Shape shifter

With a new album, Samantha Fish hits Manchester

Until New Year’s Day delivered omicron to the world, Samantha Fish was looking forward to a European tour in March. Like so many of her plans over the last two years, it was postponed. But the continent’s loss is America’s gain, as Fish is now doing a co-headlining tour with the Devon Allman Project. A St. Patrick’s Day stop in Manchester is, ironically, a replacement date for a canceled Allman Betts Band show at the Palace Theatre.

Singer-guitarist Fish’s latest album, Faster, is another step away from the blues sound that defined her early days, earning her supporters like Buddy Guy. “Hypnotic” evokes mid-’80s Prince from its first notes, a synth-y stew that also hints what David Bowie’s collaboration with Stevie Ray Vaughan might have produced had it lasted more than one album.

Produced by Martin Kierszenbaum (Lady Gaga, Sting), the new record’s most engaging departure is “Loud.” A rock/hip-hop mashup featuring rapper Tech N9ne, who like Fish hails from Kansas City, it’s a solid genre-bender. In a recent phone interview, Fish sounded amazed that she’d lured “Eminem’s favorite all-time rapper” to work with her.

“When I first met Martin, we went to Tech’s studio to work in one of the writing rooms,” she said. “Martin just sort of brought it up offhand, like, ‘It would be really cool to have Tech on a record.’ I just kind of laughed it off; I never thought he would in a million years. Then, he actually went and got him.”

The new record is a buoyant, danceable celebration, but it didn’t begin that way; Fish started writing in the pandemic’s early days, fresh off a narrow exit from an overseas tour that had her spending nearly two days in airports.

“I went through a lot of feelings and different phases of just dealing with this terrible thing that was going on,” Fish said. “All I could do was really go sit in my house and write.”

That’s how every record begins, Fish said, but “the introduction of it is never what it ends up being.”

She shifted gears when her new producer entered the frame. “When I met Martin, I just kind of got this really infectious energy, enthusiastic and encouraging and very positive overall,” she said.

His mood compelled Fish to “write songs that were fun, that made people feel good. I wanted to have an energetic show; I wanted to come out jumping around after this pandemic. I feel like this record really serves that kind of an approach, and it feels nice to be able to own that.”

Along with producing, Kierszenbaum co-wrote several tracks and played on most of the record, while Rob Orton (Lana Del Ray, Sting, Mumford & Sons) did the mixing.

“I just feel like it has this level of … I don’t want to call it gloss, which sounds like a bad thing, but it’s got sparkle to it that I don’t know has been present in my past work. I really admire Martin for his ability to pull that out.”

Fish started her own record label a few years back and has produced two records by Jonathan Long and another one for Nicholas David.

“My job as a producer is to help the artists facilitate their vision and to make it cohesive and also get it done on time and under budget — you know, like the boring part,” she said. “I like helping people shape their vision, help them get what they want, and that’s been kind of a fun journey for me.”

For the upcoming show Fish expects a well-rounded evening. Allman’s band will include two special guests: harmonica player and vocalist Jimmy Hall of Southern rock stalwarts Wet Willie and veteran blues guitarist Larry McCray. Each band will play a full set, and they’ll end up together at evening’s end.

“It’s going to be a collaborative event, but also evenly showcasing our bands and our music,” Fish said. “You know, the best of all worlds.”

Devon Allman Project with Samantha Fish Band & River Kittens
When: Thursday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
Tickets: $35 and up at

Featured photo: Samantha Fish. Photo Credit Kevin King.

