After having broken onto the pop music scene as a guest vocalist for the electronic act Zero 7, Sia has developed into quite the independent artist. All her music is fun and exciting, and this newest album has the most energy of any of her releases. Produced by Greg Kurstin (The Bird And The Bee, Geggy Tah), the songs contained within are a breath of fresh air. With the energy of artists like Beck (with whom she collaborated in the past) and Gnarls Barkley, her music is equally intriguing. "You've Changed" and "Clap Your Hands" are Sia's best songs since the release of "Breathe Me." "Big Girl Little Girl" has her again collaborating with Zero 7's Henry Binns, and includes backing vocals by Inara George. The album is one of the most sonically pleasing of the year, and is sure to blow up the airwaves, and trigger a plethora of remixes.
For fans of indie rock, Stars have always been one of those bands that has epitomized the sound. Equal parts Feist and Death Cab For Cutie, Stars has found a way to harness the subtle energy and poignant lyricism of heartfelt indie rock and paint a sonic picture with their music. Drawing from all the best parts of all their previous recordings, "The Five Ghosts," the band's first on Vagrant Records, takes them band to a new level with their music. The production quality has been stepped up, and the album as a whole is better than it's parts as individual songs. "Dead Hearts," "Fixed," and "Wasted Daylight" will easily become songs that define Stars to a mass audience that they have yet to reach. The dual vocalists, one male and one female, is a quality that is unseen in popular music these days, and sets the band apart from all its peers. Stars has always been a diamond in the rough, unrecognized by the masses for their talent and their beautiful music, and this album stands to be their breakout from obscurity.
New music out today worth checking out:
- Trevor Hall - Chasing The Flame: On The Road With Trevor Hall
- Ernie Halter - Franklin & Vermont
- Steel Train - Steel Train
- STS9 - Axe The Cables
Back with one of their most ambitious records yet, Steel Train have delivered an immensely creative set of new tunes. Mixing their old soul rock and roll style with the newness of their indie sound and the energy of punk and alternative rock, the guys have managed to deliver a incredibly cohesive collection of songs. Tracks like "Turnpike Ghost," "Bullet," and "You And I Undercover" are surefire hits, and will certainly bring Steel Train to the forefront of the alternative rock scene. As an added bonus, Steel Train has also decided to open the floodgates an release a collection of covers of the songs on this album sung by a who's who of indie rock goddesses, including Scarlett Johansson and Tegan & Sara. With this album, Steel Train are destined to join he new wave of talented young indie bands breaking out into the mainstream.
Redoing an album is not the most traditional thing to do. When Donavon Frankenreiter decided to take a new stab at his self titled debut album, he decided not to redo the album, but revisit and reinvent the music that was so excellent already the first time around. He decided to take 10 songs from his debut album and reinterpret the music using traditional Hawaiian instruments and styles, adding a tropical vibe to his already sunsoaked tunes. The end result is an album unlike any other. The lyrics and vibe of the music is so perfect for this style. There are no guest vocalists this time around, and songs like "Free" and "What'cha Know About" take on a whole new life this time around. "Heading Home," "Call Me Papa," and "Butterfly" are all perfect suited for this style of music, and the lyrics mold beautifully with Frankenreiters new take on the music. Donavon Frankenreiter continues to be an incredibly unique and inventive singer/songwriter, and with each new composition he always ads a whole new spin on his great music. He's quite an eccentric soul, and this album shows a new side to him and his music that is just plain awesome.
Kids movies are always fun. But what makes them outstanding is the music. When the music included in the movies is just as good as anything that parents would listen to on a regular basis that just makes enjoying the movie with your kids that much better. Jack Johnson took over musical duties in the original Curious George movie, but this time Carbon Leaf has taken the reins and delivered a successful collection of new and reinterpreted songs from their catalogue. The new songs "The Friendship Song" and "Walking In The Sun" are fun loving songs that are kid friendly and have all of the great elements of Carbon Leaf's signature Celtic rock style. Their revisitation of the songs "Life Less Ordinary" and "Let Your Troubles Roll By" mesh well with the vibe of the rest of the soundtrack and breathe new life into some of Carbon Leaf's best old songs. Beach Boy Brian Wilson also contributes a track and the album contains some non-Carbon Leaf instrumental compositions used throughout the movie. Kids music should always be fun, but it's best when the parents love it to. The Curious George franchise has managed to yet again provided us with another excellent compilation of tunes for kids and parents alike.
