The journey of Jenny Lewis' long awaited The Voyager (July 29, Warner Brothers) isn't really one of space but it is of time. The period of insomnia and emotional challenges following the death of her estranged father and the break-up of Rilo Kiley, her band of more than a decade. Digging below the luminous surface of her first solo album in six years, the clues seem easy to find. But The Voyager's bright, breezy throwback production, from Ryan Adams and Mike Viola, does a nifty job of obscuring the emotional evidence. There's introspection and confession, a self-awareness that provokes but doesn't pander as Lewis' array of lyrical characters obscure what might be assumed is a first person narrative. The songs are saturated with a variety of '60s through '80s reference points - from girl groups to new wave bite -- adorned with a sonic color scheme of bold strokes and rich hues. And through it all is Lewis' distinctive voice, wiser and surer than she probably thought it could be. Click through to stream the title track and watch the video for "Just One of the Guys." Full advance stream at NPR.
Despite its simple, discriptive title, "First Love Song" from Melbourne singer/songwriter Laura Jean is anything but. Beyond the giddy emotional high comes the apprehension, the shadows of self-doubt, the basic question "Now what?" “This song is very straightforward to the point of being almost banal,” she says: “I suppose on some level I meant it to be. Love stories are often boring.” Laura's eponymous and very-not-boring August 22 album was recorded in England with John Parish, a producer whose work with PJ Harvey seems a nice calling card for Laura Jean's stark folk intimacy.
Brit singer/songwriter Roo Panes wears his Nick Drake influence on his sleeve for all to bear witness, acoustic 12-string finger picking and nocturnal alt-folk melodies in full embrace. New single "Tiger Striped Sky," with it's lovely chamber stringed underpinnings, is even more remarkable considering that, like the rest of his forthcoming debut full length Little Giant (date TBA), it was recorded in a small wooden-floored room in Panes' house. Rupert Coulson (Portishead, Oasis) twiddled the knobs. Click through to stream the original version of "Little Giant."
Guitarist for the legendary Brit band The Smiths, Johnny Marr will release his second solo album Playland on October 7 via Warner Music Group. The new project, the follow up to Marr's well-received debut The Messenger, finds Marr continuing his collaboration with co-producer Doviak and features musicians that performed on the debut and the accompanying tour. "When The Messenger came out I kept on writing, " says Marr. "I liked that the band had a momentum going on tour and a connection with the audience, and I thought that energy would be good to capture on the new record." Read more at the DC Music News Feed.
Former brainchild of the now defunct one-man-band The Whitest Boy Alive and half of the down tempo duo Kings of Convenience, Norwegian alt-pop boy king Erland Øye strikes out on his own with the forthcoming solo album Lagao dropping October 3. New single "Garota" keeps Øye's distinctively relaxed and mellow tone intact with a Sade-styled jazzy, tropical atmosphere and cool, almost detached delivery. Click through to stream another track from Garota: "Fence Me in."
Multi-platinum Irish trio The Script have announced the release of their fourth album No Sound Without Silence on September 30 via Columbia. Arena-friendly lead track "Superheroes" dropped to radio and online today. The new project follows up the band's 2012 release #3 featuring the #1 hit single "Hall of Fame," a track that scored 5 million downloads, 133 million youtube views and 100+ million Spotify plays. Stream "Superheroes" and read more on No Sound Without Silence at the DC Music News Feed.
You can practically see Blake Mills hunched over his guitar in the studio, coaxing out the relaxed, shuffling and tremo-licious chording in the foundation of his new song "If I'm Unworthy." Mills has been a go-to session and touring guitarist in L.A. for years and he's called in a few favors from the likes of friends and admirers Jon Brion, Fiona Apple, Mike Elizondo, Don Was and Jim Keltner for his upcoming September 16 album Heigh-Ho (September 16, Verve). More at the WSJ Speakeasy and at the DC Music News Feed.
