved from shouting to singing, they lost some of their identity and critics started comparing them disparagingly to Weezer and Counting Crows.

The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me

Originally together in Lifter Puller, vocalist Craig Finn and guitarist Tab Kubler were inspired to form The Hold Steady while watching The Band’s The Last Waltz. Kubler plays classic rock inspired riffs while Finn spits out dense lyrics inspired by hip hop, interweaving stories about sex, drugs, and Catholicism. Almost Killed Me is a strong debut, but in light of what follows it feels like a rough draft – Finn’s narratives would become even more complex and the band’s sounds both became more complex.

Their 2004 debut album, Almost Killed Me, sounds like the E Street Band after they slipped into the gutter, Thin Lizzy if they got fat and American, and a hundred other bands from Southside Johnny to the early-’70s Kinks that liked to party, but did it with the occasional tear-filled eyes and desperate hearts. Like the best of these classic rock staples, the Hold Steady can flat out rock. Kubler can rip off a fret-searing solo with bullfighter style, which he does quite frequently, and the rhythm section has enough muscle power to stop a speeding locomotive. On top of this vintage rock chassis, the band drop Finn’s vocals and vision. Without him, the music is straightforward enough to appeal to the AOR masses and backstreet fanatics; with him they are far too weird and wild. His pop culture name-drops, knowing references to obscure musicians like Andre Cymone, real-sounding tales of the streets, and flights of knuckle-busting anger are far out in left field, and his bracing, eye-bulging delivery of said lyrics pushes it even further over the top. It’s a high-wire balancing act of sorts, and it would be easy for the band to topple over into boring mainstream rock cliches or veer into embarrassing drunken poetry territory but it never happens, not even once. The group plays with intense energy at all times, propping Finn up and giving his words the dramatic backdrop they deserve. Finn holds up his end of the bargain by being hilarious and oddly touching as he rambles, coughs, and shouts his way through what sounds like a lifetime of journal entries, inside jokes, and record store soliloquies.

Franz Nicolay only guests on a few tracks here, but his keyboards would beef up their sound on future releases. The strongest tracks include ‘Knuckles’, with its repetitive lyrical formula (eg. “I’ve been trying to get people to call me Freddie Mercury/But people keep calling me Drop Dead Fred”, and ‘Certain Songs’, which still feels like a prototype for later piano based Hold Steady tracks.

Almost Killed Me is a strong debut, but at the same time it’s like a rough sketch for The Hold Steady’s future releases.

The Hold Steady Separation Sunday

Separation Sunday notches up everything from the excellent start of Almost Killed Me; The Hold Steady’s arrangements are more muscular and detailed, with Franz Nicolay as a full-time member on keyboards, while Craig Finn’s lyrics tell fragments of inter-weaved narratives. Thematically dense, Separation Sunday revolves around four characters: the narrator Craig, the pimp Charlemagne, the skinhead Gideon, and Holly/Hallelujah, who veers between faith, addiction, and prostitution.

While a lot of the appeal of Separation Sunday comes from Craig Finn’s intertwining stories, there’s plenty of musical punch here too.  Separation Sunday though. It is a much darker record, revolving around drug casualties, broken lives, a hoodrat fixation, spiritual and physical dissipation, and general despair, and there aren’t as many easy laughs this time out — but instead the listener gets lots of head-shaking wonderment at Craig Finn’s genius lyrics and voice. His gruff, in-your-ear vocals negotiate the twisting torrent of words like a world-class skater kid. He is insanely literate and insanely insistent: he is strangely brilliant. He is also just about the best rock & roll frontman Whipping up a classic rock-inspired frenzy of monitor-straddling guitar riffs, dual harmony leads, E Street piano flourishes, and galloping horns, the band behind Finn sounds like nothing less than Jim Steinman’s dream group. You could talk about great individual songs (the epic “How a Resurrection Really Feels,” the piledriving album opener “Hornets! Hornets!,” the weird and almost funky “Charlemagne in Sweatpants”), but the strength of the album is in the flow from song to song and the way the intensity level (which starts off at a near fever pitch) elevates until your head is just about ready to burst from the thrill of it all. Call it a quaint idea in 2005, but Separation Sunday is truly an album, one that sounds almost perfect when played from beginning to end in the proper running order. Block out about 42 minutes sometime, hold steady, and get ready for indie rock — no, rock & roll — at its sweatiest, most intense, and most impressive.

