Encore: Jim James and The Black Angels

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits explores new sonic directions in a double bill with Jim James and Austin’s own Black Angels. My Morning Jacket leader Jim James plays songs from his acclaimed debut solo album Regions of Light and Sound of God while Texas psych-rockers The Black Angels highlight songs from their latest release Indigo Meadow.

The versatile Jim James commands a spellbinding set in his first-ever solo outing on ACL, marking his sixth appearance on the program—having performed twice with his main outfit My Morning Jacket, in addition to appearances with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk. Declaring his solo project a “new adventure,” James invites the Austin audience to come on the journey with him, and they are more than happy to oblige. He reaches into new territory in an intimate and hypnotic performance that combines hints of old school R&B, flickers of hip hop, operatic pop and delicate instrumentation. James and his four-piece band open with the 70s soul of “State of the Art” and “Know Til Now” and segue into the spiritual love song “A New Life” and the atmospheric “Actress.” It’s a captivating and completely danceable set, with James himself getting in the groove while holding a bronze panda up and adding his own sliding dance steps.

“Jim James has found many ways to pursue his musical muse, and it’s amazing that this is his very first solo album,” notes ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “What better way to bring it to his legions of fans than ACL?”

photo by Scott Newton

Carrying on the long Texas tradition of psychedelia, Austin’s Black Angels round out the episode, making their long-awaited ACL debut with their unique brand of psychedelic music for the 21st century. It’s a fitting showcase for ACL, as the psych rock movement has its roots in the Lone Star State thanks to 60s acid-rock heroes the 13th Floor Elevators, who were the first band to apply the term psychedelic to rock & roll. Named in tribute to the Velvet Underground number “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” The Black Angels found themselves the spearhead of a new psychedelic revival soon after their formation in 2004. The band’s carefully crafted blend of melody and noise won over fans of both modern indie rock and old school acid rock, and established it as a major force in underground rock & roll, even starting its own festival in 2008, Austin Psych Fest (now known as Levitation). Opening with the heavy duty headbanger “Evil Things,” the Angels create a dark, brooding mood with their trademark vocal reverb and fuzzy, distorted guitars on a stage complete with fun-house optic, psychedelic images swirling on projection screens. The Black Angels take the Austin crowd into the psychedelic heart of darkness and back out into the light, proving why they have become one of the foremost acts in the psych and garage rock revival.

“Whether you remember 60’s acid-rock first-hand or this is your first ‘psych’ experience, The Black Angels have taken a classic rock form and turned it into their own,” Lickona says. “It’s got an other-worldly vibe but at the same time it’s totally accessible.”

Check out the episode page here and tune in this Saturday to see the show for yourself. Click over to our Facebook and Twitter pages or our newsletter for the latest ACL skinny. Next week: Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear.

 

Encore: Emeli Sandé and Michael Kiwanuka

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits showcases British soul with a brand new episode featuring two uniquely original singer-songwriters—chart-topping Scottish songstress Emeli Sandé and UK sensation Michael Kiwanuka making their ACL debuts. Sandé performs hits from her breakthrough album Our Version of Events, while Kiwanuka plays tunes from his debut Home Again. Check with your local station for showtimes.

Sandé has achieved breakout success in her native UK and stateside with the striking debut, Our Version of Events, which was the biggest-selling album in 2012 in the UK and toppled The Beatles’ long-standing album chart record for the most consecutive weeks spent in the top 10 (an astounding 66 weeks). Sandé emerged as the big winner at the 2013 Brit Awards, winning a pair of awards, including the coveted Album of the Year prize. The Los Angeles Times raves, “Emeli’s folk-inflected soul/pop is Nina Simone and Bob Dylan all in one.” The New York Times calls her “a redemptive singer,” saying “Ms. Sandé has a perspective-altering voice, clear and brassy and weapons-grade.” Originally starting her music career as a songwriter, Sandé had many stellar credits for other artists (Alicia Keys, Rihanna) to her name when she traded it in for the spotlight. A dynamic performer, Sandé opens her soulful ACL debut with the upbeat anthem “Heaven,” a huge UK hit. She engages the Austin crowd as her backing choir on her current single “My Kind of Love”, and closes out a stunning set with the massive hit “Next to Me”.

