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It's tempting to mythologize Buffy Sainte-Marie — to call her a folk-music mother of dragons, or at least a shaman calling up lost spirits in her music. It's easy, after all, to exoticize individualistic women, especially women of color; doing so can even feel like offering a compliment. But on Power In The Blood, her first studio album since 2008, the 74-year-old firebrand defies categorization, as she has throughout a half-century of recording.
After the middling reception that greeted 2013's Pythons, the Florida band Surfer Blood parted ways with its major label and returned to its DIY roots, hunkering down in attics and parents' houses to make its third album, 1000 Palms. If you can take the band out of the professional studio, however, it's harder to take the professionalism out of the band — and Surfer Blood circa 2015 only distantly recalls the sneakily clever slacker-rock of its beginnings.
The story goes that members of Joanna Gruesome first met in 2010 at an anger-management group, and bonded over a mutual love of hardcore and writing songs as musical therapy. Whether fact or a myth that's grown in the telling, it's an origin perfectly matched to the Cardiff band's biting, bittersweet songs. Punk is about ratcheting up tension, whether through cranked-up amps and explosive drumming or howling above the fray.
For all their intricacy and precision, Patrick Watson's shimmery ballads never lack emotion or intimacy: The Montreal singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and prolific film-score composer puts every tiny sound in its right place, but his perfectionism is deployed for the sake of grace that feels almost otherworldly.
Wrapping your head around Tyondai Braxton's HIVE1 is like trying to catch a fly with your hands: It feels as if you could just reach out and grab it, but every time you lunge, it darts away. Braxton's busy electronic sounds are engaging, but his arrangements are consistently unpredictable. He traces quick patterns only to veer sideways, bent on coloring outside the lines he's drawn.
Is there a modern-day equivalent to Duke Ellington? Or Ornette Coleman?
Who are the people today who think differently about jazz — who have created new forms, and expanded the musical vocabulary?
For 30 years, saxophonist Steve Coleman has been pushing the music forward, traveling the world to collect new sounds, rhythms and ideas. Along the way he's mentored many of the most exciting younger artists in jazz — musicians like Ambrose Akinmusire, Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer.
Benjamin Clementine's haunting voice and songwriting made him a star on Spotify after a single television appearance on BBC Two. These days, he's headlining sold-out shows in Europe. He recently signed with Capitol Records, and his first American EP, I Dream, I Smile, I Walk, I Cry, is out now.
Clementine's recent fame comes after years of busking on the streets of Paris and, before that, a challenging upbringing he still has trouble discussing. Now, the 26-year-old prefers to focus on what makes him fortunate.