Fans of Portlandia may recall a recent episode in which its main characters (played by Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen) get a good look at their new cleaning lady. They think the cleaning lady might be — and realize that it actually is — the singer-songwriter Aimee Mann.
Exitmusic's Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church have forged a profound partnership: The couple came together in a romantic, cinematic way, meeting on a transcontinental train. Then, over the course of two albums — Passage came out earlier this year — they've created an artistic identity that's beautifully beguiling and darkly unsettling.
At 11 a.m. on a weekday, Calexico rehearses for its upcoming tour in a cramped studio on the south side of Tucson, Ariz. The stereotypical musician would just be getting up, but lead singer and songwriter Joey Burns has been up since dawn with his twin baby girls.
Trumpet player Jacob Valenzuela arrives late to the rehearsal — and that's because his washing machine broke and he had to deal with a small flood. Valenzuela grabs his trumpet as the band launches into "Splitter," the first single from Calexico's new album.
The focal point of The xx, on its debut as well as its new album Coexist, is the existential romance between the singers, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft — each of whom sounds adrift in his or her own bubble.
This past July, the prolific indie-rock band Dirty Projectors returned with a new record, Swing Lo Magellan. Just as accessible as the group's 2009 breakthrough, Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors' sixth studio album places an added emphasis on the songs' concepts rather than just unique pop arrangements.
Over the years, ZZ Top has stayed contemporary: dabbling in new wave, flirting with grunge and techno, making goofy music videos, even using a drum machine. But the band has never strayed too far from its classic amalgam of electric blues, garage rock and greasy grooves. On their new album, La Futura, the members sound like their old selves.
In a span of less than two decades, Shemekia Copeland has evolved from teenage upstart to one of the most prominent voices in the blues. She's currently the most feted woman in the blues world and actually had a coronation where she was crowned and declared "Queen of the Blues" at the Chicago Blues Festival in 2011. Shemekia earned her crown with a series of high-quality recordings and an unrelenting tour schedule that has taken her to all corners of the globe.