Nickel Creek


“I think we’re more grown-up now, to use an extremely childlike term,” the violinist Sara Watkins recently told a reporter who asked what had changed in the eight years since Nickel Creek — the trio of Watkins, guitarist Sean Watkins (her brother) and mandolinist Chris Thile — released a studio album. Watkins’ words astutely acknowledged the expectations leveled at the former child prodigies, who wowed bluegrass and country fans with three precocious albums in the early 2000s. In full adulthood, they’ve forged major separate careers, leading bands of their own and earning buckets of accolades. There’s no doubt that the virtuosity and vision of each Nickel Creek member has intensified. But could Watkins, Watkins and Thile, now in their 30s, match the liveliness and brash bravado of those baby-band years?

Thievery Corporation


Every language has words and phrases that elude easy translation. In Portuguese, “saudade” (pronounced by Brazilians as “sow-DAH-djee”) is one of those. Some musicians equate it with the blues; it’s generally associated with melancholy and longing. In its most recent bio, the Washington, D.C., electronic duo Thievery Corporation defines it as “a longing for something or someone that is lost.”

Though countless songs have “saudade” in the title, the condition of saudade isn’t usually conveyed through words. It’s evoked. Its wistfulness radiates through every element of the music — from the sound Joao Gilberto makes humming that iconic introduction to “The Girl From Ipanema” to the yearning melody itself to the precise chop of the rhythm guitar behind the voice. You can’t just order up saudade. There’s no setting for it on a drum machine; no software emulation available. It comes seeping through the music, between the notes, as delicate and evanescent as a May breeze.



There’s nothing wrong with music that doubles as an outpouring of joy: sing-along choruses, ecstatic vocals, outsize emotion — a positive outlook on life, generally speaking. If that’s your thing, Protomartyr is here to spill it all over the front of your nice, new shirt, possibly scalding you in the process.

Protomartyr is a four-piece post-punk band from Detroit, which vocalist Joe Casey paints as a modern-day Mudville over the course of these 14 songs. There are no silver linings on Under Color of Official Right — only overcast ennui. Poignancy and shame rule the day, and it sounds like the meds ran out long ago. Callous, sometimes comical clarity is all that remains, and it’s a brilliant thing to behold.

Tori Amos

ug_press1Tori Amos has been away. She’s been exploring the depths of the seasons, and of festive tradition, a sense-tingling journey captured in her 2009 album Midwinter Graces. She’s been time-travelling through 400 years of classical music, an odyssey that found form in Night Of Hunters (2011), her first release on Deutsche Grammophon. She’s been revisiting her own, two decades-strong back-catalogue, reimagining her compositions in an orchestral setting for her 2012 album Gold Dust.

And Tori Amos has been hiding in the wings, and beetling backstage, and peering anxiously from the gods – the American-born, Cornwall-based singer-songwriter spent much of 2013 co-creating The Light Princess, a musical staged in partnership with London’s National Theatre.

Zeppelin Reborn


Billie Joe & Nora

billiejoeandnorahasin._V368361814_Foreverly is the 2013 collaboration between Green Day front man, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Grammy-winning Pop songstress, Norah Jones. The collection is inspired bySongs Our Daddy Taught Us, an album of traditional Americana songs reinterpreted, recorded and released by the Everly Brothers in 1958. Billie Joe and Norah’s album captures the beauty of the Everly Brothers’ stunning close harmonies to create a moving and powerful testament to these traditional ballads.

Listen to Foreverly now for free!












Free streaming is available from now through release day.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood


“I think I’ll rob a train and move to South America, wander out in the rain, come out smiling and dry,” Black Crowes’ frontman Chris Robinson sings over a slow and sultry groove. “Legend, fortune and fame, I will be the stuff of headlines, another household name to be discarded with time.”

The lyrics are from “Train Robbers,” one of nineteen tracks on Chris Robinson Brotherhood’squadruple live album Betty’s S.F. Blends, Volume One, a vinyl-only, “farm to table psychedelic hayride” out on Black Friday (11/29.) The set was curated by Grateful Dead producer and engineer Betty Cantor-Jackson, who handpicked the tracks from the band’s five-night stand at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall last December. The band borrowed Jerry Garcia’s guitar, Wolf, for the occasion.

The Milk Carton Kids

milkcarton1The Milk Carton Kids make folk music. While you might add “pure and simple” to that phrase, it wouldn’t tell you the full story of the L.A.-based duo – Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan – who combine traditional guitar-and-voice simplicity with comic onstage patter that has earned comparisons to the Smothers Brothers. On the  pair’s third full-length release, The Ash & Clay, and first for respected indie label Anti-, the sound is as sweet as ever, full of graceful picking and high harmonies that recall early Simon and Garfunkel classics, with a touch of that country soul associated with the likes of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.

Nkulee Dube

nkulee-dube-2It’s Thursday night in downtown Johannesburg and some 500 people are packed into Bassline, a warehouse-like club in a hipster-friendly neighborhood. They’re here for South Africa’s longest-running sound system, or crew of reggae DJs. But tonight they get something extra: a young woman sporting dreadlocks and an army cap gets on the mic to freestyle.

Her name is Nkulee Dube, and she carries two storied legacies on her shoulders. She’s now the country’s biggest reggae star — and the daughter of the man sometimes dubbed “Africa’s Peter Tosh.”

“When I travel around the world, people are like, ‘We are just happy there is someone taking over, putting on your dad’s shoes,’ ” Dube says. “I’m like, ‘What? I cannot put on those shoes. They’re very heavy!’ ”

Jace Clayton

claytonThe experimental music hotbed that was New York in the 1960s and ’70s is a tough one to rival. Think of all the famous names: Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Albert Ayler, Patti Smith. A name you probably haven’t heard? Singer, writer, dancer and minimalist composer Julius Eastman.

“When I first heard his music, I was actually floored,” musician Jace Clayton says. “It was beautiful, it was muscular and hypnotic. [I thought,] ‘Wow, this was being made back then — what other things have I missed?’ ”

But even for classical music devotees, Eastman was easy to miss — never as famous as the likes of Reich and Glass. As for reasons why, there are a lot of good guesses. He was black. He was gay. And the titles of his pieces were often provocative — darkly funny on one hand, Clayton says, but also deeply angry.

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