• Eric Church / Photo by John Peets

    Eric Church Plays Both Suave Rock God and Country Music Jesus on 'The Outsiders'

    Some of the best rock'n'roll comes out of Nashville and is called "country." Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, the Band Perry, Keith Urban — they can stomp Slade-sized riffs to shake a pickup off the lawn, then get downright Bon Jovial. But Eric Church might be the first contemporary country act to remind you of Black Sabbath.While Taylor Swift gave it up to "Tim McGraw," Church fired up his daddy's lighter to the strains of "Springsteen" on his 2011 breakthrough, Chief. That excellent record rocked hard and smart in the name of "some long-haired hippie prophet preaching from the book of Johnny Cash," but he levels up on The Outsiders. The opening title track swaggers out of S. E.

  • Pistol Annies / Photo by Randee St. Nicholas

    Pistol Annies, 'Annie Up' (RCA Nashville)

    In 2011, united by a love of raucous twang, slow burn, bad puns, and high-heeled shit-kicking, Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley formed Pistol Annies in order to stick it to the man's man's man's world of Nashville's starmaking machinery. That's the mythology, anyway — Lambert was already a country superstar when she and Music Row vets Monroe and Presley decided to pool their sizable talent for this don't-call-it-a-side-project.The trio's debut, Hell on Heels, was a quick, mean, corny affair, and critics and fans alike ate it up like a deep-fried Twinkie at a county fair. It was somewhat overpraised — a good country record with the aura of a great one. Though it's not exactly Leave Home to its predecessor's Ramones, Annie Up is still a pretty tasty serving of grits and sass.

  • Kevin Shields of MBV / Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

    My Bloody Valentine, 'm b v' (Self-Released)

    I feel a little sorry for kids in their 20s now, for whom My Bloody Valentine's Loveless is a monument, a museum piece, one more item on the part of the syllabus sub-headed "Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and the Year Punk Broke." If you were young in the fall of 1991, all you knew about the record, or cared about, was that Loveless was the sound of a band breaking every last fucking thing inside you and shaking the shards to produce the most beautiful, unholy, ear-bleeding racket ever to score your puny narcissistic dreams.So, yeah, kids, your elders might be a little sentimental about My Bloody Valentine.The backstory is Behind the Music-ready: Band releases amazing debut album (1988's Isn't Anything); nearly bankrupts record label recording game-changing follow-up, which elevates them to media-darling status; band signs to a major and huge expectations for rumored third album lead to paralysis

  • Taylor Swift / Photo by Getty Images

    Taylor Swift, 'Red' (Big Machine)

    On her fourth album, Nashville's 22-year-old ambassador to the malls of America is feeling a bit insecure about her status: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" finds her ex listening to "some indie record that's much cooler than mine"; she and her friends "dress up like hipsters" on "22" and get dissed by the "cool kids."It's never a good idea for megastars to complain about how uncool they are, but she has a point: Aren't we finished condescending to Taylor Swift yet? If a young female songwriter this talented and consistent were making indie music on Domino Records, would critics find it necessary to congratulate her for writing her own songs or reproach her for naïve sentiments? Have these people ever listened to the xx?

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