Durand Jones & The Indications wake up, Ace of Wands play their hand, Killbody Tuning score, Gang of Four pass paper, Chris Cohen goes green, Ty Segall gets fuzzy and plenty more in another mammoth Roundup. How do I do it? Volume.
1 The worlds Morning in America mean different things to different people. To some, they’re an unmistakable reminder — pleasant or otherwise — of the ’80s Reagan era. To retro-soul outfit Durand Jones & The Indications, they’re the title of their latest single — and a metaphor for keeping hope alive in these depressing times. For you, they should also be a reason to keep an eye peeled for the band’s upcoming sophomore album American Love Call, landing March 1. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “It’s a fraught moment in our history. Morning in America is a song for this moment,” says the band. Penned by drummer Aaron Frazer, the band has this to say regarding the track: The lyrics speak to how many of us feel every day in this time of political and environmental uncertainty— flitting between anger, despair, anxiety but ever returning to a sliver of hope that there’s still a path forward. We so often divide ourselves by our differences. Acknowledging those differences is crucial; listening to those different from us is crucial. But viewed solely through that lens, we are fragmented and few. When we look at the country along economic lines, however, a different picture emerges. Suddenly people of all of colors, in every part of this country, can find themselves on the same side, united by a shared struggle to simply survive in the richest nation to ever exist.” Wakey wakey:
2 You might expect a band named after a Tarot card to have at least a dash of pastoral, Jethro Tull-style folk-rock up their collective sleeve. And in the case of Toronto indie-rock trio Ace of Wands, fronted by Lee Rose, you’d be right. But you might not expect them to have as much power and panache as they display on their new single Lioness, the title track from their upcoming debut album — or to make a video as compelling and cinematic as the spooky clip that goes with. Well played, Ace of Wands. Well played. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Lioness was written at a time of transformation in my life. The song came from a place of self-destruction while I simultaneously searched for strength and the ability to persevere. The Lioness – a powerful, fierce, nurturing and self-reliant creature – embodied all of the qualities I was searching for in myself at the time. The accompanying video for Lioness is inspired by a love of horror movies and suspense, depicting the lure of self-destruction followed by an acceptance of the darkness within. The visuals show each of us at a different stage of this transformation, ending in our unification as a singular unit.” Hear them roar:
3-5 You know how it is when you’re browsing through albums by artists you’ve never heard of: Sometimes you try something based solely on the song titles. So I suspect I’m not the only only one who might want to hear a trilogy of songs titled My Mother Told Me To Not Stare Into The Sun, When I Was 6 I Did, and I Was Terrified. Well, good news: You can check them all out here, played live by Swiss instrumental post-rockers Killbody Tuning. And better news: They’re performing them all as an alternate soundtrack to Darren Aronofsky’s film PI. Why? Why not? SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “After almost two years touring in Switzerland and France, Killbody Tuning wrote a totally new score for Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece; played live at 2300 Plan 9 festival. An hour and a half of organic and instinctive music, which could not be abandoned in this mathematical maze.” Pass the popcorn:
6 It’s always a good day when influential post-punk legends Gang of Four give us something new. It’s a better day when it’s something as catchy and smart as their new single and video Paper Thin, a funky dance-rocker about our ever-diminishing ability to block out the nefarious forces of the world. Or something like that. It comes from their upcoming album Happy Now, which probably should have a question mark after it. Either way, it arrives March 29, so that will also be a pretty good day. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “We have short memories, maybe the world has not changed so much. Polarization is not new. We had an idea that we moved forward with; but now it’s crumbled and turned to dust. What was solid is now Paper Thin. Once, we could shut the door but we can no longer, the outside world will get to us, constantly, all the time.” Happy, happy, joy, joy:
