Tori Amos

As befits the daughter of a preacherman, Tori Amos is blessed with a heady voice of intense, wine-like richness. Drunk with feeling and aurally intimate, it is nearly operatic in its ornate agility and inextricable link to her resonant, purposefully asymmetrical piano playing. The entire Little Earthquakes album — led by “Silent All These Years,”…

Amy Rigby

Following the breakup of the Shams, and a subsequent break-up from former dB’s drummer Will Rigby, Amy Rigby became a solo artist. Her debut, the masterfully titled Diary of a Mod Housewife, garnered significant press and a host of awards on the basis of its subject matter: the autobiographical travails of a working single mom…

Judybats

During an immensely productive five-year span, Knoxville, Tennessee’s JudyBats (or Judy Bats, or Judybats; the band was inconsistent) distinguished itself as one of the most consistently tuneful and articulate alt-pop outfits to emerge from the South since R.E.M. and Let’s Active awakened interest in the region’s homegrown music. Despite a major-label deal and strong fanbases…

Kirsty MacColl

The essence of the late Kirsty MacColl’s career, which flashes brilliantly on the Galore retrospective, is difficult to glean from simply going through her albums. One of the most alluring and technically proficient harmony pop singers England ever produced, Kirsty MacColl (daughter of the late folksinger Ewan MacColl) started out professionally in 1979 with “They…

Sarah Dougher

Given her impeccable Pacific Northwest riot-grrl credentials and her academic standing as a lecturer and scholar on lesbian/queer issues, Sarah Dougher might be expected to brandish an aggressive political agenda, manifested in equally aggressive music. Instead, the former member of the Lookers, Crabs and Cadallaca makes solo albums that are quiet revelations of love, loss…

Stars

For 20 years now, the Montreal-based band Stars has doggedly pursued a grand, expansive vision of emotionally resonant pop. While pulling from the melodrama and sophistication of the new romantic era, with a healthy dose of irony and dance beats, Stars adds a deeply humane sensibility — this band is not afraid to get in…

Crowded House

Crowded House, the group New Zealand songwriter/singer/guitarist Neil Finn formed (with bassist Nick Seymour, who happens to be the brother of Hunters and Collectors leader Mark Seymour) after Split Enz, followed the trend toward simplification of that band’s later albums. Despite occasional keyboards (on disc by Finn and producer Mitchell Froom and onstage by ex-Enzman…

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow is not all that. She’s a vague, dull live performer, the recipient of far more adult-rock acclaim and success than her music deserves and, worst of all, not much of a singer. The actual content of her debut is among the least of the Missouri native’s cultural offenses. The result of a weekly…

Mirah

Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn is blessed with a pure, sweet voice, a talent for inventive songwriting, lyrics of subtle humor and intimacy plus one of the most charming names in rock. A daughter of organic farmers and a graduate of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington — the premiere finishing school for young feminist indie-rockers…

Low

It’s been said that writing isn’t so much what you put in as what you leave out: from the minimal, translucent sounds that wafted out of this Duluth, Minnesota, trio in the mid-’90s, it was clear that Low felt the same holds true for music. Although Low employs a standard guitar-bass-drums lineup (okay, Mimi Parker’s…

Amy Correia

For a woman with small-town roots (Lakeville, Massachusetts, alongside the charmingly named Assawompset Pond), Amy Correia revealed her restless nature immediately on her debut EP, Transportation Songs. Previewing her then-forthcoming full-length, “The Bike” is a meandering reminiscence that details her childhood lovingly but unsentimentally in the form of a passed-down Sears and Roebuck bicycle. The…

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

Lloyd Cole is a pretentious twit — in the nicest possible sense. Which is to say the English (Buxton, in the north) singer/songwriter is highly literate and ultra-sensitive. Always has been, ever since he first turned up, after forming a band while attending college in Glasgow, with 1984’s Rattlesnakes. Coming on like a typical new…

Mary Lou Lord

As difficult as it was for a time to hear over the din of Mary Lou Lord’s notoriety as the cherubic face on Courtney Love’s dartboard (thanks to a brief but subsequently well-publicized pre-Love love affair with Kurt Cobain), the Boston busker renders the infamy irrelevant on her self-titled Kill Rock Stars mini-album, an affecting…

Chills

Perhaps the most widely known and beloved combo of New Zealand’s ’80s indie-pop boom, Dunedin’s Chills — led by singer/writer/guitarist Martin Phillipps — made clean, understated, catchy music whose consistent taste and subtlety conspired to keep the band from having real commercial success in this country. At its best, the Chills’ work boasted an undercurrent…

Parthenon Huxley

Not his real name; the Parthenon bit may be a tip of the hat to his high school days in Greece. On his debut, Sunny Nights, Huxley engages in thoughtful whimsy (“Between the sacred and the profane / Runs a crooked yellow line / You dance around from lane to lane…”). The music is power…

Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos

On its debut album, this intriguing Indianapolis ensemble melds touches of baroque art-folk with Richard Edward’s lonely musings. Although the first track is called “A Sea Shanty of Sorts,” Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos are like a less deliberately anachronistic Decemberists fronted by a resurrected Jeff Buckley. Over mostly acoustic instrumentation (melodica, cello,…

Shearwater

Some bands burst forth with a fully formed identity and trajectory, one from which they diverge reluctantly, if at all. Other bands, like Shearwater, slowly emerge from a musical chrysalis, wings drying and taking shape in the sun, before delicately taking flight into a vast, transcontinental migration. Shearwater began as an offshoot of Okkervil River,…

Jill Sobule

Early in 1995, Denver native Jill Sobule emerged as a fresh new voice on the pop scene, singing about kissing a girl. Provocative, sure, but then Sobule was no newcomer. She had kicked around the club and coffeehouse circuit for years, and had already put out one album. But few heard the Todd Rundgren-produced Things…

Caulfields

This Vermont-to-Delaware power pop quartet packs exactly the sort of angst one would expect from a band named after the confused teen of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Singer/guitarist John Faye chronicles slacker life in a sleepy college town, addressing alienation and the perceived hypocrisy of the adult world in short, catchy modern pop…

Chris Whitley

Chris Whitley learned to play guitar while living in a log cabin in Vermont; the first album he bought was the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Smash Hits. That disparity helps to make sense of the stunning sweep of musical extremes Whitley made throughout the ’90s and the first half of the ’00s. The Houston native moved…