Rayland Baxter – Casanova

Thoreau had Walden Pond. Kerouac had Big Sur. Rayland Baxter? He had an old rubber band factory in Franklin KY, and it suited him just fine. As one of the hardest-touring artists on the road today, Baxter’s spent most of his professional life in transit, but ever since he was a kid, he dreamed of creative seclusion someplace lonely and isolated, somewhere he could sit still and devote his every waking hour to writing without interruption or distraction. When the opportunity finally presented itself in late 2016, the Nashville native pounced.
“I packed everything in my van and moved to Franklin for three months,” says Baxter. “It was the fist time I ever got to be alone and focus solely on songs like that. All I did was write, write, write all day every day. I was obsessed.”
By the time Baxter emerged, he’d penned more than 50 tunes and crafted a detailed blueprint for his spectacular new album, ‘Wide Awake.’ Deftly produced by Butch Walker, the record infuses Baxter’s easygoing, soulful sound with British Invasion melodies and rock and roll swagger, marrying lean, muscular songwriting with adventurous, inventive arrangements. It’s a cutting, insightful collection, one that takes a sardonic view the violence, greed, and division that seem to define the modern American landscape. Rather than point a finger, though, the music holds up a mirror, offering a sober reflection of the times thoughtfully bundled in bright, infectious hooks. There’s no judgment here, only keen observation, and Baxter implicates himself as much as his neighbor through it all.
When it came time to record his mountain of new songs, Baxter relocated to Santa Monica CA, where he wrangled an all-star studio band that included Dr. Dog’s Erick Slick on drums, Butch Walker on bass, Cage The Elephant’s Nick Bockrath on guitar, and piano wizard Aaron Embry (Elliott Smith, Brian Eno) on keys. A producer and artist equally at home working with massive pop stars and indie stalwarts, Walker immediately embraced Baxter’s vision for the album, and the result is a sunny and altogether charming collection. Scratch beneath the surface, though, and you’ll find it’s populated by a cast of characters who project a vision of the good life as they struggle to keep it all together behind closed doors. On the punchy ‘Casanova,’ the singer reckons with debts he knows he’ll never be able to repay,while the volatile “Amelia Baker” charts the narrator’s descent into near-madness as he pines for a starlet perpetually out of reach.

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Matthew Sweet – I Belong To You

“When I was young, the artists that I really admired were the ones who always found a way to keep making music and expressing themselves,” Matthew Sweet says on the occasion of the release of his 13th solo album Tomorrow’s Daughter. “To me, those guys were the real artists, and I’ve tried to hold on to that attitude in my own work.”
The seasoned singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist is currently in the midst of a personal musical renaissance that’s seen him produce some of the most compelling and ambitious music of his three-decade career. That description applies to Tomorrow’s Daughter, on which such instantly memorable new tunes as “I Belong To You,” “Run Away,” “Lady Frankenstein” and “Out of My Misery” demonstrate his uncanny ability to tap into a bottomless well of pop history to craft music that’s effortlessly catchy yet deeply personal.
Tomorrow’s Daughter—the follow-up to the artist’s acclaimed 2017 set Tomorrow Forever—is a persuasive testament to the enduring qualities of Sweet’s adventurous, emotion-charged songcraft. The new album’s 12 songs abound with the punchy melodic sensibility, playful sonic experimentalism and introspective lyrical insight that have been constants in his expansive catalogue.
Tomorrow’s Daughter is the product of a burst of creative inspiration that followed Sweet’s 2013 return to his native Nebraska, where he reestablished his Black Squirrel Submarine home studio. This period yielded 38 brilliant new songs, 17 of which appeared on Tomorrow Forever. It instantly became clear that this potent body of work merited a follow-up release, hence Tomorrow’s Daughter.

Matthew will be performing at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on June 20 and World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on June 21.

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Arthur Buck – Are You Electrified

Sometimes, the catalyst for creating great art is simply being in the right place at the right time. For Arthur Buck, the new collaboration between singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur and guitarist Peter Buck, that place was Mexico, and that time was the fall of 2017. The two musicians, it should be noted, have a history that stretches back decades; among other pairings, Arthur opened shows for R.E.M. in the early 2000s, while Buck has backed Arthur on numerous occasions, including for an elegiac, piano-led cover of Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side” on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2014. But back to Mexico.

Specifically, a little town off the Baja coast named Todos Santos, with the Sierra de la Laguna mountains to the east and the bright blue Pacific stretching out infinitely to the west. It is here that Buck has for the last several years held the Todos Santos Music Festival, which he created with his wife, Chloe Johnson, in 2012, shortly after R.E.M. called it a day. Among the many artists who have played the festival is Arthur, who also happened to leave behind a guitar—a Dobro, specifically—after his last appearance there. And so last year he made the trek down to Todos Santos to pick up the instrument. Which is where he ran into Buck. “I have a house there, and I said to Joe, ‘Drop by. Come swimming,’” Buck recalls. Arthur took him up on the offer, though he didn’t merely drop by—he moved in. “We’d basically go to the beach, we’d swim in the ocean, and then in the afternoons I’d grab a guitar and we’d sit in the shade and play,” Buck says.

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The National Reserve – New Love

For nearly half a decade, The National Reserve has spent its Friday nights lighting it up at a Brooklyn bar, winning over boozers and barflies with epic sets and a remarkable breadth of songcraft and showmanship. Now, with their stunning new Ramseur Records debut album, MOTEL LA GRANGE, the band has captured every bit of that energy, emotion, and entertainment for all to hear.

Founded and fronted by singer-guitarist Sean Walsh, The National Reserve mine an archetypal musical seam, marrying gutbucket R&B, Laurel Canyon lyricism, New Orleans funk workouts, late night soul, and bluesy, boozy rock ‘n’ roll to create their own timeless brand of American music.

Songs like “Found Me A Woman” and the indelible title track reveal a gifted new tunesmith while masterfully reminding one and all of the simple beauty of a great American bar band – two guitars, organ, bass and drums rocking out in the corner, singing their songs to soundtrack the night.

The New Jersey-born Walsh began his musical journey amongst New Brunswick’s all-ages house show punk scene, a formative experience that instilled his standing belief in the power of music to create community. New inspiration came in the form of classic American artists like The Band and Bob Dylan, whose rebellious, revolutionary spirit proved especially mind-blowing.

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