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Wednesday, Apr 10, 2013
For listeners aching to hear more blues-inflected female pop à la Adele, look no further than this rising American singer-songwriter.

If there’s one thing Adele has reminded us in the last two years, it’s that pop listeners aren’t all mindless receptacles of EDM. We like good lyrics that we can relate to, songs with fully developed verses and choruses, and, oh yes, someone who can actually sing live, without pitch correction.


Unfortunately, it looks as if Ms. Adkins will be on hiatus for a considerable length of time, busy raising her baby boy amidst rumors that she’s heading back to the studio. Her contemporaries are few and far between: Amy Winehouse left us too soon, while Duffy and Pixie Lott both hit the sophomore slump. For listeners aching to hear blues-inflected female pop, Florence Welch and Rebecca Ferguson are currently the closest matches.


You wouldn’t expect to see Hollywood Records, a subsidiary of Disney Music Group, on a list of record companies where Adele’s audience would find an interim substitute, but it is indeed there where fans should cast their attention, to singer-songwriter ZZ Ward.


Tagged as: adele, pop, zz ward
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Thursday, Apr 4, 2013
This UK-based singer-songwriter, drummer, guitarist and fragrance model is poised to break through.

As much as we praise and enjoy virtuosity in any single musical skill, be it writing lyrics that resonate with millions or shredding an electric guitar to bits, we really like it when someone is a double or triple threat. Eyes hesitated to blink as Beyoncé dished out gritty live vocals, popping choreography, and a general sense of drop-dead fierceness during the Super Bowl halftime show. P!nk already showed us she could sing live and twirl upside-down on silks on the Grammys a few year back, so for the 2012 AMAs she performed a shoulder-balancing, body-throwing dance routine fit for So You Think You Can Dance... while singing live, of course.


UK-born Florrie Arnold has her own intriguing set of aces up her stylish sleeves. She’s a drummer, singer-songwriter, guitarist… and she models for fragrances and jeans. Furthermore, her songs, all co-writes across three independently released EPs, straddle a beguiling mix of pop and anti-pop that manages to be catchy but strange.


Tagged as: florrie, pop music, uk
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Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013
It was with great anticipation that all of us got our first listen to Justin Timberlake's new album at some point in the past few weeks. Here are four takeaways I have picked up from three weeks of listening to The 20/20 Experience.

Sadly, I do not have 20/20 vision. That has literally nothing to do with this discussion of Justin Timberlake’s recently released album The 20/20 Experience, but I just wanted to get it out there.


In all seriousness, I don’t see a lot of myself in JT (in fact, I don’t see very much at all out of my bum right eye, but that’s another story). I am, though, fascinated by him. As a number of reviews of The 20/20 Experience have pointed out, the 2002 single “Cry Me a River” was the song that propelled Timberlake out of the B-league and into the “next Michael Jackson” position that he currently occupies. Although there were a few other singles from the… “cleverly” titled Justified, none of them had the musical and cultural impact of that one, the video for which moved him carefully and deliberately out of the space occupied by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the boy bands, one of which he obviously used to be a part of. Over the past decade, building on the sonic template of “Cry Me a River”, Timberlake has gained even more fame, critical success, and cultural omnipresence. Amazingly, he has accomplished this despite releasing only one album between 2002 and 2013.


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Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013
The two-time winner of Best Pop Artist at the Toronto Independent Music Awards, alternative soul singer Lori Nuic is a rising star.

Alternative soul singer/songwriter Lori Nuic brings a sparkle to whatever she does.


A classic triple threat –- she writes, sings and dances with equal aplomb -– and backed by a stellar duo of well-connected producers in Adrian Eccleston and Martin ‘Doc’ McKinney (The Weeknd), Nuic seems perfectly positioned to take the pop charts by storm. She appeared on my radar last autumn when she won her second Best Pop crown at the Toronto Independent Music Awards (TIMA). Her blend of Motown-era melodies and urban-slick grooves is striking, both for its timelessness and for its contemporary sheen. Nuic’s is a classic sound, immediately comfortable, but it is pushing at the boundaries of the old form. Small wonder she won the top prize twice!


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Friday, Jan 25, 2013
by Eric Klinger
Counterbalance takes the week off, but co-conspirator Eric Klinger is still around to recommend to you the Mighty Shamrocks' three-decade delayed LP.

Northern Ireland. The late 1970s. The violence and turbulence of the Troubles are everywhere, along with IRA hunger strikes and crippling unemployment. Meanwhile, the straight ahead three-chord punk model was already revealing itself to be generally unsustainable, and shrewder bands were looking to other forms as a way forward. And in Northern Ireland, a way forward could mean a way out of the turmoil. Against that backdrop emerged the Mighty Shamrocks: singer/guitarist Mickey Stephens, guitarist Dougie Gough, bassist Roe Butcher, and drummer Paddy MacNicholl.


Taking cues from a wide range of music—the New Wave that was ubiquitous at the time, country elements from the pub rock scene, and a hint of reggae (their moniker is a play on roots reggae group the Mighty Diamonds)—the Mighty Shamrocks made their regional name on the strength of songs that brought the political turmoil of the times to a personal level. In 1983, the group recorded an album for the Good Vibrations label, and it looked like the group might well be on their way. But as it so often happens on the road to rock glory, fate made other plans. The Good Vibrations label went bankrupt just as the album was due for release, and the band collapsed under the pressure.


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