It often goes without saying, but discovering young bands and new music can be thrilling. It could be youthful exuberance or sheer talent, but that potential of what could emerge is a captivating emotion. Not surprising, what often takes a little time to develop or carve out is a sense of identity. Some bands hone in on it quicker than others, while some never truly find it. That’s what makes Days, the second album from the band Real Estate so compelling. The trio from New Jersey knows exactly what type of band they are and executes it in a beautifully cohesive collection of songs.
As we draw the curtains on 2011 we’d be regretful if not to showcase one of the more exciting bands to emerge from the local music community here in Philadelphia. This year was an important and prolific one for the dreamy Philly band Work Drugs. Every few weeks it seemed a new song would surface online, and often accompanied by artful music video. What rolled out as a series of singles would ultimately culminate by year’s end as the bands proper first release, Aurora Lies.
This week we have a holiday treat from the ‘girl next door.’ As we know, Zooey Deschanel has found success in featured films and more recently television. But her partnership with M. Ward as the musical outfit She & Him continues to be a passion. In time for the holidays, Matt & Zooey personalize a collection of seasonal favorites in the album A Very She & Him Christmas. They don’t stray too far from the familiar, handling classics like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Little Saint Nick” and “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” with their signature She & Him playfulness.
It wasn’t the fast lane to success for The Black Keys. In fact, the cover of their new album El Camino is a convenient reminder of that. The old, beat-up van featured on the front of the Akron duo’s latest collection is the actual vehicle that The Keys used as a touring van in their early days. From then until now The Black Keys have earned countless fans through rigorous touring and a strong body of work in the studio. In 2010 the duo had a substantial breakthrough with the album Brothers. It garnered The Keys a couple Grammy nominations and their highest charting single to date “Tighten Up,” which was produced by Brian Burton (aka DangerMouse). El Camino answers Brothers call for a little more punch and the doctor’s order for a good dose of rock n roll.
There’s a new sound in Chicago and it comes in the form of XPN Artist To Watch JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Taking their name from Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, this four piece band goes beyond your typical soul revivalists. Following in the footsteps of standouts like Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings or Austin’s Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Brooks and company cook up their own brand of soul stew. On their second album Want More you’ll hear a band that can produce some pure soul, add a dash of funk, rock with a punk-like attitude and even sweeten the mix with a little R&B.
If you haven’t met Mayer Hawthorne, allow us to introduce you. How Do You Do is the second album from the Michigan born soul man who has one foot fully planted in a nostalgic world of Motown and the other very much in the now. The new album is his first for a major-label. Hawthorne released his independent debut, A Strange Arrangement, back in 2009 to the delight of critics. What we learned then was that along with a playful nature came a sincere desire to recapture the heart of the music he drew inspiration from. On How Do You Do, Hawthorne continues to pay homage to the music he loves, but all the while lending his own style to the equation.
When we use the word ‘anthemic’ to talk about rock and roll, it’s a description that is usually saved for bands like U2, Coldplay and the likes. Yet as we’re about to draw the curtain on this year in music, we have a party-crasher that not only demands to be heard – but needs to be. There is nothing modest about Florence and the Machine. Her debut album of 2009 Lungs was an instant success, both in minds of critics and audiences. Record sales soared and award nominations (Grammys, etc.) followed. So how would she approach her sophomore release? Swing for the fences, naturally.
Like a train set to leave the station, invites listeners along for a ride as the opening notes of the chugging “Chicago” set in and the artist’s customary growl exclaims “all aboard!” to the songs fade. And a ride it is on, Waits new studio album and first in nearly seven years. From spooky to sweet, from growl to falsetto, it’s impossible to turn a corner on this new collection and not find the unexpected. Musically speaking, fans and critics will applaud Wait’s artistic expression and unconventional nature. But Bad as Me does find accessibility within these songs as Waits ponders current affairs and personal reflection.
On her third studio album, Chesapeake, singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata takes things into her own hands. In what’s become a more regular means of producing albums for independent musicians, Rachael went directly to her fans for help funding her new work. Supporters stood up and Rachael settled down at the Eastern Shore in Maryland to record her first album sans record company guidelines.
At just 21 years old Laura Marling has already found significant success at home in Britain. She’s emerged from a revivalist music scene in London rooted in traditional folk that has already spawned massive commercial appeal with bands like Mumford & Sons. For Laura, her first two albums were each nominated for the UK Mercury Music Prize and earlier this year she won Best Female Solo artist at the Brit Awards. Her third release A Creature I Don’t Know aims to cover new ground musically, plus serves as a proper introduction to new audiences here in the U.S.
After the release of their debut in 2009, critics had lots of nice things to say about the San Francisco band Girls. Here’s a band that came with a strong DIY attitude, wore their influences proudly and penned songs that surely connected with audiences. On Father, Son, Holy Ghost the band’s second full album, it’s hard not to echo those praises yet again. Frontman Christopher Owens and band have recorded an album that lives in the present, but brings with it a comfortable feel of the past.
