Ann Powers

Ann Powers appears in the following:

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, ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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, ...

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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 ...

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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; ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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. ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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. ...

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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 ...

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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 — ...

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Fly Golden Eagle: 'Stepping Stone'

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Making music in a band is always and experiment. The players throw different elements into the enzymatic mix, let it all bubble together, and come up with a new compound every time. Recording these interactions for something as self-promotional as a music video can feel intrusive, like freezing something volatile. ...

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Are These The Next Crossover Country Stars?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Now that Taylor Swift has left Nashville behind, a handful of other up-and-coming stars are showing how country crosses over with other genres — and hoping for success that does the same.

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The 2014 Campaign Ads That You Just Can't Stop Replaying

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

States that could determine which party controls the Senate next year have been barraged for months with campaign ads. For better or for worse, here are some of the most noteworthy.

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Hear Two Songs From Duncan Sheik's Next Album

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In April 2015, Duncan Sheik, a songwriter who has had hits on both pop radio and the Broadway stage, will release Legerdemain, his first album of original material since 2009's Whisper House and the first not connected to a theater piece since 2006's White Limousine. Sheik crafted the ...

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Steelism, 'Marfa Lights'

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Nashville instrumental group Steelism stands out for its ability to blend vintage styles — steel-guitar jazz, surf rock, the cool vibe of 1960s movie soundtracks — in ways that don't feel dated. Steelism's playfulness, embodied in the easy dialogues between guitarists Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum, Jr., freshens up ...

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