The Music Roundup 22/03/17

Local music news & events

Green scene: An ideal accompaniment to St. Patrick’s Day, Black Pudding Rovers are in their 21st year playing Irish music, from traditional songs to Van Morrison. Piano player, guitarist and singer Mike Becker recalls that BPR was the house band at TR Brennan’s, “until that restaurant burned down after a hot performance.” The afternoon event includes food and drink specials — grab a Guinness. Thursday, March 17, 4 p.m., Moe Joe’s Family Restaurant, 2175 Candia Road, Manchester,

Different duo: The fortuitous pairing of John Oates and Guthrie Trapp began when both were playing the Telluride Bluegrass Festival a few years back. Oates was briefly stepping away from his work with Hall & Oates to sit in with Sam Bush and guitarist Trapp was playing in Jerry Douglas’s band. They jammed a bit, forming a bond that blossomed during the pandemic. A brief tour including a local stop is the result. Friday, March 18, 8 p.m., Colonial Theatre, 617 Main St., Laconia, $39 to $89 at

Metal triplet: Both a rock concert and a show of force, Korn performs with the equally muscular Chevelle and Code Orange. With their eponymous debut album, Korn defined a genre that one critic said “articulated a generational coming-of-angst.” They released a new album, Requiem, in February, led by the single “Start the Healing.” Chevelle’s latest is last year’s space-themed NIRAITAS. Saturday, March. 19, 6:30 p.m., SNHU Arena, 555 Elm St., Manchester. Tickets are $49.50 to $115 at

Tapas tunes: Enjoy small-plate delicacies and tunes from The Incidentals, a four-piece with a set list ranging from Frank Sinatra to the Ramones. Whether that includes a punk version of “My Way,” is unclear, although Sid Vicious did cover it back when. The restaurant is highly regarded for inventive shareable dishes, and a bar that extends its Grateful Dead theme with a grapefruit-flavored Sugar Magnolia martini. Sunday, March 20, 4 p.m., Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St., Nashua,

New’s old: Born from creator Scott Bradlee’s self-described “old soul,” Postmodern Jukebox blends old-school jazz with contemporary songs in a way that’s singularly unique. Singer Hayley Reinhart covering Radiohead’s “Creep” in a Dinah Washington mode is stunning and scintillating, as is Olivia Kuper Harris, Sara Niemietz and Therese Curatolo reinventing the Spice Girls’ ’90s pop hit “Wannabe.” Wednesday, March 23, 8 p.m., Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord, $39 to $109 at

At the Sofaplex 22/03/17

The Adam Project (PG-13)

Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Garner.

This Netflix action-comedy also stars Zoe Saldaña, Catherine Keener and Mark Ruffalo.

Ryan Reynolds plays that one Ryan Reynolds character again in this movie about time travel, fathers and sons and digital de-aging. Adam Reed (Reynolds) is a pilot from 2050; Adam Reed (Walker Scobell) is also a present-day tween getting in fights at school and sparring with his mom, Ellie (Garner), due in part to his anger and grief over the death of his scientist dad (Ruffalo). When his mom goes out one night for a date, Adam ventures into the backyard to investigate strange sounds only to find a man bleeding in his late father’s workshed. The man knows where to find the first aid supplies, knows the special trick to closing the refrigerator and has the same scar on his chin as young Adam. The man also has the same “Deadpool but PG-13” speaking style as the kid so even if we didn’t know going in it was grown-up Adam, we’d know young Adam had just met his older self.

Neither Adam seems particularly delighted to be in their own company — younger Adam is excited that he gets ripped in the future but is annoyed older Adam won’t give him any information; older Adam meanwhile is embarrassed at having to re-experience his tween self and is annoyed that he’s landed in 2022 as he had meant to go to 2018. In this future where time travel is possible, Adam has ventured back in search of his wife, Laura (Saldana), who was lost (or was she?) during a time traveling mission.

How exactly time travel has affected the world is one of many things that’s sort of yada yada-ed here (generally, it’s not good, is what the movie tells us) along with pretty much everything about what 2050 is like and why Maya Sorian (Keener), Adam’s boss, is such a big noise in the future. Basically, she becomes another evil tech villain whose big accomplishment is becoming rich with destructive technology and follows the Adams into the past to protect her own personal future.

