College life has returned to normal for the most part and we’re all eagerly awaiting the first live acts to make it to campus here in Binghamton. With COVID-19 in the rear view mirror and the brutal conflict in Ukraine on the minds of everyone right now, it felt like a good time for New Music Wednesday.
Music is often a source of light in the extreme moments of darkness and while I’m far too young to have experienced the 1960s and anti-war movement during the Vietnam War, it’s something that resonates right now on college campuses.
Jack Harlow: Nail Tech
(Available on Qobuz, 24-bit/44.1kHz)
The Louisville-native emerged from the local hip-hop scene and has enjoyed a steady rise after signing with Atlantic Records. Nail Tech has a steady beat and while not exactly on the same level as Eminem lyrically, he’s competent when he’s not lazy as a songwriter.
Oliver Tree: Cowboy Tears
(Available on Qobuz, 24-bit/48kHz | CD at Amazon)
Oliver Tree is a prime example of an artist who created a niche for himself by being quirky; there are elements in his music that summon comparisons to They Might Be Giants and that’s not a bad place to be. Where things get weird are when an artist strays too far outside of their comfort zone and adopt a genre like country music just because it’s trendy. Unfortunately, Tree doesn’t have the singing chops to sell it well enough. Stick to what you know.
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Moon
(Available on Qobuz, 24-bit/96kHz | Vinyl at Amazon)
Leon Bridges and Khruangbin pull off one of my favorite albums of 2022 and it’s only March. There is a vibe to this album that is supported by its bluesy elements and layers of atmosphere. Leon Bridges delivers the soul against a rather beautiful backdrop and it’s a great recording to play just loud enough to catch all of the details.
Rex Orange County: Who Cares?
(Available on Qobuz, 24-bit/44kHz | Vinyl at Amazon)
The British singer-songwriter hits the right notes with this stripped down recording that meshes indie pop, R&B, soul, and some hip-hop across the 11 tracks. “Amazing” stands out for its beautiful instrumentation and head bopping pop energy. There is a tendency among current pop artists to want to sound like Ed Sheeran and it’s good to find one that is comfortable in his own skin.
Tears For Fears: The Tipping Point
(Available on Qobuz, 24-bit/44.1kHz | Vinyl at Amazon)
I grew up listening to Tears For Fears and it was a thing in the car for all of us to sing “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” in some weird cosmic unison. My parents saw them live before the pandemic in New Jersey; they opened for Hall & Oates and I wasn’t surprised when my father played Songs From the Big Chair on his turntable the following morning to help him focus while he worked.
The Tipping Point is the first new studio album in 18 years from the duo that have survived some rocky times; the passing of Roland Orzabal’s wife in 2017 was the impetus for this new recording. If you’re expecting a blast from the past — you might be disappointed because it doesn’t have that kind of feel, but it’s a surprisingly deep album that could have been recorded in the 1980s.
“No Small Thing” is slightly heartbreaking when you know the back story but it’s a beautiful track and a welcome addition to their playlist.
Catch up on last month’s New Music Thursday for February 10, 2022.