The rock band Japandroids is two men, not from Tokyo but from Vancouver, British Columbia — guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse. Both of them sang and very often shouted on their 2009 LP Post-Nothing, which received a lot of praise from music blogs. Their second album is out now; it's called Celebration Rock, and I think it's the best rock record I've heard this year.
Celebrating wild and wonderful early music is the mission of Britain's excellent I Fagiolini, led by Robert Hollingworth. Last year's world premiere recording of Alessandro Striggio's enormous 40-part Mass, paired with another larger-than-life piece, Thomas Tallis' 40-part Spem in Alium, became something of a sleeper hit, scoring surprisingly big sales and winning a Gramophone Award.
It's not unusual for poets to try their hands at pop music-making. Patti Smith was a poet before she was a rock star. In recent years, print-poets such as David Berman and Wyn Cooper have put out more-than-credible song collections. But Mary Karr, known more for prize-winning memoirs such as The Liars Club and Lit than for her excellent poetry, has taken a high-profile risk that's paid off.
Grammy-winning singer and bass player Esperanza Spalding recently led her band, including a large horn section, through a set of jazzy jams in the KCRW studios. Watching her play funky bass lines while singing with incredible range and soul was truly a sight to behold, especially in "Smile Like That." You can watch the entire performance at KCRW.com.