1. Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the debut album by punk rock trio Ex Hex. The album is called Rips and it’s at once a throwback to bands like the Ramones and something new: 

"Even if the band doesn’t sell many copies of Rips, I’ll bet there are TV and movie music producers all over LA and New York who’ll want to use its artful irony in their productions. This sort of guitar-based rock music isn’t part of the hit-making machinery just now—you’re not, thank heaven, going to hear contestants on TV shows like The Voice doing Ex Hex covers. But that only means it’s exactly the right time for a reminder of how durable and endlessly elastic this kind of music can be.”

Ex Hex’s ‘Rips’ Does What It Says On The Cover
Photo: Mary Timony  View in High-Res

    Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the debut album by punk rock trio Ex Hex. The album is called Rips and it’s at once a throwback to bands like the Ramones and something new: 

    "Even if the band doesn’t sell many copies of Rips, I’ll bet there are TV and movie music producers all over LA and New York who’ll want to use its artful irony in their productions. This sort of guitar-based rock music isn’t part of the hit-making machinery just now—you’re not, thank heaven, going to hear contestants on TV shows like The Voice doing Ex Hex covers. But that only means it’s exactly the right time for a reminder of how durable and endlessly elastic this kind of music can be.”

    Ex Hex’s ‘Rips’ Does What It Says On The Cover

    Photo: Mary Timony 

  2. Ex Hex

    punk rock

    ken tucker

    ramones

  1. There’s more to Swedish pop music than Abba. In recent years, worldwide pop hits from acts such as Robyn and Icona Pop have achieved success in America; the Swedish pop producer Max Martin has written hits for acts like Katy Perry and Britney Spears. Now a singer-songwriter in her 20s called Tove Lo is scoring hits in this country that mix dance club pop with rock soulfulness. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of Tove Lo’s debut album Queen of the Clouds.
Tove Lo Chronicles Three Stages Of A Love Affair View in High-Res

    There’s more to Swedish pop music than Abba. In recent years, worldwide pop hits from acts such as Robyn and Icona Pop have achieved success in America; the Swedish pop producer Max Martin has written hits for acts like Katy Perry and Britney Spears. Now a singer-songwriter in her 20s called Tove Lo is scoring hits in this country that mix dance club pop with rock soulfulness. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of Tove Lo’s debut album Queen of the Clouds.

    Tove Lo Chronicles Three Stages Of A Love Affair

  2. tove lo

    ken tucker

    review

  1. Ken Tucker reviews ‘Heigh Ho,’ from Blake Mills 

"Blake Mills spends a lot of time on Heigh Ho sneaking up behind you, offering confidences in a low murmur. He’s a young master of intimacy, quiet but firmly insistent, making sure that even if you don’t quite make out what he’s saying, you walk away with a melody lingering in your mind. He plays guitar in a way that can make the instrument yield warm folk-song strumming, or unearthly, strange sounds, sometimes within the same composition. He’s a sneaky one, Blake Mills. On the fourth cut on this album, Mills says it’s the seventh song on an album that always makes him cry.”

Photo by Oresti Tsonopoulos via Flickr  View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker reviews ‘Heigh Ho,’ from Blake Mills 

    "Blake Mills spends a lot of time on Heigh Ho sneaking up behind you, offering confidences in a low murmur. He’s a young master of intimacy, quiet but firmly insistent, making sure that even if you don’t quite make out what he’s saying, you walk away with a melody lingering in your mind. He plays guitar in a way that can make the instrument yield warm folk-song strumming, or unearthly, strange sounds, sometimes within the same composition. He’s a sneaky one, Blake Mills. On the fourth cut on this album, Mills says it’s the seventh song on an album that always makes him cry.”

    Photo by Oresti Tsonopoulos via Flickr 

  2. blake mills

    music review

    ken tucker

    heigh ho

  1. Ken Tucker reviews the rich, experimental, and spooky new album from Pere Ubu, Carnival of Souls: 

“Carnival of Souls is a series of scenes about a figure roaming across a barren landscape in the broiling sun, or wandering through city streets at night, looking for clues to a mystery that may only exist inside his head. It’s a dreamscape that’s never dreamy: it’s hardboiled, hard-headed stuff. It’s music made to endure. After all, Pere Ubu’s latest motto is a Latin phrase that roughly translates as, ‘Art is forever, the audience comes and goes.’”

