CD Of The Month

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The debut album North Hills, released September 29, 2009, from the local LA quartet and XPN Artist To Watch, Dawes (featuring members of the old Record Collection Simon Dawes) fringes with a blend of classic 70's folk-rock and contemporary embellishments.

It's a bit hard to believe that God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise is the fourth album from the soulful singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne. It doesn’t seem so far off from when many of us first stopped us in our tracks upon hearing the song “Trouble” from his debut album. But over the course of his career, Ray has captivated audiences with an emotionally driven songbook, a voice that summons goose bumps and a fascinating aversion to the spotlight he so requires.

A superstar cast of indie-artists that range from Josh Ritter to Drive-By Truckers come together to pay homage to one of the great country/folk songwriters on a new tribute album. Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine is, for the most part, a younger cast of admirers taking a deep look at the songbook of John Prine.

CD of the Month

Simply stated, Contra, the sophomore effort from Vampire Weekend does not miss. As a follow-up to their much admired debut, the new album is open to new, adventurous musical avenues all while still harnessing their worldly appetite. Unquestionably, Contra is smart, artistic, and — as you'd expect from Vampire Weekend — catchy.

Anthemic rockers The Hold Steady ready the release of their fifth studio album entitled Heaven Is Whenever. Animated keyboardist, Franz Nicolay, has parted ways with the group leaving the dynamics a bit altered, but nonetheless The Hold Steady’s classic brand of fist pumping rock ensues.

Under normal circumstances an artist releasing an album at an average of once per decade would hardly seem like a formula for success. In the case of Sade however, the norm tends not to apply, and the success of her enchanting new album Soldier of Love is a story few could foresee.

After bonding over a profound affinity for country, bluegrass and folk music, four friends Marcus Mumford, Country Winston, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane began putting their passionate song-writing to the works in 2007. Their enthusiastic passion for music was infectiously joyous and launched them to the forefront of the underground folk scene in London. That same infectious passion is the reason XPN has chosen Mumford and Sons as the XPN Artist To Watch for the month of June.

Promise and Potential are two words that often bring with them as much excitement as they do disappointment, especially in the case of young musicians. So, you can’t blame many of us for holding our breath in anticipation of the full-length debut album from the artist that simply goes by the name Lissie. The twenty something songwriter, originally from Rock Island, Illinois, perked our ears last year with her debut EP Why You Runnin’. And upon the release of Catching A Tiger not only could we exhale but applaud the collection as one of the years truly dynamic debuts.

Wake Up! is a one-of-a-kind collaboration first conceived roughly two years ago amidst the buzz of the Presidential election season. Similar to the minds of many, soul sensation John Legend and hip-hops most versatile players The Roots connected a likeness of the events of 2008 to the socially charged music of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Wake Up! is as much a testament to the power of that music as it is a literal ‘wake up’ call to a new generation.

CD of the Month

As the New Year gets underway, we anticipate lots of new releases from some of our favorite artists. However, a new name jumps to the head of the line in this year; a duo from Baltimore named Beach House. Their first album for the Sub Pop label comes out this January, entitled Teen Dream, and may just be one of the albums we're talking about again when we come full circle in 2010.

One of this year's most anticipated records!
~ Bruce Warren, Program Director WXPN

Much like their first two albums, The Suburbs from The Arcade Fire stands as a grandiose musical adventure. Similar to Funeral and Neon Bible, this new batch of songs triumphs with dynamic orchestrations and pure power. Yet, what sets The Suburbs apart from its predecessors is a sense of nostalgia. Where a dark cloud of impending doom may have at times hovered over their first two albums, The Suburbs offers a unique look back at adolescence both in a standalone state and in comparison to our current social state.

It's difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes Reservoir, the debut album from the London-based band and XPN's Artist To Watch Fanfarlo, so endearing. Perhaps it's the robust orchestrations or the imaginative storytelling. Regardless, it's hard to believe this is actually the band's first effort. The songs of Reservoir are sweet and melodic, carefully arranged and refreshingly original.

With her timeless voice, Melody Gardot offers an enchanting collection of jazzy originals with the release of her new album My One And Only Thrill. The Philadelphia native flourishes both as a singer and songwriter, upholding an assuredness that matches the elegance for which the album aspires.

For as much discussion that's been made about Wilco's decision to self-title their latest album, an equal amount of excitement should surround the music the band churns out on this new effort, Wilco (The Album).

Where soundtracks often miss the mark is in their inability to capture consistency from song to song as an album. Where the new soundtrack to the film The Twilight Saga: New Moon hits the bulls-eye is in its ability to recruit a wealth of musical talent, resulting with a cohesive set of songs in both atmosphere and ambition.

Peter Bjorn & John whistled their way into our ears just a couple years ago with their unavoidable single "Young Folks." And while their album Writer's Block was actually the trio's third album, all the symptoms of the dreaded "one-hit wonder" were beginning to loom. Well, fast forward to the present, and the release of Living Thing which sets out to prove that Peter Bjorn & John do in fact have a few more infectious offerings for us.

Back and Fourth marks the fourth studio album from singer-songwriter Pete Yorn, and his first since Nightcrawler in 2006. No doubt an important point in his career, the new album witnesses Pete letting go of responsibilities to which he'd become accustomed and writing perhaps the most personal songs of his career.

Often the hype that precedes an album's release ends up overshadowing the impact of the actual arrival. The announcement of collaboration between My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, M. Ward, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis was sure to leave some expectations unreasonably high. Yet the resulting album from the proclaimed Monsters Of Folk still offers plenty of surprises amongst a wealth of dreamy compositions.

Wait For Me, the new release from Moby may have some celebrating a "return to form", but the songs on Wait For Me do more than simply recall his earlier work. Very much in the now, Moby takes back the role of conductor, offering fans a collection of brooding songs unconcerned with demand or destination.

While his name seems to come up quite a bit when you reference modern independent music, it's been a couple years since we've got to enjoy an M. Ward solo record. More recently Ward has spent time recording and touring as the duo of She & Him. Hence, many are eager to get their ears on Hold Time, Ward's new solo album, which satisfies beyond expectations.

Presently, there is arguably no singer-songwriter that writes songs with as much visual perspective as Ingrid Michaelson. A success story born out of a new generation of fans on MySpace and strategic television placement, Ingrid's cinematic love tales have crossed the ears of millions, whether knowingly or unknowingly. And her second proper full-length album, titled Everybody, has the potential to set the proverbial scene yet again.

We often hear musicians talk about artistic integrity, yet few are as truthful or match the level of their ambitions as well as Andrew Bird. His songwriting, which at times will leave you reaching for your thesaurus, is as skillful as his string playing or his trademark whistling. The classically trained violin player has produced another record destined for critical praise in Noble Beasts.

Brooklyn's finest, TV On The Radio, have just dropped an album on us – Dear Science – that has to go down as one of the most honest, challenging and engaging things we’ve heard all year. If I hadn't read the lyric sheet I'd say it was downright revolutionary, but the bands' concerns are personal ones, albeit personal in a context of an all-too troubling present and future. It's strong from start to finish, and TVOTR has really upped the ante for their major label debut.

Back Door Slam was XPN's Artist To Watch in March. Their CD "Roll Away" was released last July in the U.S. on Blix Street.

Artist To Watch November 2007, indie folk-rock starlet Ingrid Michaelson may be compared to artists Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor, but she has definitely staked out her own territory in the music industry.

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