“Emeli Sandé should be one of the brightest stars in the musical firmament, but despite her UK success, she’s one of the best-kept secrets here in the U.S.,” says executive producer Terry Lickona. “Hopefully her ACL performance will change all that. The best word to describe her many talents is ‘astounding!’”

photo by Scott Newton

London native Michael Kiwanuka has been making waves with his debut album, the lush, acoustic-driven Home Again, which reached No. 4 on the British charts, spawned four singles, and went Top 10 around the world, earning the 24-year-old singer, songwriter and musician opening spots for superstar artists including Adele and Mumford & Sons, and a slot at the 2012 ACL Festival. Kiwanuka was announced the winner of the prestigious BBC Sound of 2012 poll, which has also been won by Jessie J, Florence + the Machine, and Ellie Goulding. Kiwanuka connects with the Austin audience with his blues-folk sound and timeless, soulful voice, which has led to comparisons to such artists as Bill Withers, Terry Callier, and John Martyn.

“Sometimes Michael’s singing comes across as very old-school, retro soul,” said Terry Lickona. “But he has a very contemporary sensibility. With Michael, it’s all about the voice, and that’s timeless!”

Check out the episode page for more details on this great show. Be sure to hit up our Facebook and Twitter pages and our newsletter for more ACL-related information. Next week: an ACL classic with Tom Waits.

Encore: Portugal. The Man and Michael Kiwanuka

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents Portugal. The Man and Local Natives in their ACL debuts.  

Portugal. The Man‘s roots are in Wasilla, Alaska, but their music knows no bounds. The shape-shifting psych-rock band’s latest release Evil Friends was produced by five-time Grammy Award winner Danger Mouse (The Black Keys, Gnarls Barkley) and P.TM draw heavily from the record in a stellar ACL debut. Opening with “Evil Friends”, the band weave the title track into the widescreen coda of “So American.” The band’s chemistry and spontaneity has generated a huge following for their live shows, and is evident in their ACL set, with frontman John Gourley stopping mid-song during “Senselesss” to admit “I got really nervous,” before effortlessly picking up where he left off. The band’s guitar-centric performance of their chart-topping single “Modern Jesus” incorporates a subtle Beatles feel, updating classic 60s psych pop for a new generation. P. TM begin their set closing hit “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” with the first verse and chorus of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” a mashup that works wonderfully due to the similarity between the rhythm guitar parts and illustrates P. TM’s entrancing sound and style that’s all their own.

“You could almost call this an accidental booking,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “I knew their music, but when I caught their live set at the ACL Festival, I was so impressed that I booked them immediately. Three weeks later they were on our stage taping a show! They are that good—see for yourself!”

photo by Scott Newton

Sharing the bill is something new and original from Los Angeles—Local Natives. The Silverlake-based band formed in 2008 and immediately garnered attention for their dramatic and eclectic brand of indie-rock. Local Natives have been steadily building a loyal, passionate audience ever since and have toured with Arcade Fire and The National. The National’s Aaron Dessner produced their recent sophomore release Hummingbird. A highlight of their ACL set is the profoundly emotional performance of “Colombia” with lyrics written to bandmember Kelcey Ayer’s deceased mother, which Pitchfork hailed “one of the best songs the band’s ever written.” In their ACL debut, the band trade vocal duties and foster a highly collaborative sound, proving why they’re one of the most dynamic bands in contemporary indie rock.

“There are few bands that can take wild drumming, soaring harmonies and dreamy melodies and make musical sense out of it all,” says Terry Lickona. “Local Natives can do all that and more. This is serious music for serious music fans.”

Check out the episode page for more details. Be sure and visit our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL goodies. Next week: Emeli Sandé and Michael Kiwanuka.

