Natalie Merchant became the creative center of the band 10,000 Maniacs when she was only 17, then made seven albums with the group before leaving to pursue a solo career in 1993. After taking a hiatus to raise her daughter, Merchant is back with a new self-titled album — her first solo material in 13 years. On this session of World Cafe, Merchant plays a set of new songs.
Our Latin Roots segment today is with Ernesto Lechner of the syndicated radio show The Latin Alternative. He joins us to talk about The Mighty Sparrow, a musical giant who has been a defining force in calypso and soca music for more than five decades. Lechner brings his personal passion to this discussion, focusing on how Sparrow's music was at first both familiar and exotic to him. He will play some examples from early and later in the Calypso king's career.
On this installment of Latin Roots from World Cafe, writer and producer Rachel Faro discusses one of her heroes, bass player Juan Formell. Formell led the Cuban band Los Van Van for almost 45 years, and was one of its remaining original members when he died on May 1 at 71. The band is now led by Formell's son, Samuel. Faro praises Los Van Van's ability to reflect the changes in Cuban society over the years, while still keeping things moving.
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the six-pack of Hanson-branded beer that cost $25 to ship is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on disposing of music in a digital age.
Tami Anderson writes via Facebook: "How long do you keep songs in your collection when you rarely/never seem to listen to them?"
Michael Benjamin Lerner is the drummer, lead singer and songwriter behind the Seattle-based band Telekinesis. There are times, while listening to his music, when I think it's just about the greatest pop band on the planet. Every song is perfectly realized and memorable.
Michael sits in as our guest Quizmaster for this week's puzzler, sharing fills and intros from some of his favorite drummers who've inspired his own work. Good luck, close-listeners!
Baggy pants make different music than skinny jeans. Cowboy hats sound different than fedoras. T-shirt-and-jeans bands make a different noise than suit-and-tie bands. You can often look at a band's clothing and have a pretty good idea what it'll sound like.
Sometimes we like to turn things up really loud, especially in the summertime. So for this year's edition of Make Music New York, we commissioned Sunny Jain, founder of Red Baraat, to write a new song that would kick off the season in massive, marching-band style. He came back to us with "100+ BPM."
Tycho started as a solo musical project from graphic designer and photographer Scott Hansen, but has since evolved into a full band. The exhilarating music triggers strong emotions, which is unusual for instrumental music; the band was built around its live shows and the "arcs of energy" that define its performances. This version of "Awake" provides a great example.
Do It Again, by the Scandinavian dream team of Röyksopp and Robyn, is neither act's official "new album," but rather a five-song mini-album from the group Röyksopp & Robyn — which, truth be told, is a catchier name than Röykbyn or Robsopp.
Today marks 100 years since Sun Ra was born — or, as the musician might have put it, since he arrived on Earth. An influential jazz composer, keyboardist and bandleader, Sun Ra always insisted he was just visiting this planet.
Founded by vocalist and songwriter Dee Dee Penny, Dum Dum Girls takes its name from Iggy Pop's "Dum Dum Boys." The group brings its mix of lo-fi rock and noise-pop to its latest album, Too True, which was produced by longtime collaborator Richard Gottehrer.
During this session for World Cafe, Penny discusses how damaging her voice affected the time it took to record Too True — and, of course, the band plays a few tracks from the album.
Rivers run through many of our well-loved and best-known landscapes. Their quiet banks and neglected docksides are now often the focus of rural rediscovery and urban regeneration. Music, old and new, celebrates our rivers as sources of life and of timeless inspirations to song-makers.
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Four years ago, a small U.K. label forced listeners to rethink what we call dance music. Night Slugs, co-founded by Alex Sushon (a.k.a. Bok Bok) and James Connelly (L-Vis 1990), coalesced around the pair's monthly London gig of the same name, a party that gradually fused house music and grime into a separate hybrid. Fans and critics weren't sure what to call this phase of the hardcore continuum, so they latched on to its most distinguishing feature: bass.
Jazz composer and trumpeter Theo Croker opens his new album, AfroPhysicist, with an ode to his grandfather: New Orleans jazz great Doc Cheatham. The thing is, Croker didn't grow up in New Orleans or any other jazz hub. He's from Jacksonville, Fla., and he was just a child when his grandfather died in 1997. It wasn't until his grandfather's memorial services — attended by jazz legends — that he decided to join the legacy.
Singer-songwriter Conor Oberst started releasing his own music on cassette from his home in Nebraska back in 1993, when he was only 13. Best known for his work as Bright Eyes, Oberst is also a member of Desaparecidos and Monsters of Folk.
Did a band from Los Angeles get ripped off by Led Zeppelin? That's the claim in a new lawsuit by representatives of the band Spirit, which played some dates with the British rock legends in their early days in America.
Everyone knows there are five immutable truths in life. No. 1 is "Nothing's ever easy." No. 2 is "Nobody does the right thing." No. 3 is, well, you get the idea.
The Portland, Ore., band Ages and Ages will likely make you rethink these immutable truths — particularly the whole idea about doing the right thing in life. Pay close attention to the second song the group performs in this uplifting Tiny Desk Concert, and you'll see what I mean.
Michael Eugene Archer revolutionized soul music like few others. As part of the Soulquarian movement, and friend and collaborator to Questlove, Lauryn Hill and Raphael Saadiq, D'Angelo carried on the legacy of Marvin Gaye and Prince, while fusing it with the off-kilter beat flourish of J Dilla. One of the world's most celebrated performers, the Voodoo child will descend upon Brooklyn Museum for an intimate public lecture session, moderated by author, filmmaker and critic Nelson George.
For such a good-natured duo, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent can sound darker and more dangerous than you might imagine. As Shovels & Rope, they play gritty, boot-stomping roots-rock that spans rousing sing-alongs, heartwarming ballads and harrowing tales of vengeance.
This week's World Cafe: Next artist is 31-year-old Minnesotan Haley Bonar. She was discovered at 19 by Alan Sparhawk of Low at an open mic in Duluth, Minn., and is about to release her fifth album, Last War. Here, we play two of its tracks, which you can download at the audio link.