The most immediate track here is perhaps ‘Your Little Hoodrat Friend’, with its rhythmic guitar fills and powerful organ backdrops. As Finn is largely talk singing, Kubler is free to play almost anything, and the riff that fuels ‘Stevie Nix’ is both brutal and intricate. The record climaxes with the double punch of the short mournful ‘Crucifixion Cruise’ and the celebratory ‘How A Resurrection Really Feels’, which bounces along with an optimistic horn line.

Separation Sunday is fascinating; all the literary and classic rock allusions make it fodder for aging music critics, but it’s accessible all the same, although you might want to start with the more conventional next record.

The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America

Boys And Girls In America is more accessible than its predecessors, with Craig Finn employing vocal melodies on many of the tracks, while the band’s approach is less brutal and is reminiscent of the E-Street band in their prime. Some of Separation Sunday’s characters make return appearances (“Charlemagne pulls street corner scams/Gideon’s got a pipe made from a Pringles can/Holly’s insatiable/She still looks incredible”), while Finn’s still endlessly quotable (“We started recreational/It ended up all medical/It came on hot and soft and then/It tightened up its tentacles”).

One of the ballads here, “First Night,” begins with a piano and an acoustic guitar lilting a rather loose melody that gives Craig Finn the support he needs to get out of his pent-up, novelistic, wordsmithing mouth. All of these characters are young, desperate, and fleeing from their inner fear, except for Holly who is wise enough to tell the protagonist that “words alone never could save us”….and then “cried when she told us about Jesus.” The piano fills out that unfillable hole in Holly and the rest, no matter where they run. Finn can do nothing but repeat his lines and find a last verse somewhere to let the song just fade into silence, because it never really ends. Boys and Girls in America is a sophisticated shambles. There’s still a barely-on-the-rail feel, despite the literate compositions. Finn’s always either behind or ahead of the beat, but it’s alright, his bandmates can more than handle that because they’re as engaged as he is. There are a few guests, and even a horn section on one track, and the classic girl group chorus call and response . There’s real sadness in the Wall of Sound and chanted chorus in “You Can Make Him Like You,” which examines everything from addiction to betrayal, to the insecurity in love that can push someone over the edge, never to return. Thin Lizzy makes a return on “Massive Nights,” complete with roiling bass as Finn opens the whole escapist mix, swinging and setting up a hedonist’s dream: “The guys were feeling good about their liquor run…” There are low expectations and drama where only the music counts. The tune turns back on itself when the singer is trying to convince himself and the huge, wailing, responsorial chorus, that something so utterly suburban could be cool, until “She had the gun in her mouth/She was shooting up at her dreams/When the chaperone said that/We’d been crowned/the king and the queen.” And it just ends. The reason this record is worth embracing, and even celebrating, is because it’s an honest to God rock & roll album. It exposes in the first and third person what it means to grow up right now in the midst of suburban waste. It’s angsty, but Finn’s got a sense of humor, and the band can play their asses off. That they so readily embrace rock history as a means of unfolding Finn’s stories suggests that “cool” and “indie” are simply terms in the larger dialogue. This is a smoking little record.

Boys And Girls In America is one of the most instantly visceral rock records of its decade; ‘First Night’ is a pretty piano ballad for most of its duration, until it switches gears into a torrent of guitars and some of Finn’s most incisive lyrics. ‘Southtown Girls’ builds from a single a capella vocal into another tour de force, while ‘Citrus’ never raises its pulse above a simple acoustic lament (“Lost in fog and love and faithless fear/I’ve had kisses that make Judas seem sincere). Meanwhile, the trio of rockers that open the record are all incredible, with Nicolay fluidly filling the gaps between Kubler’s propulsive riffs.

In some ways Separation Sunday is the more interesting, unique album, but when Boys And Girls In America hits full flight, it’s amazingly compelling.

The Hold Steady Stay Positive

Stay Positive is a worthy sequel to Boys and Girls in America. Lyrically it has Craig Finn’s usual themes, but it’s less dense than before, and it also feels like a love letter to rock music; they’re referencing The Clash and Hüsker Dü in the opening ‘Constructive Summer’, while Led Zeppelin are referenced on ‘Joke About Jamaica’.

Musically, The Hold Steady are exploring similar territory to Boys and Girls in America – again there’s a big piano ballad at track 5, this time with an epic guitar solo (‘Lord I’m Discouraged’), and again there’s a great song at the end with the propulsive ‘Slapped Actress’. The weaker tracks are the most sonically adventurous – ‘One For The Cutters’ rides Franz Nicolay’s harpsichord, while ‘Navy Sheets’ is built around a synth riff, but neither is particularly interesting beyond the lyrics. The bonus track ‘Two Handed Handshake’ is also noteworthy.