Live music flows through Zac Brown's blood, so it was only fitting that he followed up his critically acclaimed debut with a stunning recording of an excellent live performance by him and his band. With a little help from his friends Zac Brown put on an incredible show that busted down musical barriers and showcased how excellent a live performer Zac Brown Band truly is. Although he is marketed as a country singer, Brown has a lot of rock and roll inside him and his music, and when unleashed on a crowd, it comes out. Great performances include "Chicken Fried," "Who Knows," "Highway 20 Ride" and an awesome cover of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." Both well known and indie friends joined the party on stage such as Aslyn, Shawn Mullins, Angie Aparo, and Kid Rock for some excellent collaborations. Zac Brown Band is a great live band, and this show showcases just how fun and exciting they are on stage.
Jonathan Clay is an incredibly soulful singer/songwriter who's newest album showcases his musical maturity and bluesy guitar stylings. Not quite at the level of John Mayer, but certainly amazing with the axe, Clay's lyrics and guitar solos virtually do battle throughout the entire album as each try to be the anchor. Luckily both the lyrics and the musicianship play an equal role in the success of the album. The album is full of radio ready hits such as "Lucky To Be Loved By You," "Close To You," and "Gypsy Woman." The whole disc is full of songs that show off Clay's great lyrics and stellar guitar skills. Jonathan Clay is an incredible talent that may not be as widely known as he should, and despite the fact that he had a video in rotation on VH1, this album is the one that is going to put him permanently on the map.
Tony Lucca's newest album is by far is best ever. He has definitely outdone himself with the lyrical content, and love is an overall theme of the entire disc. The simplicity of the music is outstanding, laying the groundwork for some of Lucca's most heartfelt tunes. Friends Keaton Simons, Curtis Peoples, and Sara Bareilles all make vocal contributions to the album, adding another layer of awesomeness to Lucca's signature blues and soul influenced acoustic rock. "Long Love Letter" is sure to gain this album some major attention, with its catchy hook and singable lyrics. Lucca also includes his take on the classic Billy Joel song "Vienna." Tony Lucca is one of those musicians that has been around for a while but has not quite reached the level of recognition that he truly deserves. Lucca has proven that he is the real deal and can put together outstanding albums full of personal and soulful songs that any music lover can get into.
New music out today worth checking out:
- Griffin House - The Learner
- Marah - Life Is A Problem
- Robert Randolph & The Family Band - We Walk This Road
- The Roots - How I Got Over
- Sia - We Are Born
- Stars - The Five Ghosts
- Various Artists - 180° South Soundtrack
Griffin House has slowly become one of the greatest singer/songwriters making music over the last decade. His newest album shatters the mold that he has used to create excellent albums in the past, and takes a fresh approach at delivering fine music. Griffin House has managed to incorporate about a half a dozen of his best lyrical compositions on this album. The first single from the album is "She Likes Girls" and is a very tongue-in-cheek portrayal of what is is like to try to bring a girl back from the other side. "Let My People Go," "River City Lights," and "Just Another Guy" are all album standouts. Griffin has proven that the essence of a great album, at its very core, is the lyrics. He is a poet, he is a storyteller, and he is a human. These three characteristics together allow him to put down raw emotion on paper and then onto tape, and the listener benefits like never before. He could possibly be this generation's Dylan or Lennon or Simon, but he is not. He is his own entity and his music stands up on it's own. "The Learner" is a defining moment in Griffin House's career, and it is going to be hard to top. Fortunately Griffin House doesn't have to do better, he only needs to continue to create his music just as he has for the past decade or so.
