Today’s New Albums: Howlin Rain, Natalie Hemby, James Blake, Bahamas & More

The Record Company, BadBadNotGood and Kevin Morby also have new music out today.

By Team JamBase Oct 8, 2021 6:01 am PDT

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 Howlin Rain, Natalie Hemby, James Blake, Bahamas, The Record Company, BadBadNotGood and Kevin Morby. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.

Howlin Rain – The Dharma Wheel

The Scoop: The Dharma Wheel is the new six-song, 52-minute album out today from Howlin Rain. The band led by principle member Ethan Miller recorded the album during breaks in touring, at times hitting the studio hours after walking off stage. Miller was joined by guitarist Daniel Cervantes, bassist Jeff McElroy and drummer Justin Smith during the sessions that were held prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Miller spent lockdown finishing the songs with Tim Green at his Louder Studios in Grass Valley, California. Two songs on The Dharma Wheel (“Prelude” and “Annabelle”) feature renowned violinist Scarlet Rivera whose credits include Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, among many others. Circles Around The Sun keyboardist Adam MacDougall appears on the songs “Don’t Let The Tears,” “Rotoscope” and the 16-minute title track that closes the album.

“I wanted The Dharma Wheel to be a portal from our everyday world, the one from which you stand on hard ground and hold the album in your hands and peer into the artwork, and into another universe,” Miller stated. “You enter into that universe with your eyes and ears and mind and take a ride through free-form meditation on these ideas — from big, fundamental concepts about our existence right down to the grease that rolls down the arm of a pulp novel killer as he eats a gas station hot dog in an old Dodge in an alleyway.”

Natalie Hemby – Pins & Needles

The Scoop: Acclaimed singer-songwriter Natalie Hemby released her album Pins & Needles today via Fantasy Records. While the new record marks just the second solo album from Hemby following her 2017 solo debut LP Puxico, the celebrated songsmith has co-written eight No. 1 singles for a star-studded list of country artists over the past 15 years. Natalie continues her collaborative work on Pins & Needles, teaming up to write with Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne, Aaron Raitiere and more along with fellow songwriting heavy hitters like Daniel Tashian and Barry Dean among others. Sonically, the record — produced by Hemby’s husband Mike Wrucke — captures the sound of the 1990s, a formative time in Natalie’s musical journey. The 11-track effort boasts “influences from Tom Petty to Sheryl Crow and…early 90’s rock and roots,” press materials for the album noted.

Pins and Needles is the record I never got the chance to make and I always wanted to,” Hemby said in a press release. “It’s the late 90’s sound, which is the sound of my young adult life.”

James Blake – Friends That Break Your Heart

The Scoop: English singer-songwriter and producer James Blake today released Friends That Break Your Heart, his fifth studio album. The 12-song, 44-minute set is out via Republic/Polydor after a month-long delay due to the pandemic. Guests include SZA, JID, SwaVay and Monica Martin. Blake either wrote or co-wrote all 12 songs on the LP under his legal name of James Literland. James worked with a wide array of producers on the follow-up to 2019’s Assume Form including Dominic Maker, Jameela Jamil, Take a Daytrip and Joji.

James Blake was asked to bring in “big names” for collaborations on the LP but instead went with musicians he enjoys working with. “Features seem to be the biggest part of the conversation because it’s all about ‘cross-pollinating fan bases’, but ‘who’s gonna be on your album?’ is the conversation I hate the most,” Blake told GQ. “I just want to make really great music and work with people I’m having fun with. Nowadays, I don’t do a session if I think it’s not gonna be fun. If I’m not gonna laugh or enjoy myself, I don’t see the point.”

Bahamas – Live To Tape Volume I

The Scoop: Bahamas (Afie Jurvanen) kept busy during the peak of the pandemic by performing with some of his favorite artists remotely from his studio in Halifax, Nova Scotia for the Live To Tape livestream series. Jurvanen collected highlights from the series for release as digital EPs, singles and on vinyl. Today, Bahamas issued the digital EP Live To Tape Volume I featuring six performances from Live To Tape collaborations produced and mixed by Robbie Lackritz (Feist, Jack Johnson, The Weather Station).