This is some extremely middling fare whose success as entertainment is wholly determined by how much you like that one Ryan Reynolds character. Reynolds is fine and he has a good rapport with the kid who is his younger self (who in turn is doing a pretty good Ryan Reynolds impersonation, really hitting all the beats of the Ryan Reynolds Chatty Insult TM). Sort of like the recent “Channing Tatum + dog” movie, the affability of the lead is fuel that runs this movie. But The Adam Project, while possessing of a more elaborate story than “man and dog road trip,” has less nuance to it. From the very shallow world-building to the third-best dad-rock music choices, The Adam Project feels like it was given about half the effort it needed. While Channing Tatum’s Dog was sort of enjoyably mediocre, The Adam Project feels more like something inoffensive to have on while you drift in and out of a nap. C+ Available on Netflix.

Lucy and Desi (PG)

If Being the Ricardos is too idiosyncratically Aaron Sorkin for you but you like Lucille Ball and/or television history, this documentary, directed by Amy Poehler, is a nice way to examine the working and personal relationship of the couple and their impact on television with all the men-explaining-comedy-to-women stuff stripped away. Here, largely narrated by interviews and tapes of Lucille and ex-husband Desi Arnaz talking about their life, you get a more straightforward look at their professional partnership, which, much like their friendship, outlasted their at times rocky marriage. Also adding commentary is Lucie Arnaz, their oldest child, as well as the children of some of their behind-the-scenes collaborators and women like Carol Burnett and Bette Midler talking about what Ball meant to them professionally. Without getting tabloidy, the movie has some interesting insights about the Ball-Arnaz marriage and the difficulty of building something big in their professional lives while also trying to keep their marriage together and the way work and family clashed. B+ Available on Amazon Prime.

Turning Red (PG)

Turning Red (PG)

A 13-year-old girl discovers that strong emotion transforms her into a red panda in the Pixar animated movie Turning Red, a movie about puberty, moms and daughters, friends and, occasionally, Canadian-ness.

The kids at Lester B. Pearson School hustle to earn loonies in this 2002-era Toronto. Add that to the bits of late-1990s, early aughts culture — Tamagotchis, Backstreet/’N Sync-y boy bands — and Turning Red is a smorgasbord of delightful little surprise moments nestled in some top-tier storytelling.

Thirteen-year-old Meilin Lee (voice of Rosalie Chang) enjoys being a rules-following straight arrow who crushes it at school and is a dutiful daughter at home. Or has she just convinced herself she enjoys it because she has always been so eager for her mother’s (voice of Sandra Oh) approval? But her mother doesn’t understand about 4*Town, the boy band that has Mei and her friend group — Miriam (voice of Ava Morse), Abby (voice of Hyein Park) and Priya (voice of Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) — all aflutter. Mei herself doesn’t understand her buddies’ lusting over Devon (Addie Chandler), the 17-year-old who works at the local convenience store whom Mei thinks “looks like a hobo.” “Yeah, a hot hobo,” Abby says. Yuck, is Mei’s opinion, until all of a sudden one day it very much isn’t and she feverishly fills a notebook with sketches of herself and Devon, who is sometimes a merman in these drawings.

When Ming, Mei’s mom, finds the sketches, she marches a mortified Mei right down to the store so Ming can yell at a clueless Devon about how Mei is just an innocent little girl and he had better stay away and a bunch of other things that make the world sort of fall in on Mei in a way that is as hilarious as it is horrifying (so much of this movie about this drama-and-zits phase of life is hilarious and horrifying). After a night of absolute agony over this never-to-be-recovered-from embarrassment, Mei wakes up to find that her body has become unrecognizably hairy and stinky and big.

Which, like, who hasn’t been there? But in Mei’s specific case, she has become an actual polar-bear-sized red panda.

