Spotlight

ALLISON MOORER

ALLISON MOORER
ALLISON MOORER On a new studio set, the acclaimed roots artist mines pain for poetry  Five years ago, as Allison Moorer released her seventh studio album, Crows, she was married to singer-songwriter Steve Earle and pregnant with their son. Now, as she releases her latest, Down to Believing, much has changed. Her near-decade-long marriage to Earle has ended, and their son, John Henry, has been diagnosed with autism. But Moorer has never been shy... 

AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT

AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT
AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT The critical favorites rewrite the rock rulebook on a Dope new album It’s official: The Airborne Toxic Event is no longer a “proper rock band.” The California quintet’s new album, Dope Machines, pairs loud guitars with glitzy synths and canned beats with live drums, and although leader Mikel Jollett struggles to define the sound, he knows it’s not what people were expecting. “There’s a set of rules you’re supposed... 

FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE

FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE
FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE Bro-country’s premier duo finds their musical sweet spot naturally Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard—the party-starting dudes behind the country juggernaut Florida Georgia Line—are taking a breather to look back on the monster year they’ve had. Their new album Anything Goes topped the charts—and their latest No.1 hit “Sun Daze” caps a series of chart-scorching hits. What’s more, their new tour landed a Top 3 spot... 

BETTY WHO

BETTY WHO
BETTY WHO A popular viral video leads to a major-label debut for a dance-pop diva Even if you don’t recognize her name, you’d likely recognize Betty Who’s breakout hit “Somebody Loves You,” which played as the backdrop of a 2013 viral video of a man proposing to his boyfriend in Home Depot while dancing with a flash mob. “Even today, people are falling in love with that song for the first time,” says the Australian singer-songwriter... 

TOWER OF POWER

TOWER OF POWER
TOWER OF POWER Hip for nearly 50 years, the soul vets prove you just can’t stop the funk Ask Emilio Castillo—who co-founded Tower of Power in 1968—how his band has survived, and he offers a simple answer. “It’s because we make the music exactly the way we want it to sound,” he says. “We noticed years ago that if we try to deviate from what we do, it doesn’t work—we still sound like us, only a bastardized version. So we’re going... 

KRISTIN CHENOWETH

KRISTIN CHENOWETH
KRISTIN CHENOWETH The effervescent actress and singer does her hometown proud on a new album On her first live album, Coming Home, Kristin Chenoweth found herself on familiar terrain. The Tony Award-winning actress and singer performed a pair of sold-out shows at the Kristin Chenoweth Theatre in her hometown of Arrow, Okla. “I absolutely wanted to make my hometown a part of the album, so I had my high school choir sing backup on one of the gospel... 

BUSH

BUSH
BUSH    With a new album, the grunge-rockers are on the road and on the run again When it came to Bush’s new album, Man on the Run, founder and frontman Gavin Rossdale was in a quandary about what to call it. “I always thought it’s a cop-out to use a song title as an album title,” says Rossdale. “But I wanted something universal, and that song stood out as something affecting most people—not having enough time to satisfy every area... 

CHARLI XCX

CHARLI XCX
CHARLI XCX The red-hot songwriter channels a variety of influences on her latest Charli XCX is blowing up—from her co-writes and features on Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” to her own solo hit “Boom Clap,” the 22-year-old U.K. singer-songwriter has dominated the airwaves for the past two years (and earned two Grammy nominations). After releasing several under-the-radar singles from various mixtapes, an EP and her... 

BILLY IDOL

BILLY IDOL
BILLY IDOL Looking back—and forward—with a new   book and fresh music Billy Idol relived the first 58 years of his life while writing his new autobiography Dancing With Myself. He remembers wandering around his house in the middle of the night, thinking about the music he made with punk rockers Generation X in the 1970s, the hits he scored as a solo artist in the ’80s, and his encounters and collaborations with everyone from Debbie Harry to... 

MELISSA ETHERIDGE

MELISSA ETHERIDGE
MELISSA ETHERIDGE Collaboration takes the Grammy-winning rocker in new musical directions Going into her 13th studio album, Melissa Etheridge had two songs written and was well on her way to recording another set of driving, heartfelt pop-rock tunes—the type that have earned her two Grammys and a devoted fan base—but then she realized something. “I can make Melissa Etheridge songs until the cows come home,” she says. So she dramatically shook... 

