In the realm of music, it’s amazing how much insecurity appeals as much as confidence. Ordinarily, feeling and feeding your own uncertainly is recipe for some form of disaster. But put that out in beautiful, contemplative, expressive lyrics that make you FEEL things late at night when your thoughts get long, and well… then you’ve really got something.
Not that confidence doesn’t work brilliantly in its own success. I think of the sneer of rock and roll strut, the assertion of funk, the certainty of if in alternative, saying what you want to say. Prince is The Purple One for a reason, after all. The Rolling Stones are The Stones because they rock that hard (feel free to insert The Beatles there too/instead, which I’m obligated to say having grown up in a Beatles-listening house).
But, as they say, I digress.
Grief is also extremely powerful in music in this year 2023. The latest splendid works from the Foo Fighters, City & Colour, and Julie Byrne handle this in ways that are hard to imagine. Hard in my opinion because its not only the act of confronting great pain, but doing it in a public way that leaves so much vulnerable.
That takes great strength. But Here We Are finds the Foos suddenly losing long-time drummer Taylor Hawkins. City & Colour’s Dallas Green was left reeling by several close losses and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his latest release The Love Still Held Me Near. Byrne meanwhile lost her longtime producer and close friend, a theme that shades her upcoming release The Greater Wings.
The Foo Fighters, as you might expect, achieve catharsis here via hard rock guitars backing lyrics that reach out for Hawkins still hoping to find him there. Songs like “Rescued”, “Hearing Voices”, “Rest” and “The Glass” wrench as hard as Dallas Green’s The Love Still Held Me Near opening track “Meant to Be”, which questions religion, death and everything in between.
There’s a lot of nuance to grief.
I’ve already spoken of my praise for Byrne’s work here, but I wanted to add the Foos and City and Colour to the equation as well. Not just because they’re the bands they are, but because they dared to present the realities of hurting and grief and pain on their new material. And their new material is worth sharing in as an experience.
Queens of the Stone Age return June 16th with their latest full length LP dubbed In Times New Roman…, their first release since 2017’s stellar Villains. I’ve yet to hear the full picture of this album as of yet given we have a few more weeks before release day but suffice to say new single “Carnevoyeur” is lining up alongside “Emotion Sickness” to already make this a massive sounding album.
“Emotion Sickness” already began as a quick kick in the tail, finding lead singer Josh Homme approaching from through a screen door and across the room, humming before letting loose his trademark roar. What I’ve especially enjoyed about QOTSA as they’ve aged is their continued ability to not only be full of melodic earworms, but to build layers into their work. “Emotion Sickness” has that six string throwdown, but also approaches a David Bowie-like harmony section. Its like the Ringo Starr feeling drums on “Vampyre of Time and Memory”, there are twists and turns here.
And that’s certainly the case with new single “Carnavoyeur”, which begins as a series of bleeps and bloops on the keyboard before launching into a dark rocking dirge. Not that it forgets the softer sides either, as Troy Van Leeuwen’s drums pace the harder moments as easily the lyrically contemplative. Though once again its hard to keep the spotlight away from Homme, whose distinctive sinuous falsetto guides both of these songs and keeps the mood invitational. There’s enough face-melting guitar tone to attract the diehards, while also holding true to plenty of melody along the way.
Duane Betts might be a new name to many listeners, though his musical pedigree is undeniable as the son of Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts. That’s a large mantle to carry, though Betts has proved himself capable of the challenge, most notably in his pair up with Gregg Allman’s kid Devon Allman in the Allman Betts Band. As the 2023 term goes though, there isn’t an ounce of “nepo baby” in either of these artists performing in a band with such tall, notable influences looming in the background.
Rather, this duo succeeds just as well together as apart in forging their own paths, and Betts takes some time in 2023 to release his soon to drop debut solo LP “Wild & Precious Life” as further evidence of that. Two songs have thus far been released from the upcoming release called “Waiting on a Song” and “Stare at the Sun”, the latter of which features a memorable turn on the six stringed axe from the one and only Derek Trucks.
As for the songs themselves, each proves a steady slice of Americana rock, with “Waiting on a Song” acting as a steady-beat rave-up country workout, while “Staring at the Sun” is elevated by the swell of instrumentation as well as the guitar work of both Betts and Trucks. Both will succeed in making your foot tap, and if not, I’d be checking your pulse just to make sure.
I know it’s only the second song released from their upcoming collaboration for a (presumably) full-length as-yet-untitled-LP, but singer/rapper Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge appear to have done it again on their newly-released NxWorries song “Daydreaming”.
