Featured Release

Gabriella Porter/thebirdandthebee.com

Inara George is the daughter of the late Lowell George of the band Little Feat.  She had already performed and recorded on her own before forming the Los Angeles-based duo The Bird And The Bee with musician/producer Greg Kurstin in 2006.  The two share an appreciation for jazz standards, sophisticated dance music, and well-constructed pop songs.  In fact, their previous full-length release was an album of Hall & Oates covers.  The new Recreational Love follows five years later, with ten new ear-pleasing indie pop songs.

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Blood is the second full-length album from Lianne La Havas.  La Havas was born in London to a Greek father and Jamaican mother and began singing at age seven.  Her father taught her piano and guitar basics, and she started writing songs at a young age.  La Havas signed to Warner Bros. Records in 2010, but took her time developing her skills before releasing any music.  Her debut album came out in 2012.  With the new follow-up record Blood, Lianne La Havas continues to write, sing and play smart, sophisticated songs in a jazzy neo-soul style.

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Coming Home is the debut full-length album from Leon Bridges, the young soul singer, guitarist and songwriter from Fort Worth, Texas.  Bridges' music and visual image are very much in the tradition of early Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke circa 1963.  It wasn't that long age that he was working as a dishwasher and playing open-mic nights around Fort Worth.  Bridges signed with Columbia Records last year, and began touring nationally this year.  Coming Home shows Leon Bridges to be utterly sincere in his approach to retro-soul.

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Kevin Parker founded  Tame Impala as his own home recording project in 2007.  The band continues to be his own very personal project, with Parker writing all the songs and performing all the music and vocals himself, plus producing and mixing.  He is joined be other musicians when Tame Impala tours.  Currents is the third full-length album from the Australian band, with more synths and a more dance-oriented approach this time around.  Parker's careful attention to detail has resulted in this buzz-worthy new record from Tame Impala.      

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On July 16th, Wilco fans (and there are a lot of them around here) were pleasantly surprised by the sudden availability of a new Wilco album titled Star Wars.  ​Then again, it's been nearly four years since the last new studio album from the band, and the feeling was that a new record was overdue.  Star Wars became available as a free download via Wilco's website.  A CD version will be released in late August, and a vinyl version of the album is expected in late November.

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Chicago musician and songwriter Ezra Furman began his career with the band Ezra Furman and the Harpoons.  They formed at Tufts University (near Boston) in 2006, and had a run that included three albums.  In 2012, Furman raised money through Kickstarter to record and self-release his first solo album.  He signed to a label and received great critical acclaim for his second album, particularly in the UK.  With album number three, Perpetual Motion People, Furman is really hitting his stride.

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Bad Love is the third full-length album from the British indie-pop duo Summer Camp.  In addition to those three, the band also released a film soundtrack album last year for the teen movie documentary Beyond Clueless.  Multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Warmsley and vocalist Elizabeth Sankey are a married couple, and formed Summer Camp in October, 2009.  Although lyrically a bit dark, their music is influenced by 1960s girl groups and 1980s synth pop.  It qualifies as fine summertime listening!  

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British songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Richard Thompson began his recording career in 1967 with the revered folk-rock band Fairport Convention.  He has continued to record and tour throughout the world.  Still is officially his sixteenth studio record under his own name (including many great albums credited to Richard and Linda Thompson).  Thompson wanted to shake up his approach to making records this time out, so for the role of producer he sought out Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.  Tweedy was happy to oblige, and the album was recorded in Chicago at Wilco's The Loft studio.  

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Two bands make up the collaborative project known as FFS.  Of those two, the Glasgow, Scotland group Franz Ferdinand is certainly the more well known.  The other part of the equation is Sparks- a "cult band" since the 1970's.  Brothers Ron and Russell Mael are the core members of Sparks.  Over the decades, they have achieved some success in Europe, but were generally thought of as "too weird" to make it in the US.  The times have caught up with their weirdness, but now they would probably be thought of as "too old."  Franz Ferdinand are fans of Sparks, and met them a few years ago.

