A lot has happened for Villagers' Conor O'Brien since he released his debut record in May last year. Becoming a Jackal landed on several "Best of" lists for 2010, was nominated for the Mercury Prize and topped the charts in his home country of Ireland. Not bad, considering that O'Brien played virtually everything on the record and did the album artwork by himself. The guy's got talent, and people are noticing.
Fountains of Wayne has been churning out catchy power pop since the mid-'90s. After the singles "Radiation Vibe" and "Sink to the Bottom" put Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood on the national map, the band was catapulted into the mainstream spotlight with its 2003 hit, "Stacy's Mom," which earned them Best New Artist and Best Vocal Performance Grammy nominations.
There was a scene at this year's Sasquatch music festival that truly caught me off guard. I went to see Foster the People — I'd heard a few of the band's songs, and we'd posted "Pumped Up Kicks" on the All Songs Considered blog last summer — but I'd missed how many people had fallen in love with the group. The greeting Foster the People received felt like a homecoming.
Tim Robbins, the actor, screenwriter, director and activist, now adds "musician" to his already-impressive roster of successes. He has just released a self-titled record from his band, Tim Robbins and the Rogues Gallery Band, which was produced by Hal Wilner, former producer of Saturday Night Live.