Ann Powers

Ann Powers appears in the following:

God, Drugs And Lizard Aliens: Yep, It's Country Music

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Believe it or not: a country song can be about anything. People who seek out stories about Daddy's farm and fishing trips and Solo cups will easily find them, but the genre's most creative souls have long been interested in much more than sentimentality and a good old American time. ...


Why We Fight About Pop Music

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

In 2007, the Canadian music critic Carl Wilson published a book-length experiment in extreme aesthetic sport: a sincere and shockingly comprehensive study of music he had already decided he hated. That book, Let's Talk About Love, named for the Celine Dion album it studied, has become a cornerstone text in ...


First Listen: Ben Watt, 'Hendra'

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The stranger on the bus, the woman who gives you your change at the corner store; every human loves and hurts and finds a way to navigate through life's confusions. But most people don't share their inner lives with many others. It's a special gift when an artist tells the ...


First Listen: The Afghan Whigs, 'Do To The Beast'

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A lover's obsessiveness may charm at first, but it can soon turn frightening. For an artist, the relentless pursuit of one object — a sound, a memory dragged up and reshaped, a fantasy that makes the long hours of work feel intimate — feeds creativity or freezes it. Greg Dulli ...


Make Peace With Pop: 6 Songs That Prove Pop Gets Along With Everyone

Friday, April 04, 2014

Nobody likes a good squabble better than a critic. Maybe that's why the same disputes keep surfacing, time and again, among those who analyze, enthuse about or obsess about particular corners of culture. In music writing, one such debate revolves around the question of whether pop — commercially dominant music, ...


First Listen: EMA, 'The Future's Void'

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Erika M. Anderson appreciates the flickering quality of meaning. She likes the sparks that fly off sounds, igniting constructive confusion: the buzz that makes an old synth sound like a guitar, or the way an acoustic beat can crash into an electronic one to make a whole nervous system of ...


First Listen: Nickel Creek, 'A Dotted Line'

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"I think we're more grown-up now, to use an extremely childlike term," the violinist Sara Watkins recently told a reporter who asked what had changed in the eight years since Nickel Creek — the trio of Watkins, guitarist Sean Watkins (her brother) and mandolinist Chris Thile — released a ...


Lady Gaga At SXSW: 'Don't Sell Out. Sell In.'

Saturday, March 15, 2014

On Friday, March 14, Lady Gaga gave the keynote at SXSW 2014, a long interview conducted by John Norris that covered her career in pop, from her roots in the rock clubs of downtown New York to her decision to partner with a corporate sponsor for the concert she performed ...


The Guide To Making SXSW Fun (For Everybody)

Monday, March 10, 2014

The last thing anyone would say about South By Southwest is that it's an avenue for self-improvement. The annual mega gathering, which began last week for film and interactive-technology mavens and turns into a music conference and festival tomorrow, fulfills many needs for the culture nerd. Communal bonding? Yes – ...


Listening In Reel Life: The Pop Music Inside The Oscar Nominees

Saturday, March 01, 2014

The most romantic scene from any of this year's Oscar-nominated films begins with a deliciously idiosyncratic pickup line. At a swinger's pool party in 1978, a flabby yet still somehow alluring Christian Bale gently grabs the arm of Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams at her most wide-eyed and guileful. ...


Computer Love: Beats Music Wants To Be Your Everything

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I have a new streaming music service in my life. Let's call him Beatsy. It's an open relationship — I'm still accessing other music streams, and Beatsy's positively promiscuous, winning the hearts of the music press and thousands of trial subscribers. But I don't mind. When I'm with Beatsy I ...


Collaborations And Congratulations: Navigating The Grammy Crossover

Monday, January 27, 2014

At the beginning of the 2014 Grammy Awards show, it seemed that one story would dominate the night. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the Seattle duo whose highly accessible take on hip-hop became last year's indie-to-mainstream success story, took home three awards during the ceremony's pre-telecast portion. This predictable ...


First Listen: Robert Ellis, 'The Lights From The Chemical Plant'

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The quality of mystery is undervalued in music these days. It's often mimicked via indecipherable lyrics, mumbled vocals or spooky sound effects, but that's not the real stuff. Rarely does anyone touch upon that delicate, open-ended state of unknowing that can descend on any given day, whether you're locked in ...


Hurray For The Riff Raff's New Political Folk

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How many choruses does it take to turn a party song into an engine causing social change? Is it possible to honor American cultural traditions while dismantling the traps and habits that make them restrictive? Every so often a new voice engages these basic questions in subtle, exciting new ways. ...


First Listen: Laura Cantrell, 'No Way There From Here'

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"I'm under city lights, and it's all right," Laura Cantrell sings in one of the 12 deceptively lovely songs on No Way There From Here — her first album, besides a 2011 Kitty Wells tribute, in nine years. The line is about a love that thrives in spite ...


A Long Road To 'High Hopes': An Interview With Bruce Springsteen

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bruce Springsteen walked into SIR Studios in Manhattan with the shearling collar on his chocolate-brown bomber jacket popped up. He cracked a joke about the traffic he encountered on the way from New Jersey, tacitly hinting at the Chris Christie-eviscerating skit he and Jimmy Fallon would ...


An Under-The-Radar Albums Preview For 2014

Thursday, January 09, 2014

We're one week into 2014, and I'll bet everyone reading this has a list of must-hear new releases. We're waiting for biggies like U2, Beck, Tori Amos and possibly Adele; zeitgeist-y visionaries from art queen St. Vincent to ...


First Listen: Rosanne Cash, 'The River & The Thread'

Sunday, January 05, 2014

It's tempting — and, really, accurate — to describe Rosanne Cash's new album as a literary effort. The singer-songwriter is also a published author, and her last album, 2009's The List, was a writer's game: Its 12 tracks abridged her famous father Johnny's 100-song lexicon of essentials, which ...


The Knife On 'Shaking' Expectations

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Swedish siblings Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson released their self-titled debut album as The Knife in 2001, and in the dozen years since then, have upended expectations on a regular basis. Their second album, Deep Cuts, included the song "Heartbeats," a perfect, if slightly corroded, pop ...


Top 10 Top 40 Of 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 was the year that showed the door to the idea that mainstream pop is inconsequential junk. The intense debates that raged about many of the year's most widely heard songs — "Royals," "We Can't Stop," "Cruise," "Blurred Lines," "Thrift Shop" — proved that ...