CREDIT: Giovanni Duca/Courtesy of the artist

Needless to say that Stephen Malkmus doesn’t need HearYa’s stamp of approval but I’m here to say that I’m loving what I’m hearing from the his new album. Sparkle Hard is out on May 18th and I have to say this is my favorite stuff of theirs since Real Emotional Trash.

Malkmus started writing Sparkle Hard in 2015. He’d upgraded his home-recording equipment and bought some electronic drums and had been working on the Netflix series Flaked (he penned the incidental music and the end theme song). Demos were done in one day in April of 2017 and then in May, The Jicks started recording at a new studio in Portland called Halfling, which is managed by multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk of The Decemberists, who produced the album.

Self-indulgent escapism has never been The Jicks’ bag, but on Sparkle Hard, the reality of modern life sits closer to the surface, communication cutting to the chase whether it’s a proto-punk grind or a back-porch country duet doing the talking. A cleaner burn for dark and complex times.

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Stephen Malkmus is here

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Photo by Brett Falcon

The Rock*A*Teens were one of those bands or artists that I discovered after they were gone. It was Will Sheff name-dropping them years ago that had initially pointed me in their direction. I downloaded a couple from emusic and they’d pop up on Spotify here and there but never really gave any thought to new music being in the mix. Well now, that thought is a reality. Sixth House will be out on June 29th via the fine folks at Merge. Here’s a little info on how Sixth House came to be:

Guided by a batch of home recordings and demos, frontman Chris Lopez, guitarist Justin Hughes, bassist William R. Joiner, and drummer Ballard Lesemann convened with Tim Delaney at Electron Gardens Studio and Rafael Pereira at Tribo Studios to shape their ideas into the glorious, bombastic new album Sixth House.

These days, Lopez and the R*A*Ts are turning towards a more refined approach to recording and performance while preserving their distinctly unvarnished lyrical and musical perspective. “In the past we hid behind walls of reverb, noise, production tricks,” Lopez says. “We wanted these particular songs to stand in the light.” On Sixth House, the gauze is removed—the anthems are illuminated, the ballads are clear-eyed, and the stories are in sharp focus.

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The Rock*A*Teens are here

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Photo by Jane Goodsell

I wasn’t raised in a house where the sounds of country music filled the air. In fact, for most of my life I resented it as second-rate music. It wasn’t until I started to get into alt-country that I began to appreciate and embrace the sounds of country music of yesteryear; before bro-country reared its ugly head.

Hedley had first come to my attention as a fiddle player. He is simply one of the best players I’ve ever seen. Alas, that isn’t the focal point of the album. Instead, Hedley surrounded himself with some of Nashville’s finest and let’s his silky smooth baritone take center stage for 10 tracks of country that wouldn’t have sounded out of place fifty years ago. To that, Hedley has this to say.

“It’s not a throwback. It sounds new because it is new, and it sounds the way it sounds because it’s the only thing I know how to do. I can’t write a song that sounds different. Classic country is like a suit. Nothing about a men’s suit has changed in like 100 years. Classic never goes out of style. Something can’t be a throwback if it’s never been out of style.”

The title track is certainly one of the highlights. The auto-biographical Weird Thought Thinker sees the band add a Mexicali tint to the proceedings with great affect. Let Them Talk is a honky-tonk two-stepper about new love and the chatter in a “small” town. He also knocks out a lovely cover of Disney’s When You Wish Upon A Star as a tribute to his Father.

I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Hedley but it is readily apparent on social media that he has a sharp wit. It is also quite apparent how well liked and respected he is in Nashville and Americana scene as a whole. This album has been a long time coming and it is most certainly worth the wait.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

Joshua Hedley is here

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Photo Credit: Sonya Belakhlef

gobbinjr is the moniker of Brooklyn’s (via Madison) Emma Jerk Witmer. She has recently signed to a label that I’ve really been enjoying lately, Topshelf Records, for her sophomore effort. The music is a hazy brand of indie pop and I’m looking forward to hearing more. Below is a video for fake bitch and here’s what Witmer had to say about it.

“it’s a song grounded in disgust and disaffection, but Witmer often uses humor and whimsy to process tough situations,” while Emma Witmer says: “I wrote this song a couple years ago originally about one man, but after the song was written it seemed to apply to all too many. As someone who works or plays shows a lot, I’ve found myself in contact with a whole lot of drunk and disrespectful men. Their crude behavior inspired the crude language within the lyrics. Luckily, I’ve made quite a few allies as well, including Yuki Soga who played keyboards in the live band years ago and made this beautiful music video.”

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

gobbinjr is here

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A Valley Son announce 2018 series of singles

April 23, 2018

2018 sees Brooklyn’s A Valley Son following up on a busy 2017 with an even ambitious 2018. The soulful alt-country band got some traction with their LP, But The World Moves. Now they’re building out their own studio and attempting to release six singles before the year is up. Check out the first of the […]

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D.A. Stern announces Isn’t It Obvious EP

April 19, 2018

I had never heard of D.A. Stern until today. This is a quality pop tune and I’m happy to have it in my life. The EP will be out tomorrow via the fine folks at Slumberland Records. Here’s some more info from the PR machine. D.A. Stern is a crafty songwriter whose sensibility marries an […]

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The Moondoggies – A Love Sleeps Deep (album review)

April 18, 2018

Photo by Jason Neuerburg It’s five long years since The Moondoggies released an album. Long labeled (by me) as one of America’s most underrated bands, A Love Sleeps Deep sees the Everett, WA quintet building on all the facets that made their first three albums so damn enjoyable. They are a throw back to when […]

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Erin Rae announces Putting On Airs for 6/8 release

April 17, 2018

credit: Marcus Maddox Erin Rae is an Americana artist with a lovely voice. She writes these classic songs that you immediately connect with. Reminds me of another Americana artist who just put out a stunning album, Courtney Marie Andrews. These ladies make it look so easy. Here’s some more info on the artist. Rae, whose […]

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Queen of Jeans – Dig Yourself (album review)

April 16, 2018

Photo – Jessica Lim Fresh off of seeing Philly’s Queen of Jeans at SXSW, it came as no surprise that Dig Yourself is a wonderfully addictive album. Utilizing the harmonies of Miriam Devora, Matheson Glass, and Nina Scotto; the quartet blends psych-pop, folk and surf rock to come up with their own brand of music, […]

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Petal announces Magic Gone for 6/15 release

April 16, 2018

Petal is the cathartic vehicle of Kiley Lotz. Magic Gone is going to Petal’s sophomore effort after 2015’s Shame. If you enjoy music inspired by 90s indie, than Petal should be right up your alley. Here’s some more on the album from Lotz. “‘Magic Gone’ is the physical and sonic representation of me fighting for […]

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