Overlooked 2019 Releases: Jeff Tweedy, J.D. Simo, Susto, Chris King & the Gutterballs, Adam Sandler, Fellow Robot

Hot off the presses: new music!  Better said, new music that is worth your time.

These albums were released over the last several months and somehow snuck by me.  I’ll keep these short and sweet, but each of them have my seal of approval.



Jeff Tweedy – WARMER – 11 tracks / 34 minutes

Picking up right where 2018’s WARM left off (fitting, since these tracks were recorded in the same sessions), WARMER finds Jeff in a sublimely melancholy mood.  This music is brooding, downtempo, introspective, and well, classic Jeff.

“Orphan” discusses watching the slow passing of his father over acoustic guitar strums and occasional steel notes (a sonic theme here), while “Family Ghost” finds Jeff “content for the sake of argument… I feel so American”.  Musically, this is my favorite track on the record- equal parts haunting and groovy.

“Sick Server” tells of leaving home and trying to make it on your own, and I love this line: “when I left my home, I moved down the street; I never went back there, unless I needed to eat… now I never go back there, except in my dreams”.  That is some powerful and smart songwriting, right there.

Key Tracks: “Family Ghost”, “Orphan”, “Sick Server”

Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/66Kxsjrjrq6SzGnsz4RnRM?si=lLsXVawsQdSJxpohZxAavw



J.D. Simo – Off at 11 – 8 tracks / 52 minutes

Blues, roots rock, and more blues. I was not familiar with this Nashville via Chicago musician until I heard this album a couple months ago and fell in love with it.  If you are a fan of gritty vocals, crunchy guitar playing in a loose, and noodling style, you should give J.D. a listen.  At times he harkens back to the blues of your grandfather, and at times he shreds a la Hendrix, but throughout he brings passion and soul here.

The title track is one of the shorter on the record, and thrives from start to finish, while “Sweet Little Angel” takes its time and calls back the blues legends that I adore.

Key Tracks: “Sweet Little Angel”, “Off at 11”, “Mind Trouble”

Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/3pqW3yjKq7QoROROWln7mN?si=iyaOinL_Sk-Zt34jyiTX_Q



Susto – Ever Since I Lost My Mind – 12 tracks / 41 minutes

Whether over heavy production (“Homeboy”) or sparse electric guitar notes and drums (“If I Was”), Justin Osborne is always entertaining on this album.  “Cocaine” paints a vivid picture and places you right in the passenger seat of a car en route to a score, while “No Way Out” is an incredibly satisfying slow build that rises to the top of a surprisingly strong set of compositions.

The man from South Carolina can write some damn fine lyrics and the music – part rock, part folk, with a real soul vibe – is enough to carry the songs on its own.  One of my 2019 favorites thus far, this record was out months before I knew of it – or his Boise appearance this spring.  Dangit!

Key Tracks: “No Way Out”, “If I Was”, “Cocaine”

Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/07Lss95oyQ0H0UP5i87G0A?si=XvuH_R70Qna8i0alICu3fQ


kings pain

Chris King & the Gutterballs – Painwaves – 12 tracks / 52 minutes

These musicians from Seattle bring more smart yet carefree-sounding music that finds influence in blues, punk, and captivating storytelling.  “Heaven’s Gate” is one of the best songs I have heard this year, and when you hear Chris earnestly sing that “I’m gonna need someone to help me, I’m gonna need someone to help me, help me hop over Heaven’s gate” over the jumpy snares and tasty guitar riff, I think you’ll agree.

“Time Takes All” has just the right tempo and swagger, “Perfect Naked Lovely Day” is the ultimate ballad to the days of yesterday that were taken for granted (and has the always welcome pedal steel), and “Drops in the Pond” finishes things up with a thoughtful contemplation of our significance in the grand, massive scheme of things.  Their first two records were interesting, no doubt – but this is another level for the band.

Key Tracks: “Heaven’s Gate”, “Perfect Naked Lovely Day”, “Goin’ On My Own”

Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5S9ajZaasopMfoFgmNMNTe?si=Wm0iDmo6QKidydHZGh23aw



Adam Sandler – 100% Fresh – 55 tracks / 70 minutes

Yes, this is a standup record, but there are (of course) a few songs also.  If you thought The Sandman had fallen off, or was history- think again.  The Netflix special is truly fantastic, with a very cool editing and cinematography and his best material in decades, but the audio record is also worthwhile.

Bits include Adam lamenting never learning how to perform a backflip, although he always really wanted to be able to show that skill off to strangers (“Flip”), comparing parenting in the 21st century (complete with support, trophies, and in-school visits) with his father, who only came to his school once – to yell at him about a rake.  The latter bit, “Rake”, is genuine LMFAO goodness.

Per usual with Mr. Sandler, the songs are the real treats of the performance, with three that stand out from the rest.  “Uber Driver” is a fucking hilarious take on a smelly ride-sharer, with a few verses of how bad his driver reeks (with show-stealing backing vocals from his piano player).  Here is a taste: “he got that free water, in case you want a drink, drink; you know what else he got, he got that stink, stink”.  The song comes with a fantastic surprise twist at the end.  “Phone Wallet Keys” finds him listing the three necessities of the modern man… but they keep piling up.

The true highlight of the set is “Farley”, the showstopping emotional beauty that is the seven-minute ode to the late great Chris Farley.  Honestly, I didn’t know Adam had this in him – this song will make you chuckle at times but overall makes you appreciate the bond between two special friends and allow you a peek into the mind of a pillar of comedy who fell too soon.  Yes, it will come close to making you cry, and is a must-listen.

Key Tracks: “Farley”, “Phone Wallet Keys”, “Uber Driver”

Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5atuJuAl9IUAv9vPkd7X81?si=Y6zZkpOaSRmYc6HzqOO52Q


fellow robot

Fellow Robot – The Robot’s Guide to Music, Vol. 2 – 11 tracks / 40 minutes

This concept album was brought to my attention earlier this year, and I’m glad it was.  The vocals here shift and change throughout, with Anthony Pedroza sounding eerily like Todd Mohr on “Walk Away” and channeling John Paul White’s desperate pleas elsewhere.  There are several solid tracks here, and this Volume 2 is far better than its predecessor.

The highlight for me is the emotional and heartbreaking “Forgot to Pray”, which discusses mass shootings (particularly those that take place in schools) in such a visceral and sharp way that it grabs hold of you.  When the band takes blatant shots at Congress and the N.R.A., it doesn’t come across as stale or cliché, but rather as a reminder that regardless of where you stand politically, we should certainly be doing more than standing by and offering thoughts and prayers.

Key Tracks: “Forgot to Pray”, “Walk Away”, “The World’s Not Me”

Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5fLcWkqdDf25lCtZTvVGwo?si=ixCgbY1wRoqwxw9KAJXaAg