All Songs Considered

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside an assortment of expensive cat sedatives is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on whether all the great song ideas have been used up.

When you play punk rock with someone for 10 years, communication goes beyond words: The heart speaks through fingers and screams. Joey Doubek and Ashley Arnwine have a long history together in the D.C. punk bands Mass Movement Of The Moth and their own duo, Ingrid, but with Pinkwash (and a move to Philly), there's an ecstatic pulse that guides their frantic, id-exploding punk rock.

It's been a couple of weeks since we last had a Drum Fill Friday (South by Southwest and the weeklong flu I always get after the festival set me back a bit). So I thought I'd return with some low-hanging fruit to help get everyone back into the swing. You'll find a collection of recurring, classic rock mainstays in this week's puzzler, with one exception. But I still expect a lot of perfect scores. Good luck, careful listeners!

Every Thursday this year we're celebrating All Songs Considered's 15th birthday with personal memories and highlights from the show's decade and a half online and on the air. If you have a story about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email: allsongs@npr.org.

Real talk: Scäb's "Franz Kafka" is the greatest cartoon rock opera ever. Originally featured on the Home Movies episode "Director's Cut" in 2001, the ridiculous three-minute, four-movement song about The Metamorphosis is equal parts "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Tommy, and warns, "Be careful if you get him pissed / Franz! Franz Kafka! / He'll smite you with metaphor fists!" Metaphor fists!

For Heartless Bastards, rock 'n' roll entails a lot of heavy lifting, most often in the form of hundreds of club shows each year. It's a work ethic reflected on the Ohio-born, Austin-based band's albums, as singer/guitarist/powder-keg Erika Wennerstrom sets her rugged wail against the efforts of musicians churning out muscular blues-rock.

On All Songs Considered this week, we hear two songs by familiar musicians, one stripped down to his essence and one in a brand new context. Ryan Adams is at his best live, playing solo acoustic hits, with lots of comical chatter. The prolific singer and songwriter has a massive live album coming out with 42 songs recorded at Carnegie Hall. From that collection, we've got Adams' rock anthem "New York, New York," slowed waaaay down for solo piano (along with his seemingly random oratory on the film Terminator 2).

Each April 1st, practical jokers get their kicks pulling the wool over people's eyes. There are little white lies, cunning schemes and elaborate hoaxes. Pranksters are alive and well in music, too. Test your wits with these musical smart alecks who run the gamut from clever clowns to serious scam artists. Score high and feel a surge of superiority. Score low and fancy yourself a true April fool.

One of the great underground bands from New Zealand's pop heyday is getting its due. The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, which broke up in 1994 after a nearly 10-year career on Flying Nun Records, will have its entire discography remastered and re-released this year by Fire Archives.

Son Lux, the brain child of beat wizard Ryan Lott, is back as an official trio, with a new album and a new song. The album is called Bones and was co-written and recorded by Lott with drummer Ian Chang and guitarist Rafiq Bhatia.

The first single from the album, "Change Is Everything," is vintage Son Lux, with a startling mix of chopped up rhythms and sonic curiosities set against lyrics that are both grand and minimal.

After a week of 16-hour days and little-to-no sleep, the All Songs Considered gang is back from Austin with a slew of musical discoveries from the 2015 South by Southwest music festival.

On the final morning of SXSW, we woke up early for Austin's signature dish — breakfast tacos — with house and techno producer Avalon Emerson at Mi Madres Restaurant. "It nails Tex-Mex perfectly," she says, making everyone think about breakfast tacos right now.

There's something mysterious, almost opaque, about the songs of Lower Dens. The ones on the band's new album, Escape From Evil, are lush but distant, beautiful things held just out of reach.

Wish You Were There: 42 Photos From SXSW 2015

Mar 23, 2015

South by Southwest 2015 has wrapped up, and NPR Music's team in Austin has once again begun to scatter across the United States. For some of us, these five days were amazing and exhausting in equal measure — Stephen Thompson counted 76 bands he saw and sorely needs to rest his feet — while others — really just Bob Boilen — could keep going forever.

SXSW 2015 In 10 GIFs

Mar 23, 2015

While you catch up on our favorite discoveries from the SXSW Music Festival, watch

What you're about to hear is the final song of a band's career. Chicago indie-rock act Geronimo!

Maybe it goes without saying, but if you're a musician and have time to kill on the road, you're going to hit up a record store in town. In Austin, Texas, there are many, many options to throw down cash for vinyl, and for Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield, her favorite record store is End of an Ear.

NPR Music At SXSW: Friday

Mar 21, 2015

The rain arrived in Austin on Friday, but it didn't wash away the weirdness. One-legged kung-fu dance moves, fog machines that sent off fire alarms that blow out electronic instruments and all sorts of other challenges couldn't stop the music, though, and our team at SXSW has sent back proof: photos, recommendations and a video of Laura Marling playing a song from her new album, Short Movie, at 2 a.m. outside a church.

Here are some of the best things we heard at SXSW on Friday.


Day 4 Picks

Laura Marling

"I've been coming here for so long," Jack Antonoff says of SXSW while waiting for a breakfast table at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin. "The first time I came, in 2003, I had one show at a sushi place that like nine friends came to. Which I thought was the coolest thing because I was like, 'I'm at South by Southwest!'"

NPR Music At SXSW 2015: Thursday

Mar 20, 2015

Some days at South by Southwest, everything goes right. You see the bands you want to see, every one of them puts on an amazing show and the heavens open and angels give you shoulder rubs. NPR Music's Robin Hilton had a day like that on Thursday, with epiphany after epiphany. Things went well on Day 3 for the rest of NPR Music's team in Austin, too.

NPR Music At SXSW 2015: Wednesday

Mar 19, 2015

Within the first minute, "War is a Romance" gives you everything you need to know if you're going to be onboard with Wild Throne: a deranged hardcore twang a la Converge, a galloping Motörhead riff, fusion-y Mars Volta-style guitar acrobatics — oh, and a whistle. And then there's Josh Holland's voice yelping and squealing and scaling burning buildings with insane octave jumps.

NPR Music At SXSW 2015: Tuesday

Mar 18, 2015

If you love music as much as we do (we really love music), there's a good chance that this is one of your favorite weeks of the year. This is when the massive South by Southwest music festival and conference bubbles up and spills over into the streets of Austin, Texas. For five days, live music pours out of every alley, doorway, club, restaurant and street corner. Whether it's sensory overload or total nirvana, March 17-21 is all about discovering some new band or sound that sets your ears on end.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside laminates containing SXSW's most coveted VIP party passes, all of which are set to arrive the day after we leave for Austin, is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on SXSW envy.

I don't have any special tricks or themes to this week's Drum Fill Friday. (Well, I may have slipped one little trick in here. See if you can catch it.) But there should be a little bit in here for everybody, from funk and soul to vintage Top 40 pop and rock. If I star-rated these for difficulty, I'd give this one a two out of five. So see how you do, and good luck, careful listeners!

Every Thursday this year we're celebrating All Songs Considered's 15th birthday with personal memories and highlights from the show's decade and a half online and on the air. If you have a story about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email: allsongs@npr.org.

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