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WAIT TIL I GET MY HEAD ON STRAIGHT: Matthew Good’s Arrows of Desire a must-hear rock album

Forgive me for being a bit behind the curve here, but Matthew Good’s sixth solo album Arrows of Desire is good enough to be well worth the wait. Out since late September, the album follows his staggeringly good Lights of Endangered Species, bringing a serious dose of invigorating rock music to an audience starved for music of this caliber. From the opening one-two-three gut-punches of “Arrows of Desire“, “Via Dolorosa” and “Had It Coming”, this album announces itself as exactly what fans of Good have come to expect: introspective lyrics coupled with raw passionate rock arrangements which showcase Good’s always-stellar vocals.

The hooks are visceral, hitting from an emotional core no one else among his peers could mine on such a regular basis with this level of consistency. The way he stagger-holds each syllable on “Via Dolorosa” before letting loose with a guttural wail on the chorus: “Wait til I get my head on … wait til I get my head on straight!” That’s what brings us back for more, no matter how long we in the States might have to wait to ever catch him in a live setting. The raw fury comes through on the album, something ever more rare in this day of over-polished radio fodder. Check out Arrows of Desire immediately and remind yourself why rock music, in the right hands, will always be relevant.

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“HEAR! HEAR!” EXCLUSIVE: Hurrah! A Bolt of Light – “In Over My Head”

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Brooklyn’s Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! brings a sensational blend of U2 arena rock and Augustana-inspired pop to the table via the entirety of their self-titled debut album, due out April 1st. The band spent time with producer John Fields (Switchfoot, Soul Asylum, The Rembrandts) in Los Angeles working to get the sound right, and I’ll come out and say it: there’s not a dud on the album.

“In Over My Head” in particular is a shining example of what the band offers. “I keep my heart in a little box … I should have known there’d be hell to pay,” Will Farr sings, backed by shimmering guitars, thundering percussion and echoing hand-clap fueled backing vocals. And while he may feel as though he’s in over his head, listeners will fall head-over-heels as they sing along with this perfectly radio-ready nugget.

Help break this band wide and share the track now, available to stream and download exclusively at “Hear! Hear!” via the above link. It’s easy to say there’s nothing great making it to radio but it’s another thing entirely to sit back and let something this good slip away. (You can follow Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! on Facebook and Twitter.)


“HEAR! HEAR!” EXCLUSIVE: PAZ’s “The Silence” is golden, an EDM hit in the making

There’s nothing about this song lyrically that would typically draw me in, but the hook to “The Silence” is immediate and I could legitimately expect to hear PAZ’s latest played on radio stations in the same mix as Imagine Dragons, Skrillex and Avicii, something which should attest to its EDM bona-fides. In the end the hook is all that matters, and it will have you singing along mindlessly long before you have the inkling to think about what you’re singing. That’s the essence of a great pop song, one which grabs hold and drags you kicking and screaming into liking it, and then getting you to spread the word even when you know you’ll be tempted to attach “guilty pleasure” to the description.

“Hear! Hear” is excited to be the first place you’ll hear “The Silence,” which you can stream via Soundcloud below. When more information is available about the full mixtape, we’ll let you know here as well.


RELEASE THE HOUNDS: Holy White Hounds’ “Switchblade” hooks like a knife to the gut

“Sometimes all you need is just a taste,” or so the chorus of “Switchblade” tells you as the brilliant single pinwheels its way through the confines of your skull. Holy White Hounds owes a great deal to the Black Keys, but their sound has a pop-fueled energy that band often lacks, fueled by the high-end production values of Brandon Darner (Imagine Dragons, Envy Corps) who helmed the band’s latest EP. There’s a real sense of “I don’t give a fuck” fun behind this one, as the video will attest on a single viewing. You’ll be singing along with this one all day while hitting repeat and trying to find out anything and everything about this enigmatic trio. With any luck Holy White Hounds will be the big rock story of 2014, as Iowa needs some serious rocking and this song seriously deserves wider appeal.


