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2008

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

On Real Animal – his ninth solo album – Alejandro Escovedo rediscovers his punk rock roots in a big way without sacrificing any of the songwriting craft he's worked so long to perfect. As a member of the first wave San Francisco punk group The Nuns, the roots-punk, proto-Americana Rank & File (with the enigmatic brothers Tony & Chip Kinman), and the "new sincerity" torch bearers True Believers, Escovedo learned all about passion and substance over flash and gloss. He's come full circle with this new release.

It's been almost four years since the release of the self-titled Grammy-award winning debut from Austin roots rockers Los Lonely Boys. Brothers Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza have returned with their third album, Forgiven, and it is colored with a slightly different shade of roots-rock, due in large part to the decision to work with producer/drummer Steve Jordan.

The much beloved Hold Steady's fourth studio album – Stay Positiveis (I guess) a bit more on the "positive" side lyrically, while maintaining that weird combination of Springsteen-esque drama and Replacements' racket musically. Their fans are gonna love it, but will they reach the elusive masses with this one?

In the year's most meteoric indie rock success story, Tallahassee, Florida's Black Kids have climbed the major label mountain in record time. Thanks to a relentless barrage of positive press from all the right music crits, the band that was counting its collective change for gas money last fall have cashed in their rock dreams. Partie Traumatic documents a young band with great ideas in a big hurry.

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