The duo had delivered plenty of experimentalist intrigue with their 2016 R&B leaning soul debut “Yes Lawd!”, and they showed no signs of slowing down earlier this year with the H.E.R.-featuring single “Where I Go”. “Daydreaming” takes the same notions of romanticism and puts them through an edgier blend of spacey 80’s rock guitar courtesy of axeman Jairus Moizee and lyrics representing “Bonnie & Clyde, like its 2003”. It gives similar vibes to Kid Cudi’s grunge influences on his “Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven” album, though .Paak is his own smooth criminal compared to Cudi when he gets behind the microphone.
In addition to having a golden touch between his solo career, NxWorries, Silk Sonic, and even his early days of Breezy Lovejoy, .Paak is the ever-charismatic figure who can carry the focal point of almost any project. Not to say he’s cutting the folk-polka album next, but I’ve long trusted in the groove he’s been on. Putting him with a producer like Knxwledge is just icing on the cake. If the rumors of the long awaited Mac Miller/Madlib tape is true, 2023 might just be one of the best years of great rappers beefing up on great tapes with fantastic producers.
All images courtesy of Google. Check out each single down below.
There’s something that’s dare I say comfortable and inviting when it comes to the first lines of The National’s “Once Upon a Poolside”, the first song off their latest LP First Two Pages of Frankenstein. The song has their usual heady blend of self-conscious self-introspection, set to a piano tuned out like a lullaby to back the pain of the track’s fears.
It almost feels like a strange turn of phrase to say a song could contain an emotion like lyrical fear. But that’s largely been the bread and butter of The National’s sound, especially as the group has evolved behind the baritone broadsides of frontman Matt Berninger. Fear of changes, fear of age, the fear of proving ourselves to others. Those truly honest emotions we may not openly say or describe, but we feel just behind the glimmer in our eyes.
I imagine Frankenstein must mean a lot to the group. Reading that Berninger walked into the studio for it with practically no material lyrically/melodically automatically makes me anxious as a writer. I can’t imagine still being able to pull out a win under those circumstances, but make no mistake: Frankenstein is a win.
Image courtesy of Google Images
And that’s despite flying in the face of a full on depression. I know, The National are basically the poster boys for making jokes about sadness, who can sort the fact from creative fiction? But it’s something different as a writer to not have the words for a deadline or to be unable to do something you’ve just always been able to do.
It makes you wonder if the skill that got you there is gone.
But, in the end, The National find a way to persevere. “Eucalyptus” , “The Alcott”, and “This Isn’t Helping” are gems, with Berninger shining once again alongside Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers. “Ice Machines” feels like a nod to old school Boxer track “Slow Show”, while the wanderlust of closing track “Send for Me” fits skillfully amongst the band’s best sign-offs.
So don’t sell The National short here with First Two Pages of Frankenstein. It’s worth staying for the whole book.
Julie Byrne has once again exposed the underlying tension of a shiny exterior on her new song “Summer Glass”. What lies on the surface may seem a gentle still water, but beneath is a gorgeous simmering tension. How we can smile with a shine that doesn’t quite extend to the eyes which feel the harsh wisdom of experience and trauma.
Strings and synthesizers dance amid Byrne’s haunting, ethereal assertiveness all through this song. The words, melody, the video itself which is a beautiful haze of swaying beauty. Byrne’s looks are a vision here, and she and her director were marvelous all through this creative statement.
And I could compare it to something, as every reviewer does ad nauseam from not until the end of time. But this song makes me instead pensive, free of making similarities. Like so much when art is a successful, beautiful, functional diamond, you let it stand on its own and that’s more than enough for gifting the world with songs like “Summer Glass”.
We the listeners benefit, let us never ruin that. Take a listen below, and try not to get a shiver during the way Byrne delivers the line “you were the family that I chose”. That line hits harder than a heartbreak.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic first made landfall in my neck of the woods sometime around March 2020, the landscape of the world around me has irrevocably changed despite the efforts of many to refocus that now-warped glass. And this effect has also swept up concerts, which isn’t exactly surprising when they tend to consist of large, huddled together groups of sweaty people. But the slight germaphobe in me digresses.
Point being, despite some changes I don’t get to go to shows and experience the joy of them nearly as much as I used to anymore. So, I’m glad to get swept off into a bit of that nostalgia with this tour diary entry I present to you below from Connecticut-based indie rock outfit The Inside Out. They played a recent concert earlier this March near their home base at a placed called The Beeracks supporting their new album “No Brains, No Blood.” (Spotify in the hyperlink). But without further ado, let me let them tell you all about it.
MEET THE BAND
Hey, we’re the CT indie/alt rock band The Inside Out! Pictured left to right, we’re Zach Stout (lead guitar/vocals), John Landino (bass/vocals), Andi Wright (drums), and James Howard (guitar/lead vocals).
