Originally published on Sat August 10, 2013 7:12 am
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the heavily taped packages that can't be opened without the aid of a utility knife and a blowtorch is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: an array of tips for anyone hoping to launch and sustain a career in music journalism.
Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 11:46 am
We forget to listen closer, look closer. As a big-picture kind of guy, I do that myself, and that means missing details that make day-to-day life more vivid. Listening to High Aura'd, it's apparent that creator John Kolodij hears life with great clarity. Last year's Sanguine Features was a personal favorite of mine: a dark and buzzing LP that, when turned up loud, felt like a dark hallway with treasures tucked away in the corners.
For those who haven't yet discovered Nora Jane Struthers, the summery song "Bike Ride" is a great introduction to her beguiling, well-considered worldview. The first time Struthers sings the song's most important line — "I can go anywhere" — the phrase rises up out of her throat, free, wide open. The second time, a phrase later, she clamps down on it with some grit. "'Bike Ride' is a song about a re-awakening," the 29-year-old Nashville resident said in a recent email. "When you propel yourself forward through time and space on your own steam, you realize your own agency."
Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 7:08 am
The Montreal pop band Stars wears many faces, literally and figuratively: Singers Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell swap lead vocals in songs that range from effervescent pop-rock to grandiose dance music to melancholy, string-enhanced dirges. With so much to choose from in the group's toolbox, a few gems are bound to get left off its records — a wrong Stars will help right with a new single next month.
It's been six years since Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective brought the beautifully rich music of the Garifuna people to international consciousness. Their 2007 album Watina became an instant classic, and probably did more than anything else to bring this culture and language to an international audience. But less than a year after Watina's release, Palacio, a vocalist and guitarist, was suddenly gone: dead of a heart attack and stroke at age 47.
Try as I might, I could never skateboard. It's as if gravity didn't know what to make of my body and would send me flying face-first into the concrete at every opportunity. That never stopped me from watching skate videos on late-night cable-access TV — pinhole cameras, bloody wipeouts and punk rock. Way before it was the mind-mangling noise band that once turned an unsuspecting Sub Pop audience on its head with bangers like 2004's "Stabbed in the Face," Wolf Eyes was just a bunch of punks from Detroit.
Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 4:59 pm
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the helpful $40-a-pop reminders not to speed on North Capitol Street is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: a discussion of cellphone recordings at concerts.
"They look like the kids from Stand By Me or an old Norman Rockwell painting canted a few degrees," director Eddie O'Keefe says of the teenaged Chicago garage-rock group The Orwells. "I wanted to capture that aspect of the band in a video." The Orwells' new song, "Who Needs You," is the title track from an upcoming EP, out Sept. 10.
On this edition of All Songs Considered, host Bob Boilen returns from a long, arduous weekend of work, looking tan and rested. That's because he just got back from the Newport Folk Festival, where he spent three glorious days surrounded by love, rainbows and amazing music. But leave it to co-host Robin Hilton to harsh Bob's mellow, when he shows Bob the most horrifying publicity photo either has ever seen for a band.
Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 8:02 am
The Newport Folk Festival is a little like summer camp — crowded, loud, fun, full of a lot of your favorite people — and you never want to leave. On this year's last day artists said goodbye by coming together.
Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 8:04 am
It always rains at least one day at the Newport Folk Festival, and because Newport started a whole day earlier this year, we got the downpour out of the way first. But that didn't stop folks from dancing and singing along to The Mountain Goats, JD McPherson, Blake Mills and many more.
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the jury summons disguised as refund checks is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a search for entry points to country-music fandom.
Emily Carol Schmidt writes via Facebook: "I'm not super into country, but I now live in a place with 50+ country stations, so I'm giving it a second chance. But how? Do you just listen to it for a couple hours? Get recommendations? Go to a concert?"
On this week's episode of All Songs Considered: Hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton offer up huge premieres, including a preview of '90s lo-fi rock pioneer Sebadoh's first new album in 14 years. There's also new music from folk duo The Civil Wars, which finished its new album just before going on hiatus, and pianist singer Lucy Schwartz.
Joy Williams and John Paul White are The Civil Wars, a duo of passionate performers. The first time I saw them perform there were such positive sparks flying between them, but these days they can barely speak to one another. The Civil Wars are about to release a new album — their second and probably their last for a while or perhaps forever ... we shall see.
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the aluminum-siding pamphlets disguised as jury summons is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a blistering rebuttal of last week's column.
It's one thing for an artist to talk about his failures — that's easy fodder for a good song — but art at its best incites positive change. "Sigh A While," this song from Boston's Kingsley Flood, is written to inspire. Kingsley Flood's Naseem Khuri says this tune is about the failures in all of us, and in particular about the patterns we can fall into. "I wrote the song about a friend who for years assured me he'd quit his job and change the world with his art," Khuri writes in an email. "We were driving around in his beat-up car one day and he was making the same promises.
This week on All Songs Considered, Bob's so sure Robin will love a new song by the Australian rock band Pond that he lays down five dollars on the table. Then another challenge: Can Bob identify the collaborator on the new, mostly instrumental album by Arcade Fire violinist Sara Neufeld? Can you? Plus: Who made the right choice?
The latest in a series of videos for David Bowie's album The Next Day isn't a big budget spectacle, but it is thrilling and intense. The video, for the song "Valentine's Day," places Bowie in some sort of industrial, concrete warehouse with just his guitar. But Bowie's penetrating gaze and gritty delivery turns an otherwise benign performance into a chilling scene.
Earlier this week week we asked you to look ahead 20 years from now, and guess what music from today you'll be the most nostalgic about. There were some great suggestions, including Wilco, Outkast and Sufjan Stevens.
Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 6:59 am
The next album from the Austin, Texas, band Okkervil River will tell the childhood tale of its lead singer and songwriter Will Sheff, a self-described awkward, nearsighted, asthmatic kid growing up the small town of Meriden, N.H. The music on The Silver Gymnasium, out on Sept. 3, is some of Okkervil River's best, and you can hear it all beginning Aug. 26 as part of our First Listen program. For now, here's a first taste: the premiere of the song "Down Down the Deep River."