Chilled out reggae music is something that Mishka is familiar with, does well, and is known for. This time around, all that holds true, but with the addition of one more element: pop music. Mishka, who's recent successes can be partially attributed to Matthew McConaughey (he owns the record label), has written a batch of new songs for this album that contain some of his best to date. The album's first single is "Bittersweet" and depicts the addition of pop music to Mishka's repertoire more than every other on the album. This album's updated sound, can be partially attributed to Butch Walker, an incredibly talented musician and producer who has mastered the art of mixing alternative rock and pop music seamlessly. Walker lent his collaborative skills to Mishka after an introduction of the two to each other by McConaughey. Other excellent tracks on this album include the title track, "Dead End Streets," and the pot-smoker-friendly tune "Homegrown" which featured a guest appearance by Willie Nelson. After already receiving major critical praise for his previous albums, especially his last which debut at the top of the reggae charts, he manages to again wow the music world with his unique take on traditional reggae mixed with modern alternative music.
One of the finest indie rock albums to come out in recent years, this sleeper by Jones Street Station is not to be passed up. Just as bands like Dawes, Bon Iver, The Avett Brothers, and Fleet Foxes have been able to do in recent months, this band's down to Earth simple approach to song crafting is what defines them and makes their debut album excellent. There is no question that songs like "Evergreen" and "Slow Lights" can hold their own against anything that is making critical waves in the indie world these days. Their harmonies are awesome. The instrumentation is first class. And, the delivery of the album is seamless. This is surely the beginning of a fruitful career for Jones Street Station, as long as they keep cranking out gems like this.
Going it on her own on her second album, Courtney Jaye has managed to create one of the best and most creative albums in years, and an effort that is better than her incredible debut. Jaye has managed to mix a tropical vibe with a Nashville country sound that is in a league all its own, which she released completely independently. Her songwriting is out of control and she is proving to be one of the brightest female singer/songwriters in recent years. "I Need Love," the album's first track, starts things of right showcasing this new and unique style. The album is heavy on the acoustic guitar, with hints of ukulele, slack key, and slide guitar throughout. The album's standout track is "Sweet Ride," Jaye's own take on the traditional love song. She truly has a talent that is all her own, and shines on tracks like "Tiger's Eye," which prior to the album release was already receiving critical praise, and "Sometimes Always," which features a guest vocal appearance by Band Of Horses lead singer Ben Bridwell. The album is bright, feel good, and full of sunshine and happy energy. Courtney Jaye may have managed to find a place in the music world that she will be able to fill with her own style of positive energy for many years to come.
Sometimes the people get it right, and when they selected Kris Allen as the winner (over Adam Lambert) of American Idol season 8 they chose the better musician. Kris Allen is the perfect image of what it means to be a musician plucked out of nowhere and thrown into the public eye. Not that it isn't deserved, but it was more whirlwind than many singer/songwriters rise to popularity. Regardless, his debut album is pretty darn good. It features a majority of songs that were either written or co-written by Allen himself, which is not something that most Idol winners can say (at least not on their debut). "Red Guitar" is the album's hands down best song, and consequently was written solely by Allen with no co-authors. He fits right into the same vein as other popular singer/songwriters like John Mayer, Howie Day, and Graham Colton. Allen has been around and did record music before now, but he finally was given his shot and proved that someone should have taken a chance on him long ago. Many Idol winners fade from the spotlight, and despite that, Allen will have a fruitful career on the heels of his debut, and he may surprise everyone by just sticking it out for the long haul.
It is a bold statement to say that Joe Pug could be this generation's Bob Dylan, but after one listen to his debut full length album it is evident. He combines the elements of simple folk songwriting with raspy delivery and a bit of indie rock edge to showcase his originality, yet still remain within a familiar sound. The album's title track and lead single is a radio hit in the making, but not in the sense that everyone will be singing it and it will be in heavy rotation at pop radio. It's a hit in that it is timeless and could have been released in the 90's, the 70's or even the 60's and gained the same type of critical praise that it deserves. One of the most fantastic songs on the album is the closer, "Speak Plainly, Diana." It's a song that he decided to rev up and rerecord the song (it appeared as an acoustic track on his EP "Nation Of Heat") turning his incredible lyrics into a memorable folk rocker. The fact that Joe Pug is bold enough and talented enough to release this type of music and this album at a time when the music industry is struggling proves that his music is in a league of its own.
