Featured Release

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Kurt Vile is the American (born in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania) and Courtney Barnett is the (Sydney born) Australian.  Vile has a few years on Barnett, both in terms of time on the planet and length of career; their new collaboration Lotta Sea Lice is Kurt's seventh album.  For Courtney, it's full-length number two.  However, balance is achieved by virtue of Barnett attracting a bit more music-world buzz the past couple of years.  Lotta Sea Lice is a set of songs from two unpretentious musicians who really work well together.

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St. Vincent (born Annie Clark in Tulsa, Oklahoma) attended Berklee College of Music in Boston for three years, and then became a member of The Polyphonic Spree.  She also toured with Sufjan Stevens before releasing her debut album in 2007.  After a couple more full-lengths of her own, she collaborated with David Byrne for an album in 2012.  Byrne and St. Vincent also toured together.  You may have caught their impressive set (the choreography!) at 80/35 in the summer of 2013.  St.

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Beck (Beck Hansen if you wish to be formal) has been performing music since the mid 1980s when he was a teenager in his native Los Angeles.  It's been a long, creative road of stylistic experimentation ever since, with eager anticipation of his next move among fans.  Beck reached a milestone when his 2014 record Morning Phase won the Grammy for Album of the Year.  Now comes the followup, Colors, his thirteenth studio album.  Beck took his time, working on the record (off and on) for four years.  The songs were recorded at co-producer Greg Kurstin's L.A.

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Wolf Parade- a great set at 80/35 in 2016, and a fine new album titled Cry Cry Cry in 2017, their first in seven years.  In fact, the Canadian band had been on hiatus since 2010, with plenty of side projects to keep them busy (we're especially looking at you, Dan Boeckner- Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, Operators, etc.) during that time.  Wolf Parade reunited to resume live shows in 2016, and soon got down to the business of writing and recording album number four.  Their record label Sub Pop couldn't be happier to have them back, announcing that "the soaring choruses, rousing anthems

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It was a DJ who began Cut Copy in 2001.  Dan Whitford began playing around with keyboards and a sampler while he was attending college (and hosting a radio show) in Melbourne, Australia.  That eventually led to a demo tape submission and the gradual addition of band members.  Whitford came up with the band's name by randomly choosing words from the edit menu of his computer.  The Cut Copy (sometimes known as Cut/Copy) debut full-length album was released in 2004.  Haiku From Zero is album number five; it's highly danceable and harkens back to the early 1980's New Wave era.  

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Deer Tick started out in 2004 (in Providence, Rhode Island) playing music that could pretty accurately be described as "punk-roots rock."  Through years of touring, recording, solo projects and just plain life, the band lands more squarely in simply the roots-rock camp for their latest project.  Songwriter and frontman John McCauley, guitarist Ian O'Neil, drummer Dennis Ryan, and bassist Christopher Ryan actually have two new records out simultaneously- Deer Tick Vol. 1 is acoustic-leaning, and Deer Tick Vol.

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Alvvays (spelled that way because a band named Always already existed, but still pronounced "always") formed in Toronto in 2011, and released their debut album in 2014.  Their new record, Antisocialites​, is the followup.   Songwriter and vocalist Molly Rankin occasionally plays fiddle as well, following in the footsteps of her father John Morris Rankin, who is a fiddler with the Celtic folk group The Rankin Family.  Alvvays doesn't play folk music, though.

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The five members of The National all grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Four of those members are two sets of brothers.  Guitarist/keyboard player Aaron Dessner and his brother Bryce Dessner (also on guitar) are one set, and the other set is the rhythm section of Scott Devendorf (bass) and drummer Bryan Devendorf .  The frontman of The National is Matt Berninger, the singer with the unmistakable baritone voice.  Since forming in 1999 (and eventually relocating to Brooklyn, NY), the band has released a string of critically acclaimed albums.  The new record, Sleep Well Beast, is no except

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In April of 2011, a couple of months after announcing they were calling it quits, LCD Soundsystem played their final show at Madison Square Garden in New York.  Frontman James Murphy had other projects to keep him busy, like running his label DFA Records, so this really seemed like the end of one of the most respected bands of the early 21st century.  However, in late 2015 a new LCD Soundsystem single appeared, and the reunited band started playing shows again in 2016.  A new album was also announced.

