Each week Release Day Picks profiles new LPs and EPs Team JamBase will be checking out on release day Friday. This week we highlight new albums by Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Eric Clapton, Kurt Vile & The Violators, Blues Traveler, St. Vincent, Sister Sparrow, Aqueous and Tom Morello. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Elvis Costello & The Imposters – Look Now
The Scoop: Elvis Costello has reunited with The Imposters for the first time in a decade for his latest studio album Look Now. The 12-song effort, his first in five years, was recorded at sessions held in Hollywood, New York City and Vancouver and co-produced by Costello and Sebastian Krys. The LP also finds Costello sharing songwriting credits with a pair of music legends. Elvis rekindled his friendship with Burt Bacharach, which dates back to their 1998 release together, for two songs, while also teaming up with Carole King for the Look Now track “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter.”
Eric Clapton – Happy X-Mas
The Scoop: For the first time in his long and storied career Eric Clapton has put out a record of Christmas music. The 14-track Happy Xmas was co-produced by Clapton and Simon Climie and features cover art drawn by the 73-year-old guitarist. The collection combines Clapton’s interpretations of holiday classics along with two newly-penned originals. “I had in my head that these holiday songs could be done with a slight blues tinge, and I started to figure out how to play the blues lines in between the vocals,” said Clapton. “I got it down and one of the most identifiable songs on the album, the one that became the foundational style, is ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’.”
Kurt Vile & The Violators – Bottle It In
The Scoop: Acclaimed singer-songwriter Kurt Vile took his time working on his first solo album in three years. Vile recorded the 13-track Matador Records release Bottle It In at various studios around the country with multiple producers over the course of a two-year period. Kurt worked with Rob Schnapf at Mant Sounds studio in Los Angeles, Shawn Everett at The Beer Hole in Los Angeles and Rob Laakso of The Violators in Portland, Oregon and Brooklyn. However, most of Bottle It In was recorded with Peter Katis producing and engineering at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The follow-up to 2015’s b’lieve i’m goin down features contributions from Lucius vocalists Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe as well as Kim Gordon, Cass McCombs, Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, Farmer Dave Scher, Mary Lattimore and others. “These songs show an artist who is still evolving and growing: a songwriter who, like his hero John Prine, can make you laugh and break your heart, often in the same line, as well as a vocalist who essentially rewrites those songs whenever he sings them in his wise, laconic jive-talkin’ drawl,” reads promotional materials about the LP.
Blues Traveler – Hurry Up & Hang Around
The Scoop: Seminal jam band Blues Traveler decided to try a different approach for their 13th studio album. The 12-track BMG release Hurry Up & Hang Around was written and recorded at a house the quintet rented in Nashville. Blues Traveler collaborated on the process with Grammy-winning producer Matt Rollings. The writing sessions were a throwback to their early days according to frontman John Popper. “We were by ourselves writing in the garage every day of this Nashville house. That was pretty cool, because we felt like a garage band again. There was a spirit of survival. We had something to celebrate, so we really came together as a band,” Popper explained. The harmonica player called Rollings “one of the finest producers we’ve ever worked with, period.” Popper added, “He can bring out any sound he wants. He got takes out of me that I couldn’t ever get out of myself, and I’ve tried. However, he also let me be me. It’s one of the best production experiences we’ve ever had.”
St. Vincent – MassEducation
The Scoop: Just as Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent was getting ready to release Masseduction in 2017, she decided to record another version of the same album. MassEducation, out today on Loma Vista, features barebones renditions of all but one of the songs from the 2017 record in a different order. Clark is accompanied on MassEducation by pianist Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett. The pair recorded the new album over the course of just two days at Electric Lady studios in New York City. Annie describes the 12-track effort as “two dear friends playing songs together with the kind of secret understanding one can onl get through endless nights in New York City.”
Sister Sparrow – Gold
The Scoop: Much has changed for Brooklyn-based soul outfit Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds since the 2015 release of The Weather Below. The Dirty Birds have flown the coop leaving vocalist Arleigh Kincheloe, a.k.a. Sister Sparrow, as the last remaining member in Brooklyn. Sister Sparrow’s new 10-track Thirty Tigers/Party Fowl Records LP Gold was recorded with producer Carter Matschullat at Greenpoint’s DØØM Studio. Members of The Dirty Birds, Matschullat and New York City session players contributed to Gold, but be clear this is essentially a solo album with all decisions made by Arleigh. “I wanted more control,” Kincheloe said. ”I wanted to explore different sonic space, try things I’d never done before with the band. I wanted to push the needle towards something more universal.” While Sister Sparrow aimed for a more contemporary sound, Kincheloe hasn’t done a complete 180. “It’s still me,” Arleigh added. “The through line is always going to be me, my voice and my writing.”
Aqueous – Color Wheel
The Scoop: Jam quartet Aqueous finally released the long-awaited follow-up to 2014’s Cycles. The self-released Color Wheel features 10 originals of which only two have been played live. Aqueous recruited the Turkuaz Horns to contribute to “Weight Of The Word,” one of those two which quickly became staples. “Color Wheel feels like a step forward for the band in every way,” explained Aqueous guitarist/keyboardist David Loss. “We tapped into a distinctly more emotional and purposeful space when writing it, and there’s a raw honesty throughout the album’s lyrics and themes that I think a lot of people can relate to. Though some of those themes are a little heavier, there’s a constant thread of hopeful optimism that we hope people will really connect with. Musically, the band has evolved and Color Wheel finds us exploring some new and very exciting musical lanes.”
Tom Morello – The Atlas Underground
The Scoop: The first solo album by Rage Against The Machine/Prophets Of Rage guitarist Tom Morello under his own name (he previously worked under The Nightwatchman moniker), The Atlas Underground is loaded with collaborations. Each of the 12 tracks on the record showcases a special guest alongside Morello. Among those tapped for The Atlas Underground were Mumford & Sons‘ Marcus Mumford, Portugal. The Man, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA, Gary Clark Jr., Pretty Lights, Vic Mensa, K.Flay, Big Boi, Killer Mike and Whethan. “This record also afforded me the opportunity to divest myself of my natural Type A controlling character,” Morello stated. “After initial conversations with the collaborators about theme and lyrics, I made it clear that there was no ego stake in these songs and that the only goal was to make something we all loved; something that was fucking powerful with no preconceived notions other than the freedom of taking a blank sonic page and letting our freak flag fly.”
Compiled by Jeffrey Greenblatt, Andy Kahn and Scott Bernstein.