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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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Spoon have been a band since 1993, when Britt Daniel and Jim Eno left another Austin, Texas group (The Alien Beats) that they had been in together.  Soon they were releasing music, and by the time of their fourth full-length albumKill The Moonlight in 2002, Spoon began to be recognized as one of the best indie rock bands around.  Their reputation grew with each new release, and has continued up to the present with the new record, Hot Thoughts.  Britt Daniel is Spoon's frontman, singing lead vocals and playing guitar, bass and keyboards.

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Conor Oberst's latest record, Salutations, follows closely on the heels of last fall's Ruminations.  The songs from Ruminations were recorded solely by Oberst, accompanying himself on guitar and piano, over a two day period in his native Omaha.  Salutations is a full band recording, with those same ten songs plus seven more.  It's a generous selection of music, with Fleet Foxes and veteran drummer Jim Keltner joining Oberst for these spirited renditions. 

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James Mercer formed The Shins in 1996 as a side project.  At the time, Flake Music was Mercer's main band.  That band ended in 1999, and the first full-length record from The Shins came out in 2001.  The band became a critical and commercial success.  Following the third Shins album in 2007, Mercer broke up the original group, not returning (with The Shins) until five years later with a new record and a new lineup.  In between, he collaborated with Danger Mouse in Broken Bells.

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Since forming in Brooklyn in 2002, Dirty Projectors have had a lot of musicians pass through the ranks.  Over fifty players have been members of the band at one time or another, including Rostam Batmanglij and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend.  In 2017, with the release of the eighth full-length album Dirty Projectors, frontman, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist David Longstreth is the only official band member.

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Pieta Brown wrote most of the songs on her new album Postcards while on the road.  Later, she sent acoustic, bare-bones tracks of the songs to artists like Mark Knopfler, Calexico, Mason Jennings, The Pines, David Lindley, and Carrie Rodriguez among others.  These were musical "postcards," and each musician was asked to reply by adding their own contribution to the song they received.  "Collaborating with other musicians and elevating a song beyond its outlines has become one of my favorite things about making music," says Pieta.

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is known for the internet buzz that surrounded the band early in its career, around the time of their 2005 debut album.  Music blogs and sites like Pitchfork effectively launched CYHSY, and of course raised expectations for each subsequent release.  When the group began in 2004 (based in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, N.Y.), they were an actual band.  Over time, members have gradually left, leaving only songwriter and lead vocalist Alec Ounsworth standing as the sole member of CYHSY.

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Ryan Adams fronted the alternative country band Whiskeytown from the mid to late 1990's.  He started his solo career in 2000, and he's released roughly an album a year since then.  The new one is Prisoner, Adams' first full-length since his track-for-track reimagining of Taylor Swift's 1989 album in 2015.  It's also his first release since his divorce was finalized last June.

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California native Ty Segall is a songwriter, vocalist, producer and multi-instrumentalist.  The instrument he's best known for is guitar, with an approach that is mainly punk-leaning garage rock.  Segall has been in a lot    of bands, and when he's performing as Ty Segall he's backed by a shifting group of musicians with a band name that seems to change every few months.

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Woods formed in Brooklyn in 2005, and have been steadily releasing their music on Woodsist Records, the Brooklyn-based label founded by band frontman Jeremy Earl.  Their latest record, however, is on Jack White's Third Man Records.  Woods Live At Third Man Records is part of an on-going series of full-length albums recorded in front of an audience in The Blue Room venue of Third Man Records in Nashville.  The albums are released on vinyl only.

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Toronto native Katie Stelmanis is classically trained (she began performing at the age of ten in the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus), and had been writing and performing music for several years before the band now known as Austra came into being in 2009.  Stelmanis released her debut album under her own name in 2008, then decided that a band name would be better.  In time, "Austra" was settled upon, referring not only to the mythological Latvian goddess of light, but also Stelmanis' own middle name.  Future Politics is the third full-length album from the indie synthpop group.

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The XX formed in London in 2005, and released their debut album in 2009.  That record was a critical and commercial success (eventually winning the UK Mercury Prize for best album) and The XX have continued their forward momentum to this day.  The trio's third full-length record, I See You, was highly anticipated by fans waiting four years since the last album, although they did have the solo release from group member Jamie XX (Jamie Smith) to tide them over.

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Kaiser Chiefs are a fine example of a band that is very popular in their native England, yet remain marginally known  in the United States.  They formed in Leeds under the name Parva in 2000.  After one album, and the usual record label intrigues, Parva re-invented themselves as Kaiser Chiefs in 2003.  The name is derived from the Kaizer Chiefs, a South African football team.  The original lineup of the band has stayed nearly intact, with only the founding drummer being replaced a few years ago.

