HomeInterviewsReviewsLinksAbout UsContact




Top Artist Of The Year
Kendra's Picks
It’s been a big year for Dick Prall… new CD, new label, new band line-up.  Add to that being featured on a Paste music sampler plus being heard in Starbucks shops across the country.  It seems as if Prall is on the brink of something big.  And we couldn’t be happier for him.  He’s one of the nicest, most down to earth musicians we have met.  And he’s got a great voice, thoughtful lyrics, and catchy hooks to go along with it, all on display on “Weightless.”  Plus, we always wanted to have a “Glamour Fashion Do” grace our list and Prall seems to fit the bill.

2. Matt Nathanson  
There’s no use denying that Matt Nathanson rocks my world.  Oh, that voice, those lyrics, the self-deprecating humor...it gets me every time.  This year, Nathanson put out one of my favorite CDs with some of the best songwriting around. And, if truth be told, his lyrics could have filled more than just one slot on the list.  But, as it is with most of the musicians we love, it’s not enough to be good at the craft - the personality has to be there as well.  And in case you didn’t know, Nathanson is full of that.  And he puts on one of the best live shows around…and if he’d ever play someplace in Chicago other than the House of Blues, maybe I’d get to see it again.
3. Cary Brothers
Oh, Mr. Brothers, finally a full-length CD!  It seems as if I’ve been waiting years for a “real” release, probably because I have been!  But finally in 2007, you came through with a stellar CD full of songs I love, both old and new.  And what’s even better?  A headlining tour!  And a headlining tour that includes rocking renditions of 'Supposed To Be' makes me smile from ear to ear. Yes, it was almost like Christmas in the summer.   
4. Garrison Starr  
I’ve been spreading the word on Garrison Starr since I first discovered her and will continue to do so.  Once again she gave my year a boost with a heartfelt CD that is both emotional and rocking at the same time, which is not an easy combination to pull off.  Her voice continues to blow me away, both recorded and live.  And, as with the other people on the list, she’s just an all-around good person.  She meets and greets fans after shows, poses for pictures, and personally responds to e-mails.  What more can you ask for?
5. Dan Wilson

Remember the band Semisonic?  They had that 'Closing Time' song which became the anthem for bar goers across the country… for that matter, maybe across the world.  Well, the band is long gone, but the voice lives on in Dan Wilson.  For years Wilson has lent his writing talents to musicians, including co-writing the Grammy winning Dixie Chick’s song 'Not Ready To Make Nice.'  But it’s with the release of Free Life that puts Wilson the Top 7 list.  Fans have been waiting for an official CD, which seems to have been in the making for years.  Now we finally have it and it was well worth the wait.  Filled with stories of love and beautiful melodies, the compilation shines.  If this is what we have to look forward to from Wilson’s solo career, count me in

6. Josh Ritter
I can remember the first time I heard Josh Ritter back in 2003 when Hello Starling was first released.  I was immediately struck by with his vocal performance, but also the overall positiveness of his songs.   Since then, he has continued to impress me over and over again.  This year it was The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter.  I knew it was an amazing offering at first listen.  But when a friend of mine, who tends to shy away from positive songs said, “Hey, I heard a Ritter song and really liked it!” that I knew it was something special.  To crack her armor is not an easy thing to do.  Congratulations, Mr. Ritter!
7. Ingrid Michaelson

It’s amazing what having a song on TV can do to a musician’s career!  It seems as if Michaelson came out of nowhere this year to become the newest buzz on the scene.  Of course, she’s been playing for years and the thought of “overnight success” is far from true.  Yet, once 'Breakable' appeared in the season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” last spring, all of that hard work finally paid off.  Opening slots on big name tours, sold-out headlining shows, an appearance on Conan O’Brien, and a Gap commercial this winter featuring 'The Way I Am'… I think we all could use a year full of that level of success.

