Thursday, July 29, 2021

"What A Scene" (feat. Sui Zhen) by Geoffrey O'Connor


 Ah, Geoffrey O'Connor is a sly one. Former frontman for the excellent pop band Crayon Fields, he has announced a solo album titled For So Long As I Remember, to be released August 6. But he has ensured that his multi-layered compositions would benefit from additional sonic texture and emotional content by adding a guest vocalist for each if the 11 tracks. The result is a solo album comprised of 11 duets. We will have more to say about this album in a week, but for today, just enjoy "What A Scene", featuring Sui Zhen. Wonderful vocal interplay, a rubbery bassline an a languid arrangement transports you to late nigh adventures.

For So Long As I Remember will be released via Melbourne's Chapter Music.


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Various links for Geoffrey O'Connor

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Supreme Joy - Joy


 As a long-time fan of San Francisco's Cool Ghouls (garage rock and so much more), I was thrilled when the band's guitarist, Ryan Wong, advised me that he was releasing a solo an album as Supreme Joy. Ryan is an ace with his instrument -- so accomplished as a teenager that he was playing with the Cool Ghouls in establishments where he wasn't allowed to drink, and may well have been too young to enter through the front door. He has followed his career path to Denver, but as Joy demonstrates, his passion for psychedelic music remains strong. Mixing brisk rockers with more mid-temp slacker fuzz, Wong's instrumental skill augments his incisive songwriting, addressing isolation, identity crisis, growing up mixed race, and cultural and social conflict. Heavy topics, indeed! But the title of the album is earned with the quality and passion of the performances, and I rank it among the better psychedelic albums I have heard this year.

Joy is out now in digital and cassette formats. See the Bandcamp link below.

Additional players on the album were Jairo Barsallo, Mitch Mitchum, Gann Matthews, Alyssa Maunders, Davie Weaver, Liz Haaker, and Brad Grear.



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Bandcamp for Joy



Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"More Than Anything" by Timeshare

 

Since we were virtually down in Melbourne for the new single by Emma and Lachlan, we thought we would do a little timeshare shopping. And look what we found -- "More Than Anything" by Timeshare. The song is taken from the project's EP Blue, which will be released on August 20 via Osborne Again. Timeshare is the project of Jordan Thompson, who also is a member of The Ocean Party. We love the dynamics of this song and think it promises good things for the EP. We will cover Blue when it is available so you don't have to google 'timeshare' as we guarantee you that all of the outfits that are included in your search results will want more money than Jordan will.

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Bandcamp to pre-order Blue

"POB" by Emma Russack and Lachlan Denton

 


If you want to know what it feels like to realize it is 5:30 in the afternoon on a summer day, when you are thirsty and hungry and haven't prepared dinner, then answer a knock on the door and discover that a friend has brought over a large pizza and a growler of ale, then listen to "POB by Emma Russack & Lachlan Denton. Neither artist is a stranger here, as we have featured their solo work, their work together, and Denton's work with others and in several bands (including The Ocean Party and Pop Filter). But there always is the sense of a special spark when they work together, as "POB" illustrates so very well.

The song is take from the fourth album by Emma and Lach, Something Is Going to Change Tomorrow, Today. What Will You Do? What Will You Say, which will be out October 8 via Osborne Again Music, Spunk Records, and Bobo Integral Records.




Bandcamp for pre-order of album


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Hectorine - Tears

Art pop? Space folk? Soft Rock? Perhaps all of the foregoing and maybe some others as well -- that is Tears by Hectorine. But assigning a genre isn't really necessary (and in this case, makes me feel a bit stupid). What is important is that this album is filled with beautiful music, from start to finish. Dynamic melancholy pop can always find a welcome reception in my ears, these songs have it.

Hectorine was founded by San Francisco musician Sarah Gagnon and joined by Max Shanley, Matt Carney, Betsy Gan and Laura Adkins. Gagnon possesses a commanding an expressive lower-register voice reminiscent of Nico, although with with far greater range and ability. But it is her songcraft that most impresses me. Her lyrics are incisive and searching, not ignoring heartache but also declining to wallow in it. Her melodies are varied and highly pleasing and the arrangements are richly adorned by the band. I found the album when looking for something else, and tried it on a whim. Now I play it regularly. It is that satisfying.

