Austin Texas’ Still Corners render this down-the-highway lament characterized by ghostly and haunted vocals packed with reverb and regret. This otherworldly and autumnal cut that is the soundtrack for impending winter and complete with Cat Power and Chris Isaak-like melancholy is taken from the band’s newest disc Slow Air.
As I type this, the band are on tour to support the record including an appearance at Vancouver’s Fox Cabaret on November 6 for all of you locals.
A sepia-toned western tale full of plaintive and hushed vocals, thrumming acoustic guitar, and with murmuring electric guitar floating in the background like a comforting memory that’s tragically just out of reach. Singer-songwriter Jim Brown’s portrait of a badman who knows the end is near touches on Townes Van Zandt and Nebraska-mode Springsteen.
Listen here, pilgrims.
Brown’s new record is called The Devil on the Other Shoulder, out now.
R&B with a kind of epic orchestral feel. But, there’s no orchestra in the conventional sense. Through a series of loops as a backdrop and with a soaring voice on top complete with jazzy colouring, your ears and your imagination will fill in the aural picture.
Dundas, Ontario rock band and Hamilton, Ontario scensters The Dirty Nil have released their latest record Master Volume, and are set to go on tour with dates in North America and in Europe, too. Here’s a cut off of it and the second single, “Pain of Infinity”.
The Dirty Nil have been around for a while by now, having painstakingly built an audience by crafting a sound that touches on the energy of punk, but – to be clear – they’re not a punk band. They’re a rock band, kids. Their sound is characterized by a keen sense of varied texture within a rock set up, in-the-red volume levels, and by old-fashioned pop hooks.
I was lucky enough to encounter the band’s music around the time their debut song, the pointedly titled “Fuckin’ Up Young” came out. I even got to interview them! At that time, their songwriting approach was purely instinctual, fuelled by the love of loud music, TV shows about explosions, and prodigious beer consumption. I suspect that with this song and the new album, not much has changed. And after winning a Juno for upcoming group of the year in 2017, and relentlessly playing shows (including as an opening act for The Who!) to hone their craft, their new album Master Volume is set to push the band into the next phase.
Happy/sad indie pop from Brooklyn, NY’s Gamblers. It’s “Corinthian Order”, an anthem not so much to a dramatic break-up as it is about the slow death of a relationship. Here’s the video, friends.
Time to watch.
Gamblers is fronted by Michael McManus, who in another life is an accomplished hip-hop producer. That stream of musical interest seems pretty far away from this (to my ears) eighties-influenced post-punk pop song with a breathy lead vocal full of resignation. Gamblers’ line up is rounded out by Gary O’Keefe (lead guitar, backing vocals, production), Boris Palacios (guitar, keyboard, production), and Evan O’Donovan (guitar, keyboard, backing vocals).
The video was shot in a defunct DIY venue Suburbia, and seems to be a character itself in the story of a bereft man cast appropriately in literal blue through out whose life as he knows it is slipping away from him. It was shot by filmmaker Tyler Walker who started working with the band after overhearing them talk about music videos in a cafe that McManus’ family has owned and operated since 1936. Walker was serving tables at the time, including the band’s that night. Right place, right time strikes again!
This song is the title cut from their upcoming EP Corinthian Order, out now.
Here’s some existential folk-pop from singer-songwriter Joel Willoughby; his new single “Last Request”. Listen here!
I first saw Joel Willoughby play at the Biltmore Cabaret a number of years ago, after his song “Hazelnut Moon” had gained some local radio play in Vancouver, BC and the surrounding area which he calls home. I was impressed by his self-deprecating personality, and of course his music which seems to be an amalgam of styles from across the decades, and still seems to be unique at the same time.
This cut is his newest, a reflection on the nature of faith and what drives people to cling to it and to call it into question all at once. Strummed acoustic guitar buoyed up by mandolin, Hammond B3, and a gospel-tinged chorus of backing voices bring it on home with a kind of bluegrass feel to the whole. I’m hoping this is the start of a next big release for him.
You can learn more about Joel Willoughby via these links.
Andrea Desmond is a singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. Here’s a cut off of her most recent EP, Brighter Than the Stars, released this past August.
Desmond was a one-time student of world-class songwriter Alan Menken, later to forge her own path via formal education and in playing a lot with bands in California and Nevada particularly before embarking on a career under her own name. She takes her musical influences from a range of pop songwriting schools, from Sia to Regina Spektor, balancing pop hooks against varied textures and emotional undercurrents.
In listening to this track, there’s a definite sense of hopefulness in a world that seems to make despair a default position. If it’s anthems for 2018 going into 2019 that you’re looking for, you’re on the right track here.
For more about Andrea Desmond, check out her official site right here.
Lemmy-meets-James-Brown blues rock. Dreamy, spacey indie pop. Acoustic and ambient pop balladry.
This is your Radio Free Lightning Bug pack of three for the week, friends.
Lend me your ears.
“I Told Ya So” by The Matchstick Skeletons
Name: The Matchstick Skeletons
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Sound: Fuzzy and minimalist blues rock with a whiff of the funk that kicks your musical door in.
Story: This Vancouver-based duo comprised of singer/multi-instrumentalist Neu Mannas and drummer Matty Carolei is well-traveled and their sound hard-won. After recording and travels abroad with original outfit Head of the Herd, not to mention work in film composing and sound engineering on the part of singer and multi-instrumentalist Mannas, the two musicians set to work on becoming the kind of band they needed to be; one full of funk-inspired and metallic blues-rock underpinnings. This is their debut single.
