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.
For their second album, the Nashville-based OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW mines the same rich earth for inspiration that they so expertly did on their epononymous 2004 debut album. This is a string band with attitude, and their songs may remind you of the past, but their outlook and presentation is most definitely of today.
If you have been looking for a singularly unique listening experience, it just may have arrived from this Brooklyn-based group. I'm not exaggerating when I say that TV ON THE RADIO sound like nothing else out there today.
The Tejas brothers are back with their second album, and those of us who enjoyed the Garzas great harmonies, engaging tunes, and guitar-hero leads will not be disappointed by Sacred.
Along with Gnarls Barkley, Corinne Bailey Rae has made one of the most spectacular debut splashes of the first half of this year. This 27 year-old, Leeds, England native's eponomous album is a versatile, flowing, 11-song listen that sounds perfect for these hot summer days (and nights).
If you're like me, you always look forward to a new TOM PETTY release. He's never quite gotten the critical acclaim that he possibly deserves, despite the fact that he's certainly been given respect over the years by music writers and has sold millions of records. Petty's kind of like the corner bar version of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and/or BOB DYLAN - and that's no slight, by the way. Never as downright poetic as Dylan (but then again, who is?) or as cinematic as Springsteen, T.P. nevertheless is an important American rocker, and one who has penned and performed more than his fair share of classic anthems. His contribution to the culture is quite remarkable, come to think of it.
For his first solo album, RADIOHEAD's charismatic frontman THOM YORKE does not dissappoint the faithful. There is nobody in music today who can communicate alienation through song like Yorke, through his lyrics and - probably most importantly - through his vocal stylings.
Slowly but surely, WIDESPREAD PANIC has established themselves as one of America's most popular and consistent live acts. Their recorded output hasn't quite reached the success of their road show, but - with Earth To America - the band has finally gotten their feel and passion properly on disc.
The poignancy and brilliance of the fifth and final installment of Johnny Cash's American series is a lasting testimony to the genius of an American icon. As reported in Rolling Stone magazine, the story goes that the day after his wife June Carter Cash died on May 15th, 2003, Johnny Cash called Rick Rubin - his producer and said to him: "I have to get to work. If you don't have something for me to do every day, I'm going to die." Unfortunately, his life ended too soon.
Zero 7 are the English "sound-design" duo of Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker who debuted in 2001 with their now classic Simple Things album, a collection of warm, soulful and chilled out electronica. The Garden is their gorgeous third release and not too unlike their previous albums, which put them in a similar musical genre wih bands like Royksopp, Air, Portishead. This time around however, Zero 7 have added a more upbeat musical direction to their trademark ambience and finds them mining some excellent & fertile musical ground.
KEB' MO' (born Kevin Moore) is back with his eighth album, Suitcase, and it's another stellar collection of blues/folk/pop tunes that feature his signature tasty, understated guitar licks and hum-along songs.
Call it the musical surprise of 2006 thus far: the Dixie Chicks emerge from a couple of years of turmoil to create one of the most sincere, poignant discs we've heard in some time. It may have been once easy to dimiss the Chicks as some kind of "country-lite" creation, but no more. Taking The Long Way has way too many good songs, harmonies and ideas to dismiss.
ELVIS COSTELLO is one of music's most talented chameleons. Throughout his career, he's constantly explored any and all stylistic avenues - classical, country, punk, R&B, etc. His new album with legendary New Orleans writer/producer ALLEN TOUSSAINT is another chapter in his distinguished quest for musical diversity.
Well, he certainly took his time, but Alexi Murdoch's first full album Time Without Consequence is set for release on June 6. Since we first heard his understated masterpiece 4 Songs in 2002, Alexi fans everywhere have been patiently waiting for some new songs. Time Without Consequence will not disappoint those people.
For his first new album in six years, Paul Simon's Surprise will indeed be a wonderful surprise for his fans. "Sonically enhanced" (produced and co-written) by the legendary Brian Eno, the album bubbles and gurgles and percolates and simmers with the electronic beats, synthesized guitars and sinewy keyboard accompaniments that are trademark to Brian Eno's production style and sonic soundscapes.
Welcome to one of the most engaging rock albums of this or any year. You may already know the back story, but THE WHITE STRIPE's JACK WHITE got together with his Detroit pal, BRENDAN BENSON, and then recruited the rhythm section from Cincinnati's THE GREENHORNES.
Gnarls Barkley So who is Gnarls Barkley? The rumors fly in every direction and remain unverifiable, but with links to underground hip hop artists Danger Mouse
Well, anytime you combine two XPN favorites like MARK KNOPFLER and EMMYLOU HARRIS, there's bound to be more than a little bit of interest. Almost seven years in the making, these two distinctive singers and songwriters have produced a very solid album.
Ever since the Nebraska album in 1982 (and probably earlier for astute Bruce-heads), we've known that Springsteen has has more than a healthy dose of respect for the folk idiom. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions is not only a salute to the stylings of PETE SEEEGER, but also an acknowledgement of the American tradition of storytelling through song. It's a lovingly detailed album from an artist who understands his roots more than most musical superstars.
On his third solo album - and his first in twenty years since About Face - PINK FLOYD's DAVID GILMOUR doesn't dissappoint those enamored with the Floyd-ian "wall of guitar" sound or his lovely, plaintive vocal stylings. On An Island is a pretty satisfying venture that - while not really breaking any new ground - certainly will fill whatever cravings you have for the classic rock juggernaut that was the Floyd.