We’re here to share our night at The Beeracks in East Haven, CT on Saturday 3/11/2023. It was an album release party for the band Aunts, who we had the pleasure of meeting last year during a When We Were Young-Fest themed show in New Haven, CT. We made a lot of new friends during this Beeracks show, as we met and shared the stage with the artists of Lighthouse, Sober Bill, and Shagohod for the first time. We were hyped to discover new music and play to a fresh audience, and we had such a great time!
We started off our Saturday at rehearsal. We usually don’t rehearse the day of, but our schedules ended up clashing that week so we woke up, had coffee, and headed to the studio for an early (for us) practice at the crack of 1:00pm. We’re lucky to have a sick setup at Black Barrel Records in Shelton, CT to rehearse, write music, and occasionally play shows. We quickly ran through our set to make sure any rust from the past week was gone, and then we packed up our gear and headed to the venue.
We hadn’t played at The Beeracks brewery / local music scene venue since our first time there, which was over a year ago for a Christmas show in 2021. We immediately noticed a bunch of improvements to the sound and lighting that made us extra hyped for the evening. Our first Beeracks show was awesome, so this one was bound to be even better. After loading in our gear and grabbing some food and a beer, we couldn’t wait for our time to play.
We found a perfect place to set up our merch table: right next to pallets of kegs and a gigantic stack of unlabelled tallboys. It was dark af in that corner, though, so good thing we brought our glowing head and tea candles that lowkey turn our setup into an alchemy table. For legal reasons we can’t promise our merch is enchanted with magical powers, but we won’t deny it either… you’ll just have to see for yourself.
We were second to last to play, so we had a bunch of time to just rock out to the other bands. There was a great turnout and the audience had a welcoming vibe. Since the stage was in an actual brewery warehouse, the disco ball stood out and set a cool mood, throwing lights all around the big open space and reflecting off of beer cans and metal vats.
Individual band member pics – credit: @moolignon on IG
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
From the get-go we were stoked to be playing right before the headlining act, Aunts. Whoever was on lighting tech duty that night was absolutely nailing it, and it was cool to be on a raised stage instead of the warehouse floor like last time we played this venue. We mostly played songs off of our latest album, No Brains, No Blood., namely the title track and our single “Figure Me Out”. We were also able to sneak in our two favorite cover songs as well as an unreleased song that we’re currently writing/recording for our next album called “Mr. Arrogant”.
No show is 100% perfect, but this one went smoothly overall. There were some funny hiccups though, like when James realized he really had to pee right after set up/line check and we had to take a quick breather before starting our first song. Also as we started playing our last song, we realized John was still changing basses and was frantically plugging in as the rest of us played the intro to “Constant Headache” by Joyce Manor. That’s the unique side to live music that can’t be replaced; all’s well that ends well, and we definitely had an awesome time up there.
After our set we ventured over to the bar, where we found terpene-infused beer – aka weed beer. James grabbed the Grandaddy Purps and John got the Tangie strain (yuuum). Andi had a raspberry sour and Zach went for a belgian tripel. We rocked out to Aunts’ whole album start to finish, and then we came back to the bar to play the notorious “ring game”. Andi got it on the first try more than once, but she’s not bragging…
As we headed out we said goodbye to the last guy at the bar, but he wasn’t looking too hot… The bartender said not to worry, though, he’s a regular.
At the end of the day we sold some merch, made new friends and fans, had tasty beer, listened to amazing music, and had lots of fun. Successful show in the books!
Thanks so much for joining us on our day at The Beeracks! To listen to our album, No Brains, No Blood., watch our music videos, grab some merch, or follow us on Instagram, you can find it all at this link: https://linktr.ee/theinsideout Hope to see you at a future show!
Thanks so much to The Inside Out for offering their time, show experience and plenty of great photos! Again, check out their album “No Brains, No Blood.” on Spotify and their website listed above. Thanks again!
When 2022 began, if you’d mentioned Steve Lacy’s name to me in conversation I wouldn’t have had a clue who you meant. He was one of those guys on the list of artists I’ve heard long before I ever put a name to his work. Fast forward to the last sliver of the year though, and I’d now consider Lacy’s recent LP Gemini Rights odds on favorite for Album of the Year.
This one grows on you just that quickly. Let’s talk about it.
Even in a season that included new Kendrick Lamar, Wilco, Spoon, Adele and stellar entries from the likes of Brandi Carlile and Fantastic Negrito, like the cream of the crop it’s been Lacy who consistently comes out on top. The producer/guitarist for The Internet has hit all the right chords on sophomore release Gemini Rights. The LP is a tightly hook-laden punch that eloquently weaves in textures on its tracks resembling a living hybrid of sounds both old and new.
For instance Cody Freestyle has a synth vibe at home in the 2010s, while Amber sounds like Tapestry era Carole King holding down the piano for a swooning Prince singalong circa Dirty Mind era. Sunshine continues the retro grooves with an endearing burst of harmonies, while Bad Habit dwells somewhere within the 80’s sneer of Billy Idol and the lovelorn lust of today.
