All posts by Jake Brown

New Torres: Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head

Video: TORRES – “Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head”

TORRES - Don't Go Puttin Wishes in My Head (Official Video)

Video by Emily James. From Thirstier, due July 30 on Merge.

In 2018, Mackenzie Scott who records as Torres was dropped from a 3 album deal by her label 4AD “for not being commercially successful enough.” Then in 2019 she was picked up by Merge who released Silver Tongue last year.

Who knows what it even means these days to be “dropped” or “signed” to an indie label? Do labels still provide tour support or an advance on recording costs? Or do labels just promise to distribute and promote your stuff? Maybe that’s enough.

Regardless, Merge isn’t f-ing around and they’re releasing a new Torres album just 18 months after that last one. Hopefully, this means that Silver Tongue was commercially successful enough for everybody.

The leadoff single sounds beefier than her previous material. Scott has always come across as very cool verging on icy, but on “Wishes” she’s really belting it out. Her vocals are raw and intense. It’s a survival powerhouse that calls to mind the rollerskating anthems of Pat Benatar. Scott herself calls it her “relentless arena country star moment--my shameless Tim McGraw cheeseball hit.” Let’s hope so!

For a while, I was sinking
But from here on out, I swear I’m swimming.

Scott says, “I wanted to channel my intensity into something that felt positive and constructive, as opposed to being intense in a destructive or eviscerating way. I love the idea that intensity can actually be something life-saving or something joyous.”

The video was shot in her apartment, so if you’ve been hoping for an update to Joe Pernice’s “Indie Rock Cribs” this might be as close as you’re going to get.

Via For the Rabbits.

Continue reading New Torres: Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head

New Sincere Engineer: Come Out For A Spell

Video: Sincere Engineer – “Come Out For A Spell”

Sincere Engineer - Come Out For A Spell (Official Music Video)

From Bless My Psyche, due September 10 on Hopeless.

Sincere Engineer and Hopeless Records have released another single along with the album announcement for Bless My Psyche, which will be coming out in September. They’ve also scheduled a release party at the Cobra Lounge in Chicago and it sold out immediately. Good for them, but who dares to plan anything that far out anymore?

The new video assembles a bunch of tour footage from back when bands could tour, including some silly offstage hijinks. I recognize two shows I attended but am thankful to see that my drunkenly bobbing head is decidedly off-camera.

In November the band is hitting the road with Hot Mulligan, which is a bummer because they’re third-billing and will be playing bigger venues. I mean, not that much bigger (St. Andrew’s in Detroit, Bottom Lounge in Chicago, etc.), but I was hoping they’d come to the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids. I’m not willing to drive three hours to see a half-hour set. Maybe they’ll do a headlining tour in 2022 and play some tertiary markets. Fingers crossed!

Sincere Engineer: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Gary Louris: Follow

Video: Gary Louris – “Follow”

From Jump For Joy, out June 4 on Sham/Thirty Tigers.

What is it about Gary Louris’ voice that’s so comforting? From the Jayhawks days through his work with Golden Smog as well on his solo stuff, he sounds like a big hug from an old friend.

His new album was written, performed, recorded and produced entirely by Louris himself. As a reminder that some of us have been locking ourselves down since way before the start of the pandemic, some of these recordings date back to “the first decade of the new millennium.”

“Follow” is a love song with a super lovey video to match, starring Louris and his wife frolicking gaily in the woods.

“This was originally a straightforward love song for no one,” says Louris. “However when my niece was married I rewrote it and performed it for their wedding dance. Now it has become an ode and testament to my lovely wife. It is a song of commitment, of partnership and a realization of when two people have that magical bond that cannot truly be explained in words.”

New Tristen: Wrong With You

Video: Tristen – “Wrong With You”

Tristen - "Wrong With You" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Joshua Shoemaker. From Aquatic Flowers, out June 4 on Mama Bird.

Another great song from Tristen’s upcoming album. Can’t wait to hear the whole thing! The opening chords of this one call to mind Johnny Marr. Sort of a “Half a Person” vibe.

In the video our hero tromps through the woods in a slow-motion wedding dress all spooky like a jilted ghost, her smoky eye makeup smeared and running down her wet cheeks. I’m sure it’s not intentional, but her look reminds me of recent instagram posts by Britney Spears. I started following Britney after the whole #savebritney movement and, especially in that context, her little videos are disturbing. She dances around her house in sportswear with what appears to be a forced smile. Both her eye shadow and haunted demeanor are similar Tristen’s in this video. Or maybe I’m projecting.