Jurvanen recorded two tracks included on the EP with Jason Isbell’s longtime backing band, The 400 Unit. Live To Tape Volume I also features collaborations between Bahamas and Secret Sisters in which they were accompanied by famed Nashville-based musicians drummer Gene Chrisman (Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson), bassist Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, Sturgill Simpson) and multi-instrumentalist Russ Pahl (Kacey Musgraves, Glen Campbell). “Dan Knobler is our bandleader on the ground turning chords into numbers and helping everything go smooth,” Jurvanen explained regarding the guitarist’s key role in the remote collaborations spanning Halifax and Nashville. Look for the second volume to arrive in November and the third in March.

The Record Company – Play Loud

The Scoop: Los Angeles-based trio The Record Company released their third album, Play Loud, today via Concord Records. The group consisting of guitarist/vocalist Chris Vos, bassist Alex Stiff and drummer Marc Cazorla went into the project with intentions to expand on their blues rock sound. To help facilitate that the band enlisted Grammy-winning producer Dave Sardy (Oasis, Wolfmother, Modest Mouse, LCD Soundsystem). The 12-song album’s basic tracks were recorded live in May 2020, with extra time afforded by the pandemic to finish them over the subsequent months.

“We came to the table for our third record with strong demos on songs that could have passed for our first two records, and asked, ‘Can we beat it?’” said Vos. “And for the first time, we allowed talented people to come into our small circle to push the music higher.”

“In the past, we were really insular,” Stiff said. “Everything was just us. We totally flipped the process on this record to allow for every idea and possibility, so it wasn’t just the three of us, closed off in our bubble. It was like, ‘Let’s take some risks and see what we can really do.’”

BadBadNotGood – Talk Memory

The Scoop: Genre-bending Canadian band and production group BadBadNotGood return with their first studio album in five years, Talk Memory, via XL Recordings. The follow up to 2016’s IV sees the trio — guitarist and woodwind specialist Leland Whitty, drummer Alexander Sowinski and bassist Chester Hansen — returning to their jazz roots after working in the hip hop sphere with a number of acclaimed artists in the genre like Kendrick Lamar, Ghostface Killah, Tyler, The Creator and more. In the spirit of jazz, the tracks on the album — recorded in various analog studios and mixed by Russell Elevado — focus on improvisation and how a song evolves over time in live settings. Rather than record the tracks and develop them on tour, BBND road-tested the songs for the studio.

“It took a year or two of just living life to get to the place where the creative process was exciting again, and once we actually went into the studio, it was the most concise studio performances we’ve ever had,” the band said in a statement. “We hope that the improvised studio performances bring the listener closer to our live experience.”

Improvisation is a highly collaborative process and BBNG brought in a number of guests for the album including iconic Brazilian producer and musician Arthur Verocai, who is featured on a number of tracks including the single “Beside April” as well as closer “Talk Meaning” with Terrace Martin and Brandee Younger. Multi-instrumentalist Laraaji contributes to album opener, “Unfolding (Momentum 73).”

Kevin Morby – A Night At The Little Los Angeles

The Scoop: A Night At The Little Los Angeles is a collection of Kevin Morby’s demos he made at his home studio (“The Little Los Angeles”) in Kanasas City on a 4-track Tascam 424 recorder. The demos served as the source material for Morby’s 2020 album, Sundowner. Demos of nine of the 10 songs on Sundowner are presented on A Night At The Little Los Angeles. The demo for Morby’s 2020 standalone single, “US Mail,” is also included on the release out today on Dead Oceans. Morby discussed recording the A Night At The Little Los Angeles demos on an episode of The JamBase Podcast, stating:

“I had [a 4-track recorder] in high school and I never really got good at it. And I just figured since I was going to be here with some time on my hands, I might as well buy something that I could kind of mess around with, and kind of almost stick on as a hobby or something. And at that time I was finishing up writing [Morby’s 2019 album] Oh My God.

“So I kind of had this idea, ‘oh, maybe I’ll get a 4-track,’ and I can do like a 4-track version of it just to learn the machine. And before I could even really start on that project, I just ended up writing this whole new collection of songs, which became Sundowner.

“I wrote the whole record with headphones on, sort of listening back to myself in real-time. It was kind of like I was in this closed-in environment, in two different ways: one way in my house in Kansas city sort of isolated, and in another way, it was very internal — I was singing into a machine and it was playing it right back at me and I was closed off by my headphones. And it really became a writing companion in a way.”

Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.

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