Hip hop come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. But what makes hip hop interesting is when it doesn't sound like everyone else. For Somali born rapper K'naan, music is life and it is that music that helps him to convey where is comes from, where he is going, and everything he is passionate about. His lyricism is cutting edge and his delivery is unmatched in the hip hop world today. Mos Def, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, and Maroon 5's Adam Levine all lend their vocals talents to the album and make for some exciting and innovative tracks. "Bang Bang" is a pop/hip hop collaboration the boldly breaks down genre barriers. "ABC's" and "If Rap Gets Jealous" showcase some of the best and most personal lyrics that K'naan has written. With influences ranging from everyone from Jay-Z to Bob Marley, K'naan takes an unconventional approach to an artistic form of music that has lately become very predictable. K'naan is a bright talent in the hip hop world and has definitely set himself up for a successful career with his major label debut.
For up and coming singer/songwriters, it can be a rough world out there. For Tim Hanauer, it seems as though it's not going to be so bad. His newest album is a poignant collection of well written and performed songs. Although the music may not be what you might hear on popular radio, it's actually refreshing to get to listen to a full album of songs that does not follow along the same cookie cutter mold as typical pop music. The disc is full of magical music, the best of which include "Miss," "December Days," and "Dream A Better Way." Hanauer has a way with words and mixes them beautifully with his simple instrumentation. Any fan of independent songwriters will surely fall in love with Hanauer's latest.
Boyce Avenue is a bright new band that has already made a pretty huge name for themselves independently online. Their newest release is their first on a major label and has them plugging in and letting go (their acoustic sessions digital albums are incredibly awesome). The boys in the band have created music that is reminiscent of everyone from Sister Hazel and Vertical Horizon to Kings Of Leon and Lifehouse. Their brand of rock is refreshing and familiar, and their songwriting skills are incredible. The first single "Every Breath" is sure to blow up on the charts as, along with newcomers Alpha Rev and Green River Ordinance, they are poised to become part of a new breed of band whose music is catchy, youthful, and inventive. Boyce Avenue's debut major label effort is an excellent one, and as a stepping stone to success, the entire collection of music is brilliant.
Every now and again a film comes along that is strikingly beautiful, informant, and artistic. For 180° South, Chris Malloy has outdone himself telling and retelling the story of mountain climbing, surfing, adventure, and conservation of Jeff Johnson (present day) and Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins (forty years ago). Jeff Johnson sought to reinvent, reinterpret, and relive the trip that Chouinard and Tompkins took to Patagonia after having viewed a VHS recording of their adventure. Yvon and Doug are now activists and entrepreneurs, as they are the founders of outdoor gear/clothing outfitters Patagonia and The North Face, respectively. Back then, they were just young men out for adventure as they drove down to South America, stopping along the way to surf, in search of some excellent and dangerous mountain climbing in the Patagonia region of Chile. Jeff Johnson, a surfer, climber, and photographer, decided to hitch a ride on a boat, instead of drive, and take a six month journey to Patagonia in search of the same adventure, stopping along the way at Easter Island after a major seafaring catastrophe. With friends from home and new friends picked up along the way Johnson made it to his final destination, and also to within 200 feet of the summit of Corcovado before having to call it quits because the climb became too dangerous. The filmmaking, cinematography, animations, direction, and production are all cutting edge in their simplicity and artistry. Malloy has outdone himself with this uncharacteristic tale of adventure. The music is excellent and stirring, featuring James Mercer (singer of The Shins and Broken Bells), Ugly Casanova (a side project of Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock), Mason Jennings, and Jack Johnson. In the end the message of conservation put a giant exclamation point on the adventure taken and the film that told its story. For a collective like Woodshed Films, known for their 16mm surf films, 180° South is truly a tangent worth taking and taken well. Maybe for Jeff Johnson's return trip, Malloy and his team of filmmaking storytellers will follow along for the ride. Again.
