Blind Boys of Alabama formed in 1944, and have stated that their goal is to "spiritually uplift audiences." They have released many records over the years, and Talkin' Christmas is not their first Christmas album. It is, however, the first to feature collaborator Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal has been putting his unique stamp on blues and world music for nearly 50 years. In Talkin' Christmas the singers and musicians have created a special blend of gospel and R&B for the season.
La Isla Bonita is the twelfth full-length album from Deerhoof, a band that formed in San Francisco in 1994. In that twenty year span, Deerhoof have produced and managed themselves, creating an avant-garde pop sound that can be equally challenging and intriguing. Japanese-born Satomi Matsuzaki is the band's distinctive vocalist. Inspired by the high energy, to-the-point style of the Ramones, Deerhoof reportedly recorded La Isla Bonita live in the basement of guitarist Ed Rodriguez in a "weeklong sleepover".
Ariel Pink is the stage name of Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter and producer based in Los Angeles. He studied visual art for a time at the California Institute of the Arts, and has been writing songs for most of his life. He began making lo-fi recording of his songs in the mid-1990's, and has recorded over 500 songs since then, most of them unreleased commercially. The new album PomPom is an entertaining mix of accessible pop songs and Frank Zappa style eccentricity.
Bob Dylan gave producer T Bone Burnett a batch of his lyrics written circa 1967. Burnett gathered Elvis Costello, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) and Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops) to write music for those lyrics. The musicians (calling themselves The New Basement Tapes) recorded an album in Los Angeles, and titled it Lost On The River. The songs harken back to Dylan and The Band's storied Basement Tapes, but are also fascinating songs in their own right from this unique group.
Seeds is the fifth full-length album from TV On The Radio. The band formed in Brooklyn, NY in 2001 and have retained the same line-up for most of their career. Seeds is the first album from the group since the death (from cancer) of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011.
Hold My Home is the fifth full-length release from Cold War Kids. The band formed in Fullerton, California ten years ago, and remains based in the Golden State. Cold War Kids have said that in the beginning, having instruments was secondary to their enthusiasm. At band practices they thumped on walls, banged on heat pipes, stomped and chanted. Cold War Kids now have more instruments, a steadily growing indie rock reputation, and a solid new album titled Hold My Home.
Bazaar is the second album from the Portland, Oregon band Wampire. Childhood friends, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps honed their sound playing house parties in Portland as a duo. Their band name is said to originate from the way that Phipps' goth friends from Germany pronounced "vampire." After their debut album was released in the spring of 2013, Wampire expanded to a five-piece band and toured extensively. Now comes the new record, Bazaar, with nine tracks of state-of-the-art indie rock!
Rips is the debut album from the Washington, D.C. trio Ex Hex. They have been described as a "power trio" with members that all happen to be women. Mary Timony, known for her work in the bands Wild Flag and Helium, is the guitarist and lead vocalist in Ex Hex. Laura Harris plays drums, and Betsy Wright is on bass. Rips, released on the well-regarded indie label Merge Records, is catchy and melodic with big guitars and power pop vocals.
Canadian musician and composer Dan Snaith began recording his music as Manitoba around the turn of the century, but for legal reasons later changed his stage name to Caribou. Inspired by psychedelia and electronica, Caribou has become known for creative compositions and arrangements, as well as experimental production. In recent years, Caribou's music has retained those qualities, but also become more danceable. That trend continues on the sixth studio album, Our Love.
The Studio One Featured Release this week is Black Moon Spell, the new album from King Tuff. Band members are Kyle Thomas (also known as King Tuff) on guitar and vocals, with Magic Jake on bass, and Garett Goddard on drums. King Tuff is from Vermont, and they record for the venerable indie label Sub Pop Records. Black Moon Spell is their third full length album. In describing their sound, King Tuff says "We make rock roll." 'Nuff said!
