For a while, Arcade Fire has been impressing critics and fans alike with their own brand of indie rock that is orchestral and complex. For the first time, the world can take notice of the greatness that is Arcade Fire. Their first two albums were met with critical praise, and spawned countless recognizable songs and even some placement on television. This time, radio and television have taken notice and turned Arcade Fire into a household name. Modern rock and AAA radio have been playing singles like "We Used To Wait" and "Ready To Start" and they showed off their stuff on Saturday Night Live with a stunning performance of "Sprawl II." One of the years best songs, both lyrically and musically, is "Modern Man," which, once it receives massive airplay, is sure to be the band's biggest hit song. Album of the year recognition is in the future for this collection, and the rise of Arcade Fire is going to be one of the biggest music stories of 2010.
The Phish frontman is one of the premier guitarists of this generation, and on his newest live release, with his other band in tow, he showcases some of his finest and most understated grooves. New compositions, classic Trey tracks, and cover songs are all included during this set from the Tabernacle in Atlanta, GA. They lead off with "Money, Love, And Change" and kick out a jam that takes this Trey original to the next level, proving that Phish isn't the only way that Anastasio can showcase his excellence. "Sand" and "Windora Bug" are both killer performances as well, showing off his jam session skills as well as a bit of his love of reggae. They close out the set with a cover of the Led Zeppelin song "Black Dog" bridging the worlds of modern jam rock and heavy classic rock like never before. Trey Anastasio, whether with Phish, with TAB, or all by himself, is a master of the guitar, and during live performances like this one you get to hear just how incredible he is.
Anya Marina has undergone quite a musical transformation each time she releases a new collection of music. She started out pop and transformed into a indie princess now only to emerge as a gritty underground rock goddess. Her music is simple at times and at other times as complex as it can get. This digital EP has all of her incarnations and more, and the best of the short set is "Whatsit" featuring a guest vocal appearance by her new Portland, Oregon buddy Courtney Taylor-Taylor of The Dandy Warhols. Upon relocating from SoCal to the Pacific northwest, Anya reestablishes herself as a force to be reckoned with. She is artful, imaginative, and musically energetic. Each song on this album shows that she has elevated her indie pop to new heights, and it only whets the appetite for more.
Neo folk artists Elephant Revival continue with more of the same mastery on their latest album. Once again the songwriting duties are shared amongst all five members, who collaborate with instrumentation that is unlike what typical bands perform with. The songs contained within the new album are incredibly reminiscent of artists like Dave Matthews Band (early in their career), Dispatch ("Silent Steeples" era) and the Avett Brothers, but have their own soul and energy that is unique to Elephant Revival. With banjo, cello, violin, djembe, and mandolin spearheading the music, songs like "Point Of You," "Go On," and "Feathers Rise" all take on an almost magical quality and you find yourself lost in the music. The band and the songs are not as indie hippie folk as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but they follow the same type of musical path, making music that connects to the listeners on a variety of levels. Elephant Revival is part of a movement of music, both in their home state of Colorado and nationally, that has artists tossing aside the normal expectations of what is popular and what sells, and getting to the heart of creating music that has meaning, sincerity, and artistry. On this latest album, Elephant Revival has proven that the heart and soul of the musicians involved are the stuff that makes music wonderful.
With his fifth album in six years, Kanye West has returned with a truly dark mix of tunes. While his two previous albums may have been musically his best and turned out some of his most popular and well received songs, his latest is by far his most artistic and abstract. Kanye West sees himself as a visionary and makes that known throughout the album, and not just with his cunning lyrics. He leaves no stone unturned and pulls out all the stops creating a collection of songs that have some interesting beats, incredibly excellent use of instrumentation that is not traditionally used in hip hop, and a who's who of guest appearances. The most notable of the appearances are by his usual suspects, Kid Cudi and Jay-Z, both who appear several times and throw down at the top of their game. Kid Cudi's appearance on "Gorgeous" is dark and spooky like this album and on "Monster," Jay-Z's verse is as good as anything he's released on his own. The craziest of guest spots is from Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) who sings on "Monster" and is sampled on "Lost In The World." Comedian Chris Rock handles a comical outro on "Blame Game" which also features guest vocals by John Legend. "Monster" is one of the album's best, featuring a stunning verse by Nicki Minaj, and could be Kanye's "Thriller." "Power" most closely resembles his previous work, and the song "Runaway" is the backbone and the most artistic of the album, clocking in at over 9 minutes. Finally, on "All Of The Lights" Kanye supplements his own lyrical genius with guest background vocals by practically everyone including Rihanna, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Drake, Fergie, and even Elton John. He may be controversial, but he's edgy, talented, and always at the top of his game, and although his latest may not be as pop accessible as some of his previous releases, it stands as one of the best pieces of artistic music released in 2010. It will receive huge critical praise, and rightfully so, and just forces Kanye to keep elevating his game even further.