Ernie Halter is one of the most talented musicians making music independently these days. He is the epitome of what it means to "do your own thing." He mixes soul and R&B with folk and rock music for a sound that is distinctively all his own. His latest album combines more of a folksy sound with his soulfulness, but still features a few tunes like "Hard To Let A Good Love Go" and "Yes I Am" that are upbeat and funky. The single "Gone" and other songs such as "Angel" and "Come Home To Me" are much more acoustic and intimate, and really showcase some of Halter's best songwriting. As always he included a few cover songs on the album, including "In My Place" which is quite possibly the best cover version of a Coldplay song ever recorded. Ernie Halter is not as appreciated a musician as he should be, but that just means that his loyal fans and new listeners can own his music and hold it close to them. Halter's lyrics and musicianship are outstanding, and this new album is certainly a high point in his career.
For William Fitzsimmons, making music lately has been therapeutic. This new EP is a departure from his latest album, but takes the music from it to a whole new place. The music is incredibly upbeat given the subject matter and the original songs that these remixes were made from. Despite the fact that these sad songs have been upgraded for this recording, they retain their sad song qualities and the lyrical content is still center stage in each recording. The things that the remixers did with these songs make them exciting and interesting again, and rejuvenate the originals making them that much more exciting as well. The biggest surprise on the EP is the inclusion of a cover of Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl." This rendition of the song is by far one of the best covers of any bubble gum pop song ever. Fitzsimmons has a way with words, a guitar, and dark delivery that makes every song he sings outstanding, even if its not his own. For die hard fans this EP is a treat, and for new listeners, this EP is a dip-your-toe-in-the-pool introduction to the excellence of William Fitzsimmons.
New music out today worth checking out:
- Boyce Avenue - All We Have Left
- Jonathan Clay - Everything She Wants
- Donavon Frankenreiter - Revisited
- Oasis - Time Flies... 1994-2009
- Zero 7 - Record
The Chemical Brothers are back in a big way with one of their most intriguing albums to date. Unlike many of their other albums, this disc does not contain a single radio friendly track, and that's an excellent thing. Comparisons can be drawn to some of the music contained in the band's albums "Exit Planet Dust" and "Surrender" and it all has a very summer night rave feel. The album intentionally flows from song to song just like a Chemical Brothers DJ set, making for a very powerful record. "Escape Velocity" and "Swoon" are both highlights of the set. Another change in the formula was the lack of big named vocal guests on the album. They opted to keep with the DJ vibe and utilize sparsely placed samples to keep the album from getting monotonous or overbearing. The Chemical Brothers always set out to amaze listeners and surprise with each beat and sample. This effort is no different and just showcases another facet of this super talented and immensely creative duo.
Chase Coy is one of those young singer/songwriters that people love to love or love to hate. The fact still remains that, despite his youth, he is an incredibly talented lyricist and musician. He may not be the next John Mayer, but he sure is following down the same path that Mayer once ventured down almost a decade ago. Coy has put together a new collection of music that speaks to music fans of all ages. Mostly talking about love and relationships (as with most male singer/songwriters) the songs on the album are interesting and radio friendly. The title track and "If The Moon Fell Down" (which features vocals by Colbie Caillat) are easy standouts in the mix, but every song on the album have their moments. Coy is a bright young star, and now that he is being unleashed on the masses, he is sure to rocket to stardom. He should do alright, considering he has the music chops to back up his pop appeal.
Not as upbeat and poppy as their debut album, Delta Spirit has returned with an incredible mature take on indie rock music. With success off their first album it came time to reproduce the kind of album that they had brought us the first time out, and what they did was go one step beyond. Instead of making a new collection of music that resembled the last, they set out to explore the avenues that they felt they needed to go down. The first treat off of the album is the widely popular song "Bushwick Blues" which matches their stellar lyricism with a little bit more rock than indie pop than some of their previous hits. Lyrical content takes center stage on many of their songs, as is the case in the excellent tracks "White Table" and "Golden State." The truth of the matter is that Delta Spirit has risen to the occasion and shown us that they are no fly-by-night act and that they can make really great albums featuring incredible songs. They get to the bare bones of their sound on this album and prove that true musicianship is the essence of a great recording.
