Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 2:26 pm
Alt-J (stylized as ∆) may be the most successful new British band of 2012 — a favorite to win the Mercury Music Prize in November and a Top 20 chart phenomenon in the U.K. The group, which chose its name from the mathematical symbol for change, made a splash with its debut album, An Awesome Wave, which came out in September. The record mixes upbeat indie rock and brooding synths with vocals that sound like no one else's in music today.
Certain episodes of Treme seem to wear their ideological hearts on their sleeves, and this was one. You open with Desiree's mother's house getting torn down in a city mix-up; you have Davis throwing around phrases like "preservation through neglect"; you see housing projects torn down amid protest with the implication of a corrupt deal; you get protagonists like the Bernette family being harassed by police; you witness clueless developers trying to build a national jazz center while waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The Great American Canyon Band is a Baltimore indie-folk act featuring husband-and-wife duo Paul and Krystal Jean Masson. The pair's first single, "Tumbleweed," is a lovely, dreamy piece of countrified rock, destined for road trips. The rest of the self-titled EP came out in May, and an additional track, "Young Lady," was released on Sept. 5; it's available for download here.
Twenty-five years ago today, Houston Grand Opera mounted the world premiere of Nixon in China, the first opera by a young composer named John Adams. Two days later, The New York Times described it as a "coy and insubstantial work" and "hardly a strong candidate for the standard repertory."
Bringing blues music to the Top 40 isn't easy: Only a handful of musicians have done it in the 30 years Robert Cray has spent winning awards, selling millions of records and otherwise kicking around on the national stage. But Cray has, crossing over from blues-club stages to arenas with the double-platinum 1986 album Strong Persuader and its single "Smoking Gun," and has continued to stick around as one of the most reliably gifted and accessible guitarists around.