Amy Winehouse: Bad-Ass Soul Singer

The 2nd album from this young British singer will be released in the US on March 13th, but expect to be hearing it a lot on KEXP before then. While her debut album leaned hard on smoky jazz ballads, the jaw-dropping Back to Black is steeped in ‘60s soul and R&B, and flavored with some hip hop and reggae.

Her bad-ass party-girl rep has threatened to overshadow her music, and she feeds the fire on her new album with some remarkable, refreshingly frank songs like “Rehab,” “You Know I’m No Good” and “Addicted.” Still, she’s truly one special singer that deserves all the attention she receives and more, with a brassy tone and confident phrasing that sound years beyond her 23 years of age. And if you’re reading this, Amy, John and I have volunteered to take you clubbing if and when you come to Seattle. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Other noteworthy releases that arrived at KEXP this week include the Harlem Shakes’ excellent, ultra-catchy debut EP of expansive garage-pop Burning Birthdays - Sickos (MP3), the new album from the Barcelona-based group Ojos de Brujo (titled Techari, it seamlessly blends flamenco with other styles ranging from hip hop and rock to salsa and bhangra), and the veteran stoner rockers Fu Manchu, who sound revitalized on their 10th album We Must Obey – crank this one up in the Camaro real loud. Another good one to blast is the debut album from the young Scottish band the View. While we’re getting flooded with retro-sounding bands from across the pond, the View’s brash garage-pop is pretty irresistible.

Rhode Island singer-songwriter Elvis Perkins has had to deal with a lot of tragedy in his life, including losing his father to AIDS and his mother to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and those losses cast a dark shadow over his poignant debut album of melancholy folk-rock Ash Wednesday. Calla is another band whose music is on the dark side, and their latest album Strength in Numbers adds a bit more rock aggression to their brooding sound.

On the local tip, Seattle band Siberian is now releasing their much-anticipated debut EP Hey Celestial! It’s a sparkling 6-song set of melodic indie-rock, combining some gorgeous guitar jangle with Finn Parnell’s emotive crooning.

Out and about in the clubs, I caught Seattle power poppers Shake Some Action! at the Comet last Thursday. They rocked up their sound a bit more than their excellent new debut album, and their harmonies sounded great live. Fronted by former Jeunes frontman James Hall, it shouldn’t be long before these guys start getting a lot of well-deserved attention.

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