“It’s happened already?” says Mei’s dad, Jin (voice of Orion Lee), when Mei’s parents find out about her transformation. It turns out that the family, which runs a temple dedicated to their ancestors, doesn’t just have a symbolic connection to red pandas but an actual one. A long ago-ancestor gained the ability to turn herself into a red panda to protect herself and her daughters, a power passed to every woman in the family since then. Now living in modern days, the women find the fur, the size and perhaps the anger an annoyance, as Ming explains, and they undergo a ritual to harness their panda-ness so that sudden emotional changes don’t lead to a tail and ears popping out. (There is a whole graduate dissertation to be written about this movie’s very clever handling of women and their relationship with anger.)

Mei learns that while extreme emotions can bring on the red panda, calming feelings of love and acceptance can help her turn back into a girl (one whose dark hair is now red). What Mei doesn’t tell her mother is that those peaceful feelings come not from her parents but from her group of besties, a sign that she is growing into her own person, apart from her mother. Her buddies, when they learn about the panda, aren’t repelled by the gross monster Mei feels she is and tell her they’ll be there for her no matter what — especially when “what” turns into a surprising money-making opportunity. The other kids at school are charmed and delighted by the big fuzzy red panda and will fork over their hard-earned loonies for pictures of the panda and panda merch — the perfect way for the girls to earn the money they need to buy tickets to the upcoming 4*Town concert.

Remember the end of Pixar’s Inside Out when the “puberty” button showed up on the control panel inside the emotional control center of the 12-year-old protagonist? Turning Red thematically picks its story up from there, with the fully realized, well-rounded and imperfect person that is Mei suddenly finding herself with all these new emotions and desires and thoughts. It isn’t that she’s “becoming a woman,” the blech-y phrase the movie repeats just enough to drive home the goofiness of putting all that on either getting your period or seeing a boy band, but that she’s finding new facets of herself and trying to figure out how to integrate them into who she has always understood herself to be. And, sorry to spoil the ending for you, kids, but this is basically a thing that continues for forever, as Mei’s growing up and growing apart from Ming means that Ming is also seeing some part of her identity change. What is a delight about Turning Red is that we don’t have to get all in to Ming’s head and her adult issues to see this; this movie (unlike, say, Toy Story 4 or Cars 3 or all the other movies that feel like middle-aged people working out their midlife identity crises) stays focused on Mei and her various relationships as she sees them. And it does this without making Ming either all correct or all wrong. This is another one of those Pixar movies where there is no “bad guy” per se, no person doing evil but more just a group of people, each person with their own Stuff, working through some difficulties.

Before I make this sound like a total afterschool special (which, actually, this would be a great addition to some health class about “your changing body”), Turning Red is a boisterous good time with lots of smart observations about teen life, pop music, parental expectations, the appeal of kittens. I feel like the physicality of the red panda comedy would probably make this movie fun for even middle-elementary kids (maybe 9 or so and up). And the lessons about watching your kid become their own awesome self, however painful the loss of their younger version, and the movie’s overall joy — not to mention some truly beautiful animation — is a good time for an older audience as well. A+

Rated PG for thematic material, suggestive content and language, according to the MPA on film Directed by Domee Shi with a screenplay by Julia Cho & Domee Shi, Turning Red is an hour and 40 minutes long and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on Disney+.

Featured photo: Turning Red.

Stolen Focus, by Johann Hari

Stolen Focus, by Johann Hari (Crown, 345 pages)

The late Harvard professor B.F. Skinner became famous for animal experiments that he believed destroyed the idea of free will. Animals can be manipulated to perform an action by repeatedly offering them a reward until their behaviors become ingrained, similar to Pavlov’s salivating dog. Humans, being animals, are basically the same as pigeons in how we respond to rewards. So when we go to Instagram or Twitter looking for “likes,” we’re the equivalent of a Skinner’s pigeon extending its left wing and expecting a treat.

That’s one of the many unsettling images British writer Johann Hari puts forth in his blistering critique of what the digital world has wrought. Researchers have been watching our attention spans shrink over the past few decades and have theorized that this is occurring not only because of the processing speed of all the digital tools we use, but also because of sheer information overload.

