Amanda Petrusich

  • The Breeders, shot for SPIN at the Metropolitan Recreation Center pool, Brooklyn, New York, 2013 / Photo by Andrew Kuykendall / Hair and Makeup by Sylvester Castellano for Christian Dior Beauty

    Splashdown! The Breeders' Cannonball-Like Re-Entry

    In 1990, Kim Deal, bassist for the Pixies, and Tanya Donelly, singer-guitarist in Throwing Muses, ganged up for a new project with Deal as frontwoman and rhythm guitarist, enlisting help from bassist Josephine Wiggs of noisy British guitar-pop band Perfect Disaster and drummer Britt Walford of Louisville, Kentucky art-punks Slint. Pod, their Steve Albini-produced debut as the Breeders, was released by 4AD later that summer, and followed up in 1992 by the four-song Safari EP, which also featured Kim's twin sister Kelley on guitar. Walford and Donelly ultimately moved on and the remaining trio poached drummer Jim MacPherson of the Raging Mantras, a local band from the Deals' Dayton, Ohio hometown.

  • Willis Earl Beal, 'Acousmatic Sorcery' (XL Recordings)

    The Willis Earl Beal myth — a former soldier, briefly homeless, who now lives on the South Side of Chicago with his grandmother and staples solicitous, hand-illustrated fliers ("Greetings Ladies, my name is Willis Earl Beal") to telephone poles around town — feels like it was dreamed up by some particularly wily P.R. firm. When he's not distributing self-made personal ads, Beal records scrappy, undercooked folk songs, often to cassette, and half-plays a cornucopia of barely tuned instruments. There's more: Dial the number on his website (773-295-2135) and he'll sing you a song. Send him a postcard (P.O. Box 471881, Chicago, IL 60647) and he'll draw you a picture — he might scribble "avant-garde" in the top-left corner, just so it's clear what you're getting). Also?

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    Meet the New Stars of Americana

    Call it chillbilly, bootgaze, artisanal rock, outhouse, tin can alley, or hobohemian. But dismiss it at your own peril. The homegrown retro scene is here. [Magazine Excerpt] Red Hook, Brooklyn, is isolated from the rest of New York City by New York Harbor, which sits to its south and west, and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which slices through its eastern half. The neigh-borhood's gentrification has been slow and spotty -- there's no subway stop nearby, and bus service is notoriously sporadic. Red Hook is salty and wild: a vestige. On a bright Sunday afternoon, I make my way to Jalopy Theatre, a small performance space on Columbia Street, near the glowing entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. A scrum of aspiring performers -- almost all under 30 and most sporting vintage eyeglasses and nose rings -- has gathered near the door.

  • Fleet Foxes, 'Helplessness Blues' (Sub Pop)

    Fleet Foxes, 'Helplessness Blues' (Sub Pop)

    "So now I am older," Robin Pecknold states in the opening moments of Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes' high and winsome second album. But there's no weariness in his voice -- instead, these songs are buoyed by the spectacular idealism of youth. Pecknold, whose voice has never been sweeter, is intent on escaping the self, an especially novel notion in this era of endless personal broadcasting. "After some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be a functioning cog in some great machinery, serving something beyond me," he declares earnestly.

  • PJ Harvey, 'Let England Shake' (Vagrant)

    PJ Harvey, 'Let England Shake' (Vagrant)

    PJ Harvey is beloved for a cornucopia of reasons -- her ferocity, her frankness, that wild, slicing yelp -- but looseness has never been one of them. Even Harvey's best records can feel like overwound springs: They're meticulous, exacting exercises in tension and control. That restraint reached its pinnacle on 2007's stark, piano-led White Chalk; and on its long-awaited follow-up, Harvey finally gives. Slack, virile, and fantastically rhythmic, Let England Shake is a glorious uncoiling. Recorded live in a church in Dorset, England (her home county), with longtime collaborators John Parish, Mick Harvey, and producer Flood, Let England Shake is fixated, lyrically, on the vagaries of war.

  • Artist of the Year: The Black Keys

    Artist of the Year: The Black Keys

    With their distinctive blooze racket and breakout year, you'd think it'd be hard to confuse Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney with and But you'd be wrong. [Magazine Excerpt] Patrick Carney is certain it's possible to get from ricotta cheese to the Black Keys in six clicks or less. "I have this new thing," he says on a gloomy afternoon in Newcastle, England. "I'm working on a game show about navigating Wikipedia for the most obscure information. The fastest route to the information wins -- it's like six degrees of separation, but in Wikipedia pages. I'm on the ricotta cheese page right now. If I click on cheesecake, I'll get to New York. That's three." A minute later, bingo: ricotta to cheesecake to New York to Lake Erie to Cuyahoga River to Akron, Ohio. "Keep this to yourself, because I think it could definitely work," Carney jokes.

  • Duffy, 'Endlessly' (Mercury)

    Duffy, 'Endlessly' (Mercury)

    For folks predisposed to sniffing out corporate trickery, Duffy's 2008 debut, Rockferry, was suspect from the start. Materializing after Amy Winehouse's very public collapse, Duffy's take on the same fuzzy American soul mined by Winehouse seemed laboratory-born and engineered for easy consumption. Cowriter Bernard Butler (formerly of Suede) was cast as Svengali and Duffy as the opportunistic vessel, a talent-show also-ran (she placed second on Wawffactor, the Welsh American Idol) in need of a marketable hook. But naysayers never acknowledged how Duffy's big, burly voice was preternaturally well-suited to moody rhythm and blues, infused with a warmth that easily evoked muggy Memphis nights.

  • Roky Erickson With Okkervil River, 'True Love Cast Out All Evil' (Anti-)

    As cofounder of the 13th Floor Elevators, the squirmy outfit that helped define American psych-rock, Roky Erickson has lived a life that sounds like an outtake from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In the late '60s, Erickson was forcibly institutionalized for schizophrenia and treated with electro-convulsive therapy. He's since recovered, and his latest release (aided by fellow Texans Okkervil River) is wizened and epic, marked by squealing guitars and a deep wistfulness. Like any redemption story, love is at the center -- "True love cast out all evil, right now," he implores -- and Erickson's devotion to purity is as inspiring as it is miraculous. BUY:Amazon

  • The Unthanks, 'Here's the Tender Coming' (EMI)

    British songstresses Becky and Rachel Unthank harmonize in that way only siblings can -- effortlessly, and with eerie accord. Despite personnel changes, Here's the Tender Coming, the Unthanks' third LP, is still steeped in brutal Northumberland lore, and its doomed subjects (drowning sailors, child mine workers, a woman who dies on her wedding day) are well served by the band's dark, gentle strums and ghostly piano lines. BUY:Amazon

  • Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, Medicine County (Transdreamer-)

    British songstress Holly Golightly isn't bashful about her retro fetish (as if her nom de plume didn't give it all away), and for the past 15 years, she has been steadily mining classic American rockabilly and country blues. Medicine County is more boisterous than 2008's Dirt Don't Hurt, but there's still something pleasantly lackadaisical about Golightly's delivery, and her songs never feel like they've been blindly co-opted. She soars highest when tackling traditional cuts: Her rendition of "Blood on the Saddle" (made famous by Tex Ritter) is rich, creepy, and undeniable. BUY:Amazon

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