Spotlight

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... 

3OH!3

3OH!3
3OH!3 Boulder’s most famous alternative rap duo offers something for everyone   “Our live show is less a musical performance than a social happening,” says Nathaniel Motte, one-half of the electropop duo 3OH!3. He and fellow member Sean Foreman have made a concerted effort to engage a diverse audience. “We’ve always tried to have our live shows be inclusive,” Motte continues. “We don’t want to close any doors.” At times, that means... 

JASON ISBEL

JASON ISBEL
JASON ISBEL Welcoming sobriety, the former Drive-By Trucker digs deep  “Usually, I was too drunk to read, much less write,” says Jason Isbell. “The biggest difference in making this record is that I had more time and energy. I knew all along what I needed to do to make the songs better, but it’s hard when you’ve got that nagging feeling telling you to drink.” The 34-year-old singer-songwriter has been sober for nearly a year after entering... 

30 SECONDS TO MARS

30 SECONDS TO MARS
30 SECONDS TO MARS The post-grunge rockers shoot for the stars on their latest effort  With a name like 30 Seconds to Mars, they expect jokes about space. But the L.A.-based band got the last laugh when they sent a copy of “Up in the Air,” the first single from their latest album Love Lust Faith + Dreams, to the International Space Station. “We went to see the rocket go up,” says drummer Shannon Leto. “And a couple of weeks later we went... 

SKYLAR GRAY

SKYLAR GRAY
SKYLAR GRAY An all-star songwriter finally releases her anticipated debut   Skylar Grey built her reputation on writing songs for superstars, so it’s understandable that she wanted her debut album to reflect her own personality. Originally set for release two years ago, the album was delayed. Songs were tweaked, added and removed—and now Don’t Look Down is finally seeing the light of day. Grey used the downtime to her advantage. “I got... 

FILTER

FILTER
FILTER On their latest, the unorthodox rockers welcome back the drum machines  Throughout the last 20 years, Filter has covered a broad spectrum, from intense industrial rock to shiny pop. On their sixth full-length album, The Sun Comes Out Tonight, they strike a balance between electronic and acoustic. Their loud/quiet contrast, exemplified by 2002’s hit single, “Take a Picture,” led a Warner Bros. exec to refer to the band as “musical schizophrenia.”... 

GOO GOO DOLLS

GOO GOO DOLLS
GOO GOO DOLLS   The moody alternative rockers look at the brighter side on their new set   “I’m an artist as much as anybody’s an artist,” says Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik, placing air quotes around the word artist. “Sometimes I can be a bit of a precious little bitch about my work. But not being precious about it, digging in and putting the sweat into it, is where the really good stuff comes from. And being determined to not... 

BOBBY McFERRIN

BOBBY McFERRIN
BOBBY McFERRIN The vocal acrobat pours his joy into songs  of faith and devotion  “Making music is the most joyful experience I know,” says vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin, best known for his 1988 Grammy-winning smash, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” His new album, spirityouall, is a collection of devotional songs and original compositions. “Without faith I couldn’t walk, much less sing,” says McFerrin. “My career is very public,... 

JIMMY EAT WORLD

JIMMY EAT WORLD
JIMMY EAT WORLD Looking at love and life with a new perspective—and a new producer Though best known for their optimistic 2002 hit “The Middle,” Jimmy Eat World’s lyrics have always leaned more toward heartache and internal struggle. With the polished rock of their eighth album, Damage, frontman Jim Adkins decided to write an album that reflected the world-weary attitudes of someone who has grown up writing love songs. “The kinds of love... 

MELISSA FERRICK

MELISSA FERRICK
MELISSA FERRICK Teaching opens creative doors for the veteran singer-songwriter Teaching lyric writing at Boston’s Berklee College of Music has fostered a career renaissance for folk-rocker Melissa Ferrick. “I’m surrounded by all these jazz musicians, classical composers and theater professionals,” she says. “There’s such an intensity—and it’s a good thing. It’s made me into a happier live performer. I’ve been exhausted but completely... 

EVE

EVE
EVE After a decade of changes, the rapper turns up the intensity on a new set  In the 11 years since her last album, Eve has been rather busy. She released singles, made guest appearances on more than a dozen tracks for other artists, had her own sitcom, appeared in the two Barbershop films, and launched a fashion line. But Lip Lock, her long-awaited return, wasn’t a snap decision. “It’s been a bit of journey. I’ve been trying to put out... 

