Way back in the Winter of 2002, XPN mid-day host Helen Leicht began playing an independent release from a Philly based singer-songwriter named Amos Lee. Soulful and organic, Lee was making ends meet working at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia and honing his craft by playing open-mic nights and writing songs. After recording an EP, his music reached Helen - who directs XPN’s Philly Local program – and she began playing songs like “Colors” and “Arms Of A Woman.”
Just 13 years old in 1992 when he recorded music in his bedroom in Bondi Beach, Australia as the band Noise Addict, much has been made about Ben Lee’s youthfulness. Noise Addict were a full-on Aussie teen sensation, adapted here in the States by hipsters like Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys. But now as a 26 year-old, Lee’s youthfulness has been informed by young adulthood and with it a more mature perspective as a singer-songwriter with something to say. Lee’s twenty-something experiences warmly inform these songs with stories and lyrics that transcend age appeal.
Between the scruffy sweetness of Luke Reynolds’ rough, expressive tenor and the orchestral richness of the band’s intricate arrangements, Burning in the Sun is an album that is easy to get lost in.
Live at the World Cafe Volume 19: New Beginning contains sixteen exclusive tracks recorded live at WXPN's World Cafe Performance Studio in Philadelphia. Tracks include Citizen Cope, Van Hunt, Adrienne Young, and an awesome rendition of Come To Jesus' by Mindy Smith.
Bright Eyes is the primary project of 24 year-old Connor Oberst, a singer-songwriter wunderkind from Omaha, Nebraska. Precocious beyond his youthfulness, Oberst’s two new releases follow 2002’s Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground. A truly brilliant, ambitious release that music critics tripped all over each other to use as the opportunity to pronounce Oberst as “Next Big Thing,” the release was marred only by its self-indulgence.
With 16 studio records to her credit since her debut in 1989, singer-songwriter Ani Difranco has come to define the essence of musical independence. With her prolific outpouring of self-produced albums, she has inspired countless of musicians and fans with her unique guitar playing, lyrical content and cottage-industry business model that many musicians have aspired to.
Elliott Smith’s posthumous album, From A Basement On The Hill, was close to completion when Smith met his untimely, sad death. A truly talented songwriter, Smith rose from obscurity to mainstream awareness in 1997 on the strength of the song “Miss Misery” from the Academy Award nominated soundtrack to Good Will Hunting. But even with that stellar surreal performance – Smith in a white suit singing to millions of television viewers alongside Celine Dion and Trisha Yearwood – he remained one of pop music’s more engaging, much loved and revered, yet little known singers and songwriters. Who can also forget his breathtaking cover of the Beatles’ “Because” at the end of the film American Beauty? It is a great moment in movie music history.
Hailing from Montreal, Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, Richard Perry, Tim Kingsbury and Win’s brother Will make up The Arcade Fire. With a strong underground indie-rock following, Funeral is possibly the most critically acclaimed album of 2004 that fell under the radar. It’s a debut record too good and original to be ignored.
With Careless Love, Peyroux is once again proving herself to be an original interpreter and an open receptor to songs from earlier eras—an artist who channels vintage jazz and blues with chilling accuracy. “I feel very lucky to be part of a tradition of songwriting that stands the test of time,” says Peyroux. “I also feel lucky to be able to go back and perform as much as I did before—I can’t wait.” Adds Peyroux, with characteristic modesty:
If you thought Southern rock faded away when Lynyrd Skynyrd and Charlie Daniels’ radio popularity waned, then the Truckers embody the spirit of hard, road-driven rock and roll. With four of the Truckers hailing from North Alabama and with musical roots tied to the classic Muscle Shoals recording studio, it was the Truckers’ now classic 2001 Southern Rock Opera about Lynyrd Skynyrd that brought them critical acclaim and a record contract.
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Marc Broussard's new album Carenco (pronounced Karen-Crow) is named after his hometown in Louisiana. At a young 22, he sounds wise beyond his age mixing up soul and R&B with heavy doses of good old fashioned rock 'n' roll. Growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, Broussard was exposed to music as a youngster as his dad was guitarist for the legendary South Louisiana swamp band The Boogie Kings. Marc debuted in 2002 with the album Momentary Setback, and on Carencro he continues to hone his incredible rocking soul stylings with his best songs and most soulful singing yet.
Tangos and cha-chas. Smoky, jazzy French love songs, film-noir orchestrations and Cuban dance music. Welcome to the post-lounge vibe of Pink Martini, the Portland, Oregon based collective orchestra. Vocalist and songwriter China Forbes and classically-trained pianist Thomas Lauderdale formed Pink Martini in 1994. Since then they’ve been winning over the hearts and minds of music lovers since their 1997 debut album, Sympathique.
