To say this is one of the most important and essential records in my life is an obvious understatement.
M. Ward has been extremely busy the past few years: recording and touring with several side projects like She and Him and Monsters of Folk, producing bands and putting out two solo records. Somehow he's remained calm and thoughtful through it all and has been able to balance his life. This introspection and calm resonates in his latest album "A Wasteland Companion," with Ward's smoky voice covering topics of love and loss.
He's been called his generation's Cole Porter, and that seems about right. After all, I've never felt there to be a sense of time in his compositions. To be able to make timeless music that's still as strong on melody as his is a wonderful (and uniquely Rufus) accomplishment.
The backstory of Manhattan band Cults is second-nature by now: originally a duo, Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin released a three-song EP on Bandcamp in 2010 that gradually gathered accolades over the next year. It eventually nabbed them a spot on famed major label Columbia Records, proof that no matter how small you start off, your impact can still be huge.
The Duluth quintet has been steadily expanding its fan-base for the past decade, and the release of their fifth record "Palomino" undeniably helped propel them into greater mass appeal. It reached #1 on the US Bluegrass charts and stayed in the top 10 for over a year. It should come as no surprise then that the year which followed the release proved to be Trampled By Turtles' most important year yet, solidifying their role as one of the major players of Minnesota music making an impact nationally and abroad.
Philadelphia's G. Love has been steadily cranking out his unique style of ramshackle hip-hop blues for two decades now, both with his backing band Special Sauce and solo.
Often known as "The Screaming Eagle of Soul," soul and R&B singer Charles Bradley has been playing music all his life, but it wasn't until he moved back to his hometown of Brooklyn, New York at the age of 51 after years working as a cook that he began aggressively pursuing his career in music and eventually landing on Daptone Records alongside Sharon Jones and the Budos Band.
Craig Finn has been an integral part of Minnesota music since his work in Lifter Puller during the 90s, and his subsequent turn as the frontman of The Hold Steady in New York created some of indie music's most compelling and critically acclaimed records. Now Finn is taking a short breather from the full band approach to focus on a more personal and reflective style.
Vicious Vicious features the talent of three local music mainstays: Erik Appelwick, Martin Dosh, and James Buckley. When not playing in a multitude of other projects, they reunite to record material, and the past few years have seen them hard at work at their latest self-titled effort. Releasing a self-titled album well into a band's career usually indicates a sort of reinvention of sound, and Vicious Vicious has certainly illustrated how flexible their creative direction can be.
The Welsh indie-pop septet Los Campesinos! have been cranking out smart, charming and richly emotionally textured rock songs for nearly five years at this point. On the heels of their third and most recent record, "Hello Sadness," they stopped by The Current studios to chat with Mary Lucia and play a few songs.
All before their first full length was released, Howler has already received international acclaim, most notably from NME which named Howler their #3 Best New Band of 2011 and included Jordan Gatesmith in their list of the 50 Coolest People of 2011.
Brooklyn singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur has released "The Graduation Ceremony," his first solo album since 2006. While also working on new music, he's pursued an art career with gallery openings in Paris as well as an interests in politics -- particularly the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Belgium's Black Box Revelation is a two-piece that sounds more like a ten-piece rock band. With layered guitars and booming drums, BBR's garage rock explodes with riffs and hooks.
Oasis has always been taken to task for their generous lifting of hooks and sounds from some of rock's biggest groups. Interestingly enough, this has never bothered me. Maybe it's because I too love the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Stone Roses.
Mike Doughty led the influential band Soul Coughing in the 1990s known for its idiosyncratic sound rooted in improvisation. At the turn of the last decade, he made his way into the solo scene, soon signing to Dave Matthews' label ATO Records.