We first met the Alabama Shakes this fall when the young band from Athens, Alabama released their first EP. Four songs rarely ignite a career as much as they’ve done for the Alabama Shakes. Fresh out of high school, the soulful rockers have been aggressively touring, impressing show-goers and gearing up for the release of their debut, full length album, Boys & Girls, due out this month on ATO Records. Led by dynamic frontwoman Brittany Howard, the Shakes deliver on their potential with Boys & Girls for one of the year’s most exciting debuts.
Mac is back! Well, to be fair, it’s not like Dr. John hasn’t been consistent in his musical output. He’s released more than a handful of albums since the turn of century. But with Locked Down, his latest, perhaps none of those recent releases matches this latest collection in terms of energy and/or sheer appeal. Many will argue that a five time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has the latitude to do just about whatever they want, but for Dr. John Locked Down is an album he needed to make and music fans need to hear.
On his new album Justin Townes Earle aims to prove a few things, including the fact that it’s ok if the title of your album is longer than the actual runtime of the record. Alright, joke’s aside Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now may be one of the more verbose album title’s we’ve seen in quite a while, but that hardly reflects the concise nature of the songs it headlines. Ten songs clocking in just over thirty minutes, Nothing’s Gonna Change… is one of Justin’s finest works to date harnessing his strength as a captivating storyteller.
Port of Morrow may be the first new album from The Shins in nearly half a decade, but those five years were far from your typical hiatus. The new album may better serve as a reintroduction and/or reincarnation of frontman James Mercer, rather than a continuation of what we’ve come to know from the band itself. The primary reason is that since 2007’s Wincing the Night Away, the entire band with the exception of Mercer has been replaced. Port of Morrow is also the first album from The Shins to not be released on the Sub Pop label. Mercer is releasing the collection on his own label Aural Apothecary (distributed by Columbia). And perhaps most notably Mercer seems to have confidently taken the reigns with a distinct vision and sonic direction for the band.
For Bruce Springsteen, an artist of true iconic stature and fame, you sometimes wonder where the motivation comes from. He’ll sell records as long as he keeps making them and fill seats as long as he keeps playing in front of them. For ‘The Boss’ life doesn’t seem too shabby. However listening to his new album Wrecking Ball, Bruce seems anything but content. For Springsteen making records at this point is hardly about moving up Billboard charts or filling stadiums, it’s about marking a moment in time. Wrecking Ball speaks to our hardships, our challenges and the eventual hope that lies ahead.
Few bands have the natural chemistry that you’ll find on Come Back As Rain, the new album from XPN Artist To Watch, Good Old War. The latest album from the Philadelphia trio is all at once a comfortable, feel good collection and a fresh step forward. Keith Goodwin, Tim Arnold and Daniel Schwartz capture liveliness on Come Back As Rain that they’ve been applauded for onstage and translate it somewhat effortlessly in the studio.
Some music fans may remember a band called The Format. They released a couple records in the mid-2000’s and toured a good bit. The enjoyed some mild success, but decided to take a break in 2008. Nate Ruess, one of the founders of The Format, moved from Arizona to New York to form a new band, appropriately called fun. They released their first album in 2009 called Aim and Ignite and just recently put out there sophomore effort Some Nights. Their latest release has already grabbed some ears due to the anthemic “We Are Young” which features Janelle Monae. But as captivating as that song is, Some Nights is in many ways the album Ruess have been aiming to make his whole career.
Heartless Bastards front woman and founder Erika Wennerstrom has that indefinable appeal where when she sings, you listen. Sure, her voice is rather interesting. She sings with unapologetic power, an almost roar that prefers whiskey to wine (or so you’d imagine). Since 2003 she’s fronted the now four piece rock outfit that originated in Cincinnati and now calls home to Austin, Texas where the band recorded their new album Arrow. The band has evolved since 2003 with Wennerstrom pursuing as the lone original member, but perhaps with Arrow she’s finally captured the intended vision for what the Heartless Bastards have aspired to be.
They may qualify as newcomers, but the Minneapolis band Polica has already captured some keen ears as interest intensifies surrounding their first album, Give You The Ghost. An official release of their debut is slated for Valentine’s Day, yet their songs have been making the rounds on the internet since late last year. Some of the interest stems from Polica’s relation to the indie soft rock outfit Gayngs. Ryan Olson, founder of Gayngs, produced Give You The Ghost, and vocalist Channy Leaneagh was rotating member of Gayngs as well. Other notable touch points on the album include a guest appearance by Mike Noyce of Bon Iver (another member of Gayngs) and Jim Eno of Spoon who also helped produced the album.
It seems that whoever crosses the path of Sharon Van Etten eventually falls under the spell of her songwriting and subtle magnetism. In addition to a growing fan base and critical appeal, fellow musicians have taken notice of the once independent singer-songwriter. Perhaps there’s no better example of such admiration than on Sharon’s new album Tramp. In addition to producer Aaron Dessner, a legion of notable indie-rockers helped make Tramp, one of the more confident and surprisingly engaging early releases of the year.