Helped along with some stellar guests (Joss Stone, Peter Gabriel, Branford Marsalis, Ziggy Marley, etc.) and outstanding Tony Visconti production, Angelique Kidjo's new album Djin Djin is deep and satisfying. This is the Beninise native's first new release since 2004.
Conor Oberst (a.k.a. Bright Eyes) has packed more into his 27 years than most artists accomplish in a lifetime. This new release - Cassadaga - will most certainly contiune the legacy. Named after a spiritualist camp in Florida where Oberst spent some time, Cassadaga is tuneful, bold and a further move away from his earlier work.
The very first time we heard Ryan Shaw's voice, we knew we were listening to something very, very special. He possesses an extremely emotional set of vocal chords. Fortunately for us, it is showcased in a great fashion on This Is Ryan Shaw, his debut album. It's a calling card for a gifted singer, a guy that should be around for a long time.
A perfect mixture of past & present, LCD Soundsystem's latest - Sound Of Silver - is this year's very best punk/disco/indie rock combination. The album's nine tracks are all instantly appealing, the perfect combination of groove and irony and sonic hoopla.
Already and XPN favorite because of her heartfelt songs and incredible voice, BRANDI CARLILE has upped the ante with her sophomore album The Story. The choice of veteran roots poducer T-BONE BURNETT was a wise one, because he's able to capture Carlile's emotion perfectly, and he coaxed some very, very stellar vocal performances out of her.
For the second major U.S. release, The John Butler Trio recruited producer Mario Caldato, Jr. (Beastie Boys, G. Love, Beck), and keyboardist Money Mark, but has retained the energy and groove of Sunrise Over Sea. Not really a "jam band" per se, the Trio is already a decade into their career, and Butler is a very underrated songwriter and singer.
With his new album Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird has delivered one of the most beautiful, challenging and diverse records we've heard in a very long time.
Modest Mouse's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank is one of the most anticipated releases of 2007. Their last album, 2004's Good News for People Who Love Bad News, yielded a radio hit, VH-1 support and even a Kidz Bop tribute, but upon first listen, their follow-up gives the impression the members of Modest Mouse are chafing at their newfound success in a typically indie fashion.
Philadelphia's own Dr. Dog has really hit the jackpot on their latest album We All Belong. You'd be hard pressed to find a more engaging album anywhere, as the band effortlessly combine familiar pop touchstones with some excellent songwriting.
Always the cause for celebration in singer/songwriter and Americana music circles is a new album from the quirky and undeniably talented Lucinda Williams. Her new album West is a rather subdued affair, but it contains some of her most heartfelt balladry yet.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's debut album was a masterpiece of style and substance over hype. The staunchly independent group released that album without a label or promotion - traditional record biz promotion, anyway - yet it's sold in 6-figures... a daunting task in today's music-as-data, who-needs-records-stores market. All hipster eyes were/are on this second album Some Loud Thunder. Nobody should be dissappointed.
Much more diverse musically than her previous four studio albums, Children Running Through deals with some big issues lyrically - namely new beginnings and dealing with trouble and strife of all sorts. Standout tracks include "Stay On The Ride," "No Bad News" and the sublime "Heavenly Day," which builds slowly into a remarkable tune.
For their third album, The Shins have pulled out all the stops. Chock full of memorable tunes, Wincing The Night Away is at once the band's best and most eclectic offering.
Lily Allen is January's Artist To Watch. Winner of 2006 Digital Music Awards, Lily Allen is the 21 year old singer songwriter who has been tearing up the web lately. >Here's a bona fide Internet/My Space success story. Lily Allen's much downloaded tunes and much read muses on her personal page were the sparks that launched her promising career. With "Smile" already a U.K. number one, and her album dropping this week in the U.S., is superstardom pending? Perhaps it is, and, if it happens, I for one will be watching with interest because Allen is one quirky, unpredictable could-be pop star.
I know, I know... it's kind of hard to get worked up over yet another "tribute" album. What started in the 90's as a cool idea - that being contemporary bands paying homage to their musical heroes by covering songs from said heroes and then packaging it together as an album - has gotten stale and predictable. I must say that this one - Endless Highway: The Music Of The Band - is done with enough spirit and attitude to make you forget that you were tired of these things. A couple of dozen classic, timeless tunes to cover doesn't hurt, either.
A lot more than some bland nod to the "Great American Songbook" ala Rod Stewart, Erin McKeown's latest is a totally engaging romp through some truly great old tunes. I really think Cole Porter would be happy to hear this.
It's kind of hard to think of Canadian songwriter Ron Sexsmith as a seasoned vet, yet Time Being will be his 10th album. His laid-back style and way with words is still intact, and this new album may be one of his best ever.
For her 7th full-length studio album - and her first for over 9 years - Canadian singer, songwriter, accordionist, harpist, and pianist Loreena McKennitt has followed An Ancient Muse indeed.
This unique compilation project brings together the legendary musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club and some of today's most popular artists Radiohead, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Sting, U2's Bono, Dido, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys, Jack Johnson and others. They perform collaborations of some of their classic hits, and the result is pure genius.
Already considered by many rock critics to be one of the finest offerings of '06, Boys & Girls In America is a great album on a number of different levels. The intensity, hooks and words of The Hold Stady's latest are quite remarkable, and the album's charm grows with each listen.
Consisting of two brothers and a childhood friend, The Slip play like they know each other all their lives. Their Bar/None Records debut - Eisenhower - is a sonic treat, boasting powerful musical interaction with some very well written songs.
Endless Wire is the first studio album in 24 years to consist of new material from The Who. The last two Who standing - Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend - have delivered an enjoyable, if uneven, album worth of new material.
One of this year's most outstanding new artists, Rodrigo y Gabriela are Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintana, Mexico City natives who now live in and wrok out of Dublin, Ireland. It's a simple formula, really... two acoustic guitars, all instrumental songs. I can assure you that the results are much more interesting than the description.
Well... what's not to like? Neil & his favorite band at one of America's classic concert venues, recorded March 6 & 7 of 1970. The sound quality is very good, the performances are inspired. My only complaint? Only six tunes - but two of them are the epics "Down By the River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand", so I'm not too dissappointed.
Eric Clapton has been an unabashed J J Cale fan for some time now. For Clapton, the artist that he admires for his "work ethic and anonymity" has provided him with a couple of major hits, namely "Cocaine" from the 1977 album Slowhand and a raved-up version of "After Midnight." The results of this long-rumored collaboration album are extremely enjoyable.