London Grammar is an indie pop band originally from Nottingham, England composed of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major. I really liked their first album and then kind of lost track of them. If you watched tv in the mid-2010s you for sure have heard some of their music because back in those days when it was still super popular to have scads of music to set the mood all over every tv drama their songs were used a lot. I feel like music is not used nearly as much in tv these days and I miss it. I used to find a lot of new music that way. I even have a Spotify playlist of songs from TV that I haven’t added to in ages.
Anyway, I digress. London Grammar released their third album, California Soil today. In addition to their traditionally very somber sounding songs this album expands on that some what and has a lot more electro pop influence. Sonically they sort of live in the same space as Florencee + the Machine. This album apparently contains a lot about Hannah Reid’s experience in the music industry and all the sexism and misogyny that she faced which almost made her quit the band and leave music altogether. It’s also about fighting back against that. I think “I Need the Night” is one of the best examples of that on the album.
Merry Clayton was a famous back-up singer in the 60s and 70s, but never managed to break into a solo career of her own. She is probably best known for her back-up vocals on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. After she was prominently featured in the documentary about back-up singers, Twenty Feet From Stardom, in 2013 she was planning to leverage that attention into a solo album. Then tragedy struck and she was in a terrible car accident that resulted in both her legs being amputated.
She says that when she woke up after the accident and they told her that her legs were gone the first thing she asked as if she still had her voice and then started singing. She didn’t actually think she would ever record an album after that, but with some encouragement she finally did and her album of gospel songs Beautiful Scars was released today. The title track was written by Diane Warren and seems to really fit Merry Clayton’s story.
Go take a listen and while you’re at it watch Twenty Feet From Stardom, which is wonderful. It doesn’t appear to be streaming anywhere for free, but it’s totally worth the rental price. If your public library subscribes to Kanopy it also appears to be available there, so you can watch it for free through your library.
The song “BANG!” is actually not new by any stretch of the imagination. The single came out over a year ago, but the album that it’s featured on was only released last week so I’m counting it. Plus it’s new to me. I heard the song for the first time this week on an episode of the Switched on Pop podcast. It’s a fun song and I’ve been enjoying listening to it all week, so I’m going to go with it. I don’t really have much to say about the song itself. Though fun trivia fact that I learned from the podcast the voice that’s saying “Here we go” during the song is actually done by the guy that does the “Beware the closing doors” recording for the NYC Subway. As soon as they said that I was like oh my gosh it is!
Ben Howard is a British indie folk, experimental rock artist. He’s also a lefty guitarist, which I only mention because you don’t see too many left handed guitar players. Because left handed guitars are harder to come by and generally more expensive a lot of left handed people just teach themselves to play right handed. So the first time I actually saw video of him playing it struck me.
Anyway, he released a new album, Collections from the Whiteout, today. It was produced by Aaron Dessner of the National. It leans more into the experimental rock than the indie folk rock he was made famous for with some of his earlier albums. As such I don’t love the album as a whole, but I do like the song “Far Out” which does remind me of some of his previous songs that I really like.
I’ve written about Delta Rae’s music in this blog before including their previous album, The Light. Today they released the follow-up to that album, The Dark. The two albums were part of a Kickstarter campaign they ran a few years ago after leaving the The Big Machine record label and deciding to head out on their own after feeling like the label never knew how to promote their music that doesn’t slot neatly into a category and definitely doesn’t fit into any current commercial genres that are going to get them radio play. They blew their goal so far out of the water that they kept adding on bonus things. I’m still very much looking forward to the eventual Christmas album.
The band is composed of six people including the Hölljes siblings Ian, Eric, and Brittany along with Elizabeth Hopkins, Mike McKee, and Grant Emerson. They have a sort of gospel, country, Americana sound that is very heavy in wonderful harmonies that I love. Although they switch up who is singing lead I have gravitated more towards the songs fronted by the women in the past, so I tend to think of them as a female fronted band, but today I’m pulling out one of the songs with a male lead. I like the whole album, but “Out of the Badlands” is the song that really stuck out to me the first listen through so that’s what I’m sharing.
I’ve got another twofer for you this week. The new Lake Street Dive album is out today too, so had I not already used a single from it in New Music Friday previously you’d probably be getting three songs.
