.Best known as the front woman of the indie rock outfit Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has once again strapped on her country-soul boots for her second solo record, Acid Tongue. An all-star cast of musicians accompany Lewis including M. Ward, Elvis Costello, Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes and Johnathan Rice - to name only a few.
For someone that has released at least one album per year since 2000, it would have been quite odd not to dig into a new Ryan Adams record before December's end. Rest assured... Cardinology from Ryan Adams & the Cardinals is here. And oddly, for an artist that spends most of his time writing, Adams has been touring quite a bit this year. In fact, for most fans the first opportunity to hear much of this new material was likely in the live setting.
On his third album, Gossip in the Grain, Ray LaMontagne breaks out of his own mold a bit, relying less on lamenting love loss and seemingly is more centered on expanding into more hopeful musical territories . The album's opening track is evidence. "You Are the Best Thing" is perhaps, up to this point, the most optimistic we've ever heard Ray.
Chrissie Hynde sure hasn't changed a whole lot since we first got a glimpse of her staring through stringy black hair, appearing urbanely street-smart in her red leather jacket from the cover of the Pretenders album in 1980. As Break Up The Concrete shows, she still has the wit, emotion, and backbone to write rock songs that seem to easily cut through the clutter. Armed with that talent – and with her remarkable, almost one-of-a-kind voice – the new album is an easy thumbs-up, much more of it's time than the last album (2002's Loose Screw) was.
Brooklyn's finest, TV On The Radio, have just dropped an album on us – Dear Science – that has to go down as one of the most honest, challenging and engaging things we’ve heard all year. If I hadn't read the lyric sheet I'd say it was downright revolutionary, but the bands' concerns are personal ones, albeit personal in a context of an all-too troubling present and future. It's strong from start to finish, and TVOTR has really upped the ante for their major label debut.
For their new album – Tennessee Pusher – Old Crow Medicine Show enlisted the production skills of Don Was (Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Al Green, Black Crowes, tons more). Strangely, and perhaps owing to Was' skill as a facilitator, I really cannot tell any sonic difference between this album and the ones in their recent past. Pusher is another strong, understated, dusty, rollicking ride through the old-timey string band traditions, with a modern outlook and a decidedly harrowing set of stories.
Rachael Yamagata has hardly been idle since her acclaimed 2004 full-length debut, Happenstance, and its Adult Top 40 hit 'Worn Me Down.' So for her Warner Bros. premiere, the singer-songwriter-pianist with the sultry voice unveils a double disc set: Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart.
For her seventh studio album, Joan Osborne has retained songwriters/producers Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman (of Philly's beloved Hooters fame) and Rick Chertoff, all three of whom were prominent influences on Osborne's 1995 breakthrough album Relish. Little Wild One may – at times – take you back to those heady times in Joan's career.
Available only on their website (www.everythingthathappens.com) David Byrne and Brian Eno's first collaboration since the eclectic, influential My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts in 1981 sounds similar to its' predecessor, but with a bit more of a mainstream songwriting flourish. Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is a very listenable album, full of engaging songs and strange but beautiful sounds.
Delta Spirit's Ode To Sunshine has more in common with like rock traditionalists such as The Hold Steady than your typical "we-heard-it-first-'cause-we're-cool" shooting star band that the almighty music blogosphere seems to love then leave with alarming frequency these days. There's something timeless and soulful happening here, something with some staying power.
On The Verve's new album – Forth – the British band resurrects itself after a decade of relative inactivity. It's their first full-length album of new material since 1997. The new album's rangy tunes sound like a mixture of the early 90's Verve mixed with a modern sensibility, and it's a rather strong comeback overall.
Those of you who are wondering what makes Conor Oberst any different from a Bright Eyes release should join the crowd... there just isn't that much difference. Oberst has always treated Bright Eyes as a solo expression, so his reasons for using his name on this album remain unclear.
