Artists to Watch

March 01, 2011

Artists to Watch 2011: Fleet Foxes, Papercuts, and The Shins

Fleet Foxes Papercuts The Shins A new generation of indie rock artists are shaping the ethereal/pastoral rock terrain. And Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, Perfume Genius, Papercuts, Beach House, and The Shins are among the top of this group. Band of Horses' Infinite Arms, Beach House's Teen Dream, and Perfume Genius' Learning are recent examples of indie artists cleary not afraid to let the music breathe; showing little regard for current trends, they put their innermost spacy and sensitive sides on display. You have to be pretty comfortable in your own skin to do that.

Meanwhile, ever since Fleet Foxes' sublime self-titled debut came out on Sub Pop in 2008, fans have hungered for a follow-up. Now the wait's almost over, as the band's sophomore effort, Helplessness Blues, will see the light of day early this May. Continuing in their rustic tradition, the album will feature violin, harp, and Marxophone. In a similar vein, Jason Robert Quever's Papercuts incorporates a serene and spacey vocal approach amid humble, earnest lo-fi arrangements. And like their previous two releases, Can't Go Back and You Can Have What You Want, early word on their new album, Fading Parade, out this week, has fans thrilling to the atmospheric vibe (we certinaly like it a lot). And, at this point, the veteran group among this crop of ethereal indies, The Shins, have been hinting at a possible 2011 release date for their next album. It seems like ages since their last release, Wincing the Night Away, but last year's Broken Bells side project with lead singer James Mercer and Danger Mouse was a nice distraction.

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February 23, 2011

Artist to Watch 2011: Avery*Sunshine

Avery*Sunshine At a time when indie R&B music is finally being recognized by the masses, Avery*Sunshine is one of the many artists ready to take the music industry by storm. The Atlanta-based soul singer (by way of Chester, Pennsylvania) released her acclaimed album Avery*Sunshine last year, and has not slowed down since. She's currently on a nationwide tour, and I had the pleasure of seeing her in her element at an intimate performance in Los Angeles, where she really energized the crowd. In addition to making her way through her album, she also worked out on a number of R&B hits we’ve all come to love. Avery offers a refreshing taste of good music — no frills, no gimmicks, just good music.

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February 09, 2011

Artist To Watch 2011: Adele

Adele English soul singer Adele is showing that there is definitely power in numbers, as she is gears up to release her sophomore album 21 (due Feb. 22). Already out in other parts of the world, the response so far has been great, and judging from her debut album 19, we're really looking forward to it. As a prelude to the full album, first single "Rolling in the Deep" has been released to positive reviews as well. This is all great, because while she's receiving world-wide critical acclaim now, things weren’t always that way for her: Years ago she was just a student at The BRIT School, a performing arts school attended by the likes of Amy Winehouse, Jessie J, and Leona Lewis, to name a few (their school chorus must have sounded amazing).  That's a tough pack to break out from, but here she is after years of hard work, entertaining the masses with her soulful voice and deep lyrics. This may be her sophomore album, but things are really looking good for Adele—no slump in sight!

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February 03, 2011

Artists to Watch 2011: Musical Care

Musical Care With eclectic styles ranging from classical to alternative to New Age to electronica—Philip Glass, The Beach Boys, Jean Michel Jarre, and Blonde Redhead are likely influences—you never quite know what you're going to hear next from indie rock band Musical Care. Currently finishing their new album in Bemidji, Minnesota, M. Care has been quietly making strange underground music since 2000 and has garnered attention for their lo-fi, spacey sounds found on 2002's Skeleton. Now almost a decade later, the band is getting ready to release their latest, Scared of Sounds, via Grayless Recordings, this spring. If the group's past work is any indication, this should be one to look forward to.

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February 01, 2011

Artists to Watch 2011: Yanni Tours, Releases New Album Next Week

Yanni New Age icon Yanni (or contemprary instrumentalist, as he prefers it) is planning a major comback this year, and it will all start with the release of his new album, Truth of Touch, which comes out next Tuesday. The album is being hyped as a return to his true form, or, as his website puts it, "the return of Yanni as you know him," perhaps meaning a return from 2009's Voices and Spanish counterpart Voces, which were quite a departure in that they featured vocals and received mixed reviews. Yanni and his orchestra are already in the midst of a massive tour across Mexico and will continue with 40 dates in the U.S. and Canada beginning March 21 in Peoria, Illinois. Talks are also underway about a possible tour of China in September. So it looks like 2011 is a promising year for the distinguished musician; he's even started to grow his famous "mo" back for the charitable orginization Movember. As the Yanni Nation mobilizes once more, if you want to explore the music that makes it all happen, or just need to brush up before the new album arrives, The Essential Yanni is a good place to start.

