The night of Mac Demarco’s show in late-July was one to remember. Mac and his touring band (+closest friends) are notorious for being outrageously goofy; their show at 9:30 was no exception. About halfway through the show there were Celtic riddles, a cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow,” and a heavy dose of bromance. The secret weapon of the band is the mega-cutie lead guitarist, Peter Sagar. After watching him perform that night, it was evident how talented of a musician he is. 

As it turns out, Peter actually has a side project, which is just as quirky, more experimental, and highlights his massive amount of musicianship. The band is called HOMESHAKE and they released “The Homeshake Tape” last year. If you are like me and overlooked this album, it is in your best interest to check it out; it could easily become your favorite album of the year. 

A new single has just been released, “Cash Is Money;” hopefully a sign that another album is in progress. The song inherits the perfect combination of the quirkiness of Mac Demarco and the simplicity of fellow Captured Tracks artist, Chris Cohen. While there are certainly a couple complex guitar and bass riffs, Peter Sagar doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is refreshing and much needed in the music industry. If you’re super stressed out, listen to “Cash Is Money,” and that tension will inevitably decompose.

-Katie Cheyne

NEW TRACKS: Justin Townes Earle, “Time Shows Fools”

Alt-country man Justin Townes Earle is back with this single off his upcoming album Single Mothers. It’s an agreeable number that tumbles along over a driving drumbeat and lightly distorted guitar. The title phrase - “time shows fools” - appears throughout as a gentle note of regret and word of caution.

What stands out most about the track is Earle’s singular delivery. He moves freely between near-mumble and full-voiced singing. He can sound both tortured and confident within the span of a few bars. His phrasing is pleasantly varied, as he will sometimes stretch out syllables and other times fit as many as possible into a small space.

If you’re into fellow artists that straddle the line between rock and country (think Ryan Adams or Jason Isbell), give this one a shot. The backing has that crack-Nashville-session-player sound, and the man at the front has a good story to tell.

-Joe Ciccarello

NEW TRACKS: Diarrhea Planet, “Spooners”

Diarrhea Planet’s bio reads, “Shred til you’re dead.” With four lead guitarists, shredding is at a constant. After releasing I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams last year, the boys are back with all the riffs we love in their newest single, “Spooners.” The song picks up right where the album left off, allowing us to feel inspired while simultaneously making us want to get into a little mischief. When it seems as though the song is ending about two minutes in, it leaves us yearning for more. Thankfully the drum kicks the song back into an explosion of energy to finish out the song in true Diarrhea Planet fashion.

While the name of the band is a bit foolish (it’s always a challenge wearing their t-shirt in public), they have formed a cult of followers. Attending one of their shows is always filled with hard hitting guitar-based jams that have heads banging all the way through, while a man in a hot dog costume plays the tambourine while eating a banana. While this sounds completely crazy, this is Diarrhea Planet. They are slowly bringing back the beautiful rock and roll one single at a time.

-Katie Cheyne

NEW TRACKS: Cymbals Eat Guitars, “Warning”

Cymbals Eat Guitars fans have waited three long years since the release of Lenses Aliens. After hearing the newest single, “Warning,” from their upcoming album Lose, it appears that the last month will be just about unbearable. It beholds all of the characteristics that are a necessity to their music, proving they aren’t losing steam anytime soon. 

The song opens with a guitar riff almost identical to “Shore Points,” only at a quicker tempo and more aggressive. Although the song doesn’t have any extraordinary transitions that leave us in a state of surprise, which Cymbals Eat Guitars has become notorious for, it is still a mastered piece of art. With cutting lyrics that will reach right into your soul and guitars screeching to the point of detonation, Lose has quickly become one of the most anticipated albums of 2014. August 26th can’t come soon enough.

-Katie Cheyne

NEW TRACKS: Wampire, “Wizard Staff”

I fell in love with Wampire last year when they became the soundtrack to my fall; their debut album, Curiosity, found a spot on my top ten of 2013. After the release of their new single, “Wizard Staff,” it appears they are going to do it all over again with Bazaar, out on October 7th.

“Wizard Staff” has all of the psychedelic vibes we grew to love from their debut, but layered on top of these characteristics is the beautiful styling of the saxophone, giving off a very Unknown Mortal Orchestra sound. This may be a fairly good indicator of what the album will sound like since it is produced by UMO’s producer, Jacob Portrait. 

The song itself is the perfect transition as the summer fades out and the fall slowly approaches. You could listen to it on a breezy night on the beach as the sun begins to set, or on a bike ride down a dirt road as the leaves change to red. Either way, Wampire will take over your senses and have you swaying to the beat.

-Katie Cheyne

NEW TRACKS: The Gaslight Anthem, “Stay Vicious”

With their latest single, “Stay Vicious,” the Gaslight Anthem take a bit of an unexpected turn. The band slows things down and introduces a hint of menace into their sound, marked by heavy guitar and an exploration of the lower register of singer Brian Fallon’s voice.

The song employs a version of the loud-soft strategy that worked so well for Nirvana and the Pixies. At the start, a snare drum calls things to order, leading into a massive wave of power chords. Fallon states his anguish with some choice lines, including, “I feel just like a murder and I feel just like a gun.” He does a good job with Mark Lanegan-esque world-weariness.