Tears is out now via Paisley Shirt Records.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Wojtek The Bear - Heaven By The Back Door

When learning that a band was named Wojtek the Bear I must confess I pictured scruffy, flannel-clad players and music in the Americana/country/alt folk vein. "Ferme La Bouche", the initial single from their new album Heaven By The Back Door, was my first hint that my guess was well wide of the mark. After all, sunny, strutting Philadelphia-style soul does not fit anywhere in the Americana/country space, especially with a Scottish accent. Even if I'd been too dense to re-calibrate my expectations after the first single, the following "One Things for Certain" did the job. The song is jewel comprised of glossy '60s pop as it could be re-imagined by '80s New Romantics. For me, was like being gifted with a fresh double espresso and a favorite pastry after my morning run -- it is that good.

And the rest of the album continues to impress. The Glasgow quintet offers a plethora of melodic, soaring, pop and a few more laid back tunes. The arrangements are lush and warm, and the vibe is knowingly sentimental. This is the sort of music that Scots such as Aztec Camera and Orange Juice, among others, have done in the past, but few have done it with this consistency. I understand one shouldn't get one's hopes ahead of reality, but with music this good, Wojtek The Bear may get into heaven by the front door.

Heaven By The Back Door is out now via Last Night From Glasgow, which has become one of my favorite labels over the past couple of years.




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Various links for the band and the album


"No Change" by Skydeck

 

Skydeck is an Australian duo who craft lo-fi post punk with a focus on social commentary. Their new album is titled Coupon and will be released August 27. Album track "Dogshot" was the first single to be aired (our feature here), and we now have "No Change". Featuring deadpan talk-sing vocals and a dominating bassline, the band's usual lo-fi approach is deepened by the recording process: Over the telephone between Australia and Mexico. Snippets of some of the phone conversations have been added as well.

The theme is stated to be vacillation between the outrage at doing nothing about the poor state of the world and indifference when confronted with the futility of individual actions such as writing a song about it. I think the boys captured it well.

Skydeck is Dominic Kearton (Pregnancy/Dom Roff) and Mitchum Clemens (Ciggie Witch/Shark Alarm). Their 2019 debut album Eureka Moment was nominated for the Australian Music Prize. The album will be available in digital and vinyl versions via Dinosaur City Records, Osborne Again, and Kingfisher Bluez (North America).

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Bandcamp for "No Change"

Bandcamp for album pre-orders

Monday, July 19, 2021

Lightning Bug - A Color Of The Sky

 

Lightning Bug always dazzles, but they also continue to evolve. On A Color of the Sky, their third album, shoegaze textures are less dominant, and augmented with more spacious arrangements and folkier elements to Audrey Kang's vocals. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the shoegaze has simply morphed at the hands of this fine band, stretched, softened, decorated and painted in pastels. In any case, the result is gorgeous and immersive. And while Audrey's pure and emotive vocals and probing lyrics are the stars of the show, the current version of the band ably equals her contributions with versatile and layered soundscapes. Growing to five players hasn't added volume, but rather profound depth and a sense of adventure.

Lightning Bug is Audrey Kang, Kevin Copeland, Logan Miley, Dane Hagen, and Vincent Puleo. A Color of the Sky is out now via Fat Possum Records.






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Man Without Country - Bloods, Side A EP

 


Bloods, Side A is a testament to the power of electronic music to exude warmth, depth, emotion and color. The record is the work of Welsh artist Ryan A. James, recording as Man Without Country. James' music is detailed, playful and complete, offering a full package of melody, beats and crafted lyrics. In his 30s, James has had a solid career in collaboration with others, solo, and remixing. However, the quality of his work exceeds his fame. If justice is served, this EP will give him the recognition he deserves.

Bloods, Side A is out now in digital and CD formats.




