There’s a new sound in Chicago and it comes in the form of XPN Artist To Watch JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Taking their name from Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, this four piece band goes beyond your typical soul revivalists. Following in the footsteps of standouts like Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings or Austin’s Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Brooks and company cook up their own brand of soul stew. On their second album Want More you’ll hear a band that can produce some pure soul, add a dash of funk, rock with a punk-like attitude and even sweeten the mix with a little R&B.
If you haven’t met Mayer Hawthorne, allow us to introduce you. How Do You Do is the second album from the Michigan born soul man who has one foot fully planted in a nostalgic world of Motown and the other very much in the now. The new album is his first for a major-label. Hawthorne released his independent debut, A Strange Arrangement, back in 2009 to the delight of critics. What we learned then was that along with a playful nature came a sincere desire to recapture the heart of the music he drew inspiration from. On How Do You Do, Hawthorne continues to pay homage to the music he loves, but all the while lending his own style to the equation.
When we use the word ‘anthemic’ to talk about rock and roll, it’s a description that is usually saved for bands like U2, Coldplay and the likes. Yet as we’re about to draw the curtain on this year in music, we have a party-crasher that not only demands to be heard – but needs to be. There is nothing modest about Florence and the Machine. Her debut album of 2009 Lungs was an instant success, both in minds of critics and audiences. Record sales soared and award nominations (Grammys, etc.) followed. So how would she approach her sophomore release? Swing for the fences, naturally.
Like a train set to leave the station, invites listeners along for a ride as the opening notes of the chugging “Chicago” set in and the artist’s customary growl exclaims “all aboard!” to the songs fade. And a ride it is on, Waits new studio album and first in nearly seven years. From spooky to sweet, from growl to falsetto, it’s impossible to turn a corner on this new collection and not find the unexpected. Musically speaking, fans and critics will applaud Wait’s artistic expression and unconventional nature. But Bad as Me does find accessibility within these songs as Waits ponders current affairs and personal reflection.
On her third studio album, Chesapeake, singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata takes things into her own hands. In what’s become a more regular means of producing albums for independent musicians, Rachael went directly to her fans for help funding her new work. Supporters stood up and Rachael settled down at the Eastern Shore in Maryland to record her first album sans record company guidelines.
At just 21 years old Laura Marling has already found significant success at home in Britain. She’s emerged from a revivalist music scene in London rooted in traditional folk that has already spawned massive commercial appeal with bands like Mumford & Sons. For Laura, her first two albums were each nominated for the UK Mercury Music Prize and earlier this year she won Best Female Solo artist at the Brit Awards. Her third release A Creature I Don’t Know aims to cover new ground musically, plus serves as a proper introduction to new audiences here in the U.S.
After the release of their debut in 2009, critics had lots of nice things to say about the San Francisco band Girls. Here’s a band that came with a strong DIY attitude, wore their influences proudly and penned songs that surely connected with audiences. On Father, Son, Holy Ghost the band’s second full album, it’s hard not to echo those praises yet again. Frontman Christopher Owens and band have recorded an album that lives in the present, but brings with it a comfortable feel of the past.
He’s been one of the most prolific songwriters over the past decade; a musical shape-shifter whose ambition and fearless desire to create regardless the genre has made him one of the most admired songwriters in recent memory. For Ryan Adams making music was the only option. So when a near career-ending wrist injury forced him to not just slow down, but halt his music the future was unclear to say the least. The announcement of Ashes & Fire, Ryan’s new release, brought a new kind of excitement but the usual question of what to expect. No it’s not a metal record, nor is it a Cardinals collaboration or trip back to Rock N Roll. Simply stated, it’s Ryan Adams.
Two things immediately come to mind upon the arrival of Feist’s new album Metals. First, where has she been? It’s been roughly four years since her breakthrough album The Reminder was released. And second, how will she respond after the massive success of that album and more specifically her numerical anthem “1,2,3,4”? The first question is easier to answer. After years of touring, some time to decompress and step out of the spotlight seems only fair and appropriate. And as you dive into the new album Metals, the answer to the second question becomes clear.
A few weeks ago, someone posted a video online of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy playfully covering ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by The Black Eye Peas. For the audience, it was a nothing more than a funny break in the set and for those watching online, a respite during your 9 to 5. Yet in an odd way, it helped put the new album from Tweedy and his band mates, The Whole Love, in perspective. In 5 or 6 minutes that it took to perform, Tweedy not only entertained but made a pretty strong case for art over commerce. As popular culture advances with less stress on musicianship and artistry, we’re reminded and relieved on The Whole Love that the art of the album still exists.