The other half of the duo Angus & Julia Stone, Angus also recently released a collection of his music under the name Lady Of The Sunshine. This album, however, is a bit of a departure from his normal gig, as the entire set consists of songs heavy on electric guitar and alternative rock grooves. It still follows the same map as the folk music he creates with his sister, but it's got a bit more girth to it. "White Rose Parade" is a good bridge between his folk stylings and his rock chops, showing off his lyrical prowess as well as his new instrumentation. Angus Stone as Lady Of The Sunshine takes a different approach to his folk roots, and shows off that change a bit with the inclusion of the song "Big Jet Plane" which was made incredibly popular as a hit single from his last album with his sister. Being that this album was actually recorded prior to Angus & Julia Stone's last, it's actually the first incarnation of "Big Jet Plane" and the single was the updated version of it. Needless to say that it's excellent that the song was included on both albums. Lady Of The Sunshine still holds true to the folk and roots rock that is at the core of the music with a healthy dose of alternative flavoring up each and every song.
One half of the brother and sister duo Angus & Julia Stone, Julia has released her debut solo album. A side project of sorts, the album has Julia branching out on her own and exploring her own songwriting to a further extent. As with her previous releases with her brother, the disc is a plethora of folk rock driven heavily by an acoustic guitar and wispy strings. Not having to share lead vocal duties, Julia showcases her rather unique voice on each of the ten tracks, ad several of them could have found themselves on an Angus & Julia Stone album. Fortunately she saved some gems for herself, and songs such as "This Love" and "Catastrophe" are samples of her songwriting at its best. Julia Stone is a unique soul, and whether with her brother or on her own, the music she creates is truly magical.
Power pop is in the blood of this quartet that used to be just a duo. After having released an incredibly potent debut album (under their new name), they have returned with a digital EP to follow up that successful set. The EP features a handful of new tunes that were destined to see the light of day, and it's better that it's sooner rather than later. The EP leads off with the radio ready "Models/Dancers" that, despite their head turning performances, is sure to have them becoming a household name. The standout of the album is "Every Impulse" which bridges the gap between their former and their current identities more than any other track up to this point. The song is fully plugged in but had the energy of a Pete & J performance and the lyrics are simple and to the point, showcasing the band's musical abilities to the max. Harper Blynn are one of those indie bands that understand themselves so well you feel like they have been around forever, and this new collection of songs reinforces just how excellent their music is, despite how short (or long) their career may be so far.
The White Buffalo keeps outdoing himself with each subsequent release of new music. This time it comes in the form of a five song EP released on Ruff Shod records, run by pal and musical cohort Chad Stokes of State Radio and Dispatch. The new EP features more dark and deep folk songs from the White Buffalo, showcasing his incredible and powerful vocals, intense lyrics, and Johnny Cash like guitar strumming. "Into The Sun" is an instant classic and sends give the listener chills throughout their body with each lyric and plucked string. He includes "Love Song #2" which may or may not be a sequel to his previously released "Love Song #1." The White Buffalo shines on the track "Darlin' What Have I Done," which is as close to Cash as the White Buffalo has ever come. This new EP proves that the White Buffalo is a force to be reckoned with and he is truly unlike any musician out there today. His angst, his power, and his delivery have him at the top of his musical game.
