We've all been witness to an incredible musical transformation from Beck over these past fourteen years and eight or so albums. The once painfully ironic pop art provocateur and dead-end beatnik of the "Loser" days is now a fully developed, pretty un-ironic grown up who sings about similar subjects, but with a much different point of view. Modern Guilt - produced by Dangermouse - will probably make you recall several of Beck's "periods".
In the year's most meteoric indie rock success story, Tallahassee, Florida's Black Kids have climbed the major label mountain in record time. Thanks to a relentless barrage of positive press from all the right music crits, the band that was counting its collective change for gas money last fall have cashed in their rock dreams. Partie Traumatic documents a young band with great ideas in a big hurry.
The much beloved Hold Steady's fourth studio album – Stay Positive – is (I guess) a bit more on the "positive" side lyrically, while maintaining that weird combination of Springsteen-esque drama and Replacements' racket musically. Their fans are gonna love it, but will they reach the elusive masses with this one?
It's been almost four years since the release of the self-titled Grammy-award winning debut from Austin roots rockers Los Lonely Boys. Brothers Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza have returned with their third album, Forgiven, and it is colored with a slightly different shade of roots-rock, due in large part to the decision to work with producer/drummer Steve Jordan.
On Real Animal – his ninth solo album – Alejandro Escovedo rediscovers his punk rock roots in a big way without sacrificing any of the songwriting craft he's worked so long to perfect. As a member of the first wave San Francisco punk group The Nuns, the roots-punk, proto-Americana Rank & File (with the enigmatic brothers Tony & Chip Kinman), and the "new sincerity" torch bearers True Believers, Escovedo learned all about passion and substance over flash and gloss. He's come full circle with this new release.
Amos Lee's music on his third album Last Days At The Lodge, on Blue Note, continues to be a compelling mix of soul, folk, and blues music. The new album was produced by Don Was. The CD features Amos on guitars/vocals, Doyle Bramhall, Jr. (Eric Clapton) on guitar, Spooner Oldham (Neil Young, Aretha Franklin) on keys, Pino Palladino (The Who) on bass, and James Gadson (Bill Withers) on drums.
One of the most popular bands in the world is also one of the most maligned bands in the world. There are a lot of people who really hate Coldplay, but it's kind of hard for me to understand why. More workman-like and less arty than Radiohead, and not as spiritual or "deep" as U2, Coldplay occupies some sort of a musical no-man's land that is not completely without merit.
Arguably the most anticipated lbum of the year - indie, major, whatever - Evil Urges finds Louisville (pronounced LOO-uh-vull) reverb rockers My Morning Jacket poised on the cusp of mainstream success while still maintaining a link to their Southern rock, slow burning, lap-steel slide roots.
I don't think that The Ting Tings are just another British "it" pop band of the moment, but I can certainly understand those who may think they are just that. On We Started Nothing, the Manchester duo (go City!) prove that they are perfectly capable of writing and performing infectious confections that stick with you despite any of your best efforts to rid yourself of the melodies they contain. In the wrong hands, this can lead to major annoyance and a quick career. If they continue to do it like the songs on this album, bigger things await.
When we first heard the tune "Mercy" by 23-year old Welsh singer and songwriter Duffy, we were hooked. The tune (XPN was one of the very first radio stations to play the song, by the way...) is instantly catchy, with lots and lots of cool historical flourishes. It's her ability to wear her influences on her sleeve without sounding completely retro that makes Duffy a very interesting new voice.