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DRAWING A BLANK: Bl_nk Sp_c_s’ Memory Man innovates synth-pop for a new decade

Listening to “Memory Man,” the title-track off Bl_nk Sp_c_s’ debut album, is akin to hearing what Pink Floyd would have sounded like if fronted by Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan. And that’s a sound I can stand to hear a great deal more of. Memory Man contains nine additional tracks just as genre-busting, a unique take on electronic pop which merge krautrock guitars with pop hooks, delivering a synth-laden mix perfect for solo listening or club excursions. You can watch the video for “Memory Man” below, a clip heavily inspired by David Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell To Earth” and Maya Deren’s “Meshes of the Afternoon” short.

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ARTISTS TO WATCH: James Bay launches EP Let It Go, showcases solid songwriting

He looks like John Mayer but has the vocal depth and range of Ray Lamontagne, and James Bay looks primed to take over American radio as he launches his latest EP Let It Go. The buzzworthy songwriter already has a critically-acclaimed full-length to his name in last year’s The Dark Of The Morning, and the new material only cements what we already knew about the man, crafting arrangements which let his vocals shine while emphasizing a real ear for melody and composition. I can’t wait to hear more from Bay in the future. He’s set to take the US by storm with a summer tour supporting Irish sensation Hozier (dates below), and with the production values of Jacquire King [Kings of Leon, Of Monsters and Men, Tom Waits) behind the board on the new EP, it’s hard to imagine these songs not building the same grassroots reputation for Bay. You’ll be hearing a lot more of this songwriter in the coming years.

Check out a live cut of “If You Ever Want To Be In Love” below.

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Tour Dates:

6/9 Los Angeles, CA               School Night @ Bardot

6/10 Los Angeles, CA             Hotel Café

6/18 New York, NY                 Slipper Room

6/19 New York, NY                 Mercury Lounge [supporting Asgeir]

6/27 Glastonbury                    Pilton, UK

7/11 T in the Park                   Motherwell, UK


Supporting Hozier:

10/1 Atlanta, GA                      Variety Playhouse

10/4 Dallas, TX                       The Kessler

10/9 Houston, TX                    Warehouse Live

10/12 Mexico City, Mexico     Corona Capital Festival

10/15 Solana Beach, CA        Belly Up Tavern

10/16 Los Angeles, CA           The Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian Church

10/19 Portland, OR                  Wonder Ballroom

10/20 Vancouver, CAN          Commodore Ballroom

10/21 Seattle, WA                   The Showbox

10/24 Boulder, CO                  Fox Theatre

10/26 Chicago, IL                    Metro

10/28 Toronto, CAN                Phoenix Theatre

10/29 Montreal, CAN              Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre

10/31 Boston, MA                   Paradise

11/1 Philadelphia, PA              Trocadero Theatre

11/4 Washington, DC              9:30 Club

11/5 New York, NY                 Irving Plaza

PICK YOUR POISON: Elephant Stone returns with Three Poisons in August



Elephant Stone returns a year after the release of their self-titled sophomore album to give us <i>Three Poisons</i>, due out August 26th via Hidden Pony Records. I fell in love with their prior album, and it’s single “Hidden Moon,” and the new material shines through with the same twist of pop and psychedelic underpinings, creating a sound unlike anything else you’re likely to hear this summer. The video for “Three Poisons” is embedded below. Here’s the story behind the new album, from Rishi Dhir himself:

I don’t think it was just me, but things felt different this time around. The grooves were groovier, the sonics rumbled heavier, and the songs were connecting to something bigger. It wasn’t until Malika Tirolien came in to record her inspired backing vocals for “Knock You From Yr Mountain” and “All Is Burning” that I reflected on that abandoned record collection I inherited and the trip it took me on. In that moment I heard the groove of the Mondays, the darkness of Echo, the jangle of Ride… but what I truly heard and felt coming together in these new batch of songs was—and is—unequivocally the sound of Elephant Stone.

Can’t wait to hear more? Check back regularly for updates! And if you’re so inclined, their upcoming European tour dates are available here. US dates are reportedly coming later this summer.