Tom Levin’s “Pull Yourself Together” melds sly folk with pseudo southern gospel for real keeper

Like a twisted blend of Cracker, Tom Waits and Jason Isbell filtered through the sensibility of the Coens’ Fargo, Swedish artist Tom Levin defies the “sanctity” of genres with this riot of a single off his latest album Them Feet. Hell, even Levin hints that this is his version of “Minnesota Nice,” twisted through a wondrous sludge of psuedo-Southern Folk and gothic Gospel touches. Says Levin:

The lyrics to “Pull Yourself Together” are inspired by how people in the [American South] are very good at letting someone know, in a polite way, when they are behaving like an idiot. I wrote the song because I had to get my disappointment with certain peoples’ behavior out of my system. “Bless your little heart” takes the edge off almost any insult and sometimes makes it sound like a compliment. If you or anyone you know ever needs to tell someone they are being a total jackass.just send them this song.

Watch it below and make your night just a little more special!


ARTISTS TO WATCH: Unicycle Loves You to release searing fourth album The Dead Age June 10th

This one’s an interesting beast. Though it’s not out until June, and the band won’t be revealing its lead single until after SXSW, I felt I’d be letting all of you down if I didn’t at least get your attention piqued well in advance. With three albums under their belt, Unicycle Loves You has already built a reputation as aural chameleons, delving into jangly power pop, post new-wave and garage psychedelia, but The Dead Age is something else entirely. Taking garage rock into the world of pop music by way of some of the grungiest sounds not already trademarked by Sonic Youth, the band wastes no time digging talons into your brain and achieving immediate liftoff. “Face Tattoo” has potential single written all over its surf-rock guitar-and-drums combo, with the ultimate bass groove underlining the faded-back vocals which echo back to an era when we didn’t have to understand every word our rock stars sang. It was about the way the music made us feel, and this is music tailored to stimulating all your senses.

Until you can hear the new material, give some of the band’s other stuff a listen — check out “Garbage Dump” below, off their album Failure and sound off in the comments if you want to hear more from these guys.


Black Crowes’ Guitarist Rich Robinson will release solo album The Ceaseless Sight on June 3rd

Rich Robinson, of the Black Crowes, has announced he will officially release his third solo record The Ceaseless Sight in June, and has premiered the lead single “One Road Hill” via Paste. You can check out the song below, featuring its strong folk melody, hand-claps and Robinson’s patented jangling acoustic guitar style, all of which echoes through the entirety. I’m really excited to hear more from this one.

In related news, beginning March 8th, Robinson will proudly join the likes of stalwart names such as Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Robby Krieger, Jonny Lang, Bootsy Collins, Eric Johnson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Billy Cox (Band of Gypsys, Jimi Hendrix Experience) and many more on the Experience Hendrix Tour presented by BandFuse: Rock Legends. Robinson will be performing on the following select dates:

March 8 – Shawnee, OK – Grand Event Center
March 9 – Midland, TX – Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center
April 4 – Milwaukee, WI – The Riverside Theater
April 5 – Merrillville, IN – Star Plaza Theater
April 6 – Peoria, IL – Peoria Civic Center
April 8 – Minneapolis, MN – State Theater


UNDER COVER: The Railers – “Motown Philly”

The Railers don’t do anything to this classic Boys II Men track that pushes it into The Gourds’ “Gin and Juice” territory, but they’re still clearly having a lot of fun. Check out the cover below, but then give their original “Good Luck Comin’” in a fantastic live version from Indianapolis’ Rathskeller. They’re a country rock band worthy of a second listen. They’ll be hitting a venue near you over the next month, so give them a shot. Headphones are great, but the live sound’s always preferable.

3.06 The New Vintage Louisville, KY
3.07 Six Strings Bloomington, IL
3.08 Rathskeller Indianapolis, IN
3.14 El Dorado Municipal Auditorium El Dorado, AR
3.15 Revolution Music Hall Little Rock, AR
3.16 Knucklehead’s Kansas City, MO
3.26 TinAngel Philadelphia, PA
3.27 Hill Country DC Washington, DC
3.28 Hill Country Brooklyn Brooklyn, NY
3.29 Hill Country New York, NY

NEW MUSIC MONDAY: Schizophrenic melodies, synths unite adventurous singles from Ninetails, Arum Rae and Sleep Thieves

Ninetails – “An Aria”
Album: Quiet Confidence
Release Date: March 10, 2014

A trippy exercise in merging a dense yet adventurously free-wheeling arrangement, this second single from Ninetails’ upcoming album Quiet Confidence showcases a band with music perfect for close headphone listening. The vocals hide hauntingly out of reach, as the ears focus on the ornately schizophrenic melody, with bells and horns competing amid a constantly shifting aural backdrop. Definitely music worth savoring.