    Ken Tucker reviews the rich, experimental, and spooky new album from Pere Ubu, Carnival of Souls: 

    Carnival of Souls is a series of scenes about a figure roaming across a barren landscape in the broiling sun, or wandering through city streets at night, looking for clues to a mystery that may only exist inside his head. It’s a dreamscape that’s never dreamy: it’s hardboiled, hard-headed stuff. It’s music made to endure. After all, Pere Ubu’s latest motto is a Latin phrase that roughly translates as, ‘Art is forever, the audience comes and goes.’

  2. pere ubu

    carnival of souls

    music review

    ken tucker

  1. 
"The New Pornographers is making music whose influences are fun to figure out—I hear some Abba in the harmonies, some ELO in the keyboards. On other songs there’s everything from the playful pompous-rock of Queen to the soulful harmonies of the Mamas and the Papas emanating from the contributions of strong vocalist Kathryn Calder, among others. Which means, ultimately, that this band is creating its own sound, using the time-tested pop-culture method of picking and choosing from anything and everything, recombined for original effects.”
- Ken Tucker 


Hear the full review View in High-Res

    "The New Pornographers is making music whose influences are fun to figure out—I hear some Abba in the harmonies, some ELO in the keyboards. On other songs there’s everything from the playful pompous-rock of Queen to the soulful harmonies of the Mamas and the Papas emanating from the contributions of strong vocalist Kathryn Calder, among others. Which means, ultimately, that this band is creating its own sound, using the time-tested pop-culture method of picking and choosing from anything and everything, recombined for original effects.”

    - Ken Tucker 

    Hear the full review

  2. the new pornographers

    ken tucker

    review

    fresh air

  1. If you want to frame Elvin Bishop’s music in a contemporary context, you could fairly say that he was a precursor to today’s so-called “bro-country music,” in which young male country singers churn out song after song about getting in their trucks to go party with pretty gals. But few of those young whippersnappers also feature the stuff that makes Elvin Bishop such a continuing gas—the raspy chuckle in his singing, and the sharp sting of his guitar. He invites you to contradict the title of this album and insist that he CAN do wrong right—just right.

    — Ken Tucker, reviewing Elvin Bishop's album Can't Even Do Wrong Right

  2. ken tucker

    elvin bishop

    country music

    blues

    review

  1. Billy Joe Shaver isn’t so much an outlaw as an outlier, admired by much bigger stars then he’ll ever be, a figure of ornery stubbornness who specializes in writing garrulous story-songs filled with macho boasting phrased poetically. Shaver is one of those loners who claims to want to be loved even as he’s pushing everyone away with a defiant or morose attitude.

    — Ken Tucker reviews Shaver’s first album in six years, Long in the Tooth

  2. billy shoe shaver

    honky tonk

    ken tucker

    review

    long in the tooth

  1. Ken Tucker reviews They Want My Soul by Spoon—the group’s first album since 2010’s Transference.

"They Want My Soul is another fine Spoon album in a career that has now come to display a remarkable consistency. Which for some listeners will signify as more of the same thing. But keep listening and, beyond the usual twitching melodies and Britt Daniel’s disarming melancholy, They Want My Soul reveals one possible meaning of its title: There’s a soulfulness here that anyone would envy, would want with all one’s heart."


View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker reviews They Want My Soul by Spoon—the group’s first album since 2010’s Transference.

    "They Want My Soul is another fine Spoon album in a career that has now come to display a remarkable consistency. Which for some listeners will signify as more of the same thing. But keep listening and, beyond the usual twitching melodies and Britt Daniel’s disarming melancholy, They Want My Soul reveals one possible meaning of its title: There’s a soulfulness here that anyone would envy, would want with all one’s heart."

  2. spoon

    ken tucker

    music review

    they want my soul

  1. Ken Tucker reviews Jenny Lewis' new album, Voyager : 

"Lewis’ strength as a singer is that she’s a powerful vocalist who rarely shows off her chops—like the once and future actress she is, she knows how to modulate the emotions she puts out there, holding back to achieve some of her best effects. This is a quality showcased on a song produced by Beck called “Just One of the Guys.” The song is getting some attention for its video, which features Lewis singing alongside gal pals including Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart, but you don’t need the visuals to lock into the hypnotic allure of the melody.”


