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On Saturday, The Glands frontman Ross Shapiro died from an undisclosed illness at 52. We remember the musician with one of our favorite songs.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Spring Sounds

Mar 31, 2016

The flow of music is never-ending, and a spring tide of new recordings is bound to yield a great bounty. In this episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, host Fiona Ritchie handpicks some of the best new sounds from rising artists, along with the latest from old favorites.

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Robert DeLong started out playing in L.A. punk bands, but the singer, drummer, producer and remixer found success when he set out on his own as a one-man band. He recently brought his incredible set-up to KCRW's studio. Watch his wizardry in this medley of "Long Way Down" and "Global Concepts."


  • "Long Way Down/Global Concepts"

Watch Robert DeLong's full Morning Becomes Electric session at

At first, it's an unlikely pairing. I think of Sam Amidon unadorned, his yearning voice perhaps paired with a guitar, banjo or fiddle. On the other hand, San Fermin, the project of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, is about the mighty power of great arrangements and orchestration. It took Sam's young son to pull the two sounds together for this song new collaboration, along with words taken from a poem called "Against Winter" by poet Charles Simic. Ellis Ludwig-Leone wrote to us, describing the simple beginnings of this new song:

In the mid-1980s, Schyl Perry toiled as mortgage broker in a Bay Area real estate market that was still a generation away from going stratospheric. His million dollar dreams were less concerned with amortization tables and more obsessed with analog synthesizers as Perry built a small studio in his North Oakland garage. In 1987, Perry unleashed what he hoped would be his magnum opus, Million Dollar Ecstacy [sic], an album that 's best described as an outsider boogie funk new wave disco fusion project. Or something like that.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Gallant was not rushed to market. Gallant is the wise, lucky beneficiary of development and time. Or we are. Zebra, the EP that Christopher Gallant released in 2014, was adrift in a stylized haze; but on Ology, the 24 year-old singer's soulful voice is front and center, and his intent clear.

Review: John Carpenter, 'Lost Themes II'

Mar 31, 2016

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Craftspeople and artists look to Asheville, N.C., as a center of creativity and make up a big part of the area's identity. They've flocked to the city's River Arts District, which houses several art studios and has become a destination for visitors.

During World Cafe's Sense Of Place trip to Asheville, N.C., we spent a lot of time recording sessions at a beautiful set of studios downtown called Echo Mountain. There are two main rooms: the original studio, built in a chapel complete with stained glass; and the annex, which boasts an even larger room. Echo Mountain's client list is filled with local and national bands, and almost everyone we taped for Sense Of Place had recorded there before.

Just before he died in 2009, Joe Castro sat down with his son James to listen to some tapes. The reel-to-reels were full of Castro's own decades-old recordings, in which the jazz pianist jammed with his contemporaries.

"It was kind of like a shock," James says, "because right when we put the first tape on, it sounded like it was recorded yesterday."

Father and son went through more than 40 hours of tape. James says he was used to hearing his dad back up other musicians.

It's been a remarkable 12 months for James Alex, a year full of contradictions and firsts. The lead singer and songwriter for the band Beach Slang, Alex and his wife Rachel had their first child, Oliver, to start 2015. Then in October, the band released its debut album, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, which has meant nonstop touring.

A native son of the Boston area who came up playing the blues in Clarksdale, Miss., Eli Paperboy Reed possesses musical passions that run as deep as they do broad.

Charles Bradley took the stage at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Texas, Wednesday night, clad in an amazing, rhinestone-bedecked jacket that made his cuffs and collar sparkle like diamonds. Not for nothing is he known as "the screaming eagle of soul."

Sense Of Place Asheville: Tyler Ramsey

Mar 29, 2016

Steep Canyon Rangers' members are rightly revered in North Carolina bluegrass circles. Known in the wider world as comedian and banjo player Steve Martin's band, the group is also a formidable, Grammy-winning force on its own.

On this week's episode of All Songs Considered, Bob helps Robin Hilton out of his annual NCAA March Madness depression after his Jayhawks lose yet again. Bob plays a mind-obliterating track from Explosions In The Sky.

Session Americana On Mountain Stage

Mar 29, 2016

Session Americana makes its first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live in Beckley, W.Va. Hailing from the Boston-area town of Somerville, Mass., Session Americana is a rotating cast of characters built around the core quartet of musicians Ry Cavanaugh, Billy Beard, Dinty Child and Jim Fitting.

Overthinking a good pop song can ruin the big fat grin one can elicit. Portland, Ore.'s Mo Troper makes grinningly great power-pop songs, while remaining ridiculously good at covering up his labor-intensive songwriting choices.

Joe Kendrick is the program director at WNCW, World Cafe's affiliate in Spindale, N.C. The station's wide geographic coverage (North Carolina, South Carolina and into Tennessee) is matched by the breadth of the music it features. WNCW dives into Americana, blues and bluegrass, and even broadcasts a Sunday-afternoon old-time show.

As part of World Cafe's Sense Of Place trip to Asheville, N.C., we sat down with Alli Marshall, an editor and writer at local weekly paper Mountain Xpress and the author of the novel How To Talk To Rockstars, to hear what makes her city unique. She says Asheville residents approach music, crafts, arts, architecture and even beer with a reverent desire to keep the city their own.

Anthony Hamilton's soul sound was refined in the churches of Charlotte, N.C. Watching the Grammy winner perform, you get the hunch that it's harder for him to keep the soul inside than it is to actually unleash it. What he and his backup singers, The Hamiltones, do would be better classified as a musical purge, with a stage show that can double as couples therapy and church service. Their warm harmonies have the ability to shrink theaters and stadiums, so we knew this intimate setting was perfect for them.

In case the connotations may have been unclear, the poster verse posed the only question worth asking on the occasion of a beloved band's reunion: zombies or saviors? "LCD Soundsystem will rise from the dead this Easter Sunday at Webster Hall," the text reads, accompanied by a black and white image featured James Murphy and the band he retired a week shy of five years ago, looking like the walking dead.

Metropolis: 3/26/16

Mar 28, 2016

This Week's Playlist

  • Sofi Tukker, "Matadora [Medina Remix]" (Sofi Tukker, LLC)
  • Coldcut, "Man In A Garage [Lemon Jelly Remix]" (Ninja Tune)
  • Underworld, "Low Burn" (Ume)
  • ILS, "6 Space (Next Level)" (Immergent)
  • Justin Martin, "Hello Clouds (feat. Femme)" (Dirtybird)
  • Digitalism, "Utopia [H.O.S.H. Remix]" ([PIAS] America)
  • Tee Mango, "Need Your Love" (Millionhands)
  • Claude Vonstroke, "The Rain Break" (Dirtybird)

Collectors of kitsch and arcane Americana in their private lives, Cincinnati's Chuck Cleaver (formerly of Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker have also accumulated high praise with their band Wussy. In the past 15 years, Wussy has grown from a duo to a five-piece, while being called "the best band in America" by none other than Robert Christgau, who added, "only nobody knows it."