All posts by Derek Phillips

New Son Volt video: The 99

Video: Son Volt -- “The 99”

Son Volt - The 99 - Full Length Official Video

From Union, out now.

I don’t spend a lot of time on negativity anymore, and that includes writing negative reviews. I mean, really…we’re surrounded by a shitstorm of Trumpist negativity and we are a music site of, by and  for fans. So it pains me to write this:

This new Son Volt video is laughably bad. Jay and crew playing in front of a green screen while stock footage of the Great Depression is the No Depression version of phoning it in. And seriously, we can’t have that. This is a crucial time in the history of this country and we need Jay’s voice. It’s important. No half-measures, man. I am onboard with the sentiment, but you must try harder!

Son Volt: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Sharon Van Etten video: No One’s Easy To Love

Video: Sharon Van Etten -- “No One’s Easy To Love”

Sharon Van Etten - No One's Easy To Love

Directed by Katherine Dieckmann. From Remind Me Tomorrow, out now on Jagjaguwar.

I don’t know where she is or where she’s going, but Sharon Van Etten is a boss. How do I know? She walks with great authority. And you can’t be a boss without some authority. New single, “No One’s Easy To Love” is a clear statement of authority in relationships. Not that Sharon has all the answers--that’s not what authority or expertise imply. It’s that she has the experience and insight to speak to the complications that make up our closest connections.

I mean, the title itself is an authoritative statement. No one is easy to love. Humans have faults and flaws and they’re unique to each of us, which means they can be baffling to others. I have a very annoying habit of identifying and highlighting vocal inflections and regional accents. For example, many of my in-laws pronounce words that start with “un” as a prefix as “on.” They say things like “ONusual” or “ONcomfortable.” I notice it every single time. How annoying of me. I am not easy to love. And neither are you. The boss said so.

Sharon Van Etten: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Purple Mountains video: Darkness and Cold

Video: Purple Mountains -- “Darkness and Cold”

Purple Mountains "Darkness and Cold" (Official Music Video)

From Purple Mountains, due July 12 on Drag City.

Somewhere deep within the GLONO archives are boxes and boxes of VHS tapes. Throughout much of our teens and all of our 20s, Jake had a video camera and for long periods during those years, he seemed to video everything. Sometimes it was events in our lives, like graduations or birthday parties. Sometimes it was us being creative by making music videos of ourselves singing to The Charlatans. Sometimes--and this was a LOT of the time--it was just us sitting around his mom’s house or driving our friend Pat’s convertible (called The Soft Machine, natch) around our home town. Once, we climbed the fence surrounding an abandoned drive-in movie theater and Jake climbed to the very top of the giant outdoor screen. We did this a lot. We were bored in the midwest and a little infatuated with ourselves. It was cool and unique. It was before we all had a camera in our pockets. It was before selfie culture.

I think David Berman also has a bunch of these boxes in his basement. I think this video might be from one of the boxes way in the back. The tape holding the top closed is getting brittle and has pulled up a little from the surface of the two flaps holding the box closed. I wonder if he ever makes stop-action videos with his old Star Wars figures? We should compare notes.

Purple Mountains: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Ty Segall video: Taste

Video: Ty Segall -- “Taste”

Ty Segall "Taste" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Joshua Erkman. From First Taste, due August 2 on Drag City.

Ty Segall wants your shit and he is willing to murder you for it. We live in a sick society and are being programmed on a daily basis to feed our sickness. Never one for subtlety, Ty Segall goes on a real-life, one-man Grand Theft Auto joyride of destruction to accumulate as much bling as he can so he can take home the big prize. “What’s the big prize,” you say? More shit.

He can’t help it, we can’t help it. We’ve literally elected a golden calf to lead our country with game-show rules. Virtual-reality is higher definition than reality-reality. We’re starving while drowning in bits and bites.

UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, START.

Ty Segall: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Willie Nelson video: Come On Time

Video: Willie Nelson -- “Come On Time”

Willie Nelson - Come On Time (Official Music Video)

From Ride Me Back Home, due June 21 on on Sony.

Ok, it’s been a little negative around here lately. Weird times create good art, but it can take a psychic toll on us all. But there are lots of things out there we can be thankful for. That Willie Nelson is alive, well and still cranking out good jams is about as much as we can ask for these days, so let’s take a moment to recognize an actual living American Treasure.

“Come On Time” is a simple country-blues shuffle with standard structure and metre. In lesser hands, that might be the end of my comments on this song, but when you put an American Master on the job, you get something more. You get something much more than the sum of its parts.

That said, I am not at all comfortable with Willie Nelson smack-talking death. Do not tempt the darkness, Willie! At 86 years old, things are getting dicey and the last thing we need right now is another void in what actually makes American great. Stay safe, Willie.

Willie Nelson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Kyle Craft video: Broken Mirror Pose

Video: Kyle Craft -- “Broken Mirror Pose”

Kyle Craft - Broken Mirror Pose [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From Showboat Honey, due July 12 on Sub Pop.