View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker reviews Jenny Lewis' new album, Voyager : 

    "Lewis’ strength as a singer is that she’s a powerful vocalist who rarely shows off her chops—like the once and future actress she is, she knows how to modulate the emotions she puts out there, holding back to achieve some of her best effects. This is a quality showcased on a song produced by Beck called “Just One of the Guys.” The song is getting some attention for its video, which features Lewis singing alongside gal pals including Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart, but you don’t need the visuals to lock into the hypnotic allure of the melody.”

  2. jenny lewis

    voyager

    music review

    ken tucker

  1. Cowboy Jack Clement was a prolific producer, songwriter, arranger, and talent scout.  He only made three albums of his own, the last of which is the new For Once and For All, executive produced by T Bone Burnett.  Ken Tucker reviews: 

Cowboy Jack Clement – the “cowboy” nickname was always something of a joke; he once said, “cowboy boots make my feet hurt”—was a colorful character as well as a first-rate songwriter and producer. Clement told music historian Peter Guralnick that Shakespeare and PG Wodehouse were influences on him as significant as any country or rock & roll artist, and since he wrote tunes for Johnny Cash called “Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” and “Flushed from the Bathroom of your Heart,” I’m inclined to believe him. He also wrote some of the finest pure-country songs ever. 
View in High-Res

    Cowboy Jack Clement was a prolific producer, songwriter, arranger, and talent scout.  He only made three albums of his own, the last of which is the new For Once and For All, executive produced by T Bone Burnett.  Ken Tucker reviews: 

    Cowboy Jack Clement – the “cowboy” nickname was always something of a joke; he once said, “cowboy boots make my feet hurt”—was a colorful character as well as a first-rate songwriter and producer. Clement told music historian Peter Guralnick that Shakespeare and PG Wodehouse were influences on him as significant as any country or rock & roll artist, and since he wrote tunes for Johnny Cash called “Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” and “Flushed from the Bathroom of your Heart,” I’m inclined to believe him. He also wrote some of the finest pure-country songs ever. 

  2. cowboy jack clement

    t bone burnett

    ken tucker

    review

  1. Ken Tucker on Jim Lauderdale's 'admirable and somewhat puzzling career' and his new album I’m a Song: 

"So with all these good songs and strong singing, why isn’t Lauderdale a bigger star? I think one answer is the absence of a consistent persona in his work. Look at his idols: George Jones is, in Jim’s phrase, the king of broken hearts; Gram Parsons is the sensitive tragic hero that Lauderdale is too optimistic and too wise to the ways of the music biz to emulate; bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, with whom Lauderdale recorded a Grammy-winning album, is the kind of formalist that Jim never aspired to be. Lauderdale rarely goes as bleakly dark as his pal Buddy Miller can, both on guitar and in lyrics with his wife Julie Miller. One reason Lauderdale is a successful songwriter for others is because he can slip into others’ skins, and write from different points of view and moods. On his own projects, and on the satellite radio show he co-hosts with Buddy Miller, he projects a sunniness that to some listeners may come across as lightweight. But it takes as much craft to sound resilient as it does to sound shattered and depressed."
View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker on Jim Lauderdale's 'admirable and somewhat puzzling career' and his new album I’m a Song:

    "So with all these good songs and strong singing, why isn’t Lauderdale a bigger star? I think one answer is the absence of a consistent persona in his work. Look at his idols: George Jones is, in Jim’s phrase, the king of broken hearts; Gram Parsons is the sensitive tragic hero that Lauderdale is too optimistic and too wise to the ways of the music biz to emulate; bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, with whom Lauderdale recorded a Grammy-winning album, is the kind of formalist that Jim never aspired to be. Lauderdale rarely goes as bleakly dark as his pal Buddy Miller can, both on guitar and in lyrics with his wife Julie Miller. One reason Lauderdale is a successful songwriter for others is because he can slip into others’ skins, and write from different points of view and moods. On his own projects, and on the satellite radio show he co-hosts with Buddy Miller, he projects a sunniness that to some listeners may come across as lightweight. But it takes as much craft to sound resilient as it does to sound shattered and depressed."

