• Haley Bonar

    Hear Haley Bonar's Dynamic, Demanding 'No Sensitive Man'

    The story goes that Haley Bonar caught her big break at an open-mic show, when Alan Sparhawk of Low saw Bonar and put her on the road as Low's opening act. That association tends to get her lumped in with the slowcore crowd, but the title track to Bonar’s upcoming fifth full-length Last War, due out May 20 on Graveface Records, has the sort of get-up-and-go that ought to put such comparisons in the past. The first single, "Last War," opens with the sort of ominous bassline you’d hear from New Order, and Bonar’s deadpan observation, "Well it’s not as cold up here." It heats up in a hurry, momentum accelerating as other instruments join in throughout the track's four minutes.

  • Bobby Bare Jr.

    Hear Bobby Bare Jr.'s Swaggering 'North of Alabama by Mornin''

    Despite being Nashville royalty by bloodline, Bobby Bare Jr. has never been easy to pin down as strictly country. On "North of Alabama by Mornin'," the kickoff track to Bare's Young Criminals' Starvation League's forthcoming Undefeated, due out April 15 on Bloodshot Records, Bare sounds as rocked-up as ever. Opening with throbs of distortion, a martial stomp-along beat, and ominously squalling guitars, the lead single draws a straight line from Lynyrd Skynyrd's Southern rock bombast to the decadence of L.A. hair metal.

  • Uncle Tupelo

    Uncle Tupelo's 'No Depression' Reissue Fetes a Hard-Luck Classic That Birthed a Whole Genre

    Between Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, and the Avett Brothers, twang-y, revivalist roots rock might seem like a new thing, but all that's really new is its popularity. A quarter-century ago, the underground teemed with earnest young folks harkening back to bucolic olden times, and nobody was more earnest — or influential, or doomed — than Uncle Tupelo. Now comes a double-disc reissue of the trio's 1990 debut, No Depression, whose title alone came to define a magazine, an entire genre, and untold hordes of like-minded bands across the planet.Actually, one of this reissue's stranger revelations is how close these guys came to winding up as just another also-ran R.E.M. That's the take-away from the bulk of the second-disc rarities, especially the 1989 demos recorded under the working title Not Forever, Just for Now (an epigrammatic couplet from "Whiskey Bottle").

  • Bill Callahan / Photo by Hanly Banks for SPIN

    Bill Callahan Is a Fount of Gorgeously Economical Gravitas on 'Dream River'

    "I've got limitations," Bill Callahan admits with characteristic matter-of-factness on the opening track to Dream River, his fourth studio effort under his own name. "Like Marvin Gaye," he adds, guitar and fiddle quietly shimmering all around him. "Mortal joy / Is that way."For all the inherent modesty in the Austin singer-songwriter's voice, most modest singer-songwriters wouldn't kick off their albums by invoking the Trouble Man and Dirty Harry simultaneously. But Callahan puts it across with his usual deadpan bluntness, as if he's just pointed out the most obvious thing in the world — and out of his mouth, it feels obvious.

  • Jason Isbell / Stephen Lovekin/Getty

    Jason Isbell, 'Southeastern' (Southeastern/Thirty Tigers)

    "Saw my guts / Saw my glory / It would make a great story / If I could ever remember it right," Jason Isbell hollers toward the end of "Super 8," his new album's most vivid remembrance of ugly benders past. But the dozen painfully lived-in and painfully recalled songs on Southeastern put the lie to that notion.Each of Isbell's solo records has made mincemeat of its predecessor, and the same goes for this one, his fourth since 2007's messy divorce from both Southern-rock icons Drive-By Truckers and their bassist, Shonna Tucker; it's also his first since sobering up and marrying Texas singer/fiddler Amanda Shires.

