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.
It's been interesting to watch (and listen to) the career offerings of XPN favorites Old 97's. In their 15-year existence, Rhett Miller and company have consistently given us quality rock & roll with a touch of Texas twang, and while they break no new ground, Blame It On Gravity, is a solid effort full of hooks and attitude.
Death Cab for Cutie is a band that boasts two of the very best artists in all of indie-dom: singer Ben Gibbard, who's blessed with an amazing, natural voice, and guitarist and producer Chris Walla, who has the knack of making everything he touches sound real and epic at the same time. The talent is certainly on display on this new album, Narrow Stairs, but the subject matter is much more suffocating.
Combining elements of hip-hop, punk, new wave, electronica and classic pop music, Santogold's self-titled debut album is truly a remarkable piece of work. Philadelphia native Santi White, along with songwriter and producer John Hill – a.k.a. Johnny Rodeo – is quickly developing a reputation as one of music's best and brightest, and this album certainly shows why.
As most people probably know the only things closer to Helen Leicht's heart (other than her family and Paul McCartney) are our local musicians. Helen loves having the opportunity to share this music with you, the WXPN audience.
On their fifth and best album to date – Attack & Release – Akron, Ohio minimalist duo The Black Keys take a step forward sonically and in songwriting. The record sounds more like a complete work than anything they've ever done, but long-time fans will not be disappointed in the results.
In what just may heralded as Peter Buck's long-anticipated R.E.M. "guitar album", Athens, Georgia's finest let it rip on Accelerate, the beloved band's 14th studio album. As the title suggests, the tunes are faster, more urgent, and sound a lot less fussed-over than a lot of the group's past catalogue.
On Adam Duritz's self-confessional tour de force Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, Counting Crows successfully remind us of all the components that went into making them one of the 90's most popular rock acts. After a six year hiatus, the band has emerged with a muscular, passionate and honest record.
It's their first release in 16 years, but after listening to Funplex once, it's like they never went away. The B-52's' new album is everything you were hoping it would be: fun, irreverent, bouncy, kooky. Time certainly has changed since the band emerged from Athens, Georgia (of all places) in the late 70's, looking and sounding like absolutely nothing else, but the band's inherent kitsch and attitude hasn't changed one iota. Even better, vocalist Cindy Wilson is back in the fold after not appearing on 1992's Good Stuff. Founding members Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland and the irrepressible Fred Schneider are back as well.
It's pretty simple, but always effective. The Black Crowes twangy take on straight up rock and roll and all of its' many predecessor's styles is on fine display on Warpaint. The band, especially its' stoner poster boy frontman Chris Robinson, is a lot smarter than most give them credit for, and they are most certainly true believers in the visceral connection between the pulpit and the concert stage.
On her third full-length album, Canadian Kathleen Edwards has once again proven herself to be among the very best of the young songwriters out there. Combining an interesting worldview with a very honest voice and plenty of attitude, this 29-year-old has stepped up in several ways on this new release, Asking For Flowers.
Despite the loss of the very talented Jason Isbell from the Drive-By Truckers last year, the band has carried on and then some. Their eighth album, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, is another testament to a great American rock band.
On her new (mostly) cover song collection Jukebox, Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) continues her tradition of cover songs and pretty convicted crooning. She's really an underrated vocalist, and this second collection of covers tells us a lot about what she is as an artist.
Not since the soundtrack to the movie Garden State has a collection of mostly indie-rock and indie-folk captivated so many listeners. Anchored by the recent success of the movie about a teenage girl's unplanned pregnancy, the soundtrack has become the number one album in the country and with good reason; it brings together some classic rock nuggets by The Kinks, Mott the Hoople and Buddy Holly with unique cover songs like Cat Power's "Sea of Love" and Sonic Youth's cover of The Carpenters' "Superstar."
Always consistently good, Sheryl Crow just may have released her best all-around record to date. Detours will remind you a lot of her debut smash Tuesday Night Music Club, and for good reason since Bill Bottrell produced both of them. It sounds terrific, and the songs are all poignant and punchy. It's vintage Sheryl through and through.
Sounding rested and refreshed, Joe Jackson's new stripped-down album Rain harkens back to the Night And Day era. Always a talented tunesmith, Jackson has given us an album that plays to his strengths.
Combining a healthy dose of Afro-pop with the kinetic energy of Talking Heads and a decisively modern world-view, New York City's Vampire Weekend has created a debut album that sounds nothing like anything else out there.
World Cafe with David Dye has just polished off the track list for the 25th Volume in its incredible series of live recordings from XPN's signature program. Artists including Suzanne Vega, Josh Ritter, Martin Sexton, Sea Wolf and many others have contributed to this stellar collection.
It's hard not to compare Ryan Bingham to some other Texas troubadour heavyweights. Hints of Joe Ely, Steve Earle and - most notably - Townes Van Zant permeate his Lost Highway records debut Mescalito. This is not to say that he hasn't already developed his own voice, but these songs are just as dusty and heartfelt as his predecessors.
First of all, major kudos to Radiohead for doing things their way. After their record contract expired, the band made In Rainbows available as a download on their personal website back in October on a pay-what-you-want basis with pretty stellar financial results. The physicalCD is coming out in America on the A.T.O. records imprint T.B.D. Records.
Soulsavers - the British duo of Rick Machin and Ian Glover - have given us a fine year-end album with the new It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land. This may very well be the most haunting sonic listen of '07.