As you remove the insert to the new Booker T. Jones album The Road From Memphis, you also unfold a little history to the inspiration behind this new album. A true icon of American soul music, Booker T. recounts not only how the physical passages on Highway 51 from Memphis helped shape his career but how he witnessed the music itself travel to and fro. The rock and roll hall of famer enlists an all-star cast of musicians to help recreate this musical journey on The Road From Memphis.
For the good part of the last year lots of questions surrounded the band Cults. Little information other than the music itself graced the bands website. Yet their three songs buzzed about online leaving many to scratch their heads - who is this? We come to find out that Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion were aspiring film students living in New York and they had a side of musical ambition. The two rode the internet wave of intrigue to a record deal with Columbia and one of the year's most appealing debut releases.
Perhaps no new band is enjoying 2011 as much as Foster The People. The indie-rockers from Los Angeles are now on the fast track after teasing listeners earlier this year with one of the most irresistible songs in recent memory. Their debut album, Torches, sets out to prove that it has plenty more to offer in addition to “Pumped Up Kicks” and may be the perfect addition to your summer soundtrack.
Bon Iver gained notoriety in 2008 with the release of his intimate solo debut For Emma, Forever Ago. The album was heralded as one of the year’s best independent releases. Peter Gabriel would go on to cover Bon Iver and Vernon even ventured into the world of hip-hop as a prominent guest on the latest release from Kanye West. All that would just add to the build-up of expectations for the second Bon Iver album. To say that the new album from Bon Iver singer-songwriter Justin Vernon is easily accessible … well … that wouldn’t be true. Yet despite a much bolder landscape, puzzling lyrics and a general propensity to demand more of its audience Bon Iver, Bon Iver is an inspiring effort.
When you think of music from New Orleans it’s not unusual to visualize big brass bands, Dixieland jazz, swampy blues or Cajun funk. But as we listen to In Light the debut full length album from the band Givers it might surprise you that this young 5-piece band actually calls home to Lafayette, Louisiana. To attempt to categorize their sound is a challenge all to itself. One thing is for certain though, In Light is a bright and flavorful adventure.
When we first met the band Dawes early in 2010 it was almost like being reintroduced to an old friend. Their classic folk-rock sensibilities and contemporary storytelling made for a comfortable, inspiring discovery. North Hills, the title of their debut was a deliberate nod to their Laurel Canyon home and their sound indicative of the neighborhoods musical landscape, both past and present. Nothing Is Wrong, the band’s sophomore album, further embraces their geographic roots and reminds us how easy it is to get wrapped up their lush harmonies and wistful stories.
It’s not characteristic (or suggested) to celebrate a win before you even play the game. But for My Morning Jacket, we’ll make an exception. On their new full-length album and first since 2008’s Evil Urges, MMJ open the curtains with a song called “Victory Dance.” While it may seem bold, the ominous opener turns out to be a good litmus test for this new collection as Jim James and his counterparts reconnect us to their shape-shifting brand of rock and roll.
Lots of musicians attempt to recapture sounds of classic soul, few actually own it. For Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin’, his fourth studio album is another indicator of how much a true descendent of classic soul and R&B he is. He tips his cap to the greats like Sly Stone and Stevie but all the while walks his own walk. The Grammy nominated Saadiq again delivers an awe-inspiring collection of throwback style jams on Stone Rollin’.
Seattle’s Fleet Foxes surprised even themselves with the success of their debut album. Fleet Foxes (the album) was an extraordinary introduction to the band’s harmonic bliss and rural sonic landscapes. For indie rock audiences, the band ushered in unprecedented warmth with their music and an approach that was honest and rather unassuming. Yet faced with the reality of their follow-up record, the band found itself in the precarious situation of dealing with grand expectations. The process of making what would become Helplessness Blues was well-documented as the band dealt with the demons of uncertainty and frustration.
For twenty years the band Elbow has been making music together. In 2008, they received arguably their most noteworthy accolade winning the UK’s Mercury Prize (their 2nd time nominated) for The Seldom Scene Kid. That album spawned some mild attention in the States for the song “Grounds for Divorce.” Yet despite their longevity and critical praise the band is seemingly still making lots of first impressions upon each release. Their latest, Build A Rocket Boys! stands perfectly in line with their previous works as a grandiose, deliberate and emotionally stirring effort.
John Paul White and Joy Williams hail from very different parts of the country (Alabama and California, respectively), and have both have been free spirits when it comes to their solo music careers....more....
Bloodless Coup is the fifth album from the Irish band Bell X1. And similar to their previous works, listening to these songs only makes one wonder what the larger scale American audience is missing. If you don’t know the story, the trio who tour the U.S. in humble fashion from club to club, like most other indie rock bands, are of superstar status in their native Ireland. And while this scenario isn’t unheard of, we see that type of discrepancy in popularity with Canadian artists frequently, Bell X1 offer up a blend of emotive songwriting and tempting melodies that our audiences should no doubt fall in love with.
