New Music Friday: 12th of June by Lyle Lovett

Lyle Lovett had a new album come out a few weeks ago. I’ve been enjoying the title track, “12th of June” for a couple of months since it was released as a single. I’ve never really paid that much attention to Lyle Lovett. I really like his song, “If I Had a Boat”, but I’m not even sure if I’ve ever heard another Lyle Lovett song despite being very much aware of his existence for decades. Based on this song and my historical love of “If I Had a Boat”, I thought maybe I’d just been sleeping on Lyle Lovett all these years and he is someone who I would really love if I had ever given him a chance. Then I listened to the rest of this album. I have no idea if it’s representative of any of his earlier work, but I can say that “12th of June” is the only song that I care for on it and in my opinion sounds nothing like the rest of the songs on it. So maybe I haven’t been missing out on Lyle Lovett that much. I guess I’ll just go back to enjoying the one song I come across every decade or so.

New Music Friday: More by Rachel Bobbitt

I am most excited by the new Florence + the Machine album that comes out today because I love Florence Welch so much. I just wrote about one of the singles off that not too long ago, so I’m not actually going to write about that today. Just know that I am very happy to have new Florence music in the world and think you should go listen to it.

What I am writing about is the song “More” by Rachel Bobbitt. She is a Canadian artist who originally gained some fame as a social media star on the now defunct video site, Vine. She just signed a record deal with Fantasy Records and announced it with the release of this song. It’s a timely song both about women not being taken seriously by the medical system and also being expected to have babies. I adore the guitar work in it. I look forward to hearing whatever comes out of this record deal in the future.

New(ish) Music Friday: These Hard Days by Casii Stephan

I don’t have a particularly new song for you today. I haven’t been able to listen to a lot of music in the past few weeks except on my commute so I haven’t been exposed to much new music recently. So instead I looked back through the songs I’ve added to my 2022 playlist so far this year to find one I hadn’t already written about, that you probably haven’t heard of, and about which I felt like I had something to say. So here we are with Casii Stephan’s “These Hard Days”

This song was released way back in September of 2021, though I obviously didn’t hear it until sometime in early 2022 since it’s in my 2022 playlist instead of 2021’s. I don’t think a lot of people are still identifying with this song, but I am more than ever right now. So much feels out of my control and the fact that everyone else seems to be back to living their 2019 lives while my world still seems so small feels even worse at the moment because every day it feels more and more like I’m on my own. I saw another immunocompromised person tweeting after the transit mask mandate was struck down earlier this week talking about never being able to do anything “outside of the tight little routines we’ve been forced to weave for ourselves” and that really described my life perfectly. It’s not that I do zero things, but I almost do. And they are pretty much the same things over and over. It’s not that I didn’t know people were living their lives as if the pandemic doesn’t exist anymore, but having a first row seat to watching my family just running around doing whatever they wanted without a second thought and no masks in sight when I visited them last week just hit home for me even moreso about how limited my life is and how every time I do anything I do this insane calculus in my head that half the time is so exhausting I just give up anyway. It’s beyond tiring and demoralizing at this point.

Anyway, this song that was written when probably a lot more people were feeling it, but it’s still speaking to me right now. So I share it with you in case you are feeling any kind of way at the moment to. It’s a good one to have in your arsenal because we all hit a rough patch at some time or another. It’s got a good message of hope in it. I like that it doesn’t feel like an overly rah rah type of hope either. It’s a simple sort of hope that sort of says things are bad, but we can keep moving forward even if that’s all we’re doing. I like the idea of hope being something you can move slowly towards even when you can’t really see or feel it. They lyric “Though these days may be long and hard, they’re still our days” feels like that to me.

New Music Friday: Goodbye Mr. Blue by Father John Misty

I do not love Joshua Tillman, Father John Misty. I find the persona he has created as “Father John Misty” both pretentious and annoying. I walked out his set at the Newport Folk Festival the first time I saw him. Apparently not everyone felt the same because he’s been back since then though I opted to not even bother. I did see him one more time because he co-headlined a tour with Jason Isbell with Jade Bird opening. Normally I would have been happy that Jason Isbell was closing the show I was at because it meant he got an extra 15 minutes to play, but in this case I wish it had been Father John Misty so I just could have left after Jason Isbell’s set. I wanted to see Jade Bird, so I didn’t just want to go late.