THURSTON MOORE

THURSTON MOORE
THURSTON MOORE Crossing the ocean brought the influential rocker a new wave of creativity  “Permanently? I don’t know what that would mean,” says Thurston Moore, laughing. The 56-year-old singer and guitarist of the legendary alt rock band Sonic Youth is not referring to the potential length of the iconic band’s hiatus, which began when Moore split with wife and longtime bandmate Kim Gordon in 2011. Rather, he’s considering whether his... 

THE MADDEN BROTHERS

THE MADDEN BROTHERS
THE MADDEN BROTHERS The Good Charlotte rockers take a detour to explore a new creative path Here’s what you should know upfront about Joel and Benji Madden’s debut record as the Madden Brothers: “It’s completely different from Good Charlotte,” says Joel. “If you’re looking for high-energy pop punk, it’s definitely not that.” The tattoo-covered twins started jamming in their tiny, unheated Maryland bedroom at 15. After moving west... 

LITTLE BIG TOWN

LITTLE BIG TOWN
LITTLE BIG TOWN   Success brings a wealth of changes for the resilient country rockers For more than 15 years Little Big Town has delivered irresistible harmonies, timeless melodies and compelling songs—but the path to success has hardly been a straight line. In the late ’90s they landed a major record contract, but the deal fizzled. In 2002 the group released their debut album on an indie label—but it didn’t fare well. Three years later,... 

LUCINDA WILLIAMS

LUCINDA WILLIAMS
LUCINDA WILLIAMS For one of Americana’s most celebrated artists, the best is yet to come Lucinda Williams has enjoyed a singular 36-year career that has included recording a dozen albums, collaborating with countless artists, and winning three Grammys. Yet the 61-year-old performer harbors no doubt her artistry is still on the ascendant. “I see myself as an anomaly,” says the Louisiana-born artist as she releases Down Where the Spirit Meets... 

JESSIE J

JESSIE J
JESSIE J The U.K. pop star kicks off her quest to conquer the U.S. with a Bang Bang Jessie J is hoping she finally has America’s attention. With the out-of-the-gate success of “Bang Bang”—the lead single off her latest album, Sweet Talker, that features red-hot pop star Ariana Grande and rapper Nicki Minaj—she’s longing to score her first No. 1 album. “I’ve never had one before anywhere, so that would be my biggest achievement,”... 

MINDI ABAIR

MINDI ABAIR
MINDI ABAIR A diverse group of collaborators showcases this sax star’s versatility The last few years have been quite a ride for Mindi Abair. She was the featured saxophonist on American Idol in 2011 and 2012. She toured with Aerosmith the same year, and hit the road with E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg—including one night when the Boss himself sat in. She also contributed to Dave Koz’s Summer Horns in 2013 with fellow ace saxophonists Koz,... 

KELLY WILLIS & BRUCE ROBISON

KELLY WILLIS & BRUCE ROBISON
KELLY WILLIS & BRUCE ROBISON When this roots-country couple combines talents, the result is magic It took singer-songwriters Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison nearly 20 years of marriage before they collaborated on a duets album, 2013’s stunning Cheater’s Game. “I always felt we were trying to be protective of our marriage,” says Robison. “We finally agreed that if we were going to work together, we were going to do it the right way. We... 

SINÉAD O’CONNOR

SINÉAD O’CONNOR
SINÉAD O’CONNOR The iconoclastic singer reveals her love of the blues on her 10th album Sinéad O’Connor’s new album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, is something of a milestone. “I see it that way in terms of being a songwriter,” she says. “In the last few years, I’ve studied and immersed myself in the blues—not the unhappy kind of blues, but the Chicago funky style of blues. Because of that, I feel I’ve advanced and broadened... 

WIZ KHALIFA

WIZ KHALIFA
WIZ KHALIFA The laid-back rapper lets the good times roll on another smoking party set Among the artists originally slated to guest on Wiz Khalifa’s fifth album, Blacc Hollywood, was Miley Cyrus. The controversial pop star’s presence probably wouldn’t have hurt sales, but if Wiz is bummed or angry about her track getting cut, he doesn’t show it. This will surprise no one acquainted with the rapper’s work. Born in North Dakota, raised in... 

THE JOHN BUTLER TRIO

THE JOHN BUTLER TRIO
THE JOHN BUTLER TRIO   An Australian favorite shrugs off labels and limits For more than 15 years, Australian roots-rockers the John Butler Trio have consistently reinvented their blend of acoustic folk and alternative rock. Defying definition has allowed the band to sidestep preconceived notions and stay sonically adventurous. “You don’t want to be limited to a certain type of music,” says frontman and guitarist John Butler. “You want to... 