Jason Spooner epitomizes the areas of the world he comes from. He is a true folk artist in ever sense of the world. While he may not sound or play music like Bob Dylan or James Taylor, he treats ever song like an organic organism with feeling, substance, and life. On his newest, and best release to date, Jason Spooner pulls out all the stops and proves why he should be recognized and celebrated as an artist. His ability to blend traditional folk with funk, jazz, and blues has this album standing out amongst others in his genre. "Seed In The Ground" is a folksy tune with emphasis on the lyrics, while the radio friendly "Half A Mind" is funky and bluesy, showing off the fun side of Spooner's music. Fans of Amos Lee, Ryan Montbleau, and Ray LaMontagne will all be able to get into each and every song on Spooner's latest, and on the heels of this album, he is poised to become just as well known and influential.
Sarah Jaffe is a musician that you don't find very often in the music world. Being that she is a singer/songwriter, you'd expect that she's be trying to compete and break out as a competitor amongst her peers, but rather she seems to be a bit more anti-establishment. Her music, definitely not defined as traditional pop, has a bit of a mid-nineties college rock and alternative folk feel to it and her energy is more subdued. In her words and her voice you can hear her deep connection to the music she has created. Jaffe is one of those unique souls that pays close attention to detail when creating music, not playing to the things that will get her heard, but rather the things that will get her noticed. Her single "Clementine" will do incredibly well at radio due to the fact that it is like nothing that the women in the music industry are putting forth these days. Her debut full length album is deserving of praise and multiple listens as it is a hands down incredible album.
After having been thrust in to the limelight after their critically acclaimed self titled album (aka "Bleed American"), Jimmy Eat World have been a mainstay atop the alternative rock charts with each album since. Their newest has them back at the top again, spearheaded by the single "My Best Theory" which is classic Jimmy Eat World. However, the album is not so classic, as it has the band branching out to a more lyrical approach and less in your face rock and roll. Many of the songs are emotional and heartfelt, and an instant connection to the pain and joy of the singer can be felt throughout. The most surprising song of the album leads it off, as the band breaks into an acoustic guitar driven rocker called "Heart Is Hard To Find." The album finds itself mimicking and drawing comparisons to Death Cab For Cutie and Dashboard Confessional, which is excellent company to be in. The entire album shows the growth and maturity of the entire band and the music they create, which these days is hard to find.
Since before the start of her massively successful career (or at least since before her first album blew up and won a ton of Grammys) Norah Jones has been collaborating with some of her favorite musicians. Ranging from indie rock to reggae to hip hop to jazz, Norah Jones has not only shared a stage, but a studio, with tons of different and well known artists. Contained within this album, which is a compilation of previously recorded tracks, are collaborations with Ryan Adams, M. Ward, Charlie Hunter, Robert Randolph, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, and Outkast. She has also included the work she did with legends such as Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, and Herbie Hancock. Some of the best songs included are her collaboration with indie rocker and reggae connoisseur, Sean Bones entitled "Turn Them," and her duet with Dave Grohl which was originally released on a Foo Fighters album. Norah Jones shows not only how big a fan of music she is, but how many fans of her that she has. All of these recordings are the product of Norah Jones hooking with with the best in their respective fields for collaborations that are extraordinary. Now, they are all able to be found in one place, which makes it all that much more awesome.
Jake Smith's progression across each set of new music that he releases truly showcases his abilities as a musician. His latest album sounds like something that a seasoned veteran of the music industry would have released. True, it is his third release in a young and short career, but the music makes him seem like he's been at it for twenty years already. Smith tackles a wide array of musical styles on this album while staying true to his New Orleans roots. Funk, blues, reggae, R&B, and rock are all present throughout the album. The album features heavy influence by artists such as Maroon 5, John Mayer, and fellow NOLA native Marc Broussard. "One False Step" is the song that is going to help Smith to blow up all over the place. It's catchy and has a great soulful Maroon 5 style beat that many music fans will fall in love with. Jake also revisits one of his best previously released songs "Once Love" and shows off a bit of reggae flavor on "By My Side." Jake Smith is a true talent that is poised to become a household name with his latest self released independent album.
Matt Hartke is one of those singer/songwriters that knows his craft well. Hartke has returned with a short selection of new music that showcases his songwriting more than ever before. Essentially the EP is about love, and with two songs both named after girls and another entitled "Awakening Hearts'" it's easy to see that writing songs about this subject come easy to him. The EP is also incredibly organic, with the simplistic and stripped down sound of the music, highlighting the lyrics and Matt's guitar playing at every moment possible. Matt Hartke is a poet that sings, and this EP proves that point so well.
