Originally published on Tue August 7, 2012 8:04 am
Predicting the sound of any given Stars song takes some doing: The Montreal band traffics in everything from joyfully guitar-driven power-pop to synth-based dance music to string-swept ballads that detail the heartbreaking minutiae of doomed romance. Even the lead voices shift from song to song, with Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell singing to, over and about each other, occasionally swapping verses.
Let's start with the familiar. Three fifths of the band Black Prairie are members of The Decemberists. The band's new album is produced by one of music's finest producers, Tucker Martine. And it gets better. In addition to The Decemberists' Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee and Nate Query, Black Prairie also includes Annalisa Tornfelt (violin and voice) and John Neufeld (guitar), both very talented players.
Dan Auerbach, one of two founders of The Black Keys, also maintains an active side business as a producer for other bands that share his love for blues- and country-influenced rock. Auerbach's production work can be heard on two new records: Hacienda's third album, Shakedown, and the major-label debut of JEFF The Brotherhood, titled Hypnotic Nights.
The English piano-rock band Keane formed back in 1997, but it wasn't until 2004 that the group's album Hopes and Fears took off on the strength of the smash single "Somewhere Only We Know." A Best New Artist Grammy nomination followed, and in the years since, the group has released three more albums: 2006's Under the Iron Sea, 2008's Perfect Symmetry and this year's Strangeland.
New Jersey has a proud heritage in rock music, from punk legends like Misfits to the Boss himself. The sonic imprint of the Garden State is unmistakable in the music of The Gaslight Anthem, which carries on in Jersey's proud rock 'n' roll tradition.
Like many artists performing under the broad umbrella of "folk music" at this year's Newport Folk Festival, Gary Clark Jr. isn't settling inside any genre, let alone folk. Working off a template of bluesy rock, he infuses the gritty songs on his Bright Lights EP with elements of soul, pop and even reggae. Above all, he's a positively ferocious young guitarist, with a reputation as an up-and-comer poised for one of those 30-, 40-, even 50-year careers.
With Michael Kiwanuka, it’s all about the voice. A voice that he describes as “hitting straight through to the core” with direct, emotional songs about love, yearning, comfort and belonging. It’s a voice that built him a following via MySpace and small London gigs, and led Paul Butler from The Bees to invite him to the band’s Isle of Wight studio to lay down these introductory tracks from what promises to be a major new British singer/songwriter.
Originally published on Wed August 29, 2012 6:20 am
Singer-songwriter Justin Currie appears on this archival episode of Mountain Stage, recorded live in West Virginia in December 2007. Currie was a teenager when he founded the Scottish rock band Del Amitri in Glasgow in 1983. Soon eclipsing its DIY beginnings, Del Amitri went on to score several international hits in the '90s — including "Kiss This Thing Goodbye," "Roll to Me" and "The Last to Know" — and its videos became a mainstay on MTV and VH1.
Blasphemy didn't always belong to dudes in corpse paint and spiked armbands. At one point in history, rock and blues were the devil's music, existing mainly for hip-shaking and corrupting the youth. Blues has a sinister past — the most obvious example being Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues" — but there's also Brownie McGhee's "Dealing With the Devil," Charley Patton's "Devil Sent the Rain Blues" and a long list of others.