Drops 2016: May Mix

Graham LeBron
06 02, 2016

I'm writing today from the merch table at Wooly's in Des Moines, Iowa. I've been out on the road with Fruit Bats for most of the month and the shows have been great. I've encountered some excellent new music on my journey, especially the bands that have been opening for us. Kyle Craft, Andy C. Jenkins, Strawberry Runners, Trummors, and Promised Land Sound are all great live and on record. I’m excited to include them all on this month’s mix. 

After being on the road for a month, I'm not afraid to admit I'm in love with this new Fruit Bats touring line up. Our new guitarist, Josh Mease, has been blowing my mind every night with his inventive, melodic playing. He writes and records under the moniker of Lapland. Just listen and be mesmerized.  Our phenomenal drummer, Brian Kantor, just did a great interview for Modern Drummer, where he talks about the making of Absolute Loser. Brian is a talented, well spoken gentleman and a thoughtful, encouraging teacher. He is one of the finest musicians I've ever had the pleasure of playing with. The way he locks in with equally talented bassist David Dawda on Eric's songs is inspiring and pushes us all to new heights. And did I mention everyone can sing harmony? I couldn’t be more pleased. 

Kyle Craft's debut album, Dolls of Highland, just came out on Sub Pop and it is a gem. I hear all kinds of influences from the past few decades --T. Rex, NRBQ, The Band, Cheap Trick, Bowie, maybe even some Meatloaf. I kept trying to place what it reminded me of and then ended up just giving in to the charm after realizing he's created something uniquely his own, yet pleasingly familiar. I love when that happens. Kyle's affable stage presence and powerful voice, backed by taut, classic arrangements from his group of talented friends, make for an enjoyable night whether you know the songs or not. The video for Eye of a Hurricane that stars he and his bandmates in drag is classic.

More cool videos this month too, like this one for Quilt’s Padova, from their album, Plaza, one of my favorites of the year so far. The song was written in Padova, Italy by singer/guitarist Shane Butler shortly after his mother passed away. He spoke eloquently about it to NPR music recently, it is worth a read.

Shooter Jennings made a crazy tribute record to Giorgio Moroder that is quite enjoyable. I suppose since the term “outlaw country” doesn’t meant much these days, the most outlaw thing you could do is make an electronic country album, and that is surely what he did. Parts of this remind me Neil Young’s 1982 foray into electronic music, Trans. I think his dad would be proud. This video for Love Kills is an impressive period piece as well.

I have to give a shout out to Andy Cabic of Vetiver for turning me on to Khruangbin. I know of very few groups from Houston, so I was excited to find out about one as good as this. The sounds on their 2015 record, The Universe Smiles Upon You, are amazing. A super chill psych surf  soundtrack vibe influenced by 60s Thai funk--lots of spaghetti western space with hip hop influenced drum production. This will definitely be one of my happy hour records for the rest of the summer.

Karl Blau’s latest LP, Introducing Karl Blau, is a collection of classic covers that were immaculately crafted by Portland based producer Tucker Martine and it is fabulous. Karl normally writes, plays and records his own music, so this was quite a change for him, it seems everyone is pleased with the results thus far. The first time I put it on, I listened to it three times in a row. His voice and the tones on this record are so comforting. The lead track “That’s How I Got To Memphis" and the nearly 10 minute long version of Link Wray’s classic “Fallin Rain” are highlights for me.

So much great stuff this month. I’m still really excited for the Steady Holiday debut album next month and Yumi Zouma’s new one, Yoncalla, has been in heavy rotation. If you haven’t heard Kevin Morby’s latest, Singing Saw, I highly recommend it. Finally, I've been listening to Def.Grls since they released their GRLS EP last October, it is some scrappy lo-fi psych pop that scratches a certain itch for me. Check it out. I had the pleasure of hanging with the singer/guitarist Craig Martinson when I was in Brooklyn recently. Dude is a rare talent, and he taught me some sweet ping pong tips too. Get your own paddle if you're serious about it...

If you’re in the Northern California this June, I highly recommend coming to the home grown festivals where I will be playing and DJing. Huichica takes place at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma on June 10-11, and Hickey Fest is at Standish-Hickey State Park in Leggett on June 17-19. Tickets are still available. It’s gonna be a great summer! See you out on the road!

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