It’s time to get back in the playlist game. After a not-so-brief hiatus during which I opened the Twangville office in Dallas, I’m ready to get back to the playlists. And, given that the last one appeared in August of last year (!), let’s just say that I’ve got some catching up to do.
To that end, I’m going to take a speed-dating approach – brief commentary with, of course, some music – to survey some of my favorites released in the past several months.
Tommy Stinson takes rock and roll irreverence – and attitude – to the extreme. All the better I say. With his time with the reunited Replacements and Guns and Roses behind him, he’s returned to his solo game. Anything Could Happen, released under his Bash and Pop moniker, is an album that is good clean, well dirty, fun. I mean what’s not to like about a song called “Unfuck You”? Elsewhere you’ll get gems like “On the Rocks,” “Anything Could Happen” and “Bad News” that crackle with an endearing brashness. The album may have been released in January but the songs are ripe for any summer playlist.
Bonus points for one of the coolest videos I’ve seen in awhile. Rock on.
The latest release from Atlanta-based The Whiskey Gentry offer a tour of modern and old-school country. The 12 tracks run the gamut from the rock edges of opener “Following You” to the 1970’s country sound of “Looking for Trouble.” The title track is straight-up honky-tonk, as is the somewhat ironically titled “Rock N Roll Band.” Singer Lauren Staley has a voice that glides across the band’s songs but can take on a defiant edge when needed – often when the band seemingly eggs her on.
I first saw the Wild Reeds at the annual Folk Alliance Conference, a rather deceiving introduction to say the least. The harmonies of singers Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva and Mackenzie Howe were intoxicating as they wrapped around the folk arrangements of their songs. Their latest release, however, presents a much more rocking persona. Each singer contributes songs that showcase their individual personalities but are tied together by those irrepressible harmonies.
I’ll feign annoyance when an artist whose music I enjoy quietly slips some new music into the world. UK-based The Dreaming Spires were a wonderful discovery at the Americana Music Conference a few years back, their Big Star and Memphis-influenced power pop triggering a satisfying smile with every listen.
Their latest release is a 4 song ep (with an additional 4 tracks by friends like Sid Griffin) and damn if they don’t pick up right where they left off. The sugary hooks abound on tracks like the title track, which pays homage to the classic pop that continues to inspire the band.
Sometimes there is beauty in heartbreak and despair. Responding, or rather recovering, from a series of personal misfortunes, former Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s frontman Richard Edwards proves the point in the form of his debut solo record. From the quiet folk of “Lil Dead Eye-d” to the cathartic pop of “Fool”, Edwards makes minor keys sound uplifting. Heck, even the spacey spoken word “(chakra kahn)” (get it?) is mysteriously enticing.
I’ll admit it – I’m addicted to “Come Tumblin’ Down.” I wish I could tell you why, but the song has somehow clawed its way into my head and is refusing to leave. It is perhaps a potent reminder that some songwriters just know how to write a hook, something Colin Hay has been doing for decades. And “Come Tumblin’ Down” is far from the only hook-heavy classic to be found on his latest. You’ll find the soaring “Secret Love” to the half-spoken word, half-reggae “I’m Walking Here” and the Beatles-esque “Love Don’t Mean Enough.” There’s well, enough, here for everyone to enjoy.
Ryan Weber and Eric Osterman, the duo behind Eric and Magill, paint rich musical soundscapes. Although the arrangements are often sparse, they somehow convey a majestic quality. Heavy percussive elements stand in counterpoint to seemingly whispered vocals and lightly plucked guitars – an enticing combination. These are songs that invite you to close your eyes and get lost in their splendor.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.