Robyn Hitchcock turns 60 this weekend. The British singer and guitarist has traveled a long way to this point, beginning in the 1970s as the frontman of proto-punk group The Soft Boys and continuing through a solo career that has produced hundreds of songs. He's even appeared in a few films: Jonathan Demme showcased the singer in Storefront Hitchcock and gave him a cameo as a Russian operative in the 2004 verison of The Manchurian Candidate.
Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 2:31 pm
Youth Lagoon's second album, Wondrous Bughouse, is one of the most arresting headphone records you'll hear this year. Trevor Powers, the band's sole member, layers strange but alluring synth textures under quirky melodies and simple pop beats, in the process creating an expansive and endlessly engrossing world of sonic curiosities.
Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 7:41 am
As one of the most thoughtful singer-songwriters around, Josh Ritter isn't one to write angry, over-the-top, knee-jerk breakup songs — even though his new album, The Beast in Its Tracks, was written entirely in response to his own recent divorce. Gentility and empathy are wired into Ritter's songwriting, so his idea of a breakup anthem is the gorgeous and glorious "Joy to You Baby," in which he closes the book on a relationship by wishing everyone well, himself included.
Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 7:11 pm
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Say what you will about some of the biggest songs of the 1980s — go ahead and badmouth electric pianos, and by all means bemoan the prevailing production quality — but the decade continues to cast a long shadow over popular music. Given its enduring popularity on dance floors and on radios, not to mention the rise of '80s-emulating singers like Gotye, you could do far worse than look to that decade for tips on connecting with audiences.
As the European editor of Rolling Stone, Jonathan Cott spent his time interviewing legendary musicians like Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend. But in 1968, he finally got the opportunity to meet his hero, John Lennon. Cott was nervous.
"He said, 'There's nothing to be nervous about,'" Cott recalls. "'It's going to be OK, and we're doing it together, and that's what really matters.'"
Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 5:21 pm
As televised prize-givers, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences are slouches. The dozen prizes given out in a typical Grammy Awards telecast is the lowest of any major awards-show telecast, from the Oscars to the Emmys. NARAS gives out the bulk of its little gramophones in an untelevised ceremony.
But as sales-juicers? The Grammys are unparalleled.
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 3:44 pm
The drummer Marcus Gilmore is coming off a major year in his career. In 2012, DownBeat magazine named him its top Rising Star Drummer in its long-running Critics Poll; pianist Vijay Iyer's trio, of which Gilmore is a member, also took the Jazz Album and Jazz Group of the Year categories.
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 4:50 pm
James Hunter has spent his life learning how to tell soul's stories in fresh and personal ways. Born in 1962 in Essex, England and mentored early on by Van Morrison, he embarked on a career with many ups and downs before breaking through in America in his forties. Now the Grammy-nominated Hunter has made his first album in the States, where the music he loves was born.