Project Trio were in Iowa recently for a performance schedule that included being a part of WCF Symphony's season opening concert on Oct. 11. The Brooklyn, NY three-piece also stopped by IPR's Studio One for music and conversation. Project Trio (Greg Pattillo on flute, Peter Seymour on bass, Eric Stephenson on cello) delightfully blur the edges of musical genres, as you can hear right here!
The Des Moines-based band Mighty Shady played a tight, energetic live set for Studio One on Monday, Oct. 13. The five-piece Mighty Shady combine rock, reggae, funk and more to create their own signature sound, as heard on their new album Double Think. Have a listen to Mighty Shady, live on Studio One!
For Hire is the new album from David Zollo and The Body Electric. The band includes Zollo on vocals and keyboards, Brian Cooper on drums, Stephen Howard on bass and electric guitar, and Randall Davis on acoustic and electric guitars and lap steel guitar. Zollo, from Iowa City, has been called "practically the patron saint of (Iowa's) roots music underground." He was the frontman for Iowa band High and Lonesome, started up Iowa City-based Trailer Records, and has been a session player on many projects over the years.
Sukierae (pronounced "sue-key-ray") is the debut album from the duo Tweedy. Tweedy is mainly Jeff Tweedy, best known for being the leader of Wilco, as well as his work in Uncle Tupelo with Jay Farrar (and the sometimes overlooked group Loose Fur). Jeff is the guitarist, vocalist, bassist and keyboard player in Tweedy, joined by his 18-year old son Spencer on drums. Sukierae certainly does not represent a great musical departure for Jeff Tweedy.
Iowa native Pieta Brown's latest record Paradise Outlaw is being released this week on the Red House label. It's the 6th full-length studio album from Pieta (daughter of Greg Brown), recorded at the Wisconsin studio of Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon. Vernon contributes vocals to a few songs, and Amos Lee is featured in a duet with Pieta Brown on the new album. Guitarist and co-producer Bo Ramsey is vital to the sound of Paradise Outlaw, a record that Pieta Brown describes as "expansive...full of love."
MR NASTI, aka Nicholas Naioti, has relocated to Fairfield, Iowa. In celebration, MR NASTI releases a new album on the Maximum Ames label this Tuesday, Sept. 23. Truth Sound features guest appearances from Iowa artists Anna Gebhardt (Annalibera), Ryan Stier & Joel Gettys (The River Monks), and Adrien Daller (Trouble Lights). Nashville's Spoken Nerd is also heard on the record. Percolating beats, synths and acoustic instrumentation accompany thoughtful lyrics regarding the Big Questions.
The Los Angeles-based band Allah-Las have a sound that harkens back to the glorious days of mid-60's California pop, with a garage rock edge. The aptly titled Worship The Sun is the follow-up to their self-titled debut album from 2012. Allah-Las bring a warm glow on the new record, pointing out once again how distinctive and evocative the "California sound" can be.
California native Ty Segall began his career playing in various underground bands in Orange County and the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2008, the songwriter/vocalist/guitarist (and drummer) has been prolifically releasing solo material. Segall has followed the indie rock tried and true path of starting out lo-fi, fuzzed-out and experimental, then steadily refining his music, still retaining that initial spirit. Now we have Manipulator, Ty Segall's most satisfying record to date, with a generous 17 tracks that move along in well-crafted form for nearly an hour.
Brill Bruisers is the sixth studio album from the Vancouver-based band The New Pornographers. The record is their first new release in four years. Band members A.C. Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar, Kathryn Calder, Blaine Thurier, John Collins, Kurt Dahle and Todd Fancey have solo work, other bands and side projects to keep them busy between New Pornographers albums. There is a wealth of talent in this band, creating songs that set the standard for indie-pop. Main lead singer and main songwriter A.C. Newman says: "This is a celebration record.
Spoon is one of the best bands working today, with each new release eagerly anticipated. Lead vocalist and guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno formed the band twenty years ago in Austin, Texas. Since around 2001, each new Spoon record has been an affirmation of the quality of the band's work. Daniel, Eno and the others have been involved in more side projects in recent years, yet every three or four years we are treated to a new Spoon album. They Want My Soul is another fine record, well-crafted and brimming with rock 'n' roll excitement.