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Friday, July 16, 2021

"Out Of Here" The Belair Lip Bombs

 


Love gone wrong and unrequited yearning is bad news, but it can be a great theme for a song. Exhibit A is "Out Of Here by The Belair Lip Bombs. A blast of young passion and energy, it is my chosen song to kick off my weekend.

The band formed in 2018 when the members were finishing high school, and solved the thorny 'band name' issue with more panache than most. They have a couple of well received EPs under their belts, and based on the evidence of "Out Of Here", we eagerly await the next one.

The Belair Lip Bombs are Maisie Everett (vocals/guitar), Mike Bradvica (guitar), Jimmy Droughton (bass) and Liam de Bruin (drums).

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Rodrigo Amarante - Drama

Rodrigo Amarante is an LA-based singer songwriter of Brazilian origin. He sings in English and Portuguese and plays in a dizzying array of styles with a truly amazing sense of rhythm. Have you watched the Netflix series Narcos? That's him on the theme song. He's done other soundtrack work and several collaborations with a diverse group of artists including Norah Jones, Fab Moretti (The Strokes), Gal Costa and Gilberto Gil. I am only telling you all that so that I can use this wonderful quote from his bio, in which he stands off to the side and critiques the label's raving about him: A "bit of a general’s chest plate there but, alright." 

Read his bio, it's full of self-deprecating hilarity, all the funnier for knowing how immensely talented Rodrigo actually is. Which is why you should listen to the album while you're reading the bio. Now, all that aside, all and none of what he had done previously could prepare one for this album. It is kaleidoscopic and, if standing when listening to it, may literally make you dizzy. It's astounding. 

There is so much beauty in a song like "Tango" it's a bit overwhelming:
 
 

 That one and "I Can't Wait" which is similar in tone, sort of float, swooping and diving - a bit of a magic carpet ride. More down to earth are songs like "Tao" and "Tanto" which chug along with a gentle rhythm, a couple of guitars countering one another and a relatively quiet horn sections that come in and out, the guitar-based "Um Milhao", and the wonderful, driving "MarĂ©", which is a whole roomful of delightful polyrhythms (not to mention my favorite song of the year so far):

 

 The album ends, appropriately, with a bit of a lullaby, "The End" - the instrumentation is a bit muted and Amarante's vocals come to the fore in a beautiful track that, surely, some director is going to use to score a sweet farewell scene:

 

This is a wonderful record from beginning to end - wonderfully-played, exquisitely produced and well-sequenced. It features Amarante’s regular band, "Lucky” Paul Taylor on drums, Todd Dahlhoff on bass, Andres Renteria on congas and Amarante on guitars. It is out now on Polyvinyl Records. 

Rodrigo Amarante website 


Thursday, July 15, 2021

"Be True" by Cindy


 This fall San Francisco indie band Cindy will release their third album, and their second in less than 12 months. For me, that is very happy news. Free Advice, their last album was a shining slowcore gem (our feature here). The upcoming LP is title 1:2, and promises to continue Cindy's signature hushed vocals, quietly intense emotional atmosphere and lo-fi arrangements. The centerpiece is Karina Gill's vocals and guitar, but all of the members combine well to provide a distinctive and captivating listening experience. The first single from 1:2 is "Be True" is out now, and should be a good introduction to Cindy for the uninitiated.

In addition to Karina Gill, Cindy are Aaron Diko (keys), Jesse Jackson (bass), and Simon Phillips (drums). 1:2 will be out on October 1 via Mt.St.Mtn. and Tough Love Recordings.


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Various links for 1:2

St. Lenox - Ten Songs of Worship and Praise for Our Tumultuous Times

 

Every few years New York lawyer Andrew Choi changes into St. Lenox and drops and album that astounds and pleases in equal measure. This is one of those years and June brought Ten Songs of Worship and Praise for Our Tumultuous Times. Andrew's songwriting reveals a talent for keen observations coupled with intense introspection, expressed in detailed and evocative stories. His lyricism varies between poetic and direct shots to the gut, but swathed in humanity and humor. His vocal delivery is similar to John Darnielle with a nearly gospel vibe, riding a platform of piano arrangements evoking Randy Newman. The themes in this album relate to religion, but not precisely from the perspective of giving worship and praise, despite the title. Rather, Andrew is more concerned about the essential preliminary matters such as level of belief, doubt, and integration into life. I suggest that for many of us, that is the level at which religious thinking resides, for better or worse.