  • She & Him

    She & Him, 'Volume 3' (Merge)

    Back in 2008, She & Him seemed like a whimsical diversion for singer/movie star Zooey Deschanel and guitarist M. Ward — an artsy little love-over-gold side project before she made her next blockbuster flick and he went back to making moody late-night folk records. But now, the existence of three full albums (four, if you count 2011's A Very She & Him Christmas) have pretty much eradicated any accusations of dilettantism, establishing Ward as a crackerjack studio wiz, and Deschanel as a cut above Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Laurie, and other singing thespians.God only knows where they find the time. Ward still has a thriving solo career, just missing the Top 20 with last year's A Wasteland Companion. And between starring in the hit FOX sitcom New Girl and chatting up Siri in another iPhone commercial, Deschanel is as ubiquitous as ever.

  • Ólafur Arnalds / Photo by Marino Thoriacius / Mercury Classics

    Olafur Arnalds, 'For Now I Am Winter' (Mercury Classics)

    The major label debut from Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds begins and ends on a familiar note, with bookend tracks flaunting his signature blend of stately electronic ambience and classical flourishes; the closer, "Carry Me Anew," also dissolves into about 20 seconds of complete silence. But in between, For Now I Am Winter revels in a profound new element: Four tracks feature actual vocals. In English, no less. Over a backdrop of throbbing electronic swells, guest vocalist Arnor Dan quavers a declaration on the title track: "For now I am winter / Lungs debut." That they do.The living, breathing aspect of Arnalds' music is more evident here than on his previous six years’ worth of albums and EPs, which makes Winter easily his most straightforwardly accessible and mainstream-leaning effort to date.

  • Samantha Crain, 'Kid Face' (Ramseur)

    It's the folkie conundrum: For all the music's emphasis on rootedness and connection to place, it is nevertheless bound to ramble, bringing out the restless wanderlust in everyone who plays it. Americana princess Samantha Crain, who hails from über-troubadour Woody Guthrie's home state of Oklahoma, is no exception. Her third full-length album is another collection of down-home songs from the road, a tension you feel with every note she sings.A tiny, 26-year-old singer-songwriter of Choctaw Indian descent, Crain could still pass for a teenager, an illusion that vanishes as soon as she opens her mouth. Her powerhouse wail cuts to the quick, an oddly fascinating combination of booming power and quavering vulnerability.

  • Cracker in 1997 / Photo by Janette Beckman/Getty

    Cracker Look Back at 20 Years of 'Low'

    The jangle and rasp of "Low," the leadoff track from Cracker's 1993 platinum album Kerosene Hat, was a ubiquitous signpost of the alternative-as-the-new-mainstream era. As just one example, by the end of 1994, its noir-ish video was more popular on MTV than Springsteen or Jodeci. And it survived long after life in the Buzz Bin, spending two decades as a staple on rock radio, and remains a beacon sending televised sporting events to the great commercial break in the sky.The song bestowed unlikely rock stardom on frontman David Lowery, who by 1993 was a couple of years removed from his former band Camper Van Beethoven, a weirdly wonderful gaggle of quirk-poppers who invaded college radio like a Martian jug band playing Balkan folk-punk.

  • Camper Van Beethoven

    Stream Camper Van Beethoven's Tenth Album, 'La Costa Perdida': Plus David Lowery Q&A

    After breaking college radio with the Dr. Demento fave "Take the Skinheads Bowling" in 1985, we never imagined Camper Van Beethoven would be making news three decades later. But here we are, and CVB are blowing up our Twitter feeds, thanks to frontman David Lowery going ham on an NPR intern and indie-pop supergroup Divine Fits covering Camper's "I Was Born in a Laundromat" on a recent seven-inch.For 30 years and counting, Camper Van Beethoven have existed in a parallel-universe borderland, coming across like a punk band perpetually on a Balkan bluegrass bender. But they finally bring it all back home to their native California on 10th album, La Costa Perdida, recalling '60s-vintage West Coast pop filtered through their timeless, idiosyncratic prism. To get the story of the album, we caught up with Lowery about the mystique of Northern California and the myths of file-sharing.

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