Aimee Mann returns with her fifth solo album, The Forgotten Arm, a "concept album," that loosely tells the story of John and Caroline as they meet, fall in love and road trip across the country together. On her web site, Mann tells the story of these two lovers. "The guy's a Vietnam vet and a boxer, but he's also a drug addict, and she's trying to get away from the dead end world where she lives in the South.
Three years after his post 9/11 inspired rock record The Rising , and the incredible tour that followed with the E Street Band, the Boss returns with a sparse, folk and country inspired collection of songs. Many of these songs were written in 1997 on the road during Springsteen's solo The Ghost Of Tom Joad tour, and were intended to be a follow-up to Springsteen's 1995 John Steinbeck-inspired acoustic record.
Fair & Square is singer-songwriter John Prine's first album of original material in nine years and comes after his recovery from a bout with cancer. His last studio album was the Grammy-nominated Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings. It included some classic Prine stories - "New Train," "Ain't Hurtin' Nobody," "Humidity Built The Snowman," and continued to showcase an American icon at the top of his game and craft - some thirty years after his brilliant 1971 debut that included songs like "Angel From Montgomery," "Sam Stone," and "Hello In There."
With bossa nova beats, trip-hop, Jamaican dub, and world grooves galore, the Washington DC based DJ duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton are back with The Cosmic Game, their fourth record. Since the mid-90's Hilton and Garza have created their own flourishing cultural cottage industry with their own record label and a niteclub, restaurant and bar in Washington, DC. Starting out as DJ's catering to fans or rare-groove and acid-jazz music, they broadened their sound to include an ecelctic mix of groove and ambient genres of music. The Cosmic Game is their finest studio record yet.
South California native Billy Miles was discovered by producer and musician Andre Williams while Miles was making the rounds of small clubs in Los Angeles. With her excellent debut release and words of praise spreading from fans that have seen her live shows, Miles is an exciting and exotic new talent.
‘Guero’ is a wonderfully creative work that straddles the line between the mature sophistication of 1998’s ‘Mutations’ and the beat-driven excitement of his classic ‘Odelay’.
The Decemberists are a five piece band from Portland, Oregon and are fronted by singer/songwriter Colin Meloy. They take their name from the early 19th century secret society of Russian insurrectionists that led the revolution against the czars.
The John Butler Trio effortlessly combines gritty soulful vocals, elements of hip-hop, and Appalachian folk with subtle hints of everything from reggae to Zeppelin. Their new release is Sunrise Over The Sea and they are XPN's Artist To Watch this month.
Kathleen Edwards released her debut album, Failer, in January ’03 to critical acclaim and wide open arms (or is that ears) from WXPN listeners. One of XPN’s most popular albums and breakthrough artists that year, the Canadian singer-songwriter came on with killer songs, a tight little band and a feisty rock ‘n’ roll attitude. With comparisons to Lucinda Williams and influences like Neil Young and Tom Petty, Ms. Edwards established herself almost immediately as an artist of significance and she built herself a loyal cult-like audience.
Way back in the Winter of 2002, XPN mid-day host Helen Leicht began playing an independent release from a Philly based singer-songwriter named Amos Lee. Soulful and organic, Lee was making ends meet working at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia and honing his craft by playing open-mic nights and writing songs. After recording an EP, his music reached Helen - who directs XPN’s Philly Local program – and she began playing songs like “Colors” and “Arms Of A Woman.”
Just 13 years old in 1992 when he recorded music in his bedroom in Bondi Beach, Australia as the band Noise Addict, much has been made about Ben Lee’s youthfulness. Noise Addict were a full-on Aussie teen sensation, adapted here in the States by hipsters like Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys. But now as a 26 year-old, Lee’s youthfulness has been informed by young adulthood and with it a more mature perspective as a singer-songwriter with something to say. Lee’s twenty-something experiences warmly inform these songs with stories and lyrics that transcend age appeal.
Between the scruffy sweetness of Luke Reynolds’ rough, expressive tenor and the orchestral richness of the band’s intricate arrangements, Burning in the Sun is an album that is easy to get lost in.
Live at the World Cafe Volume 19: New Beginning contains sixteen exclusive tracks recorded live at WXPN's World Cafe Performance Studio in Philadelphia. Tracks include Citizen Cope, Van Hunt, Adrienne Young, and an awesome rendition of Come To Jesus' by Mindy Smith.
