Today’s New Albums: Neil Young, George Porter Jr, Tune-Yards, The Antlers & 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 Neil Young, George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners, Tune-Yards, The Antlers, Sara Watkins, Pharoah Sanders, Floating Points & London Symphony Orchestra, Real Estate, El Michels Affair, First Aid Kit and The Allman Brothers Band. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Neil Young – Young Shakespeare
The Scoop: Neil Young’s live album, Young Shakespeare, arrived today via The Greedy Hand. The performance was captured on January 22, 1971 at The Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Connecticut two months after the legendary singer-songwriter and guitarist released his landmark 1970 album, After The Goldrush and just days after his Live at Massey Hall 1971 LP was recorded in Toronto. While Young Shakespeare was taped for German television, the performance is available to the public for the first time, restored from the original analog tapes.
Young wrote about the show on Neil Young Archives and described it as “a more calm performance, without the celebratory atmosphere of Massey Hall, captured live on 16mm. Young Shakespeare is a very special event. To my fans, I say this is the best ever…one of the most pure-sounding acoustic performances we have in the Archive.” The LP features the singer-songwriter Neil, with just acoustic guitar, piano and harmonica renditions of vintage tunes like “Ohio,” “Cowgirl in the Sand,” “Helpless,” “Down by the River” and “Sugar Mountain” as well as early recordings of After The Goldrush songs “Tell Me Why” and “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” and yet to be released Harvest classics including “Old Man,” “Heart Of Gold” and more.
George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners – Crying For Hope
The Scoop: Legendary bassist George Porter Jr. today releases Crying For Hope, the first full-length George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners studio album in a decade. Porter Jr., drummer Terrence Houston, keyboardist Michael Lemmler and guitarist Chris Adkins recorded the 12-track Controlled Substance Sounds Lab/Color Red LP during the pandemic from their respective home studios and at Ora’s Third Floor Sound Lab.
The process that led to the self-produced Crying For Hope began when The Meters’ bassist revisited material from an unfinished project recorded a few years back. George crafted the 12 songs on the LP from the bass line up and then worked with Lemmler via the cloud and Facebook before bringing Adkins in to lay down his parts. Finally, Houston provided “the final heartbeat” to complete the sessions. GPJ stated in the album’s liner notes that he’s, “Grateful that during this tough time something this good could happen.”
Tune-Yards – sketchy.
The Scoop: Tune-Yards’ fifth studio album, sketchy., out today via 4AD, came after a rare hiatus for the group. Merill Garbus and Nate Brenner were burnt out following a decade of heavy touring and recording. “We had really been non-stop hustling,” Merrill said. “And when we’re hustling, we’re complicit in all of the systems that I really don’t believe in.” However, the pair were inspired by the Beastie Boys Book and Questlove’s Creative Quest to create new music.
The 11-track follow-up to 2018’s i can feel you creep into my private life saw Garbus and Brenner take a new approach to songwriting and recording. Merrill and Nate put aside their computer screens and instead jammed “like athletes” for hours at their home rehearsal studio with Brenner on bass and Garbus on drums. Eventually, the material featured on sketchy was born from these sessions. “I started remembering that people come to us to be entertained, to move, to feel joy,” Merrill added regarding the throwback sound similar to early Tune-Yards LPs found on sketchy. “And together, I think, we can wake up.”
The Antlers – Green To Gold
The Scoop: Out today on ANTI- Records, Green To Gold is the first new album from The Antlers in seven years. The Antlers’ lead singer and primary songwriter Peter Silberman suffered health issues after the release of 2014’s Familiars his 2017 solo album Impermanence. After doctor-imposed vocal rest Silberman reconnected with The Antlers’ percussionist Michael Lerner for a 2019 tour in support of the 10th anniversary of their album, Hospice. “On that tour, trying out my rehabilitated voice on older songs and reconnecting to our audience, I realized how important this was to me, and to them,” Silberman stated. “After each show, fans would share deeply personal stories of their own losses, illnesses and struggles, and insist that this music had been their life raft. That rejuvenated me, and cemented my decision to revive the project.”
The 10 songs on Green To Gold were written by Silberman and Lerner between 2017 and 2020. Silberman produced and engineered Green To Gold, which was recorded at Harrington Road in New Paltz, New York. Outside contributors included guitarists Dave Harrington and Tim Mislock, multi-instrumentalists Jon Natchez and Kelly Pratt, banjo player David Moore, cellist Brent Arnold and viola/violin player Will Harvey.
Sara Watkins – Under The Pepper Tree
The Scoop: Last year, singer-songwriter Sara Watkins contributed to SPIN’s Lullaby Sessions series in which artists with kids perform quiet songs with the aim of putting their children to sleep. Watkins was inspired by the experience to put together a family-friendly collection of soothing tunes. The result, Under The Pepper Tree, Sara’s first solo album in five years, arrived today via New West Records.
Under The Pepper Tree was produced by Tyler Chester and features two originals along with covers of such songs as the traditional “Moon River,” The Beatles’ “Good Night,” “Blue Shadows On The Trail” from the 1986 film The Three Amigos and Harry Nilsson’s “Blanket For A Devil.” Contributors include Watkins’ I’m With Her bandmates (Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz), her Nickel Creek bandmates (Sean Watkins and Chris Thile), Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, David Garza, Sara’s three-year-old daughter and more. “I want this album to be a place of calm, imagination, and relief,” Watkins said. “Some days are perfect and things are a dream and make you feel like a superhero. And some days are just… such a challenge. I feel like this record has a place in both of those days, and I really hope that these recordings find a place in kids’ hearts, and become as special as they are to me.”