And I don’t exaggerate when it comes to the hooks here. It’s as though Lacy tapped into my ear like a safe cracker. Songs I heard a few times turned into more simply because they almost immediately resonated and stayed glued to my head. Sunshine, Buttons, Bad Habit, Helmet, Static, Give You the World… the miles on this LP merge with plenty of home run hits along the way.
I don’t know about you dear readers, but as summer hits I find my mind waxing nostalgic for songs that illuminate the open road feeling of these approaching brighter months. Sometimes those points of light can be harder to find in 2022, so when an all-important hook passes by… you’ve gotta grab at it like Marty McFly truck-surfing via skateboard to Huey Lewis in the Back To The Future intro.
Luckily, California rockers Brightshine accommodate by living up to their name through a dazzlingly bright new single called “New Days”. Accompanied by a sweetly optimistic music video, the track hits like a bouncy mid-level rocker with an afterburn that takes off in a jet plane during the guitar solo. Slashing through with psychedelic strokes like The War on Drugs meets Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler and Warren Haynes, Brightshine’s lead man/guitarist Pete Sawyer’s fretwork takes “New Days” to another stratosphere in its quest and pursuit for… hope, to describe it in a word.
At least that’s the implication here as the song rides the high of getting out of the dry, withered winter and spring and moving towards the bloom of bright flowers reaching out with soft fingers for a new tomorrow. Whether those small initial green buds remember the trauma of the conditions that were before is unknown; what IS is that they always bloom again.
There’s more than a few lessons we can absorb from that philosophy, so take a seat, listen and start learning (with the the band’s music video below of course!).
Thanks to Brightshine for the opportunity to review “New Days” out fresh today! The track will also appear on the group’s upcoming sophomore album “The Wire”, due out July 23rd.
I love any chance to use this blog to feature other voices besides this one you always see before you. My relationship with my own writing has had a tendency to ebb and flow in the last few years anyway, as is natural when it comes to that will o’ the wisp creativity. So in those moments, rather than fight burnout I’d rather pass the mic to someone with an inspired message.
Enter Ruby Greenberg. The Colorado-born indie-folk singer-songwriter has been impressing in 2022 with her new single “Roses”. We need more voices like hers defining the genre as it makes its way forth into the future, especially because we ALWAYS need new female musical voices to help show the way.
There aren’t enough.
Fortunate for me (and you the reader), Ruby was kind enough to provide a peek behind the curtain into what makes this new song “tick”. For that I’m deeply appreciative, as not all artists are willing to provide a vulnerable window into their creative process. It’s much easier to simply board that window up; just keep the mask tight. Instead, Greenberg shows us how to listen by explaining when she had difficulties doing just that, and how it led to “Roses”.
“How to Share Space with the Ones You Love”
Many of us try to approach life treating others as we would want to be treated. We might even have been taught this value at a young age, told that it was something to strive for. It’s a reminder to treat others with kindness and respect and to be mindful of how we’d want them to listen to, support, or nurture us. But some time ago, I realized that sharing space with those I love could be done in an even better way: by treating them how they would want to be treated instead.
As I wrote one of my latest songs, “Roses,”I was thinking about a particular relationship in my life. I tried thinking about what it would look like if I showed up for that person in the way that they needed me to, instead of responding in the way that was most instinctive to me.
Sometimes I get excited when I talk to someone I feel close to. I might try to finish their sentences and chime in with my own thoughts. I might start thinking of what I want to say next. When they pause to find their words, I might jump in with what I think they’re going to say. I realized this isn’t always what people need. That energy, though it comes from an earnest place, doesn’t foster an environment of psychological safety when someone is sharing something vulnerable. I’ve come to think that the best way to connect is to be mindful of creating a space that’s about listening instead of responding.
Someone might share news with us, describe a decision they made, or even act in a way that is different from how we do. How we handle this matters. When someone shares themselves with the world, the response they receive can impact whether they continue to show up as their true selves again and again, or if they feel shamed and start to hide away. When a loved one shares themselves and is rushed, dismissed, criticized, or ignored, it can cause them to shut down. Then that honest side of them might not shine through again. Creating safety for someone to share their truth in a relationship or interaction can mean that we get to truly know them instead of knowing a version of themselves that they created to make us feel comfortable.
These meandering thoughts are what were stirring in my mind when I wrote “Roses”I tried to think of an image of bringing comfort and support to someone as I got to really know them. When someone invites you to a home that they’ve built for themselves, you don’t run inside and start painting the walls the color of your own house. You bring them a gift to brighten up their kitchen. And so it became the refrain for this song: “I won’t disturb the space that you’ve created. I will bring Roses for your table.”