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All Songs Considered

Our friends at the World Cafe and XPN are stoked that the Eagles are headed to Super Bowl LII this weekend. In a show of hometown pride, they compiled a playlist of songs by and for the good people of Philadelphia, Penn., perhaps in the hope that the power of music would inspire a win for their boys on Sunday.

What's Your Swan Song?

Jan 30, 2018

If you've ever considered your own mortality and just how, exactly, you'll take your final bow, there's a good chance you've picked a song you want played at your funeral. From Frank Sinatra's "My Way" to Monty Python's "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" — or "Yakety Sax," the song my uncle chose to have played when his casket was wheeled out of the room – your final song, your swan song, can leave a lasting impression on those you leave behind. It's like a mission statement for the life you lived and how you want to be remembered.

Has anyone ever watched the Grammy's and concluded that the Recording Academy really nailed it? (No one has ever concluded they nailed it). So we begin this episode of All Songs Considered with a simple question: Why keep watching?! It's like being addicted to disappointment and outrage.

There's a line in "Culture National Anthem," the surprisingly chill closer on Migos' new album Culture II, that sums up how much has changed for the group in a year's time: "Believe me when I say we create our own sound," the trio's leader Quavo croons in a melodic wisp. "I know you see it now, what they be screaming 'bout."

Instrumental music speaks. Like a look from a lover or the clench of a fist, there is sometimes more (e)motion in the flick of a riff or the hum of an organ than words can supply. The Texas-based trio Khruangbin got its start digging on '60s and '70s Thai funk, gospel, R&B, surf, psychedelic rock and dub, creating chill instrumentals seemingly tailor-made for groove-seeking beatmakers and blissful dancers at outdoor festivals.

Every year around this time, many of us on the All Songs Considered team — including Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton and me — each dredge through nearly 2,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, in search of great new discoveries. And every year, we wind up missing something. In pursuit of music by thousands of acts, hundreds slip past our radar altogether.

Few careers in contemporary music had the arc and the diversity that South Africa-born trumpeter/singer/composer Hugh Masekela did, before he succumbed to prostate cancer on Tuesday at the age of 79.

Connie Lim, who writes and records as MILCK, makes music for anyone who feels out of place in the world. Hers are songs of empowerment and cathartic healing for the displaced and brokenhearted.

It's clear Drake has earned the right to play by his own rules. And while the quadruple platinum-selling star was fairly silent in the last half of 2017, he did give fans a promise at the end of his March project, More Life.

"I'll be back in 2018 to give you the summary," Drizzy raps at the end of "Do Not Disturb."

Here's a fact few white American musicians feel comfortable facing: every kind of American music, from Top-40 pop to high mountain bluegrass, has some root in the work and creativity of people of color. Arguments about appropriation surface most commonly when artists are clearly borrowing from well-known sources; Justin Timberlake's decision to repackage his blue-eyed funk in Ralph Lauren-style quasi-neutrals is the latest example of white performers side-stepping the fact that they owe their very souls to black collaborators, acknowledged or not.

Hot Snakes is a rock 'n' roll band. Just the name alone — Hot Snakes — sounds like a weathered 45 from the Nuggets proto-punk era, when no one really knew what they were doing. When John Reis started Hot Snakes with Drive Like Jehu bandmate Rick Froberg in the early 2000s, that felt like the M.O.: plug in and play as loud as possible. In 2005, they broke up.

I have a soft spot for Yo La Tengo's curiosities, like the cloudy bossa nova shimmy of "How To Make A Baby Elephant Float" or the spelunking drones and gurgling rock improvisations heard on The Sounds Of The Sounds Of Science, which soundtracked a series of underwater documentaries.

We're dang near a quarter-century into the new millennium and George Clinton is still out here slingin' gut buckets of funk. At this point, the good Dr. Funkenstein is more than a living institution; he's half-man, half-amazing.

When The Decemberists release I'll Be Your Girl on March 16, it'll be the band's eighth album — part of a 17-year career that's taken listeners through everything from wry folk to ambitious rock opera. If I'll Be Your Girl's first single is any indication, Colin Meloy and his band have used their new record as an opportunity to try new things and hit a few reset buttons along the way.

Reality is weird — a series of events that connect from birth to death. Shame's singer, Charlie Steen, doesn't claim wisdom of the process, he's just pulling hot embers from this unruly fire, singing in a hoarse scrawl: "My nails ain't manicured / My voice ain't the best you've heard / And you can choose to hate my words / But do I give a f***."

Jay Som's Everybody Works was one of NPR Music's 50 best albums of 2017, a guitar-driven rock record with complex arrangements and even more complex emotions all wrung out from singer, songwriter and producer Melina Duterte.

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