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While Frances Quinlan was a senior in high school, she began her acoustic solo project and called it by the rather unwieldy name of Hop Along, Queen Ansleis.  That was in 2004.  In 2008, Quinlan's brother Mark joined as drummer, and bassist Tyler Long came aboard in 2009.  The Philadelphia band shortened their name to just Hop Along around that time, and have since added guitarist Joe Reinhart.   Painted Shut is their third full-length album; their first for Omaha's Saddle Creek label.

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Why Make Sense? is the sixth studio album from the British electronic music band Hot Chip.  The band formed in London in 2000.  Hot Chip strive to be melodic in their dance music.  While listening to their music, one never feels that the synths are overpowering the humanity behind the machines.  For the new record, the band has said they had enough material for an album twice as long, but they held back in an effort to not be indulgent.  They made the right choice- Why Make Sense? is a great listen!

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The Magic Whip is the the eighth studio album from the British band Blur.  It's the first new album in 12 years for the band, and features the intact original lineup:   Damon Albarn (vocals & keyboards), Graham Coxon (guitar & vocals), Alex James (bass) and Dave Rowntree (drums).  Blur has achieved mass popularity in the UK, but here in the US they are known for their own particular brand of smart indie (albeit on a major label) rock.  Recorded in Hong Kong and London, The Magic Whip is the welcome return of Blur. 

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Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Bethany Cosentino and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno formed Best Coast in Los Angeles in 2009.  California Nights is their third full-length album.  Influences for the band include surf rock, 1960's girl groups, The Beach Boys and much more.  Those influences and Best Coast's own take on them combine to create their sound.  Their songs evoke the feeling we've come to associate with west coast music.  That appealing vibe continues on California Nights.

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My Morning Jacket can be described as a roots rock band that is willing to experiment and stretch their sound. The new album is titled The Waterfall, directing the listener's attention to fluid and moving cascades of sound.  Since their 1998 formation in Louisville, Kentucky, My Morning Jacket have been in the tradition of deliberately creating albums of songs that flow best when heard together.  Vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Jim James leads the group.  They are on tour now, with an Iowa stop in Waverly on June 19.    

Alabama Shakes show absolutely no signs of "sophomore slump" on their new record Sound & Color.  The album comes three years after Boys & Girls, their debut full-length.  Alabama Shakes began when singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and bassist Zac Cockrell were attending high school together in Athens, Alabama.  They soon recruited guitarist Heath Fogg and drummer Steve Johnson, performed cover songs and worked on original material.  The band sounds positively  inspired on Sound & Color, and Brittany Howard's soulfully intense vocals are undeniable.

Untethered Moon is the first album from Built To Spill in nearly six years, and that's the longest amount of time between new records in the band's history.  Band founder Doug Martsch has indicated that the latest project was a bit of a struggle for him, and ultimately a new rhythm section were hired  to complete the album.  There have been several personnel changes since Built To Spill began in 1999, with guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Martsch the only constant member.  This is a guitar band through and through, with plenty to enjoy on Untethered Moon.

Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mikal Cronin grew up in Laguna Beach, California where he developed a passion for surfing and also for rock and roll.  Cronin earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in music from the California Institute of the Arts.  Since 2005, he has played and recorded with several bands, most notably collaborating with fellow Californian Ty Segall.  Cronin released his first (self-titled) solo album in 2011, following it up with MCII in 2013, and now the new record.

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Toro Y Moi is the stage name of musician, songwriter and producer Chaz Bundick.  Bundick had been in bands in high school and also played music while at the University of South Carolina (his home state), where he received a degree in graphic design.  Within a year of graduation he released his 2010 debut album on Carpark Records, with two more full-length albums following as Toro Y Moi, and also one as Les Sins.  Album #4 under the Toro Y Moi moniker is titled What For?, and finds the artist moving in a definite indie pop/power pop direction.

The Melbourne, Australia singer/guitarist/songwriter Courtney Barnett first attracted attention in America with her 2013 release The Double EP:  A Sea Of Split Peas.  It was lengthy, but was in fact two separate EPs put together.  Her actual debut full-length is the new release Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.   Barnett is known for her confessional and sometimes rambling lyrics, delivered in her conversational singing style. Throughout the new album, her distinct voice is supported by her compelling guitar work.