Lonely Runs Both Ways is the first studio album in three years from Alison Krauss and Union Station: Krauss (fiddle and vocals), Dan Tyminski (guitar and vocals), Barry Bales (bass and vocals), Ron Block (banjo, guitar, and vocals), and Jerry Douglas (dobro).
Rapidly approaching their 30th anniversary as a band, and now almost 25 years since the release of their debut, Boy, I can think of few bands who have not only continued to impact popular culture and music but who continue to make great recorded music. Undeniably, U2 is one of those bands.
More Adventurous is the third album from the Los Angeles based Rilo Kiley, fronted by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Jenny Lewis. Sharing musical sensibilities and indie-rock affinity with bands like Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins, Decemberists – Rilo Kiley are next generation rock and roll who have released a must hear album for 2004.
The story behind Smile is fairly legendary by now - the masterpiece Beach Boys album that never was, is finally here. The Beach Boys' uncompleted 1967 album Smile has remained the Holy Grail of Brian Wilson’s long, incredible, tortured genius career in pop music. Thirty seven years since its intended release as the follow-up to their classic album Pet Sounds, Smileis very much the groundbreaking art-rock record it was rumored to have been. Described as those who have heard the original sessions, the ’67 Smile was the American Sgt. Pepper’s. But after Pet Sounds, the band – and Brian – had a breakdown that would take Wilson years to recover from.
On September 7 2003, the great singer-songwriter Warren Zevon passed away from a rare form of cancer. Originally given three months to live, Zevon went in to the studio a month after this diagnosis in August 2002 and began recording what became not only his last album, but one of his best, The Wind. For that album he called on some of his closest friends and collaborators throughout the years. Well documented by VH-1, the documentary also included footage from Warren’s appearance on the David Letterman Show in October 2002 in which the entire show was devoted to Zevon.
Singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur was discovered by Peter Gabriel in the mid-Nineties and released his debut album, Big City Secrets on Gabriel’s Real World label in 1997. Since then, Arthur has been a critic’s darling, a singer/songwriter of intense emotionality whose lyrical imagery is often dark and brooding. Occasionally, Arthur has been known to lighten up; particularly on the song “Honey And the Moon,” which became an XPN listener’ s favorite from his last album, Redemption’s Son.
Around The Sun is REM’s first album since their 2001 studio album Reveal. Throughout 13 songs – on their 13th studio album REM have produced a pensive, mid-tempo collection of songs that recalls the lushness of their best records from the Eighties like Reckoning, Fables, and Lifes Rich Pageant.
Named for the legendary Malibu, California recording studio where it was recorded, Shangri-La is a classic Mark Knopfler album. Including his great body of work with Dire Straits, Knopfler’s signature guitar sound, vocals and intelligent lyrics and songs have made him a favorite artist of XPN listeners and members.
Elvis Costello’s first album for the Lost Highway label is a roots-rock laden collection of songs inspired by the history and cultural import of the location where it was recorded – mostly in Oxford, Mississippi, but also in Clarksdale, Mississippi and Nashville. Costello - working with his band Steve Nieve on keyboards, bassist Davey Farragher and drummer Pete Thomas – touches down on gospel and soul, sweet ballads and rollicking rock.
In early 2002 WXPN listeners and members got their first taste of the sounds and music of Citizen Cope on his self-titled debut record on the Dreamworks label. Fusing soulful, down-home grooves with pop sensibilities, Cope’s record quickly found a home on 88.5 and developed a nice following in our listening areas. Cope’s debut was smart, intelligent, high quality music for an integrated world. Not afraid to take on weighty, social, cultural and political issues in his lyrics, he’s both a realist and an optimist. Songs like “If There’s Love,” “Let The Drummer Kick It,” “Mistaken Identity,” and “Contact” quickly became staples on the radio dial at XPN, as did Cope’s collaboration with Santana on the song “Sideways” from Santana’s Shaman album.
One of XPN’s Artists To Watch for 2004, singer-songwriter, Ray Lamontagne explains how Stephen Stills saved his life. One of six children raised by a single mom who worked hard to make ends meet, Lamontagne – who barely made it out of high school left his family for Lewiston, Maine. Bored, going nowhere in his life and doing some serious soul searching Ray was in Lewiston working long hard hours in a shoe factory when he experienced a musical epiphany.
In 1963, renowned chemists Bear Owsley and Nick Sands developed a strain of designer LSD which had a reputation for inducing tribal hallucinations. This strain of acid was called “west indian girl,” hence the name for which the Los Angeles duo of Robert James and Francis Ten have chosen to call their musical collaboration.