It takes a special group of musicians to be able to combine a variety of influences and create a sound that only they could have come up with. The North Carolina band Reigning Sound have been doing it since 2001, and they've done again on Shattered, their first album since 2009 and first for the legendary Merge label. Classic soul/R&B, '60s garage rock, country and more are all in the mix here, and vocalist Greg Cartwright is in top form throughout the whole record.
The East Coast band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are known for exemplifying the phenomenon of the Internet buzz band at the start of their career. The band's totally self-made debut album rode a tide of blogger attention to great success in 2005. Since then, there have been side projects, personnel changes and three more full-length albums of consistently well-crafted indie pop. The new Only Run satisfies with both dance-oriented tracks and rockers.
It has been said that the closest and most enchanting vocal harmonies are created by siblings. This is certainly borne out in the case of the Swedish duo First Aid Kit. Sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg are from Enskede, a suburb of Stockholm. For Stay Gold, their third full-length album, producer Mike Mogis (of Bright Eyes fame) is back at the helm, having helped to make the last First Aid Kit album a great success. Mogis showcases the sisters' beautiful Swedish-accented harmonies with rich indie-folk instrumentation.
Our featured release this week on Studio One is the second full-length album from the young Chicago band, The Orwells. Actually, they are from Elmhurst, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, making them that much closer to being a regional band! Of course, their place of origin is not as important as the vital, tuneful garage rock that they play on the new Disgraceland. The five members of The Orwells have known each other for years, forming the band and getting signed to Autumn Tone Records for their first album while still in high school.
Jack White has enjoyed both critical and commercial success since the late 1990's when he and Meg White formed The White Stripes. Since then he has made his mark as a musician, songwriter, record producer and more. White was also a founding member of The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. Most recently, he has been focusing on his solo career, releasing his album Blunderbuss in 2012. The follow-up is Lazaretto, lyrically inspired in part by stories, plays and poems White wrote when he was 19.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno of Best Coast when they stopped by the Iowa Public Radio Meet 'N Greet tent, prior to their main stage performance at the 80/35 Festival in downtown Des Moines. Enjoy this July 4 audio interview!
South Of Nowhere is the debut album from the trio Spanish Gold, formed last year by former Hacienda guitarist and vocalist Dante Schwebel. Schwebel had originally wanted to work as a solo artist, but soon decided to make Spanish Gold a band project. Former Grupo Fantasma guitarist Adrian Quesada and My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan completed the trio. Their soul, rock and hip-hop influenced record was primarily recorded at Dan Auerbach's studio in Nashville, with additional recording in Austin, Texas.
The Des Moines-based band The River Monks formed in 2010 with founding members Ryan Stier, Nicholas Frampton and Joel Gettys. Current members also include Drew Rauch, Mallory Heggen and Tommy Boynton. Their second album, Home Is The House could aptly be summed up by a phrase they have used to describe their sound: "wistful harmonious megafolk." The River Monks combine beautiful vocal harmonies, intriguing songwriting and creative use of traditional folk instrumentation on the new album.
Our IPR 80/35 Showcase series of live in-studio performances concluded on June 26, with two more fine sets. Des Moines-based singer-songwriter Max Jury played keyboard and sang songs from his Something In The Air EP, as well as a haunting Neil Young cover. Also from Des Moines, Dustin Smith and his new band The Maytags played a soulful set of new songs. The Maytags EP, Nova, was recorded in Nashville and will be out this fall. Enjoy these 80/35 Showcase performances here!
The IPR 80/35 Showcase series on Studio One continued on June 25 with two more bands performing live in our Cedar Falls studios. The Des Moines/Davenport-based band Brother Trucker made a return visit, previewing their upcoming July 4 main stage appearance at 80/35. Brother Trucker's solid Americana set included songs from their forthcoming fifth album. Later, Des Moines' Cirrus Minor made their live Studio One debut, with their exciting progressive/alternative sound, including songs from the band's latest album, The Division of Space.