Mars Willams Maps the Way to an Ayler Xmas

Christmas music often comes with a strong undercurrent of nostalgia as the songs evoke times that seem simpler in retrospect. That isn’t an issue for Mars Williams’ Ayler Xmas project, which steers into the heart of the tensions and uncertainties of improvised music based on pieces of adventurous Black art from the early 1960s.

Our Spilt Milk: Carly Rae's Heartbroken at a Hotel, and the Scooby Gang's Got a Big Mystery to Solve

Carly Rae Jepsen released a new single, “Party For One,” and it’s on time and on brand. Jepsen’s brand is a combination of bubblegum pop, hopeless romantic, and self-empowered badass, and these all come through beautifully in her new song and accompanying music video. 

Jeremih and Chance the Rappers Release Their Follow Up to Last Year's Christmas Mixtape

Three days before Christmas 2016, Jeremih and Chance the Rapper dropped Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama—a mixtape that had all the hallmarks of Chance’s work the rest of the year. It had a spiritual, moral and socially active backbone as well as a clear sense of place. It was unquestionably an urban album, and “I’m Your Santa” moves to Chicago stepping’s trademark groove.

Miss Sophie Lee's Path to Frenchmen Street

Miss Sophie Lee didn’t start off looking to be a jazz singer. She has been on a musical path all her life, playing piano and violin as a child, and she went to a performing arts school in her native Chicago when she was five. “Love of music happened very early,” Lee says. She started taking singing lessons when she was in junior high and went to college for classical piano performance. The classical music career she’d been aimed at since childhood didn’t happen, though.

Gramps the Vamp is Not Afraid

If you see Maxx McGathey, bandleader of Gramps the Vamp, walking around Chicago with headphones on, there’s a good chance he’s not listening to music. Or a podcast. Or whatever the kids are into these days. When the band was writing the songs that ultimately became their new self-titled album, McGathey roamed the streets, he says, “listening through hours and hours of old-time radio shows.”

Riff Raff, Night Vale, and World Cup Consolation

All the Cat Powers When Alison Fensterstock wrote about Hurray for the Riff Raff’s appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, a commenter at Nola.com wrote, “One of the most overrated groups out there (how many Cat Power-lite singers are too many?), but this is admittedly a nice arrangement.” I’ll take all the Cat Power-lite singers who can write songs as bold as “The Body Electric.” Americana bands rarely suffer from a surplus of nerve, and fewer ask a ce

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