As the opening track on Chris Stamey’s latest studio outing, Euphoria, “Universe-sized Arms” is a clear statement of intent for the rest of the record. The album ties into Stamey’s long legacy as a musician for many reasons, not the least of which is the guitar he plays on the songs: “I found these songs inside the same dilapidated old Silvertone lipstick guitar that I’d written my first records on. Maybe that’s why it sounds a bit like those records in some ways.” Dilapidated or not, there’s definitely verve in Euphoria, and in particular “Universe-sized Arms”, an unreleased Ryan Adams track given to Stamey by the man himself.
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The San Diego-based Triumph of the Wild, a roots rock duo consisting of Christy Barrett and Ryan Schilling, created their sophomore LP, We Come With the Dust, after a five month trip that stopped off in locations such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Tennessee. The influence of these states shows itself clearly on the album; drawing from both Americana and classic rock influences (the press release for the LP cites Woody Guthrie and Janis Joplin), Barrett and Schilling create a brand of rock ‘n’ roll that’s warmly familiar, but not so beholden to the fast that it feels like a mere act of copy and paste.
Below you can stream one fine example from We Come With the Dust, the ragged, bluesy number “Brown Dog Blues”.
Ephemeral is a fitting title for the new album by the Minneapolis outfit Umami. Although identifiable pop song structures are featured throughout the LP, the smorgasbord of sounds that Umami brings to the table constantly keep the listener on edge. One idea will suddenly give way to something else entirely without a moment’s notice, foregrounding a psychedelic, more free-form take on synth and electro-pop. Yet for all of the ephemeral moments throughout this Ephemeral LP, there’s a clear core to the songwriting. Contrast is one of the main constants that keeps the experimentation fresh throughout: see the juxtaposition of sharp buzzsaw synths and airy, reverb-laden vocals on “Living in a Nightmare”.
The bilingual, acoustic guitar-led “Half a Chance” is one of the standout cuts from Healer, the new LP by Alex Cuba, the self-described “Spider Man of Latin music”. Like the rest of the album, “Half a Chance” represents the two different perspectives from which Cuba approaches his songwriting: as a Cuban-born immigrant to Canada, his music reflects where he’s been and where he’s come from. Cuban and Latin influences are prevalent in his music, but so too are pop and singer/songwriter tropes from North America. For “Half a Chance”, Cuba is joined by fellow Canadian Ron Sexsmith, who provides some nice harmony vocals in the chorus.
At the start of April, the Chicago progressive rock band Umphrey’s McGee will release The London Session. Normally, when session albums are released, their title is in the plural: The Abbey Road Sessions, for instance. However, in Umphrey’s McGee’s case, the singular case is quite deliberate. These reputable prog-jammers had but 12 hours in Abbey Road, meaning that they had to make the absolute most out of a limited timeframe. Save for the vocal tracks, which had to wait until the band’s return to the states (“They are exceptional and efficient, but they are merely mortal after all,” says the album’s press release), these guys recorded a whole LP’s worth of music in those 12 hours. The London Session marks the ninth Umphrey’s McGee studio outing, and it finds these nimble jam-ready musicians playing as sharply as they’ve ever been.
Below you can stream “Bad Friday”, the first song to be released from The London Session.