Arum Rae – “2001”
Album: Warranted Queen EP
Release Date: April 22, 2014

The backdrop of this endlessly addictive single which Spin dubbed “Auto-Tuned soul” is awash in synths and electronic dub elements, but Arum Rae’s distinct vocals delve into 808s and Heartbreak-esque territory while making subtle shifts which belie her advanced study of jazz vocals at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. What sets the song apart is that constant shifting between the worlds of hip-hop, pop and electronic, with a minimal use of instruments allowing Arum Rae’s voice to really twist and turn. There are moments where her voice, heard through this chaotic prism, takes on a vaguely middle-eastern touch, as though blending human voice and synth strings.

Sleep Thieves – “City Of Hearts”
Album: You Want The Night
Release Date: Spring 2014

The intro at first sounds like come of Enya’s more twisted synth tracks, but once the drums kick in this single quickly falls into a groove more akin to the sound of the Knife, as filtered through the more poppy nature of early Tegan and Sara. It’s a sound both modern and retro, which is sure to give Sleep Thieves plenty of potential appeal. Their debut You Want The Night, which as a full-length follows their successful 2012 EP Islands, is due out this spring and should quickly assert the Dublin band’s global status among synth-pop taste-makers. It doesn’t hurt that the song is instantly ear-catching and repeatable, which makes you want to blast it from your speakers to anyone who will listen.

 

 

 


FEATURED SONG: Nikki Lerner – “Plea”

Nikki Lerner’s entire album Longings is well worth your listen, but if you’ve only got time for one song, try the subtle building “Plea,” which showcases her pop-meets-jazz leanings in full-on glory. This is an example of a song taking its time to earn a listener’s respect, building layer upon layer of melody as Lerner’s vocals swim among the notes, elevating them from mere pop to something significantly more. This is mournful blues, soaring pop and multi-textured jazz all rolled into one five minute track, something you have to hear again and again to fully absorb. From the pizzicato strings at the first chorus, which immediately make the hairs on the neck stand alert, to the background vocals which add depth and clarity to the melody, this is a song built upon attention to detail. Every detail brings you back. By the time the song builds to its apex — “Please forgive me!” lingering in the air over thundering toms and an epic string instrumental provided by jazz violinist Zach Brock, there’s no going back.

You can buy the album via her Bandcamp page.


FEATURED SONG: Terese Taylor’s “Briefcase” a scathing indictment of love gone awry

I’ve got to say, I like the sound Terese Taylor brings to the table, a biting combination of anti-Lilith nineties post-grunge that references PJ Harvey and Liz Phair, with just as much appreciation for bands like Veruca Salt sneaking out through the lines. “If I ever wanted to be true I’m sure it wouldn’t be to you,” she all but snarls on the chorus of “Briefcase,” emphasizing an inherent distaste for truth-telling in a situation where both sides are hiding plenty in the shadows. This isn’t the easy pop breeze look at love on the rocks, where a well-placed apology will fix everything. This is more akin to the blind leading the blind. “I’m lying to myself and everybody else,” she sings, and the strident guitars and fuzzed-out bass are unobtrusive enough to let Taylor’s understated vocals take the lead. This is a keeper — At Your Mercy Circuit, out in April, has officially jumped onto my “must hear” list.


Kat Dahlia’s “Crazy” proves it: She is THE best thing in pop music.

Is it crazy that it only took one listen to this song and I fell in love?
Is it crazy that I know all the words and I can’t help but sing along?
Fuck no it’s not crazy ….

One listen and you’ll understand. Kat Dahlia is for real, and she’s coming to take control of your earphones.