“‘Wrong With You’ takes a look at a masochist so attuned to their own self-loathing and emotional manipulations that they can’t help but pity anyone who tries to get close,” says Tristen. “The more love they are given, the more skeptical and withdrawn they become. With the backdrop bopping like what I hoped felt like a Marshall Crenshaw tune, in a strange emotional twist, the protagonist knows they are treating their lover badly as some kind of test because, if they can love you through the pain, their love is somehow more true.”

New Madi Diaz: Nervous

Video: Madi Diaz – “Nervous”

Madi Diaz - "Nervous"

Directed by Jordan Bellamy. Single out now on Anti-.

Cool song with a beefy guitar tone and conversational vocal delivery. That’s my jam.

The line “I have so many perspectives I’m losing perspective” reminds me of the old Steve Taylor lyric: “You’re so open-minded that your brain leaked out.” Sometimes I miss being a kid who is absolutely convinced that I know everything about everything. I made a crack the the other day about losing my critical faculties but I’m not sure it was a joke. It used to be so easy to dismiss stuff out of hand, without putting any real effort into it. All the stuff I hated so thoroughly as a 16 year old (e.g., Grateful Dead, Whitney Houston, NASCAR, tofu), I can appreciate now and some of it I even like.

When you can no longer bring yourself to hate things, how are you supposed to define what you actually like?

I don’t know if any of that has anything to do with what Madi Diaz is singing about.

Diaz says, “You know when you hold a mirror up to a mirror and you get an infinite amount of reflections from every angle? That’s what ‘Nervous’ is about. It’s when you’re in a loop of looking at yourself from every vantage point until you’re caught up in your own tangled web of bullshit. It’s about catching yourself acting out your crazy and you’re finally self aware enough to see it but you’re still out of your body enough and curious enough to watch yourself do it.”

“Nervous” is her third single for Anti-. No word yet on a full-length album.

New ME REX video: Heart of Garbage

Video: ME REX – “Heart of Garbage”

ME REX - Heart of Garbage (Radio Edit)

From the Triceratops/Stegosaurus EP, out now on Big Scary Monsters.

This is what we used to call “college rock” and it’s great. The lead guitar tone reminds me of my beloved Sinatras and the clever lyrics are delivered by Myles McCabe in a delightful South London accent.

And if you feel like I do maybe I can help you through this
Don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed of what you need to keep you sane
Tell your head I said I hate the weight it gives to the mistakes we made.

How can you not love that? Come on.

Via fortherabbits.

New Kings Of Convenience: Rocky Trail

Video: Kings Of Convenience – “Rocky Trail”

Kings Of Convenience - Rocky Trail (Official Video)

From Peace Or Love, out June 18 on EMI.

Back in the Great Sellout Wars of the early 2000s, the Kings of Convenience were one of the bands I would bring up to demonstrate that a television commercial could indeed turn someone on to good music. Their song “Toxic Girl” was used in an ad for something or other where a young person was on a bus, longing for someone. That’s all I remember now. I just spent about five minutes trying to find the spot online but failed.

The way it worked back then was we would hear a cool song, search the internet for who it was, and then download a 128mbps MP3 via Napster or Audiogalaxy. Later, when we stumbled across the cd in the used bin, we’d buy it for six bucks, and if we really liked the whole thing, we’d be sure to pick up their next album on release day. If the band ever toured we’d go see them, and if they had cool merch we might even get a shirt.

It seems naïve now, but at the time we believed that filesharing would ultimately lead to more revenue for musicians. And maybe it did for a while there when people (like us) still bought physical media. Streaming obliterated this system. But that’s another story.

Back when Kings Of Convenience released their last album, 2009’s Declaration of Dependence, there was no streaming. “Album downloads” were still a big thing that was on the rise. It’s a different world now, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to their new single. It’s got that same breezy grooviness that first caught my ear when I saw the ad with the kid on the bus. It’s not really bossa nova but you can imagine a Getz/Gilberto cover of any of their songs, including this new one.

The video features a single, continuous shot of the duo and some friends hanging out in an extremely Scandinavian apartment. Totally on brand and wonderful. Made me realize how much I’ve missed these guys. Let’s say we give them one more time, one last chance to speak again…

Kings Of Convenience: web, insta, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Liz Phair: Spanish Doors

Video: Liz Phair – “Spanish Doors”

Liz Phair - Spanish Doors (Official Music Video)

From Soberish, due June 4 on Chrysalis.

It’s great that Liz Phair has reconnected with Brad Wood, who produced Exile, Whip-Smart, and a most of the best songs on whitechocolatespaceegg. In the liner notes for Girly Sound to Guyville, Phair talks about how unlike previous producers she had tried to work with, Wood “wanted to make a record the way I wanted to make a record. [Wood and engineer Casey Rice] didn’t want to tell me what to do.” Which is why the music they recorded together is so distinctive; the guys didn’t try to tell “the girl” that what she wanted to do was wrong.