Irish-born, London-based sisters Hannah and Colette Thurlow are the forefront of 2:54, a band with a sound that Coletter has described as "dark and predatory...but in that ’80s way of being melancholic but also quite uplifting." When the Thurlows released their self-titled 2012 debut we opined, "while hardly what you'd call pretty music, there's an oddly effective impressionist beauty hiding in the gloomy shadows, most noticeably in Colette's airy/eerie nocturnal voice floating above the fray." Newly signed to Bella Union, a sophomore album -- title TBA -- will be released later this year. For now, check out the new song "Orion" and click through to watch "Creepin'" from the 2:54 debut.
As an Alabama native raised in the ways of the Southern Baptist church, Noel (pronounced NO-EL) realized that his upbringing was having a fundamental impact on the songs that would become his July 22 debut album I Won't Answer. "I found that most of these songs were loosely based on the musical forms of gospel blues and old hymns, but re-interpreted in my own fashion," he says. Many of the songs on I Won't Answer have that mix of traditional elements and a religious feel amid the dense and artful indie production, from the gospel-styled title track to the organ-rich hymnal sound of "The Kingdom." Our favorite is "When I See You In the Stars," a dark, slo-mo waltz with a stunning melody and Noel's commanding voice giving the track a fitting otherworldly power. Amen to that Click through to listen and find a free download of three songs -- including "I Won't Answer" --- at Noisetrade.
When Andy Partridge of XTC called Jen Olive "this astounding allegro algorithm from Albuquerque" he backed up his praise with a full-on, transcontinental collaboration for her quite brilliant, sadly unheralded 2010 album Warm Robot. "The lines are unpredictable and oblique," we opined at the time, "often appearing to lack an anchoring center, shape-shifting from one line to another as vocal harmonies and elaborate guitar lines dart about." Latest album The Breaks, released late last year with little press or fanfare, sadly missed our attuned radar. But it's not too late for amends as we present a video for "Death of Me" that's as wonderfully off-kilter as the song. Partridge again makes an appearance on the track while multi-instrumentalist and producer Stu Rowe fills in the sonic spaces not taken by Olive's vocals and guitar. Stream the full album at her site...
Got A Girl evolved out of a chance meeting on the set of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World of actress Mary Elizabeth Windstead, who co-starred in the film, and producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura (Gorillaz), who was working on the score. The pair met up later at Nakamura's studio and what began as what Nakamura calls "an interesting experiment" turned into a full-blown, full-camp collection of romantic and retro nouvelle chanson. Or, more directly, that cool French pop sound of the '60s. We can't resist an album that features "La La La" and "Da Da Da" as back-to-back songs. Our day-appropriate "Friday Night" goes down like a chilled glass of dry champagne on a sultry summer evening. Got A Girl's debut album, due next week, has the inside track for best title of the year: I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now.
Austin's favorite son Bob Schneider turns in a masterful performance of "Running On Empty," one of 23 covers included in the recent Jackson Browne tribute album Looking Into You. Even with some formidable Browne contemporaries in the track listing -- including Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Lyle Lovett, Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams and J.D. Souther -- Schneider delivers perhaps the best performances on the album, one that producer Tamara Saviano describes as "a simmering slow burn of blue-eyed soul." Like the best covers, it's both respectful to the original and transformational, giving the listener a completely new interpretation of a classic song. Click through to watch Schneider's live performance.
Alt-country legend Lucinda Williams will release her eleventh studio album -- and first ever double studio collection -- Down Where The Spirit Meets the Bone on September 30 via her own Highway 20 records. Eighteen of the album's twenty songs were written solo by Williams, though one song, "Compassion," is Williams' first ever co-write with her father, poet Miller Williams. Another, "Magnolia," credits the late JJ Cale. More at the DC Music News Feed.
Nicole Atkins says she found inspiration in London a while back with "kindred spirit" Jim Sclavunos from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. Together they wrote songs that would make up her fan-funded fall 2013 album Slow Phaser. Through that connection she found film animator Ilinca Höpfner who had worked with Nick Cave in the past. "Who Killed The Moonlight" is the resulting video for a song that seems oddly rooted in both the big retro-pop productions of 60s era Phil Spector and sharply honed modern indie sensibility. The celestial chorus alone is, well, heavenly...
