If the antagonists in Grease were punks instead of hair-slicked greasers, Vicky and the Vengents’ “You Used to Be My Baby” would be their heartsong. The band, who describe their sound as “maltshop punk”, pays homage to doo-wop and classic girl groups from the ‘50s, all the while adding in a healthy dose of power chords to enliven the aesthetic.
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In his 7 out of 10 review of Tomorrow You’re Going, the newest LP by the Americana supergroup Pine Hill Project, PopMatters‘s Ed Whitelock calls it “a joy from start to finish.” Pine Hill Project, led by Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky, were joined by Grammy Award winner and longtime Bob Dylan sideman Larry Campbell for the record, which finds them covering a smattering of songs, spanning folk traditionals to the tunes of U2.
One such cover is by the eminently cover-able Gillian Welch, whose “Wichita” stands out as one of Tomorrow You’re Going“‘s finest cuts. Now the track has a starkly shot music video to back it up, which you can view exclusively below.
Back in March, PopMatters premiered the tune “Small Fires”, taken from the Providence, Rhode Island instrumental outfit A Troop of Echoes’ new album, The Longest Year on Record. Well, the time has come for the full album to be released to the world, and as such, PopMatters is proud to present it in full streaming form.
Best classified as omnivorous instrumental music, The Longest Year on Record finds A Troop of Echoes carving their own impressions into distinct sonic niches. “Manifest and Legion” employs a guitar tone that is reminiscent of Mogwai at their moody best. Tunes like “Small Fires” and “Arecibo” represent unique spins on ‘90s indie rock. Gorgeous, soundtrack-like pieces such as “Kerosene” and “Pure Alexia (Is It Silent In This Room)” provide respite from the at times knotty instrumentation. Of the many unitive threads that runs throughout The Longest Year on Record, saxophone undoubtedly is the most distinctive. Even those not keen on jazz will find something to like in this band’s sharp use of the woodwind instrument.
Although Compostela, the latest outing by indie folk singer/songwriter Jenn Grant, is coming out in the United States next week, it’s already garnered her significant—and deserved—attention in her native Canada. The record led to Grant receiving two Juno Award nominations: Adult Alternative Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. (As the Toronto Star boldly put it, “If you can resist this, you are made of stone.”) In addition to further refining her songwriting, Grant also used Compostela to work with a range of musical figures, whose collaborations add even more dimension to what is an emotively complex recording. Among many others, artists such as Ron Sexmith, Buck 65, Don Kerr, Sarah Harmer, Rose Cousins, and Jonathan Goldsmith all join in Grant’s musical world.
The title Compostela, meaning “field of stars” or “star field”, is an allusion to the legend related to Spain’s Camino de Santiago, which holds that the dust of pilgrims who walk that trail formed the Milky Way. For Grant, this has a strong personal resonance, as the name Compostela came about through some of her mother’s last words: “I will meet you in Spain.”
For those disillusioned by the glossy, overproduced sheen that’s lacquered on so many mainstream country records, Christian Lopez Band’s Onward will be a much-needed respite from the pop-country deluge. While Lopez and his band do write crisply produced tunes full of great hooks, there’s never the sense that he’s glossing anything over, but rather refining what are some supremely catchy tunes. Lopez’ craft in this respect is all the more remarkable given his young age; as his artist bio cheekily puts it, he “is a 19-year-old with the soul of a 65-year-old Appalachian mountain bluegrass musician hidden away inside.” Onward makes it apparent that he not only knows but has respect for his aesthetic predecessors, particularly folks like George Strait, whose style can be heard echoed in tunes like “Morning Rise” and “Oh Those Tombs”. There are also hints of newer styles laced throughout; tunes like opener “Take You Away” would fit cozily on the shelf next to the most recent Lone Bellow record. All in all, Christian Lopez Band and Onward both put to bed any notion that country music is “dying”; based on this record, it’s still got a great deal of life in it.
Onward was produced by Dave Cobb, who has worked with country and Americana luminaries like Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton.
// Notes from the Road
"Marina's star shines bright and her iridescent pop shines brighter. Froot is her most solid album yet. Her tour continues into the new year throughout Europe.READ the article