TOKYO POLICE CLUB

TOKYO POLICE CLUB
TOKYO POLICE CLUB    A new creative focus raises the bar for the seasoned indie rockers  You can tell a lot about an indie rock band by how they spend the Monday following South by Southwest (SXSW). The young and crazy ones nurse hangovers and search “removing burrito stains” on Google. The annual Austin festival is about excess—lots of showcases fueled by lots of beer and Mexican food—and it’s easy for “buzz groups” to get burned... 

KARMIN

KARMIN
KARMIN After online fame and chart hits, the quirky duo finally releases an album Covers of songs by Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown found Karmin an Internet following and a record deal, and songs like “Brokenhearted” brought chart success, but it has taken the duo three years to produce an album. For the couple behind Karmin—Nick Noonan and Amy Heidemann, both 28—that time was spent developing a personality outside social media. “Everything... 

BOY GEORGE

BOY GEORGE
BOY GEORGE The colorful ’80s icon returns with a new perspective “When you’ve lived a dramatic life, you’ve got a lot to draw from,” Boy George says with a laugh. As the lead singer of Grammy-winning band Culture Club, he’s sold more than 20 million albums powered by megahits like “Karma Chameleon” and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.” But after dominating radio in the mid-’80s, the band’s red-hot streak cooled as the decade... 

SUZANNE VEGA

SUZANNE VEGA
SUZANNE VEGA The eclectic folkie samples hip-hop and explores her spiritual side In the seven years since Suzanne Vega released Beauty and Crime—her last studio album of original material—she released four collections of her songs in reworked forms as the Close-Up series. For her latest album, Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, she changed her tack. “The focus of the new album is wider than the Close-Up series,” says Vega. “We... 

KEB’ MO’

KEB’ MO’
KEB’ MO’ Life’s challenges inspire the multi-instrumentalist’s latest set “I’m a control freak,” Grammy-winning blues artist Keb’ Mo’ declares flatly. Indeed, the Nashville-based musician had a hand in every aspect of making his latest album, BLUESAmericana, including playing many of the instruments. But, he confesses, “When I couldn’t make something sound as good as I wanted it to sound—sometimes my touch wasn’t strong... 

SKATERS

SKATERS
SKATERS After paying dues separately, the punkers find overnight success together Band bios are notoriously filled with bunk, but Michael Ian Cummings’ story checks out. Ask the singer and guitarist where in New York City he and his fellow Skaters tended bar, and he’ll list a string of watering holes where young rockers actually congregate, swill Pabst, and tell stories that might inspire an album of crackling indie-punk jams, as the group’s... 

SHARON JONES

SHARON JONES
SHARON JONES Not even cancer can stop this funk-soul powerhouse   “I thought I was going to die,” Sharon Jones declares bluntly. The  57-year-old soul dynamo was diagnosed with bile duct cancer just weeks before the release of Give the People What They Want, her new album with longtime backing band the Dap-Kings. Everything was put on hold as Jones, who was still mourning the loss of her mother from cancer, underwent a seven-hour surgery and... 

NENEH CHERRY

NENEH CHERRY
NENEH CHERRY Musical inspiration has been a long time coming for the ’80s hit-maker   It’s been 25 years since Neneh Cherry’s megahit “Buffalo Stance” from her debut Raw Like Sushi invaded U.S. airwaves, and nearly 18 since she released her last solo album. But the Swedish singer-songwriter is back with a new album, Blank Project. “I’ve been saying I’d do it for 17 years, but it became, ‘I need to do this now,’” she says.... 

A GREAT BIG WORLD

A GREAT BIG WORLD
A GREAT BIG WORLD A great big hit propels the melodic pop duo to the top of the charts Piano-pop duo A Great Big World’s debut album, Is There Anybody Out There?, includes two versions of their recent haunting smash, “Say Something.” Christina Aguilera, who fell for the song when she heard it on TV’s So You Think You Can Dance, asked the duo—Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino—if she could record the tune with them for The Voice. No surprise,... 

LOS LONELY BOYS

LOS LONELY BOYS
LOS LONELY BOYS A new songwriting process leads to fresh inspiration for the Texican trio JoJo Garza’s got a good excuse for not hearing his phone ring. As often happens when he has tour downtime with brothers Henry and Ringo Garza, he takes the opportunity to jam. That is, after all, how Los Lonely Boys’ eighth studio album Revelation first poked its head into the world. “Songs are born on the road—they just come,” JoJo says. “We’ve... 

