Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 11:02 am
We started this series of polls, like so many of the things we write and think about, with a simple water cooler conversation. After learning that the entire NPR music team loved Paul Simon's Graceland, we began to wonder whether it's possible to make a top ten list of albums everyone can agree on.
It's gotten to that point in the dog days of August where the air is stale and nothing seems to be moving. But sometimes all it takes to snap me out of a late-summer heat coma is the sound of a new and electrifying voice — like that of Lianne La Havas.
Originally published on Wed October 3, 2012 10:36 am
The North Carolina sextet Delta Rae first caught my attention with its swampy track "Bottom of the River." The group came to our studios with a setup unlike any other band we've hosted at KCRW: a metal trashcan, a large chain and many pairs of drumsticks. Four members of Delta Rae sing lead, while everyone in the band joins in to create a cacophony of bluesy, gospel-tinged pop music, complete with stomping feet.
Fresh Air's Terry Gross has been listening to jazz singer Susie Arioli since she first heard Arioli's 2002 album Pennies From Heaven. Arioli is Canadian and has a big following there, but she's not well known in the U.S., and hasn't toured in many American cities. So when Arioli and her longtime guitarist and arranger, Jordan Officer, stopped in for an in-studio concert and conversation, Gross was thrilled.
Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 5:14 pm
Wolf Larsen's life is a complicated mix of mysterious and nearly debilitating health issues and desire to dig deep in art for meaning and hope. Wolf Larsen is the stage name (and pen name) of the singer and writer Sarah Ramey. In 2008, Ramey served as the personal blogger for Obama's presidential campaign and is currently writing a book — The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness — due out in 2013 under her own name. Her new record as Wolf Larsen, Quiet at the Kitchen Door, is a bedroom recording, a project that began as a way to deal with her illness and solitude.
Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 1:35 pm
Opera: the stuff of passion, fury, sorrow and ... disquisitions on jurisprudence?
Maybe, if a panel discussion at the just-finished annual meeting of the American Bar Association is to be believed. Called "Arias of Law: The Rule of Law at Work in Opera and the Supreme Court," the session, which was created and moderated by Craig Martin of Jenner & Block LLP, featured U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Anthony Freud, general director of Chicago's Lyric Opera; and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.
Being the only child of rock 'n' roll's king has kept Lisa Marie Presley under a long shadow, but she's found ways to make her music stand out that don't involve her lineage or occasionally stormy personal life.
Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 11:56 am
The "Graffiti Park" in Austin, Texas, is stunning from any angle: Essentially a giant public canvas, the staggered façade on Baylor Street is constantly refreshed with new eye-popping murals by aerosol artists. When the members of Now, Now met us there, they were good enough sports to haul their guitars and amplifiers all the way to the top.
Experimental folk-rock singer Joseph Arthur appears on this episode of Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown. Though Arthur appears solo (as he almost always does), a listener might assume he's backed by a full band. Arthur uses his mastery of digital looping machines, harmonizers and distortion boxes to create a lush, multi-layered background for his songs — culminating with his five-and-a-half-minute spoken-word tune "I Miss the Zoo."
Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 10:58 am
Here's a pairing that raises the question: "Why hasn't this happened before?" The Bad Plus have been a revisionist cover band and today mostly make original piano trio music sui generis. Bill Frisell is the quintessential jazz collaborator: The guitarist, making the second of three appearances at this year's Newport Jazz Festival, is down for anything involving good musicians, and can be counted on to execute it well. Together, they paid tribute to one of their mutual heroes, the late drummer Paul Motian, in a set comprised mostly of his haunting compositions.