Archie Powell has been surrounded by music since he was little: His father was a violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Powell himself picked up the guitar at 11, so songwriting became a natural next step for the music prodigy. He joined up with his band The Exports — brothers Ryan, Adam and RJ Export play keyboards, bass and drums, respectively — soon after college. By 2010, the Chicago-based power-pop band was ready with its first full-length studio album, Skip Work.
I'm usually a fan of "between" albums — the ones that break away from an artist's established sound, either tentatively or extravagantly, exploring the extremes of inspiration. These records are often misunderstood upon immediate release, but offer clues to an artist's discography over time.
Passion Pit emerged from Boston's music scene just four years ago when musician Michael Angelakos recorded a collection of songs for his girlfriend as a Valentine's Day gift.
His brand of upbeat electronic pop soon found a much larger audience. These days, Passion Pit is known nationwide for its elaborate production and Angelakos' distinctive falsetto. The band will release its second album, Gossamer,July 24.
Grace Potter has been captivating audiences with her musical prowess for nearly a decade. Her talents are split between her impressive multi-instrumentalism, her impassioned singing and her energetic stage presence. Potter's band, The Nocturnals, forned after bandmate Matt Burr heard her play folk songs at a student-run venue. Coming out of Vermont with the 2005 debut Nothing But the Water, the band released the album independently before signing with Hollywood Records for a re-release.
My favorite new discovery of the year is actually an album that came out last fall by a band called The Dø (pronounced "dough"). After months of living beneath a massive pile of other CDs, it finally surfaced a couple of weeks ago and blew me away. It's called Both Ways Open Jaws and it's an epic listen: beautiful but gritty, unpredictable, unsettling and full of mystery.
Last month, we started a new feature called "Heavy Rotation" where we asked public radio DJs from around the country to tell us about the best new music on their playlist. The response was overwhelming, so we've decided to make it a monthly sampler.
Originally from Sweden, Anders Osborne left his home in Uddevalla at 16 to hitchhike through Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Eventually finding his way to the U.S., the singer-songwriter and guitarist settled in New Orleans in 1984. The Crescent City clearly came to inspire Osborne's music, which ranges from muddy backwater blues to upbeat country-rock, and fills in many of the gaps in between.
We were late getting set up. As Deer Tick's John McCauley stood on the picturesque hillside of the Columbia River Gorge, about to strum the first chord of a song, another band started to blast us from the main stage nearby. We had to leave. It was a relief, really, because the natural majesty of the surroundings didn't seem at home with Deer Tick's music — especially not the Replacements-esque party attitude of the band's new album, Divine Providence.