Twenty years after they started to bring the grunge revolution out of the Pacific Northwest, the resilient music lovers at Sub Pop Records have now given us a band with brilliant five-part harmonies and a decidedly hippie-esque world view that owes as much to Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Beach Boys as Mudhoney did to Iggy & The Stooges.
We've all been witness to an incredible musical transformation from Beck over these past fourteen years and eight or so albums. The once painfully ironic pop art provocateur and dead-end beatnik of the "Loser" days is now a fully developed, pretty un-ironic grown up who sings about similar subjects, but with a much different point of view. Modern Guilt - produced by Dangermouse - will probably make you recall several of Beck's "periods".
In the year's most meteoric indie rock success story, Tallahassee, Florida's Black Kids have climbed the major label mountain in record time. Thanks to a relentless barrage of positive press from all the right music crits, the band that was counting its collective change for gas money last fall have cashed in their rock dreams. Partie Traumatic documents a young band with great ideas in a big hurry.
The much beloved Hold Steady's fourth studio album – Stay Positive – is (I guess) a bit more on the "positive" side lyrically, while maintaining that weird combination of Springsteen-esque drama and Replacements' racket musically. Their fans are gonna love it, but will they reach the elusive masses with this one?
It's been almost four years since the release of the self-titled Grammy-award winning debut from Austin roots rockers Los Lonely Boys. Brothers Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza have returned with their third album, Forgiven, and it is colored with a slightly different shade of roots-rock, due in large part to the decision to work with producer/drummer Steve Jordan.
On Real Animal – his ninth solo album – Alejandro Escovedo rediscovers his punk rock roots in a big way without sacrificing any of the songwriting craft he's worked so long to perfect. As a member of the first wave San Francisco punk group The Nuns, the roots-punk, proto-Americana Rank & File (with the enigmatic brothers Tony & Chip Kinman), and the "new sincerity" torch bearers True Believers, Escovedo learned all about passion and substance over flash and gloss. He's come full circle with this new release.
Amos Lee's music on his third album Last Days At The Lodge, on Blue Note, continues to be a compelling mix of soul, folk, and blues music. The new album was produced by Don Was. The CD features Amos on guitars/vocals, Doyle Bramhall, Jr. (Eric Clapton) on guitar, Spooner Oldham (Neil Young, Aretha Franklin) on keys, Pino Palladino (The Who) on bass, and James Gadson (Bill Withers) on drums.
One of the most popular bands in the world is also one of the most maligned bands in the world. There are a lot of people who really hate Coldplay, but it's kind of hard for me to understand why. More workman-like and less arty than Radiohead, and not as spiritual or "deep" as U2, Coldplay occupies some sort of a musical no-man's land that is not completely without merit.
Arguably the most anticipated lbum of the year - indie, major, whatever - Evil Urges finds Louisville (pronounced LOO-uh-vull) reverb rockers My Morning Jacket poised on the cusp of mainstream success while still maintaining a link to their Southern rock, slow burning, lap-steel slide roots.
I don't think that The Ting Tings are just another British "it" pop band of the moment, but I can certainly understand those who may think they are just that. On We Started Nothing, the Manchester duo (go City!) prove that they are perfectly capable of writing and performing infectious confections that stick with you despite any of your best efforts to rid yourself of the melodies they contain. In the wrong hands, this can lead to major annoyance and a quick career. If they continue to do it like the songs on this album, bigger things await.
When we first heard the tune "Mercy" by 23-year old Welsh singer and songwriter Duffy, we were hooked. The tune (XPN was one of the very first radio stations to play the song, by the way...) is instantly catchy, with lots and lots of cool historical flourishes. It's her ability to wear her influences on her sleeve without sounding completely retro that makes Duffy a very interesting new voice.
It's been interesting to watch (and listen to) the career offerings of XPN favorites Old 97's. In their 15-year existence, Rhett Miller and company have consistently given us quality rock & roll with a touch of Texas twang, and while they break no new ground, Blame It On Gravity, is a solid effort full of hooks and attitude.