7 As El Duce from The Mentors once told me — no, seriously — “tragedy and heartbreak are the best songwriters in the world.” I suspect California singer-songwriter Chris Cohen might have some pertinent thoughts on that, given the circumstances surrounding his upcoming self-titled album and the deceptively breezy new folk-pop single Green Eyes. I’ll let him take over the story. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “My parents got divorced while I was making this record,” he says. “They were married for 53 years and my father spent most of his life in the closet, hiding both his sexual identity and various drug addictions. For me it was like being relieved of a great burden, like my life could finally begin … Green Eyes” Cohen says, “[It’s about] the men in my family and how they passed their worldview along to each other from great emotional distances. My father and grandfather were full of secrets and longing, which were communicated through everyday actions like driving a car or cooking a meal. We all wanted closeness, but never found it in each other.” This is a statement about a specific song, but it is also a statement about the album as a whole: Chris Cohen is not so much autobiographical as it is multi-generational.” And you thought your family had issues:
8 Blaenavon frontman Ben Gregory has not had the greatest year. As he recently disclosed in a frank open letter to fans, the singer-guitarist had a stress-induced breakdown in 2017, which left him hospitalized for a month and unable to perform for much of the following year. But now he and his bandmates are back in action with a new single and lyric video — the caustic and cathartic Catatonic Skinbag, at least partially inspired by his personal struggle — and a new album Everything That Makes You Happy, due later this year. And if the gritty intensity of the song is anything to go by, the album should be a corker. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “The song is about isolation. Cutting oneself off from the world to engage in fruitless sensual pleasures and pretending everything is OK. Watching fucking Netflix and drinking a bottle of wine when you should probably instead be in therapy. But there’s a way out. Art, friendship, love. You don’t have to be a catatonic skinbag. Lol.” Hi-ho, silver lining:
9 It’s about time Ty Segall got off his butt. After making us wait more than three entire weeks into 2019 for new music — basically an eternity for the ridiculously prolific singer-guitarist — Segall has finally come around with a new live version of Love Fuzz, the latest single from his Freedom Band and the leadoff track from their March 29 album Deforming Lobes. Which is very possibly what this thundering seven-minute-plus guitar-rock epic will do to your ears. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Recorded live on stage at Los Angeles’ Teragram Ballroom via mobile unit onto two-inch tape and mixed at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini, Deforming Lobes updates (and upends) numbers from Melted, Emotional Mugger, Twins, Manipulator, $ingle$ 2 and Ty Segall. From the start, the Warm Hands suite shows the growth of the group since recording the original version for the 2017 self-titled album. The feeling between audience and band at those shows was its own special thing; here, the band is somehow even more front and center, exploring every song with an unrestrained curiosity and fervor, never forgetting the collective experience they’re sharing.” Listen before he records again:
10 It’s been 25 years since I smoked a cigarette. But listening to Robert Ellis’s Nobody Smokes Anymore — the third wickedly witty single from the singer-pianist’s Valentine’s Day release Texas Piano Man — almost made me wish I still puffed. Almost. It just might have the same effect on you. Especially if you are susceptible to the influence of artists who remind you of Ben Folds, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Father John Misty and Elton John. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “A larger projection of Ellis’ wilder inclinations, the tone of the record can swing like moods during the course of a day. Putting down his guitar and sitting at a piano awakened something, and Ellis likens the musical experience to being behind the wheel of “a rock solid muscle car.” It’s a heavy thing, with beautiful lines.” Smoke ’em if you got ’em:
11 If you’re old enough to remember the big Electronica boom of the mid-’90s, you might remember the Manchester trip-hop outfit Lamb. How much you remember might depend on where you live, since the duo of Lou Rhodes and Andy Barlow made a much bigger splash in Europe than North America. But even if you don’t recall singles like Górecki and Gabriel, I suspect you’ll find their new number somewhat addictive. Not only because Armageddon Waits has a fairly memorable title, but also because its sinister edge and syncopated groove suggest like a Middle Eastern version of a Bond theme. It comes from their upcoming seventh album The Secret of Letting Go, due this April. Don’t forget. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “The Secret of Letting Go is all about the space between sounds … Sometimes it’s evocative of sun-drenched horizons, at others it is contemplative, reflective; occasionally the space is itchy and anticipatory, pointing towards moments of ecstatic abandon.” Baaaaaaaa:
