Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 10 June 2022.
Bluegrass music is nothing short of catharsis for The Slocan Ramblers. On their new album Up the Hill and Through the Fog (available now), the all-star Canadian roots ensemble channels the past two years of loss into a surprisingly joyous collection of twelve songs intended to uplift and help make sense of the world. Though the past few years have brought the group accolades–their 2019 album was nominated for a Juno Award and the band earned the Momentum Band of the Year Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2020–that same momentum was abruptly halted by the pandemic’s brutal impact on live music. Over the next year, bandmates Adrian Gross and Darryl Poulsen both lost close family members and their bassist decided to step back to spend more time at home. They channeled these tumultuous changes into some of their most honest and direct compositions yet. Up the Hill and Through the Fog showcases the breadth of their varied influences while staying true to their roots in the rough and tumble bluegrass scene of Toronto’s no-nonsense bars and dancehalls.
Tarbaby is a jazz combo earns its prerogative with an impeccable pedigree. Pianist Orrin Evans is a “poised artist with . . . ideas at his command” (NY Times). Drummer Nasheet Waits, son of jazz legend Freddie Waits, is a key member of Jason Moran’s Bandwagon. Bassist Eric Revis, a longtime Branford Marsalis collaborator, “stretches the jazz fabric without ripping it apart” (Jazz Times). Saxophonist Oliver Lake is an elder statesman of the jazz avant-garde. The project’s new album is Dance of the Evil Toys, out now. Tarbaby absorbs everything from Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus to John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, sending it all back in torrents of molten musicianship.
With an impressive discography full of paisley pools of pop and jangled-nerve post-punk, Bay Area one-man music machine Kelley Stoltz is a purveyor of his own unique strain of pop psychosis. Equally inspired by 60’s psychedelia and the darker sides of 80’s synth and guitar driven indie, Stoltz also has numerous friends and fans in Australia, where he has toured numerous times – including appearances at Falls Festival and Meredith with changing local pick up bands featuring members of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Dick Diver and legendary Melbourne scenester Julian Wu. Indeed, he’s called Australia his second home ever since local labels Corduroy and Raoul released his album Antique Glow, long before the rest of the world was paying attention. Stoltz’s new album, The Stylist, is out now on Agitated Records (thru Rocket)
Thank San Diego for giving us Iron Butterfly, Blink-182 & Stone Temple Pilots but it’s got another distinction now. In 2019, a group of wise-beyond-their-years SD teens, singer/guitarist Tuesday Denekas, drummer Milla Merlini and bassist Sasha A’Hearn, rose like punk-pop phoenixes from the ashes of their previous band to coral guitarist/singer Charlee Berlin (who owned but didn’t know how to play her instrument at first) to resurrect Denekas’ songs of heartbreak and determination, starting out as the Fluorescents with 2020’s noteworthy self-titled EP. Proudly christening themselves The Inflorescence, the band found the right home with Kill Rock Stars to unleash their debut LP Remember What I Look Like.
Anne Akiko Meyers has amassed a multitude of fans and admirers for her exquisitely curated recordings, often exploring her passion for new music, and old music in new guises. Her quest for creative collaborations has inspired countless commissions and world-premieres, with the results infusing Shining Night, an album that embraces themes of love, poetry and nature.
In Spirit is the much-anticipated third LP from NZ/London trio Popstrangers. In Spirit was written over the summer of 2018-19 in rural New Zealand. Previously, vocalist Joel Flyger had been living and working in London for almost a decade. The UK’s capital, for all its exhilarating and bustling sensibilities, can feel like a bleak, filthy, chaotic backdrop to life for those raised in the antipodes. When Flyger returned to his homeland of New Zealand, he spent the summer helping a friend on a remote property in Waingaro, on New Zealand’s West Coast. Inspired by the jarring shift from the constant overstimulation of capital cities to the isolation, beauty and stillness of the country’s coastal towns, Flyger spent his after-work hours crafting the demos for what would become In Spirit.
Chicago is baked into the core of Horsegirl and their new album, Versions of Modern Performance. Cheng (she/her), Lowenstein (she/her) and Reece (they/them) learned to play—and met—through the significant network of Chicago youth arts programs, and they have their own mini-rock underground. Across the album, recorded at Chicago’s Electrical Audio with John Agnello, there’s elements of the ‘80s and ‘90s independent music the band love so deeply and sincerely. But as Horsegirl fuse all of this together, it feels not like a pastiche or a hacky retread but something as playful and unique as its predecessors. The warmth and strength of their bond crackles through every second of their debut. With lyrics intentionally impressionistic and open-ended, and a sound that ranges with joy and enthusiasm across a range of styles, Versions of Modern Performance offers many pathways.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- New music round-up (for w/e 22 October 2021)
- New music round-up (for w/e 1 April 2022)
- New music round-up (for w/e 14 January 2022)
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television