It didn’t take long for the Seattle band The Head And The Heart to find an audience for their brand of indie folk and pop. In fact, within a year of coming together at a local open mic night the six piece band had released their self-titled debut album and become a standout of a hearty Seattle music scene. Following in the steps of fellow indie-folksters like Fleet Foxes, The Head And The Heart signed to the local Sub Pop label who have re-released the group’s introduction this year.
A decade into their career and with their fourth studio album now complete, it’s a good time to take a moment to reflect upon the impact of TV on the Radio. While some bands follow a road map to success, others make their own. The always experimental Brooklyn outfit, TV on the Radio, prove that the latter is not only more impressive but also a more enjoyable trip. Their latest collection Nine Types of Light is an uncanny blend of styles that will surely move your feet, right after you pick your jaw up from the floor.
Expectations aren't always easy to understand. Sure they're subjective, we all have our own. And after a while, you start wondering if you're setting the bar too high for certain things. When an artist like Paul Simon goes into the studio, what should we expect? Not every album is going to satisfy at the same level as say, Graceland right? Well, as we fast forward nearly 25 years again we realize why we hold this songwriter in such high regard. So Beautiful or So What is a stunning album, in the true sense of an album, and easily settles in as one of the year's best thus far.
On their new album Gimme Some, the Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John waste little time reassuming their role as great pop songwriters. From top to bottom their new collection is near flawless in its ability to capitalize on pop sensibilities. From infectious hooks to energized drums and catchy guitar riffs, Gimme Some feels effortless in its power pop ambition and on the whole, simply stated a lot of fun.
Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills are no longer the darlings of the alt-rock world that they once were. It’s been 30 years since R.E.M formed, and the band has just released their 15th studio album, Collapse Into Now. For any band that’s been making music as long as R.E.M., and with a back catalogue of such might, it’s easy to compare and dismiss. And while a new album would be enough to generate praise, on Collapse Into Now, the band aspires for more.
Blessed from Lucinda Williams is the songwriter's 10th studio album and emotionally one of her heaviest works. The twelve song collection is certainly reflective, delving into some recent troubling times including both the passing of her former manager and also fellow songwriter Vic Chesnutt. While the songs of Blessed deal with some weighty issues and the musical tone is far from rollicking, Blessed is more a look at a songwriter coming to terms with these events not necessarily drowning in them.
Just about a year ago, word of the indie-rock collaboration that would evolve into the band Middle Brother began to make some noise – literally. After a performance at last year’s SXSW festival, we learned that Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) and John McCauley (Deer Tick) had more in store for us beyond their one-off jam session. The three band leaders had actually been writing material for what would soon become the band’s debut album Middle Brother. Carving out some time this winter/spring, the three will release their first album and hit the road for the first time as Middle Brother.
The new Live at the World Cafe Vol 31 CD is hot off the press and available as a thank you gift to XPN members. Here's the track list. One of the best yet! Make your pledge now, and pick it up as an XPN thank you gift!
On her debut album, the title, 19, served as a reminder that such an extraordinary voice was beholden to a young lady a year shy of her twentieth birthday. Now just a couple years removed from her Grammy award winning introduction, Adele returns with 21 an equally captivating effort that only re-enforces the disparity between her actual youth and her incredible vocal prowess.
Too much is often made of an artist’s jump from an indie to a major label. For fear of tainted artistic vision or imposed guidelines, ‘purists’ hold their collective breath in the weeks (or months) leading up to an albums release. But to be fair, there is a recent track record of success when you think of artists like The Decemberists or Death Cab for Cutie who have arguably made some of the best albums of their careers since making such a move. And with that, Iron and Wine is the latest indie darling to successfully make the transition to a major label with his most confident and expansive album to date, Kiss Each Other Clean.
If Hollywood were writing the script there’d likely be a long, perilous journey before a new-comer band could hit any type of stride to success. Luckily for Fitz and the Tantrums, WXPN's February Artist To Watch, they’re writing their own story and in just over a year what started as a solo endeavor has turned into a ‘can’t miss’ stage show with a debut album to match. Pickin’ Up the Pieces, the band’s debut full-length, is an instant party-starter that not only echoes sounds of Motown soul but also fosters an indie-rock sensibility to top it off.
For his fourth album, Mission Bell, Philadelphia native Amos Lee was drawn to Tucson, Arizona to work with producer/musician Joey Burns of the band Calexico. The acclaimed songwriter not only takes a subtle step in a new direction, but takes a commanding step forward in his artistry. The heart and soul of Mission Bell is uniquely Lee, yet texturally the presence of Burns, his Calexico bandmates and an all-star cast of guests pays instant dividends.
Coming off their expansive rock-opera, The Hazards of Love, the Portland-based band The Decemberists return to form on their new album The King Is Dead From the opening Springsteen-esque harmonica riff of the album leadoff “Don’t Carry It All,” it’s apparent that there’s different tone and atmosphere set for this collection.