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January 31, 2011

Artists to Watch 2011: The Decemberists and Amos Lee

The Decemberists, The King Is Dead Two fine artists have just released new albums that find each of them exploring more folk and roots-oriented sounds than their previous work. The Decemberists' The King Is Dead and Amos Lee's Mission Bell, released on Jan. 18 and 25, respectively, each have an earthy, acoustic-based sound that fans of thoughtful indie pop will find refreshing, while more roots-oriented fans will no doubt give a thumbs-up to additional artists embracing the Americana vibe. The Decemberists have previously been known for more heady, R.E.M.-style alt-pop with complex forms, and while King still owes a lot to R.E.M.—and indeed features that band's Peter Buck on guitar (as well as Americana favorites Gillian Welch)—The Decemberists have simpled-up their approach considerably and have crafted a winning set of rural-flavored songs that could very well take the band to a new level of popularity. Time, in fact, has predicted that King "could mark their crossover to the realm of important American rock groups alongside the likes of Wilco and the White Stripes." Shows in the U.S. and UK through March, as well as a powerful ally in Stephen Colbert, should help build the momentum.

Amos Lee, Mission Bell Amos Lee, meanwhile, has partnered with Arizona alt-roots collective Calexico to forge his new set, Mission Bell. Produced by Calexico founder Joey Burns, the sounds are rangy, atmospheric, and decidedly Southwestern, moving from bare, beautiful acoustic numbers to supple soft rockers, aided by guest appearances including Lucinda Williams and Willie Nelson. Against this backdrop, Lee's compelling lyrics weave stories of moving along and letting go, and the pairing is a thing of beauty. Road-song single "Windows Are Rolled Down" is grabbing the ears of listeners, and upcoming live dates and TV appearances are likely to substantially raise Lee's profile in the coming months: He recently did Ellen, The Tonight Show, and NPR's World Café, and he'll be on Tavis Smiley (2/1), Letterman (2/16), and The Early Show (2/18) in short order, while tour stops will include the Boulder Theater, the Paramount in Austin, Irving Plaza in NYC, the Ryman in Nashville, Mountain Stage in West Virginia, Jazz Fest in New Orleans, and many points between. A healthy schedule for a genuinely engaging artist and album.

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January 28, 2011

Artist to Watch in 2011: Whitney Cummings

Whitney Cummings Ever since her sparkling performance on Comedy Central's Roast of Joan Rivers, Whitney Cummings has emerged as a mainstream comedy juggernaut. Her first hourlong stand-up special, Money Shot, aired in August 2010 and built on the material from her 2009 debut album, Emotional Ninja. TV viewers probably also recognize her from her frequent appearances on the Chelsea Lately panel, which has provided an ideal platform for her sharp, dark wit. Fine—with so much success already behind her, why should we be watching for this young comic to go supernova in 2011? NBC has just announced that they've picked up Whitney's as-of-yet untitled sitcom pilot, in which she will star. Add to that Two Broke Girls, the CBS series that she's also starring in and co-writing with Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City), and you can see why anyone out there who doesn't already know her name will find it hard to forget in 2011.

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January 24, 2011

Artist to Watch 2011: PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey, White Chalk While the modern rock scene always has a young, hot new band to spin as "the next big thing," this year we are truly excited by the return of a veteran alt goddess: PJ Harvey. Let England Shake, her eighth studio album and first under her own name since 2007's White Chalk (pictured), is already building buzz, with snippets of songs appearing on various websites and being hailed by fans, including the iconic Patti Smith. The new album was recorded in a 19th-century English church, so we'll be expecting the usual flair and drama we've come to expect from a voice as unique as Harvey's, but we'll have to wait until next month for the full album release. But at least we'll have the chance to see and hear the new songs preformed live soon, as PJ Harvey is one of the many acts recently announced for this year's Coachella Festival.

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January 20, 2011

Artists to Watch 2011: forever Jones

forever Jones Musical family forever Jones started 2010 on a high note with the release of a new album, Get Ready, and finished it off on an even higher note with a #1 Gospel single, “He Wants It All.” They've been quite busy spreading their positive message to the masses, and it looks like 2011 is going to be just as busy, as they begin to promote their new release, He Wants It All EP.  Both releases are great! For gospel music lovers, this is truly a group you should be on the lookout for in 2011.

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January 19, 2011

Artists to Watch 2011: Gang of Four

Gang of Four Remember these guys? Originally formed back in 1977, punk/New Wavers Gang of Four are best remembered for their masterpiece of a debut, 1979's Entertainment!, which is ranked #490 on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Abums of All Time" list. At this point, it's been nearly 16 long years since their last full-length album, but now GO4 is poised for a much-welcomed comeback. They'll be performing a month-long series of shows beginning at the NME Awards in the UK in early February, and next week they'll release Content through Yep Roc Records. It's a whole new album, featuring singles "Who am I?" and "You'll Never Pay for the Farm." Will the masses flock to this new offering like a Kanye West tweet? Probably not, but they should—Gang of Four has influenced some of the most notable bands of the past quarter century: Fugazi, Minutemen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Nirvana, Modest Mouse, and countless others. Here's to a rockin' 2011. Cheers.

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