Despite all this today I bring you a new song off his album Chloë and The Next 20th Century. It sounds very big band old Hollywood for the most part and I kind of like it. I particularly wanted to talk about he song “Goodbye Mr. Blue” because it sounds a little out of time with the rest of the album, though still definitely a throwback. I’ve been wracking my brain for weeks trying to put my finger on what song it reminds me of, and I actually finally figured it out right before starting to write this post. I was thinking something perhaps by Todd Rundgren or Jim Croce. As an aside, every time I hear Todd Rundgren’s name I think that he’s some sort of metal dude from the 70s before I remember who he actually is and the sort of milquetoast songs that he sings. The song I’ve actually been trying to remember though is Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin'”. So you can tell me if you think I’m right or not.

New Music Friday: That’s Where I Am by Maggie Rogers

I had to wait until lunch to write up today’s New Music Friday post because as soon as Maggie Rogers started teasing a new song drop for today earlier this week I knew it would be the topic of my post. However, even though the song released on streaming services at midnight the video didn’t drop until noon today. When possible I like to share the video because not everyone is on streaming services or on the same one, so I decided to wait to post until this afternoon.

I love Maggie Rogers and am super excited to have some new music by her. I’m very much looking forward to the full album release on July 29. It’s been three years since her last full length album Heard It in a Past Life, which was my favorite album of 2019. That’s not that long given the pandemic and also the fact that she’s currently finishing up a Master’s Degree at Harvard Divinity School. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing the rest of the album and also hoping for some tour dates soon.

Also as a little bonus I wanted to shout out the new Lucius album, Second Nature, that came out today. I’ve already written about two singles off it, but now that I’ve heard the whole thing I’m hear to tell you that it’s all fantastic. It’s a very disco dance record interestingly produced by Dave Cobb and Brandi Carlile. It’s a lot about the divorce between singer Jess Wolfe and the band’s drummer Dan Molad who are still making the band work, for now at least. There are some more ballad-y songs on the album. I do wish that they had put together the track list differently with sort of an A side dance motif and a B side ballad deal because listening to it through like I will whenever my LP arrives in the mail is a little bit of an emotional whiplash, but the songs are great. And hey with streaming you can create playlists of your own A and B sides.

New Music Friday: Ain’t Killed Me Yet by Adia Victoria

Adia Victoria released a new single last week called “Aint’ Killed Me Yet”. I can’t say anything about it better than what she wrote about it in her Instagram post when she released it.

“There was little to celebrate in life the Spring of 2020 but living itself. With the live music industry shuttered to a close I was forced to find a new way to live. I took a job at Amazon to pay the bills and on the way to the warehouse for a red-eye 10 hour shift I considered my dilemma. Racing through empty streets at 2 am, trying to keep two steps ahead of a virus I couldn’t make sense of, life was lived in barest of immediacy—one breath to the next. That Spring I would end every journal entry with “Life aint killed me yet”. 

 Ain’t Killed Me Yet is the blues existentialism pared down to its bones. It is the irreverent celebration of those who meet life on their own terms. When the future is uncertain, the immediacy of the pleasures and vagrancies of the now is all that matters. I wrote “Ain’t Killed Me Yet” while behind the wheel on the way to work in a warehouse where death was a real possibility. The blues anchored me in the now so that I could not only survive but I could give the finger, and blow smoke in the face of my fear and anxiety.”

Back to Broadway Baby

In April of 2020 my friend Jenny and I had tickets to see Company on Broadway. I was super excited to see it because it was a gender flipped production that originally premiered in the West End, and it’s the first show I ever considered flying to London to see. So I was super happy when they announced a Broadway run. Then COVID happened and the show had to shut down before it officially opened. They refunded our tickets, and it was unclear if the show would ever return.

Jenny, another friend Sarah, and I also had purchased tickets in August of 2019 to see The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in November of 2020. We joked about how long it was going to be before we actually got to see the show. Little did we know. That show they never refunded our money, they just kept rescheduling it. I think we rescheduled it three times with the final date for this past weekend. When it finally seemed like that date was going to stick and Company announced that they were going to reopen and put tickets back on sale we decided to rebuy the tickets for the same weekend, make it a two show day, and stay overnight instead of doing a day trip.

As you know if you know anything about me, I have been super cautious during COVID due to my immunocompromised status and have pretty much done very little in the past few years. This was the biggest thing I have done since the pandemic started. I’m glad these tickets were happily timed in the lull that it seems we’re going to get between Omicron variant surges. Hopefully the semi-low case rate plus keeping my N95 plastered to my face pretty much any time we weren’t in our hotel room or when we were eating outside kept me safe. Our friend Sarah decided she wasn’t ready yet to do something involving that many people which I get, but luckily my friend Jenn who lives in New York City agreed to take those tickets so they didn’t go to waste. Plus it meant that I got to hang out with her for the first time in two and half years which I was very happy about.