Andrew Belle is one of the brightest young talents in the independent music world these days. He has managed to deliver a debut full length album that is just as good as anything backed by a major label. He has already managed to get his music placed throughout popular television shows, which if previous successes are of any value (i.e. The Fray, Mat Kearney) then he should reap the benefits greatly. That all being said, Andrew Belle has delivered some of the finest compositions from any singer/songwriter. His duet with Katie Herzig, "Static Waves," is a fun, poppy tune that shows off his awesome songwriting and his catchy vocals. "Don't Blame Yourself" and "Add It Up" are also incredibly written and performed and definitely two of the best on the disc. With this album, Andrew Belle is sure to make waves and it won't be before long that he is as successful as the aforementioned artists.
From jazz to funk to rock to soul, Bearquarium has managed to master each on their self titled album. This virtually unknown band has managed to harness the energy of their live shows and bottle it up in the studio, serving it to us as a seemingly never ending display of fun. Each of the eight tracks on this album has twists and turns keeping you pumped up to listen and mesmerized by their groove. It is a pretty equal mix of lyrical and instrumental songs The vocals stylings of the band's singer Justin Panigutti and female guest vocalist Lauren Dabkowski add another excellent layer to the mix, and the vocals and lyrics don't take away from what the rest of the band has going on. In fact, they are an intricate part where they appear, almost acting an an instrument themselves. The bottom line is that Bearquarium are a bright shining star in a sea of monotonous music. Although their style of music may not be quite what the mass populous is looking for, anyone who wants a departure from their everyday should get into this album.
There's mellow, and then there's the style of mellow that Peter Bradley Adams has mastered. This, his third solo album, is by far his most mellow to date. Each song on the album has incredible lyrical content delivered in a beautiful way through Adams' musical excellence. "For You" is an incredible composition, and one of Adams' finest songs. The entire album has an ambient quality, and relies heavily on a sound that is wispy and airy, emphasizing each song's lyrics. His voice is captivating and he truly is an artist who has mastered his craft. This album definitely showcases how PBA is such an incredible yet under appreciated talent.
After a successful debut album, Army Of Me are back with a new EP of songs that are incredibly different from their first album. The difference is that this EP plays and sounds more like a demo for their next album than a fully produced and realized collection of music. That being said, it is nice to hear an alternative rock band in their purest stripped down form. In a way, it is as if they are unplugged. "On My Way" sounds more like a singer/songwriter performance than that of a full band and remarkably is as outstanding as the standout tracks from their debut album. A more indie rock sound is showcased on "Lost At Sea," which is possibly the best of the five tracks. Some of these songs may get the full treatment in the future and appear on the next full blown studio album by Army Of Me. For now, it's great to hear what these guys are working on and know that they are turning out quality music, even without all the bells and whistles.
Rachael Cantu is a lot like Tegan and Sara were when they were first starting out. Her music is mellow and features clever arrangements and lyricism, yet still highly organic. She doesn't not rely on heavy production, and is highlighted by the fact that her music is so down to Earth. The sound of the album is typical indie rock, with twists and turns thrown in for good measure. The first track on the album, and possibly the best, is "Devil's Tunder" which has an almost gospel feel to it. The closing track, another standout, "Little Ocean Town" dials the music back all the way to showcasing her vocals and her guitar. Cantu is a gem in the music world, and it's a shame that she is not more widely known. With this album, which features a guest vocal appearance from Tegan Quin, she is sure to begin the climb to indie rock stardom as her friends, the Quin sisters, already have.