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Dr. Dog have been playing and recording their folk-rock/baroque pop music since around the turn of the century, when they began as a local band in the Philadelphia area.  Late in 2016 they dropped a surprise album titled Abandoned Mansion.  In the band's own words:  "Its a mood record...Nothing too jamming or atonal.   No blips or bloops or anything else that might unsettle you...We did a song a day for two weeks.  And, almost everything is tracked live...Thematically, this is Dr. Dog meat and potatoes.  Our proverbial wheelhouse.  Songs of the oldest questions.

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After being in the game for over 50 years, Neil Young seems determined not to settle into professional old-fogeyism.  His new album Peace Trail was reportedly recorded in just four days, with most of the ten tracks recorded on the first or second take.  Many critics are saying this would have been a better album if the artist had just spent more time refining it.  Obviously, a spontaneous, off-the-cuff feel was what Young was going for.

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I like to think of Kristin Hersh as a kind of godmother of indie rock.  Her band Throwing Muses had an impressive run in the '80s and '90s, and sporadically since then.  In the 21st century, she formed the band 50 Foot Wave.  She has also released many solo albums over the years, and she's authored a few books.  As she's done twice before, Hersh has paired a book and a CD for her latest work, Wyatt At The Coyote Palace.

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Houston, Texas native Robert Earl Keen graduated from Texas A&M (with a B.A. in English) in 1978.  He then moved to Austin and began performing live in various venues there.  By 1984 he had released his first album and started touring outside of Texas.  Over thirty years later, he's become one of those treasured Lone Star State troubadours, continuing to record and tour (maybe the road does go on forever).  In 1996 Keen recorded No. 2 Live Dinner at one of the quintessential Texas honky tonks, John T. Floore's Country Store in Helotes, Texas.

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Australian musicians Luke Steele (of the alternative rock band The Sleepy Jackson) and Nick Littlemore (of the electronic dance duo Pnau) first met in 2000.  They worked on various projects together before forming Empire Of The Sun in 2007.  The duo's  approach to synth pop is definitely coming from a glam rock perspective, with both members having a background in visual art.  Their live show features headdresses and elaborate stage sets.

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Pretenders formed in England in 1978.  The band was fronted by an American:   songwriter, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Chrissie Hynde, originally from Akron, Ohio.  Through the decades and many changes of personnel, Hynde remains the only member who has been in every incarnation of the band, although original drummer Martin Chambers has returned after an absence of several years.  Hynde moved to London in 1973, just a few years before the rise of punk rock in England.  She wrote about music, and played with various bands before The Pretenders came together.

Moby (born Richard Melville Hall, a descendant of Moby Dick author Herman Melville) has been making electronic dance music since the early 1990s.  He has had great success with many of his records, often by  bringing songcraft and melody to the genre.  Moby started out playing in punk and post-punk bands, and he brings that energy to his latest full-length album, These Systems Are Failing.  This is definitely a collection of songs rather than extended dance tracks.  Moby has long been known for his support of animal rights,  veganism, and environmentalism.

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Conor Oberst is a busy, creative guy.  The Omaha native began writing songs and performing at a young age, and self-released his first solo cassette tape of songs when he was 13.  Oberst's best-known band is Bright Eyes.  Here are some more of his bands:  The Faint, Commander Venus, The Magnetas, Park Ave., Desaparecidos, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and Monsters Of Folk.  He co-founded the independent record labels Saddle Creek records and Team Love Records.

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A phantogram is a type of optical illusion, and also a cool band name for the duo of Josh Carter (guitar and vocals) and Sarah Barthel (vocals and keyboards).  The two friends have known each other since junior high school, and formed their musical collaboration in 2007 in upstate New York.  At first, they called themselves Charlie Everywhere, playing gigs and recording some small label EPs.  In 2009, they changed their name to Phantogram, and released their debut album in the fall of that year.  Three is, of course, their third full-length.

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Regina Spektor was born in Moscow in 1980, where at 6 years old she began classical training on the piano.  Her family left the Soviet Union in 1989, moving to New York City, where Spektor continued her classical training and also eventually broadened her musical tastes.  In time, she began writing her own songs and performing as part of the "anti-folk" scene in New York's East Village.  She began self-releasing CDs of her music in 2001.  She signed with Sire Records in 2004, and has gone on to great success in recording and touring.

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