The Shoot Dangs
The Shoot Dangs

Bellows' debut album, Blue Breath, was among my Top 20 records of last year. What sets Bellows apart from thousands of other guitar-bass-drums bands out there is its heart. Oliver Kalb sings about things that matter to him in ways that matter to me. His sing-song, matter-of-fact phrasing and guitar melodies are memorable, and the harmonies are lovely, with the staying power to drift in my head for days on end.

On the heels of her unamplified Pin Drop Tour, Northwest roots-rock singer Brandi Carlile has just released her fifth and and most rocking album. On The Firewatcher's Daughter, Carlile trades sheen for grit by recording deeply emotive songs in single takes. In this live studio performance at KEXP, she and her band blaze through the defiant barn-burner "Mainstream Kid."


  • "Mainstream Kid"

If we're always listening, we're always changing. Last year was a time of transformation for Circuit des Yeux's Haley Fohr, as she toured to support the self-released Overdue.

First Listen: Jim O'Rourke, 'Simple Songs'

May 10, 2015

Throughout a long and varied career, Jim O'Rourke has approached music the way a watchmaker might approach complications, the catch-all term for parts of a timepiece that go beyond simply telling the time.

First Listen: Faith No More, 'Sol Invictus'

May 10, 2015

From a music fan's point of view, was there any real need for Faith No More to get back together after nearly 20 years away? The band's cast of eclectic rock 'n' roll innovators had a good run, yielding six albums, several of which qualify as classics.

The Milk Carton Kids' Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan craft soft, timeless ballads in close harmony — and, as such, recall the reverently beautiful likes of Simon & Garfunkel. But, while the duo's first three albums are gorgeous throughout, the studio can have a way of making music just a little too impeccable.

First Listen: Daniel Bachman, 'River'

May 10, 2015

Guitarist Daniel Bachman opens River with long, slow strums, as if he's summoning energy for a daunting journey. Beginning that way is common in fingerpicked acoustic guitar — what John Fahey, a pioneer of the form, called "American Primitive." But Bachman's patient notes seem to carry extra weight, suggesting that River could be the definitive work toward which he's been building throughout his short but prolific career.

Sharon Van Etten could sing the instruction manual for a dishwasher and make it sound like lyrical poetry. Over the course of four full-lengths, her voice has only evolved and grown both bolder and more nuanced. Van Etten plays every word like an instrument, bending one note into the next with a woozy purr that's sometimes sensual, sometimes heartbreaking but always arresting.

Tuva Lodmark and Nella Daltrey, the pair of 22-year-old Swedes who together make up the minimalist-rock duo Pale Honey, have been making music together since elementary school. Their latest music is quite spare – they turn it up every now and then with some great distortion, but usually it's simple, propulsive synth lines paired with strummed guitar and an understated beat. They remind me of The xx with a slightly elevated pulse.