Ann Powers

Ann Powers appears in the following:

First Listen: Diana Krall, 'Wallflower'

Sunday, January 25, 2015

In the 1970s, when Diana Krall was growing up, children and young adolescents regularly encountered very adult music on Top 40 radio. These songs were different from the sexually explicit playground rhymes so common in mainstream music today. They often centered on seduction, but were just as likely to ...


Bjork's 'Vulnicura': An Inquiry Into Melodrama

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What the Icelandic art star Bjork has accomplished at the intersection of pop and the avant-garde cannot be summed up in one detail, but one thing to focus on is the way she sings the word "emotional." Climbing it like one of the cliffs she often evokes in her pastoral ...


The Deslondes, 'Fought The Blues And Won'

Friday, January 16, 2015

What does it mean to be a wandering troubadour in 2014? Believe it or not, sometimes it means riding the rails, just like in the old days. Sam Doores spent a restless childhood traveling with his family between San Francisco, Washington and Texas; his mother's copy of Woody ...


How One Of Gospel's Essential Songs Gave 'Selma' Its Soul

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The most beautiful thing about Ava DuVernay's film Selma -- the first major biographical film feature about Martin Luther King, Jr. — is its deep recognition of how private encounters inform and even shape historic events. The portrayal of public confrontation and violence on the Alabama town's Edmund Pettus Bridge ...


Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, 'Whenever You See Me'

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

When Daisy Durham tells the skirt-chaser in her path to "Think about where you put that hand" in this tough-spirited, joyfully punchy musical kiss-off, she has a girl gang's worth of rock 'n' roll predecessors to back her up. Daisy's on-the-corner vocals, doubled by her sister Kitty, recall outer-borough demolition ...


Musicians You'll Tell Your Friends About In 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

If any message keeps asserting itself within the volatile atmosphere of popular music as we enter 2015, it's that anticipation is for suckers. Predictions, likewise. D'Angelo's late-game mic drop — the release of Black Messiah with only two weeks left to go in the year — redefined 2014 in retrospect, ...


Top 10 Top 40 For 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

As we wind our way toward the second half of the century's second decade, the American Top 40 is in radical flux. This isn't because pop is becoming any more or less innovative; rather, it's the counting, the data analysis that determines what stands as our most popular music that's ...


Listen To 'The Eye,' A New Song By Brandi Carlile

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's been common for a few years now to dismiss rock and roll as a shadow of its former self. Usurped by dance beats and hip-hop samples, lost amid the pop spectacle that dominates the Distraction Age, music centered around electric guitars and liberated voices can now seem staid. But ...


In 2014, Pop Followed Beyonce's Lead

Friday, December 12, 2014

2014 was a divisive time in popular music, with no single album or song seeming to capture the year's mood and no trend pointing clearly toward the future. But most music lovers could agree on one thing: Beyoncé was flawless. The 33-year-old powerhouse set every standard by which ...


The Political Folk Song Of The Year

Thursday, December 11, 2014

When Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff wrote the song "The Body Electric," she knew it would make its way into the world, and hoped its effects would be palpable. Horrified by the rapes that have made tragic news from India to America's college campuses, ...


Ann Powers' Top 15 Albums Of 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I have to be honest: Every time I've sat down to make a list of the year's best albums, I have walked away from my desk. Like many people I know, I've often felt lost during the final burning days of 2014 — overwhelmed by recent events, rendered inarticulate in ...


First Listen: 'When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936'

Sunday, November 30, 2014

In the history of American popular music, gospel is the great conveyor. People could hear it everywhere as the 20th century grew from infancy to adolescence: in churches, of course, but also on street corners, sung by wanderers whose guitar work and moaning vocals arose in dialogue with the blues; ...


Lead Belly, 'I'm So Glad, I Done Got Over'

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In the new, comprehensive boxed set Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, to be released in Feb. 24, 2015, the Smithsonian archivist Jeff Place reminds readers of the huge historical chunk of American music that the legendary singer and songwriter carried forward via his 12-string Stella guitar. "Lead Belly ...


Nora Jane Struthers, 'The Same Road'

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nora Jane Struthers is guided by fire. Coming up within the tradition-minded bluegrass world, she spent her youth in a family band with her father, a good daughter learning tradition. But since she's been leading her own band, the Party Line, Struthers has poured more and more emotion into her ...


TV On The Radio And The Paradox Of The Midcareer Band

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pity the midcareer artist, stuck in the long middle distance of working things out. Youth is honey, redolent of novelty, physical charm and energetic self-absorption. Veteran status, while still dangerously marginal, at least affords deference, since few in our culture expect creative lives to last as long as life itself. ...


Houndmouth, 'For No One'

Monday, November 10, 2014

Immediacy is a quality in music that's difficult to define. It's not the same as originality, but it does involve surprise: the happy shock of someone saying something that registers, waking up the senses, even if the sentiment's familiar. The Indiana band Houndmouth showed a gift for immediacy from the ...


Wild Moccasins, 'Eye Makeup'

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Someone once told Andy Warhol that he and his 1970s New York art pals invented punk. "No," he replied. "We just knew a few drag queens." Gender trouble has always been essential to rock and roll, and especially to punk and New Wave, music genres dedicated to tearing ...


First Listen: Marianne Faithfull, 'Give My Love To London'

Sunday, November 02, 2014

In many classic stories, there comes a point where someone speaks from the corner and changes everything. A stranger reveals the secret that solves a mystery; a minor character finally unburdens herself, and her words reconfigure the plot. Marianne Faithfull's music comes from that place of shadow and revelation. ...


The Many New Voices Of Taylor Swift

Thursday, October 30, 2014

As the White Queen of a pop realm in which stars are the chess-piece avatars moving on the other side of each fan's ever-shifting looking glass, Taylor Swift has been able to inhabit many contradictory identities. She's a pretty, popular beneficiary of privilege and a champion ...


Wade Bowen, 'Long Enough To Be A Memory'

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Right now, I'm sitting in a hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, eating a cheeseburger and listening to Texas country troubadour Wade Bowen's melancholy ballad about learning to make wherever you hang your hat your home. Like so many people trying to get and stay ahead, I travel for my work — ...