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Strangers To Ourselves is the first album in eight years from Modest Mouse.  Vocalist and guitarist Isaac Brock and drummer Jeremiah Green remain in the band as founding members.  Original bassist Eric Judy left Modest Mouse in 2012.  After their hiatus, Modest Mouse is back with an album that is not about experimentation, but rather serves to remind us of their signature sound.   

The Canadian electronic music duo Purity Ring are originally from Edmonton, Alberta, and formed in 2010.  Megan James is the vocalist, and Corin Roddick the main instrumentalist in the band.  Another Eternity is the followup to their 2012 debut album.  While still ethereal and atmospheric in its sound, the new full-length finds the duo stretching in a more pop direction.  Both members write the band's songs, with James basing many of the band's lyrics on writing she had done in the past.   

Second full-length album from indie "supergroup"

Malin Johansson via jose-gonzalez.com

The family of Jose Gonzalez (his parents and sister) fled Argentina in 1976.  They settled in Gothenburg, Sweden where Jose was born two years later.  He played guitar and bass in a variety of bands, and eventually released his first album in 2003.  In addition to records under his own name, Gonzalez has collaborated with a number of musicians, worked on different musical projects, and most notably has been a member of the band Junip.  The new Vestiges & Claws features his de-tuned classical guitar work and thoughtful lyrics.

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It seems fitting that JD McPherson grew up in rural Oklahoma.  It was in that down-to-earth environment that he started playing guitar at age 13, and later began writing his own songs.  He went on to study, and eventually teach, visual art.  Musically, McPherson had been drawn to 1950's rock and roll, and he decided to pursue a career in music.  His debut album was released in 2010, and now comes the follow-up Let The Good Times Roll.  JD McPherson draws upon R & B, rockabilly and roots rock traditions for his own contemporary take on rock and roll. 

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Rockville, Maryland native Joshua Tillman has been recording music for over ten years under his given name, as well as J. Tillman, and most recently as Father John Misty.  He was also a member of Fleet Foxes from 2008-2012.  It was after leaving Fleet Foxes that Tillman began releasing albums as Father John Misty, for the Sub Pop label.  I Love You, Honeybear is his second full-length under that moniker.  Tillman is a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter with a distinct narrative voice.  He has described the new record as a concept album about himself.   

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Live At A Flamingo Hotel is the new live record from the Philadelphia band, Dr. Dog.  The group has been around since 1999, but this is their first official live album.  The performances are spirited, with 19 songs spanning Dr. Dog's career.  The material was recorded during the six-piece band's 2014 tour, drawn from shows in different cities, with devoted and enthusiastic Dr. Dog fans in the audiences.  You may have seen Dr. Dog last July in Des Moines- their 80/35 set was a highlight of the festival!   

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Belle and Sebastian formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1996.  Of course, the first thing to mention is that there is no Belle and no Sebastian in the band.  The name comes from a French children's book that later was adapted for television.  Long-time critical favorites, Belle and Sebastian have released their ninth full-length record, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance.  Stuart Murdoch is the lead singer and songwriter in the group, lending his distinctive vocals and literate lyrics to their songs.

The Portland, Oregon band The Decemberists have been creating their own particular brand of folk-rock/baroque pop since 2000.  What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is their seventh full-length release.  The Decemberists have maintained their folky traditional instrumentation and idiosyncratic approach to writing lyrics, even as they have edged closer to being a "mainstream" band.  Lead vocalist and principal songwriter Colin Meloy is the frontman in the group.

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Sleater-Kinney formed in Olympia, Washington in 1994, and by the turn of the century the trio had come to be recognized as one of the best rock bands in America.  They released seven studio albums between 1994 and 2005.  In 2006, Sleater-Kinney went on a hiatus to work on individual projects and also to simply live their lives.  Corin Tucker (vocals and guitar), Carrie Brownstein (guitar and vocals) and Janet Weiss (drums) quietly reunited about a year ago to write and record the songs for a new album, No Cities To Love.  Their common aim was to reinvent the band.

Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is the fifth full-length album Noah Lennox has released under his nom de plume Panda Bear.  Baltimore native Panda Bear is a co-founding member of Animal Collective, a band known for their musical creativity and experimentation.  The multi-instrumentalist has indicated that death and personal growth are lyrical themes of the new record.  The music has been aptly described as "swirling" and "as pure as a babbling brook." 

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