Part two of Chase McBride's double release is an EP of songs that are a slight departure from his full length album "The Good Fight" while still utilizing his creativity and musicianship. This EP continues on the same path lyrically and musically as the previous album, with one twist, it was self produced and much more stripped down and organic. Without the aide of an established music producer, studio space, or high tech recording equipment, McBride harnesses the essence of who he is as a musician. His lyrics are personal and poetic and the music that accompanies them plays along like a simple soundtrack to his stories. "Gloria" and "Soul" are two of Chase's best compositions. The EP is about Chase connecting to the music and his surroundings, and he delivers some incredible tunes that sound as if they could have been written and record back in the 60's. Chase McBride is an awesome folk artist who knows the ins and outs of making a recording, writing poignant songs, and being true to who he is. "Wild Child" is a testament to McBride the musician, person, and friend, and is exactly the type of record that all folk artists should set out to create.
EP left off. Produced by Todd Hannigan, known for his own west coast style folk and surf film music, the album features a stunning collection of original tunes that are lyrically masterful and musically breathtaking. Song after song the progression takes you on a journey into the mind, soul, and views of Chase McBride, who has the unbelievable ability to connect to his listeners through lyrics that some seasoned veterans of the music world can't accomplish. The title track, "Daylight Come," and "Hold Me Up" are all incredible compositions that are both funky and mellow, showing off his unique approach at folk music. Fans of Dispatch, Trevor Hall, and even Jack Johnson will love this music without feeling like McBride is a copycat of any of their styles. With this release Chase McBride has begun to establish himself as part of the new breed of independent artists who do it their way, build a grassroots following, and truly show off what it means to be a musician.
Southern California is a mecca for great music and other than the Beach Boys, Rooney may be the only other band around whose music actually sounds like Southern California. This album is the first full length album that Rooney is releasing on their own since leaving their major label behind. The entire collection of music is full of upbeat music that transports you right to the beach. The band's signature power pop sound at times is reminiscent of Weezer or Phantom Planet. "I Can't Get Enough," the album's first single, is one of this year's catchiest tunes. "I Don't Wanna Lose You" and "Only Friend" are also two excellent tracks, showing off how Rooney can continue to do the same thing, while still adding a few twists and turns to make it exciting and fresh. Rooney will continue to be one of the best SoCal pop bands around, and their new venture without major label backing proves that all you really need is great songs and a great vibe.
Gym Class Heroes broke out in the last few years reinventing the genre or rap-rock. Nothing like the style of music that was everywhere in the late 90's, their brand featured more tongue-in-cheek lyrics and a pop/emo style of rock music that was much more accessible by all music fans. This album sees the solo debut of the bands lead singer/vocalist Travie McCoy, showing off much of the same that we have come to love from Gym Class Heroes. The twist is that creative freedom went one hundred percent to McCoy, and he decided to take the ball and run with it, doing some new things, some old things, and some off the wall things. The album is much more pop and hip hop than the alternative sound of Gym Class Heroes, reaching a different type of music fan. GCH fans will love this album, but it is a slight departure. Reggae is showcased in the debut single "Billionaire" and McCoy brings the funk and soul on "Dr. Feel Good" with a little help from Cee-Lo Green. Overall, McCoy has proven that he's got a firm grasp on the music industry and shows no signs of slowing down whether is is all alone or with his band.