Encore: Jason Isbell and Neko Case

photo by Scott Newton

This weekend ACL features two powerful singer-songwriters: Jason Isbell and Neko Case, each possessing a distinctive style and voice.

Hailed as “one of America’s thoroughbred songwriters” by The New York Times, Jason Isbell opens the episode, making his ACL debut. The Nashville-via-Mussel Shoals, Alabama singer/songwriter’s 2013 album Southeastern scored a Top 25 on the Billboard 200, and critical raves, including topping many critic’s year-end best lists. The New York Times Magazine declared, “the record is a breakthrough for Isbell—prickly with loss, forgiveness, newfound sobriety and second chances.” Rolling Stone calls it “one of the year’s best in any genre,” and Pitchfork raves “Southeastern is easily Isbell’s best solo album.” A former member of acclaimed Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers, Isbell launched a solo career in 2007. Backed by his band the 400 Unit, including his wife, fiddler Amanda Shires, and with a rawness and honesty that’s rare in contemporary songwriting, Isbell gives a stunning must-see performance on the ACL stage.

You can see Isbell’s performance in its unedited entirety on the DVD Jason Isbell: Live at Austin City Limits. You can purchase a copy here.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” said executive producer Terry Lickona, “but when Jason sang ‘Elephant,’ it literally gave me chills. That’s the kind of writer he is, and that’s the kind of performer he is.”

photo by Scott Newton

Neko Case makes a thunderous return to ACL (she first appeared in 2003) performing songs from her acclaimed 2013 release The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, her sixth studio album.  Case emerges from a three-year period the artist describes as full of “grief and mourning,” in the wake of the deaths of not just both her parents, but several intimates as well. With her fearless songwriting and musical curiosity, Neko Case captures fans with “one of the most memorable and seductive voices in music” (NPR).  Pitchfork says The Worse Things Get… “is the most potent album of her career,” and Rolling Stone raves that Case is “one of America’s best and most ambitious songwriters.” Case performs a captivating set of songs from the new record, and a few gems from her recent releases.

“There’s something about that voice, but it’s also about the delivery – which makes this performance that much more special,” said Lickona. “Her television performances are few and far between, so this is one that’s not to be missed!”

Check out the episode page for more details. Don’t forget, you can click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL goodies. Next week: Portugal. The Man and Local Natives.

Encore: Vampire Weekend/Grizzly Bear

photo by Scott Newton

This weekend, Austin City Limits shines the spotlight on two of indie rock’s most innovative bands, with the ACL debuts of Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear.  

Vampire Weekend kicks off an exuberant performance with “Diane Young” from their latest album, Modern Vampires of the City.  The band formed in 2006 at NY’s Columbia University and “quickly became one of the most important New York bands of this millennium” (NY Times). Vampire Weekend’s dynamic, high-energy performance offers a window into their unique sound. The group perform tracks from their three albums, including the massive hit “Cousins,” from their 2010 sophomore release Contra, which earned the band a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Album.  Displaying their impressive musicianship by playing the tricky polyrhythms and intricate melodies that are a hallmark of their sound, the four-piece band keeps their well-crafted choruses and melodies flowing throughout for a memorable debut.

“Vampire Weekend are festival favorites for good reason – everybody loves their music!” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “They have an easy-going approach that almost makes it feel like they’re playing in somebody’s backyard instead of to thousands (or in this case, on national TV). Their songs are intoxicating.”

With their sweeping, psychedelic indie rock in full effect, Grizzly Bear turns in a stellar set as well. Grizzly Bear has been steadily ascending throughout their decade-long career, garnering raves for their special blend of visceral, majestic indie rock. Pitchfork says, “the Brooklyn four-piece make pop music for the ambient, asking us to notice the importance in detail, the beauty of texture, and the foregrounds that exist all across our spectrum of perception.” The band takes the ACL stage performing songs primarily from their acclaimed recent album Shields, which Rolling Stone named one of the year’s best. Grizzly Bear features two singers, Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, who are also the main songwriters, and the band’s emphasis on collaboration is front and center as they trade off vocals, delivering gorgeous, elaborate, haunting compositions.  

photo by Scott Newton

“There’s almost something spiritual, or at least ethereal, about Grizzly Bear’s music,” says ACL’s Lickona. “Their sweet harmonies can be hypnotic, and overall there’s this low-key kind of excitement about them that just leaves you wanting more!”

