My Morning Jacket
Hailed by the New York Times as “the new kings of expand-your-mind, religious-experience rock,” My Morning Jacket have released eight studio albums, with 2008’s EVIL URGES, 2011’s CIRCUITAL, and 2015’s THE WATERFALL each receiving GRAMMY® Award nominations for “Best Alternative Album.” In summer 2020, the band surprise-released THE WATERFALL II and the album was met by worldwide critical acclaim. Pitchfork declared, “If its predecessor was about conflict and healing – it’s My Morning Jacket’s thorniest album, emotionally speaking – then this follow-up is more about what comes after that healing,” while the Wall Street Journal called it “an epic meditation on desire.” “Despite its sequel-style title, The Waterfall II stands as an equal to its well-loved predecessor,” wrote Consequence, “one that moves from the sunny banks at the top of the falls to the deep and bracing waters down below.” My Morning Jacket: Jim James (vocals, guitar), Tom Blankenship (bass), Patrick Hallahan (drums), Carl Broemel (guitar), and Bo Koster (keyboards).
Lord Huron was created by Los Angeles-based Ben Schneider. Born and raised in Michigan, Schneider drew inspiration from the Great Lakes, which were carved by glaciers 14,000 years ago, and his music stands in awe and wonder of the natural world. After writing and recording two independent EPs (Into the Sun and Mighty) on his own, demand grew for Lord Huron to perform live. Schneider recruited friends Mark Barry (percussion), Miguel Brisen~o (bass) and Tom Renaud (guitar). Having first played music together at the tender age of 12, the group reunited and quickly hit their stride, transforming the project into a full-fledged band. Lord Huron signed with IAMSOUND, and the label released 2012’s Lonesome Dreams, and Strange Trails in 2015. Lord Huron has toured extensively in North America and Europe, earning rave reviews and performing for sold-out crowds at some of the world’s most prestigious venues. The band has appeared at a wide range of music festivals including Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo and Newport Folk Festival.
As the frontwoman and guitarist for Alabama Shakes, Howard has become one of music’s most celebrated figures – the band has won four Grammys (out of its nine nominations), and she has performed everywhere from the Obama White House to the main stage at Lollapalooza, where she sang with Paul McCartney at his invitation. But for her solo debut, Jaime, Howard boldly decided to explore new directions, with diverse instrumentation and arrangements and intimate, revelatory lyrics.
A collaboration between producer and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Quesada and singer/songwriter Eric Burton, Black Pumas fuse cinematic neo-soul, light psychedelia, and a touch of urban grit. In just a couple of years’ time, Burton and Quesada turned their inauspicious beginning into a Grammy-nominated act with songs that have racked up millions of streams and won overwhelming critical praise and multiple sold-out tours across North America and Europe. Their debut album won acclaim from Rolling Stone, who praised “the tireless, charismatic energy of singer Eric Burton,” Pitchfork, who raved, “The duo’s flair for drama is so stirring, they can seem acutely cinematic,” NPR, The Fader, The Guardian, Billboard, Essence, and many more. The Black Pumas have brought their incredible live performances to The Ellen Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, CBS This Morning, PBS’s Austin City Limits, Late Night With Seth Meyers, and most recently, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, who premiered their powerful live version of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” a song that has a particular resonance for Burton and his nomadic past.
Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten is an American singer-songwriter and actress. She has released five critically acclaimed albums including her most recent album, Remind Me Tomorrow, which landed on many “best of” year end lists including NPR, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and more.
Trampled By Turtles
Trampled by Turtles are from Duluth, Minnesota, where frontman Dave Simonett initially formed the group as a side project in 2003. At the time, Simonett had lost most of his music gear, thanks to a group of enterprising car thieves who’d ransacked his vehicle while he played a show with his previous band. Left with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, he began piecing together a new band, this time taking inspiration from bluegrass, folk, and other genres that didn’t rely on amplification. Simonett hadn’t played any bluegrass music before, and he filled his lineup with other newcomers to the genre, including fiddler Ryan Young (who’d previously played drums in a speed metal act) and bassist Tim Saxhaug. Along with mandolinist Erik Berry and banjo player Dave Carroll, the group began carving out a fast, frenetic sound that owed as much to rock & roll as bluegrass.