Bright Eyes is the primary project of 24 year-old Connor Oberst, a singer-songwriter wunderkind from Omaha, Nebraska. Precocious beyond his youthfulness, Oberst’s two new releases follow 2002’s Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground. A truly brilliant, ambitious release that music critics tripped all over each other to use as the opportunity to pronounce Oberst as “Next Big Thing,” the release was marred only by its self-indulgence.
With 16 studio records to her credit since her debut in 1989, singer-songwriter Ani Difranco has come to define the essence of musical independence. With her prolific outpouring of self-produced albums, she has inspired countless of musicians and fans with her unique guitar playing, lyrical content and cottage-industry business model that many musicians have aspired to.
Elliott Smith’s posthumous album, From A Basement On The Hill, was close to completion when Smith met his untimely, sad death. A truly talented songwriter, Smith rose from obscurity to mainstream awareness in 1997 on the strength of the song “Miss Misery” from the Academy Award nominated soundtrack to Good Will Hunting. But even with that stellar surreal performance – Smith in a white suit singing to millions of television viewers alongside Celine Dion and Trisha Yearwood – he remained one of pop music’s more engaging, much loved and revered, yet little known singers and songwriters. Who can also forget his breathtaking cover of the Beatles’ “Because” at the end of the film American Beauty? It is a great moment in movie music history.
Hailing from Montreal, Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, Richard Perry, Tim Kingsbury and Win’s brother Will make up The Arcade Fire. With a strong underground indie-rock following, Funeral is possibly the most critically acclaimed album of 2004 that fell under the radar. It’s a debut record too good and original to be ignored.
With Careless Love, Peyroux is once again proving herself to be an original interpreter and an open receptor to songs from earlier eras—an artist who channels vintage jazz and blues with chilling accuracy. “I feel very lucky to be part of a tradition of songwriting that stands the test of time,” says Peyroux. “I also feel lucky to be able to go back and perform as much as I did before—I can’t wait.” Adds Peyroux, with characteristic modesty:
If you thought Southern rock faded away when Lynyrd Skynyrd and Charlie Daniels’ radio popularity waned, then the Truckers embody the spirit of hard, road-driven rock and roll. With four of the Truckers hailing from North Alabama and with musical roots tied to the classic Muscle Shoals recording studio, it was the Truckers’ now classic 2001 Southern Rock Opera about Lynyrd Skynyrd that brought them critical acclaim and a record contract.
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Marc Broussard's new album Carenco (pronounced Karen-Crow) is named after his hometown in Louisiana. At a young 22, he sounds wise beyond his age mixing up soul and R&B with heavy doses of good old fashioned rock 'n' roll. Growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, Broussard was exposed to music as a youngster as his dad was guitarist for the legendary South Louisiana swamp band The Boogie Kings. Marc debuted in 2002 with the album Momentary Setback, and on Carencro he continues to hone his incredible rocking soul stylings with his best songs and most soulful singing yet.
Tangos and cha-chas. Smoky, jazzy French love songs, film-noir orchestrations and Cuban dance music. Welcome to the post-lounge vibe of Pink Martini, the Portland, Oregon based collective orchestra. Vocalist and songwriter China Forbes and classically-trained pianist Thomas Lauderdale formed Pink Martini in 1994. Since then they’ve been winning over the hearts and minds of music lovers since their 1997 debut album, Sympathique.
Lonely Runs Both Ways is the first studio album in three years from Alison Krauss and Union Station: Krauss (fiddle and vocals), Dan Tyminski (guitar and vocals), Barry Bales (bass and vocals), Ron Block (banjo, guitar, and vocals), and Jerry Douglas (dobro).
Rapidly approaching their 30th anniversary as a band, and now almost 25 years since the release of their debut, Boy, I can think of few bands who have not only continued to impact popular culture and music but who continue to make great recorded music. Undeniably, U2 is one of those bands.
More Adventurous is the third album from the Los Angeles based Rilo Kiley, fronted by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Jenny Lewis. Sharing musical sensibilities and indie-rock affinity with bands like Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins, Decemberists – Rilo Kiley are next generation rock and roll who have released a must hear album for 2004.