DAUGHTRY

DAUGHTRY
DAUGHTRY    The former Idol rocker picks up the pace on his latest set  When the band’s namesake and frontman Chris Daughtry set out to write his fourth album, Baptized, he wasn’t expecting it to come together so quickly. “I started in January with the idea of writing these songs, doing the demos, and maybe getting the record out by the end of 2014,” says Daughtry, 33. “Which would have meant we’d be in the studio right now, still... 

GAVIN DEGRAW

GAVIN DEGRAW
GAVIN DEGRAW The platinum pop-rocker learns to enjoy the art of collaboration    Since his million-selling debut album, Chariot—which spawned three hits, “I Don’t Want to Be,” “Follow Through,” and the title track—Gavin DeGraw has served up a steady balance of radio-friendly hits with darker, more introspective material. On his new album, Make a Move, he steps even further outside his comfort zone, with a diverse collection of songs... 

SLEEPER AGENT

SLEEPER AGENT
SLEEPER AGENT Their second effort showcases broader themes and a bigger band  To beat the sophomore slump, the first step for Sleeper Agent was to retreat. “In the summer of 2012, we spent a week in a cabin in the mountains of Kentucky and recorded,” says guitarist Tony Smith. “We cut ourselves off like Thoreau—no internet, no cellphones. We cooked dinner every night and just had a great time. Actual recording in the studio started in November,... 

LINDI ORTEGA

LINDI ORTEGA
LINDI ORTEGA A move to Music City results in a burst of creative energy  What a difference a move can make—just ask singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega. “When I was living in Toronto, I’d come off tour, get into my onesie, watch reruns and eat Cheerios,” says the Canadian native. “Now, living in Nashville, I come home, see what people are up to, and that kicks my butt into being more productive and less complacent musically.” That late 2011... 

JAMES BLUNT

JAMES BLUNT
JAMES BLUNT A mega-selling artist recaptures his past to move forward “What I’m about is not trying to write songs that get played on the radio or become hit singles,” says James Blunt, “because that would be a hollow inspiration for making music. A desperately hollow inspiration.” To most who know his music or his name, Blunt is the pop star who sold around 20 million records over the past decade, powered by the megahit “You’re Beautiful.” More... 

PANIC! AT THE DISCO

PANIC! AT THE DISCO
PANIC! AT THE DISCO The emo-pop rockers expand their studio skills on a new album  The members of Panic! at the Disco haven’t limited their experimentation to their instruments, as evidenced by their fourth album, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (a quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as well as a nod to their hometown). Produced by Butch Walker, the album allowed frontman Brendon Urie to become more ambitious... 

KEANE

KEANE
KEANE    A greatest hits set marks a time of change in the band’s career  “I’ve been itching to do a solo album for a long time,” Keane frontman Tom Chaplin says, prior to a show that could be one of the band’s last—at least for a while. The English rockers have announced they’re “taking a break” after releasing The Best of Keane in November. “It came down to my desire to do something different,” Chaplin says. “To do that... 

LESLIE WEST

LESLIE WEST
LESLIE WEST A legendary guitar god keeps climbing with a blistering new set When Leslie West finished recording “Dyin’ Since the Day I Was Born,” the leadoff track on his new album Still Climbing, he emailed it to fellow guitar monster Slash. “I really respect the guy and wanted his opinion,” says West. “He wrote back and said, ‘You just can’t get any heavier than that, man.’” recording “Dyin’ Since the Day I Was Born,”... 

JOE NICHOLS

JOE NICHOLS
JOE NICHOLS Recharging his sound with a mix of modern and traditional country  Weighed down by label politics and dwindling record sales, Joe Nichols went through a rough patch following the release of his 2011 album, It’s All Good. But after splitting with his label last year, he felt rejuvenated and refreshed as he embarked upon free agency. “I was completely energized and free to go into the studio at will with my own budget,” he says.... 

lorde

lorde
LORDE Call her queen bee: The edgy teen with the luxe vocals rules the charts  This past summer, Lorde’s sultry slice of electronic pop, “Royals,” broke the record for weeks that a female artist spent at No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. (The previous record holder was Alanis Morissette in 1995 with “You Oughta Know.”) It also marked the first time in 17 years that a female artist topped the Alternative chart. By the end... 