New music out today worth checking out:
- Nelly Furtado - Best Of Nelly Furtado
- Mason Jennings - The Flood
- Norah Jones - ...Featuring Norah Jones
- Anya Marina - Spirit School
After almost 20 years in existence, Dave Matthews Band has been around the block and back again, and the backbone of their success is their unimaginable ability to perform live and keep it fresh and exciting every time. Their newest live release is proof positive that they are the best at the live game, and they have returned to the top of their game. The sound of this album and the energy of the show, which was recorded in July 2010 at Citi Field, is of a brand new band. They sound as if they have just made their first album and are loving life. The live album is the first full band live release (not including the "Europe 2009" box set) to include cuts from their critically acclaimed album "Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King." The set features the band's single "Funny The Way It Is" as well as fan favorites "Squirm," "Seven," and "Spaceman." Tim Reynolds has been playing live with the band during their post-GrooGrux shows, which helps the band sound just as good as they did back when they were pushing "Under The Table And Dreaming," "Crush," and "Before These Crowded Streets." Favorites and hits from all three of those albums all make the mix including "Satellite," "Crash Into Me," and "Stay (Wasting Time)." The band works in killer renditions of some of their live staples as well, such as "Warehouse," "Dancing Nancies," and "Two Step" which includes some opening lyrics from "Time Bomb." The fans get treated to a few of Dave's solo songs ("Gravedigger," "Some Devil), some super old tunes ("Seek Up," "One Sweet World"), and even a new song that the band has been kicking around for a while ("Blackjack"). The bottom line is that they are as good as they have even been and are having more fun playing music than ever before, and now fans can experience it form themselves. It's too bad that the band is taking 2011 from touring, but at least they are taking a break during one of the highest points of their career.
After having recently released his newest album "Four," Bleu is enjoying a ton of critical praise. See for yourself what the fuss is about by checking out a free download of the song "Singin' In Tongues" which is the lead track from the new album. Download it by clicking here.
After coming off of their best studio release yet, Needtobreathe decided to give the fans a little treat in the form of a digital live EP. The EP contains five tracks recorded over the past to years during their live tours. Featured on the album are killer renditions of standouts from their most recent studio release including "The Outsiders," "Prisoner," and "Stones Under Rushing Water." One incredible highlight from the EP is the over ten minute performance of "Let Us Love" which really showcases the bands live energy and performance skills. Needtobreathe are truly road warriors and for the first time fans get to bring a piece of that home with them, and in a way that shows off the band in the truest of lights.
Kid Cudi has reinvented the hip hop game to suit his own twisted form of musical delivery. He is a lyricist like no other, but his strongest element is his incredible production style. He mixes what is essential electronic music and indie rock with simple hip hop beats for an out-of-this-world and unmatched collection of songs. The new album features guest appearances from a range of musicians including 2 tracks featuring Mary J. Blige, the single "Erase Me" with Kanye West, and indie songstress St. Vincent lends her vocals as well. This album is the second in a trilogy, and by trilogy standards seems to be just as dark and twisted as second installments need to be (for example: The Empire Strikes Back or Matrix Reloaded). Kid Cudi does hip hop his own way and he has mastered his craft, with imitators staying away, it seems he's got the market cornered.
Being that Mutemath relies heavily on an electronic element in their alternative rock music, it's easy to assume that the live interpretation of their music would be lacking is some way. That couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, Mutemath translates their music from studio to stage so well, that it is like joining the band inside their studio. The band includes the hits "Spotlight," "Typical," and "Control" in a set that encompasses their entire (albeit short) career. The band gets amped up on the energy from the crowd, elevating their game and intensifying the experience for everyone involved. It's always nice to experience live music from an alternative rock band that sounds as good as their studio work.
Jessica Sonner is an amazingly talented singer songwriter from Denver that is making waves each time she makes music. This, her second album, is a huge leap forward from her first, which although incredibly well written, sounded like a demo in comparison to this one. She fuses pop rock with folk in a way that not many artists can do seamlessly. Fans of Sara Bareilles, Colbie Caillat, and Norah Jones will all find something in her music. The title track and "Still Be Here" are standouts on an album that, from an independent artist, is incredibly impressive.
