Lou Barlow has been a part of the indie music scene for nearly 40 years. Born in Dayton, Ohio – best known as the birthplace of great funk bands like Ohio Players, Slave, Lakeside, and Zapp – Barlow had relocated to Westfield, Massachusetts, where he attended high school. His first band was Deep Wound, a hardcore punk band that featured drummer J Mascis. After Deep Wound split in 1984, Barlow and Mascis – who moved to guitar and vocals – decided to form a new band called Dinosaur. After they released their first record, they were legally forced to change their name thanks to a rock outfit that already operated under the name Dinosaur. Instead of creating a new and fresh band name, they merely added ‘Jr.’ to their moniker and went on to become one of the most influential bands in indie/alternative rock history. Being a songwriter in a band that already had a main songwriter meant that Barlow had more material that could fit on a Dinosaur Jr. album. Because of this, Barlow formed Sebadoh, a lo-fi side project with multi-instrumentalist Eric Gaffney. When Barlow left Dinosaur Jr. in 1988, he focused all his attention on Sebadoh.

Sebadoh was not Dinosaur Jr. Jr. Musically, Barlow took Sebadoh to many different musical places while not traveling too far from his Dino Jr. roots. In fact, Sebadoh’s earliest recordings sounded closer to lo-fi pop pioneer R. Stevie Moore than J Macis. When Jason Lowenstein joined the band, their alt-rock excursions brought the band’s eclectic acoustic-based rock power into focus and the band’s commercial profile began to rise. Albums like BUBBLE & SCRAPE (1993) and BAKESALE (1994) were critically successful, and the band became indie heroes. Barlow then took a detour with another side project, the Folk Implosion, who scored a Top 40 hit with the song “Natural One”. Barlow was also recording lo-fi releases under the band name Sentridoh while working with Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion. However, Sebadoh went on hiatus after 1999’s THE SEBADOH while the Folk Implosion’s final studio release – so far – was 2003’s THE NEW FOLK IMPLOSION. Surprisingly, Lou reunited with Dinosaur Jr. in 2005 and they have recorded and toured sporadically ever since. Oh, and there’s dozens of other releases and projects that he’s been involved with that haven’t even been mentioned here. Whew! The only person more prolific than Lou Barlow is Robert Pollard, who has probably released three albums and a 7” single in the time it took you to read this paragraph!

While Lou contributed two songs to SWEEP IT INTO SPACE, the 2021 album by Dinosaur Jr., he presents 17 tracks on REASON TO LIVE, his first proper solo album in six years. Like an amalgamation of all of his musical projects, the album sounds both fresh and comforting, shambolic and shiny. REASON TO LIVE is a collection of songs that have a certain chemistry – the songs are musical pieces that needed to come together to create a whole. Does it sound like Sebadoh, Sentridoh, or the Folk Implosion? Of course not. But, at the same time, elements from all of those musical projects are alive and well because they are all part of Lou Barlow’s musical journey. The lo-fi mix of acoustic folk and indie rock help to create an album that sounds deeply introspective yet very open and warm. Songs like “In My Arms”, “Why Can’t It Wait”, “Over You”, and “Lows and Highs” are immediate highlights, but the more you listen, the more you’ll be drawn into Barlow’s new musical vision. And anyone with a song titled “All You People Suck” deserves an honorary entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  REASON TO LIVE is an album that could only have been created in these uncertain times… yet it sounds remarkably timeless.



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Chai is a Japanese quartet comprised of twin sisters Mana (vocals/keyboards) and Kana (guitar) plus bassist/lyricist Yuuki and drummer Yuna. Formed in Nagoya in 2012, the group’s name was, in fact, inspired by the popular Russian tea. The four musicians came together to create music that would exist outside of the formulaic J-Pop music that infiltrated the charts. Their own musical tastes were drawn towards experimental Pop and Hip-Hop and they embraced a style that reflected all of their individual tastes. The band began playing live locally before they moved on to play more gigs in Tokyo. With songs written by Mana, Kana, and Yuuki, Chai released three singles between 2013 and 2014 before releasing their first EP, HOTTARAKA SERIES, in 2015. Two years later, they released their second EP, HOMEGORO SERIES, in April of 2017. As their commercial profile continued to grow, anticipation for an album did the same.