08 – Interview: Ward Hayden (Girls Guns and Glory)


This week on the “Hear! Hear!” and Now Podcast, I got the opportunity to sit and chat with Ward Hayden, lead singer for Boston’s Girls Guns and Glory. The band has spent the better part of the last decade building a name as one of America’s best undiscovered alternative country bands. For their fifth studio album, aptly titled Good Luck, the band chose to focus on promoting their more rock-oriented elements, including rockabilly and some dare I say Springsteenian touches on the album’s centerpiece, “Centralia.”

Veteran producer Eric Ambel, who produced Steve Earle and the Bottle Rockets in the past, took the helm on this release. He brings his deft touch to the rockier elements, making this the strongest Girls Guns and Glory effort yet. If you haven’t bought it yet, why not now? Ward’s interview touches on the finer details of the album, including stories behind songs like “Centralia” and “Rockin’ Chair Money” which give you a deeper look at the band’s sound and goals. You’ll also hear his favorite tracks off the album.

Enjoy, and remember to learn more about the band by visiting www.girlsgunsandglory.com.


Wax Fang’s The Astronaut or: “For Those About To Show Albums Aren’t A Lost Art, We Salute You!”

Scott Carney and Jacob Heustis of Wax Fang have spent the last decade proving to be the perfect comparison to the region’s weather patterns — if you don’t like one album, or it fails to resonate with you instantly, you’re almost certain to like something about what comes next. Each album they’ve released has taken a different twist on the most progressive elements of psychedelic experimental rock, proving you can craft songs of impressive scope and infinite replayability. They’ve proved repeatedly that the current “single first” mentality need not apply to every band or artist — that, Bob Lefsetz’s constant diatribes nonwithstanding, album rock is not dead. The album is not an art-form to be relegated to discussions of Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Yes, or any of their ilk.

Wax Fang’s latest album, The Astronaut, is a revelation, a five-song suite which does as much to tell a story through its inventive instrumental arrangement just as much as it does through Carney’s vocals. The main character becomes untethered from his ship, careens through a black hole and is transformed into a God, all-knowing and far from human. Imagine Gravity and 2001 filtered through the musical mind of the man who brought us that positively delicious animated rendition of “The Majestic” on American Dad and you’ve got at least a taste of how great this album is.

This isn’t an album which requires multiple listens to enjoy. It requires multiple listens merely because it’s so immediately enjoyable. The key, however, is to listen to the suite uninterrupted. The tone shifts relentlessly throughout, as the story is told through every bit of instrumentation. Carney’s voice is in top form as well, but blasting this album through a good pair of headphones is its own reward — you’ll feel the story being told as though the experience were your own. And unlike albums like Thick As A Brick, which occasionally drowned in their own artistic pretensions, Carney’s vision is allowed to fully develop through this forty-minute arrangement. To hear this chopped into easy-to-swallow “singles” would be a disservice to what is the band’s artistic masterpiece.

More important, the same aural themes continue to crop up throughout the album, twisted and electrified by the same outside forces which are transforming the titular astronaut from man to super-being. The album rewards patience and continued listening by focusing our attention on subtle shifts in mood. So while the album’s quality is evident even on first listen, it becomes better and better the more you experience the telling.

You can hear the first fifteen-minute segment of The Astronaut via NPR’s “All Songs Considered” blog, but be assured you’ll be wanting this album in full the moment you can get your hands on it on January 28th. And while there are pleasures in playing the album in high-quality digital format, this is one of those albums for which the vinyl treatment proves just as tantalizing. I’ve listened to the album on repeat while walking through snowy small-town Hoosier landscapes. But I’m just as excited to sit down in a dark room and let the record spin.

That’s why albums aren’t dead.

That’s why Wax Fang is the best band you’re not listening to.

The Astronaut will change that.


Andrew Ripp keeps it Simple with acoustic version of album, plus cover of Timberlake’s “Mirrors”

Those who have followed this site for any length of time know I’m a big fan of Andrew Ripp’s music. This interview from 2010 is a must-read, and if you haven’t heard She Remains The Same or his latest effort Won’t Let Go, you need to rectify that situation. Why not start with Simple, which reworks the entirety of Won’t Let Go acoustically, with the addition of this exceptional cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors”?

