Kelis hadn't taken the stage in America since 2010. But from her opening notes — in which she took on the standard "Feeling Good," as popularized by Nina Simone — the singer never shied away from the most lavish possible spectacle on stage at NPR Music's SXSW showcase, held at Stubb's BBQ. Backed by a 12-piece band, complete with horn section and backup singers, Kelis reintroduced herself to the world as a transformed artist whose sound looks forward and backward without losing its focus on the present.
When Mayer Hawthorne showed up at Village Studios for his live session on Morning Becomes Eclectic, he was still wearing his pajamas. In fact, his whole crew (which he dubbed the "Brunch Bunch") were adorned in their PJs — but that didn't stop them from bringing down the house with big-time dance grooves. They mostly played songs from his latest release, Where Does This Door Go, including "Her Favorite Song."
There was a haze over Jake Bugg when he arrived at the Tiny Desk. He was expressionless and quiet. That all changed when he strummed fast and fierce on his acoustic guitar and began a flow of words reminiscent of Greenwich Village in the '60s, not modern Clifton in England's East Midlands, where he grew up.
It's hard to convey the sound of two people in love, but Lowland Hum does that effortlessly. Daniel Levi Goans and Lauren Plank are now Daniel and Lauren Goans; they met a few years ago and spent much of their first married year on the road, singing together on small stages and at house concerts across the country. Daniel was a folksinger in North Carolina, while Lauren had aspirations to sing but mostly did it privately. She has a passion for making things with paper, and you'll see that in the little black book of lyrics she hands out at shows.
The members of KINS come from different parts of Australia and the U.K., but now call Brighton home. They each bring different influences to the table, and clearly relish the idea of crafting a unique sound that defies categorization, much like their fellow Brits in Alt-J. KINS' members strive to explore new sonic boundaries, and they succeed mightily in their song "Mockasin's."
"Are you digging our laid-back vibe?" Band of Horses band leader Ben Bridwell asked the audience during the group's recent concert at Seattle's Moore Theatre. Following their recently released live recording, Acoustic at the Ryman, Bridwell and company chose to perform very loose, rootsy interpretations of their most well-known songs, often gathering the core string players — Bridwell, Ryan Monroe and Tyler Ramsey — around a single microphone, old-timey style.
So I'm driving down the road when I hear this incredible voice coming out of my car speakers — part Janis Joplin, part Nina Simone — and I wonder, "Who is she?"
That day, I'd ripped a number of CDs onto my phone and didn't remember which record this was. Upon a quick glance at my phone during a traffic light, I discover the name Asaf Avidan. Next traffic light, I look it up and I see a picture of a skinny, handsome white male. I figure that's a mistake — that I must have typed the wrong name — so I wait to get home.
Lo-Fang's Matthew Hemerlein writes poignant lyrics embedded in layers of acoustic and electronic elements. He's also surrounded himself with a trio of talented musicians including Paul Taylor, who crafts percussive sounds using everything from skateboard wheels to plastic frogs. It's a unique sound and an equally impressive sight. Check it out here with the song "Permutations" from his album Blue Film.