A look at the acts breaking at radio and retail and entering Billboard's charts. This week: The Black Keys, Kathleen Edwards, Finch, and Liam Lynch.
Welcome to Breaking & Entering, a weekly column launched with the redesign of Billboard.com. Each Wednesday, we'll take a look at the latest acts that are breaking at radio and retail and entering the Billboard charts.
KEYS TO THE BLUES: For Akron, Ohio-based duo the Black Keys, "thickfreakness" is another helping of the group's decidedly retro blues/rock hybrid, augmented by covers of Junior Kimbrough's "Everywhere I Go" and Richard Berry's "Have Love Will Travel." Like its predecessor, the 11-track set was recorded solely by guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney in the basement of a house in a gritty Akron neighborhood.
"We actually recorded it in 14 straight hours one day and did a couple of overdubs the next day," Auerbach tells Billboard.com. "In this neighborhood, we can make noise until 8 a.m. It's the kind of place where the guy across the street seems to constantly have a [police monitored] ankle bracelet on!"
On the heels of the band's three distinct appearances at last month's South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and glittering praise from such outlets as NME and Spin, "thickfreakness" creeps in this week at No. 50 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums tally. It's the group's first album for Fat Possum Records; its 2002 debut, "The Big Come Up," was issued by Alive.
You wouldn't be misguided to assume Auerbach had been honing his vocal chops in Mississippi juke joints for decades, but in reality, he's just a 23-year-old kid with an uncommonly emotive voice, who loves to play music with lifelong friend Carney. "It has always been an ongoing thing for us, this whole infatuation with getting in the basement and creating and recording," Auerbach admits.
Although the group got a huge boost in visibility when it was handpicked to open Sleater-Kinney's North American tour earlier this year, this summer will bring a further glimpse at the big time. The Black Keys will open for Beck beginning May 24 in Boston, and plan to appear at a handful of European festivals later this summer.
A FAILER NO MORE: Canada's Kathleen Edwards can tell a story. Her tales of heartache and lost souls possess the detached cynicism of Robbie Fulks and seem to hang over Edwards' Byrds-like melodies with a three-beer buzz. As the media informs her of a lover's demise on "Six O'Clock News," she isn't strumming her acoustic guitar to keep from crying, she's suffering from the weary frustration of an unavoidable fate. "Copper went ahead and just shot you through," she sings. "Now you're lying dead on the avenue, and I can't feel my broken heart."
Since she released her debut album "Failer" in January, the set has been flirting with Billboard's Heatseekers chart; it re-entered the tally last week at No. 49. Some high profile appearances on "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "Last Call With Carson Daly" haven't hurt the Rounder Records release, and Edwards will be on the road through June. Yet according to the singer/songwriter, "Failer" has already surpassed her expectations.
"I'm definitely feeling like I've got a horseshoe up my ass," Edwards told Billboard last year. "I feel that everything I've done up to now has been so much further than what I initially anticipated doing with this record. Anything above what happens today, I'm thrilled about."
A PINCH OF FINCH: Los Angeles' Drive-Thru Records has been a consistent supplier of radio-ready pop-punk acts. The one-time independent, which now has a partnership with MCA Records, has built itself a recognizable name a by spawning such MTV2-friendly artists as New Found Glory, Something Corporate, Home Grown, and the Starting Line. Now Finch is the latest group to cruise into mainstream success on the Drive-Thru brand.
Finch's full-length debut, "What It Is To Burn," has controlled Billboard's Heatseekers chart for the past month, and has crawled as high as No. 108 on The Billboard 200. The Southern California act, which dresses its pop-punk with a hardcore edge, has sold more than 200,000 copies of the album in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, with much of the sales coming, as expected, from the West Coast.
While that's an impressive number for any act's first album, Finch was receiving attention as soon as the set hit store shelves. Major retailers sold the album at a budget price of less than $10, and the album had some instant name recognition to fuel sales; Mark Trombino, who has produced Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World, and the Starting Line, worked the controls on "What It Is to Burn," and Glassjaw vocalist Daryl Palumbo lent his vocals to a few tracks. Additionally, airplay for the band's self-titled single increased as the group scored slots on MTV2's Campus Invasion Tour and this summer's Warped Tour.
NOT FAKING IT: Thanks to the novelty hit "United States of Whatever," one-man band Liam Lynch's "Fake Songs" shot onto Billboard's Heatseekers chart last week at No. 45. The co-creator of MTV's "Sifl & Olly Show," a 30-minute variety program with sock puppets, and a regular contributor to Jack Black's Tenacious D, Lynch is steadily outgrowing his cult status. The Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl has become a Lynch cheerleader, and the fawning U.K. press adores his sarcastic rips on American pop-culture.
The 90-second single has earned heavy spins in major markets, with L.A.'s KROQ leading the charge. A holdover from Lynch's "Sifl & Olly Show" days, "United States of Whatever" is built around a simple stop-and-go guitar riff, and has spent the last five weeks hovering around the lower rungs of Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks tally.
"Fake Songs," released on S-Curve Records, came packaged with a bonus DVD to ensure it tapped into the "Sifl & Olly Show" audience. The DVD features more than 90-minutes of short films, and is loaded with footage of puppets. Lynch is currently writing the Tenacious D feature film.