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.
Willie Nelson's new album Songbird - produced by Ryan Adams and featuring Ryan and his band The Cardinals - sounds a lot like... well... Willie Nelson being backed by Ryan Adams & The Cardinals. The vibe is consistent & rootsy, and Nelson's voice never dissappoints.
Man, oh, man... has this new Killers' album ever taken a beating in the press! Outlets from Rolling Stone to The Village Voice to The New York Times (and many others) have panned Sam's Town. It's taken a critical flogging as bad as I've ever seen any major release get. That being said, it's currently in the Billboard Top 10, they're selling out on their tour, and I'm here to tell you that this album does not deserve the nasty reception it's gotten.
Beck has done so much in his career, it really isn't fair to compare every new album he releases to Odelay or Mellow Gold, so let's just say that his latest - The Information - sounds like "classic" Beck. There's not a bad song on this record, and there's lots of good ones.
Blessed with a wonderful voice and a fine storytelling style, Philly's own Amos Lee seems poised to take his craft to a wider audience. His sophomore album - Supply & Demand - will most certainly help him get there.
The Decemberists' major label debut is a wonderful example of a band expanding its' fan base without forgetting what got them here in the first place. The Crane Wife is a multi-faceted, highly enjoyable gem of a record that sounds like will it get better with every listen.
Is John Mayer the STING of the 00's? Perhaps, in the sense that he is capable of producing consistent, well-produced albums, each with several very appealing songs that combine world-class songcraft with great playing. Accomplishing that is much easier said than done, but Mayer gets it done on Continuum.
In case you haven't already recognized this fact, Los Lobos is a great American band. They continually manage to transcend genres and trends, time and space with the greatest of ease. The Town And The City is another rock-solid effort from everyone's favorite East L.A. group.
XPN favorite Clarence Greenwood - a.k.a. Citizen Cope - has always been incredibly adept at combining groove and message, and on Every Waking Moment, that talent is once again on display.
For his 31st (!) studio album, Bob Dylan has not really broken any new ground, but the musically sacred ground he continues to till is rich indeed. Modern Times is an album that only Dylan - with his peerless wordplay and insight - could make sound as, well, modern as it does.
Whether or not Ray LaMontagne will become this generation's Van Morrison is something that's yet to be determined, but you'll be hard-pressed to find another singer who combines light and dark, power and subtlety as well as this New Hampshire native. His second album - Till The Sun Turns Black - is another well thought-out, well delivered set of music.