Roots rock music is a special type of genre of music. It's a cross between traditional American rock and roll and sixties folk music, with an emphasis on organic sounds and instrumentation. Barefoot Truth is a prime example of what it is to be a great roots rock band. Barefoot Truth, on the heels of this album, are poised to fill the void left by the breakup of independent roots rock legends Dispatch. The album has a handful of excellent tracks that showcase their live band sound in the studio. "Damage Done" is an updated version of an older track that is one of the harder rockers on the album, preceded by a didgeridoo-filled instrumental track "JaJu Call." The star of the disc is "Spoonful," which is incredibly heavy on acoustic guitar and shows off the band's love for reggae music. "All Good Reasons," a previously released single, appears on the album and has already become a classic Barefoot Truth tune. "From The Earth" and "Roots Of Stone" show off their earthy jam band qualities and are sure to become staples of their live setlists. Horns and harmonica are also found throughout the album, adding yet another layer to the band's already intricate orchestration. So far, this is the best independently released album of 2010, and it's so good it may still be come year's end.
It's incredibly fun when a musician takes on a covers project. When they are able to put their own spin on very unique and classic songs, musicians can reignite a love for the original artist and at the same time increase their own fanbase infinitely. Greg Laswell is always good for a good cover song, and this time he takes on five incredibly unique songs by very different original artists. His take on Maxwell's "This Woman's Work" is beautiful and turns the classic R&B track into an acoustic ballad. He does wonders with Kristen Hersh's "Your Ghost" and Echo & The Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon," turning them into tracks that could fool listeners into thinking they were his own. Laswell is a master musician. What he does, regardless of whether or not they are his original songs, is always surprising and outstanding.
It is becoming increasingly hard, in the music industry, to set yourself apart from the pack. As a member of the indie rock band Sam Champion, Sean Bones has been able to be part of some great musical moments. On his own, with this solo project, he has elevated his game to a new level. He has managed to combine his indie sound with authentic dancehall reggae rhythms and beats of Jamaica. Vampire Weekend is probably the nearest comparison that can be made to this album's sound, but it's less worldly and more centered on the sounds of real reggae. It's as if Bob Marley & The Wailers were an indie rock band! "Instigator" and "Dancehall" are the possibly the most authentic on the album, and transport your right to the heart of Jamaica. Another song that is drenched in sunshine is "Sugar In My Spoon." Norah Jones makes a guest vocal appearance on the album's closing track, a slower ballad-like song called "Turn Them." After such and incredibly successful solo debut, Sean Bones may not want to return to his day job. Hands down, this is one of the coolest sounding reggae albums in recent years.
When David Gray fist made waves on American soil with is album "White Ladder" he was compared to everyone under the sun in the singer/songwriter world, when in fact he was a quite unique musician. So many years later, David Gray has returned to that same form with his latest release "Draw The Line," quite possibly his best album since "White Ladder." Although this latest doesn't have the same ambiance as songs like "Babylon" and doesn't feature subdued syncopated percussion, it does have the same lyrical mastery. The lead single "Fugitive" is definitely his best since "Babylon" and "Please Forgive Me" graced the airwaves. It's got the same feel and energy of both songs, with a updated style that can compete with even the brightest new young talent. "Stella The Artist" and the title track are also phenomenal, and the entire album as a whole is an excellent listen from start to finish. David Gray has proven that you don't have to make outstanding album every time, but if you make a few great ones at strategic times, you will have staying power in such a tough industry.
Somewhere on the border between country music and the blues sits Cory Chisel and his brand of American rock. Their new full length album, produced by Chisel and Brendan Benson, is full of outstanding compositions. Some songs were also co-written by Benson and feature members of Benson's band the Raconteurs. The album starts off with "Born Again" which is easily the best song on the album. It is a edgy blues rocker that shows off Chisel's great lyricism. The lyrics take center stage on songs like "Tennessee" which is a slow acoustic track displaying the essence of who Chisel is as a musician. Other standouts are "Angel Of Mine" and "Love Is Gone" but every song on this album are good enough to hear on the radio. Cory Chisel is at the front of the newest generation of musical geniuses and this awesome album is sure to keep him at the top for some time.