He’s been one of the most prolific songwriters over the past decade; a musical shape-shifter whose ambition and fearless desire to create regardless the genre has made him one of the most admired songwriters in recent memory. For Ryan Adams making music was the only option. So when a near career-ending wrist injury forced him to not just slow down, but halt his music the future was unclear to say the least. The announcement of Ashes & Fire, Ryan’s new release, brought a new kind of excitement but the usual question of what to expect. No it’s not a metal record, nor is it a Cardinals collaboration or trip back to Rock N Roll. Simply stated, it’s Ryan Adams.
Two things immediately come to mind upon the arrival of Feist’s new album Metals. First, where has she been? It’s been roughly four years since her breakthrough album The Reminder was released. And second, how will she respond after the massive success of that album and more specifically her numerical anthem “1,2,3,4”? The first question is easier to answer. After years of touring, some time to decompress and step out of the spotlight seems only fair and appropriate. And as you dive into the new album Metals, the answer to the second question becomes clear.
A few weeks ago, someone posted a video online of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy playfully covering ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by The Black Eye Peas. For the audience, it was a nothing more than a funny break in the set and for those watching online, a respite during your 9 to 5. Yet in an odd way, it helped put the new album from Tweedy and his band mates, The Whole Love, in perspective. In 5 or 6 minutes that it took to perform, Tweedy not only entertained but made a pretty strong case for art over commerce. As popular culture advances with less stress on musicianship and artistry, we’re reminded and relieved on The Whole Love that the art of the album still exists.
With the release of their two acclaimed albums Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow The Green Grass in the early 90s The Jayhawks cemented themselves as essential listening for fans of alt-country and rock. After the release of Tomorrow The Green Grass in 1995 Mark Olsen decided to part ways leaving Gary Louris to head the band and fans to long for a reunion. While solo projects, reissues and retrospectives have been released to help ease the yearning of fans, it's safe to say that the arrival of Mockingbird Time will satisfy that itch. This album marks the return of The Jayhawks and the first time in nearly 16 years that the original line-up is back together.
It’s understandable why fans get a bit antsy whenever a band decides to spend some time apart. Too often it suggests that we try to read between the lines, whether there’s something to unfold or not. Contrary to some reports, in the case of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah the idea that the band was taking ‘a break’ was as literal as it sounds. Almost four years since their release Some Loud Thunder, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah reunites for the release of their third studio album Hysterical.
If by chance you were a fan of the New York rock band Elefant you may already be familiar with Diego Garcia. But what you’ll hear on Garcia’s first solo album is a stylistic change in direction; a welcomed one. We hear Garcia turn the page on his alternative rock leanings and also turn down the volume for a gracefully executed set of songs on Laura.
Two years ago at the XPoNential Music Festival, the band Fool’s Gold took to the stage in front of a curious, unsuspecting audience. As their track record would indicate, the Los Angeles collective impressed with their signature blend of world-beat rhythms and indie pop that stirred up a party-like atmosphere. Between then and now Fool’s Gold has continued to write a similar script each night on the road, touring consistently and honing their unique sound. The band’s second album Leave No Trace is a progressive studio statement highlighting the expansive blueprint of their sound.
It won’t take very long to realize that you’re listening to something special the first time you hear Gary Clark Jr. For over a decade, he has been almost a mythical figure in a vibrant music scene of Austin, TX. Now the 27-year old guitarist is finally set to stretch his talents outside of his hometown. His introduction is a 4 song EP, Bright Lights that gives a glimpse at his tremendous potential and not surprisingly leaves you wanting more.
For Ernest Greene it’s all about atmosphere. His artistry as a singer and songwriter takes a backseat for his ambition as a composer and a mood setter. Greene is the latest artist to emerge out of an increasing popular ‘chill-wave’ scene. As of just two years ago he was producing home-made music out of a bedroom in his parents’ house in Atlanta, GA. But those EP’s found an audience and Greene now finds himself as a hot commodity. Using the stage name Washed Out, Greene was courted and signed by Sub Pop records to release his full-length debut Within And Without.
It seemed destined that beyond their marriage to each other Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi would ultimately tie their music together as well. After years of touring and collaborating the immensely talented husband and wife team have officially joined forces under the banner of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Merging talents and band members have made for as you could imagine one powerful debut album in Revelator.
With a career that's endured over 40 years, Emmylou Harris continues to enchant us not only as a singer but also as a songwriter on her new album Hard Bargain. A career that’s seen countless collaboration’s, Emmylou has just written her 21st solo album in Hard Bargain with the emphasis on her as a storyteller. Long an artist that found comfort and success singing songs penned by others, the legendary country singer is at the forefront of all these songs connecting the listener to her life and her memories.