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Pretty Little Empire:
Does Pretty Little Empire really belong in the Americana category? Eh, not really. If we had a Run-Down-A-Hill-While-Holding-Hands-With-Your-Love-And-Feeling-Like-Your-Heart-Might-Fly category, that might be a better fit. That's not to say that PLE's songs all have happy endings -- far from it. There's plenty of misunderstanding, regret and release in singer-songwriter Justin Johnson's words. But Johnson, Wade Durbin (bass), William Godfred (guitar) and Evan O'Neal (drums) come together in such a frenzied Voltron of talent and emotion -- on the albums, sure, but especially during the band's live shows -- that you can't help but feel starry-eyed even during the melancholy tunes. Our prediction: At least one song from 2010's fabulous Reasons and Rooms will end up in a cell phone commercial about long-distance romance. -Allison Babka
The self-proclaimed "outlaw country" outfit fronted by Ryne Watts and Coop Cooper wears overalls onstage and sings vulgar ditties about sex, weed and moonshine. Oh, and it also had the gall to not only think of but agree to the moniker "the Hobosexuals." Perhaps the only thing the group takes seriously is its headfirst commitment to spaghetti-Western tunes, ranging from bar-fight enabling anthems to gin-drenched ballads for lonely nights at the saloon. The Hobosexuals recently celebrated a seven-inch on St. Louis' Big Muddy Records, a release format that actually seems futuristic for a band whose music could exist on yellowed player-piano rolls. -Ryan Wasoba
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