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Stories by William Crain

Cracker Van Beethoven Is Important to Indie Rock

There were a number of bands that were important to American indie rock at the turn of the ’90s but broke up just before the alternative-rock boom. People who were too young to see the ...

Los Lobos Is Revered

It’s easy to take Los Lobos for granted. The L.A. band has been around for 36 years with the same lineup (minus two or three years off for side projects). They earned their critical reputation ...

Mt. St. Helen’s Band Raises “The Roof”

Seattle’s Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band introduced itself to the world a couple of years ago with some hilarious, cheesy online videos made to look like one of those TV commercials pitching a compilation of ...

Brother Ali and the Grouch

In the title track from his new album, Us, Brother Ali raps, “Started rhyming just to be somebody/ To make people notice me at the party/ And not be just a new kid that’s albino/ ...

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin on The O.C.

The name “Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin” needs a comma. It should read like “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” In fact, every time I see the band name, I imagine a Peanuts-style drawing ...

Heaven Is Whenever: Hold Steady

This year’s Heaven Is Whenever is the fifth studio album by Brooklyn’s Hold Steady, and if you’ve been paying any attention, you know what to expect. There are big, butt-rockin’ guitar riffs. There are boozy, ...

Mavis Staples and Charlie Musselwhite Go Belly Up

After the Second World War, a couple moved from Mississippi to Chicago, where they put together a family gospel-singing act and began singing in churches. As the ‘50s turned into the ‘60s, they became active ...

Apples in stereo, with a Lowercase s

Robert Schneider is a gifted writer of upbeat, melodic guitar pop. With his long-running band the Apples in Stereo (or, as they prefer it, the Apples in stereo, with a lowercase s), his songs are ...

White Rabbits Make Awesome Racket

A few months ago I went to see the XX, a young band that won just about every award available in the British music industry this year. Everything about that band is minimal and sparse, ...

Frightened Rabbits Swim Until You Can’t See Land

In Frightened Rabbit’s song “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” a man dares himself to enter the icy waters of the North Sea. He compares it to a baptism or a “drowning of the past.” ...

Colin Hay, A Man at Work

Colin Hay doesn’t have what you’d call a household name, he doesn’t look or act like a rock star, and his solo shows don’t sell out big stadiums, but you probably recognize his slightly raspy ...

School of Seven Bells Disconnect from Desire at UCSD

Since their debut release two years ago, School of Seven Bells has racked up a lot of comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins, but there’s nothing special about that: Pretty much anyone ...

Frankie Rose and the Outs at Tin Can Ale House

What do these bands have in common: Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Dum Dum Girls? They all play simple, melodic rock ’n’ roll that’s steeped in ’60s girl-group sounds, flavored with ’80s–’90s indie pop, and ...

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and Neon Indian at Open Air

I used to think Phoenix was no more than a band of trendy French guys who had managed to leverage their connection to the band Air into a friendship with filmmaker Sofia Coppola and a ...

Henry Clay People “Working Part-Time” at Casbah

“We were working part-time all the time/ We were banking on the kindness of strangers and loved ones and those who fall between/ To give us everything, ’cause we need everything.” Those are the opening ...

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists fill your punk-rock prescription at Casbah

It was pretty cool to see Arcade Fire’s new album go to the top of the album charts. But let’s face it: The Suburbs went to number one with sales of fewer than 150,000. Ten ...

De La Soul

Look up the video for “Buddy,” the third single from De La Soul’s 1989 debut album 3 Feet High and Rising, and you’ll see a kind of alternate reality — hip-hop as it might have ...

Crocodiles

When people in the rest of the country or the rest of the world think about California, they think about sunshine and blondes at the beach — still! They still think about that stuff! But ...

Xavier Rudd

I’ll be the first to admit — I never got the Jack Johnson vibe. If I put on a CD by Johnson, within minutes I find myself…vacuuming. But a lot of other people dig his ...

Dan Sartain

Can there be such a thing as 21st-century gothic? The gothic imagination is all about superstitions that linger on after science has seemed to explain them away...but maybe the old superstitions are done lingering. I ...

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

Ariel Pink’s new release, Before Today, is widely seen as his commercial breakthrough. It also contains a droning song called “Menopause Man” in which Pink bellows, “Rape me, castrate me, make me gay!” So, let’s ...

Temper Trap

An echoing, U2-like guitar part chimes along and a high, Jeff Buckley–like voice croons. This is the opening of “Sweet Disposition,” the breakthrough song by Melbourne, Australia’s Temper Trap. It sounds like romance and youth ...

Robyn

A friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook, “Robyn is such good going-out music that leaving the house may prove impossible.” That’s exactly right. Robyn makes dance music for people who don’t really go to ...

Dead Weather

“Let’s go where no one can see us and find the difference between us,” sing Jack White and Alison Mosshart on Sea of Cowards, the second album by Dead Weather, the supergroup featuring White and ...

