On paper, Sean Rowe's music should be the stuff of ineffectual self-parody: He is, after all, a bearded guy who sings acoustic folk-rock songs, complete with themes revolving around humanity's relationship to nature. But this is big, bold, muscular stuff — a closer relative of Man vs. Wild than the nearest coffeehouse. When Colin Meloy's beard is cornered in a dark alley, it summons the assistance of Sean Rowe's beard.
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.
Audio Only: King Creosote and John Hopkins' Tiny Desk Concert
At the risk of serving up a spoiler three months in advance, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins' Diamond Mine is going to turn up near the top of many Best Albums of 2011 lists on this website. The breathless love isn't unanimous across the NPR Music staff, but it's widespread and intense, and rightfully so.
Audio Only: James Vincent McMorrow's Tiny Desk Concert
Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow has one of the most arresting voices of any young singer you're likely to hear this year: He's got the heartbreaking falsetto of a Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and the raspy soul of a Ray LaMontagne, in a way that sounds both fragile and grand.
About a month ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Guatemalan musician Gaby Moreno at a venue in New York. It was a noisy place, and the artists who preceded Moreno were drowned out in the thick noise of bar patrons talking and laughing. And then Moreno took the stage, grabbed the mic, and chastised the audience for being disrespectful. Naturally, no one paid attention.