This section is balanced with another, mellower one. The guitars turn to gentle atmospherics, and Fallon sounds more lyrical. His words become more optimistic, though there’s an air of insecurity behind them. After these two sections alternate a few times, there’s even a guitar solo that wails and screams. The band sells this foray into slightly murky waters. There’s always been a tortured element to their music, and this just puts it further in the foreground. They get the hard rock nuances right, and include enough rays of light to keep the gloom from taking over.

-Joe Ciccarello

NEW TRACKS: Chance The Rapper, “Wonderful Everyday”

Everyone who grew up watching the PBS Kids show Arthur remembers its magical theme song, “Wonderful Everyday,” written by Ziggy Marley and impressed upon the hearts of kids across America. Genre-stepping hip-hop prodigy Chance The Rapper has been performing a fantastic cover of it live recently, and last night, he released a jazzy, soulful studio version with vocal cameos from Wyclef Jean and a whole host of others.

You can just imagine the phone call that made it happen.

Chance: “Yo Wyclef, you want to sing on a song I’m putting out?”
Wyclef Jean: “What’s the song?”
Chance: “It’s the Arthur theme song.”
Wyclef Jean: “I mean, obviously.”

It’s an unexpected, delightful cover, and it feels real, real good.

-Asher Meerovich (@Bummertime)

NEW TRACKS: The Rentals, “1000 Seasons”

Spend one more summer, one more season, one more winter by yourself

This, my friends, is the return of the Rentals to the sound of Return of the Rentals. Matt Sharp, the original bassist and falsetto master of Weezer (who also released a single last week), has gotten the Rentals back together for their first release since 2009’s Songs About Time multimedia project and first proper studio album since 1999’s Seven More Minutes. Oh yes, it has been a while, but the wait has definitely paid off.

This album’s Rentals consist of Sharp, the leading ladies of Lucius, one of Ozma’s guitarists (whose debut has many times been described as “arguably the best Weezer album of 2001”), a string or two, and some drummer guy from an obscure band called the Black Keys. Together they return the band to their sound from ‘95: alt-rock with lead bass and beautiful Moog flairs.

“1000 Seasons,” the second single released from the group’s upcoming Polyvinyl release, Lost in Alphaville (produced by the great Grammy Award-winning D. Sardy), is a new version of a piano-accompanied softer track from Songs About Time entitled “A Thousand Seasons Past.” The lyrics on both versions bemoan the rise of electronic messaging and the ease to fleeting send apologies, saying “the words are not as romantic.” Even though I adored the original, I think this version is far superior, especially if you pine for bass-led alt rock.

The track, instrumentally, sounds like it would’ve fit right in on the group’s debut album. A bass and violin starting things off under Sharp’s delicate vocals, joined in by beautiful female response vocals in the chorus, and finally joined in by the classic synth. All that was missing was some trademark Matt Sharp falsetto (see: every great track from the Blue Album). The drumming from Patrick Carney and Sharp’s synth work are what really stand out on this track.

If the rest of the album sounds like these released tracks, then I think we’ll be in for a real treat. Lost in Alphaville is out August 26th and can be purchased on various formats, including cassette tape for just $8. Bust out your Walkmen!

-Ryan Largent

NEW TRACKS: James Blake, “Untitled”

This mysterious track hit the airwaves twice this past week: the first time on ma boy Jamie xx’s guest host slot of BBC’s Radio 1 and the second when it was Mister Blake’s turn. And I don’t know if anyone else caught this, but the track was MUCH longer upon original release (after Jamie’s slot) than the file is now. Perhaps the original was redacted, hm? 

In any case, when the untitled track dropped during Jamie’s slot, it screamed 1-800-DINOSAUR (JB’s dance/electronic label). I’d compare it to James’ darker work on the CMYK EP with a bit more roughness around the edges. There was even this crazy dog bark sample in the mix. So there’s something to look forward to! 

But presently, the posted track struck me as not quite finished. Because of its 30 second run time and minimal development (in the beat and vocal department), this segment probably leads to something more. The cut would be a gorgeous intro to a vocal number and feels ripe for a beat drop, but somewhat disappointingly, neither of those things happen. 

I can’t wait to see how James spices this one up. 

-Spencer “The Beat Critic” Swan 

NEW TRACKS: Tweedy, “Diamond Light, Part 1”

From his upcoming Sukeriae, Jeff Tweedy presents this haunting first installment of a work called “Diamond Light.”  It develops slowly and steadily, with a dirge-like feel. Tweedy’s lyrics, though somewhat difficult to make out, allude to existential fears and issues of faith. The song’s pace gives these musings the space they deserve.

The first sound heard is actually Tweedy’s son Spencer on drums. He sets up a stuttering beat, reminiscent of something off a recent Radiohead album. After this is established, Tweedy himself comes in with the vocal melody. In contrast to the drums, this is slower and languid, with hints of eastern exoticism. To add to this vibe, the line is doubled on what I believe is an electric sitar.

A few verses pass, divided by relaxations in the drumbeat. Eventually, guitar and keyboard enter, providing more moody atmosphere. Stabs of distortion and drum fills conspire to heighten a sense of anxiety and chaos, before an abrupt fall.  From that point, the song goes through a rebuild, leading to a chorus of eerie howls and moans.

Throughout the song, Tweedy asks “Are you scared, are you frightened? Terrified of being alone?” The musical effects he summons reflect the unease inherent in these questions. He also offers a potential solution, wondering “Why don’t we pick one script and leave it?” This script would seem to involve putting trust in the titular diamond light. He doesn’t go into much more detail, leaving the listener to think about the ideas presented and come to their own conclusions.

-Joe Ciccarello