>> Wise, fiery, and dare we say dope is a new video from Essence released this week. Titled “The Worst,” it finds her spitting three verses of strident and self-reflective lyrics, touching on the tumult of the local hip hop scene, the ethics of love, and some honest-as-shit assessments on human fear. Some of the most poetically rewarding stuff we’ve heard her do, with notes that echo in the visual feast of the video, where the rapper represents her words out in the cold, frosty Maine snowfields. Visit essence1.bandcamp.com to hear the powerful, admirably conscious album An Unseasonable Spring, released last October, or the lady’s Facebook page to see the Vimeo.
>> Grass act the Toughcats muscled out the material for a new album last month, their fourth, and are set to release it this summer. Celebrating their 10th anniversary as a band, they embark on a month-long tour this week which takes them to Missouri’s excellent True/False Film Festival, returning on March 20th to play Empire. As always, more info on this homegrown, highly personable folk-revival trio at toughcats.com.
>> Getting to be something of a Maine pop music institution, the ninth installment of Greetings from Area Code 207 is out this month, released on Charlie Gaylord’s Cornmeal Records and widely available in every Bull Moose in the area. The GFAC comps make nice, listenable little primers to the state’s vast music scene, pulling together some of its most hardworking musicians who make radio-friendly pop music. Vol. 9 is a two-disc affair mastered at the Grammy-Award winning Gateway Mastering, and features unreleased recordings by the likes of the Rustic Overtones, Sara Cox, Slaid Cleaves, the Milkman’s Union, a collaboration between Spencer and Dark Hollow Bottling Company, and many more. As is the case with the first eight volumes, Cornmeal donates 100 percent of proceeds from compilation sales to the St. Lawrence Arts Center, a cultural pillar of Portland’s East End.
>> A new album by garage-punk trio Great Western Plain recently oozed out onto the scene, just in time for the trio to head to New York for a spot on the indie-rock web series Serious Business. With several songs pushing past the six-minute mark, Elastic Smile looks to be a prominent departure from earlier stuff. Look for it at greatwesternplain.bandcamp.com; and expect a review in these pages soon.