CD of the Month Club
Every month, WNRN picks the best of what’s new. You can join WNRN’s Acoustic or Electric CD of the month. All CD of the Month Club members will receive a new CD in the mail every month. Everyone else can download them here!
CD of the Month Club News & Updates
Andrew Bird’s Are You Serious is the May Acoustic CD of the Month. This is the work of a high-caliber musician. Known initially for working with Squirrel Nut Zippers, Andrew Bird has been putting our critically acclaimed albums since 2003. All are immaculately written, full of surprise with a different pallet of instruments and arrangements than the average singer-songwriter. But Andrew Bird is not average.
For this new work, Bird issued his own challenge then answered it with this project. Bird said, “That friction between the tone of the music and what the lyrics are saying creates the humor and melancholy that helps us deal with it all. If its dark on dark my eyes glaze over or I think ‘are your serious?’ In fact, that’s what I was thinking of calling this record, I guess because the songs got into a personal territory that, dare I say, are almost confessional, and that naturally makes me a bit uncomfortable.”
In Bird’s personal life since his last album, he has gotten married, had a child — and his wife battled cancer. The single, “Capsized,” sings uncharacteristically in plain terms his experience with a break up. The title track teases that he “used to be so willfully obtuse, semantics like a noose, get out your dictionairies” and declares “this is all non-fiction.” In the duet with Fiona Apple “Left Hand Kisses” confronts love’s charm and vulnerability. Other favorites are “Puma” and “Saints Preservus.”
WNRN’S Electric CD of the Month for April is Pete Yorn’s Arranging Time. His sixth album has found him collaborating with multiple producer/multi-instrumentalists including R. Walt Vincent who had been a part of Yorn’s breakout debut musicforthemorningafter 15 years earlier. The parings make for a multi-faceted album shown in songs like “I’m Not the One” with the Casio-style electric piano, the sharp guitar edges of “Screaming at the Setting Sun” or the near-classically arranged string section and grand piano on closer “This Fire.”
Highlights for me on this album also include “Summer Was A Day”, I was hooked at first listen. Although his voice sounds road-weary, to me “Roses” has some sort of timeless appeal, like this piece could have been written and adored anytime in the past 40 years.
The April 2016 Acoustic CD of the Month is the new album from Mavis Staples, Livin’ On a High Note. Staples grew up singing in church, with her family’s band, The Staples Singers, joined the Civil Rights movement, and has a 50 year solo career. Rolling Stone calls her “one of the greatest singers of all time.”
Mavis Staples and producer, M. Ward, put out a call for notable, “friends of” songwriters to have a once in a lifetime chance to write for her. The result goes beyond a collection of new songs to add songs to Staples’ canon. These are songs that were tailor made for her range and sense of place in history. The single and title track, “High Note” is by Valerie June. WNRN played several song from June’s critically acclaimed debut, “Pushing Against Stone.” Other notables are Benjamin Booker, Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs), Ben Harper, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Nick Cave and a co-writing effort between Neko Case and Laura Viers.
The Electric CD of the March is Lissie’s My Wild West. As she was writing
songs for her third album Lissie realized that her subconscious was saying she
needed to get out of California and find those “forty acres in the sun” she
references in the song “Hero”. Upon Completion of this album she moved to a
farm in Iowa.
More than just a manifestation of her life’s path My Wild West has a great rise
and fall of introspective songwriting teamed with a driving rock beat. “Don’t
You Give Up On Me” and “Daughters” might highlight this best. Enjoy the
reflection of life on “Go For A Walk” and “Ojai”. “Stay” and “Hero” have
that haunting feeling that reminds me of Lissie’s first album Catching a Tiger
and songs that reveal themselves to you with multiple listens. You know, that
“this song gives me chills” feeling.
Lake Street Dive’s release of Side Pony marks a new era for this Boston based group. It is their first on a major label, Warner’s subsidiary, Nonesuch, and was produced by Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Anderson East). With the help of this new muscle, they are able to bring their own way of writing, singing, and playing that brought them to some prominence with Bad Self Portrait to a wider audience.
On its fourth record, lead singer Rachael Price’s voice leads the way through all the tracks and can turn from vulnerable to sassy on a dime. The bands other considerable powers are the interplay as well as shared songwriting duties. All of their collective and individual strengths and charm shine on this new release.
Exceptional. Weird. Accessible.
15 years ago in Philadelphia, Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman started writing The Psychedelic Swamp which was the music that would lead to the creation of Dr. Dog. The sessions were put onto cassettes for fans in the year 2001, but was ressurrected last year when Dr. Dog decided to re-record the songs and collaborate with a theater troupe to bring the character of Phrases, a swamp inhabitant, to life. Think of it as Dr. Dog’s Rock Opera.
Dr. Dog isn’t trying to leave you completely confused by their idealistic musical creation. On the contrary, they just want you to come to The Psychedelic Swamp and enjoy yourself.
I would suggest listening to the album in its entirety to let the concept wash over you, but highlights for me include the subtle harmonies of McMicken and Leaman on “Dead Record Player” and the surf guitars of McMicken’s “Swampadelic Pop.” You should listen to “Bring My Baby Back” where Leaman has crafted a solid song that could easily have been included on any of Dr. Dog’s albums and “Engineer Says” in which Leaman pulls you into a bluesy world that develops into organized chaos.