All Songs Considered

KEN mode has always been a noise-rock band that could hang with the metal crowd. The Winnipeg trio often bolsters its heavy, angular riffs with burly bass lines and muscular drumming, and knows when to bring the grind. But with its sixth album, Success, KEN mode scales back its metallic tendencies to bring it all back home to the sort of treble-heavy freakouts found on albums by Cop Shoot Cop, Drive Like Jehu and Big Black.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside bales of deep-discounted Easter candy is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on buskers, tipping and etiquette.

Holly R. writes via email: "How much of a tip is good for the street-side musician with a cup at his feet? What about for one playing in a bar?"

Record Store Day is that magical day each spring (this year it's Saturday, April 18) when geeks like us line up outside their favorite music shops to get their hands on a bunch of vinyl exclusives. These are the albums, EPs and singles bands and labels put out just to celebrate the day.

It took seven years for Robotic Empire to finish its tribute to Nirvana's In Utero, featuring covers by Thursday, Jay Reatard, Ceremony and Thou. With a lineup like that, it's no wonder the vinyl sold out quickly on Record Store Day.

This week's guest Quizmaster is Jess Gowrie, drummer with the San Francisco-based band Happy Fangs. Earlier this year the group released its debut full-length, Capricorn, a collection of lean, raw and noisy guitar rock cuts anchored by Gowrie's bone-breaking beats. Given her love of power-hitters, some of the fills she selected for this week's Drum Fill Friday should come as no surprise. But there are at least a couple of unexpected picks here. As always, good luck, careful listeners!

The North London rock group Wolf Alice has been picking up steam this year with a potent mix of vintage '90s rock, electronics and moody atmospherics. It's a sound that both shimmers and glowers — part The Sundays, part Smashing Pumpkins.

Wolf Alice dances along this line memorably on "Bros," the latest cut from the band's upcoming full length debut My Love Is Cool. Propelled by lead singer Ellie Rowsell's stirring voice, the song is a celebratory but wistful reflection on the waning years of youth.

When Bon Iver's Justin Vernon saw Norway's Highasakite perform at the 2012 Oya Festival in Oslo, he fell in love. Soon the two bands were touring together. Now the only band I know that tours with a flugabone has taken one of Vernon's songs and made it even more majestic than the original.

After two decades in punk rock, Jeff Burke still writes songs with the ecstatic energy of a kid picking up a guitar for the first time. Among the Denton, Texas, guitarist and singer's several bands, the most beloved is the currently dormant The Marked Men, which is why the similar sensibility of Radioactivity's self-titled 2013 album was such a welcome surprise. With guitarist/vocalist Mark Ryan (Mind Spiders) in tow, it was essentially The Marked Men 2.0.

If I had to pick one new band that you should absolutely listen to, it's Algiers, three young men who grew up in Atlanta. Sonically, they make really eerie gospel music that's a rock-inspired amalgamation of all different stuff. In "Black Eunuch," you can hear the sounds of both black and white churches of the South and great guitars. Though they now live in London and New York, their roots are definitely southern based and their lyrics deal with the conservative politics of where they grew up. I've never seen them before and they're completely new to me.

Idaho's Built to Spill were one of the most beloved rock acts of the '90s and now the indie rock pioneers are back with a new rhythm section and the band's first album since 2009. This week on All Songs Considered, we bring you a new track from upcoming album Untethered Moon, which you can hear in its entirety on First Listen.

When Amebix returned after two decades with 2011's Sonic Mass, it was an adventurous take on the crust-punk legacy the English band had left behind. Unfortunately, it was the only album to come out of the reunion, but that lush, brooding, melodic sound continues and evolves with Tau Cross, bassist/vocalist Rob Miller's new band featuring members of Voivod, Misery and War//Plague. Case in point, here's "Fire In The Sky" from Tau Cross' self-titled debut.

"Take it from somebody who knows." The opening words to Protomartyr's new single, "Blues Festival," are sung by frontman Joe Casey, but they could easily refer to the song's star guest vocalist, Kelley Deal of the Breeders. Deal has lived through a lot in the past 20-plus years, from opening for Nirvana in the early '90s to doing the whole "reunion" thing with her identical twin sister Kim, to releasing small-batch 7" singles by her most recent project, R. Ring.

This week's guest Quizmaster is Pete Robertson, drummer for the English rock group The Vaccines. The band recently announced a new full-length, English Graffiti, due out May 26. It's their first ever recorded in the U.S.

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:

This week's Throwback Thursday is offered without comment, and just enough context to help us make our point:

Baby-faced and rail-thin, Lee Bozeman didn't look like the kind of guy who would ram a microphone stand into the floor. But in the '90s, when Luxury got to "Flaming Youth Flames On" in its set list, the guitar came off and the sweetly gut-punching crooner flailed his body into the ultra-sassy punk song that teased, "Make you gasp / Make your heart skip a beat." It was an eye-opener to any teenager who witnessed it, especially since Luxury's spectacle was most often seen in church youth halls.

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On any given week there's usually a new (or fairly recent) song I can't stop listening to. And sometimes, if it's a really, really good cut, I'm still listening to it, nonstop, weeks later. We assume you're in the same boat, whether it's the latest Rihanna ear worm or some heartbreaking acoustic ballad by a singer hardly anyone has heard of.

On this week's All Songs Considered we talk about the secrets to being happy and how they relate to a euphoric new track from the electro-pop group Passion Pit. We'll hear the first song from Franz Ferdinand's collaboration with one of Bob Boilen's favorite bands from the early '70s — the wild, strange and playful duo Sparks. Together, as FFS, they cordially invite everyone to "piss off!"

The electro-pop group's latest cut is a euphoric anthem to youthful dreams and the inertia that keeps us from reaching them. Frenetic, propulsive and bristling with life, "Until We Can't (Let's Go)" finds Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos pleading for escape from the tedium of an ordinary life. "We'​r​e here in this godforsaken place," he sings. "I can hear what you are saying, I can see it on your face so, let'​s​ go."

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:

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.