The average worker spends about three minutes on a task before being distracted by something else, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s an incoming text or Slack message, a call from your boss or the siren call of TikTok. After we’re interrupted, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back into a state of deep focus. This isn’t only a problem in terms of our ability to accomplish the things on our to-do list, but has more profound implications than any individual’s stress.

When our ability to pay attention deteriorates, so does our ability to solve problems, Hari says. “Solving big problems requires the sustained focus of many people over many years. Democracy requires the ability of a population to pay attention long enough to identify real problems, distinguish them from fantasies, come up with solutions, and hold their leaders accountable if they fail to deliver them,” he writes. (Unrelated to the book, I’ve seen commentators remark lately that America’s involvement in Ukraine will only last as long as Twitter will continue to pay attention to what Russia is doing there.)

For Hari, the societal decline in focus became personal and urgent when he took his godson, a high-school dropout who was obsessed with screens, to visit Elvis Presley’s estate, Graceland. While this was supposed to be a trip of human connection, they were given iPads and earbuds to use while walking around. Hari watched as a couple got obsessed with looking at the images of Presley’s “Jungle Room” on the iPad — while they were standing in the Jungle Room. In a darkly funny moment, he told them, “There’s an old-fashioned form of swiping you can do. It’s called turning your head. Because we’re here. We’re in the Jungle Room.”

But Hari knew that, in different ways, he was as addicted to screens as the couple he chastised, and decided to spend three months in Provincetown without any form of connection to the internet. His experience there, however, is a fraction of Stolen Focus, which is built more on research than anecdote, and as such is a damning indictment of the attention economy, tech and what it’s doing to our brains. We can’t solve it by simply throwing away our phones; Hari identifies 12 forces — which include stress, poor diets, physical and mental exhaustion and a decline in long periods of reading — that are contributing to the problem.

“The truth is that you are living in a system that is pouring acid on your attention every day, and then you are being told to blame yourself and to fiddle with your own habits while the world’s attention burns,” Hari writes.

Unfortunately, a one-day or three-month digital detox does not solve the problem, even though Hari found that without the tyranny of his smartphone, he found time to write 93,000 words of a novel and to read three volumes of War and Peace. Indeed, former Google strategist James Williams later told him that a break from tech “is not the solution for the same reason that wearing a gas mask for two days a week outside isn’t the answer to pollution.”

Hari doesn’t just read the work of people like Williams, Google engineer turned tech ethicist Tristan Harris, nutritionist Dale Pinnock and renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (who died last year); he interviewed these men and others in person, and weaves their narratives into what ultimately is a manifesto for an “attention rebellion.”

The steps he outlines that can help may seem overly simple and ineffective, given the enormousness of the problem, but maybe that’s the point. If they were too daunting, we wouldn’t even try. Among the changes Hari has made in his own life: taking action (which he calls pre-commitment) to cut down on distractions before they can occur; taking periodic breaks from social media; building in unstructured “flow” time to let his mind wander and thus make creative connections; and being obsessive about getting enough sleep. He estimates that he’s improved his own focus by 15 to 20 percent, not a huge amount, but enough to make a difference in the quality of his life.

Stolen Focus is not a self-help book, not a cultural critique, but something even more important: an education. Read it, and you will be forced to evaluate the role of technology in your life, and that little bird on Twitter may forever look like one of B.F. Skinner’s pigeons; a reminder, in the immortal words of children’s book author Mo Willems: Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus. A

Book Notes

America’s shrinking attention span is a problem of such scale that it requires more than one book to address it. In addition to Johann Hari’s excellent Stolen Focus, reviewed this week, there are two other new books that provide variations on the theme:

In Peak Mind (HarperOne, 368 pages) Amishi Jha promises we can find our focus and “own our attention” in 12 minutes a day. (Seems a lot of pages for a 12-minute strategy, but OK.) And Bob Goff weighs in on the subject with Distracted (Thomas Nelson, 256 pages), in which he makes the case for living like a racehorse wearing blinders to focus on the most important stuff.

