Today’s New Albums: Chris Thile, Liz Phair, Goose, Billy Gibbons, JFJO & More
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 Chris Thile, Liz Phair, Goose, Billy Gibbons, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Crowded House and Satsang. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Chris Thile – Laysongs
The Scoop: Chris Thile presents a truly solo album, Laysongs, on which his voice and mandolin are the sole contributors. Released by Nonesuch Records, the album contains six originals, including “Salt (in the Wounds) of the Earth,” a three-part suite inspired by C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, and three covers and was co-produced by Thile’s wife, Claire Coffee. “[Coffee] has incredible taste and narrative intuition,” Thile said. “She was able to help me weave the original and non-original material together.” Engineer Jody Elff recorded Laysongs with Thile at Future-Past, a recording studio in Upstate New York built inside an old church. The album’s content was informed by Thile’s Christian upbringing, spurred by Nonesuch’s Chairman Emeritus Bob Hurwitz, who told Thile he, “should do a God-themed record of some kind, it’s all over [Thile’s] work.”
“It is a lifelong obsession of mine, even post-Christianity, what the impact of that kind of devotion to any organized religion is,” Thile, whose resume includes co-founding Nickel Creek and formerly hosting Live From Here, stated. “I went in [Future-Past] to look at the space and instantly felt so at home. I loved the amount of sound around the sound. I had two sonic collaborators on this record: the tremendous engineer Jody Elff and that church. It was so easy for me to stay in character because of where we were. Every hour or so I would take a stroll around the church and let the stained-glass windows transport me back to the last church I attended regularly, Grace Cathedral at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco.”
Liz Phair – Soberish
The Scoop: Singer-songwriter and guitarist Liz Phair returns today with her highly anticipated first album of original material in 11 years since 2010’s Funstyle. Soberish, arriving today via Chrysalis Records, sees Phiar once again enlisting longtime collaborator and producer Brad Wood, who also helmed Phair’s landmark 1990s LPs Exile In Guyville, Whip-Smart and whitechocolatespaceegg.
“I found my inspiration for Soberish by delving into an early era of my music development, my art school years spent listening to Art Rock and New Wave music non-stop on my Walkman,” Phair stated. “The English Beat, The Specials, Madness, R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, Yazoo, The Psychedelic Furs, Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Laurie Anderson, and the Cars. The city came alive for me as a young person, the bands in my headphones lending me the courage to explore.”
Phair pays tribute to the aforementioned Laurie Anderson with her homage to the romance Anderson had with Lou Reed on “Hey Lou,” a track that proceeded the album announcement. Phair followed with “Spanish Doors” and “In There.”
Goose – Shenanigans Nite Club
The Scoop: Shenanigans Nite Club is the long-awaited sophomore studio album from Goose. The follow-up to their 2016 debut LP, Moon Cabin, is comprised of nine tracks recorded during sessions held in 2019 and 2020. The album contains studio cuts of such live staples as “Flodown,” “So Ready” and “Madhuvan,” along with the rarely played — and first Goose original — “Spirit of the Dark Horse.” Other tracks on Shenanigans Nite Club include “SOS” and “The Labyrinth,” as well as “(s∆tellite),” “(dawn)” and “(7hunder).”
“While we’ve been touring, the record has been happening in the background,” Goose guitarist Rick Mitarotonda stated. “It’s been quite the process. At times, it was difficult. The record is a companion to those growing pains. Our dream is to inspire people to step off the beaten path. There are a lot of voices that tell you to play it safe. I think the coolest thing in the world is when someone breaks free and goes for whatever weird shit they dream of doing.”
