Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 10:36 am
It's true — opera is totally over the top. Plots can strain even the barest semblance of credulity (too many cases of ghosts and mistaken identities to count), with characters that could get you thrown out of an introductory writing course, down to the blushing ingenues and the evil connivers who might as well be twirling waxed mustaches.
Getting San Cisco to the U.S. airwaves was a serendipitous event. Early in the summer of 2012, The Current's local-music producer (Jon Schober) was watching the YouTube video for Metronomy's "The Look," and saw San Cisco's video for "Awkward" pop up as a recommended follow-up. The charming song, with its back-and-forth vocals between drummer Jordi Davieson and guitarist Josh Biondillo, stuck.
Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 12:03 pm
Dave Alvin makes his sixth appearance on Mountain Stage alongside his band The Guilty Ones, recorded live in West Virginia. Since 2009, Alvin has explored his acoustic honky-tonk side, but his latest album, Eleven Eleven, marks a return to his fiery electric roots. Alvin's road-worn '64 Stratocaster screams throughout "Harlan County Line," which he wrote for the TV show Justified.
Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 10:41 am
Though the shock value of dropping a sitar into Western pop music has decreased since George Harrison's Hare Krishna days, the metallic, resonant drones of the instrument can still take a normal pop song and twist it into something unexpected. Rishi Dhir, sitarist, bassist and founding member of Elephant Stone, takes full advantage of the juxtaposition.
On her latest album, Pour Une Âme Souveraine, singer and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello performs the songs of Nina Simone. The French title is a nod to the fact that Simone spent the later years of her life in France, but it's also Ndegeocello's way of honoring her idol.
"It means 'for a sovereign soul,' " Ndegeocello tells NPR's Melissa Block. "She was one of the people, but I felt she was like royalty."
Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 5:29 pm
Andrew W.K., whom NPR Music described as the "long-haired, wild-eyed, keyboard-pounding, sublimely over-the-top party-rocker," won't be taking his party to Bahrain.
At least not on the government's dime.The State Department has rescinded its invitation, stopped the music if you will, just as word started to spread that the U.S. Embassy in Manama had invited W.K. to perform.
Martha Wainwright's songs examine uncomfortable moments and life experiences gone wrong, but as she acknowledges in between songs at this Tiny Desk Concert, she often has to fudge her own life story to make the details more unsettling. ("Take everything with a grain of salt," she says, "except the good stuff.") What she does is the opposite of sugarcoating: She roughs up life's smooth spots, then digs her fingertips into the cracks that form.
Burning Bridge personnel, left to right: Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Wang Guowei (erhu), Sun Li (pipa), Ken Filiano (string bass), Andrew Drury (drum set), Joseph Daley (tuba), Steve Swell (trombone), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet/flugelhorn).
Jazz reflects who we are as a people — democracy in action and all that. But a jazz tune or solo is also a portrait of the musician who makes it; the music reflects the particular background and training that influences how composers compose and improvisers improvise. Jason Kao Hwang makes that autobiographical component explicit throughout his extended composition for eight pieces, Burning Bridge. His parents made the move from China around the end of WWII, and he grew up attending Presbyterian services in suburban Chicago.