Ripp strips the song down to its basics, opening with a piano melody which in its rawest form sounds virtually McCartney-esque. He then builds to create something which shows an appreciation for Timberlake’s original groove while becoming his own fresh take on the pop smash. From there it’s equally easy to imagine him doing the same kind of work on classics-in-the-making like “Cool Ya (Nobody Loves You Like I Do)” or the beautiful “Rescue Me,” which, on the original album, featured Vince Gill on guest vocals.

Andrew Ripp clearly is the real deal, as album after album he continues to rip up the pop-rock playbook. Thank God it’s not even close to being too late to get in on the game. Give it a listen and sound off in the comments section below … can’t wait to hear from you!


Lea Michele overacts as her new single “Cannonball” sinks hook-less, like a stone

“I’ll fly like a cannonball,” Glee-alum Lea Michele sings on her first original single, but what goes up eventually must also come down in a gory explosion of pyrotechnic overkill. At least that’s what happens here in a single which explodes in all the wrong ways, something only Michael Bay could fully appreciate.

Akin to something from a bad Broadway rock musical, Michele overacts her way through the video, backed by her own overwrought vocals, verses and chorus merging into one dense morass of pop miscalculation. The basic message is this: I’m lonely inside, but I’m going to get out there once I light this fuse and live my life, today … today … today …” Michele repeats words and phrases as though beating us with a blunt rhetorical instrument will make us like this song even in the slightest.

I in turn will start living today, and my first step will be vowing never to play this song again. If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, you can press play on the video below and then make the same vow never to do so again. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!


07 – Interview: Kat Dahlia


On this episode of the “Hear! Hear!” and Now Podcast, I have the opportunity to speak with Kat Dahlia, a 22-year-old pop / hip-hop songwriter who’s already made waves with last year’s viral hit “Gangsta.”

Dig beneath the surface and it’s easy to hear her disappointment with those in her generation who remain content bragging about accomplishments which in the end mean little. This, juxtaposed against her own family struggles as a first-generation Cuban-American growing up in Miami, sets her apart from most in the genre.

With a mix of fun party songs and more serious looks at the world in which she lives,one thing is clear: Kat Dahlia has something to say coupled with the drive to take over your pop landscape. Listen up, she’s coming to a city near you and there’s the chance to get in on this thing from the ground floor!

For a list of upcoming tour dates and to get a copy of her Seeds Mixtape, you can visit katdahlia.com


06 – Interview: Midnite on Pearl Beach


This week on the “Hear! Hear!” and Now podcast I sat down to talk with Justin Jahnke, the brains behind Midnite on Pearl Beach, to discuss the band’s album Lamplighter, which officially came out this week. Stay tuned after the interview to hear “Name of the Game,” Justin’s favorite track off the album, in its entirety.

To suggest artists for potential inclusion in a future feature or interview segment on the “Hear! Hear!” and Now Podcast, please email kroessman@gmail.com.


LOVE ME BETTER: Kat Dahlia’s “The High” as visually arresting a video as the song is unforgettable

From a pure pop standpoint, Kat Dahlia’s new single “The High” is both invigorating and unabashedly ear-catching. The video she’s crafted for the song, a five-minute intense look at a violent relationship come to a brutal conclusion, is as visually arresting as the song is undeniably a hit in the making.

The single, off the 22-year-old’s latest mix-tape Seeds, is one of those graphic and brutally honest videos you have to see to believe. Even when the video at times seems on the verge of falling into Twilight territory, the song remains there in all its intense, stutter-pop glory to keep drawing you in.

“You say you’re gonna love me better,” she sings mournfully, but there’s no glossing over it. “But for now and for forever it’s a lie.” This is love in vain, even when it does make for visually and aurally invigorating art. The underlying pain of her experience is brutally evident. Consider this 2014′s first monster hit in the making and a must-hear.


ARMED THROUGH TRUTH: Calle 13′s “Multi-Viral” a call-to-arms in a disinformation age

Not every band has the balls of Puerto Rico’s Calle 13. Most bands don’t come close.

But it takes a special brand of righteous courage to get out there with a message this intense, packaging an ear-catching blend of incendiary rock with a message of moral certainty in an age where we often can’t trust anyone, particularly media gatekeepers. Yet they don’t stop there. The song is built around multiple languages, featuring Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Palestinian singer Kamilya Jubran, and even with barely a rudimentary understanding of the Spanish language (and no understanding of Palestinian) the underlying message comes through loud and clear.

