Upon hearing Lisa Hannigan sing for the first time, her warm voice can sound at once familiar and inviting. The Mercury Prize-nominated artist is often acknowledged for her six-year collaboration with Damien Rice — especially on his album O — and for her solo debut, Sea Sew.
They were four guys out of Athens, Ga., with a three-letter name — and one hell of an impact on rock. R.E.M. was Michael Stipe singing lead, Mike Mills on bass and harmonies, Peter Buck on guitar and Bill Berry on drums, until Berry left the band in 1997.
"We never expected the thing to last any longer than a couple of years to begin with," Stipe says. "And then when it did, and we were making records and people were interested in it, the band started getting bigger and bigger and bigger."
Washed Out is the moniker of 28-year-old Ernest Greene, who recorded his first tracks on a laptop in his parents' Georgia home. Now, he's a wonder of the "chillwave" movement and the man behind some of the year's most alluring electronic sounds. Washed Out's debut album, Within and Without, builds a textured pop soundscape atop pulsing dance beats.
Mexican singer-songwriter Ximena Sariñana first flexed her creative muscles in a role on the telenovela Luz Clarita, until she discovered her passion for music by composing scores for her father, a film director. Now, with two critically acclaimed albums under her belt, Sariñana is a household name in her home country, as well as a burgeoning international star.
"I don't feel like I need to tell any lies," Betty Wright says. "You get to an age where you get tired of hiding behind whatever people think is correct. You just say what you have to say, and if they don't like it, it's OK."
Wright found fame in the 1970s as the voice behind the R&B hits "Clean Up Woman" and "Dance With Me." Today, Wright is much in demand as a vocalist, coach, writer, arranger and producer. Her first album out in 10 years is out this week; it's called Betty Wright: The Movie.