Music

Music

16 Musical Odes To Very Strange Animals

Jul 6, 2012

CD sleeves usually feature pictures of the musicians, the text of lyrics and copious thanks.

The Infamous Stringdusters' latest studio recording Silver Sky was released in March on High Country Recordings.  It's the band's fourth studio album, produced by Billy Hume, better known for his work with hip-hop artists.  A pledge campaign provided the funding for the album and tour, with incentives given to donors such as song dedications and signed memorabilia. Progressive thinkers and musicians, the Dusters' stellar artistry, great composing and vibrant synchronicity has delivered another great recording. 

Creatively, Cassandra Wilson has never rested on her laurels, and her new album, Another Country, is no exception to the rule. Nine of the ten songs are composed by Ms. Wilson and/or her collaborating partner, guitarist-producer Fabrizio Sotti, with the tenth a very special arrangement by the duo of the classic aria, O Sole Mio. Recorded in Florence, Italy, the entire sound of the album is intimate, guitar-driven, and lushly romantic. Launched by the lead single, Red Guitar, Another Country is poised to invigorate Cassandra's intensely loyal fan base as well as greet new audiences.

Willie Nelson's new album, Heroes, features 13 brand new recordings, produced by Buddy Cannon, and featuring a host of guest artists.

The songs take on a reflective, emotional tone and move from heartfelt (a stunning rendition of Pearl Jam's "Just Breathe") to humor (on "Roll Me Up" with guest vocalist Snoop Dogg). Other guest vocalists on the album include Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Jamey Johnston, Billy Joe Shaver and Sheryl Crow. Sons Lukas and Micah Nelson also feature prominently, making this a real family affair.

Chastity Brown: A Promising New Voice

Jul 5, 2012

On her breakout album Back-Road Highways, songwriter Chastity Brown combines the influences of her Southern upbringing and her adopted Minneapolis to dramatic effect. Brown's wrenching, heartfelt delivery will please fans of soul and vocal-driven pop, while the addition of banjo finds her exploring traditional Americana and expanding her sonic palette.

Neil Young On World Cafe

Jul 4, 2012

Neil Young's dozens of albums and myriad side projects showcase his incredible range and stylistic flexibility. His music has gone from the soft folk of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to the loud, raucous rock of Crazy Horse.

Neil Young's Fascination With 'Americana'

Jul 4, 2012

This interview was originally broadcast on June 6, 2012.

All this summer, All Things Considered is digging into Mom and Dad's record collections to hear about the music you've discovered through your parents. The series has profiled singers, novelists, politicians and today features John Keating, an NPR listener originally from South Africa.

Another week brings more surprises in our search for the albums everyone can love. According to our most recent poll, a third of you haven't heard the one record we've probably pimped more than any other on All Songs Considered: Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago. Really? A third of you haven't even heard it?

If there was any doubt that The dB's have any use for being considered through the haze of memory, or limited to the misty fondness from fans who remember them from the early 80s, the blast that opens their new album Falling Off the Sky, a song called "That Time Is Gone," could not be more explicit. Group leaders Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, along with drummer Will Rigby and bassist Gene Holder, are taking back their sound after 30 years, sprucing it up and re-exploding it for the days we live in now.

For almost a decade now, Om has wandered the more meditative realms of metal, with Al Cisneros intoning hypnotic chants and heavily distorted bass riffs over slightly swingin' drums. For fans of Cisneros' previous band, Sleep, Om was the spiritual next step after the much-delayed but now-classic stoner-metal saga, Dopesmoker. But after Om's original drummer left and Emil Amos stepped in, there was a transformation, ingesting the Grails multi-instrumentalist's Eastern proclivities and fraying its ties to doom metal.



Next: Japandroids

Jul 2, 2012

Before Japandroids reached the popularity they've earned today, guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse had to endure some ups and downs. In the beginning, the duo gave up the search for a lead vocalist and third member, deciding instead to split vocal duties. This turn of events ended up affecting the band's dual but equal decision-making process — even the band's name is a hodgepodge of ideas from each member.

The transporting music of Exitmusic is so grandiose, so romantically rich, it could easily envelop a concert hall or cavernous church. It's a beautifully buzzing mix of distorted guitars, synth pads and sparse electronic beats, all of which intermingle around Aleksa Palladino's alluring, heartsick voice like a swarm of bees in your chest.

The Mix: The Sound Of Your American Dream

Jul 1, 2012

A few weeks ago, we asked you what your American Dream sounds like.

Barring a massive shake-up of the Billboard charts — and American tastes — "Little Mistakes" will not be the song of the summer. But that's not for lack of trying.

