Bluegrass quintet the Punch Brothers have been playing together for six years, but their intensely collaborative instrumental interplay and seasoned songwriting suggest a far longer period of growth.
Folky punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner can easily be compared to Billy Bragg - a mix of rebellious punk with articulate songwriting. Initially part of a post-hardcore band called "Million Dead," Frank Turner has taken those influences and combined them with the acoustic guitar.
One thing I have always enjoyed about Dr. Dog is their focus on songs. Songwriting today can sometimes seem like a lost art form. But there are plenty of classic Dr. Dog tunes on this album, full of their signature harmonies, sharp songwriting, great melody and sing-along choruses.
Now onto her third album about the aftermath of a broken relationship, Sharon Van Etten is sounding stronger than ever before.
It has been a few years since we last heard from local band The Pines, presumably because they were working hard on their newest release "Dark So Gold" and sharing the stage with master Minnesota songwriter Mason Jennings during his recent tour. In that time, The Pines has expanded sonically to unleash their most powerful, raw, and stirring compilation of songs, combining influences inspired by natural Midwest roots and time spent in Arizona to create a worthy of waiting accomplishment.
A gifted young guitar player and singer-songwriter with a distinctively lovely voice, Bhi Bhiman is poised for major success in 2012. Though he's been billed as "a Sri Lankan Woody Guthrie," Bhiman has more American roots than that title suggests, having grown up on '90s alt-rock in St. Louis before moving to San Francisco, where he is currently based.
The Suicide Commandos were punk before it was punk. The legendary local trio was playing "New York Rock" in ballrooms, bars, and high schools all over Twin Cities and Minnesota after they formed in 1975. In their four years as a band, they released two 7" EPs and a full-length in 1977 called "Make A Record."
El Camino is a tight and efficient album with 11 songs clocking in at 38 minutes. The songs are well written and chock-full of the band's trademark gritty grooves.
Late last August, TV on the Radio were in the Twin Cities for a couple of shows at First Avenue.
L.A.-based Dawes has only been around a few years, but in that short time they've skyrocketed to the top of the folk-rock scene, especially with the release of their second album "Nothing Is Wrong." As an artist on ATO Records, they have harnessed plenty of inspiration with labelmates like My Morning Jacket, Drive-By Truckers and Gomez by their side.
Inspired by the 50s blues and rockabilly that her brother was listening to, Ireland's Imelda May began singing and performing at the age of 16. Twenty years later, she's still in the industry climbing up the charts in the UK with her record "Mayhem."
Onetime Polyphonic Spree member Annie Clark made her debut under the recording name St. Vincent four years ago with 2007's "Marry Me." But it was her sophomore effort, 2009's "Actor," that propelled her to critical acclaim and widespread popularity in the indie-rock community. Now, two years later, she has returned with her third album, "Strange Mercy."
Althought they don't consider themselves such, they are a "supergroup" of sorts. Wild Flag, featuring ex-members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minders officially formed in 2010 after Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney) announced it on the NPR All Songs Considered blog. The all-female rock band based in Portland, Oregon and Washington D.C., released their debut "Glass Tambourines" on Record Store Day.
Tied to the well-known Eau Claire, WI scene, folk-rockers Megafaun began as brothers in jazz band then morphed into a band known as DeYarmond Edision. That band moved to North Carolina, where they enjoyed the warm weather, but eventually lost their lead singer, who went on to be Bon Iver. They became the three piece that has released three records under the name Megafaun. And this month, they've added a member to the band and released their fourth, self-titled album packed with tight harmonies and Neil Young-like melodies.
The album shows a kinder, gentler Jayhawks, with fewer blazing Louris guitar solos, but still with plenty of the band's signature "close harmonies," as heard in one the album's highlights, "She Walks In So Many Ways."