This is gorgeous music suitable for any time of day or night. Will it make my top 50 albums of the year? Yes, it is that good, and certainly just as important, that uplifting.

 Ten Songs of Worship and Praise for Our Tumultuous Times is out now via Don Giovanni Records.




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Don Giovanni Records




Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Azure Ray - Remedy


Azure Ray earned a following for their brand of dreamy but drarkly-shaded pop a couple of decades ago. But new album Remedy shows that Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor have not lost their touch or their edge. It is their first new album in 11 years (their wonderful self-titled debut was re-released earlier this year), offering their hushed harmonies riding folky pop arrangements with understated electronic details. Changes in the dynamics of the songs occur gently, like a slowly incoming tide. The overall effect is atmospheric and almost hypnotic. I tend to consider them sophisticated lullabies for adults, and this album has become a regular evening soundtrack for me. 

Remedy is out now via Maria Taylor's Flower Moon Records.




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Sunday, July 11, 2021

"I'd Rather Astral Project"/"Work It Out While You Can" - The Reds, Pinks & Purples

 

Ready for some more color in your life? We suggest reds, pinks and purples. To be even more precise, we suggest "I'd Rather Astral Project"/"Work It Out While You Can", the new single by The Reds, Pinks & Purples. The project of San Francisco's Glenn Donaldson, The Reds, Pinks & Purples has released some incredible records in 2020 and 2021. The release in 2020 was an extended EP tilted You Might Be Happy Some Day (link), released via UK's Tough Love Records. This spring brought Uncommon Weather (link) via Slumberland Records and Tough Love Records, an album of such beauty that I still am in awe. If you don't have either or both of these records, you need to update your list of intended acquisitions.

But don't miss the new single either. The lead track gallops along at pace and sparkles like a mountain stream. The second track has more of a Dunedin/The Bats vibe, which never fails to please my ears. The record is out now as a digital single.


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Friday, July 9, 2021

Lachlan & Snowy - Phone In

Lachlan Denton and Liam Halliwell, aka "Snowy", have featured on these pages numerous times, in bands The Ocean Party and Pop Filter, in other bands, solo, and in various combinations with other artists. So it isn't an exaggeration to say that their music comprises an outsize portion the the soundtrack of my life in recent years. And since I am offered a very large amount of music, my choice of records to which these men contribute speak to how highly I rate them.

In May, the dynamic duo released an album titled Phone In. I am advised that the project began in an unserious vein a couple of years ago and the early efforts were forgotten. Recently the old tracks were remembered and finished. Despite that inauspicious beginning, but not surprising given the talent of Lachlan & Snowy, their fooling around resulted in some very good songs. The music breezy and, not coincidently, has a spontaneous feel. A remarkable feature of any of their projects is that every song reflects the author's humanity and love of making music, and Phone In is not an exception.

In a stroke of luck, the songwriters were able to convince Liam "Snowy" Halliwell to mix and master the album and Lachlan Denton to provide the cover art. It is a small world after all! Phone In is out now as a digital release via Osborne Again Music.




Bandcamp for Phone In

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

"18 Cigarettes" by Ducks Ltd.

 

It is a good year for Ducks Ltd. Get Bleak, the Toronto duo's 2020 EP, was re-released in an extended version by Carpark Records this spring, and they now have dropped the first single from their upcoming album, Modern Fiction. With a driving beat and an icy jangle to the guitars, "18 Cigarettes" is a adrenaline rush that is the perfect antidote to our mid-week malaise.

