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What’s New in Music: The Hold Steady, The Eastwood Smokes, and More!

New Album: Brooklyn-based rock group The Hold Steady has just released their new album Teeth Dreams, and when I heard this I was pretty excited for it. They’re one of my favorite groups, especially on their previous albums …Almost Killed Me, Boys and Girls in America, and Stay Positive. This band and singer Craig Finn’s old band Lifter Puller weave together intricate tales of addiction, heartache, delinquents, a crazy cast of characters including a girl called Hallelujah, some guy who goes by “Nightclub Dwight,” and wrap it all up in a hard-rocking package anchored by guitarist Tad Kubler’s screaming solos and tight rhythm work. Now, the real question remains of whether they were able to retain the fervor that characterized their previous works on Teeth Dreams.

As far as I can tell, they have. The pop sensibilities and hooks that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Springsteen track are still there, with Finn’s requisite stories of urban culture on the skids woven around them. I’d heard their tune “Spinners” on one of the local radio stations here before, and the rollicking drums and guitar make it one of those tunes that you can’t help but drum on the steering wheel to, despite sometimes not being able to sing it as the words are pretty verbose sometimes. Their song “Runner’s High” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tom Petty record, with melodic guitars and an anthemic chorus. The final song on the album, “Oaks,” is as close to country as a band like this will get, but they turn it into an expansive ballad clocking in at just over nine minutes, containing some of Finn’s best vocals and Tad Kubler’s best guitar work in a good while. If you’re a fan of Tom Petty, Dinosaur Jr., or Bruce Springsteen, you could do a lot worse than check out this album.

What I’ve Been Listening To:

One of the things I’ve been listening to this week is actually something I worked on a couple weekends ago. UMass-based string band Mamma’s Marmalade recorded a demo EP called Live From The Living Room, which fuses old-time music, rock and roll, and Nick Drake-style balladry in a tight package. Recorded in my friend’s living room with mics rigged up around the room in every possible way, it took about two hours to record all of this. Check out the third track “Wind and Rain,” which showcases fiddler Lily Sexton’s gorgeous violin playing, and a voice that the recording engineer for this project said “sounded like springtime.” You can find this demo here.

The next group is also one I have a few ties to, since I am in another group with their guitarist when he’s home. The Eastwood Smokes are a band out of Tulane University in New Orleans that bridge the lines between power-pop, Americana, country, and straight-up rock and roll. Their new single “One’s Enough For Me” could be something that you’d hear on country radio, but better than 90% of what they have on there now. Take a listen here, you’ll definitely be waiting to hear whatever else they can do.

Another group I’ve been digging heavily is a group out of Boston called Lake Street Dive, who have been making huge waves this year with their album Bad Self Portraits. I thought if this album was as good as their cover of Paul McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It,” it would be one of the greatest I’d listened to in a good while. Thankfully it is. Tracks like the album’s single “Bad Self Portraits” and “You Go Down Smooth” really showcase singer Rachael Price’s soulful vocals, bassist Bridget Kearney’s growling upright bass, and the vocal harmonies that the group creates. Listen to these dudes and dudettes because they’re going places, I can feel it.

Local Music Happenings:

1. The aforementioned UMass-based string band Mamma’s Marmalade will be performing at the Black Sheep on Thursday, April 17th. If you liked the EP, come down and check out the tunes!

2. The UMass Theatre Guild will be putting on a radio play performance of O Brother Where Art Thou. Come support your student actors and musicians at this awesome event on May 2nd and 3rd.

3. SALT will be holding some shows on campus and off-campus in the near future. Who is SALT? Read my other article this week to find out!

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Benjamin Bosco

U Mass Amherst

Ben Bosco: writer, musician, compendium of useless knowledge. If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down.
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