Like 2010's You Are Not Alone, Mavis Staples' latest album One True Vine was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Recorded in his Chicago loft, Tweedy and his son Spencer back Staples' signature vocals by performing nearly every instrument heard on the album, but One True Vine has sparse instrumentation---her voice is the real showcase.
Laura Marling's fourth album, Once I Was An Eagle, was expertly produced by Ethan Johns, who is best known for his work with Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams and Ray LaMontagne. It's a wonderful-sounding album, spare and earthy.
With Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend have created a cohesive record that someone feels more polished and mature and serious than anything they've done, while at the same time loose, raw, and more fun than Contra or their debut.
Being the best in a resurgent genre is a difficult position for any artist. Should they continue to make music in the same vein because that's what people want? Or do they try to change everything up and risk alienating the audience they've spent the past few years developing?
When last we checked in on Iron and Wine, Sam Beam was demonstrating just how far he'd come from his early lo-fi days with 'Kiss Each Other Clean,' a record that I described at the time as Beam's grown-up answer to Brian Wilson's desire to sculpt "teenage symphonies to God." Beam's follow-up brings that process full circle and turn the tricks back around in the service of "the song" -- and I'm pretty much ready to proclaim 'Ghost On Ghost' one of the best records of the year
Over four albums prior and nearly fifteen years together, Phoenix have locked into what seems to be their signature sound: a fusing of synthpop and arena rock into one highly caffeinated hit after another, geared for maximum catchiness.
I said this when I reviewed the last Yeah Yeah Yeahs record, It's Blitz: Karen O is one of the best frontwomen in today's music. Karen O and her equally important bandmates Brian Chase and Nick Zinner are back with a new record, Mosquito.