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Molehill-“Hearts On Fire”

February 22, 2017 3 comments

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Chicago rockers Molehill have released the first of three singles coming out over the next few months that will make up their Hearts On Fire EP. The title track premiered on 50Thirdand3rd‘s website yesterday. The protest anthem feels very in-step with the times, and I’m all for any songs that stand behind the #Resist movement.

Molehill has always been a band who knows what they want to sound like, and it sounds like they wanted to take some chances here and change it up a bit. I especially enjoy Pete Manhart’s vocals, specifically in the last bit of the song-I don’t remember another track of theirs where his voice is so out in front of everything else, and certainly not the kind of guttural growl he displays here.

If you dig the song you can pre-order the physical version of the EP here. You will receive each song digitally as they’re released ahead of the physical disc. If you’re in the Chicago area, the band is playing a release show with Bassell & The Supernaturals at Logan Square Auditorium (moved from Double Door) on Friday February 24th-tickets will be available at the door. It’s a 21+ show, so leave the kids at home.

 

The Right Now-Starlight

February 21, 2017 Leave a comment


A few years ago someone sent me a copy of The Right Now Gets Over You to review. It wasn’t like anything I was listening to at the time-a throwback breakup record filled with funk and R&B and some of the best vocals I’d heard in ages. While Stefanie Berecz’s vocals carried the record for me, it was apparent that there was a lot of talent involved. Now they’re back with their first full-length in 4 years, and it finds all the potential of the 2012 release realized over 10 songs.

There was one major release that happened between Gets Over You and the new album, Starlight. They got a song placed in the huge-selling video game Watch Dogs. That brought a lot of new fans into the fold, and I think Starlight does a good job of capitalizing on their opportunity.

The sounds are very similar to the old stuff, but Starlight is a much cleaner record. The production is slick and pristine, with layers of horns, guitars, and vocals all stacked perfectly. The single “Postcard” gives a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

As a whole, the album is more fun than Gets Over You. Most of the tracks will put a smile on your face and make you want to dance, so plan accordingly if you’re      thinking about seeing them play live (The Hideout, April 14th album release show!).

I was most impressed with the guitar work on “Everything Is Broken.” It’s a triply blues riff that bends and melts around Berecz’s sultry lounge singer delivery. The guitar screams through the last portion of the song in a way you won’t hear anywhere else on the album.

Starlight comes out later this week, but you can pre-order it here on vinyl or CD.

Steph Barrak-Never Again

February 6, 2017 Leave a comment

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A few months ago I wrote about the first single off Never Again, the new EP from singer/songwriter Steph Barrak. It feels like forever ago, but the EP is finally out and you can stream it on Spotify or buy it on iTunes and Bandcamp. This is Steph’s first release in quite a while, and I’m very pleased with the results after the long hiatus.

Never Again is a much slicker production than her Valentine’s treatise Words To Break Your Heart back in February of 2013. This release is much shorter, but hits the same themes of love and loss and dealing with the rough times and coming out stronger on the other side.

Lyrically and musically Never Again finds Barrak hitting some of the potential that made Words such an interesting record. There’s a lot to be said about our own self-destructive ways, and she lays it out on “Bad Habits.” One of my favorite sections of the EP is the bridge that includes this stanza:

Try as I might my heart just will not listen
To my brain when it says to quit all this feeling
Did I lose control, drive this straight off the freeway
Or do we subconsciously mean to destroy things

I’m a big fan of the ambitious zeal that drives this record. It’s been a while and I’m sure a lot has changed for Barrak over the last few years, but Never Again is a huge leap with big guitar hooks and harmonies that didn’t exist on Words. I’m hoping this is just the beginning and we’ll get many more records from Steph Barrak (and hopefully not all 3 or 4 years apart).

 

Lilah Larson-Pentimento

January 30, 2017 Leave a comment

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I’ve been a big fan of Lilah Larson since 2011, when Oliver Ignatius sent me some tracks he was working on for Sons Of An Illustrious Father. They pretty instantly became one of my favorite bands, and the album One Body has been a constant in my streaming habits (as well as vinyl listening-a beautiful oxblood red piece of wax). They’ve kept fairly busy the past couple years, but I’m glad Lilah made some time to do a solo record because what we get on Pentimento is pure in vision and executed beautifully.

The album came out at the tail end of 2016, but now it’s streaming on Spotify, Bandcamp, and iTunes. I took a couple spins through Pentimento last week and really fell in love with a couple of the songs. They all come off as well-crafted and sincere, but “Father Daughter Ghost” and “Someone Else” stand out above the rest for me.

