The Monthly RecommNeds: July 2021
Recent releases from Dana Sipos, John Carroll Kirby, K.C. Jones and Hidden Fortress are among this month’s picks from longtime JamBase contributor Aaron “Neddy” Stein.
Hard to believe we are now halfway through 2021. Not so hard to believe that this year, like pretty much every year since we’ve been doing the RecommNeds, has been chock full of amazing new releases, new bands and new discoveries.
Just in case you’ve missed any of this year’s columns, you can check ‘em out here:
The Monthly RecommNeds
At some point soon, I’ll probably be throwing together a list of my favorite albums of the first half of the year, with the requisite playlists, etc. Keep an eye out on my Twitter account (@neddyo) for that. For now, though, let’s get down to this month’s selections.
As a reminder, the RecommNeds is a monthly rundown of maybe-not-on-your-radar new music, hopefully with something-for-everyone variety. I’m also 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. Dig it!
And 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. Enjoy!
The Monthly 10
Ten under-the-radar albums released last month that I think you might dig.
Body Meπa: The Work is Slow
I have no idea how to pronounce that name, but, man, it doesn’t matter. This is a sort of New York City “supergroup” featuring Greg Fox, Sasha Frere-Jones, Melvin Gibbs and Grey McMurray and they are in the freakin’ zone here, with longform instrumental jams and explorations that are likely to thrill all sorts of open-eared listeners. I think this technically came out without fanfare at the end of last year and is getting a second-wind release now and let me give it all the fanfare, this is a must-check-out-now monster of an album. Skip this one at your own risk.
Kyle Edward Connolly: On Arrival
I don’t recall exactly how this one came onto my radar a couple weeks ago, maybe Kyle Edward Connolly’s music floated down on a much-needed cool breeze from his native Canada. However it made its way into my ears, thank goodness it did. Connolly’s debut solo release, out this past winter, is a breezy-with-depth country rocker. There are equal hints of George Harrison, Neil Young and The Velvet Underground in here, and plenty more to find, the deeper you dig. Just great songs and a great sound. Check it out!
Who’s been waiting for their monthly dose of sick Eurojams? delving is Nick DiSalvo, the frontman to the heavy-hitting stoner rock band Elder. Here he does it alone, playing all the instruments on an album that, true to its name, delves deep into your headspace. This is some A+ psych-rock, just heavy enough to get the blood pumping, but brimming with interesting ideas and interlaced with quieter interludes. Enjoy, friends!
Hidden Fortress: The Hidden Fortress
I’d love to tell you a little bit about Hidden Fortress, but there’s scant information about this duo easily found on the Googles. What I can tell you, is that their debut full-length is full of surprises, a cornucopia of psychedelia, with extended explorations, plenty of groovy choogle and an easy-to-dig energy. Well worth a listen or two or three.
K.C. Jones: Queen of the In Between
“Call me a sinner or call me a saint….” That’s the first line of the opening song on the debut album from K.C. Jones. Along with the album title, that captures her music quite well, with a certain sweetness balanced against a certain edge. The sound is a mix of country, rock and a jazzy groove, anchored by Jones’s red wine vocals and a touch of the Cajun of her native Lafayette, Louisana. There are plenty of flavor notes here to savor, making Jones one to watch.
John Carroll Kirby: Septet
If the Thrust version of Herbie Hancock was making music in 2021, it might sound like this new release from John Carroll Kirby. I guess that’s a slightly bold statement, but that’s just the vibe I get from it, and dang!, what a delicious, groove-jazz vibe that is … with a well-prepared dish of zone-out on the side. This is modern-day fusion music at its finest, give it a listen and let me know if you agree.
L’Rain is one of those artists I kind of accidentally saw a couple times live in NYC before I really knew her, in opening slots or shared bills and free shows. And each time I saw her and her band I left in awe at the wealth of creativity and engrossing music she was making. Her latest album, Fatigue, captures that creativity and then some, a marvel of jazz-inflected art-rock. This is music that has a lot to say and lots of different ways of saying it, overflowing with sound and ideas, but quite clear in its vision.
Jeb Loy Nichols: Jeb Loy
Time to balance this month’s picks with a little straight groove. Jeb Loy Nichols has a genre-crossing background of country and soul and more, and he puts it all to good use on this self-titled banger. Very good use. Backed (and occasionally supercharged) by the super soulful Cold Diamond & Mink, the album feels both universal in its swing and intensely personal in Nichols’ vocals and lyrics. Lots to love here.
Dana Sipos: The Astral Plane
I discovered Dana Sipos a few years ago and pretty much everything she’s put out since then has knocked me off my feet. Her just-out latest is no different. It’s truly a masterpiece of songwriting and a perfect balance of her enchanting voice and a band that flows freely with the energy of jazz improvisation. This is music for deep listening and soul cleansing. Every track feels like a piece of art and taken together, it’s easily one of my favorite releases of the year.
Chris Speed: Light Line
Let’s try something different for the last pick of the month, eh? It’s not often you’ll find something like a solo clarinet album in this space, but it’s not often you’ll find one as spellbinding as this one from NYC scene-mainstay Chris Speed. Mixing original compositions, covers and improvisations, Speed brings a certain physicality to the music. There’s some hypnotic passages, some truly mindbending melodies and some superhuman circular breathing sections that really have to be heard to be believed. Maybe not for everyday listening, but definitely worth a listen nonetheless.
In addition to the Monthly 10, I’ll try to throw in a few other picks each month.
For my monthly live pick, I’m going back to the well with the previously-RecommNed’d Orion’s Belte who put out a quite-excellent sampler live set taken from their pandemic-era on-location concert series.
A couple of EP’s for when you don’t have time for a whole shebang. Calibro 35’s latest is six tracks of the funky good stuff, and first-RecommNed’d-six-years-ago This Is The Kit has a wonderful EP companion to her latest release with just-as-good alternate versions.
And finally, five more recommendations that may not be on your radar but are well worth a listen, presented without comment: Flamingo Pier, JP Harris, Linkwood, Lowland Hum (plays Peter Gabriel’s So), Sven Wunder … what other good ones did I miss this month?
I think that’ll do, more next month.
Please note: all of the music mentioned in this column can be found in this July 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 at any time.