With their 2020 release Flower of Devotion, Chicago three-piece Dehd (Emily Kempf, Jason Balla, and Eric McGrady) established themselves with a youthful, indie rock sound that conjures images of languid summer days and hours driving down a coastal highway. Blue Skies, their latest release, maintains this atmosphere without becoming stale or repetitive. Though they are often lumped into the “post-punk” category, this is limiting. Dehd’s songs are also steeped in dream pop, surf rock, and funk; in fact, the band cites Animal Collective, Prince, Aldous Harding, Earl Sweatshirt, and Moodymann as influences for the songs on Blue Skies. Kempf, Balla, and McGrady all trade off on lead vocals throughout the album, each lending a different vibe. Though all three have their strengths, it is Kempf who is the true heart of the band, her charisma transcendent whether she is crooning or performing a rock star howl. McGrady’s spare drums and Balla’s guitar work provide a solid background for Kempf’s more theatrical vocals. Notable standouts include the Prince-adjacent “Empty In My Mind” (“Over kissing strangers / I want to kiss a friend”) and “Bad Love,” which is reminiscent of The Ronettes and Springsteen (“I was a bad love / Now I can get some / I got a heart full of redemption”). Blue Skies is an exuberant collection of songs, a great accompaniment to and distraction from the hot summer months ahead. —Mary Beth Campbell


Whether paying homage to New Orleans swamp boogie or Woody Guthrie‘s hard-time hitters, The Deslondes have always charmingly rectified nostalgic sounds. But with their latest album, Ways & Means, the band has let go of heralding the past—it’s the future they’re gunning for. The new album arrives right on time after a five-year hiatus from their last record, Hurry Home, during which members Sam Doores and Riley Downing each released respective solo albums to acclaim. Margo Price joins original band members Dan Cutler, Sam Doores, Riley Downing, Cameron Snyder, and John James Tourville on the title track. Though Ways & Means is still country-tinged, a characteristic I can’t imagine them ever departing from, the 14-track album introduces electric guitar, pop hooks, saxophone, and even a complete drum kit for the first time. But don’t worry, you can still two-step to it. From uplifting hits (“Five Year Plan“) to heart-tugging ballads (“South Dakota Wild One“), The Deslondes have reunited for their most musically diverse and mature album yet. Danielle Dietze


New Orleans indie dance punk band The Fruit Machines are glorious in their contradictions, their hook-ridden music belying the myriad emotions expressed in their lyrics. Named for the classic casino slot machines, The Fruit Machines (Nick Pope, Annie Cespedes, Eric Dauzat, Adam Harlow) have crafted a sound that is unique amongst the bands in the current New Orleans scene. Citing influences as disparate as Jonathan Richman, Hüsker Dü, and The Breeders, their witty, acerbic, and sometimes serious lyrics are accompanied by contagious beats and dreamy pop sensibilities. Goodbye, Lost City, their latest release on local label Strange Daisy and their first album in over four years, is a showcase of the band at their finest. Opening track “By The Hand” marries slacker rock guitars and synths, the contrasting sounds amplifying the song’s musings on relationships (“Drop me a line / so I can find my way to you”). “Smoke and Bones” is reminiscent of ‘90s Brit rock, while “Religion” is the type of synth and drum-driven love song that makes you want to work your feelings out on the dance floor (“Don’t get me wrong… / I’m not falling, I’m not falling, I’m not falling in love / Ever again”). Goodbye, Lost City is a welcome return—a reminder that, even when things seem bleak, we still have the option to dance. —Mary Beth Campbell


California powerpop band Joyce Manor returns to form with their sixth studio album, 40 oz. to Fresno. Unfortunately, the album trips up on itself a few times. Like the rest of Joyce Manor’s discography, 40 oz… is short, clocking in at just under 17 minutes, which usually works to the band’s advantage. Duds go by quickly but leave little room for anything but gas. The lead single for the LP, “Gotta Let It Go” is the most lethargic track, full of meandering guitar and subdued vocals, and it wrecks the flow. The opening and closing tracks “Souvenir” and “Secret Sisters” also lack the umph and earnest lyricism that make the rest of the album so potent. For example, the hooks on songs like “NBTSA” get right in your face with soaring but dynamic chord progressions and the earworm chorus, “I may never be the same again.” Since the band’s debut nearly a decade ago, Joyce Manor has written lyrics with honest, gripping imagery. Like “You’re Not Famous Anymore,” which aims at celebrity culture with lyrics, “A tiny TV-set inside a limousine / If life’s a gift you get, then get a gift receipt,” over scuzzy, chopping guitars. It’s an album made for the cult following they possess but for the uninitiated it captures the full scope of the band’s strengths and weaknesses. —Dalton Spangler