The former struck me as a little odd at first. The beat is totally different from the rest of the record, and the electric guitar’s small section early in the song reflects a bittersweet yearning. The thing that really caught me up is the lyric in the bridge, which could have easily just been a throwaway: “If I saw you would you see me, too, and would that mean that we were born again? And tell me what good would that really do? We really wanna do it all again?” The electric guitar comes back after and has a more triumphant feeling, like a burden has been lifted.

“Someone Else” has a more traditional sound, carried on pure emotion from Larson’s delivery. She does an amazing job of projecting sadness, anger, confusion; often all at the same time. Trying to make someone else happy sometimes requires a lot of compromising your own happiness, even your own identity. It’s even possible to compromise so much that you kind of lose yourself along the way. Here, torn between heartbreak and a life of pretending to be someone you’re not, Larson acknowledges that some things are more important than others.

There are some other cool things on Pentimento, from the electronic drums on “Windsinger” to the way Larson layers harmonies with her own voice on “tbh,” it’s an impressive production. Larson plays darn near everything on the album-save for a little percussion on “Father Daughter Ghost” and “You Are.” This is solely and uniquely her own, and it’s a great testament to her talent as a musician and songwriter.

Hurray For The Riff Raff-Hungry Ghost (VIDEO)

January 26, 2017 Leave a comment


It’s been about 3 years since Hurray For The Riff Raff’s last record Small Town Heroes. Back in December “Rican Beach” came out with little fanfare despite being brilliant. Last week “Hungry Ghost” became the second single off the album. Both songs are completely different from the lo-fi folk we’ve grown accustom to from the Alynda Lee Segarra.

“Hungry Ghost” is much more mainstream than pretty much every song HFTRR has released (with the exception of “I Know It’s Wrong”). Fortunately the change in production values takes nothing away from the power of Segarra’s voice or words. Every moment is filled with noise, adding a sense of urgency missing from past records.

I’m of the mind that Segarra can do no wrong, and I’m willing to fight anyone who thinks her vocals are anything short of musical nirvana. If you haven’t, check out the catalog of songs on Spotify. The earliest couple albums aren’t on there (and are kinda hard to find outside of New Orleans), but if you have the time I would recommend seeking those out as well.

Here’s the video for “Hungry Ghost.” The Navigator is out March 10, with a full tour of the US in support. Pre-order from thePledgeMusic page here.

Sono Oto-A Way To Stay Away (Video)

January 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Photo by: Alex John Beck


Mark Henry Phillips’ first album under the recording name Sono Oto will be released in March, with the first track debuting today. Known for his work as a sound designer and composer for movies (Cutie & The Boxer) and podcasts (Serial), he brings a lot of the sweeping musicality of scores into his pop songs. 

“A Way To Stay Away” spends much of its duration sounding a bit too close to the last Coldplay album, but comes alive in the final minute. His voice is very steady and soothing, which makes it easy to listen to, even if you’re not a fan. The final minute makes me think of Sono Oto as maybe next in line to Jon Brion for this sort of thing. 

The album, Inheritance, is out March 24th.

Conor Oberst And The Felice Brothers-“Napalm”

January 19, 2017 Leave a comment


A few years ago I had the pleasure of heading west to Los Angeles for a little festival in Santa Monica. Way Over Yonder was billed as a folk fest put on by the same people that do the Newport Folk Festival every year. There were certainly some great folk acts on the bill, but it was here that I saw the greatest rock and roll show I’ve ever witnessed-Conor Oberst backed by The Felice Brothers.

It’s just been announced that Conor is working with the band again on a new (sort of) album. Salutations is going to be 7 new tracks, plus all the songs from Ruminations done with a full band instead of solo. Yesterday they released the first new track, “Napalm,” as well as their version of  “A Little Uncanny.”

“Napalm” is, in my opinion, the most electrifying track Oberst has released since “Roosevelt Room” appeared on Outer South. There’s a little twang in the vocals on some lyrics, and since Ian Felice isn’t focused on singing he’s free to go wild on lead guitar.

Salutations also features Oberst’s Monsters Of Folk bandmate Jim James and drummer Jim Keltner. The Felice Brothers will join Oberst on tour (seriously must-see live) for dates in Europe as well as a handful here in the States. Check out the tour dates here.

The album is up for pre-sale through Nonesuch.

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