Thursday, January 26, 2017

What Caught My Ear - 17.2 and 17.3

So sorry to have left you hanging for a week - but no worries, we'll catch up and look at both weeks, though I think I'm already excited about 17.4 which comes our way tomorrow.

So what new music have you found so far in 2017? I think that music can help bring us together, whatever our politics, religion, worldview, or life experiences - and we really need that now! As Levon Helm once said "If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out."

What really caught my ear for 17.2 (Jan 13 releases) will surprise some of you. I listened several times to Oczy Mlody by The Flaming Lips. Wait - I can explain. Yes there are some really silly lyrics like:

At first there should be unicorns.
The ones with the purple eyes,
not the ones with green eyes.

And yes, there are enough (4-letter and other) words dropped which I don't use in the course of normal conversation, garnering the 'explicit' warning label on the cover - and some drug references (there you were warned). Yet those moments sneak in as they are sung so softly and are nearly-ethereal sounding that you barely notice. Maybe it is the unexpected of this album and that irony that catches the ear.

Don't be mistaken, there are still moments like this in "Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)":

Tell me love is neither living or dying
It's a power in your mind
I think it's with you all the time
It only hurts when it leaves you

Paste Magazine says The Flaming Lips here "manage to build a bridge to the rest of us norms, making some of their must listenable and straight-up lovely music along the way."

Moving on to less-sombre sounding music that caught my ear... this one comes from the garage rock sound of The Molochs on America's Velvet Glory. A reviewer on describes 'The One I Love' as a tune that's "sweet without ever being too sugary with lyrics such as “I will pour the water on your heart to grow”.

Another project just as happier-sounding and fun comes from Colony House, a group making the late-night circuits to promote their sophomore release "Only The Lonely". Part of their fame comes from the fact that two of the band members' father is Steven Curtis Chapman, known for his success in contemporary Christian. The web site credits their U2 and The Killers influences as the reason their sound is "a nostalgic trip to when music was not about perfection but about energy and making people dance."

What really caught my ear for 17.3 (Jan 20 releases) was first and foremost, Foxygen's Hang, on which the band enlisted the help of a 40-plus-piece symphony orchestra. I've loved Foxygen ever since 2013's "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic". That's still a classic in my book and if you've never heard it, you should. I love how Foxygen takes elements from so many places, that, as you listen will sound familiar, yet fresh. Your mind will be so active, causing you to ask yourself repeatedly 'what does that remind me of?" - yet its like nothing you've heard before.

From the song "Rise Up":

Quite a few shall wonder
Very few shall know
Everybody wants to change the world
Everybody wonders where the red fern grows
Everybody wants to save their souls
And everybody wonders
The very few shall know

Here, Foxygen is performing the opening track on Conan, Follow The Leader.

Want something really different? Try Throwing Snow's Embers. The album ends as it begins, with the smoldering remains of a dying fire, driving home the album's theme of interconnectedness ( This is the second full-length release for the British electronic producer Ross Tones and includes natural field recordings from around the small English village he held the recording sessions at ( It will draw you in, not with lyrics, but with feelings, and with the imagery in your mind.

Now about tomorrow - 17.4! Japandroids release their new project Near To THe Wild Heart Of Life. The title track is already out and if it is anything like the rest of the album, I'll have good things to say. Title track kicks off with these lyrics:

The future's under fire
The past is gaining ground
A continuous cold war between
My home and my hometown

Also looking forward to Ellie Holcomb's new release. Her beautiful, rich and emotive tones have captured my ears for the last couple years. If you need to catch up, her last release "As Sure as the Sun" is available now via Get it now and prepare yourself for tomorrow and 17.4

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Caught My Ear - 17.1

New music every Friday ... its like perpetual Christmas, even a dream come true. I'd like to think that the search for new favorites yields satisfaction through the process of discovery alone, but also connects with something deep in our soul that music speaks to as well as making us culturally more relevant. Dietrich Bonhoeffer claimed that music "will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” Henry David Thoreau knew that when he heard music, it made him stronger - “I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”

For years I have welcomed new music release day - always a Tuesday in the USA until July 2015 when it was moved to Fridays to get the entire world synced on the same day to standardize chart performance and reduce the potential for illegal downloads. So, I thought this year I'd let everyone in on what catches my ear as I look through the releases. I know my favorites will still be influenced by first what catches my eye - either by cover art, title, or the artist and will most likely be genres that I have an affinity towards - but I'll try to be more inclusive and wider in my considerations in selections.

So for the first release day of the year - 17.1 - I have two titles that I've been listening to.

Gone is Gone is a metal "super-group" composed of Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Tony Hajjar (At the Drive-In), Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age), and film composer Mike Zarin. Not a head-banger? I wouldn't say I am either, but don't let that stop you from giving "Echolocation" a spin. At times bleak and heavy, the disc has a solid rock groove. As the reviewer on writes, this collaboration is "a steely and glum collection, with crunchy guitar riffs giving way to brief expanses of ethereal textures".

One that I've listened to on repeat in the car even more this week is "11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory" - a product of the always-fun and raw Dropkick Murphys. Addictive in energy, Paste Magazine's description sums it up best... "Loss and the possibility of redemption represent the twin themes of pain and glory fueling the Celtic-punk band’s ninth album". And you really haven't heard "You'll Never Walk Alone" until you hear this brilliant cover version!

Let me know what you think about either of these ear-catching selections of the week.