Billy F. Gibbons – Hardware
The Scoop: Iconic ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons is back with his third solo album, Hardware, through Concord Records. Gibbons decamped to the aptly named Escape Studio in the high desert near Palm Springs, California to co-produce Hardware with Matt Sorum and Mike Fiorentino. Engineer Chad Shlosser also helmed additional production duties. Sorum, of Guns N Roses, Velvet Revolver and the Cult fame, plays drums while Billy tapped guitarist Austin Hanks to reconvene the same band featured on Gibbons’ previous solo effort, The Big Bad Blues. The title to the new album is a tribute to longtime ZZ Top engineer, the late Tom Hardy. Sonically, the desert environment naturally seeped into the music.
“The desert settings, replete with shifting sands, cacti and rattlesnakes makes for the kind of backdrop that lends an element of intrigue reflected in the sounds created out there,” Gibbons said in a statement. “We holed up in the desert for a few weeks in the heat of the summer and that in itself was pretty intense. To let off steam we just ‘let it rock’ and that’s what Hardware is really all about. For the most part, it’s a raging rocker but always mindful of the desert’s implicit mystery.”
Additionally, Gibbons brought in friends Larkin Poe to work with him on standout track “Stackin’ Bones” and Billy also previewed the record with “West Coast Junkie.” Hardware’s final cut is a spoken word guitar laced tribute to the legendary Gram Parsons, who died not far from where the album was captured.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey – Nine Improvisations + Speak No Evil
The Scoop: Bassist Reed Mathis was among the co-founding members of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, which formed in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1994 with keyboardist Brian Haas and others. Mathis, who left JFO in 2008, spent part of last year’s pandemic-caused downtown revisiting recordings made during his time in the band, resulting in the release of four archival live albums and their previously unreleased final studio album with Mathis. That album, Winterwood, and the first live album, The Spark That Bled, came out in May and preceded today’s release by Royal Potato Family of two more Mathis-curated live albums, Nine Improvisations and Speak No Evil. Haas, Mathis and drummer Jason Smart are featured on both Nine Improvisations, a collection of nine show-starting jams recorded on various tours in 2005 and on Speak No Evil, an album of acoustic live jazz standards and originals recorded mostly in Europe in 2006.
“The JFJO experience, for me, sorta felt like 10 years of figuring out what we were meant to do, musically, and then five years of actually getting to play it … to play and write at our full potential,” Mathis stated. “Those last four or five years contained so much great teamwork and peak creativity, and so much follow through! We were moving so fast, we ended up with most of that top-shelf stuff going undocumented, and since I left the group at the start of 2009, most of what we had been working on has existed only as raw, unmixed, unedited recordings, silently passing the years away in my storage unit.”
Crowded House – Dreamers Are Waiting
The Scoop: After 11 years, a new Crowded House album has finally arrived. The 12-track Dreamers Are Waiting is out today through BMG. The long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s Intriguer was produced by keyboardist Mitchell Froom who’s last time helming a Crowded House album was for Woodface in 1991. Froom is joined in the band’s current lineup by co-founding members Neil Finn and Nick Seymour as well as Neil’s sons, Elroy Finn and Liam Finn.
“We were fortunate to be recording in the studio right before lockdown and so began this album with band tracks recorded live in a room, all brimming with character and energy,” Neil explained. “We then spent our strangest year, 2020, at distance from each other but connecting daily, swapping files and making those tracks complete.”
Satsang – All Right Now
The Scoop: Montana-based quartet Satsang spent time writing and recording a new album during an extended hiatus from the road. The resulting LP, All. Right. Now., which pays homage to the band’s home state, arrives today. Masterminded and produced by frontman Drew McManus, the 11-track effort was also inspired by Drew’s role as a father and husband. Guests include G. Love and Trevor Hall.
Drew McManus found peace in Montana after dealing with addiction, violence and abuse while growing up. He landed in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains following a life-changing trip to the Himalayas that came in the wake of his struggles with addiction. “Montana isn’t just where I live, It’s my heart and soul,” said McManus. “My wife, my kids, Montana, they’re all one thing to me now. They’re home.” The peace Drew found comes through in the music on All. Right. Now.
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.