Check out the episode page here and tune in this Saturday to see the show for yourself. Click over to our Facebook and Twitter pages or our newsletter for the latest ACL skinny. Next week: the 2015 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame special.

Encore: Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids

photo by Scott Newton

Join us this weekend as we present Americana music originals Sarah Jarosz and The Milk Carton Kids in a brand new episode. Both artists showcase their bona fides in an all acoustic hour with roots/folk singer-songwriter Jarosz making a return appearance on the ACL stage and newcomers The Milk Carton Kids in their ACL debut. The episode showcases the young folk acts who were both nominated for Best Folk Album at this year’s Grammy Awards.

Pushing the limits of Americana with her own distinctive style, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz takes the ACL stage for her second appearance performing highlights from her recent album Build Me Up From Bones. The incredibly talented Jarosz has already released three albums at the age of 22. With her two-piece band featuring a fiddle player and cello, Jarosz begins a stellar set with the Grammy-nominated title track in an acoustic performance that showcases her musicianship and songwriting. Switching between mandolin and banjo, Jarosz also dips into the songbooks of others, treating the audience to an accessible take on Joanna Newsom’s “The Book of Right On” and a solo rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Kathy’s Song”. She invites The Milk Carton Kids out to join her and the band for “Annabelle Lee” (based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem), displaying their complementary visions of contemporary folk music.

“We are so proud of Sarah, we feel like she’s part of the family,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “The last time she graced our stage she was on her way to college, now she’s graduated with honors and her remarkable talent has grown exponentially. We couldn’t resist having her back!”

photo by Scott Newton

The Milk Carton Kids, the L.A. acoustic folk duo consisting of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, make their ACL debut playing songs from their critically-acclaimed new album The Ash & Clay. The besuited pair “play a sweetly dazzling variation on close-harmony vocals, part Simon and Garfunkel and part Everly Brothers” (LA Times) for a sound NPR calls “gorgeous contemporary folk.” With flat-picking harmonies and a touch of twisted humor, the duo play purely acoustically on the ACL stage—no guitar amplification and one vocal mic—to beautiful effect. In a skillful performance infused with their signature wit, the Kids charm the Austin crowd with their playful, deadpan banter, exquisite guitar work, rich harmonies and timeless folk.

“I first saw Kenneth and Joey perform on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium last September, and it was obvious that they are world-class entertainers beyond their years,” says Lickona. “They are traditionalists with a modern spin and a mischievous sense of humor.”

photo by Scott Newton

Check out the episode page for more details. Be sure and visit our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL goodness. Next week: Kacey Musgraves and Dale Watson.

Encore: The Lumineers and Shovels & Rope

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits celebrates the best in Americana music today, with The Lumineers and Shovels & Rope making their ACL debuts. Denver’s Lumineers perform their breakthrough hits including “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love,” while Charleston, South Carolina’s Shovels & Rope perform songs from their acclaimed debut O’ Be Joyful.

The broadcast offers a deeper look at two acts that have been receiving well-deserved attention for their recent releases.  Leading off the hour is The Lumineers, a folk-rock trio that play traditional but original heart-on-the-sleeve music.  Of the band The Austin Chronicle writes, “There’s nothing precious or affected here, just three dedicated artists opening their hearts.”  The group’s breakthrough hit “Ho Hey” was one of the most-played songs of 2012, earning them a performing slot on 2013’s Grammy Awards telecast, in addition to two Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Americana Album.  The Lumineers’ uplifting ACL debut is filled with heart-swelling stomp-and-clap acoustic rock, classic pop and front-porch folk.  Their set includes an inspired take on a Dylan classic, while the tambourine driven beat of “Ho Hey” brings the crowd to its feet and the performance closes with a crowd sing-along on “Stubborn Love.”

