“In the Mountain in the Cloud,” Portugal. The Man, July 2011, Atlantic Records.
Front man John Gourley and band cofounder Zach Carothers are from Wasilla; ”In the Mountain in the Cloud” is a reference to Mt. McKinley.
This release, the band’s major-label debut, garnered wide-spread national attention, including a spot on MTV’s best albums of the year list, an appearance on “Conan,” and a three-and-a-half star review in Rolling Stone: (“We all get strange,” [Gourley] coos at one point, “but we’re cool with it.” When being strange sounds this sublime, why shouldn’t they be cool with it?”)
For more: www.portugaltheman.com
“Something Fierce,” Marian Call, November 2011 (self-released)
Call, of Anchorage, played at the Rookery in early November to a packed house. The Anchorage Daily News described Call as “a neo-Joni Mitchell, singing soulful songs that feature the folk-funk rhythms and versatile voice that she’s become known for.”
“Something Fierce,” was funded by online donations from her fans and is really two albums presented as one: “Good Luck With That” and “From Alaska.” In the weeks since the project’s release, she’s inspired 18 user reviews on Amazon: all are five-star.
For more: mariancall.com
“Meet Me at the Moon,” Emma Hill and her Gentlemen Callers, February 2011, Kuskokwim Records
Hill, 23, grew up in Sleetmute, a small village on the Kuskokwim River. After spending five years in Portland, she returned to her home state, and founded her own record label, Kuskokwim Records, based in Sleetmute.
Reviewers have compared Hill’s country-folk vocals to Kathleen Edwards and Caitlin Cary; the Philadelphia Examiner said she has “the kind of voice that one can easily fall in love with.”
For more: www.emmahillmusic.com/
“Walking Between Worlds,” Native Jazz Quartet, November 2011, Pony Boy Records
Tlingit musician Ed Littlefield, based in Sitka and Seattle, joined forces with Christian Fabian, Jason Marsallis and Reuel Lubag to create an album combining traditional Tlingit lullabies with jazz. The Native Jazz quartet, as the four musicians are called, presented some of the songs at a show at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center in November. Littlefield and Fabian, who both teach at Sitka Fine Arts Camp, hope to continue to explore this fusion of jazz and Native traditional music in workshops this summer, and possibly to expand the project to include more indigenous music.
For more: edlittlefield.com
“Alaska Jazz,” Archie Cavanaugh, January 2011 (self-released)
Archie Cavanaugh’s “Alaska Jazz” was nominated in three categories in the 13th annual Native American Music Awards: Record of the Year, Best Male Artist and Best Song for “I’m So Excited.” Cavanaugh, who was raised in Kake and lives in Juneau, sings in Tlingit on some of the tracks. His wife Melinda sings backup vocals and is also credited as co-songwriter. Jeff Tassin provides percussion, bass, guitar and keyboards.
“Alaska Jazz” is his Cavanaugh’s third release, following “Black and White Raven” and Love Birds.”
For more: www.alaskajazz.com/
“It’s Glimmering Now,” Silver Jackson, November 2011, Homeskillet Records
Sliver Jackson is the musical persona of highly-regarded visual artist Nicholas Galanin, based in Sitka. When Galanin visited Juneau in November, he presented an Evening at Egan lecture called “New Culture” and then moved downtown to the Alaskan Hotel and Bar for his album release party.
“It’s Glimmering Now” features 12 original songs, and includes guest appearances by previous Homeskillet Festival acts Micah Middaugh, Andrea Moreno-Beals and Trevor Hobbs (all of Breathe Owl Breathe) and Sonny Smith, as well as former Juneau musician Astronomar.
“Its Glimmering Now” follows “Thought I Found Gold,” released in 2009, which earned Jackson comparisons to Tom Waits and Taj Mahal.
For more: silverjackson.com and www.homeskilletrecords.com
“Teeth” The Loom, November 2011, Crossbill Records
The Alaska connection here is the band’s bassist, Dan Desloover, who hails from Juneau. This indie rock band, based in Brooklyn, were recently called “the next big thing” in the New York Times, and made Paste magazine’s “Best of What’s Next” list. Last month two tracks from “The Teeth” were featured on NPR’s World Cafe.
For more: theloommusic.com/
“Zen Atomic,” AKSS, December 2011, self-released
Juneau band AKSS, (Ryan McPherson, Ron Ecklund, Sean Siner and Frank Saranovich) formed in 1999. The band’s name is a combination of the abbreviation for Alaska, and co-founders Siner and Saranovich’s names. One listener dubbed the band’s genre “West Coast progressive power rock” and submitted this three word review: “It kicks a**.” Previous releases include “AKSS 2000” and “Depictions.”
For more: www.akssband.com
* This list was compiled with help from KXLL’s Andy Kline.