The Monthly RecommNeds: February 2021
Greetings old friends! For fans of the Weekly RecommNeds wondering, I had to take a bit of a hiatus toward the end of 2020 and unfortunately let a lot of great waiting-to-be-discovered new music go un-recommNed’d. My apologies.
Thankfully, the column has been reborn in this new monthly format, which will allow me to continue to put great new music onto your radar on a regular basis. We’ll see how things go, but my plan is to highlight 10 new releases each month, mostly taken from new releases the preceding month, hopefully hitting at least one of your sweet spots along the way, and probably a few bonus picks thrown in as well.
I’ll also be putting together a special 25-track playlist each month: songs I’ve been digging, some from the monthly picks, some from albums that weren’t featured, some singles from upcoming releases, and maybe a random blast-from-the-past favorite or two. This month’s playlist is here. I hope you enjoy it! So, with the new Monthly RecommNeds, there are lots of ways to discover new music in whatever form works best for you.
And a reminder that I’m always on the hunt for the good stuff that I might not be hip to, so never hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @neddyo.
The Monthly 10
Ten under-the-radar albums released last month that I think you might dig, presented in alphabetical order.
Patricia Brennan: Maquishti
If you dig the vibraphone & marimba (and, really, who doesn’t?), I think you’ll enjoy the first solo offering from Patricia Brennan, a New York City-based vibes player. Solo compositions and improvisations, this is some vibey music, contemplative, quiet, and delightfully mellow. Make it the interstitial soundtrack to your too-stressful days.
When you’ve got Sufjan Stevens singing the opening track of your debut solo album, you must be doing something right. CARM has played trumpet for Stevens and many others through his career, and here he’s taken some of that indie energy and coupled it with a sound that blends classical, jazz and more. There are moments that are rather beautiful, some that get fun and weird, with more great surprise guests along the way. Positively enchanting.
Pearl Charles: Magic Mirror
I don’t think you can buy Pearl Charles’ latest release on 8-track, but you’d be forgiven for thinking you might. Magic Mirror is a delightful romp of soft-focus country, rock, and soul with, dare I say, a disco twist. It would’ve been quite at home on the FM dial of my youth, but it sounds plenty fresh here in 2021. Easygoing with just enough bite, this one’s a keeper.
Terry Gross: Soft Opening
Before you ask, this Terry Gross is a West Coast rock trio, not an NPR host. Definitely not. They cover about 40 minutes over three tracks on this full-length debut and just about every single one of them is best described as hair-raising. Heavy-duty, guitar-bass-drum motorik in all its unabashed, let’s-just-jam glory. To be played loud.
Mason Lindahl: Kissing Rosy in the Rain
There’s nothing quite like a well-played acoustic guitar. I’ve got two albums in that vein this month. The first is from Brooklyn musician Mason Lindahl, who casts entrancing spiderwebs of six-stringed sound from his instrument. Listening to it I am reminded both of windswept Morricone-soundtracked vistas and introspective bedroom daydreams. It’s all in there, it’s all quite wonderful.
Midnight Sister: Painting the Roses
Midnight Sister is a new-to-me duo out of Los Angeles and I suppose the best way to describe the sound on their latest is “art rock.” It’s wonderfully difficult to pigeonhole, shapeshifting, slipping out of one outfit and into another with ease. The good news is, whatever form the music takes, it’s all good, never dull, plenty of groove, dense with ideas, but easy to digest. Painting the Roses has secrets, but it loves to reveal them, so get into it.
Needlepoint: Walking Up That Valley
If you thought I was going to make it through this column without pitching some awesome band from Scandinavia, you don’t know the RecommNeds too well! While their sound is maybe more old school Brit-prog than straight Eurojam, Oslo’s Needlepoint is plenty awesome. They’ve got a crunchy prog-folk sound that occasionally, expertly breaks out into jammy territory, making it clear they’ve studied the masters. I’m really loving this one, and I think you will, too.
Eamon O’Leary: The Silver Sun
Winter is the season of heavy clouds hanging in the sky, trapping a cold, colorless chill. If you know what I’m talking about, I’ve got just the soundtrack for that chill. The sparse Irish folk of Eamon O’Leary carries a similar weight, his new album crackling like a thin layer of ice. It’s heavy, but it’s gorgeous all the same, a bit of a folk masterpiece and a winter 2021 must-hear for all fans of folk music. Enjoy!
Sunburned Hand of the Man: Absolute Flake in the Forest
How about some jams? The Massachusetts collective Sunburned Hand of the Man has got you covered, releasing a set of edited down freeform improvisations that should scratch your far-flung psychedelia itch and then some. The pandemic has taken that feeling of just standing in a room and watching dudes have at it with their instruments, but this one captures that spirit pretty damn well.
Yasmin Williams: Urban Driftwood
And here’s that second guitar album I promised you. Although, the music Yasmin Williams makes on this release sounds less like it was made with a guitar and more like it was made with a magic wand of some sort. This is serious sorcery, an otherworldy wizardry. It’s profoundly beautiful and really, something special. These were alphabetical, but this really is a best-for-last situation, so stop reading this and go listen to Urban Driftwood right now, you can thank me later.
In addition to the Monthly 10, I’ll try to throw in a few other picks each month.
For my monthly live release pick, please, please check out this killer one from Swedish songwriter Daniel Norgren. It’s like Neil Young meets Jerry Garcia by way of Stockholm.
And finally five more recommendations that may not be on your radar but are well worth a listen, presented without comment: Dave Depper, Lia Ices, Buck Meek, Speed Stick, Stimulator Jones … what other good ones did I miss this month?
I think that’ll do, more next month.
All of the music mentioned in this column can be found in this February compilation playlist on Spotify. I’ll also keep up this running playlist with all the recommendations from 2021 so they’re all in one place for easy new music discovery.