Black Pumas – Fast Car

Today’s post….just a sweet, plaintive cover of Tracy Chapman’s classic song from In My Ear favorites, Black Pumas.

I heard this and it felt like a balm on my mind and my heart.

For the many of you who read this blog and are pressing for needed change — within yourself, your families, your community, and this world we all share — hear this and rest.

Rest, even if just for a few minutes. Restore. And, then ready yourself to go again. And, again. And, again.

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#10YearThrowbackThursdays (2010) – Band of Horses, Ode to LRC

A new segment on In My Ear! On the occasional-to-maybe-regular Thursday, I’ll be digging into my archive and featuring tracks that were in my ear (and on my annual playlist) a decade ago. First up, the year was 2010…..

Alright, so technically, Ode to LRC was released on Band of Horses‘ 2007 sophomore album Cease to Begin. But, ten years ago, I was less immediately dialed into new releases (2010 was only three years removed from the first iPhone and, to my mind, still early days of streaming, on-demand music) *and* I liked Cease to Begin a whole lot better than the record that Band of Horses’ actual released in 2010, Infinite Arms.

Blah, blah, blah…technicalities aside, I was listening to this band a lot in 2010 and, specifically, this track (along with No One’s Gonna Love You also off Cease to Begin). Starting right off with the power chords, the song features all that I like about Band of Horses: straight-ahead, guitar-driven, roots-y indie rock, a deft mixture of tempos and pacing, a great sense of melody, and lead singer Ben Bridwell’s distinct vocal tone.

Katie Pruitt – Loving Her

With the release of her debut album, Expectations, last Friday, a well-done NPR feature interview with her on the same day, and national tour dates starting up in March, whatever secret there was about Katie Pruitt is now out.

A singer-songwriter in the the modern/alt-country vein (with plenty of folk and rock influence), Pruitt has a gorgeous voice, a gift for lyrics, and a story to tell. As written up in the NPR interview and on her website, the record documents and tells Pruitt’s coming of age story centered on the frustration and shame of growing up gay in the Christian South — and the self-acceptance, personal grit, and mix of toxic and deeply loving relationships that result from her journey to-date.

I first discovered Katie Pruitt last year when I heard the early single Expectations from the upcoming album of the same title. That song landed on the In My Ear 2019 Playlist and was a true standout song for the year for me, with a guitar line and vocal melody wonderfully reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac and straight-ahead lyrics that detail the complicated battle for self-worth and belief.

Wasn’t getting much out of life at all / Was scared to jump so I was scared to fall…./ I learned that fear is just the false belief / That there is nothing you can do

But, since the record’s release last week, I’ve been listening to Loving Her on repeat, which was another advance single. A beautifully lilting, gently picked, almost delicately sung song, it stands as one of the bravest, most quietly badass tracks I’ve heard in recent memory.

If loving her hurts, then I'll keep on hurting 
If it means staying true to who I am...
You can shake your head 
You can clench your fists 
You can judge, hold a grudge 
You can just be pissed
You can say it's wrong
You cay say a prayer
While you're doing that, I'll be over there
Loving her

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#10YearThrowbackThursdays (2010) – Minus the Bear, Into the Mirror

A new segment on In My Ear! On the occasional-to-maybe-regular Thursday, I’ll be digging into my archive and featuring tracks that were in my ear (and on my annual playlist) a decade ago. First up, the year was 2010…..

Minus the Bear was a great, great rock band from Seattle. They disbanded in 2018 after 17 years and six full-length records, having earned a fierce reputation for expert musicianship and innovative, forward-leaning, rock music. Founded by members of metalcore and post-hardcore bands and often classified in the ‘math rock’ subgenre (“a rhythmically complex, often guitar-based, style of experimental rock and indie rock”), Minus the Bear moved from and between rock, punk, prog rock, indie, and pop-synth rock — always evolving their sound on each record.

I first tuned into them starting with their huge-sounding 2007 opus Planet of Ice and have been a fan ever since. In 2010, Minus the Bear changed labels and released Omni, a sleeker, more pop-forward record featuring this single, Into the Mirror.

God, it’s so damn catchy.

We Are the City – Killer B-Side Music

A new discovery for me this week with We Are the City, a Canadian progressive rock band from Vancouver, BC. They’ve been putting out experimental albums for over a decade, tweaking their musical form that entire time to include (according to various reviews) hooky pop-rock, jagged electronic soundscapes, and artsy prog-rock. Their newest record, RIP, follows the death of a long-time childhood friend of the band members (Kyle Tubbs) and, in their own words, marks an important moment for the group. On their Facebook page, they wrote:

RIP is our step forward, but it feels comprehensive. It does feel like a culmination. And it does feel like the next music will be the beginning of a new journey. RIP is a love letter to everyone who has shared their life with us and who has let us share our lives with them. It’s a love letter to our youth. And, most of all, it’s a love letter to Kyle Tubbs.