Ducks Ltd. are Tom McGreevy and Evan Lewis. Modern Fiction will be released October 1 by Carpark Records.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

"Kicks" by Crawford Mack

 

Some songs manage to perfectly capture the sound of summer fun, and "Kicks" is one of those songs. Flowing from the pen of Glasgow native Crawford Mack, it is positive, playful and addictive. Moreover, the mood is captured by the video, which portrays summer fun, friendship and spontaneity.

"Kicks" is out now as a digital release. Mack currently resides in London, but still considers himself a Glaswegian. 

"Audre" by Novaa

 

Novaa is new to me, but a little research reveals that her music has been building a positive reputation in recent years. The songs I have listened to reveal the 24-year-old singer songwriter to be a very good writer, but I was most captivated by her wonderful voice.

Her new single is "Audre", which she has written in honor of American feminist writer and civil activist Audre Lorde. The song is taken from her new album She's A Rose which will be release this Friday.

"Work All Day And Then You Die" by The Parrots

 

Madrid's The Parrots are known as a garage rock band, but their growth suggests that the tag may no longer fit. Listen to new single "Work All Day And Then You Die", and you will hear a broader array of influences, including electronic elements and a wider scope vision of pop arrangements. The song is a timely commentary on the frustrations of being tied to work, something on which many of us have reflected during the pandemic. And all of the frustrations are well-illustrated by the official video for the single.

The release of  "Work All Day And Then You Die" accompanies the announcement that the band's new album Dos will be released October 29 via Heavenly Recordings.

The Parrots are Diego Garcia (vocals/guitar) and Alex de Lucas (vocals/bass). 



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Bandcamp for Dos

Various links to order Dos

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Dag - Pedestrian Life


 I could listen to Dag's Dusty Anastassiou sing his stories to me all day. Of course, living on s different continent and not being willing to pay the international phone charges, that simply is out of the question. However, with new double LP Pedestrian Life featuring 16 of his creations, we all can get a generous dose of Dusty. The album is Dag's second, and has been eagerly anticipated by fans. Those fans are fortunate, because they won't be disappointed. Dusty's compositional eye focuses on every day matters and observations, with a side glance on the state of the broader world. His perspective often presents clear-eyed and somewhat weary realism, but there is room for relationships and affection in the mix. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that the man has a romantic streak, however unmoored it might be from time to time. But whatever he says, he says it with a poetic lyricism and a complete and refreshing lack of pretension. The arrangements are simple but melodic, and appealingly varied among pop, rock and country. The musicianship is exceptional and provides the perfect platform for the Dag's songs.

With 16 songs in varied styles and consistent high quality, Pedestrian Life unspools like a greatest hits album. But while the material is great, it is just the second of what we hope is a long succession of Dag albums.

In addition to Dusty, Dag is Dave McMillan (drums) and Dan Ford (bass). Additional contributions were by Francisca Castro-Merino (backing vocals)k Nicole Thibault (trombone), Lily Tait (violin), Stefan Blair (keys) and Liv Jansz (whose solo project is Punko). Pedestrian Life is out now via Bedroom Suck Records.





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Eggs On Mars - Brighter Now

 

With great pleasure we introduce you to Kansas City's Eggs On Mars. A four-piece adept in a wide range of guitar pop, their new 7-track EP Brighter Now is packed with delights. There is plenty of jangle, power pop, throwback '60 garage ("All That I See"), a bit of country twang, psychedelic and touches of surf, and often more that one strain in a song. I blends together well due to solid craftsmanship and sincere performances. We suggest considering this record your special little discovery of the weekend.

Eggs On Mars are Brad Smith (vocals/guitar), Mason Potter (drums/backing vocals/tambourine), Bennie Neselroad (keys/backing vocals), and Doug Bybee (bass/backing vocals). Brighter Now is out now in digital and CD formats via Subjangle Sounds.