When their debut album PINK was released in late 2017, it presented a band without stylistic limitations. From Punk to Disco, Hip-Hop to Bubblegum Pop, each song had its own vibrant personality. Filled with youthful energy and the desire to exceed expectations from fans and critics, the album sounded like an armful of genres tossed into a washing machine’s spin cycle. Like a mixture of the polished charm of Puffy and the raw energy of Shonen Knife –  Chai was a unique band right out of the gate. Their second album PUNK (2019) saw the quartet expand their musical universe while still sticking to their own unique take on Pop music. In fact, it was getting more difficult to call them a Pop band because… well, they weren’t. Chai was something else. The band was a hybrid – an experiment that took musical expression to a new level. They didn’t play J-Pop, K-Pop, or any other manufactured style of music – they played Chai-Pop. So, with fans and critics in their back pockets, all eyes – and especially ears – were on Chai to see which direction they would go on their third album…

WINK, Chai’s highly anticipated 2021 album, takes the quartet in slightly different directions. With a more focused approach to their songs, the album ups the Soul and Hip-Hop influences, showing that all four members have matured as songwriters and performers. Although the title of opening track is humorous – “Donut Mind If I Do” – the song’s blending of modern production and soulful ‘70s melody is haunting and quite lovely. “Maybe Chocolate Chips” has a laid-back Hip-Hop groove and includes an appearance from rapper Ric Wilson. The album still has plenty of fun moments – “Ping Pong” (featuring YMCK) and “END” come to mind – but WINK is a big musical step forward for Chai. In the past, they’ve created music that was born from kinetic energy, but now they are spending more time crafting their songs, creating atmospheres with their sounds, and reshaping their sound to reflect the people they are now and the times we live in. We all grow up and our tastes evolve as we make our way in this world. Chai have chosen not to remain young whippersnappers and they’ve created music that reflects their view of the world and their thoughts and feelings. But let’s be honest- they are still as fun as they’ve ever been. This time, though, they aren’t afraid to hide behind giggles and glow worms. Chai has grown up. Have you?



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British singer/songwriter David Gray first came to prominence in the UK and Ireland with the release of his debut album, A CENTURY ENDS, in 1993. A critical success, the album climbed to #23 on the Irish charts and earned him plenty of press and good reviews. His next two albums – FLESH (1994) and SELL, SELL, SELL (1996) – did similar business and helped to expand his audience even more. When Gray released his fourth album, WHITE LADDER, in November 1998, the album struggled in the charts although it was warmly received by critics and fans. Issued on Gray’s own IHT Records label, the album’s initial release seemed to slow down the momentum that he had been building with his previous three releases. When he began releasing singles from the album in 1999, there was commercial interest, but it was coming slowly. However, things were about to change the following year thanks to the support of American singer/songwriter Dave Matthews. Yes, the Dave Matthews Band guy…

Albums usually run their chart course within a year, but there are exceptions. In May 2000, WHITE LADDER was re-released by Matthews’ new ATO Records label and given a new lease on life. With better distribution, Matthews’ support, and a heavy touring schedule, Gray’s album was a bonafide hit. Bolstered by the hit single “Babylon”, WHITE LADDER climbed to #1 in the UK and Ireland and entered the Top 40 in the US, Norway, and Australia. Over the next two decades, David Gray continued to release a string of albums that were warmly embraced by his growing fanbase and received plenty of press in the process. Alongside a handful of compilations and a live album, Gray has managed to build up a beloved catalog of releases that are still fresh and invigorating. His 2019 release, GOLD IN A BRASS AGE, went Top 40 in Ireland, Scotland, and the UK, which is quite the feat since many of his 1990s and early 2000s contemporaries have disappeared from the upper regions of the charts…