A band that is virtually unknown outside its local area, Churchill's self titled EP is not to be looked past. They have an uncanny way of mixing rock, pop, bluegrass, and folk into a simple, yet interesting sound. This Colorado based band is on the rise, and with excellent compositions like "I Still Remember" and "Don't Give Up" they are sure to have a promising future. While only five songs in length, this EP leaves you with a sense of satisfaction, having experienced a band on the verge.
Check out a free track from The White Buffalo's new EP "Prepare For Black & Blue" out on Ruff Shod/Nettwerk Records (digitally 11/2, physically 12/7). It's called "Oh Darlin' What Have I Done" and it's one of The White Buffalo's best recordings. You can download it here.
Music out today worth checking out:
- Kid Cudi - Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager
- Lady Of The Sunshine - Smoking Gun
- Trey Lockerbie - Light Therapy
- Dave Matthews Band - Live In New York City
- Julia Stone - The Memory Machine
Elephant Revival's debut album is something unlike any other. The unconventional way they mix jam band rock, folk music, bluegrass, and indie rock is unprecedented and makes for some very interesting compositions. The album features a few really musically awesome songs, especially the lead track "Twelve" and the fan favorite "Ring Around The Moon." The instrumentation used on the album is not like anything you'd typically see on stage as they don't follow the standard guitar/bass/drums format. They feature hand percussion, upright bass, and violin prominently, opting for a sound that is not like anything you might here on pop radio. Elephant Revival is a unique incarnation out of the buzzing Colorado music scene, and their debut makes a statement about originality and musicality that is bold and adventurous.
Supergroups are always a sticky proposition in the music world. They can be great or they can be overindulgent and met with a lot of criticism. The way to create a successful and influential supergroup is to make sure the members have had individual success and recognition on their own. Enter Dhani Harrison (accomplished musician and son on late great Beatle, George Harrison), Joseph Arthur (accomplished musician and artist), and Ben Harper (accomplished musician and entrepreneur). These three, combined with a stellar group of studio musicians, have created an incredible folk rock album that parallels all of their individual works and is reminiscent of the music created by supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys (which consequently included George Harrison). The first single, "Father's Son" has country twang mixed with CSN style folk rock and is unlike anything on radio today. Other standouts are the title track and a song called "Fistful Of Mercy." This may just a be a side project for each member of the band, but it proves that the powers of three greats when combined get exponentially better.
The band's third album is just as good as their previous two, with a handful of instant classic tunes included. While neither their second or third have the potency of the first album, this new collection grows on you with each subsequent listen. The album leads off with two tunes that seem like old friends, and have the quality and familiarity of their debut album mixed with their musical maturity form having been in the game for a while. "Misery" and "Give A Little More" are both songs that are sure to spearhead the sales of this album for months to come. The other songs that are sure to gain massive recognition and radio play are "Never Gonna Leave This Bed" and "Out Of Goodbyes" which features duet vocals by country band Lady Antebellum. Maroon 5 have been unlike any other bands since the broke onto the music scene, and they continue to remain cutting edge and unique with the release of their stellar third studio album.
Bleu is a warrior. After having been on hiatus for some time (as a solo artist - he wrote songs for tons of other musicians) he cranks out his second album in as many years. Aptly titled, this is his fourth album and brings us back to the time when he was embraced by the world after the release of "Redhead." This album featured Bleu once again doing what he does best: quirky power pop rock song with substance, quality, and grace. "B.O.S.T.O.N." is an instant classic, with its clever lyrics and Weezer-esque delivery, showing why we fell in love with Bleu and why we should all over again. Other standouts include "Evil Twin" and "Singin' In Tongues." Some surprises on the album are "In Love With My Lover" and "Dead In The Mornin'" which showcase sides of Bleu that have been few and far between in other recordings, with lyrical content and musical delivery that he has usually given away to other musicians and not kept for himself. Needless to say it's one of the best of the year, and quite possibly the best independently released power pop record of the last five years.