"Infectious" isn't normally a word high on our list of appealing adjectives, particularly when it comes to music. In a game of free association we might answer back "inoculation." Snarky aside, we've not got much in the ol' thesaurus today to add so there you have it. Infectious. "Silhouettes," lead track and video from Tennessee trio Colony House -- singer/songwriter Caleb Chapman, brother Will on guitar and Scott Mills beating the drums -- is all that. Lifted from their debut album When I Was Younger, out next week, the song is a big sonic blur of melodic hooks, tumbling rhythms, reverbed vocals and a tangled jangle of guitar lines. No surprise that the finely-tuned ears at UK-based Communion Music picked out Colony House for a New York showcase earlier this year. Check your irony-meter at the door and enjoy.
Vagabond (July 15, Nettwerk) is certainly an appropriate title for the debut album from Australian alt/folk singer/songwriter and dedicated road-tripper Stu Larsen. Traveling the world, sleeping on sofas, writing and performing in living rooms and clubs, Larsen has been quietly winning fans in far-flung towns across the globe. The songs reflect Larsen's own personality: humble, winning and unpretentious. With strong critical buzz Down Under and a successful tour opening for Mike "Passenger" Rosenberg in North America last year, Larsen completed his first official full-length in Sydney with co-producers Rosenberg and Mike Vallejo. Click through to stream (and watch) "Thirteen Sad Farewells."
As one of the rare bits of new music from the L.A. husband and wife singing/songwriting team of Deb Talan and Steve Tannen -- aka The Weepies -- "Mend" is a lovely and most welcome return after a four year stretch since Be My Thrill. Included on the soundtrack to Zach Braff's new film Wish I Was Here, the song takes on particular poignancy with the news that Talan, diagnosed with stage four breast cancer last December, is in full remission after months of surgery and chemotherapy. So while the lyrics point to a heart being the lyrical focus, we can't help but think of Talan's own remarkable "mend." She recently posted up a picture of herself back in the studio -- click through to take a look.
Since 2007 and over the course of a couple of albums, Manchester UK's The Travelling Band have made something of a small-caps name for themselves with their own distinctive, left-field brand of harmony-rich, pubby folk/rock. New track "Passing Ships," produced by Lestyn Polson, best known for his work with David Gray, has it's own peculiar charm, more piano-fueled art-school smart pop than the shambling acoustic riffing -- with the occasional electric jolt -- we've grown accustomed to. But from a band that's constantly on the road, the song reflects the sharp, nimble twists capable from a band known for their tight live shows. Following up last year's EP Hands Up, full-length album The Big Defreeze drops August 25. Click through to stream "Sundial" from the wonderfully titled 2011 album Screaming Is Something.
Two years ago, Ethiopian-born Finnish neo-folk songwriter Mirel Wagner delivered an eponymous debut album of what we described as "profound lyricism with the simplest of chord structure and the barest of melody....sad, dark and soul-bearing songs delivered with minimal fuss and emotion yet the effect is undeniably powerful." Led by songs like the brutal, beautiful "No Death," Wagner was a critical darling of haunting, melancholic songcraft. New album When The Cellar Children See the Light of Day (August 12, Sub Pop) is already getting strong online buzz thanks to lead single and video "Oak Tree." As we originally noted, Wagner "finds the elusive essence of her songs with what you might describe as the least number of moving parts -- and that, in a way, makes them even more moving." Click through to watch the "Oak Tree" video and listen to "No Death."
Dead Fingers - Big Black Dog - Birmingham, AL, husband and wife duo of Taylor and Kate Taylor Hollingsworth follow up their 2012 eponymous debut with this new musical patchwork collection of roots/folk and vintage country tunes. Kate, sister of indie folk darling Maria Taylor, contributes four songs and represents the sweeter side of the pair's effortlessly tight harmonic devotion. Taylor -- ok, this is getting confusing -- pens the remaining seven numbers and counters Kate's supple tone with a twangy vocal timbre descending from the Bob Dylan/John Prine school of nasal croak. He also plays a pretty mean git-tar, a talent he ably demonstrated as a member of Conor Oberst's Mystic Valley Band. The end result is a yin/yang hybrid that sounds like a more audacious, rural sounding version of The Civil Wars. Click through to stream DC fave "The Races."