Trampled by Turtles released their first record, Songs from a Ghost Town, in 2004. In a genre steeped in tradition, the album stood out for its contemporary sound, essentially bridging the gap between the bandmates’ background in rock music and their new acoustic leanings. Blue Sky and the Devil (2005) and Trouble (2007) explored a similar sound, but it wasn’t until 2008 and the band’s fourth release, Duluth, that Trampled by Turtles received recognition by the bluegrass community. Duluth peaked at number eight on the Billboard bluegrass chart and paved the way for a number of festival appearances. When Palomino arrived in 2010, it was met with an even greater response, debuting at the top of the bluegrass chart and remaining in the Top Ten for more than a year. Two years later, their crossover appeal landed them at number 32 on the Billboard 200 pop charts upon the release of their sixth album, Stars and Satellites. In addition to major bluegrass and folk festivals, they began showing up at Coachella, Bumbershoot, and Lollapalooza. The official concert album, Live at First Avenue, followed in 2013, recorded at Minnesota’s most famous venue. A year later, the band returned with the darker-toned Wild Animals, which bettered its studio predecessor on the album charts, reaching number 29. Trampled released their latest album Life Is Good On The Open Road in 2018
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
At a moment when musical streams are crossing with unprecedented frequency, it’s crucial to remember that throughout its history, New Orleans has been the point at which sounds and cultures from around the world converge, mingle, and resurface, transformed by the Crescent City’s inimitable spirit and joie de vivre. Nowhere is that idea more vividly embodied than in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which has held the torch of New Orleans music aloft for more than 50 years, all the while carrying it enthusiastically forward as a reminder that the history they were founded to preserve is a vibrantly living history.
Est. 1975 in Handsworth, England. Steel Pulse continues to be revolutionary in engaging controversial topics of racial injustice and human rights on a global scale. Their musical stance and conceptualizations are as potent and relevant today as they were at the beginning of their career. Bearing witness to the accelerating negativity of global affairs, Steel Pulse emerges with musical vengeance to halt the disarray of humanity. The band’s twelfth studio production, titled Mass Manipulation (Rootfire Cooperative), reflects four decades committed to bettering mankind through music. As reggae revolutionaries, Steel Pulse is revered by the younger generation of artists and remains a powerhouse on stages around the globe. Through the example of Mass Manipulation, Steel Pulse demonstrates the endless possibilities that come from breaking down the walls of systemic greed, and nurturing the fellowship of mankind.
Washed Out is Atlanta-based producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Ernest Greene. Over the course of four uniquely enchanting, critically-lauded albums and an EP, the music he makes has proved both transportive and visual, each new effort inviting listeners into immersive, self-contained universes.
Life of Leisure, the first Washed Out EP, set the bar for the Chillwave-era, shimmering in a warm haze of off-the-cuff Polaroids pre-IG filters. Within and Without, his full-length debut on Sub Pop, found Washed Out’s sound morphing into nocturnal, icy synth-pop and embraced provocative imagery. Paracosm is Greene’s take on psychedelia, with a full live band and kaleidoscopic light show, and saw him playing to the largest audiences of his career. The sample-heavy Mister Mellow delivered a 360 audio/visual experience, with cut-n-paste and hand-drawn animation to match the hip hop influences throughout the album.
With each release, Greene has approached his evolving project with meticulous detail and a steadfast vision. With Purple Noon, his fourth album, and return to Sub Pop, he delivers the most accessible Washed Out creation to date.
Fruit Bats’ eighth LP opens with this invocation, this call from an isolated vocal room to your headphones somewhere out in the world. It’s a beckoning for your trust and attention, but also an assurance in lonely times—a distillation of melancholy wrapped in a danceable waltz. “The Pet Parade,” the title track to Fruit Bats’ newest album, might be a surprising opening track for longtime fans of Eric D. Johnson’s beloved indie folk-rock project. The six-and-a-half-minute tone poem smolders and drones over just two chords, inspired by the strange and silly community events that he saw growing up outside of Chicago, in La Grange, Illinois, in which people dressed up and showed off their pets. Decades later, The Pet Parade emerges in troubled times, living within what Johnson refers to as the beauty and absurdity of existence.
At times upbeat and reassuring (“Eagles Below Us”) and at times quietly contemplative (“On the Avalon Stairs”), The Pet Parade marks a milestone for Johnson, who celebrates 20 years of Fruit Bats in 2021. In some ways still a cult band, in other ways a time-tested act, Fruit Bats has consistently earned enough small victories to carve out a career in a notoriously fickle scene. And Johnson himself—who has played in The Shins, composed film scores, gone solo and returned back to the moniker that started it all, and most recently, earned two GRAMMY® nominations with Bonny Light Horseman— doesn’t take this long route of life’s pet parade for granted. “I’m still really excited to make records,” he says. “Lucky and happy and maybe happier that things went slower for me. I’m savoring it a lot more.”