Landon Pigg has always be an under-the-radar kind of performer. He didn't make too many waves with his debut album, but managed to gain a huge fanbase and a springboard with which he launched into the next faze of his career. Thanks to clever placement to his digital single "Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop" in a television commercial, Landon was able to make a pretty big name for himself. The single gets a reworking on his second full length album, further increasing its excellence. Both versions of the song are excellent on their own as well. This album features more of Pigg's incredible lyricism, as heard on songs like "Made For Glory" and "A Ghost." "A Ghost" also showcases the soulfulness of Landon's voice combined with an old school sound that is right out of the 1950s. Landon Pigg is a quiet force in the music world, and with his ability to write a heartfelt pop song that connects to the heartstrings of his listeners, he will remain at the top.
Not their most ambitious recording, Tegan and& Sara's newest album "Sainthood" is certainly one of their best. Again produced by Death Cab For Cutie member Chris Walla, the girls up the ante with a more electronic album than in previous efforts. Just as their last was heavy on cutting edge production, Walla pulls not stops in helping to create a sonic masterpiece that is very similar to their critically acclaimed album "The Con." On the first single "Hell," Tegan and Sara recreate the signature sound that has made them popular in the indie scene and now to a wider audience. Their interesting style of harmonization is very unique and only heightened by the fact that they have incredibly similar voices due to the fact they are twin sisters. "Alligator" is probably their best song since "Walking With The Ghost" and is destined to become a signature identifier of their current sound. Other standout songs are "Don't Rush" and "Paperback Head." The girls from the great white north are certainly still at the top of their and continue to make incredibly unique alternative rock, incorporating as much inventive styling as possible.
It's kind of hard to believe that Colbie Caillat decided to name her second album "Breakthrough" when in fact it was her first that was a breakthrough creation. This album is just as good as her debut album and is sure to produce just as many hit songs as the first. But, nothing on this album is a 'breakthrough'! Her signature sound is wallpapered all over every single track, with some of her best compositions included. The single "Fallin' For You" and "I Never Told You" are full of sun drenched acoustic pop and are easy to sing along with on the radio. By far, the best song on the track is a classic fan favorite that finally got to see the light of day. The duet with Jason Reeves, "Droplets," is that song and was also co-written with Reeves, along with many of the other tracks. Caillat puts together another outstanding record and it will keep her relevant in the music industry for quite some time.
Rock bands have to do a lot these days to stand out, but sometimes connecting with history is enough. Alberta Cross, like it-band Kings Of Leon, have mastered the art of making old school American rock music fun and current. The difference between Alberta Cross and KoL, however, is that Alberta Cross mixes their style of rock music with a bit of 90's alternative and flavor reminiscent of bands like Coldplay and Radiohead. Big heavy crunchy guitars are a staple in songs like "ATX" and "Leave Us And Forgive Us." The boys crank up the blues rock on "Old Man Chicago" and bridge the Atlantic with brit-pop style on the album's title track. The brand of alternative rock music that Alberta Cross has harnessed on their debut album is familiar yet still fresh. Many of the songs on this album will be rock radio hits and this album is sure to make waves for quite a while as Alberta Cross rises to the top.
The Album Leaf has always been at the forefront of the electronic indie movement. As one of the originals in this genre, the Album Leaf never misses a beat wih any of their releases thusfar. This latest effort doesn't fall short in the slightest. This collection of new tunes is as solid as all of their previous releases, and contains some of their best compositions. "Summer Fog" is one of the absolute most beautiful songs ever written, and as an instrumental is strikingly emotional. When lyrics come into the mix it just adds to the awesomeness. Quiet music is something that doesn't always get the praise it deserves, and the Album Leaf is one of the greats. Although this is not their best album ("In A Safe Place" is a masterpiece) is comes damn near close to it, and the Album Leaf is truly an original and potentially iconic musical collective.
