Featured Release

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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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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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