There's that cliché about putting the "bounce back in your step. Well, after recruiting the Austin-based rock band Relentless7 to join forces, Ben Harper not only put the "bounce back in his step," but he refueled with a group of musicians that take his highly emotional songs to an explosive level.
With thirty-three studio albums now to his credit, Bob Dylan continues to offer songs with the richness and depth to which we've all been accustomed. His latest album, Together Through Life is a 10 song collection, a majority of which were co-written with Robert Hunter and self-produced by Dylan, under his alter-ego Jack Frost.
With her timeless voice, Melody Gardot offers an enchanting collection of jazzy originals with the release of her new album My One And Only Thrill. The Philadelphia native flourishes both as a singer and songwriter, upholding an assuredness that matches the elegance for which the album aspires.
Peter Bjorn & John whistled their way into our ears just a couple years ago with their unavoidable single "Young Folks." And while their album Writer's Block was actually the trio's third album, all the symptoms of the dreaded "one-hit wonder" were beginning to loom. Well, fast forward to the present, and the release of Living Thing which sets out to prove that Peter Bjorn & John do in fact have a few more infectious offerings for us.
On their sixth studio album, Gomez offers fans a more experimental, less pop-infused effort. A New Tide feels somewhat like a return to form. The five members once again took the unique method of writing separately and exchanging portions of songs electronically. And despite the physical distance apart, the results are cohesive.
Removed from the pressures or constraints that may come with being signed to a major label, the Indigo Girls have seemingly returned to form on their independent release Poseidon And The Bitter Bug. The double-disc effort actually spotlights the duo in both a full band setting as well as an intimate, acoustic arrangement performing essentially the same set of songs.
It's easy to be captivated by Middle Cyclone, the new album from Neko Case. Those enchanting vocals have returned, striking a familiar balance between her alt-country tendencies and indie-pop sensibilities. And while Case's viability as a solo artist skyrocketed after the release of Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, it's fair to say that on Middle Cyclone the spotlight shines just as bright.
On the title track to her new album Madeleine Peyroux leaves us with these parting words "...the truth itself, nothing but a gamble / it might or might not set you free / but in these bare bones there's something lovely after all..." While interpretation will vary, one thing is for sure, and that's that Peyroux did indeed take a gamble on Bare Bones, attempting something she's never done before.
To fully understand and appreciate Bell X1 is to know a little bit of the history of band. The Irish indie rock band formed in the 90's under the name Juniper and was led by singer-songwriter Damien Rice. Upon Rice's departure, drummer Paul Noonan stepped up to the microphone, replacing Rice, and ultimately launching the band we know now as Bell X1.
It's sometimes difficult to critique a band as accomplished and as influential as U2. And it must be equally as challenging to be a band of that stature and continue to create music as stimulating as your earliest works. On their 12th studio album, No Line On The Horizon, U2 has yet again crafted an album that is expansive, and at the same time attentive to that familiar U2 spirit.
For Shemekia Copeland, her new album Never Going Back reveals a new attitude, a new sound and an overall evolution for the young blues woman. Lots of things have changed since last we heard from Copeland. For the first time in her career Shemekia is releasing an album on a label other than Alligator Records; Never Going Back is her debut for the Telarc label. And her choice of producer for the new album, Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers, was another step outside the traditional blues world.
Widely known as one half of the rock duo The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach steps out on his own with the release of his first solo record, Keep It Hid. While The Keys' music has always been steeped in the blues, Auerbach's appreciation runs deep on Keep It Hid. Not only do we hear what the blues may sound like for a new generation, but Auerbach stretches into some territory that The Keys have yet to.
While his name seems to come up quite a bit when you reference modern independent music, it's been a couple years since we've got to enjoy an M. Ward solo record. More recently Ward has spent time recording and touring as the duo of She & Him. Hence, many are eager to get their ears on Hold Time, Ward's new solo album, which satisfies beyond expectations.
We often hear musicians talk about artistic integrity, yet few are as truthful or match the level of their ambitions as well as Andrew Bird. His songwriting, which at times will leave you reaching for your thesaurus, is as skillful as his string playing or his trademark whistling. The classically trained violin player has produced another record destined for critical praise in Noble Beasts.
Before recording had even completed on Bruce Springsteen's album Magic, producer Brendan O'Brien convinced Bruce to continue writing. So while on the road in support of Magic, Bruce & the E Street Band spent their downtime in the studio working on the songs that would ultimately become their latest release Working On A Dream.
For years now there have been a number of somewhat underground scenes of experimental music whose sonic limitations are as undefined as the venues in which they perform. It was difficult to imagine this music reaching beyond the walls of the high school gymnasiums packed with devoted disciples of the abstract, but perhaps that exemplifies the brilliance of the new album from Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Without question Derek Trucks is in the elite ranks of guitarists. But similar to when you hear someone talk about "capturing a bands live energy in the studio", Trucks had yet to release a record that both harnessed his skill and at the same time felt accessible to an audience larger than his loyal fan base. Well, with Already Free, the new album from The Derek Trucks Band, that balance is achieved and Trucks' stardom shines pretty bright.
We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed is the second album from Los Campesinos!, the seven-piece band in which all members share the same last name. The sophomore album comes less than a year after the release of the band's debut. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed showcases the band's youthful excitement, which at times borders on ultra-hyper and is playfully matched with whimsical songwriting.
The full experience of Rodrigo y Gabriela is hardly realized until you witness the duo in a live setting. Well, you can do so now without leaving your living room with the release of Rodrigo y Gabriela Live in Japan. It marks the duo's first ever performance in Japan, recorded this past March, and takes advantage of the captivating energy and mind-blowing musicianship they bring to the stage.
The popular and innovative Verve//Remixed series adds another compilation to its credit this holiday season. The eighth release in their series, Verve//Remixed Christmas is witness to classic holiday songs from legendary acts like Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday remixed by contemporary DJ's and producers.
Well, if you hadn't noticed new wave is back and The Killers just jumped to the front of the line with the release of their third album Day & Age. Frontman Brandon Flowers and company have produced a shimmering, dance inspired record full of disco-ball anthems.
As was true with their first album nearly 15 years ago, The Fireman does their best to downplay their Fab Four roots. Electric Arguments is the third album from the duo of UK producer Youth and Sir Paul McCartney. And while for McCartney the collaboration serves as more of an artistic excursion, this time around the transition is not quite as abrupt.
Just a few days before the release of his self-titled, debut solo album Neil Young performed two nights at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The highlights of those two evenings (November 9th & 10th) nearly 40 years ago are soon to be uncovered as the third release in the continuing Archives Performance Series. Interestingly, Sugar Mountain – Live At Canterbury House, 1968 will be labeled as the first volume (Volume 00) with volumes 2 & 3 already available.
Twenty years since her eponymous debut, Tracy Chapman continues her brand of confessional songwriting on Our Bright Future, her 8th studio album. Quite frankly, the timing couldn't be much better. It's not easy to find an artist that expands upon one's reflection of the world as effectively or with as much ease as Chapman.