Check out the first single off of Citizen Cope's new album "The Rainwater LP." The song is called "Healing Hands" and can be downloaded here. The album is out now digitally and will be released in physical form in about a month.
It's always good to have friends in high places. For Matt Morris, his friend is none other than Justin Timberlake. Yes, that Justin Timberlake. Morris is the first artist signed to Timberlake's Tennman Records, an independent label he started to release some otherwise unknown musicians. That being said, Morris will reap the success of this album for years to come as it is an incredibly fine debut. He mixes his soulful singing with a pop friendly folk style that is not very mass produced in the record industry these days. "Money," the first single off of this album, is a soul filled tune about the dangers of greed, and one of Morris' best. He channels everyone from Coldplay to Stevie Wonder on this album, which features production and guest appearances (including instrumentally) from Timberlake himself. Edie Brickell and Patty Griffin also appear on the album with background vocals, showing off his incredible connection to folk music and the Nashville scene. Other standout tracks include "Bloodline" and "The Un-American" which is a track portraying the so called "die hard Americans" in this country as being not very American at all. Morris is sure to gain tons of praise for this album due to his connections to Timberlake, however, it wouldn't have been long before, without his connections, Matt Morris would have amazed the world with his music.
Folk artist Whitley has taken his music to a whole new level on his sophomore release. This time he forgoes the use of tons of acoustic guitars for heavier production, which was heard on his first album, but not as widely as on this one. The first single, "Head, First, Down" is full of syncopated rhythm and ear catching melody. He struts his instrumental stuff on the opening track "1945" and "Warm Winter Sky." He is doing things with music that many artists are not even attempting. His use of electronic elements are cutting edge, while still remaining far from creating electronic music. He has a fondness for a complete song, and each and every composition on the album is fully layered with instrumentation, voice, and ambiance. He is truly a unique musician and continues to create incredible and original music. This album proves that you can do anything with your music and still remain true to who you are as an artist.
Pop music is hard to create while still being able to remain original and unique. It is always difficult to set yourself apart from other musical acts while creating accessible songs that can be consumed by a wide variety of music lovers. Elizabeth & The Catapult are a musical group that have managed to put together an incredible album that strays away from the normal pop music formula yet still manages to showcase simple, refined, and accessible music. "Race You" is the album's runaway standout. The song is fun and catchy, with a singable hook that is exactly what makes a memorable song. Songs like the title track and "Momma's Boy" show off the groups ability to create lyrical gems. "Rainiest Day Of Summer" is definitely a beautiful song and proves that E&TC can connect with the listener on many levels. Elizabeth & The Catapult is a breath of fresh air in the pop music world and are sure to gain a ton of new fans with this album.
Debut albums are a way to make an imprint on the listener by creating a unique offering that they may have not heard before. Rey Fresco has an incredibly unique sound that is a different spin on the laid back west coast reggae-rock, light punk that many bands are performing. Sublime is probably the closest comparison of any band to their sound, but Rey Fresco sill has a definite sound all their own. This debut album was produced by friend and surf film musical staple, Todd Hannigan, and features music that is drenched in tropicalia and reggae. "Precious Time" has already began making waves on modern rock and adult alternative radio. Other standout tracks include "All In Awe" and "Chan Chan," which is a cover of the Buena Vista Social Club standard. Latin music and straight up alternative rock also have major influence over this band's sound throughout their debut album. Rey Fresco's "The People" is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise cluttered world of copycat music.
Corey Crowder has put together an amazing new collection of songs that depicts his true self as a musician. This new album leaves behind the heavily produced southern rock sound of his previous disc and showcases the singer/songwriter nature of his music. Sure, the southern rock sound is still alive and well, but this time the songs are stripped down. The acoustic guitar is the star alongside the lyrics of each song as he flirts with actually making a country record. Some songs have a Beatles style poppiness and others are incredibly deep fried with southern flavor. "Bring It On Back" and "The Sailboat Scream" are two of the best on the disc as Corey makes it a priority to connect with the listener and not just sound good. He is a true talent and this album showcases that, without taking away from the nature of his southern rock heritage.
