Release Day Picks: May 15th New Album Highlights
Each week Release Day Picks profiles new LPs and EPs Team JamBase will be checking out on release day Friday. This week we highlight new albums by Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Phish, David Bowie, The Magnetic Fields, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Holly Bowling, Greg Loiacono, Luke Schneider and Bobby Deitch Band. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions
The Scoop: “There are a lot of ghosts on this album,” said Jason Isbell about Reunions. “Sometimes the songs are about the ghosts of people who aren’t around anymore, but they’re also about who I used to be, the ghost of myself. While writing I was thinking about how I could take the tools I have now, which are much better than the tools I had then, and go about building the same essential structure. I found myself writing songs that I wanted to write 15 years ago but in those days I hadn’t written enough songs to know how to do it yet. I was also still drinking and I didn’t have enough focus. Just now have I been able to pull it off to my own satisfaction. In that sense it’s a reunion with the me I was back then.” The follow-up to 2017’s The Nashville Sound and the fourth album credited to Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Reunions was produced by Isbell’s frequent collaborator Dave Cobb and recorded at Nashville’s famed RCA Studio A. The 10-track album features guest vocals by David Crosby and Jay Buchanan along with The 400 Unit comprised keyboardist Derry deBorja, drummer Chad Gamble, bassist Jimbo Hart, fiddler Amanda Shires and guitarist Sadler Vaden.
Phish – Santa Fe ’93
The Scoop: One of the most recent Phish shows for which an audience recording doesn’t circulate is the band’s March 8, 1993 performance in Santa Fe, New Mexico. While the concert was thought to be lost to history, fans can finally hear Phish’s lone visit to the Sweeney Convention Center. An official recording of the show taped by former sound engineer Paul Languedoc has been released via LivePhish.com for both paid downloads and LivePhish+ subscriber streaming.
Known as the “perigee show,” the performance took place while a supermoon hung in the skies outside the 1,200-capacity ballroom. The band made numerous mentions to “perigee,” defined by Webster’s as “the point in the orbit of an object (such as a moon) orbiting the earth that is nearest to the center of the earth” numerous times throughout the evening. Fittingly, a cover of “How High The Moon” was played by Phish for the first time since May 28, 1990. The moon also comes up during the narration connecting “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” and “Fly Famous Mockingbird.” Jon Fishman has fun with the word “perigee” throughout “Love You,” a Syd Barrett cover performed often in the period to give the drummer a chance to show off his skills on vacuum.
David Bowie – LiveAnd Well.com
The Scoop: An exciting release from the David Bowie camp arrived on streaming platforms today. The live album LiveAndWell.Com — recorded on Bowie’s 1997 Earthling tour in support of his LP of the same name — originally came out in 2000 on the short-lived BowieNet website. Captured in New York, Amsterdam, Rio De Janeiro and the UK’s Phoenix Festival, LiveAndWell.Com features Bowie on vocals, guitar and sax as well as Zachary Alford on drums; Gail Ann Dorsey on bass, vocals and keyboards; Reeves Gabrels on guitars, synthesizers and vocals and Mike Garson on piano, keyboards and synthesizers. Previewed with “Little Wonder” from Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the record also features “I’m Afraid Of Americans” and “Seven Years In Tibet” from NYC, “Hallo Spaceboy” and “The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)” from Rio as well as bonus tracks “Pallas Athena” and “V-2 Schneider” from Amsterdam, among others.
The Magnetic Fields – Quickies
The Scoop: As its title implies, The Magnetic Fields’ new album Quickies contains 28 brief tracks, ranging in running time from 13 seconds to two minutes and 35 seconds. The songs were written by Stephen Merritt, who recorded the album with band mates Sam Davol, Claudia Gonson, Shirley Simms and John Woo, as well as longtime collaborators Chris Ewen, Daniel Handler and Pinky Weitzman. Merritt described the concept behind Quickies, stating:
I’ve been reading a lot of very short fiction, and enjoyed writing 101 Two Letter Words, the poetry book about the shortest words you can use in Scrabble. Also I’ve been listening to a lot of French baroque harpsichord music. Harpsichord doesn’t lend itself to languor. I’ve been thinking about one instrument at a time, playing for about a minute or so and then stopping, and narratives that are only a few lines long. To make the album, I used a lot of small notebooks, so when I reach the bottom of the page, I’ve only gone a short way. Now that I’m working on a different album, I’m enforcing a large notebook rule so that I don’t do Quickies twice in a row.