Strand of Oaks
To say In Heaven is about conquering grief would be oversimplifying everything Tim Showalter has achieved on the eighth studio album from Strand of Oaks. A stunning, hopeful reflection on love, loss, and enlightenment, In Heaven is a triumph in music making, and a preeminent addition to the Strand of Oaks discography. In Heaven was recorded in October 2020 with Kevin Ratterman at Invisible Creature in Los Angeles. Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket) is featured on guitar throughout the record, while James Iha (The Smashing Pumpkins) contributed vocals and guitar for “Easter.” Bo Koster (MMJ, Roger Waters) provided keyboards, Cedric LeMoyne (Alanis Morrissette, Remy Zero) bass, Scott Moore violin, and Ratterman monstrous drums. Showalter also played a lot of synth on this record, which he hasn’t done since 2014’s HEAL. With clean sounds, Jeff Lynne-esque acoustics, and sophisticated songwriting, he approached In Heaven in a more poised and pop-leaning way than his past releases.
The result is something extraordinary, as Showalter has crafted a poignant narrative that transcends his personal experiences and achieves a universality rooted not only in loss but joy, celebration, and newfound strength. The gorgeous opener “Galacticana” finds him telling us “I don’t want to drag you down,” a reassurance that his intentions lie in uplifting. But there’s a duality present throughout In Heaven that is palpable, as felt on “Easter,” an exuberant pop anthem featuring jaunty guitar and ethereal vocals courtesy of Iha, that both celebrates Showalter’s new life and references his efforts to “stop the boat from sinking.” It’s a powerful sentiment echoed in slow burner “Hurry,” which showcases some exceptional shredding by Broemel, and beyond, as Showalter explores mortality and a heightened sense of his own existence, intensified by a world where he no longer uses alcohol to cope. Pairing smart, imaginative lyrics and striking arrangements, tracks like “Carbon” and its magnificent violin stand out, as does “Sister Saturn” with its funky, sinuous groove, and the sublime “Horses at Night,” which features one of Showalter’s most exquisite melodies to date. There’s also a discernible current running through In Heaven of homage to some notable losses in music—John Prine, Jeff Buckley, and Jimi Hendrix all play a part—for In Heaven is about moving beyond sadness or anger to a state of gratitude that we ever had these people to begin with. And while every song provides some clue to Showalter’s personal heaven, the jubilant “Jimi and Stan” says it all, wherein Hendrix and his beloved cat Stan are hanging out, going to shows, and looking at stars together. And as our musical odyssey ends in the warm embrace of “Under Heaven,” the weight of everything Showalter has manifested—the beauty, and the sadness, and the immensity of it all—hits with tremendous impact. But any sense of hopelessness or melancholy yields to a different feeling entirely, just as he intended. Perhaps we’re feeling stronger, more prepared for something. Or maybe it’s just a reminder: call your parents, text your friends, hug your pets. Listen to your favorite records. And think about what it means to be alive.
It’s 2021, time for the Return of Pachyman, Puerto Rico’s emerging master of rub-a-dub style. The Caribbean island’s paradisiacal lure as a mecca of Afro-Caribbean music is usually expressed through upbeat genres like salsa and reggaetón. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a place for skanking guitars and echoing fat beats, conjuring up massive walls of sound. Garcia, perhaps best known as the drummer/vocalist for the L.A.-based band Prettiest Eyes, a unique pop-noise project that reflects his other formative interest, synth punk. He thinks of his new recording, called The Return of Pachyman, the way King Tubby would, an “x-ray” of reggae music, breaking it down to its bare bones. Originally a guitarist, he moved to Los Angeles in the early 2010s and developed his passion for dub. From there, he started recording bass, drums, and piano and collecting recording equipment in his basement studio, which he calls 333 House.
The Return of Pachyman is a supernatural force from a brave new world that’s a little bit San Juan, a little L.A., and a whole lot of Channel One in Kingston, Jamaica. Designed to be a resurrection of sound systems from the past through which we can celebrate a post-Trump future, the record shows that blasting off into reggae’s deep space has never gone out of style. It’s a high-flying journey into a different kind of dub vibe, as García tells it, by composing songs “in major keys, which is not as common with reggae nowadays.” With The Return of Pachyman, García wants to show how the Caribbean flow is transnational, a vibe that resounds from Jamaica to San Juan to Southern California. “With this project, I was looking to make positive music and radiate good energy; something to kinda disconnect from the negative things that were happening at the moment,” Garcia explains. “I am trying to make this project a service for humanity in the sense that I just wanted to shine a positive light.”