New releases out today worth checking out:
- The Chemical Brothers - Further
- Delta Spirit - History From Below
- Travie McCoy - Lazarus
- Grace Potter & The Nocturnals - Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
- Rooney - Eureka
- 180° South (Woodshed Films DVD)
After a 20 year (and still going) career, it's only logical to release a greatest hits album. Well, for moe., unconventional is always the way to go and they spare no expense with their recently released 'best of' collection. "Smash Hits, Volume One" is a collection of 10 of the band's best songs, mostly comprised of the songs that the band and those close to the band have deemed to be fan favorites. With an incredibly extensive catalogue to pull from, it's a wonder they were able to narrow it down to just 10 songs, but then again, this is only volume one. The and also decided to rerecord many of the songs on the album to give them a fresh interpretation, some of which were new over a decade ago. The band was unable to get the rights to the recordings they released when they were with Sony Music, so rather than not include some of their best songs ever, they decided to showcase the songs by recording updated versions of the music. To no surprise at all, each song is as awesome as the original and every liver performance of the song. They've also included the first ever studio recording of "Seat Of My Pants," a song that has been played live a countless number of times, but never saw the light of day on a studio album. These guys continue to wow audiences, reinvent themselves, and create unconventional and fantastic music. These songs truly are some of the band's best songs, and the future will surely contain several more volumes of this series, as moe. has many more and will continue to record smash hits.
Todd Carey is one of those pop singer/songwriters that gets underapprecaited, simply because his style of music sounds a lot like many others. Well, that doesn't mean that his music should not get recognized at all. His latest EP release starts off right where his last release left, with great pop tunes that are catchy, singable, and connect easily to the listener. He has always had a way with words, and on this release he shows off how sometimes the simplest lyrics and simplest content make some of the best music. Songs like the title track and "The First Day" are equal parts pop and indie, making them just perfect enough not to sound like the overdone style of pop rock you can hear on top 40 radio. His music is still small and personal, just the way it should be, and his fans and new listeners alike can all benefit from his connection to his lyrics and sincerity of his delivery.
With each new album, Josh Ritter continues to tweak his music to create and even more complex and creative collection of music. With his newest album, he has developed an array of incredibly different songs that form one of his best full length recordings. There are a handful of songs that are both catchy, lyrically poignant, and artistically musical. He mixes big and bold with soft and small, taking the listener on quite a musical journey. "The Curse," one of his most lyrically beautiful compositions ever, tells the story of a cursed mummy coming back to life and falling in love with the woman who unearthed him and brought him to a museum in New York. It's a very unreal concept, but his soft delivery and lyrical poetry make it one of his best love songs. "Rattling Locks," "Lantern," and "Another New World" are all album standouts, and are surely amongst the best songs Ritter has ever recorded. "Change Of Time" was the album's introduction to the world as it is currently in heavy rotation at AAA radio, and climbing the charts. Ritter's new music is quite possibly his best, and as he has proven time and time again, his creativity in his songwriting makes every album, especially this one, outstanding.
After gaining a little popularity after one of their members appeared as a regular on the MTV show "The City," Tamarama has returned with their first full length album. Previously they helped us get to know them through an acoustic heavy EP that showed off their laid back beach rock style. They electrify their sound a little more on their self titled debut adding many more elements of pop rock into the mix. The first single "Lifetime On The Run," mixes their laid back style with pop sensibility to make it both accessible for lover's of beach style folk rock and traditional pop rock music. Some of the more intriguing songs on the album, where they take some creative liberties with the music, are "Roses," "Live My Life," and "You Got Me Bad." Now that they have rounded out there sound, Tamarama are sure to become a staple of everybody's summertime playlists.
Good Old War aren't your typical indie rock band. While they might be on an indie label and they might make unconventional music that is not super mainstream, they do make music that is incredibly accessible to the masses. They pull from influences that are straight out of the 1960s and 1990s to make a blend of indie folk that is fresh and exciting. Fleet Foxes had success last year with their CSN style harmonies, and this year the world will embrace Good Old War's CSN-meets-Bob Dylan influenced self titled album. Their 90s influences come in the form of indie pop rock and coupled with their folk instrumentation and vocal delivery, it makes for an incredible collection of new tunes. Songs such as "My Own Sinking Ship" and "Get Some" may find their place on alternative rock and AAA radio, as they are well written, catchy, and deserving of mass exposure. They also showcase their incredible musicianship and instrumentation on three instrumental tracks cleverly entitled "Good," "Old," and "War." After wowing listeners with their debut album, they solidify themselves as the real deal with their heart, their soul, and their music out on their sleeves for all to see.