The Hold Steady have lost even more of their edge on Stay Positive, but the material here is mostly great.

After that virtuosic run of albums, the Hold Steady released the very good Stay Positive in 2008, capitalizing on their newfound status as the most righteous band in indie rock. (I mean, look at that title.) What happened next was, by the band’s account, a little trying. A European tour was canceled on the eve of setting out because of Kubler’s bout with pancreatitis. After putting out four albums in five years, the band found themselves pushing harder to complete out the next. “It was rushed,” Kubler says of the 2010 release, Heaven is Whenever. “Not everybody was on the same page, and I don’t think there was a lot of communication. Longtime keyboardist Franz Nicolay, whose contributions were crucial to the sweeping melodrama of Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America, left during the making of Heaven is Whenever,

Four years passed between that record and Teeth Dreams—longer than it took for the first three albums to come out. In between, Finn recorded a solo album and the band added a new guitarist, Steve Selvidge, which allowed Finn to drop the pretense of being a guitar player. (During the show, he will play without one—usually, one would just dangle untouched around his neck like a dead limb.) Selvidge joined during the Heaven is Whenevertour, and helped write the music for Teeth Dreams. You can hear his influence in the guitar interplay, which is the most nuanced of the band’s career.

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Nicolay rejoined The Hold Steady in 2016. Thrashing Thru the Passion is their first album since his return, and it’s been hailed as a return to form. It clocks in at a brief thirty six minutes, and it feels less conceptually ambitious than their early records, a collection of songs rather than a grand statement. The second half of the album will be already familiar to fans, already released as advance singles.

Craig Finn had this to say, It’s our 7th LP, Thrashing Thru The Passion, is out . It’s our first album with the six piece lineup of The Hold Steady, and our first in five years! We are very proud of it. Lots of people deserve thanks for major contributions to the project.

Producer Josh Kaufman helped us a ton and made the sessions super fun. Annie Nero gave us some amazing vocals. Horns were expertly provided by Stuart Bogie, Jordan McLean, Dave Nelson and Michael Leonhart.

One of our oldest friends Dave Gardner mastered the record. Nick Hollomon created the fantastic art for this and all the preceding singles. Frenchkiss Records was kind enough to put it out into the world. We raise a glass to all of these folks. We will continue celebrating this release two more nights in Seattle, and then on to Chicago, Nashville, and Boston. Thanks for listening, Thanks for understanding. Stay Positive!

Despite the lack of thematic weight, Thrashing Thru the Passion is fast-moving and fun. Finn’s still playing with words, throwing in rapid-fire cultural references like this couplet from opener ‘Denver Haircut’. Elsewhere the band sound great, whether they’re crunching rock and roll like ‘Confusion in the Marketplace’ and ‘Star 18’, or drifting closer to Van Morrison territory than you might expect with Nicolay’s classy piano and horns of ‘Blackout Sam’.

It doesn’t feel as significant as their earlier masterpieces, but Thrashing Thru The Passion is a tight, fun record that captures more of The Hold Steady’s past glories than you might expect.

thanks Aphoristic Album 

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Devin Tuel may consider herself to be an artist meant for a different time, but she now finds herself inhabiting her own true place. The singer-songwriter is at home in Newburgh, NY reflecting on her third album, “Happier Now”, released under her nom de plume, Native Harrow, as well as the difficult sojourn the former ballerina and classically trained singer has had to traverse to become the writer and performer she was meant to be.

Happier Now, is a set of nine songs recorded and mixed by Alex Hall (JD McPherson, The Cactus Blossoms, Pokey LaFarge) at Chicago’s Reliable Recorders. The album was co-produced by Hall, Tuel, and her bandmate, multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms.

Native Harrow cuts out clear and vibrant narratives on fear, love, the open road, ill-fated relationships, and coping with the state of the world. Happier Now oscillates between feeling the sting of uncertainty (Can’t Go on Like This), the beauty of California (Blue Canyon) and the ache for lavish stability (Way to Light). You could say Tuel wears her heart proudly on her sleeve, but that’d be underplaying the exact gravity of her stories. Each starlit image is framed within her warm, enveloping vocals and the careful, profound considerations of Harms’ musicianship. Start to finish, the new record pours forth from her very bones, and you get the overwhelming sense she has never been more daring and honest than right now.