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Songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player Ed Droste began Grizzly Bear in the early 2000s (in Brooklyn) as a solo project.  As often happens, the solo project grew into a full band by the time of the second Grizzly Bear full-length album in 2006.  The time between albums has increased; the new (fifth) record Painted Ruins arrives five years after the last one, Shields.  With rich, layered soundscapes and strong songwriting, most Grizzly Bear fans would say the wait was worthwhile.

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The War on Drugs is a good example of a band with a solid reputation, and along with that, expectations of quality that increase with each new release.  The band began in Philadelphia in 2005, founded by Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile.  Vile left for a solo career after The War on Drugs' debut record in 2008.  A Deeper Understanding is the band's fourth album.  Granduciel and his bandmates create a sound that is vast, rich and expansive.  Something of a perfectionist, the frontman has called this the most focused "band record" to date from The War on Drugs.

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Sam Beam's voice and style are so distinctive that his songs are immediately recognizable as Iron & Wine, even if you're not sure exactly which Iron & Wine song it is.  The new album is Beast Epic, solidly in the Iron & Wine tradition.  Lyrically (according to him), it's Beam's most personal album to date.  Born in South Carolina, Beam currently resides in North Carolina with his wife and five daughters.  Beast Epic was recorded in Chicago, with Beam writing all the songs and producing.

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Arcade Fire was formed by Win Butler and (now former member) Josh Deu when both were college students in Montreal.  Soon music student Regine Chassagne came aboard, the first of many more talented multi-instrumentalists to join Arcade Fire.  Win's younger brother William Butler was also an addition in the early years of the band.  Their 2004 debut album, Funeral was a great success, appearing on many Top Ten lists for that year.

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Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West began Oh Wonder in London in 2014.  In September of that year, the duo began recording and releasing one song per month.  One year later, those songs were collected together and became Oh Wonder's debut album.  In the spring of 2016, while staying at an Airbnb in Brooklyn, the two began writing the songs that would make up their second full-length album, Ultralife.  Vander Gucht and West wrote, recorded, produced and mixed the record themselves.

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Broken Social Scene is a true musical collective, with as many as nineteen members involved in any given project or performance.  Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning formed Broken Social Scene in Toronto in 1999.  Most of the other members (such as Leslie Feist, Jason Collett, and Emily Haines) have their own separate groups and projects.  With so many different players and instruments involved, the group's orchestrated and sometimes experimental music has at times been categorized as baroque pop.

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We last heard from Toro Y Moi just a few months ago when he released an album with the Mattson 2 called Star Stuff.  For that project, he used his birth name Chaz Bundick- which he has reportedly now legally changed to Chaz Bear.  The multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, producer and graphic designer has other pseudonyms as well, including Les Sins and Sides of Chaz.  He's prolific, creative and increasingly confident in producing his own brand of synth-pop music (labeled "chillwave" earlier in his career.)  Boo Boo is his fifth full-length album as Toro Y Moi.

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Before releasing music as Waxahatchee, singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield was in a band called P.S. Eliot, formed with her twin sister Allison Crutchfield.  Katie's debut full-length album as Waxahatchee came out in 2012, and Allison released her first studio album in January of this year.  The two sisters remain close.  In fact, Allison plays keyboards and percussion on the latest (fourth) Waxahatchee record, Out In The Storm.  Lyrically, Katie Crutchfield's song are definitely in the realm of introspective and personal relationship songs.

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Portugal. The Man founding members John Gourley and Zach Carothers met as high school students in Wasilla, Alaska.  They were originally in another band before starting Portugal. The Man in the early 2000's.  Band members came and went, the group relocated to Portland, Oregon, and their first full-length record came out in 2006.  Woodstock is the eighth album, inspired by the spirit of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival.

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The band Big Thief released their debut full-length record last year.  Masterpiece was well-received and audaciously titled for a first album.  Now comes the sophomore release, where it has come to be assumed that a band needs to show that the success of their debut wasn't some kind of fluke.  With Capacity, Big Thief have done just that.  Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Adrianne Lenker continues to spellbind with her voice and personal lyrics.  Guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik, and drummer James Krivchenia are the other players in Big Thief.

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Steve Earle had already been recording his songs for a few years before his breakthrough album, Guitar Town, was released in 1986.  In the thirty or so years since then, Earle has continued to be one of the most respected and reliable American songwriters and performers, as well as venturing into record producing, acting and non-song writing (a book of short stories, a novel and a play.)  He's been married several times, been through drug addiction and a drug treatment program, and has well-defined views on politics and social issues.