The song is the lead single off Brick and Mortar, the latest album by Watershed — a band from Columbus, Ohio, that most people have never heard of. But they have been playing dingy bars, tiny clubs and even the occasional arena for 27 years.

That career has inspired a new memoir called Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll, written by one of the band's founders, Joe Oestreich.

Metric: A Rock Band Declares Independence

Jun 30, 2012

Metric has long been identified as an indie-rock band, but it recently embraced the "indie" part of that descriptor in a big way.

For their last album together, the band's members formed their own company — Metric Music International — to distribute the record, organize a tour and handle promotion without a label's support. The result was the biggest album of Metric's career: Fantasies sold half a million copies worldwide.

Shawn Colvin, All Fall Down, Feature CD, July 6

Jun 30, 2012

Nonesuch Records has just released the new Shawn Colvin album, All Fall Down. A collection of 11 songs, All Fall Down is Colvin's eighth studio album and the first to be produced by her longtime friend and cohort Buddy Miller (Robert Plant, Solomon Burke). Recorded in Nashville, with a group of stellar musicians, All Fall Down features performances by Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Jakob Dylan, Bill Frisell,Viktor Krauss, Brian Blade, Stuart Duncan, and Julie Miller, among others.

Jukebox The Ghost In Concert

Jun 29, 2012

"The Germans can't pronounce it," Jukebox the Ghost says of its name, which its members admit is "impossible to say." The trio came together while attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C., when the drummer and keyboardist responded to a flyer the guitarist had posted in the school's music department. The trio initially performed under the name The Sunday Mail, but after a few years decided that a new identity was in order.

Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack combine to form a huge-sounding, full-blooded rock band, with the former blustering epically on guitar and the latter multitasking on drums and keyboards. Moody and portentous, the Baltimore duo's songs billow menacingly when they're not booming majestically, aided and shrouded by Wasner's enigmatic mumble.

On June 19, a week and a half ago, Fiona Apple released a brand new album, her first in seven years. The entire album had been available for streaming by NPR Music for a week and a half by then. Three days later, my copy arrived in the mail. It hasn't left my desk since.

I still haven't listened to it.

Reignwolf: A One-Man Rock Show

Jun 29, 2012

The way he was tearing it up during an impromptu set at the Sasquatch Music Festival, you'd barely notice that Jordan Cook, a.k.a. Reignwolf, broke a string midway through his fiery rendition of "In the Dark" — that is, until you saw the mangled remnants of his guitar, smoldering on the ground after he'd wrenched every wailing chord from its guts.

John Lydon On World Cafe

Jun 28, 2012

Though John Lydon remains best known as Johnny Rotten, former lead singer of The Sex Pistols, his music career didn't end with the pioneering punk act's split in 1978. Lydon formed Public Image Ltd shortly thereafter and dropped his adopted stage name. Widely considered the first post-punk band, PiL experiments with a wide palette of sounds, including dub, rock and disco.

Call JD McPherson's style a throwback if you like, but don't mistake it for novelty. The former punk rocker and middle-school art teacher crafts a raw and energetic blend of jump blues, rockabilly and early rock 'n' roll on his debut album Signs & Signifiers, recording to 1/4 tape on analog equipment. Still, McPherson is as likely to cite The Smiths or Wu-Tang Clan as influences as he is Little Richard or Ruth Brown.

Second Stage: Vows, 'Winter's Grave'

Jun 28, 2012

Vows' debut album Winter's Grave arrived to NPR folded carefully in a worn piece of paper xeroxed with hand-drawn artwork. True to it's packaging, Winter's Grave is delicately hand-crafted rather then sloppily home-spun.

Vows is a dreamy, atmospheric band with pop sensibilities from a small town in New Jersey. The album's title track has a satisfying blend of enchanting and eerie sounds. It opens with a vibrant riff that rattles over synth keys but slips into dissonant, creepy organ sounds.

Attention fans of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Mumford & Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show: You are bound for glory! Big Easy Express is a new film featuring all three bands and their whistle-stop journey from Oakland to New Orleans aboard a vintage train.

We're a few weeks and a few polls into our summer search for the albums everyone can love, and so far the results have challenged some of our long-held assumptions. Most of you have never heard Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's soundtrack to the film Once (we thought it was wildly popular).

"These ideas of mine / percolate the mind," Fiona Apple sings in "Every Single Night," the song that opens her new album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Some people are going to listen to the entire record and come away with the feeling that the percolation in Apple's mind has bubbled over like a coffee pot left on a stove too long. But for me and perhaps for you, Apple's bubbling thoughts, words and music are thrilling — eager and direct, heedless about being judged or misunderstood.

This week on All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton offer sneak previews of some of the summer's most anticipated releases.

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