Ever since Craig Finn's band The Hold Steady first broke through in 2004, he's gotten famous for a mix of hyper-literate story songs and classic-rock arrangements. After releasing a string of highly praised albums and EPs, Finn took a five-month break from The Hold Steady to record his solo debut, Clear Heart Full Eyes.
Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 3:43 pm
Jonathan Wilson is practically overflowing with music, if his debut album Gentle Spirit is any indication. The album runs 78 minutes, with several songs spanning more than six minutes. That's a lot of material for a debut, but Wilson is no newbie — he's worked with the likes of Elvis Costello, Robbie Robertson and Jackson Browne.
Polica's sound is crisp, minimalist and mesmerizing. Singer Channy Leaneagh plays her voice like an instrument, using AutoTune both in the studio and at live shows to manipulate her vocals. Against the sliding violins, saxophone solos, relaxed bass and dueling drums of Polica, it's hard to believe that before this, Leaneagh sang folk music for six years in her previous band, Roma di Luna.
Girls' 2011 album Father, Son, Holy Ghost strikes a careful balance between creating music that sounds classic and writing something that's already been done. Ever since Girls' debut, Album, the band has been writing and recording music that's familiar, urgent and refreshingly simple.
JC Brooks and his band The Uptown Sound have made a name for themselves by bringing back the essentials of 1970s soul. Blending rock and R&B from the early '70s — with nods to the underground punk and hip-hop movements of the same period — the group is known for its classically retro sound. Guitarist Billy Bungeroth, drummer Kevin Marks, keyboardist Andy Rosenstein and bassist Ben Taylor provide the nitty-gritty groundwork for JC Brooks, a singer with funk flowing through his veins.
Originally published on Fri February 3, 2012 10:39 am
The celebrated alt-country group Centro-Matic hails from Denton, Texas. What began as a side project for singer-songwriter and guitarist Will Johnson in the 1990s soon grew into a full-fledged band. With 20 albums in just 14 years, Centro-Matic has built a solid reputation for playful yet masterful, country-infused rock. With Matt Pence, Scott Danborn and Mark Hedman supporting Johnson's quick wit and pop influences, Centro-Matic's catalog exudes both boundless energy and emotional restraint.
Chris Taylor may not be a household name, but you've probably encountered some of his work. Taylor was the bassist, producer and backing vocalist of Grizzly Bear on Yellow House and Veckatimest, in addition to running his own record label, Terrible Records.
Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 1:06 pm
R&B icon Betty Wright signed her first local label deal when she was only 11, and by the time she was 17, she'd released her first hit single, 1971's "Clean Up Woman," which also crossed over to the pop charts. With a four-octave vocal range, an impressive grasp of the connection between gospel and R&B, and a sensual style, Wright continues to weave an impressive legacy. Her songs have been sampled by many hip-hop, rock and R&B musicians, including Mary J.