I’m not sure what it is about this video that has me all in a bunch, but GOT DAMN if this song isn’t stuck in my head for days on end. Maybe it’s the balance of danger and fun the song elicits? I mean, it has a pretty ominous rhythm part juxtaposed with one of the most sing-song-y choruses of the summer jam season.

Balance, it seems, is a point of order for Craft as his bio says, “This is basically an album centered around bad luck and good fortune hitting at the same time,” Craft explains “Then, out of nowhere, I find love. Everything went to shit except that. I guess that’s how life works.”

The idea of bad luck and good fortune is particularly interesting to me as my closest friends and I just went through a year of a father dying. My friend’s dad, Bill, played a pivotal role in our lives, but one that was as gentle and “hands-off” as you can possibly imagine. He was a quiet presence, but a profound one in our lives. And as he was going through the process of dying, he had a constant refrain: “It is what it is.” He had the bad luck of getting brain cancer, but the good fortune of 75 years of great health and living life to the fullest. That’s a pretty good end result, really.

So this song kinda mystifies me. There are strange qualities that are hard to describe, and it’s driving me crazy. Maybe I should stop trying to figure it out and just accept it for what it is? Maybe I should just let it be? Maybe, after all, it just is what it is?

Kyle Craft: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Rubinoos video: Do You Remember

Video: The Rubinoos -- “Do You Remember”

The Rubinoos - Do You Remember (Official Music Video)

From From Home, due August 23 on Yep Roc.

There’s a long history of bands paying homage to each other. The Animals made a minor cottage industry out of it with “The Story of Bo Diddley” and “Monterrey,” but it’s nice to see the kids continuing a tradition. “Do You Remember” has not-so-subtle nods to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and explicit call-outs to “the bands in the plaza/playing at noon.” It’s important to remember the good times, and the bands that provided your own private soundtrack to those good times. The Rubinoos implore you to not forget. Not ever.

And who says you can’t make a video on the cheap? Well, probably nobody anymore now that we all have a capable video camera in our pockets, but The Rubinoos cut away all the fat to focus on the fun: A pal dancing her ass off in front of a curtain in what looks like your parents’ foyer. That’s a good time.

The Rubinoos: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Lower Leisure Class video: Oxygen

Video: Lower Leisure Class -- “Oxygen” (Tiny Desk Contest)

The Lower Leisure Class - Oxygen - Tiny Desk Contest 2019

Stories from the Lower Leisure Class is out now on Leppotone.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My old college band, The Vantrells, is reuniting to open for The Lower Leisure Class. So, you know…I’m obligated to say nice things about them.

When Jake decided to go to Kalamazoo College, I was skeptical. I had never been to Kalamazoo, despite growing up just 45 minutes north on US 131. Being a terrible student in high school, my undergrad fortunes were primarily tied to my better friends and I was angling for a free place to crash at the University of Chicago.

But then we discovered Leppotone Electrical Recordings, a collective of friends who banded (literally) together to create their own scene. The Lower Leisure Class is the latest product of that union and is made up of members from the most influential bands of my youth, including The Sleestacks, The Sinatras, Twister, Triplemint and King Tammy. The result is somehow, incredibly greater than the sum of its parts.

“Oxygen,” recorded for the Tiny Desk Contest is a prime example of why I love this band. Ron Casebeer is a short story writer with a knack for melody. He tells stories about neighbors and neighborhoods and the relationships we make and maintain, trivial and profound. He makes me cry a lot. To see this group shape their music around those stories is where things take off. There’s a joy in being together and playing together. There’s a power in being creative in your basement. It feeds your soul, it keeps you alive. It’s your oxygen.

And Ron’s just one of the songwriters. The combination of these bands and talents creates a unique sound they’ve dubbed “Michicana,” which I love. It’s new, but steeped in nostalgia and references any good midwesterner will recognize.

And so, after nearly 20 years being away, I am back in Michigan and excited to be reuniting with old friends to play some old songs. Who says you can never go home?

Lower Leisure Class: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Raconteurs video: Help Me Stranger

Video: The Raconteurs -- “Help Me Stranger”

The Raconteurs - "Help Me Stranger" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Yasuhiko Shimizu. From Help Us Stranger, out June 21 on Third Man.

A funky little groove with Jack and Brendan singing harmonies throughout, “Help Me Stranger” is gonna be lit live. Shades of all the genres that made Detroit a hothouse for any variety musical pollinators in the late 60s and early 70s.

The video is more of the symbolism of life in a broken land we’ve seen of late. Whether it’s Jack holden a baby in what appears to be an abandoned Asian city or images of that baby then smoldering in Jack’s arms, things are not well.

We might as well dance.

The Raconteurs: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New A.A. Bondy video: Killers 3

Video: A.A. Bondy -- “Killers 3”

A.A. Bondy - Killers 3 (Official Video)

From Enderness, due May 10 on Fat Possum.

Shit, another dude in a mask. This time we have a sad sack masked man sitting in a tub, sometimes with sparkles, sometimes with frame-in-frame videos of twerking booties and yawning lions. Go figure.

I reviewed Bondy’s live show in Portland a decade ago. I’m glad he’s still chugging along, but hope the road hasn’t beaten the creativity out of him. Cool song, dumb video.

A.A. Bondy: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.