Listen Up: Sara Watkins, Silversun Pickups
This week in music
By Brian Mansfield, Edna Gundersen, Steve Jones and Elysa Gardner, USA TODAYMay 7, 2012
Watkins got her start with 'grassers Nickel Creek and also plays fiddle with The Decemberists. She outshines both acts on her flawless second album, a gorgeous pop masterpiece with a string-player's sensibility. Even with songs from Dan Wilson, Willie Nelson and Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and guest spots by Fiona Apple and Jackson Browne, Watkins never lets her creativity get in the way of pure musical pleasure.
While their familiar '90s slab of distortion dominates in spots, the Los Angeles quartet breaks free of its Smashing Pumpkins matrix on this sharp third studio album, bringing shades of electronica, muscular riffs and vocal variation to the mix. While there's nothing as head-spinning as Panic Switch from 2009's Swoon, Woods is a vast improvement over that effort and a sign that they are picking up fresh inspiration.
Sisters Erica and Tina have been delivering faith-inspired positive messages for more than a dozen years. On their seventh album, they offer a pair of new songs and rework previous hits. Go Get It is a stirring call to improve your life, and the swinging Sunday Morning enthuses about going to church. Can't Give Up Now and Shackles (Praise You) are reminders of their broad appeal.
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