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All Songs Considered

Ask Swedish singer Sarah Assbring, sole member of the moody pop group El Perro del Mar, and she'll tell you these are grim times, but not without a flicker of hope. "In this world, you think you have no reason to believe in love or in anything much," she says. "Then one day, when you least expect it, a light appears on the far horizon. It's a flickering light, begging you to come, telling you to stay away."

Song Premiere: Pelt, 'Of Jack's Darbari'

Oct 26, 2012

I'm convinced that I will write about Jack Rose for the rest of my life. Truly, few things in music could make me happier. In his 38 years on earth, Rose ignited not only a small revolution in acoustic guitar, but also a holistic way of thinking about sound, and what it means to move forward with decades of tradition at your callused fingers.

There's something strangely hypnotic and charming about "New Century," an immensely infectious bummer from Neighbors, which consists of a guy named Noah Stitelman and anyone else who happens to be around to help. For all of Stitelman's fretful miserablism — "I wanna lie down and hide in the dark 'til I don't have to figure it out," he sings early on — Neighbors' music is steeped in smoothly pleasing brightness. If anyone out there remembers the D.C.

It's been fascinating to watch the creative development of Laura Gibson, the singer-songwriter who, among other things, inspired NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts series.

According to legend, once in each millennium, the Music Gods come together and, after much debate, agree to bestow a single magical gift upon the world — a song or album or project so breathtaking, it leaves throngs of people weeping in the streets at its splendor and forever changes the way we hear music. That time is now, as Jason Lytle and Sea of Bees have opted to cover each other's songs.

Okay, fine: Maybe it's not that special. But it's still cool when a couple of your favorite artists dig each other's music and want to work together.

The Best Of CMJ 2012

Oct 23, 2012

Each fall, hundreds of little-known bands descend on New York City for the annual CMJ Music Marathon. As festivals go, it's one of the best for surprises, since so many of the acts are new and emerging. For the artists, it's a chance to be seen and heard and, hopefully, loved. For the rabid music fan or journalist, it's an overwhelming flood of musical discoveries.

This week's drum-fill quiz comes from Murph, longtime drummer for the band Dinosaur Jr. A couple of these are pretty easy, but this was otherwise one of the harder ones I've done. See what you think. Just drag the drum fill or intro to the album it's from. If you get it right, the song names will appear.

Previous drum-fill quizzes.

Here's what Murph has to say about the fills and intros he picked:

The Drop: A Kaarvai Moment With Michael Mayer

Oct 18, 2012

The best gateway into electronic music might be the human voice. There's something about our vocal cords in a dance song that, well, speaks to us. We don't even need to know what the words mean — heck, we don't even need words — to trigger an emotional connection and turn music designed for the brain or the feet into something with which our hearts can get down.

This past week Barbra Streisand, born and raised in Brooklyn, played the borough for the first time since she was eight years old. Back then it was on somebody's stoop on Pulaski Street in Bed-Stuy. Now 70 — after winning all the awards (Emmy, Grammy, Tony, Oscar, etc.) — she was only the second performer at a new venue in her hometown, a 19,000 seat basketball and entertainment arena called the Barclays Center.

The Daredevil Christopher Wright is a band featuring brothers Jon and Jason Sunde, along with the percussion and voice of Jesse Edgington. The band began in 2004 in Eau Claire, Wis., and put out a second full-length album, The Nature of Things, earlier this year. Now we've got a new song, "A Man of the Arts," which will appear on a split 7" single the group is sharing with the Brooklyn band Cuddle Magic. It may be too simple to say that what attracted me to this song was its vibe, but it's the truth.

If next week's New Ships EP is any indication, "If it ain't broke, do it better" is Benoit & Sergio's mantra. The D.C. dance-pop duo has experienced a sharp, steady rise since releasing its debut EP (2009's What I've Lost), in part because it keeps sharpening its knack for punching out melodic club tracks.

First Watch: Astro, 'Colombo'

Oct 11, 2012

Astro belongs to Chile's fantastic wave of modern musical exports, alongside rapper Ana Tijoux, pop singer Alex Andwandter and indie-folk singer Gepe, among others. Yet Astro stands apart from its contemporaries: Tijoux, Gepe and even Andwandter are inspired by Chile's folk tradition and serious social issues, while the band heads in a different direction with its fun, irreverent lyrics and synth-heavy sound.

Song Premiere: Witch Mountain, 'Bloodhound'

Oct 11, 2012

For a group that had been dormant for a decade, Witch Mountain sure has been prolific lately, with two albums in two years (South of Salem made my 2011 year-end list, while the equally mighty Cauldron of the Wild came out in June) and now a five-week tour that will take the doom-metal band across the U.S. and back home to Portland.

Were the 25 voices of The Silver Lake Chorus to belt out "From the Snow Tipped Hills" on a mountainside, I'd run for fear of an avalanche. The original, written for the group by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, is built around an ethereal vocal arrangement, bare in instrumentation and full of power.

Song Premiere: Daniel Bachman, 'Copperhead'

Oct 10, 2012

In the last decade or so, it's been invigorating to watch new developments in the American Primitive style of acoustic guitar, as it finds new voices and revives its progenitors. By my estimation, enough time has passed since the first Imaginational Anthem and By the Fruits You Shall Know the Roots compilations to influence a younger crop of guitarists.

Peter Bjorn and John are releasing a catchy, espionage-inspired track on the latest installment of the Yo Gabba Gabba! soundtrack. Yo Gabba Gabba! is a popular children's show in its fourth season on Nick Jr. The colorful cast of characters and landscapes captivates kids, while the show's soundtrack featuring alternative rock stars appeals to parents.

This week, Bob and Robin kick off the show by celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, and how well it coincides with a new cut from Swedish pop trio Peter Bjorn and John called "I Wish I Was A Spy."

Here's a pretty incredible night of music: Flying Lotus, Death Grips and (we're happy to announce) Buke & Gase, all on one stage at (Le) Poisson Rouge in NYC. It's also your chance to meet us. NPR Music is coming together with WNYC's Soundcheck during the CMJ Music Marathon for this show on Wednesday, Oct.

The Drop: Bedroom Dancing With The 2 Bears

Oct 4, 2012

The idea of dancing alone has inspired pop stars from Billy Idol to Robyn, while Le Tigre's members were happy to sway in front of the bedroom mirror in the aptly named "Eau D'Bedroom Dancing."

If it were the late 1960s, Lawrence Arabia might be one of the biggest bands in the world. The group, which is essentially the sole work of New Zealand artist James Milne, makes trippy, perfectly composed, melodic pop, similar to classic works by The Zombies or The Beatles.

The latest tease from this fall's upcoming collection of remixed Philip Glass tunes comes from Beck. The 20-minute song, "NYC: 73-78," includes snippets from more than 20 Glass songs, which Beck cut together and re-imagined.

After raising more than $125,000 on Kickstarter, the synth-psych-rock group Black Moth Super Rainbow is set to self-release its fifth full-length record. The gritty, beat-heavy Cobra Juicy is due out on Oct. 23, but the band is giving fans an early taste now with the thick and dirty "Gangs in the Garden."

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