12 Pip Blom sounds like it could be an extravagant dessert — most likely involving complex pastry and fruit. Then again, it could also be the phonetic rendering of a cartoon sound effect or the name of an exotic plant. Of course, it could also be what a certain leader of the free world would tweet if he were trying to write pipe bomb. It is in fact none of these. Pip Blom is the name of an Amsterdam singer-guitarist (and also the name of her band). And her/their new single Daddy Issues, a preview of her/their upcoming album Boat, is a sweetly scrappy little garage-pop nugget that will make you remember her/them for her/their own sake. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “There’s the kinetic combination of guitars from herself and brother Tender Blom, the effortlessly captivating vocal range which can be authoritative and intent like in the driving album opener Daddy Issues.” Tender Blom? You’ve gotta be kidding me:
13 Sometimes you want a little new music. Sometimes you want a lot. Montreal’s Munya — the musical handle of producer, singer, songwriter and performer Josie Boivin — aims to please either way. For those who just want a taste, she will release her latest digital EP Blue Pine on March 8. For those who want a full meal deal, she’ll also bundle it with previous EPs North Hatley and Delmano into her first physical release. Either way, you’ll get to hear the lightly grooving new single It’s All About You, which she’s also previewing today. Because it really is all about you. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “It’s All About You (is) a darkly playful pop song about the joy and agony of all-consuming infatuation. “It’s about obsession, that feeling when everything you do is about trying to reach a singular goal, an object, or, in my case, love,” Boivin explains. “This song is about my dream – this fantasy and obsession of wanting someone so bad that it hurts and everything I do is for the dream of being together.” So it’s really all about someone else:
14 How bad is air travel these days? Even Flight of the Conchords keep you waiting forever. Months after the New Zealand comedy-folk duo returned to HBO with Live in London, their first live comedy special in forever, they finally decided to stream the corporate copulation ditty Iain and Deanna to hype the upcoming CD/LP/cassette release of the show (which includes two songs not on the broadcast). That’s all well and good, I guess. Though you could probably still just watch the actual TV performance on demand. But for those who prefer their live comedy with all those distracting visuals, colours and movements, here’s the audio-only version. SAY THE PRESS RELESE: “This past October and ten years after the launch of their hit HBO series, musical comedians Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement returned to the network for an all-new comedy special. Live in London was taped before a live audience at the Eventim Apollo and features the Conchords performing new songs from the sold-out UK and Ireland edition of Flight of the Conchords Sing Flight of the Conchords Tour.” Put on your business socks:
15 We’ve all heard of turning water into wine. But Turning Jewels Into Water? It sounds like they’re doing it wrong. Then again, after listening to the electronic duo of Indian-born drummer/producer Ravish Momin and Haitian electronic percussionist Val Jeanty unveil their new song Dark Waters Rushing In — a preview of their March 15 album Map of Absences — they’re clearly doing something right. And the flaming modern-dance clip that goes with does nothing to change my opinion. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Our full-length record, Map of Absences, is a reflection on the regressive state of human rights, deepening refugee crises and the worsening impacts of climate change worldwide. Imagine a world where refugees of color are free to cross borders, LGBTIA people are treated fairly and respectfully, and environmental healing technologies are widespread. These ideas are unfortunately absent from our current reality. We say ‘absent’ instead of ‘forgotten’ as the latter implies an instance of memory or a record of those things having existed.” Enjoy the rush:
16 I know little about Switzerland beyond mountains, banking, chocolate and timepieces. And I certainly don’t know how the instrumental Swiss duo Bunkr feel about the first three — but clearly they have an interesting relationship with time, based on the sharply shifting signatures of their nine-minute math-rock behemoth Schluss, which means ending in German, according to Google Translate. Ironically, it’s the first single from their upcoming self-titled album out March 29. SAYS THE PRESS RELEASE: “Schluss deploys personality in several distinct parts, and rhythmically it plays with odd times signatures, in addition to the conventional 4/4, to create disturbing and haunting grooves. In the end, this album forms a 45-minute soundscape reminiscent of some of the Impressionist or Pointillist paintings, but that does not really matter, as long as you can shake your head.” So, the schluss justifies the meint?