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Tune in to the XPN Morning Show each Monday to hear Host Michaela Majoun with Assistant Music Director Mike Vasilikos review XPN's Featured Album of the Week. This week's album is....

It’s reasonable to ask whether or not Passion Pit was ready for the level of exposure that followed the release of their Chunk of Change EP in 2008, and their subsequent debut Manners. For frontman Michael Angelakos, a musical project that started as a Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend evolved rather quickly into a full-time band with significant impact. Passion Pit’s animated brand of electronic, dance-pop thrilled audiences and even found a warm embrace across the media landscape from bloggers and radio to TV and film. So with high expectations and anticipation surrounding their new album, can Passion Pit continue to live up to the hype? Gossamer, their sophomore effort, answers that question with conviction.
Reunions don’t often go this well. It’s been twenty five years since The dB’s last released a new studio album. Actually, make that thirty if you’re talking about an album featuring all the original band members. Well, on Falling Off the Sky, Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby and Gene Holder reconnect and restore that classic power-pop sound that’s been missing since the 80s. It’s an album that takes a serious crack at picking up where they left off and stands comfortably alongside their admired work.
An enduring rock n roller since the mid-70s Alejandro Escovedo may not be a household name to many, but the continued reverence for his music is no surprise. Big Station, his latest album, is another prime example of artistic vision and the relentless pursuit of challenging one’s own musical aspirations. For Escovedo, at this point in his career, making the same album over and over is a trap that some of his contemporaries have fallen into, but for Alejandro it’s a path that he won’t concede to take. Big Station is the proof of that.
We should’ve seen this coming. For the past decade, The Walkmen have quietly released six studio albums, all of which have been relatively well-received, and have garnered fans at a steady pace. They’ve had some minor indie hits with songs like “The Rat” from 2004’s Bows + Arrows and “Angela Surf City” from their last studio effort Lisbon. But to the general public, they still flew under the radar amongst a growing wave of blog buzz bands. As The Walkmen celebrate their 10th anniversary as a band what’s clear now is that they’ve carved their own path. The past ten years has been a cultivation of a band and a sound that now seems fully realized on the new album Heaven.
Back in 1996, at just 19 years old, Fiona Apple stepped into musical stardom with her debut album Tidal. Only two albums fall between her debut and this latest collection The Idler Wheel. Where some artists would see their supporters fade during long gaps of silence, that’s not the case with Fiona Apple. The periods between albums (the latest of which was seven years) seem to have only strengthened what is already a pretty rabid fan base. And Apple matches that intensity and obsession with her approach to making music. One thing that certainly hasn’t changed over the course of her career is her willingness to bare all no matter how difficult or controversial it may be. The Idler Wheel… is her latest assertion of that.

There are some artists that just don’t act their age. And in the case of XPN Aritst To Watch Michael Kiwanuka, that's a good thing! The fact that this singer-songwriter is in his early 20’s will be the last thing to come to mind (if at all) when you make your way through his debut album Home Again. Kiwanuka is the latest in a wave of British soul and R&B singers to captivate audiences. And while connections to his peers like Adele exist, he paves his own path to our ears with the songs of Home Again.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals have come a long way from their blues-rock beginnings in Waitsfield, Vermont. For Grace, she's finally emerging as the superstar frontwoman that so many of us knew she had the potential to be. And on the latest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat she grabs hold of the spotlight and seems unwilling to let it go. We know what a commanding presence this band, and Grace in particular, can be on stage, yet until now capturing that on record has been a challenge. The Lion The Beast The Beat may be the step in the right direction.

Following her impressive debut in 2005, there were big names lined up to work with Seattle songwriter Brandi Carlile. On The Story Carlile enlisted Grammy winning producer T-Bone Burnett, and on Give Up the Ghost the band bunkered down in Los Angeles with famed studio wizard Rick Rubin. For her latest, Brandi decided to settle in a little closer to home. The album Bear Creek takes its name from the studio in which it was recorded just outside of Seattle. As usual, Carlile is flanked by “the twins” Tim and Phil Hanseroth. And along with producer Trina Shoemaker (Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris), Brandi and the band set out to make an album that captures the heart of their sound.

It’s interesting to think back to over twelve years ago when many of us first heard the music of John Mayer. Fresh-faced and innocent he would become yet another staple in the emergence of acoustic rock joining the likes of Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson. Unlike the aforementioned songwriters, Mayer grabbed as many headlines for his off-stage activities as he did for his music. Controversial interviews and high-profile arm candy may have acted as distractions for critics and fans. But on his fifth studio album Born and Raised, Mayer aims to strike those public perceptions and regain focus on his music. If you’re ready to listen, you’ll find that these songs are some of his best yet.

.Rarely, over the course of a year, is there a lack of music that we would categorize as ‘retro’ or ‘old school’. It’s easy to become enchanted by the familiar sounds of years gone by that are injected with a breath of youthful charisma. But there is that dilemma of separating the purely redundant with a talent that acknowledges his or her influences and is forward-thinking enough to still engage; cue Nick Waterhouse. A young soulful hipster from San Francisco, he surely takes a page out of the book that preceded him, but fits quite nicely into the current musical landscape as well.

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