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Formed in Seattle in 2006, Fleet Foxes are all about finely-crafted folk rock, although these days a more accurate label might be "baroque pop."  Principal songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist Robin Pecknold met guitarist Skyler Skjelset in high school.  Pecknold and Skjelset, along with Casey Curran (keyboards and mandolin) are the remaining founding members of Fleet Foxes.  Josh Tillman (better known these days as Father John Misty) is the most famous Fleet Foxes alumnus.

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Due to the great success of their band The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been able to pursue a lot of other musical projects outside of that one.  Auerbach has worked as a producer for many other artists, established his own studio in Nashville (Easy Eye Sound), started his own record label (also Easy Eye Sound), and formed a whole other band (The Arcs) as a side project to The Black Keys.   He released his first "solo" album in 2009, with the follow-up to that release out now.

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Canadian musician Elizabeth Powell began writing songs as a teenager in Ontario.  She met the other original members of Land Of Talk while she was studying jazz at Concordia University in Montreal.  The band released their first EP in 2006, followed by the debut Land Of Talk full-length album in 2008.  After one more album, the band went on hiatus in 2011.  After a few years of uncertainty and introspection, Powell is back with an appealing new Land Of talk record titled Life After Youth.  

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As an American roots musician and songwriter, St. Louis-based Pokey LaFarge has impeccable credentials. The Bloomington, Illinois-born LaFarge even earned his nickname honestly.  As a child, his mother would tell him to hurry up.  His banjo-playing grandfather gave him his first guitar and a tenor banjo.  Growing up, LaFarge was very interested in history and the classics of American literature.  He got into country blues artists like Skip James and Sleepy John Estes, as well as Jimmie Rodgers and bluegrass originator Bill Monroe.

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British musician and songwriter Damon Albarn (of the U.K. band Blur) started Gorillaz in 1998, in collaboration with comic book artist Jamie Hewlett.  Gorillaz is a cartoon, or virtual band.  Albarn and his crew write, play and sing the music behind the facade of the characters he and Hewlett created.   The 2001 debut album Gorillaz sold over seven million copies, and the group officially became the most successful virtual band ever- outselling other virtual bands like The Archies and Alvin & the Chipmunks.

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The new album from The Mountain Goats is titled Goths, inspired to a large extent by the band's love for bands of the post-punk era.  Bands like Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Cure, Bauhaus and Gene Loves Jezebel.  The previous Mountain Goats studio album Beat The Champ had songs that dealt with the professional wrestling circuit.  Just like the songs on that album, John Darnielle's lyrics on Goths go deeper than the ostensible subject matter.  Darnielle's words are smart and funny as usual, and definitely dominate the proceedings.

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San Fermin mastermind Ellis Ludwig-Leone studied composition at Yale.  While a student, he assisted famed composer Nico Muhly on some projects.  Ludwig-Leone had been in bands, but didn't really intend to make pop music after graduation.  He realized that he could combine his classical training with "pop songs," and set out to write the first San Fermin album in 2013.    Belong is album number three; with music, lyrics and arrangements written by Ludwig-Leone who leads the band as keyboard player.  Lead vocals are shared by Charlene Kaye and  Allen Tate.  

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Even after three years, it seems that the Baltimore-based band Future Islands can't be written about without mentioning their breakthrough live appearance on the David Letterman show in early 2014.  Their performance of "Seasons (Waiting on You)" on that show is closing in on 2,000,000 YouTube views.   Frontman Sam Herring's vocal intensity and energetic dance moves simply can't be denied.  Iowans could see this for themselves during Future Islands' exciting set at the Hinterland Festival in 2015.  The synthy dance party continues on the fifth Future Islands album, The Far Field.  

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The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States is commonly considered to have lasted from the years 1947 to 1991.  The band Cold War Kids formed in southern California in 2004, so the group's members were indeed children during the final years of that span.  The band isn't particularly political, but on LA Divine, their sixth studio album, they have a lot to say about people and their conflicts.  And love as well.  While talking about the record, and the title song that didn't make the final cut, Cold War Kids' frontman Nathan Willett said:  "It's about supernatural lo

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According to the band's website:  "The New Pornographers are AC Newman and a group of ridiculously talented people uniquely equipped to realize his musical ambitions."  That sums it up pretty well.  Carl Newman wrote all of the songs on their fine new record Whiteout Conditions, ably supported by Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, Todd Fancey, John Collins, Blaine Thurier and Joe Seiders.  Dan Bejar decided to sit this one out.  Many of these people write songs and release records of their own.

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