  2. jim lauderdale

    review

    ken tucker

  1. Musician Timothy Showalter has been recording under the name Strand of Oaks since 2006. He has cited performers ranging from Jeff Buckley to the comedian Richard Pryor as influences. Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews his album ‘Heal’:


"If you’re going to be downbeat, glum, or morose, it’s best to do it the way Timothy Showalter does it. Which is, with an energy and purpose that doesn’t contradict the melancholy, but rather frames it as various stories—studies in seriousness. He records under the name Strand of Oaks, he writes and performs nearly all of the music on this new album himself, and it’s titled Heal as in “healing a wound,” something Strand of Oaks frequently seems in need of."
View in High-Res

    Musician Timothy Showalter has been recording under the name Strand of Oaks since 2006. He has cited performers ranging from Jeff Buckley to the comedian Richard Pryor as influences. Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews his album ‘Heal’:

    "If you’re going to be downbeat, glum, or morose, it’s best to do it the way Timothy Showalter does it. Which is, with an energy and purpose that doesn’t contradict the melancholy, but rather frames it as various stories—studies in seriousness. He records under the name Strand of Oaks, he writes and performs nearly all of the music on this new album himself, and it’s titled Heal as in “healing a wound,” something Strand of Oaks frequently seems in need of."

  2. strand of oaks

    timothy showalter

    ken tucker

    review

  1. 
"Lana Del Rey is sharp-witted, aiming to take her place among her predecessors. She is Morrissey with a better pout; she is Katy Perry with the blues. She’s the daughter Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer never lived to have. Del Rey dares you to believe that she’s all trouble and impure pleasure, even as she crafts music so darkly inviting, it enters you like a knife between your ribs."

- Ken Tucker on Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence
View in High-Res

    "Lana Del Rey is sharp-witted, aiming to take her place among her predecessors. She is Morrissey with a better pout; she is Katy Perry with the blues. She’s the daughter Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer never lived to have. Del Rey dares you to believe that she’s all trouble and impure pleasure, even as she crafts music so darkly inviting, it enters you like a knife between your ribs."

    - Ken Tucker on Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence

  2. lana del rey

    review

    ultraviolence

    ken tucker

    fresh air

  1. Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker reviews the latest album from Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal: 

Parquet Courts creates songs that dare you to be irritated by them. They stick with a riff like that one, a song called “Dear Ramona,” and shuffle into it lines such as “Whoever she might be goin’ to bed with, you can read about that in her moleskine.” There’s an undercurrent of sarcasm there, and I would be surprised if the Parquet Courts boys don’t own a few moleskine notebooks themselves. But making clever snark develop into something more emotional, more revelatory — that’s the challenge the band sets for itself. 


photo by Ben Rayner via Rolling Stone View in High-Res

    Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker reviews the latest album from Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal: 

    Parquet Courts creates songs that dare you to be irritated by them. They stick with a riff like that one, a song called “Dear Ramona,” and shuffle into it lines such as “Whoever she might be goin’ to bed with, you can read about that in her moleskine.” There’s an undercurrent of sarcasm there, and I would be surprised if the Parquet Courts boys don’t own a few moleskine notebooks themselves. But making clever snark develop into something more emotional, more revelatory — that’s the challenge the band sets for itself.

    photo by Ben Rayner via Rolling Stone

  2. parquet courts

    ken tucker

    music

    review

    sunbathing animal

  1. Miranda Lambert leads off her enormously entertaining album Platinum with that song, “Girls.” It’s a mini-manifesto of country feminism nicely complicated by Lambert’s cheerful acknowledgment that making a blanket statement about ALL women is a fool’s game. And Miranda is no fool. She began her career opining about everything from domestic violence to smokin’ and drinkin’. Now, a superstar at the center of her industry, she’s—well, she’s devising new ways to sing about smokin’ and drinkin’.

    — 

    Ken Tucker

     Hear the full review of Miranda Lambert’s new album Platinum

  2. miranda lambert

    country music

    ken tucker

    review