Despite being darlings of the current UK post-punk renaissance, Porridge Radio jokingly claim that they would rather be compared to nu-metal or emo. Indeed, as expressed through their lyrics, their emotions are on their proverbial sleeves (“Back to the Radio”: “And I miss what we were but you’ve closed yourself off to me / We sit here together, the same as we’ve always been / Laughing and talking but I want to cry to you”). Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky, their latest release, explores frustrations, heartbreak, and fears. The band’s instrumentation has expanded, with indie rock guitars and drums now accompanied by horns, synths, and megaphones. Frontperson Dana Margolin’s vocals are the anchor to it all, quietly powerful and conveying complicated emotions while still maintaining a sense of intentionality and wit. Though it is still subdued, there is now an anthemic feel to their lo-fi sound, as though the songs were meant to be sung aloud at a pub. Their music is teen-pop for people in their 20s and 30s, music you would want to listen to whilst both pondering the absurdities of the world and processing a breakup—this is, of course, a compliment. —Mary Beth Campbell


How the hell does a band get banned from the Hi Tone during Gonerfest, the Memphis festival world-renowned for its debauchery and out-there rock aesthetics? Banned! From The Hi Tone captures 18 minutes of high octane scumbag rock’n’roll bursting with pure fuck you energy. On a revved up version of “Ugly,” Schizos’ mastermind Dale Schizo screams: “U-G-L-Y / U-G-L-Y / Baby, I’m ugly!” with a sick sense of pride. This set features Schizo backed by an explosive combination of New Orleans rockers from Trampoline Team, BottomFeeders, and even Mr. Buck Biloxi himself. This configuration transforms Schizos’ material from sometimes muted home recordings into dangerous chainsaw rock’n’roll on cuts like “Driller.” “Does anybody else like speed?” shouts Schizo after taking a quick intermission following a rowdy cover of “Born To Be Wild.” Listening to this tape, I’m reminded of a quote that Lemmy Kilmister said early in Motörhead’s career. Kilmister described his then-new band as “very basic music—loud, fast, city, raucous, arrogant, paranoid, speed-freak rock’n’roll. It will be so loud that if we move in next door to you, your lawn will die.” If only for this one night, Schizos are certified lawn killers. —William Archambeault


Part of what makes the current independent music scene in New Orleans so special is that it is run by local, DIY labels and the artists themselves, such as label and design studio Strange Daisy. Founded in 2017, Strange Daisy has become an integral part of New Orleans music in a relatively short period of time. Indeed, from ‘90s-influenced rock to electronic-based dance, Strange Daisy has helped provide a unique and nurturing space for multiple genres to grow and thrive in the city. Strange Sounds: Volume 2 is the label’s second compilation, celebrating their first five years and all that is yet to come. The compilation—out on double LP, with proceeds going to support local charities—features tracks from 20 Strange Daisy artists and friends. It is an eclectic mix, showcasing the city’s diverse and vibrant array of talent. The album opens with the guitar rocker “Shreveport” by Kelly Duplex and closes with Silver Godling’s hauntingly beautiful, piano-driven “A Whirl To The Mirror.” In between, songs from People Museum, The Fruit Machines, Friendkerrek, and more take the listener on a journey through this multifaceted scene. —Mary Beth Campbell


“A Summer’s Prayer” is a collective exhibition of photographs that catalogs summer in the American South. The show includes images from throughout the history of photography, from earlier work by William Christenberry to contemporaries like Ron Jude. Leisure, travel, memory, and place are all prevalent themes. Symbols of summer such as beaches, camps, nature, and bits of Americana can be seen throughout the show. Glaring sunlight fills the frames, lighting the Southern topography with an invisible, stifling heat. Saturated colors imbue the photographs with a sense of richness and slow time. Summer is for slowing down and noticing what we don’t in other seasons. However, the exhibition feels a bit too conservative in its curation and does not enlighten the viewer with anything much deeper than some nice pictures to look at for a few minutes. If summer is a diversion or respite from society’s rat race, then “A Summer’s Prayer” exists as a simple microcosm of that. (On view through September 18.)Andy Pham

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