Music Man was enjoyable. I thought Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster brought a good, fun energy to their roles and had good chemistry together. The ensemble was really good. I also forgot how fond I am of all the songs in a Music Man. I very much enjoyed the show, but it was nothing groundbreaking for sure. It’s the Music Man as the Music Man ever was. I kind of like that my first show back was a classic though.

While I liked the Music Man, I absolutely adored Company. As I mentioned earlier this is a somewhat gender flipped revival of the 1970 Sondheim musical. Bobby, the central character of the show, who is usually a man was a woman in this production played by Katrina Lenk. Thus the three characters that Bobbie dates in this production were gender flipped to male. They also turned the couple Paul and Amy into a gay couple Paul and Jamie. I think all the changes worked really well. As the show is about a character turning 35 and feeling pressured by their friends and society to be married, I saw some people saying making Bobbie a woman was going to not read very well in this day and age. I didn’t feel that way at all though. I just felt like the show was a commentary on the good and bad of marriage and relationships and figuring out what that means in your own life.

In addition to the gender flipped aspect of it, I was also really keen on seeing this production because Patti Lupone has been starring as Joanne in it both in the West End and now on Broadway. Patti Lupone is Broadway royalty, and I had never seen her in a live production until now. She’s 72, so she’s getting up there in age and it’s unclear how many more chances I would have had to see her. Luckily she survived getting COVID a few weeks ago and was back in the show in time for our show. I would have been so disappointed if she hadn’t been there.

I wish that I had seen another actual production of Company prior to this one, so that I had a reference point for how it’s been staged before. I’ve seen the D.A. Pennebaker documentary Original Cast Album: Company about the recording of the original cast album. There was a staged concert production for the New York Philharmonic in 2011 that they filmed and released in movie theaters for a few showings as part of those Fathom events that Jenny and I went to see, but it wasn’t a fully staged production so it still didn’t give me a full sense of how it’s been staged in the past. I’m just very curious because I thought the staging for this production was fantastic and very clever. The number “Getting Married Today” was particularly amazing. I loved the whole thing and am so very glad that COVID did not ruin my chance to see it but just delayed it for a little while.

It was so great to be back in New York City after so long. I’m used to going several times a year, so this was a long break for me, and I realized how much I missed going up there. Despite some COVID precautions like wearing a mask constantly and not eating inside despite the lousy weather, it felt almost like a normal thing which is something I haven’t felt in a very long time.

New Music Friday: Made Up Mind by Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt put out a new single, “Made Up Mind” a few weeks ago, the first from her forthcoming album, Just Like That…, due out on April 22. I actually don’t have much to say about it except that I really like it. It sounds like a Bonnie Raitt song and at this point that’s pretty much what I’m looking for from Bonnie Raitt. I have tickets to see her in concert later this year. I’ll be interested to hear her play stuff from the new album live.

New Music Friday: Astral Projection by Yumi Zouma

I was going to write about the new Bonnie Raitt song today, and maybe I will at some future date, but then I heard the new album by Yumi Zouma, Present Tense, and had to write about it instead. Yumi Zouma is a New Zealand band who I had never heard of before this morning despite this being their fourth full-length album. They talked about them on NPR Music’s New Music Friday podcast, which is how I heard about them. They said that this album reminded them of 90’s bands like The Sundays and Mazzy Star or music that would be featured in a coming of age teen movie. All of these things are like catnip to me, so I was already sold. Then they played a snippet of the track I’m highlighting from the album, “Astral Projection” and my immediate association with the reverby guitar that starts the song was The Cure, who are probably my all time favorite band. The album as a whole is little poppier than the broody indie rock of the aforementioned bands, but I can see where they were coming from. As soon as the podcast was over I immediately switched to listening to the whole album, and I love it so much. It’s like it was someone dug into the recesses of my brain and programmed some machine to spit out an album designed exactly for me. I was walking around with a big fool smile on my face listening to it. I immediately came home and ordered it on vinyl. I don’t remember the last time I had this much visceral pleasure listening to a new album.

New Music Friday: Special by BOYO

I had never heard of BOYO prior to this morning, and I don’t know much about him. Apparently though he recorded an album and then shortly before it’s release decided that the downbeat nature of it no longer reflected his mood, so he scrapped it and recorded an entirely new album in like a month. “Special” is the final song on his new album, Echoes Like Memories. I actually only really like a couple of songs on the album, and this happens to be one of them. I’m in a really crappy mood today. The weight of the world is large, and work is super stressful with any hope of that ending any time was dashed yesterday. So sometimes all you can do is try and dance it out, and this song is perfect for that. I hope that I too one day soon feel like BOYO and think this sad music doesn’t reflect how I feel, let’s dance.