Gov’t Mule

Gov’t Mule
Gov’t Mule The blues-rock jammers take a novel approach to a double-disc set Gov’t Mule didn’t intend their latest release as a celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary next year. That’s not why Shout! is a double-disc set packed with guest singers—it just turned out that way. Gov’t Mule—frontman Warren Haynes, drummer Matt Abts, keyboardist and guitarist Danny Louis and bassist Jorgen Carlsson—began writing and recording for... 

Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine
Over the Rhine An exceptionally creative week in the studio leads to a new double album  “With every record, we’re hoping to make our best album. If I felt our best work was behind us, I’d lose interest,” says Over the Rhine’s keyboardist and guitarist Linford Detweiler. The band he fronts with wife Karen Bergquist just released their latest set—the group’s 13th album—Meet Me at the Edge of the World. “What makes this project different... 

Berlin

Berlin
Berlin EDM strikes a familiar chord for these innovative synth-pop veterans   For Berlin frontwoman Terri Nunn, there’s a fine line between the band’s ’80s new-wave hits and the current electronic dance music craze. “EDM acts use so many of the sounds and instruments we’ve used in our past music that I didn’t have to think, ‘Will my audience like this?’” Nunn says of the EDM influence on the band’s latest album, Animal. It has... 

Blind Boys of Alabama

Blind Boys of Alabama
Blind Boys of Alabama Seven decades in, the gospel giants still find a way to inspire  “I never even thought of leaving,” says vocalist Jimmy Carter, the sole founding member still touring and recording with the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Grammy-winning gospel supergroup that formed in 1939. “When we started we were determined to go all the way. And when I step down, I’ll pass the torch behind me.” It’s impossible not to connect the... 

FRANZ FERDINAND 

FRANZ FERDINAND 
FRANZ FERDINAND Setting their own pace in the studio pays off on their latest effort  Franz Ferdinand closed ranks for the recording of their fourth album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. The Scottish rock band began work on the album a year and a half ago with frontman Alex Kapranos and guitarist and backing vocalist Nick McCarthy meeting in each other’s homes to write songs. “The whole recording process was off and on,” says... 

SARAH JAROSZ

SARAH JAROSZ
SARAH JAROSZ No creative avenue is left unexplored for  this bluegrass prodigy Americana singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz’s third album, Build Me Up From Bones, is her most ambitious project yet—an achievement the multi-instrumentalist largely credits to her education at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. “School was crucial in pushing me out of my comfort zone,” says the Texas native. “It expanded my repertoire and opened my... 

MOBY

MOBY
MOBY Old-school techno adds a touch of vulnerability to his latest project  “I’m an only child who lives alone and usually works alone,” declares Moby flatly. The techno pioneer isn’t bemoaning his lot in life— it’s just his explanation of why, after more than 20 years of producing his own records, he brought in Mark “Spike” Stent to co-produce his 11th album, Innocents. “I like to work by myself,” he says, “but I lose objectivity.... 

YOKO ONO

YOKO ONO
YOKO ONO At 80, the controversial artist is still full of passion—and surprises   To a younger generation, Yoko Ono isn’t the dragon lady who broke up the Beatles. She’s a multitasking, forward-thinking artist who’s scored 10 No. 1 dance hits, collaborated with stars including Lady Gaga, the Flaming Lips, and Iggy Pop, and staged cutting-edge art exhibitions—as well as an activist who works relentlessly to raise awareness on issues ranging... 

MICHAEL FRANTI

MICHAEL FRANTI
MICHAEL FRANTI Like his heroes, he’s on a mission to change the world through music For more than 25 years, Michael Franti has channeled his spirited blend of R&B, folk, jazz, reggae and hip-hop to both entertain and raise awareness of social and political issues. On his new album, All People, Franti—who formed Michael Franti and Spearhead in the late 1990s—has been inspired by a host of musical icons who offered him reassurance and hope... 

BARENAKED LADIES

BARENAKED LADIES
BARENAKED LADIES Canada’s lighthearted rockers get serious about cutting loose in the studio     Barenaked Ladies burst onto the scene with their 1998 chart-topper “One Week.” Now the band is heard by nearly 20 million people every week as performers of the opening theme from TV’s The Big Bang Theory. But as they’re well aware, that level of recognition has been known to backfire. “There will always be some casual fans or critics who... 
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