La Roux

La Roux singer Elly Jackson is the kind of pop star that the British music press loves, the kind who says the problem with pop today is that “The music’s shit. I know no one ...

CocoRosie

Bianca and Sierra Casady can and often do make beautiful music, but they don’t make it easy for anyone to love them. First, there are the publicity photos in which the sisters appear dressed in ...

Mr. Tube & the Flying Objects

Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects have described their music as “lowrider, Latin dub music,” but that doesn’t do justice to how mysterious it is. Trumpet and sax drift in and out of bass-heavy rhythms, ...

Watson Twins

Chandra and Leigh Watson are best known for singing backup on Jenny Lewis’s 2006 solo album Rabbit Fur Coat. Lewis — the singer of Rilo Kiley and an indie-rock pinup — got all the attention, ...

The Sadies

Toronto’s Sadies may be more famous as a backing band than as a band in their own right, but they are a hell of a band — equally at home playing alt-country, ’60s garage psychedelia, ...

Hole

Editor's Note: As of June 2, this concert has been postponed. Most artists have fans; Courtney Love has defenders. I used to be one myself. There are a lot fewer of them than there used ...

Frog Eyes

Some songs sound weird until you listen to them more closely and realize that neither the words nor the music is all that interesting. Some songs sound sort of unremarkable until you find that the ...

Nada Surf

Every time I read an article about the decline of the record industry, I’m struck by one fact: The peak year for album sales in the history of the recording industry was 1999. It’s not ...

Jonathan Richman

Let’s say you’re in your early 20s and you have a band with a really cool sound — way ahead of your time. And let’s say you record a masterpiece album, but your record company ...

Fang Island

In their press material, Fang Island’s music is described as sounding like “everyone high-fiving everyone.” If there is an awards show for blurb-writing in music publicity, this little nugget should take home the statue. I ...

Avett Brothers

North Carolina brothers Scott and Seth Avett have been playing folk-inspired music as the Avett Brothers since 2000 and rock ’n’ roll in other bands before that. Through constant touring and a series of albums ...

Rogue Wave

“The future isn’t what it used to be,” sings Zach Rogue in “Good Morning (The Future)” from Rogue Wave’s new album, Permalight. His voice sounds high and sweet and so much like Ben Gibbard’s that ...

Dum Dum Girls

The Dum Dum Girls look cool, like a 1960s Catholic-school girl gang hiding switchblades behind their Danelectro guitars. But let’s talk about how they sound. From their earliest home-recorded singles in 2008, the Dum Dum ...

Cheap Trick

On a recent episode of the radio show Sound Opinions, rock critics Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis talked about the brilliance and occasional cheesiness of Cheap Trick. To illustrate the former, they mentioned phenomenal classics ...

Wedding Present

There was a time in the ’80s when British indie bands had a predictable pattern: First become press darlings in the U.K., slowly conquer the hearts of suburban American teenagers, and then hit the big ...

Surfer Blood

If you’ve read anything about Florida’s Surfer Blood — and in its short life so far, the band has amassed a lot of press — you’ve read that they sound a little like indie-rock giants ...

Pierced Arrows

Whatever happened to the musicians in all those obscure ’60s garage rock bands documented on Nuggets? Some of them went on to bigger and better bands, but most didn’t. Some of them got drafted and ...

So Cow

Brian Kelly is an Irishman who was living in South Korea when he decided to put together a musical project inspired by the scrappy-sounding likes of the Lucksmiths from Australia, the Clean from New Zealand, ...

Clientele

In a way, it’s hard to imagine a more English band than the Clientele. Maybe that’s because singer-guitarist Alasdair MacLean sings in a hushed, breathy voice that sounds as if he’s trying to win the ...

Appleseed Cast

Usually, when a band plays one of their classic albums in its entirety, it’s to mark a tenth anniversary or something like that. And usually the question raised is, have they run out of new ...

Dessa

You’d be forgiven for not thinking of Minneapolis as a hotspot for hip-hop; the city is better known for its long, cold winters than its urban atmosphere. But 25 years after Purple Rain, the Twin ...

Suzanne Vega

The other day I heard the new song “Wide-Eyed, Legless” by singer-songwriter Laura Veirs, and it made me think of Suzanne Vega’s 1986 single “Left of Center.” In the verses of both songs, a female ...

Vivian Girls

A few months ago I came across a wonderful new band with a familiar sound. There were jangly and distorted guitars, raggedy drums, aloof female vocals, and singsong melodies and everything cloaked in a haze ...

Anvil

If there’s one story we love, it’s the story of a young person who pursues his dream in the face of obstacles — with his money running out, with his family begging him to get ...

Black Lips

Black Lips came out of Atlanta in the early part of the 21st Century as one of the more promising garage-rock-psychedelic-revivalist bands in years. (The band prefers the term “flower-punk.”) If you were one of ...

White Denim

The first time you hear White Denim’s “I Start to Run,” it sounds so great you can’t believe it. There’s powerful drumming, a driving bass line, cool stabs of guitar playing, and full-bodied shouting. In ...