It's hard to believe that this is Rufus Wainwright's fifth album, but it's true - he's now a seasoned vet. He has grown up considerably on Release The Stars. After battling an array of demons (internal and external), he now sounds happier, more settled, and much more outward-looking. That being said, we still feel the sting of his wit, and the old Rufus sarcasm is still there if you turn over a couple of stones and listen closely.
Jeff Tweedy's a genius, I guess. I say that without any sarcasm intended - it's just that I feel kind of weird pinning that title on a guy who's basically a down-to-earth cat. I came to this realization while listening to the latest Wilco album Sky Blue Sky.
Leslie Feist's third album, The Reminder, is another strong outing from this prolific songstress. She may be best known for her work with Broken Social Scene or Kings Of Convenience, but not for long. This new album reinforces what we already knew... Feist is a very, very good songwriter with a memorable voice.
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.