From NPR:

Speaking to the group’s lead singer, Rene Perez Joglar, on the phone recently, he told me the goal of the song was to discuss how “media is controlling everything, even people’s minds, everything. Here in the U.S. it’s worse, it’s like a bubble … It’s important to have the right information, and you are not going to get that from one newspaper or one TV show. You have to look for that. In order to get the full picture, you have to read a lot and look for yourself. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in a war that you think is a good idea, but it’s not for a good reason.”

If you’re still hiding within that media-protected bubble prior to listening to “Multi-Viral,” prepare to have it burst spectacularly.

Calle 13 has proved through the last decade to be the most daring Puerto Rican band of its generation in any genre, and this single proves they’ve got no plans to give up the fight. From the assassination of Puerto Rican independence activist Filiberto Ojeda Rios by the FBI to their vitriol toward the Vatican, nothing’s off limits. Still, there’s always the understanding that there’s more to the band than simply pushing limits. As Alejandro A. Riera writes on his blog culturebodega:

You could tell there was something special about Calle 13. Here was a lyricist/vocalist (René Pérez Joglar “Residente”) who could actually rhyme (unlike so many reggaetón stars) and could use the tools of poetry to create vivid images in the listener’s imagination, and a musician (Eduardo Cabra “Visitante”) who is as much a musical omnivore as David Byrne.

Yes, the band has graduated well beyond the shock-rap which built their reputation early (see “Atrevete Te Te”) and picked up the mantle of righteous indignation laid down years ago by Zach de la Rocha. And those who appreciate protest music where the message and the music are equally worth hearing — and sharing — would be remiss if they ignore the music of Calle 13.

Indeed “Multi-Viral” deserves to become precisely that.


DREAMS UNDETERRED — Jabee’s “Dreams” a thoughtful example of hip-hop at its zenith

Quietly putting Oklahoma City on the hip-hop map, Jabee’s “Dreams,” at the heart and soul of his album Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt, which is an example of meaningful hip-hop at its zenith. Chuck D of Public Enemy can already be counted as a supporter, suggesting that Jabee’s subtle thoughtful hip-hop has the distinct potential to change the world. “Dreams” in particular focuses on the dreams we all share, big and small, and the ability we have to overcome circumstances to ensure they become realized, not deferred or deterred. Give this one a listen, I think you’ll agree this is a message worth sharing.


Eddie Brnabic’s Subtle Realms a fantastically trippy excursion into instrumental rock

For those among us who appreciate the incendiary goodness of an electric guitar soloist fully unleashed, what Eddie Brnabic does with his album Subtle Realms is positively buzzworthy, particularly on “Transcendental Wine,” an intense throwdown which illustrates his ability to trip with ease between full-throttle rock and raw oozing funk. This is instrumental music built custom for the headphone treatment, and it’s worth every effort to listen to while avoiding all other distractions. Keep an ear toward this kid — you’ll hear much more from him when this album takes off. You can stream the entire album via his Bandcamp page.


05 – Phia + The Griswolds

Kalimba-Pop artist Phia (a.k.a. Sophia Exiner)


This week on the “Hear! Hear!” And Now Podcast, we take a trip Down Under to hear what’s what among inspired Australian pop artists. Our featured songs include some kalimba-pop from Phia, an Australian-born Berlin-based songwriter, and The Griswolds, a band from Sydney with the hooks of Vampire Weekend by way of The Wombats. Enjoy!


Freakin’ Out The Squares by Clouder is the reason the Internet murdered gatekeepers

They came. They saw. They clouded. And while they were at it, this Brooklyn psych-rock outfit crafted Freakin’ Out The Squares, an album of supremely addictive tracks that showcase their sound, one immediately awash in jangling guitars, slightly fogged vocals and all the melodic hooks you can handle. Don’t believe me? Play “Broadcast Victim” and you’ll be a fan for life. This is the music we murdered the gatekeepers for hiding it from us! Hear all their music at http://clouder.bandcamp.com.