Sound: Breezy and jangly indie rock that sidles up to you and demurely asks if you’d like to dance to the Stereolab song that just came on.
Story: Active on their native (and as it happens, my native) West Coast playing shows with Wolf Parade, The Courtneys, and others, Teenage Wedding throws all of their interests into a big melodic and lyrically quirky pot; science fiction, Broadcast, religious mythology, Sonic Youth, Carl Sagan, Jungian psychology all make appearances. This song, taken from their second record The Sophia of Teenage Wedding (out now), is about a dance craze beamed from outer space that results in the next stage of human enlightenment. How can you not get behind that?
From: “The suburban sprawl between Philadelphia and New York City”, USA.
Sound: Acoustic meets ambient pop with a bank of melancholy clouds in a late, early evening summer sky.
Story: Serving as the final track and third single on their upcoming EP Youth/2 (due out September 14th), this song is the result of a concentrated effort in getting back to basics with their sound; acoustic guitar, voice, minimal percussion, and a wash of electronic sound in the background. This song is their first “ballad”, also a concentrated effort to expand their range as they build momentum with increasing streaming of their music, and appearances at festivals alongside Dashboard Confessional, and others.
For those of you who think that there’s not enough sleaze ‘n’ horns in rock music these days, it is my joyous duty to introduce you to Ghost X Gardens’ latest cut, “Hittin’ the Bricks”, taken from the album Heartbreak Hotel Chelsea, out now.
Ghost X Gardens is the musical moniker of musician Adam Rushfield, who made himself a part of illustrious rock history with his new record. That is, he became a resident of the famous (or infamous – or both, really) Chelsea Hotel in New York City. That rock ‘n’ roll refuge has sheltered many a musical giant, from Leonard Cohen to Sid Vicious. This song is, in part, a call out to that history. But it’s a call out to another history, too.
Featured as an outro to this new song is a footnote and feature that puts a spotlight on unofficial matriarch of the Chelsea, Storme’ DeLarverie with whom Rushfield formed a bond while ensconced at the hotel. For those not already aware, DeLarverie is credited with throwing the first punch in a scuffle with police at the historic Stonewall riots in 1969, a key moment and vital turning point in LGBTQ history. On this track we hear her gentler side. These excerpts which are threaded throughout the new record exists as an “album within an album”, and representative of Storme’ DeLarverie last recordings before her death in 2014 at the age of 93.
These fascinating details aside, the sound of this song hearkens back to a distant, pre-gentrified New York, with humid horn arrangements and careening guitars, organ, bass, and drums, kicking everything off with an audible and generous quaff of some noxious beverage. This is an anthem to a night out in a dirty, dangerous town while adequately and appropriately stoned politely out of one’s mind. It’s a gloriously bleary journey on which the listener is instantly transported.
But with the outro and explanation of how Rushfield made a connection with DeLarverie, it becomes something else, too; an affectionate ode to a time of artistic exploration and self-discovery for the songwriter that converged with the end of an era for the historic Chelsea Hotel, too.
Sometimes rock ‘n’ roll swagger is best understood with a certain amount of melancholy.
To learn more about Ghost X Gardens, investigate these links:
Fiery new wave disco rage pop. Crunchy stream of consciousness folk-punk. Jaunty, fun-loving indie pop.
That’s what we’ve set up for you in this week’s Radio Free Lightning Bug Pack of Three. Knock ’em down one by one by listening here.
“Lash Out” by Alice Merton
Name: Alice Merton
From: Berlin, Germany (by way of many points on the map)
Sound: Upbeat guitar pop with a hint of PJ Harvey bite and Florence Welch attack, ready made for the dance floor
Story: Alice Merton was formally trained in composition in Manheim, Germany, although she spent her early life in Canada, with stops in the US, England, and Germany with an English dad and a German mum. How’s that for an international sensation? Recently, she’s done the rounds on North American TV appearances including Kelly & Ryan, and The Late, Late Show with James Corden, and has been listed as “one to watch” in Rolling Stone. This song featured on her latest EP No Roots, is about resisting the pull to fall in line with the expectations of others, instead forging a path of one’s own.
Sound: Folk-influenced alternative rock infused with punk rock spirit and stream of consciousness flow.
Story: Originally premiering on Consequence of Sound, this track from Bostonian-bred, LA-based indie rock band Slothrust (Sloth-rust as opposed to slo-thrust, friends), this cut as taken from the band’s upcoming record The Pact (out September 14, 2018). It’s one of a selection of singles that serve as a harbinger to that release. You can read this interview on Billboard magazine with creative lead Leah Wellbaum who talks about the new record, among other things. You can then hear yet another single of theirs, “Peach”.
Sound: Cheeky, bouncy indie pop that doesn’t take itself so goddamn seriously, but seriously gets in your head all the same.
Story: “The only way to get these songs out of your head is with a bullet” says Thirsty Curses front man Wilson Getchell during the recording of the band’s newest record All Shook Up, which is out right now, friends. That’s kinda dark, maybe. But this tune helps to illustrate the point by its brightness, buoyed up by frenetic playing and affable delivery, not to mention a kaleidoscopic animated video that matches with the childlike energy of the music. The song and the rest of the record was produced by none other than Mitch Easter, he of Let’s Active and the early production chair occupier for a little band called REM.