Ann Powers

Ann Powers appears in the following:

First Watch: Nora Jane Struthers, 'Bike Ride'

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

For those who haven't yet discovered Nora Jane Struthers, the summery song "Bike Ride" is a great introduction to her beguiling, well-considered worldview. The first time Struthers sings the song's most important line — "I can go anywhere" — the phrase rises up out of her throat, free, wide open. ...

Comment

First Listen: Valerie June, 'Pushin' Against A Stone'

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Asked about the first time she ever performed a song, Valerie June once recalled a scene in her family's driveway in Jackson, Tenn. It was right after a storm — the kind of Southern downpour that drives even the most determined children inside. The pint-sized June sank to her ...

Comments [1]

Bruno Mars Is More Than Your Average Pop Star

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Party music isn't usually meant to change the world. It's for relaxing and getting a little bit wild; it inspires kissing and booty-shaking and high-fiving, not marches up the Washington Mall. The chart-topping good time guy Bruno Mars, whose dedication to fun comes second only to his respect ...

Comment

Sub Pop's Silver Jubilee Celebrates 25 Years Of Artisanal Music In Seattle

Monday, July 15, 2013

Last Thursday Mark Arm was on the top of the Space Needle; two days later, he was riding around in a golf car full of trash. Truth in criticism: I never actually saw the Mudhoney singer in the vehicle to which his name was affixed (the sign read: "MR. ARM") ...

Comment

Watch The Civil Wars Live Up To Their Name In A Behind-The-Scenes Video

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Civil Wars are a duo whose interchanges, onstage and on the 2010 debut album Barton Hollow, fascinated fans with their magnetic pull and expressiveness. Joy Williams and John Paul White, singer-songwriters whose own separate careers had stalled at different crossroads, came together by accident and quickly became

Comment

Hear Pearl Jam's New Single, 'Mind Your Manners'

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's fitting that Pearl Jam announced an October 15 release date for its 10th studio album, Lightning Bolt, today — the same day that fellow Seattle rock 'n' roll lifers Mudhoney are playing on top of the Space Needle. (Happy birthday, Sub Pop!) That's ...

Comment

When Pop Stars Flirt With Bad Taste

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Three minutes and forty five seconds into the explicit version of the video for Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines," the camera lingers on the frowning face of 21-year-old model Emily Ratajkowski. Its gaze then slips down her nearly nude, supine form toward her backside, revealing a tiny STOP sign perched ...

Comment

Remembering The Multidimensional Music Of Bobby 'Blue' Bland

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bobby "Blue" Bland was known as the Frank Sinatra of the blues. He smoothed out Southern soul with the elegance of jazz and big-band music, sparked it with elements of country and pop, and influenced musicians like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. The singer and guitarist is credited with modernizing ...

Comments [1]

Don't Kill Your Idols: J. Cole Looks For His Place In Hip-Hop

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Long live the idols — may they never be your rivals!" the rapper and producer J. Cole exclaims in a key line from his second album, Born Sinner, officially released this week. It's a salute with a slight undercut — an embrace of elders that also implies the need for ...

Comment

Country Music's Year Of The Woman

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Sometimes, it can be difficult to notice a cultural sea change. At first, there's just a little, unexpected turn in the tide. But then, whoosh! The new current takes over, and old preconceptions are swept away. Country music seems to be in the middle of this process now.

Last May, ...

Comment

Five Musicians Who Make Borrowing Sound Original

Friday, May 31, 2013

Last Friday, on Bob Dylan's birthday, I spent the morning checking out old interviews with the supreme trickster on YouTube. I came across this one, from the 1980s, in which an Australian journalist asks Dylan how he'd like to be remembered.

"Oh, as someone who tried ...

Comment

The Canadian Astronaut's Accompanist

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

North America's newest pop star is exiting International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield, whose truly space-age rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" has racked up more than 11 million YouTube hits since being posted Sunday. After marveling at Hadfield's lovely Canadian tenor voice, his moustache and his command ...

Comment

Robots In Ecstasy: Daft Punk's 'Memories' Embraces The Pleasure Principle

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Give life back to music," coo the robots on the first track of Daft Punk's new album, Random Access Memories, which showed up yesterday on iTunes after a long period of near-hysterical anticipation and advance marketing. Does the veteran Parisian dance music duo succeed in doing ...

Comment

Harry Connick, 'Idol' And The Pop Charts: Can You Define 'Good' Singing?

Monday, May 06, 2013

What defines good singing? Technique or feeling? That argument, a perennial among music lovers, roared back into the foreground last week after Harry Connick, Jr. appeared on American Idol. The fortysomething pianist and crooner found himself trending on Twitter for the first time since his acting run on ...

Comment

First Listen: Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film 'The Great Gatsby'

Thursday, May 02, 2013

One of the many trailers promoting Baz Lurhmann's film version of The Great Gatsby ends with Leo DiCaprio uttering a crucial line adapted from the original novel. "My life has got to be like this," he says, pointing a finger toward the sky. "It's got to keep going ...

Comment

First Listen: Natalie Maines, 'Mother'

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I hope that, somewhere in her beautiful Brentwood home, Natalie Maines has a jar full of nickels that gets fuller every time someone calls her "fearless." The Dixie Chicks singer is well-known as a firebrand who never hesitates to share her progressive views about both politics and pop music. ...

Comment

What Nick Drake Taught Me About Art And Love

Thursday, April 18, 2013

It was in Seattle's Frye Art Museum that I first found endless love with a work of art. My mother often took us there to look at the landscapes and portraits bequeathed by the culturally aspirational owner of a local meatpacking plant. The canvas that fascinated me was ...

Comment

Mark Lanegan: A Secret Rock Star Still Shines Darkly

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

There are unsung heroes of rock and roll, and then there are complicated cases like Mark Lanegan. The Washington State-born rocker with the voice like a shifting fog earned a spot in rock history as singer for the 1990s slacker psychedelic group the Screaming Trees — remember "Nearly ...

Comment

Song Premiere: John Grant, 'It Doesn't Matter To Him'

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Some songwriters are so adept at capturing the mess and miracle of everyday emotion that their work resonates as exceptionally truthful. John Grant is one of those. In recent years, the 44-year-old former frontman for Colorado rock band the Czars has produced two exceptional collections of funny, brutal, nuanced songs ...

Comment

Lessons From SXSW 2013: Take The Middle Road

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

That guy Prince has a sense of humor. His closing night show at the year's South By Southwest music conference and festival was advertised with the hashtag #thenextbigthing — as if the Purple One hadn't long ago established himself as the Dickensian Big Thing of festivals ...

Comment