Otherwise, here are two new nonfiction books worth your attention:

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni is out with The Beauty of Dusk (Avid Reader Press, 320 pages), a reflection on how his life changed when he woke one morning with changed vision and fuzzy thinking, which he eventually found out was the result of a stroke he’d had during the night. The excerpts I’ve read so far are compelling.

For another look at lives suddenly changed, check out Amy Bloom’s In Love (Random House, 240 pages), which examines the fraught subject of medically assisted suicide — not when a person has a terminal diagnosis and six months or less to live, as allowed in some states in the U.S., but when the person still has a decent quality of life and a longer expected life span.

Bloom’s husband was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and wanted to die on his own terms, not the disease’s, so the couple sought the help of Dignitas, a nonprofit in Zurich that helps people arrange “accompanied suicide.” There is no happy ending here, but Bloom provides a thoughtful examination of a controversial issue.

Finally, in a novel described as a modern allegory in the vein of Animal Farm, Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo (Viking, 416 pages) savages social media through the voices of animals living through a revolution in Zimbabwe. It’s getting great reviews, but at over 400 pages, you’ll need a good attention span to get through it. George Orwell needed only about a quarter of those pages to make his points in Animal Farm. Just sayin’.

Book Events

Author events

AZAR NAFISI Author presents Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times, in conversation with Jacki Lyden. Ticketed virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Sat., March 19, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $27 to $31 and include a copy of the book. Held via Zoom. Visit or call 224-0562.

HOWARD MANSFIELD Author presents Chasing Eden. Sat., March 19, 9:45 to 11:45 a.m. Peterborough Town Library, 2 Concord St., Peterborough. Visit

EMMA LOEWE Author presents Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us, in conversation with author Hannah Fries. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Wed., April 13, 7 p.m. Registration is required. Held via Zoom. Visit or call 224-0562.

MARIE BOSTWICK Author presents her new book The Restoration of Celia Fairchild. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Fri., April 15, 5:30 p.m. Visit or call 836-6600.

BECKY SAKELLERIOU AND HENRY WALTERS Becky Sakelleriou presents The Possibility of Red. Henry Walters presents Field Guide A Tempo. Sat., April 16, 9:45 to 11:45 a.m. Peterborough Town Library, 2 Concord St., Peterborough. Visit

ANNE HILLERMAN Author presents The Sacred Bridge. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Tues., April 19, 7 p.m. Held via Zoom. Registration is required. Visit or call 224-0562.


REBECCA KAISER Poet presents Girl as Birch. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Mon., April 11, 7 p.m. Held via Zoom. Registration is required. Visit or call 224-0562.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Online. Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. Bookstore based in Manchester. Visit or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit or call 224-0562.

Album Reviews 22/03/17

Crowbar, Zero And Below (Mnrk Records)

’Twas only by accident that I ever discovered this New Orleans mud-metal band for myself in the first place, and for that, you’ll have to indulge a little inside baseball, apologies in advance. In 2005, around the second year I’d decided to moonlight as a music reviewer, Candlelight Records was sending me every CD they released. Those albums were never any good, and I was just about to swear off them, but I was trying to fill a column and ended up with Crowbar’s Lifesblood for the Downtrodden in my car. I couldn’t believe how awesome it was, Kirk Windstein’s ragged, uniquely badass voice and sludge riffage blasting into my face like a Frankenstein’s monster that had a personal gripe with me. You have to hear these guys to believe it, and the tradition continues here, in their 12th album, starting with “The Fear That Binds You,” a brand-flaunting exercise that sounds like early Mastodon covering Paranoid-era Black Sabbath. Windstein’s voice isn’t as insane-sounding as his “Slave No More” days, but that really shouldn’t stop you; if you’re a rivet-head who’s never heard these guys, your life is incomplete, trust me. A+

Birthday Massacre, Fascination (Metropolis Records)

