Chicago’s JC Brooks attracted major critical acclaim for his band’s soulful music following two superb releases on Bloodshot Records. Now, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound are working under the title of their frontman and they’ve moved over to Rock Ridge Music for a new album, The Neon Jungle, that ratchets up the rock side of their sound. On “Drive”, we see JC Brooks blending soul and funk with post-punk and rock. It’s a broad sound freely drawing from multiple genres in popular music, you know, kinda like Prince. Heading for Prince territory offers the band a rich terrain to experiment and further develop their unique sound. JC Brooks says, “I feel like we carry that ethos with the genre-mixing blend of soul music we write, and the punk aspect is more about our DIY determination to get out there onstage and engage with our live crowds on a visceral level.”
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For those who prefer the melodic pop side of rock music, Cotton Mather has surely been a source of much fun over the past 27 years. Austin’s Cotton Mather plays irresistible Beatlesque pop crossed with an early Elvis Costello sneer. Frontman Robert Harrison’s voice has always reminded me a bit of John Lennon, who as my original musical hero makes me instantly swoon when I hear a Cotton Mather track. Cotton Mather’s Kontiki is their 1997 pop masterpiece, and if you’ve never heard it, I highly recommend listening to it right after this track. But what impresses most about Cotton Mather is that they continue to make relevant, exciting, brilliant music to this day.
Elisee Akowendo hails from the Ivory Coast and grew up singing gospel music, developing a deep love of music that would come to define his life. Elisee traveled to Israel with his church group to perform, and after that, he was set to begin his master’s degree back home. But he took a chance on music, stayed in Israel and hooked up with local beat-maker Tamir Muskat. Together, they collaborated on Elisee’s new single “I Dey Shina”, an addictive banger of a tune that announces the arrival of a major new musical talent. “I Dey Shina” means “I’m Shining” and indeed it does as it’s warm message of love and peace is uplifting and thrilling at the same time.
“Our motivation is to be different than [what] we were,” notes Nuno Gonçalves, and boy he isn’t kidding.
Answering a question asked back in 2011 when PopMatters visited the Gift in Spain, the keyboardist and lead songwriter of Portugal’s the Gift has made it clear that no two albums will sound the same. Amazingly, over the course of two decades, the band has kept this promise.
Back in December, we told you all about Kevin Russell’s newish band Shinyribs. Russell formed the project as something of a solo effort for awhile but then built out the band as his previous group the Gourds wound things down. The Gourds were very much an alt-country band, but with Shinyribs, Russell is branching out into all sort of Southern roots music like New Orleans soul, old-time rock ‘n’ roll, and swamp funk. Now Shinyribs has a new video on tap, the rockin’ “Trouble, Trouble”, wherein the group blends a bit of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll a la Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry with some sweet soul horns and choruses.
// Notes from the Road
"Philip Glass, the artistic director of the Tibet House benefits, celebrated his 80th birthday at this year's annual benefit with performances from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Brittany Howard, Sufjan Stevens and more.READ the article