Kathy's Picks
1. Matt Nathanson
Matt Nathanson is kinda like Morgan Freeman – so consistently brilliant he doesn’t always get the praise he richly deserves. I aim to right this wrong. This year, Nathanson released his 6th studio album (the first one after leaving a major label). Honoring musical traditions, Some Mad Hope is a proper album meant to be listened to from start to finish. Crafting songs dripping with honesty, hurt, sensuality and maturity - Nathanson has found his true voice. Don’t forget that he is, hands down, one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen. He has stayed very busy touring the country (both with a full band and solo acoustic) to satisfy his extremely loyal following. Setting the bar very high for himself, I’m eager to hear where he goes next.
2. Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová
These two musicians/novice actors starred in my favorite movie of last year that turned out one of the best albums of the year as well (funny that).  Their harmonies were simply meant to be (even if the characters weren’t).  The vulnerability they expressed in lyrics and harmonies felt completely natural and oh so alluring.  Not sure about the rest of the country, but their recent stops in Chicago touring as "The Swell Season" sold out in minutes. I can’t say enough good things about these two artists and hope that they continue to weave their spell.  I predict they will cap off their year with an Academy Award for Best Song ('Falling Slowly').
3. Dick Prall
His voice feels like a hug, even if he is singing about serial killers. Not a simple feat, but one that Prall manages with ease. This year, he released one of the best albums of the year, signed to a label (Authentic Records), and assembled a kick ass collection of players that thrill the crowds at his live shows. All this hard work and dedication might finally be paying off – glowing album reviews, a spot on Paste Magazine’s December 2007 sampler, and a SxSW showcase that resulted in Prall being identified as fashion “Do” by Glamour Magazine (but we already knew that)!  I’ll miss the days when he was our little secret…
4. Andrew Bird
I knew Bird was super talented, but didn’t really get it until Armchair Apocrypha. Now, I consider myself a convert and don’t think I’ll ever slip back to the darker days. For someone whom craves intellectual lyrics, it’s difficult to find someone better at it than Bird. He’s crazy good at illustrating his point – both musically and lyrically.  You might have seen/heard him at the Bumbershoot Festival, at the Austin City Limits Festival, on NPR or even on David Letterman. If you haven’t heard of him yet, simply ask that music loving friend of yours. You’ll see that person’s face light up when he/she fills you in on all thing’s Bird. I’m just happy that I finally got wise.
5. Cary Brothers  
Brothers is the kind of artist who believes in himself and his songs; who makes music because it’s simply what he was meant to do (not just because he looks good in a music video). On Who You Are, his songs are cinematic in scope, but intimate in feeling. The melodies take their time to build instead of relying heavily on a clever, opening hook. Hearing them live is a powerful experience…one not to be missed.  Luckily, Brothers is headlining more consistently around the country/world these days (it’s about time). Beyond his musical talent, Brothers has managed to avoid the Sirens’ call of the major labels to chart his own professional path, which I hope other musicians find inspiration from.
6. Craig Cardiff
My #1 new find of this year, this guy was hand-made for a music lover like me.  He’s a quiet, unassuming Canadian who writes beautifully intimate songs and sings them with a voice that goes straight to the soul.  He’s been doing this music thing for a while, but just recently began touring parts of the US.  Employing an “If you write it, they will come” attitude, Cardiff has enjoyed a lot of success in the folk tradition of playing to smaller audiences whom really appreciate his music. Let’s hope that as the audience grows, he is still willing/able to connect with his fans in the same unique way he has done so far.
7. "The" British Pop Bands  


This year, I rediscovered the joy of “pop” music with the help of some great new British bands – The Kooks, The Feeling, and The Fratellis.  These bands have all embraced pop convention with songs that brim with hooky melody, rhythm and harmony in traditional verse-chorus-verse arrangement. They go big on chorus and emotion, but balance the sweet with a healthy amount of irreverence in their lyrics setting them apart from the pop bands here in the states (who sing an unnerving number of songs written by Max Martin).  Not having seen any of these bands in concert, I can’t tell you if they deliver on that account – but I sure hope to do so in 2008.