This Canadian goth-techno band is still, at least to me, the gold standard for spooky 1980s ghost-pop. Some critic wrote that their 2007 full-length Walking With Strangers is the “Sgt. Pepper’s of Dark Wave,” and I’d have to agree; it’s still an unsurpassed mix of Missing Persons and Depeche Mode, the perfect dance tuneage for an ’80s-themed Halloween party. But notice I said it’s still “unsurpassed,” which is a bit of a run, there, because this crew should have surpassed it a long ago, and, well, they haven’t. The band tried some KMFDM stylings that fell flat; singer Chibi is no raging Lucia Cifarelli and should never have tried it on for size, but anyway, that brings us up to date, and to this album, which does start out on a cool-enough note with a sparkling rawk ballad in the title track. Definitely more of a pop edge than on the last few records, which is where they should be; it’s definitely their best since WWS, but all that means is WWS is still, you know, unsurpassed. A


• March 18 is our next all-purpose album release date, when you can wait outside the record store for the guy in the truck to dump out all the albums, where they will find homes in people’s cars, where the delicate CDs will eventually wind up getting Wendy’s mayonnaise spilled on them and thrown away, which is what you should do with most of those albums in the first place, use them as little single-serving plates for fast food. So that brings us to Georgia Gothic, the new album from Mattiel, a band from Atlanta that’s fronted by its namesake, Mattiel Brown, who sounds like a cross between Nico and Siouxsie Sioux, not that that means they’re forgiven for making such boring music. Take for example teaser single “Jeff Goldbum,” a tune that sounds like Garbage but without any hook whatsoever, just a medium-tempo Rolling Stones-ish groove that wanders around aimlessly looking for spare change on the street and then, finding none, ends as uneventfully as it began. Punchline to this bit is that the band played this dumb tune on Stephen Colbert’s late night TV show, which proves once and for all that Colbert needs to find some act-bookers who don’t take the first bribe some indie label (ATO Records in this case) extracts from their trenchcoat and slides over to them at the greasy coffee shop. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this would be awesome stuff if it were the first time I’d ever heard music played on an electric guitar, it’s all good, man.

Midlake is a funny little indie-folkie-ish band from Denton, Texas, and they seem to be something of a big-hitter, an up-and-coming band on the AOR/yacht-rock scene! The band’s new LP, For The Sake Of Bethel Woods, is coming out in just a few hours and features the single “Bethel Woods,” a tune that’s sort of like if Guster had a baby with some sleepy-time 1980s AOR band like Bruce Hornsby, like there’s a sort-of-driving piano line and a hook meant for driving around in the rain looking for a 7-Eleven. It’s boring, in other words, but like I hinted, there’s money behind these guys, so the video for the tune features none other than Hollywood second banana Michael Pena, who’s just walking around the city looking kind of intense, and — wait a second, is that Trinity from The Matrix? Nope, it’s a younger Trinity, and now they’re in a church and there’s a wedding. No, wait, it’s a baptism. Nope, hold it, it’s a funeral, and now Michael Pena’s running around on the streets having memories of being a young boy or whatever. I’d rather peel potatoes for a month than ever have anything to do with this band again, honestly.

Babeheaven is a pair of British girls who started their career as youngsters, and now no one seems to know what they are exactly. Run a search for the band’s name and you get “they’re R&B,” “they’re dream pop,” and of course Pitchfork’s “bedroom indie,” which does make sense I suppose. Whatever, blah blah blah, they’re “more mature” now, which means they have their own smartphone bills to deal with or something, I guess. The new LP Sink Into Me is kicked off by “Make Me Wanna,” which would have been a cool Portishead-ish chillout, but the tandem appearance of a crummy cheese-synth and none-too-smooth rapper Navy Blue had me bailing after about two minutes. Hard pass.

• We’ll close this out with Sonic Youth’s In/Out/In, which features unreleased tuneage from 2000 to 2010. Keeping in mind that the band peaked in 1983, I was naturally none too thrilled with “In And Out,” which comes off like a Tangerine Dream throwaway, but all the power to you if you’re a Sonic Youth completist; enjoy.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

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