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Saturday, July 3, 2021

“Weak Ends” and “Lead Mask” by Doug Tuttle

 



Doug Tuttle is a Massachusetts-based indie rock solo artist, formerly of the deeply psychedelic band Mmoss. His style is also psychedelic and engaging, with a fine interplay between acoustic rhythm guitar work and some well-placed, very jangly electric leads and solos. His voice is warm and laid back, which suits the material well. It’s funny, this is reassuring, sort of soothing, laid-back music, but you can tell Tuttle put a lot into it, as there is layer upon layer of sounds here - to me, these are the qualities that make great indie rock. Two songs in, I am excited to hear the rest of the EP. 

Here's "Lead Mask", which leans toward psychedelic jangle with a tasty repeated guitar figure throughout:


And here is the most recent single, "Weak Ends". This is one of the best songs I've heard this year - all the guitars gently lead the song forward, backing a calm, confident vocal toward a sudden drop at the end that makes you just reach up and hit "repeat". These are both from a 5-song EP which is due out Friday 7/9 on Wild Honey Records.


Friday, July 2, 2021

The Telephone Numbers - The Ballad of Doug


Today we have another offering from San Francisco -- The Ballad of Doug. The album is by The Telephone Numbers, which is the project of songwriter, guitarist and primary vocalist Thomas Rubenstein. This full length debut bears a wealth of hooks and jangle, and a season's supply of melancholy. But even the bittersweet and lovelorn moments do not spoil the music for the listener because the shimmering songs and sweet melodies result in an absolutely beautiful set of songs. The vocals are sincere and vulnerable and the instrumentation is remarkably full. A good songwriter can tug your heartstrings with a well-selected chord, a good hook and a carefully crafted line. But it takes an exceptional songwriter to accomplish that with apparent simplicity and a seamless flow--so seamless that you don't know you have been touched until you involuntarily hit the replay button at the end of the song. And in listening to The Ballad of Doug the first time I hit the replay button so many times that I lost count and thought the album had many more tracks than the actual ten. (for the record, "Pictures of Lee" has the most replays so far). An exceptional debut, this album will delight for a long time.

For this recording The Telephone Numbers were Thomas Rubenstein (vocals/guitars/percussion/casio/songwriting), Charlie Ertola (bass), Morgan Stanley (vocals/casio), Andrew Hine (drums/percussion), Glenn Donaldson (guitars/synth/organ/percussion/vocals), Eli Groshelle (drums), and K. Dylan Edrich (violin).  The Ballad of Doug is out now via Meritorio Records (digital and vinyl) and Paisley Shirt Records (cassette).




Bandcamp The Ballad Of Doug (Meritorio: Digital and vinyl)

Bandcamp for The Ballad Of Doug (North America: Digital)

Bandcamp for The Ballad Of Doug (Paisley Shirt Records: Digital and Cassette)


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Flowertown - Flowertown

 

Can an album birthed from a backstage collaboration of two songwriters from different bands whose shows were cancelled result in a masterpiece debut? The answer is 'yes', and the evidence is the self-titled album by San Francisco's Flowertown. The duo is comprised of Karina Gill of Cindy (our recent feature here) and Michael Ramos of Tony Jay (our recent feature here). The songs on Flowertown were originally released on two cassette EPs by the excellent San Francisco label Paisley Shirt Records. The tracks have been remastered and produced on vinyl by Mt.St.Mtn. The album also is available in digital format (see the Bandcamp link below).

The twelve tracks on the album range from hushed, dreamy, slow tempo songs with sparse instrumentation to indie rock flashes of light driven by electric guitar, reflecting in each case the more dreamy work of Cindy and the noisier compositions of Tony Jay. And unsurprisingly, many are between those ends of the spectrum. But throughout Gill and Ramos evince a seemingly effortless vocal partnership, trading lines and fleshing out each other's songs. To my ears, among the distinct delights of Flowertown is the variation in atmosphere, from the hiss and static evocative of San Francisco fog to the shimmer and jangle of Galaxie 500 to the semi-drone of Velvet Underground (which always brings to mind the cadence of walking the streets of New York City). 

I haven't owned this album long, but it is among my most treasured albums of the year, with four  of the songs counted among the best songs I've heard in 2021. I highly recommend it to all.






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Label page for album