Pharoah Sanders, Floating Points & London Symphony Orchestra – Promises
The Scoop: Legendary jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and British musician/producer Floating Points (Sam Shepherd) were accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra on the collaborative album, Promises, which is out today on Luaka Bop. The album was created over the past five years, with Floating Points and Sanders recording together at Sargent Recorders in Los Angeles and the strings of the London Symphony Orchestra recording at Air Studios in London. Shepard composed the nine-part continuous piece of music that features the 80-year-old Sanders on tenor saxophone and vocals, Shepard on piano, harpsichord, celesta, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 and a variety of synthesizers. Promises is the first album recorded by Sanders in over a decade.
Real Estate – Half A Human
The Scoop: Real Estate released their EP Half A Human today through Domino. The six-song collection contains songs written during the Brooklyn-based band’s sessions for their 2020 album The Main Thing and furthers that album’s theme of what it means to be an artist and performer, which the pandemic made all the more difficult and uncertain. But the band — guitarist Martin Courtney, bassist Alex Bleeker, keyboardist Matt Kallman and guitarist Julian Lynch — began throwing the songs that would make up Half A Human back and forth remotely and discovered new ways of not only making music but also interacting with each other. Real Estate heralded Half A Human with the title track, which Courtney wrote about alienation on the road but which certainly took on a new meaning with the onset of the pandemic.
“Life keeps changing and additional responsibilities and stresses keep being added, but this band is still here,” Courtney said in a statement. “When I was writing a lot of these songs, I was feeling a little weird about being in a band. Like, ‘how is this still a thing?’ I was feeling silly about it and then coming around to it at the same time. This is what we’re good at and it’s what we love to do and want to keep doing. I don’t want to do anything else.”
El Michels Affair – Yeti Season
The Scoop: Multi-instrumentalist/producer Leon Michels (Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields & The Expressions, The Arcs) is back with another El Michels Affair record, Yeti Season, out today on the Big Crown label. The follow-up to 2020’s Adult Themes features “Turkish-styled funk and an almost Mumbai-esque take on soul” across the 11 tracks that make up Yeti Season. The typically instrumental El Michels Affair was joined by vocalist Shannon Wise of The Shacks on “Sha Na Na,” while Piya Malik, formerly of 79.5, contributed vocals to “Unathi,” “Zaharila,” “Murkit Gem” and “Dhuaan.”
“When Piya started singing in Hindi, she had a different voice, a different tone,” Michels stated. I knew we had to do something together.”
First Aid Kit – Who By Fire – Live Tribute To Leonard Cohen
The Scoop: First Aid Kit released their live Leonard Cohen tribute album, Who By Fire, today via Sony Sweden/Columbia Records. The Swedish sister act captured the recording over two performances in March 2017 at Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theater. Johanna Söderberg and Klara Söderberg enlisted the help of Swedish guest artists, an 8 person band including strings, a 20 plus person choir on two tracks as well as actors to craft a theatrical presentation of Cohen’s songs, poems and letters. Both Joanna and Klara were heavily influenced by the celebrated singer-songwriter and poet and wanted to pay homage to him after his death in November 2016.
“If you ever put a guitar in our hands and ask us to sing, we will always play ‘Suzanne,’” the sisters said in a statement. “When we heard it for the first time we were transfixed. ‘How does one do that?’ we thought. ‘How does one write like that?’ One doesn’t, we suppose, only Leonard Cohen does… In the midst of this deep sadness, we are so intensely grateful… [His art] has been a guiding light for us for these past ten years since we started making music, both a consolation and an arrow pointing at where to strive.” First Aid Kit previewed the live collection with the aforementioned “Suzanne” and also included such Cohen classics as “Hallelujah,” “Bird On The Wire,” “You Want It Darker,” “Everybody Knows,” “So Long, Marianne,” “Who By Fire” and more.
The Allman Brothers Band – Down In Texas ’71 & Live At Great Woods September 6, 1991
The Scoop: Legendary rock band The Allman Brothers Band released two live albums from two extremely different periods in the group’s 45-year career today through their The Allman Brothers Band Recording Company imprint. Down In Texas ‘71 features nine tracks recorded at the Austin Municipal Auditorium in Austin, Texas on September 28, 1971 — just one month before the death of co-founding guitarist Duane Allman. The original lineup of Duane, guitarist Dickey Betts, drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, keyboardist Gregg Allman and bassist Berry Oakley welcomed special guest saxophonist Rudolph “Juicy” Carter for a bulk of the concert and “Juicy” adds to six of Down In Texas ‘71’s nine tracks. An radio interview with Berry and Duane recorded in Houston on June 6, 1971 is included on physical releases.
The Allman Brothers Band also reissued Live At Great Woods September 6, 1991, a concert film originally put out in 1992. While a DVD version followed in 2014, it has long been out of print. Plus, individual audio and video tracks are now available digitally. Live At Great Woods features a lineup of co-founding members Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Jaimoe and Butch Trucks accompanied by guitarist Warren Haynes, bassist Allen Woody and percussionist Marc Quinones. The 10-track concert film/live album includes performances of such ABB classics as “Blue Sky,” “Midnight Rider,” “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed,” “Revival,” “Jessica” and “Whipping Post.”
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.