Track Listing: Three Poisons:
1. Motherless Child (Love’s Not For War)
2. Knock You From Yr Mountain
3. All is Burning
4. Worlds Don’t Begin And End With You
5. Wayward Son
6. Intermediate State
7. Child Of Nature (Om Namah Sivaya)
8. Living For Something
9. Three Poisons
10. Echo & The Machine
11. Between the Lines

FRESHMEN NO MORE: After 13-year hiatus, The Verve Pipe returns with Overboard June 17th

I’ll admit that Brian Vander Ark’s vocals on the entirety of Villians soundtracked my early high school years, giving me plenty of reason to play the album and dozens like it on repeat as I navigated teenage awkwardness. Unfortunately the ’90s alternative rock scene wasn’t built on longevity, at least where myopic, aurally insensitive radio execs were concerned, and bands like the Verve Pipe, Harvey Danger and Semisonic never got the long-term traction they so richly deserved. It wasn’t that they couldn’t write another hit, but rather that radio and label honchos wouldn’t have known said hit if it broadsided them.

Thirteen years after their last full-length rock album, however, The Verve Pipe returns June 17th with Overboard, an album which relights the fire under their blend of well-crafted pop and catch-you-off-kilter rock. With “Crash Landing,” the album’s first promotional single, they show you really can’t go back again — this is no “Villians” or “Photograph” — but you can put a new spin on something and reinvent yourself in a way which is refreshing and well worth the listen. “I’m hearing words no one’s spoken,” he sings.  “And I can feel my heart beat though I know it’s broken. Nothing is the way it seems, like being awake in a dream.” The chorus then crash-lands with an impact that launches this song instantly into the memory banks.

If you’re looking for the band to tread water through nostalgic carbons of what you heard while walking those sophomore hallways, you may be disappointed. But it’s refreshing to hear a band return after all these years, arriving with the verve to sound as fresh in the current musical climate as their alt-grunge did when we first heard it in the early ’90s. That the band’s songs feature hooks as brilliantly singable even after a decade and a half in limbo is the icing on the cake. Overboard is the most pleasant surprise of the summer so far, and it’s an album you shouldn’t miss.

SOUNDTRACK YOUR BINGE: Orange Is The New Black releases Soundtrack album just in time for Season 2

If you, like my wife and I, became immediately hooked by Netflix’s bingeable hit Orange is the New Black, and you’re eagerly awaiting the second season so you can marathon the hell out of it, now’s your chance to pick up a copy of the soundtrack album! Among included artists are title-track songstress Regina Spektor, as well as contributions from Kelis, Betty Davis, The Staples Singers, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and much more to sink your aural shiv into. Worried you’ll miss a minute of the show? Don’t worry — “You’ve Got Time” So give it a listen! And if you get the chance, grab a copy on limited edition Orange Vinyl! Season two of the series releases in its entirety on Netflix June 6th.

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Track Listing
1. Regina Spektor – You’ve Got Time
2. Betty Davis – Walkin Up The Road
3. Latimore – Move And Groove Together
4. Tune-Yards – Gangsta
5. The Staple Singers – I’ll Take You There
6. Kelis – Milkshake
7. Leagues – Walking Backwards
8. Little Foot Long Foot – Kickface
9. Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning
10. The Dutchess and The Duke – Living This Life Makes It Hard
11. Nancy Cassidy – Chicken
12. Whispering Jack Smith – Baby Face

FOLLOW THE BLOOD: Australia’s Nine Sons of Dan bring the hooks on rocking new EP

Australia’s alt-rock outfit Nine Sons of Dan dropped their latest EP Follow The Blood a week ago, and the six tracks definitely bring the rock, in a vaguely late-90s way, like a mix of Jimmy Eat World’s frenetic pop vocals and the more rocking elements of All Time Low, Cartel and Anberlin. Speaking of the latter, the new EP was tracked in Australia but mixed in Nashville by J.R. McNeely, who has worked with Anberlin and Dead Letter Circus. “I wrote about where I was at that moment,” says singer Jay Bainbridge. “Sometimes I use dramas that have happened in my past as fuel for content, but this time I just wrote about what was happening around me and to me. I had a lot of frustrations and heartache in my personal life but at the same time felt a sense of strength of unity with the boys and our future as a band.”

Check out “Wreckingball” below, the final song on the new EP, which features their strongest hook once the song gets going after an unnecessarily long intro. “A stab in the dark hit its mark,” Bainbridge sings, echoing the stabs this emerging band continues to make as they fight for the mainstream attention they deserve. Expect to hear these guys much more in the coming years!


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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