Too much is often made of an artist’s jump from an indie to a major label. For fear of tainted artistic vision or imposed guidelines, ‘purists’ hold their collective breath in the weeks (or months) leading up to an albums release. But to be fair, there is a recent track record of success when you think of artists like The Decemberists or Death Cab for Cutie who have arguably made some of the best albums of their careers since making such a move. And with that, Iron and Wine is the latest indie darling to successfully make the transition to a major label with his most confident and expansive album to date, Kiss Each Other Clean.
If Hollywood were writing the script there’d likely be a long, perilous journey before a new-comer band could hit any type of stride to success. Luckily for Fitz and the Tantrums, WXPN's February Artist To Watch, they’re writing their own story and in just over a year what started as a solo endeavor has turned into a ‘can’t miss’ stage show with a debut album to match. Pickin’ Up the Pieces, the band’s debut full-length, is an instant party-starter that not only echoes sounds of Motown soul but also fosters an indie-rock sensibility to top it off.
For his fourth album, Mission Bell, Philadelphia native Amos Lee was drawn to Tucson, Arizona to work with producer/musician Joey Burns of the band Calexico. The acclaimed songwriter not only takes a subtle step in a new direction, but takes a commanding step forward in his artistry. The heart and soul of Mission Bell is uniquely Lee, yet texturally the presence of Burns, his Calexico bandmates and an all-star cast of guests pays instant dividends.
Coming off their expansive rock-opera, The Hazards of Love, the Portland-based band The Decemberists return to form on their new album The King Is Dead From the opening Springsteen-esque harmonica riff of the album leadoff “Don’t Carry It All,” it’s apparent that there’s different tone and atmosphere set for this collection.
As we usher in a new year and anticipate new musical discoveries, it’s an unmistakable voice that’ll be first to grab your ears. Low Country Blues is the first solo album from Allman Brothers founding member Gregg Allman in nearly 14 years. Along with a decorated cast of musicians, including producer T-Bone Burnett, Allman delivers a book of songs steeped in rhythm and blues yet with his own unique signature.
It surely caught some folks by surprise at the end of 2010, but yes a new album from Ryan Adams & the Cardinals was released this past December. However, don’t expect to find this new 21 song collection on the shelf in your favorite local record store. III/IV, as it is titled, was sold-out before it was even released. The now digital-only release is a hefty collection of previously, unreleased gems from recordings sessions with Ryan Adams and company.
Rumors of a Roxy Music reunion swirled around the making of Olympia. And while the album bares just the name Bryan Ferry, Olympia. is witness to collaborations with a number of Roxy alums as well as healthy dose of guest stars. Ferry sounds effortlessly in the now on his 13th studio album and only his second album of mostly original material since the mid-90s.
XPN Artist To Watch, Warpaint, may have just released their full-length debut, but the LA four-piece have been crafting their sound for the last six years. Having gone through a variety of line-up changes since forming in 2004, the all-female cast appears settled in on The Fool. And while it’s been over a half-decade since the band first plugged in, it’s no surprise on their debut that they offer up a well-crafted, seductive set of songs.
Cee Lo Green has been an influential music-maker for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until his collaboration with DJ/producer Danger Mouse as Gnarls Barkley that he found mainstream success. As the world went crazy for Gnarls Barkley, Green began to trademark his left-of-center personality with elaborate on-stage costumes and of course, that unmistakable voice. While his Gnarls Barkley counterpart has kept busy this year with projects like Broken Bells and producing the likes of The Black Keys, Cee Lo Green has saved arguably one of the year’s most intriguing releases, The Lady Killer, until now.