It's always hard, when you have kids, to find music that you all can enjoy. Of course, there's always that outside chance that your kids will love everything that you listen to and you'll have nothing to worry about. Recently rock bands have taken a different perspective on children's music and it's totally awesome. The latest is by the Verve Pipe and it takes 90's alternative and mixes it with themes and emotions that kids and entire families can relate to together. This is music that adults can enjoy with their kids and no one has to be subjected to the awfulness of Kidz Bop. "Be Part Of The Band" is a rocker that gets kids in the mood to do just that: rock! The Verve Pipe mixes a little bluegrass with clever lyrics on "Suppertime" and gets sentimental on "One Becomes Two." With this being the latest success story of great bands making great kid friendly music, it's a shame that all bands don't dive into this world. The Verve Pipe has always made great music and as the years progress, they continue to do just that, even if this latest collection targets a wider demographic.
It's been a long time coming for Tyler James' debut full length album to be released, but it's finally here. Previous to now he's released a few EPs, appeared on a few compilations, and lent his vocal talents to an electronic track by Morgan Page. On this album he spares no expense by bringing back a few pieces of gold from his first few releases. "Sweet Relief" and "Down To The Garden" are two of these gems, and their reworkings on this album take them to the next level. Two of the best songs written in recent years are included as well, "Don't Leave" and "Stay Humble," both of which appeared on James' first EP. "Stay Humble" is better than ever and is sure to be the song that makes Tyler James a star. "Don't Leave" is slowed down just a bit to really focus on the lyrical content. Of his new tunes, two songs stand out immensely. "All I Got" is a slow jazzy tune about love that features some cool horns. The other is "Soapbox Shakedown" which is a lyrical masterpiece and showcases Tyler's ability to tell a story through song while still showcasing his musicality. Tyler James is truly one of the most underrated independent musicians on the scene these days, but once the masses grasp hold of this album he is sure to become the next big thing.
- ALO "Man Of The World"
- Samantha Stollenwerck "Carefree"
- Lee Everton "A Little Light"
- Jason Castro "Love Uncompromised"
- Matt Hartke (featuring Angel Taylor) "This Way"
- Marie Moreshead "As The Romans Do"
- Greg Holden "The Chase"
- Matt Stansberry "You Could Have It All"
- Pete Kilpatrick Band "Feel It"
- Taylor Carson "Someone To Love"
- Matthew Mayfield "Better"
- Robert Francis "Nightfall"
- The Avett Brothers "Laundry Room"
- Dawes "Love Is All I Am"
- Peter Bradley Adams "For You"
- Trent Dabbs "Inside These Lines"
- Andrew Belle (featuring Katie Herzig) "Static Waves"
- Joey Ryan "Broken Headlights"
- Tyler James "All I Got"
- Guy Sebastian (featuring John Mayer) "Fail To Mention"
When it comes to diverse singers, Guy Sebastian is certainly one that comes to mind. In the US, however, he's not that well known because his debut "Like It Like That" has not been released there yet. Actually, this latest album by Guy is not his debut, it's just his US-debut-to-be; he has many other albums already released in his home country of Australia. Guy, who was the first winner of Australian Idol (the down under version of the US megahit), teams up with David Ryan Harris, guitarist of John Mayer's band and soulful singer/songwriter, for a no-holds-barred assault on the music world. He covers everything from soul to pop to blues on this album. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks lends her vocals to a pop duet that is the only track on the album that seems to be incredibly out of place, but not a bad song at all. John Mayer lends some guitar and background vocals to two excellent songs "Fail To Mention" and "Never Be You." The title track and "All To Myself" really show off Guy's more upbeat soulfulness. He's destined to take the world by storm, but for now only a few tracks from the album can be downloaded in the US. He will, for sure, be huge in the states once the rest of this album can be consumed.