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As you remove the insert to the new Booker T. Jones album The Road From Memphis, you also unfold a little history to the inspiration behind this new album. A true icon of American soul music, Booker T. recounts not only how the physical passages on Highway 51 from Memphis helped shape his career but how he witnessed the music itself travel to and fro. The rock and roll hall of famer enlists an all-star cast of musicians to help recreate this musical journey on The Road From Memphis.

For the good part of the last year lots of questions surrounded the band Cults. Little information other than the music itself graced the bands website. Yet their three songs buzzed about online leaving many to scratch their heads - who is this? We come to find out that Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion were aspiring film students living in New York and they had a side of musical ambition. The two rode the internet wave of intrigue to a record deal with Columbia and one of the year's most appealing debut releases.

Perhaps no new band is enjoying 2011 as much as Foster The People. The indie-rockers from Los Angeles are now on the fast track after teasing listeners earlier this year with one of the most irresistible songs in recent memory. Their debut album, Torches, sets out to prove that it has plenty more to offer in addition to “Pumped Up Kicks” and may be the perfect addition to your summer soundtrack.

Bon Iver gained notoriety in 2008 with the release of his intimate solo debut For Emma, Forever Ago. The album was heralded as one of the year’s best independent releases. Peter Gabriel would go on to cover Bon Iver and Vernon even ventured into the world of hip-hop as a prominent guest on the latest release from Kanye West. All that would just add to the build-up of expectations for the second Bon Iver album. To say that the new album from Bon Iver singer-songwriter Justin Vernon is easily accessible … well … that wouldn’t be true. Yet despite a much bolder landscape, puzzling lyrics and a general propensity to demand more of its audience Bon Iver, Bon Iver is an inspiring effort.

When you think of music from New Orleans it’s not unusual to visualize big brass bands, Dixieland jazz, swampy blues or Cajun funk. But as we listen to In Light the debut full length album from the band Givers it might surprise you that this young 5-piece band actually calls home to Lafayette, Louisiana. To attempt to categorize their sound is a challenge all to itself. One thing is for certain though, In Light is a bright and flavorful adventure.

When we first met the band Dawes early in 2010 it was almost like being reintroduced to an old friend. Their classic folk-rock sensibilities and contemporary storytelling made for a comfortable, inspiring discovery. North Hills, the title of their debut was a deliberate nod to their Laurel Canyon home and their sound indicative of the neighborhoods musical landscape, both past and present. Nothing Is Wrong, the band’s sophomore album, further embraces their geographic roots and reminds us how easy it is to get wrapped up their lush harmonies and wistful stories.

It’s not characteristic (or suggested) to celebrate a win before you even play the game. But for My Morning Jacket, we’ll make an exception. On their new full-length album and first since 2008’s Evil Urges, MMJ open the curtains with a song called “Victory Dance.” While it may seem bold, the ominous opener turns out to be a good litmus test for this new collection as Jim James and his counterparts reconnect us to their shape-shifting brand of rock and roll.

Lots of musicians attempt to recapture sounds of classic soul, few actually own it. For Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin’, his fourth studio album is another indicator of how much a true descendent of classic soul and R&B he is. He tips his cap to the greats like Sly Stone and Stevie but all the while walks his own walk. The Grammy nominated Saadiq again delivers an awe-inspiring collection of throwback style jams on Stone Rollin’.

Seattle’s Fleet Foxes surprised even themselves with the success of their debut album. Fleet Foxes (the album) was an extraordinary introduction to the band’s harmonic bliss and rural sonic landscapes. For indie rock audiences, the band ushered in unprecedented warmth with their music and an approach that was honest and rather unassuming. Yet faced with the reality of their follow-up record, the band found itself in the precarious situation of dealing with grand expectations. The process of making what would become Helplessness Blues was well-documented as the band dealt with the demons of uncertainty and frustration.

For twenty years the band Elbow has been making music together. In 2008, they received arguably their most noteworthy accolade winning the UK’s Mercury Prize (their 2nd time nominated) for The Seldom Scene Kid. That album spawned some mild attention in the States for the song “Grounds for Divorce.” Yet despite their longevity and critical praise the band is seemingly still making lots of first impressions upon each release. Their latest, Build A Rocket Boys! stands perfectly in line with their previous works as a grandiose, deliberate and emotionally stirring effort.

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