“There’s more to The Lumineers than just the song that seemed to have the whole world singing along to this year,” notes executive producer Terry Lickona. “There aren’t many bands that can engage an audience the way they do, and watching their ACL performance is the next best thing to being there.

photo by Scott Newton

The second half of the episode introduces Shovels & Rope, the husband and wife roots duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst.  The dynamic pair channel country, bluegrass and blues to create folk music with raw energy.  The NY Times raves, “While they are country, there is an edgy, punk, raucous side to go with their beautiful harmonies.”  NPR agrees, “Seeing Hearst and Trent perform live together—as they conjure images of country-singing couples like Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash—renders them almost impossible to resist.”  The first-time nominees were big winners at this year’s recent Americana Music Awards, taking home top honors for Emerging Artist of the Year and Song of the Year.  The couple’s creative chemistry is on display in their ACL debut, an irresistible performance that’s a potent mix of Southern gothic and country rock and deftly showcases their soulful harmonies.

“It doesn’t get more basic than Shovels & Rope,” says Lickona, “but they rock out more than a stage full of musicians, and there’s something refreshingly authentic about their live performance that just makes you feel good.”

Encore: Juanes and Jesse & Joy

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents an encore with two of the biggest acts in Latin music today, Juanes and Jesse & Joy. Colombian superstar Juanes headlines with a thrilling, high energy set, while Mexico City’s sibling duo Jesse & Joy sing a selection of their breakthrough hits.

With six solo albums to his credit and multi-platinum sales of over 16 million, Juanes is the world’s leading all-Spanish language rock artist. An electrifying guitarist and gifted songwriter, Juanes made his ACL debut back in 2005, and has since gone on to win multiple Grammy Awards and a record number of Latin Grammys. The Associated Press calls Juanes “the first truly international rock star to emerge from Latin America.” Juanes returns to the ACL stage in a dynamic performance, kicking things off with “Fijate Bien,” the Latin Grammy-winning title track to his debut album.  He pays tribute to one of his inspirations—Bob Marley—with a Latin spin on the reggae classic “Could You Be Loved?”.  By the time he launches into his huge hits, Juanes proves he doesn’t need to sing in English any more than he needs a surname to thoroughly rock the Austin audience.

Jesse & Joy have become one of the most celebrated pop-rock acts to emerge in the Latin music scene since they formed in Mexico City in 2005. The musical siblings boast five Latin Grammy Awards, including four for their triple platinum 2012 album ¿Con Quién Se Queda El Perro? (“Who Gets the Dog?”) and their first Grammy Nomination this year for Best Latin Pop Album.  The Los Angeles Times raves, “Their rootsy, soft-rock sincerity evokes ’80s country-pop, and Joy’s dulcet-but-earthy voice has been compared to those of Norah Jones, Alanis Morissette and, almost inevitably, Kelly Clarkson.” With Jesse Huerta on guitar, piano, drums, and background vocals and Joy Huerta on vocals and guitar, these siblings in sound deliver a breakout performance. A highlight is the duo’s emotional performance of their smash hit “Corre”— with the audience singing along to every word, waving their hands in the air, it’s a moment that reflects the truly universal language of music.

photo by Scott Newton

“Juanes is the first Latin artist since Ricky Martin to break out and transcend musical and cultural barriers,” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “Audiences connect with him on many levels, and his charisma on stage is magnetic! As brother and sister, Jesse & Joy’s music is very genuine and emotional, and it’s just fun to watch them interact with each other and their fans.”

Check out the episode page here for setlists and more. Keep up with ACL happenings via our Facebook and Twitter pages or our newsletter. Next week: The Shins and Dr. Dog.