Each fall, hundreds of little-known bands descend on New York City for the annual CMJ Music Marathon. As festivals go, it's one of the best for surprises, since so many of the acts are new and emerging. For the artists, it's a chance to be seen and heard and, hopefully, loved. For the rabid music fan or journalist, it's an overwhelming flood of musical discoveries.
The Tuscon, Ariz., band Calexico has made a career out of warping genres and musical traditions together into an eclectic, clever, original mix. Drawing upon jazz, alt-country, post-rock and a wide-ranging variety of Latin styles from mariachi to cumbia to Tex-Mex, Joey Burns and John Convertino (along with an ever-rotating cast of supporting players) have crafted a uniquely inclusive vision of indie-rock Americana.
Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 1:15 pm
Roomful of Teeth is an exciting young vocal octet founded just three years ago and directed by Brad Wells. And if the group's name is a little, um, in your face, that's entirely intentional. Their eponymous debut album on New Amsterdam Records (funded via Kickstarter) is a thoroughly 21st-century re-imagining of a capella vocal music — experimental, multi-textured and more than ready to blur the lines between pop and art music.
Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 10:33 am
Minnesota, a band featuring singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman, makes its first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live in Grand Marais, Minn., in partnership with the North House Folk School. Himmelman appeared on Mountain Stage many years ago — way back in 1992 and '93 — but this is his first outing with Minnesota.
Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 3:26 pm
Alt-J (stylized as ∆) may be the most successful new British band of 2012 — a favorite to win the Mercury Music Prize in November and a Top 20 chart phenomenon in the U.K. The group, which chose its name from the mathematical symbol for change, made a splash with its debut album, An Awesome Wave, which came out in September. The record mixes upbeat indie rock and brooding synths with vocals that sound like no one else's in music today.
Certain episodes of Treme seem to wear their ideological hearts on their sleeves, and this was one. You open with Desiree's mother's house getting torn down in a city mix-up; you have Davis throwing around phrases like "preservation through neglect"; you see housing projects torn down amid protest with the implication of a corrupt deal; you get protagonists like the Bernette family being harassed by police; you witness clueless developers trying to build a national jazz center while waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Bringing blues music to the Top 40 isn't easy: Only a handful of musicians have done it in the 30 years Robert Cray has spent winning awards, selling millions of records and otherwise kicking around on the national stage. But Cray has, crossing over from blues-club stages to arenas with the double-platinum 1986 album Strong Persuader and its single "Smoking Gun," and has continued to stick around as one of the most reliably gifted and accessible guitarists around.
Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 5:19 pm
The Great American Canyon Band is a Baltimore indie-folk act featuring husband-and-wife duo Paul and Krystal Jean Masson. The pair's first single, "Tumbleweed," is a lovely, dreamy piece of countrified rock, destined for road trips. The rest of the self-titled EP came out in May, and an additional track, "Young Lady," was released on Sept. 5; it's available for download here.