Fallin’ by Valerie June
I honestly don’t know how to describe Valerie June’s music to people. Wikipedia lists it as a mix of folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, Appalachian, bluegrass, and dream pop which seems about right. I feel like her new album that came out today, The Moon and the Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers, despite the name, is actually a little more accessible to the average listener than some of her previous work. It definitely took me awhile to get into her because it is some complicated listening and she doesn’t have a straightforward voice. Having seen her in concert and heard her talk about her life and her work I definitely feel like she is living on a different astral plane than me and that certainly comes across in parts of this album as well, but I think there’s some songs here that might be enjoyable for the more casual listener along with some of the sounds that I more associate with her.
Be Sweet by Japanese Breakfast
I also could not resist sharing the new song “Be Sweet” by Japanese Breakfast from her forthcoming new album Jubilee. I don’t have much to say about it. I’m just really digging the 80s synth vibes of it and wanted to share it. So here you go.
“Cub Pilot” is a song off the new album Fruit Bats’ album The Pet Parade, which came out today. Fruit Bats is the long-time indie folk band fronted by Eric D. Johnson with a rotating cast of members filling out the rest of the band. While most of this album was apparently written before the pandemic, it was recorded by each individual band member alone in their respective space. It’s a gorgeous album that somehow seems to speak to these times even though it wasn’t specifically written for them. “Cub Pilot” is musically my favorite song off the album, so it’s the one I’m sharing here. I do encourage you to listen to the whole thing though.
Let’s take a trip back to the mid- to late 90s where if you like me were a college student trying to present an air of pretentious coolness like some sort of proto-hipster, which I totally was, it was required that you listen to Ani DiFranco. Did I succeed in my attempts to be the kind of college student so often featured in books and movies who is cool because they’re into all the indie bands and movies? Decidedly not. At any rate I can’t say I was an Ani DiFranco superfan, but I can tell you that I once went to a club meeting on campus where we must have been asked to share our favorite band or something during introductions because I distinctly remember like half the people naming Ani DiFranco and deciding I better get into some Ani DiFranco.
I have not in the years since I left college paid much attention to what Ani DiFranco has been doing. I have sometimes heard whatever favorite songs I had on various mixes or playlists, but I definitely haven’t kept up with any of her new stuff. I have been hearing her new song “Simultaneously” playing on WXPN the last few weeks and I am very much digging it. I love it’s jazzy coffee house vibe and what more do you want from Ani DiFranco?
I missed my New Music Friday post last week because I just didn’t have the mental energy to write anything. On top of the pandemic wall that I hit a few weeks ago and am still trying to get over some life stuff and some work stuff have piled on top of that making the wall even taller. I haven’t struggled this much since the beginning of the pandemic and my inability to focus on anything has come back as a result. I’m still not really feeling it today, but I’m trying to go through the motions so at least the routine propels me forward.
As such though I am not really going to write much about the songs I’m posting today because I didn’t do my deeper dive into the artists that I often do before posting.
I’ve been wanting to post something from the new album, Not Your Muse by Celeste since it came out a couple of weeks ago. I intended to write about it last week before I didn’t write anything at all. She’s a British Jamaican soul singer. I’m digging her. This song, “Tonight, Tonight” is a little poppier than some of the other stuff on the album but it’s a good place to start.
And then this morning on NPR Music’s New Music Friday podcast they talked about the new R&B album by Pink Sweat$. I enjoyed the song Pink Family that they played and came back and listened to the whole album, Pink Planet, and very much enjoyed it as well. Just like the song I chose by Celeste this song is actually a terrible representative for this album because it has a lot more hip hop elements that the rest of the album, which is more straight up R&B, does not have. I was feeeling the vibe of this song though and it’s what made me seek out the rest of the album so it’s what you get.
Arlo Parks full-length debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams was released today. If you pay even the list bit of attention to music news then this is not a fact that would have escaped you. Articles about Arlo Parks have been everywhere leading up to this release. The 20 year old British R&B singer is having quite the moment. Amazon is even doing a Variety Hour show to promote the release of her album tonight on their Twitch channel, which will be available later through Amazon Prime.
I don’t know that I have much to say about the particular song I chose to include here, “Just Go”. It’s just one that I find musically pleasing. There are plenty of people talking about Arlo Parks right now, so if you want to read more you can just put her name into Google and be inundated. I’m just going to tell you to go listen.