Recorded before the COVID pandemic, David Gray’s 2021 album, SKELLIG, is a beautifully atmospheric album filled with a warm, loving light yet offering just enough shade to make the album sound human… and deeply emotional. Produced by Ben de Vries, the album keenly mixes acoustic guitar-based songs with others that rely predominantly on the piano. Mix in some mood-inducing electronics and some lovely ethereal harmonies and you’ve got an album that is laced with melancholia yet still feels comforting and, maybe more importantly, hopeful. Gray’s voice on SKELLIG is far more tender and reflective than on past releases, but he’s still very much the same man that led the charge on his 11 previous albums.  “Heart and Soul”, the album’s first single, is one of his best tracks, bringing together harmony, melody, and emotion unlike anything you’ve heard this year so far. Thankfully, there’s more songs just as powerful as that on the album. Other highlights include “Can’t Hurt More Than This”, “Laughing Gas”, “Spiral Arms” and the title track. SKELLIG proves that David Gray is still at the peak of his powers.  





Ska music was born, developed, and brought to live in Jamaica in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. Artists such as Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, The Maytals, The Wailers, Laurel Aitken, and The Skatalites were just a few of the bands that took Ska to the top of the Jamaican charts. By the end of the ‘60s, Ska had evolved into Rocksteady, Dancehall, and, finally, Reggae. In the late 1970s, there was a Ska revival in the UK that is most commonly attributed to the 2-Tone Records label and included bands such as The Specials, The English Beat, Madness, Bad Manners, and The Selecter. Once that movement faded out in the early 1980s, Ska-influenced bands still existed on the outskirts of the music business, patiently awaiting the next wave of Ska’s popularity. That resurgence happened in the late ‘80s and early 1990s when artists such as The Toasters, No Doubt, Bim Skala Bim, Save Ferris, Less Than Jake, Fishbone, Sublime, and Reel Big Fish merged Ska and Punk sensibilities… and sold a lot of records in the process. While most of those bands have long since broken up or changed musical course, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones have remained true to their original sound.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1983. The band’s roots were based in the Hardcore Punk scene, but their Ska influences were a strong part of their musical identity. Although arriving too late the board the second Ska movement, the band nevertheless became a popular live act in their region. By the time of their 1989 debut album DEVIL’S NIGHT OUT, the band had become one of the most popular high-profile Ska-Punk bands in the U.S. In fact, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are acknowledged as creators of the Ska-Core subgenre. With sharp suits, a brass section, and an energetic live show, the band’s ‘iconic’ status is well-deserved. While continuing to wow audiences with their performances, they released a series of albums that were embraced by their legions of fans. Their catalog includes the albums MORE NOISE AND OTHER DISTURBANCES (1992), DON’T KNOW HOW TO PARTY (1993), QUESTION THE ANSWERS (1994), LET’S FACE IT (1997), and A JACKKNIFE TO A SWAN (2002). The band split up in 2004 but reunited three years later and jumped right back into live performances and recording sessions.

2021’s WHEN GOD WAS GREAT is The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ 11th studio album – their first for Hellcat Records – and was co-produced by Tim Armstrong (Rancid). The album captures all the joy, passion, and honesty of their past albums while also adding a fresh spin to the proceedings. WHEN GOD WAS GREAT is an intelligent, sharp, and infectious invitation to have fun. While it doesn’t avoid addressing the COVID pandemic, the album revels in hope and unification. Mixing Ska rhythms, anthemic hooks, and scraggly Punk-influenced guitar riffs, WHEN GOD WAS GREAT is an aural ray of sunshine in a world blanketed in darkness and fear. Highlights include the album opener “Decide”, “I Don’t Believe in Anything”, “Lonely Boy”, “Certain Things”, “It Went Well”, and “M O V E”. Packed with 15 songs, this is an epic album that should have you on your feet and skanking in no time. It will also make you feel that you are part of something big, something grand, and most certainly something mighty!



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