Being new to this band and a neophyte in prog- and art-rock, I can’t comment on We Are the City’s musical evolution or where they fit among peers and in the indie scene. But, I can say what I really like about the record — punchy lyrics; spiky punk-pop melodies; moments of raw, ragged rock; and songs that manage to sound individually unique and interesting, but that hang together as an album.

The track that first grabbed me (and continues to grab me on each listen) is Killer B-Side Music, a song that starts quiet and builds to a thunderous, shattering, fuzzed-out chorus that feels like a howl. A howl of rage, release, triumph, frustration….really, whatever it needs to be for you. The mix and production are interesting; very little bass in that big chorus, so it’s all screaming guitar in the treble register that only adds to the ragged, slightly unhinged quality. If you’re not paying attention, it will startle you for sure. My kids love that.

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Black Pumas – Black Moon Rising

My new favorite band. Your new favorite band. Black Pumas is the stuff of legend. Grammy-award producer meets talented street busker; they hang; make some music; magic happens; and – bam – they’re catch fire and you can’t get their shit out of your brain. Which is fantastic because they are legit and awesome.

Black Moon Rising, the lead single off their debut self-titled album released a couple of weeks ago, is just one of a host of golden tracks.

As other commenters have noted, Black Pumas doesn’t stay in the retro-soul box you want to put them in on first listen. The record spills over the side with modern production flashes, drum loops, and fresh-sounding guitar and keyboard licks. While they command their own unique sound that merges classic soul, gritty rock, and vintage-era funk, there are hints of current influences from Dan Auerbach, to Danger Mouse, and even Khruangbin.

Black Pumas is having a moment. And, we’re all better for it.

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Mannequin Pussy – Drunk II

Spotify’s data indicates that this song has been streamed 337,702 since it’s release about a month ago. I account for a significant percentage of that total because Drunk II has been repeatedly blasted at full-volume in my car, in my earbuds, in my spouse’s Bose Quiet Comfort noise-canceling headphones (shameless plug; I love them), and into my poor, throbbing ear drums.

I’m new to Mannequin Pussy, a Philadelphia-based punk band formed in 2013 and set to release their third full-length album this month, June 21, titled Patience. Drunk II is the lead single off the record. The band has earned a reputation for raw, raging music that can deliver tightly-crafted, melodic hooks in the midst of the sound-and-fury of blistering, thrashing punk rock.

Similarly, their lyrics are as intimate and vulnerable as they are defiant. Like on Drunk II, (which, is simply a brilliant break-up track), when lead singer Marisa Dabice rages “I still love you, you stupid fuck” before the plaintive chorus, “And everyone says to me / ‘Missy you’re so strong’ / But what if I don’t want to be.”

This song’s crisp production and tight blend of power and fragility is compelling as hell.

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Feature Photo: Marcus Maddox

Rodrigo y Gabriela — Witness Tree

Hands down, one of my favorite groups (and live performers), guitar gods Rodrigo y Gabriela released a new album, Mettavolution a few weeks ago — their first studio album in five years. I’m swooning…and not just because my awesome better half bought me the record on vinyl for my birthday.

No, I’m swooning because it’s another stellar, compelling release from these two artists who continue to defy logic (Mexican classical guitar duo, steeped equally in flamenco and Metallica, get their big break busking in Dublin, Ireland); industry norms (a genre-defying acoustic guitar duo successfully selling records and selling out concert venues); and, frankly, physiology (I’m not sure how their hands and fingers move fast enough to play how they play).

This new album has gotten lots of press for the audacious and excellent 19-minute cover of Pink Floyd’s famous song Echoes, which anchors the project. But, I’m particularly fond of Witness Tree, a bright, crisply wrought track that pulses with energy from the jump and lively moves through at least five different movements.

According to the record’s liner notes, this song was named to honor the moment in 2016 when Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero first conceived of the album that became Mettavolution. While on tour in Japan, they sat beneath a newly planted tree on the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and committed to “reconnecting with the physical rush and emotional core of the music they first made together.”

Hell yes.

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Meg Myers — Numb

While Meg Myers‘ lead single off her second full-length album isn’t the most upbeat anthem, it is one hell of a way to start your week off with a howl.

Coming of age in the 90s’ in mid-state, suburban New York, I was surrounded by music like Myers’. Loud, snarling rock. Pounding drums. Dark, minor keys. Power chords. Grunge, post-punk, and alternative rock were staples on the radio and in friends’ cars. These weren’t my favorite styles of music then (or now), but the mix and stew of them left a powerful, almost guttural, imprint.


Myers channels the raw, emotive power of the best of that era on Take Me to the Disco — and I am gripped by nostalgia. This is an incredible record, top-to-bottom. Another “top of 2018” candidate for me. Her lead single, Numb, starts off sounding like an ode to Nirvana and then builds into a shattering, wailed chorus. The subject is her relationship with her former record label, Atlantic, but it plays and sounds like an anthem for anyone — everyone — who feels stuck, stifled, or inundated by the world.