I remember hearing that the reason her early songs sound so weird is that she didn’t know how to play guitar when she wrote them and was just making up chords on her own by putting her fingers wherever they sounded cool. If that’s true, it’s awesome.

The quirkiness of youthful experimentation doesn’t last forever, especially when you have major label honchos breathing down your neck, but that’s why after finally being “released” from Capitol Records, 2010’s Funstyle was such a welcome change of pace (even if half the songs were ridiculous).

But now she’s teamed back up with Brad Wood and the three songs we’ve heard so far from their collaboration are giving us a picture of what this new phase is like. It’s mature but not boring. There’s still a playfulness in the production. There are familiar “classic Liz Phair” guitar tones, but nobody’s trying to recreate Wicker Park in the 90s.

The best song on Exile, “Divorce Song” was written at least five years before Phair got married and this new song, dealing with a similar subject, is coming out twenty years after she got divorced.

Phair says, “I drew inspiration from a friend who was going through a divorce, but the actions in the lyrics are my own. I relate to hiding out in the bathroom when everyone around you is having a good time but your life just fell apart. You look at yourself in the mirror and wonder who you are now, shadows of doubt creeping into your eyes. Just a few moments ago you were a whole, confident person and now you wonder how you’ll ever get the magic back.”

I don’t know if it’s ever really possible to fully get the magic back. But if you can manage to keep on keeping on, and every once in a while grasp a little bit of the magic you once possessed, maybe that’s good enough.

We’re all grownups now. It’s probably greedy and unrealistic to expect to be able to rekindle whatever it was that seemed to come so easily when we were young. But it can be fun to try.

New Lou Barlow video: Over You

Video: Lou Barlow – “Over You”

Lou Barlow - Over You (Official Video)

Video by Lou & Adelle. From Reason to Live, out May 28 on Joyful Noise.

Sure, there’s a new Dinosaur Jr album out today, and everything we’ve heard from it so far is awesome, but hey, Lou Barlow’s got a new solo album on the way as well, so check out the new song. (And they called us the slacker generation!)

Barlow says the leadoff single “came from the general longing of my teenage years” and it’s “based on one melody and lyric fragment I captured on cassette back in 1982 or so. In 2019, I decided to resurrect and expand this nugget for my ‘Artist Enabler Series’ for Joyful Noise. I used some of the original lyrics: ‘I knew everything about you. I knew nothing about you’ and built on that feeling, the phrase ‘over you’ became the chorus. I recorded the basic tracks for the new version onto cassette in an attempt to mimic the atmosphere of the original.”

It’s Lou’s specialty to pack a lifetime of emotion into a two-minute pop song. The longing, the regret, that feeling of being haunted by memories. People tell you to “get over it” but there are things it’s impossible to get over; some memories are just an intrinsic part of your being.

“When considering the video I talked to my wife, Adelle, about things in our lives that we’ve never been ‘over.’ We moved from California six years ago, a place that we both loved. We started compiling home videos from our times living there (17 years in my case) and scenes from some 80’s movies that were filmed in LA. When we combined the footage it seemed to work with the song.”

It works!

New Lucy Dacus: Hot and Heavy

Video: Lucy Dacus – “Hot & Heavy”

Lucy Dacus - "Hot & Heavy" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Lucy Dacus and Marin Leong. From Home Video, out June 25 on Matador.

A powerful new song by the great Lucy Dacus with a video featuring adorable old home movies. Home Video, not coincidentally, is the title of her upcoming album.

“I thought I was writing ‘Hot & Heavy’ about an old friend, but I realized along the way that it was just about me outgrowing past versions of myself,” explains Dacus. “So much of life is submitting to change and saying goodbye even if you don’t want to. Now whenever I go to places that used to be significant to me, it feels like trespassing the past. I know that the teen version of me wouldn’t approve of me now, and that’s embarrassing and a little bit heartbreaking, even if I know intellectually that I like my life and who I am.”

“I knew I wanted to include some of the home video footage that my dad took of me while I was growing up. I wanted to visualize the moment when you first reflect on your childhood, which I think can also be the moment that childhood is over. For me, I feel like there was a hard switch when I started releasing music, when my identity went from being a personal project to something publicly observed and reflected. I asked my family (shoutout to my grandma) and some of my closest friends to be extras because they’re the people that knew me before that switch. I may have dropped out of film school, but I still love making movies and had a really fun time directing this one.”

Continue reading New Lucy Dacus: Hot and Heavy