With another complicated summer behind us in the COVID era, it’s difficult to decipher the stability of the music industry as we face more variants, new mandates and the foreboding holiday season. But while the fate of live music remains concealed in sibylline hands, I can report that, like clockwork, this fall season promises to fill the sleepy summer void of new music releases.
Aside from the national and global circuit, the Boston area is boasting a group of new releases poised to grab some well-deserved praise. From edgy, folk-tinged singer-songwriters to a welcome return of a regional legend, to a rapper-turned activist and a sublime indie-pop supergroup, our fall music guide sets out to show you that despite the hardships, musicians are relentlessly releasing their best music yet.
Naomi Westwater, 'Feelings'
Boston’s Naomi Westwater uses their newest release, a kaleidoscopic six-track EP aptly called “Feelings,” to better express a multitude of their own. Their spectrum of feelings is vast, but always topical and pressing; from the edgy folk of “Home” to the frothy fusion cover of “Strange Fruit,” Westwater leaps from their personal struggles to the woes of the modern society, from their endometriosis to America’s imbalance of racial equality, in a smokey bellow. “Feelings,” like its creator, is complex, full of swirling questions in a pastiche of jazzy, rock-tinged confessionals.
Come formed at a time when Boston’s exceptional alternative rock scene was trickling onto MTV — Pixies, Throwing Muses and The Lemonheads were some of their early contemporaries back in the early 1990s. Now, 27 years after the release of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” Thalia Zedek & Co. are reissuing their landmark sophomore album via Fire Records, a package that includes B-sides and unreleased tracks, as well as new artwork and liner notes. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is a wonderfully abrasive snapshot of the once mighty power of Boston’s alternative scene; the celebration of Come’s heady art-punkness is long overdue.
John Forté, 'Vessels, Angels & Ancestors'
John Forté’s life could be a movie; an impoverished kid from Brooklyn goes on to win a Grammy with the Fugees, winds up in jail, gets granted clemency by President George W. Bush and dedicates his life to his solo career and an abundance of goodwill charities. The producer’s newest album, “Vessels, Angels & Ancestors,” is the culmination of his steadfast activism, spurred by the murder of George Floyd early last summer. Album standout “Ready on the One” best represents Forté’s cool and steady new album: Unshakeable flows, conscious lyrics and crisply innovative beats.
Marissa Nadler, 'The Path of the Clouds'
The city of Boston has a long-standing tradition of folk music inspired by the celtic Americana of yore. Marissa Nadler’s music has always fallen on the dark side of this timeline, siding more with the pagans than the puritans, as heard on her gorgeously brooding new album “The Path of the Clouds.” Created with a who’s who of indie tastemakers of the last 30 years, including collaborators of Cocteau Twins, Mercury Rev and Lightning Bolt, Nadler brings her trademark ethereally gothic compositions to an earthly plane, grounding her poignant songwriting with sturdy grooves and infectious melodies.
Coco, a sort of indie pop supergroup consisting of members from Dirty Projectors, Lucius and Pavo Pavo, is a project inspired by the softness found in spontaneity. Their breezy self-titled debut seemingly moves at its own pace, conjuring a sweeping and balmy ecosystem of songs in place of the burning world around them. Equal parts ‘70s soft rock, late aught’s indie pop and contemporary main stage folk pop, Coco is a band to have on your radar, if only to escape to whatever reality they’re manifesting.
Eleanor Buckland, 'You Don’t Have To Know'
One-third of Boston’s folk-rock trio Lula Wiles, singer-songwriter Eleanor Buckland has detoured into a solo venture on her debut album “You Don’t Have To Know,” a collection of country-washed folk-pop songs fit for a sunny drive alongside the tinted foliage of New England autumn. Buckland’s folksy drawl plays perfectly with this fresh set of pop tunes that are seemingly built for fans of contemporary FM radio acts like Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift, both nostalgically rustic and immediately modern.
Like Jonathan Richman and David Byrne before him, Jake Lazovick is somehow both entirely earnest and absurd. “Smoothie,” his second album as Sitcom, melds slapdash synthpop and slacker rock hooks in a charming display of impetuous insanity. Channeling the late ‘90s nostalgia and aesthetic found in recent artists like Porches and Jerry Paper, Lazovick finds the best way to be relatable is to make you uncomfortable; it’s where he feels most comfortable.