Thao & Get Down Stay Down – Temple
The Scoop: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down released their new album Temple today through Ribbon Music. The Oakland-based band fronted by singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen share Temple as the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2016 album, A Man Alive. The new record marks Thao’s producing debut. Nguyen teamed up with her band mate Adam Thompson to produce the record and co-wrote five of the LP’s 10 songs with Thompson. Thao also tapped Mikaelin “Blue” Bluespruce (Solange, Carly Rae Jepsen, Mariah Carey) to handle mixing duties. “Blue mixes more in the hip-hop and pop world and that’s what we wanted,” Nguyen said in a statement. The rollout of the album included a skillfully choreographed video for the song “Phenom,” which arrived in the midst of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak and came to fruition without any of the dancers being in the same room together.
Holly Bowling – Alone Together
The Scoop: Holly Bowling digitally shared the first two volumes of her Alone Together: The Living Room Sessions live release series. The classically trained pianist captured both installments during her recent weekly livingroom livestream series which began in mid-March. Both albums, captured on March 17 and 21, draw heavily from the Phish and Grateful Dead catalogs but also offer tunes from Radiohead and more. “The Horse,” “Silent In The Morning,” “Taste” and “The Squirming Coil” are among the Phish songs included while “The Wheel,” “Stella Blue,” “China Cat Sunflower,” “St. Stephen” and others represent the Grateful Dead.
Greg Loiacono – Mystic Traces
The Scoop: Singer-songwriter Greg Loiacono continues his solo career separate of his time in beloved California rock band The Mother Hips with the release of his sophomore studio album. Mystic Traces is the 11-track follow-up to 2016’s Songs From A Golden Dream. Out via Blue Rose, Loiacono recorded the album at Scott Hirsch’s (Hiss Golden Messenger) studio in Ojai, California. “Being in Ojai with Scott and all the folks that helped out on this record was some of the most productive and enjoyable creative time I have ever spent,” Greg said in a statement. The “folks” are the many contributors to Mystic Traces, a list that includes Wilco’s Mikael Jorgenson, Kyle Field (Little Wing), Barry Sless (Moonalic, DNB), Jason Crosby, Jamie Drake and the late Neal Casal.
Luke Schneider – Altar Of Harmony
The Scoop: Alter Of Harmony is Nashville-based pedal steel guitarist Luke Schneider’s new, self-described “new age” solo album. Issued by Third Man Records, the eight-song release was recorded entirely by Schnieder on a 1967 Emmons Push/Pull pedal steel guitar. Schneider, who has performed with Margo Price, William Tyler, Caitlyn Rose, Lilly Hiatt, Orville Peck and others, previewed the album with a pair of seven-minute singles, “anteludium” and “lex universum.” Speaking to Bandcamp, Schnieder stated:
I’ll sit down at the steel guitar and just create these dreamy drones, and it’s four in the afternoon and sunny outside. The next thing I know, I look up, and it’s pitch black outside. I’ve totally missed the sunset. But that’s helpful for me. I turn to this music when I need to zone out and spend hours looking for this sound I hear.
Bobby Deitch Band – Work With Watchagot
The Scoop: Multi-instrumentalist Bobby Deitch launched the Bobby Deitch Band project in 2017 with the release of their debut full-length album, Grateful. The father of Lettuce drummer Adam Deitch returns today with a new BDB record entitled Work With Whatcha Got!. Recorded at studios in Pomona, New York; Mahwah, New Jersey and Westminster, Colorado; the nine-track release finds Bobby backed by Turkuaz’s Michelangelo Carubba on drums, Dave Reiss on guitar and bass, Adam Smirnoff on guitar, Deke Strauss on congas as well as backing vocalists Shira Elias (Turkuaz), Hayley Jane and Natasha DiMarco. A horn section of Zach Lauzon, Fred Maxwell and Baron Raymonde also contributes to the album.
Guests include George Porter Jr., Steveland Swatkins, Nigel Hall and Eric “Benny” Bloom. Work With Whatcha Got! is a true family affair with appearances from Adam Deitch and Bobby’s wife, Denise Deitch. “The message of the music is meant to spread love, The music is designed to empower people to be the best they can be,” Bobby Deitch said of the album in a statement. “It’s ‘feel good music’ that touches your soul and brings you to a place originally built by artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel.”
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.