SPIN DOCTORS

SPIN DOCTORS
SPIN DOCTORS   The alt-rockers revisit their blues roots and reinvent their sound   While touring in England behind the 2011 release of Pocket Full of Kryptonite: 20th Anniversary Edition, the Spin Doctors made a discovery: Their future lay in their past. Before the band hit the charts in the early ’90s with peppy, poppy alt-rock tunes such as “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,” “Two Princes” and “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues,” their stock... 

PATTY GRIFFIN

PATTY GRIFFIN
PATTY GRIFFIN The beloved singer-songwriter crafts a melodic tribute to her father “When I was younger, I could dive headfirst into writing about things like I knew a lot about them,” says Patty Griffin. She pauses, then laughs, “Now I realize I don’t know anything about anything.” Considering the singer-songwriter’s poetic and revealing lyrics have led artists like Emmylou Harris and the Dixie Chicks to record her material, many would... 

TALIB KWELI

TALIB KWELI
TALIB KWELI Proving labels can’t confine or define him on   his latest project  Talib Kweli has a well-earned reputation for being a smart, socially and politically aware lyricist. But with Prisoner of Conscious, his fifth solo album, Kweli is hoping to show he’s in touch with his emotional side. “Just calling the album Prisoner of Conscious,” says the rapper. “I don’t see myself as a prisoner of conscience, so I set out to make an... 

ADAM ANT

ADAM ANT
ADAM ANT The former U.K. chart-topper gets back into the swing of performing     Creatively speaking, Adam Ant has soared over the mountaintops and stumbled on the valley’s floor. Clinically diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003, he had fallen off the radar eight years earlier, after the release of Wonderful. He eventually battled through the disease to release Adam Ant Is the BlueBlack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, his first studio... 

MADELEINE PEYROUX

MADELEINE PEYROUX
MADELEINE PEYROUX The jazz-pop vocalist’s new collection reimagines a country classic For many artists, a covers album often becomes a mishmash of haphazardly chosen songs that suit the singer’s voice better than they suit each other. But on The Blue Room, jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux not only interprets the work of other artists, she also pays tribute to one, Ray Charles, and his pioneering album Modern Sounds in Country  and Western Music. “Something’s... 

THE MAVERICKS

THE MAVERICKS
THE MAVERICKS Serving up a fresh helping of their distinctive Tex-Mex-via-Miami magic  The Mavericks—one of the more dynamic acts on the 1990s country scene—are back with their first full-length album in nearly a decade. “We hadn’t been in the same room together in that time, much less made music together,” says frontman Raul Malo. “There was talk of a reunion tour, but that wasn’t reason enough to bring back the band. The Mavericks... 

JOHN CORBETT

JOHN CORBETT
JOHN CORBETT Proving his musical mettle with a laid-back, Texas-tinged new album John Corbett made his name in Hollywood, but when it comes to music he’s no poseur—and latest album Leaving Nothin’ Behind offers proof. “The fact is, I have more of a pedigree to play this kind of music than guys with No. 1 hits right now,” says the West Virginia native who’s been playing country music since he was a kid. “The good news is that when people... 

JOSH ROUSE

JOSH ROUSE
JOSH ROUSE The pensive singer-songwriter strikes an upbeat tone on his latest effort     For Josh Rouse, family played an important role in the writing and recording of his 10th album, The Happiness Waltz. In 2006, Rouse moved from Nashville to Spain with his wife, and the couple now has a young child. He’s settled happily into fatherhood and married life, but his newfound responsibilities make for a delicate balancing act. “Before I was just... 

LISA LOEB

LISA LOEB
LISA LOEB The ’90 chart-topper looks to the past to find new inspiration  Lisa Loeb has spent the last few years steeped in the world of children’s entertainment. She released children’s albums in 2008 and 2011. She wrote a children’s book, and has a new one coming out in April. She started the Camp Lisa Foundation to send underprivileged children to camp. And she had her second child in June 2012. So what coaxed her back to making pop... 

COHEED AND CAMBRIA

COHEED AND CAMBRIA
COHEED AND CAMBRIA    The eclectic rockers release the second half of an ambitious set   Claudio Sanchez is chilling in the Florida sunshine. The frontman for progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria is decompressing after spending the last two years writing and recording the group’s epic double-volume albums The Afterman: Ascension (October 2012) and the sequel released four months later, The Afterman: Descension. Like the band’s previous... 
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