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2009

Since forming, the band Freelance Whales have went from busking on street corners to independently releasing their debut album, Weathervanes, to signing a record deal all in just under two years. The five piece band from New York has had no problem garnering attention. Ambition is a big factor but after spending time with their music it's easy to hear what makes Freelance Whales so irresistible.

Years from now we may look back at Daptone Records as the label that produced the most significant soul music of this time period. And yes, most of the attention comes from the spirited Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. But on the compilation Daptone Gold we're introduced to the many fine artists that call Daptone Records home.

It's hard to imagine any area on the musical spectrum that Bob Dylan hasn't dipped his paintbrush in. But as the days get shorter, and the first of the snowflakes start to fall so does arrive a Christmas record from the man himself, Bob Dylan.

Before you even put on your headphones, there is something mysterious and luring about the debut album from the South London band, The XX. Maybe it's their name, or the simplicity of a plain white "X" that's planted on the black backdrop of their album cover. Whatever it is that draws you in, expect to be met with a haunting album that is clever and ambitious in its simplicity.

Over the course of five albums, the Canadian twins Tegan and Sara have over and over again delivered concise and catchy pop songs. While slightly altering the formula to their sixth album, Sainthood, Tegan and Sara yet again hit the mark with an uncompromising, infectious set of songs.

It's difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes Reservoir, the debut album from the London-based band and XPN's Artist To Watch Fanfarlo, so endearing. Perhaps it's the robust orchestrations or the imaginative storytelling. Regardless, it's hard to believe this is actually the band's first effort. The songs of Reservoir are sweet and melodic, carefully arranged and refreshingly original.

Where soundtracks often miss the mark is in their inability to capture consistency from song to song as an album. Where the new soundtrack to the film The Twilight Saga: New Moon hits the bulls-eye is in its ability to recruit a wealth of musical talent, resulting with a cohesive set of songs in both atmosphere and ambition.

Much has been made of the forthcoming Norah Jones record, The Fall. There've been forewarnings of a "new direction" and a change in the approach from her previous studio efforts. However, before you brace for the unexpected, the reality is that The Fall is not a seismic shift for the sultry songwriter.

They captivated audiences worldwide in the Oscar-winning love story that was the film Once. Now known as The Swell Season, the musical partnership of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova attempt to recapture the hearts of listening audiences with their new record Strict Joy.

What started as a "list" to educate his daughter about the roots of country music has transformed itself into both a tribute to the character of Johnny Cash and an inspired new release from his daughter, Rosanne. Rosanne Cash's new album simply titled The List is more than a just a collection of favorites. It's an insightful look at the musical lineage of one of the great American music families.

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