Cowboy Junkies, “All That Reckoning (Part 1)” (Latent) Cowboy Junkies are still doing the shiver-inducing, slowcore-blues thing they've managed so well for 32 years. They're one of those bands whose stylistic consistency (or creative rut, if you're not into it) is welcome, because Margo and Michael Timmins and company find so many rewarding nuances within their narrow parameters. Cowboy Junkies exude gravitas with a few simple gestures and create drama without drastic key changes or compositional dynamics. (What they did with the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" still sounds revelatory 30 years later.) “All That Reckoning (Part 1)” is yet more tense, melancholic balladry that tints your mind midnight blue. It sounds like a storm brewing in slow-motion, and the cowering before it feels comforting somehow. The song appears on All That Reckoning (out July 13), the Junkies' first new LP since 2012's The Wilderness.
The Goldberg Sisters, “Dear Mr. Nilsson” (apologymusic) An homage to the great '70s singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson by an actor—Adam Goldberg of Saving Private Ryan and Dazed and Confused fame—that sounds like Ween at their most serious and spacious? Yes, please. Unlike 99.8 percent of stars of the screen who dabble with this music lark, Goldberg possesses enough talent to make a critic not write, "Don't quit your day job, babe." On "Dear Mr. Nilsson," Goldberg entreats the late, hedonistic buddy of John Lennon to bestow onto him his sonic and lyrical skills. "Dear Mr. Nilsson, can you lend me your soul/Or how about your tonsils/Before my own do me wrong," Goldberg wryly croons over a sonorous, mellow swirl of Casual Friday psychedelia. The song comes from HOME: A Nice Place To Visit, out today.
Black Tones, “The Key of Black (They Want Us Dead)” (self-released). A local buzz band worth the buzz, the Black Tones consist of twin siblings Eva Walker (guitar/vocals) and Cedric Walker (drums), plus bassist Robby Little. Their punk-inflected blues rock is nothing new (not much is in 2018), but the swagger and passion the Black Tones channel into their tried-and-true moves elevate their songs into visceral soul punches that linger long after your cheap-beer hangover. “The Key of Black (They Want Us Dead)” possesses one of those menacing riffs that harks back perhaps to John Lee Hooker and/or Bo Diddley, and it deserves to be resurrected, filigreed, and wah-wah'd with panache, as Eva Walker does here. With lyrics that denounce racism with forthright righteousness, "The Key of Black" is a histrionics-free anthem in the making. (The Black Tones play Clock-Out Lounge Friday, May 11.)
Jo Johnson, “there is no there there” (self-released). A former guitarist for the great British riot-grrrl rabble-rousers Huggy Bear, Jo Johnson in recent years has created excellent techno and minimalist compositions, including the phenomenal 2014 LP for Seattle's Further Records, Weaving. The new track "there is no there there" is inspired by Gertrude Stein's famous phrase, and it shimmers and shivers like a constellation of synths playing a version of Terry Riley's 1964 classic that could be retitled In (XT)C. There's something at once jittery and serene about this beguiling piece; it's a wonderful paradox that few composers can pull off, but Jo Johnson does it exceptionally well.
Skating Polly, “Hollywood Factory” (El Camino Media). If Skating Polly aren't the next big thing out of Tacoma (via Oklahoma City, somehow), I will slowly shake my head in disbelief. As evidenced by "Hollywood Factory," the trio purvey vibrant, quiet/loud/quiet dynamics that evoke the Breeders, right down to Kim Deal's vocal fry and sass. Their music toggles between the winsome and the gnarly with ease, and with a few breaks, Skating Polly will become a staple on the festival circuit. Woop, and I see in today's inbox that they've been booked to play Bumbershoot, so... (Find "Hollywood Factory" on the album, The Make It All Show, out today.)
Noteworthy May 4 album releases: Brian Eno, Music for Installations (Astralwerks); Belly, Dove (The Orchard); Black Moth Super Rainbow, Panic Blooms (Rad Cult); The Goldberg Sisters, HOME: A Nice Place to Visit (apologymusic); Skating Polly, The Make It All Show (El Camino Media); Eleanor Friedberger, Rebound (Frenchkiss); Royce da 5'9", Book of Ryan (Entertainment One Music); Venetian Snares and Daniel Lanois, Venetian Snares X Daniel Lanois (Planet Mu/Timesig); Matt & Kim, Almost Every Day (Fader); Leon Bridges, Good Thing (Columbia); Gaz Coombes, World's Strongest Man (Caroline); Jon Hopkins, Singularity (Domino); DJ Koze, Knock Knock (Pampa); Damien Jurado, The Horizon Just Laughed (Secretly Canadian); Iceage, Beyondless (Matador); High Sunn, Missed Connections (Pnk Slm); Sugar Candy Mountain, Do Right (Joyful Noise).