For those drawn to doom and gloom, the most affecting music sometimes takes a while to reveal itself. In 2008, the happily named duo Have a Nice Life released Deathconsciousness, a messy yet fascinating double-album fixated on the darker side of life and endowed with a gauzy, shoegaze-drenched underbelly. As time went on, I'd continue to see Deathconsciousness pop up in RSS and Twitter feeds from those just discovering an album too weird and too bleak for its time — or any time, for that matter. I should know; I was one of them a few years ago.
Drummer Chick Webb's 1930s orchestra terrorized competitors in band battles and sent dancers into orbit at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. They could be similarly explosive on record, but only rarely. Early on, they did have some hot Edgar Sampson arrangements that Benny Goodman would soon turn into hits, like "Blue Lou" and "Don't Be That Way." But the Webb band also had an old-school crooner, Charles Linton, with pre-jazz-age enunciation.
Of Montreal was founded by singer Kevin Barnes back in 1996; ever since, the Athens, Ga., group has continued to explore new creative possibilities, as true artists do. The band recently returned to Morning Becomes Eclectic to showcase songs from its new album, including "Fugitive Air."
What do you have to do, as a song, to win our hearts? You have to sink in. You have to stop someone dead in her tracks. You need to cause that man to act a fool. Scrunch a nose, tense a shoulder, drop an ass.
At NPR Music, they're wrapping up the year the best way they know how, with their hotly contested list of their 50 favorite albums of 2013. Now, all this week, we'll get a peak of that list from our in-house experts, including NPR Music writer and editor Stephen Thompson, whose beat is the ever amorphous indie pop, which - Stephen, what exactly is that these days?
STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: I have absolutely no idea. It used to mean accessible but unpopular.
Sarah Jarosz makes her first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. Now 22 years old, Jarosz was signed to Sugar Hill Records when she was just 16. She shifted gears in 2009 to enter the New England Conservatory of Music, and graduated this year.
Those who love indie singer-songwriter Bill Callahan's music no doubt have their favorites among his solo albums, if not from records he previously made under the name Smog. Callahan's music has been remarkably consistent and deeply meaningful; as a writer, he's truly invested in making every word count. Callahan's latest album, Dream River, is a classic illustration of his artistry.
If the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, sometimes two apples will land on similar turf. Brian Blade has been Wayne Shorter's drummer for several years and leads his own project called The Fellowship Band. His older brother Brady Blade is perhaps best known for his drumming with Emmylou Harris and is an all-around music industry mover and shaker.