This week's pick for World Cafe: Next is Phèdre, a Canadian band that also serves as a highlight for this month's Sense of Place: Toronto series. The group was named by singer Daniel Lee and bassist April Aliermo after Nancy Sinatra's alter ego in "Some Velvet Morning," the classic duet with Lee Hazlewood.
The band released its second album — the synth-laden, oozy and outrageous Golden Age — in October. Listeners can hear and download two songs from the record with today's podcast.
This segment from Nov. 19, 2010, is part of our Vintage Cafe series, in which we revisit some of our best studio performances.
Originally formed in Toronto in 1998, the indie-pop band Stars features singer Torquil Campbell, keyboardist Chris Seligman, singer-guitarist Amy Millan and bassist Evan Cranley. After the release of 2004's Set Yourself on Fire in the U.S., Stars became a huge buzz band for songs like "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" and "Ageless Beauty."
Divided & United is the name of a new, two-disc collection of songs from the Civil War. The selections tell tales of fear, loneliness, exhaustion and triumph. All recordings featured on the album, which was produced by Randall Poster, are new takes on old songs; historian Sean Wilentz wrote the liner notes for the record.
The collection features lesser-known songs of the Civil War, some by a songwriter named Henry Clay Work. According to Wilentz, Work was a key member of a group of composers that wrote the history of the era through song.
"I always claim I that like to improvise, so I need to prove it," says Nils Frahm as he sits down before a setup completely new to him and cobbled together for this in-studio performance at KEXP. Lately, the young German minimalist composer has been exploring the spaces between things, between the extemporaneous and the rehearsed, between live and recorded, between intimate and public — and most definitely between classical music, electronica and pop.
Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 9:42 am
Lucinda Williams appears on this episode of Mountain Stage from Dec. 2, 2001. Williams' first appearance on the show in 1989 is often touted as her first nationally broadcast performance. Since then, she's enjoyed mainstream success while earning a place as one of alt-country's most beloved singer-songwriters.
Originally published on Sun November 24, 2013 5:46 pm
There is no shortage of folk and country songs about whiskey. But what makes this Mandolin Orange tune so enchanting is its effortlessness. The words seem to fall right into one another, like cheery drunks into so many bar stools. Mandolinist Andrew Marlin wrote this song during a road trip with his friend. They thought it might be fun to write a stereotypical country song and didn't expect for it to be so catchy.
Bob Schneider finished writing "The Effect," a song from his latest album, Burden of Proof, in just a few days. That's how he does it: For 12 years, the Texas musician has beaten back the urge to procrastinate by writing a song once a week, every week. It began casually, just him and a friend sharing their songs with one another.
"I'll go home, write a song, you'll write a song, and then we'll come back here in two days and play 'em for each other," Schneider says. "That's basically how it started."
Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 8:27 am
There's a beguiling photo of Krzysztof Penderecki, who turns 80 today, inside the brochure of this week's Warsaw music festival that bears his name. It shows the lauded Polish composer standing in his immense garden, surrounded by a labyrinth of trees and shrubbery trimmed to symmetrical perfection.
This might be as intimate as hearing Katie Crutchfield sing in her basement. That's where she and her sister would play guitar, write and sing songs 10 years ago, when she was 14. Katie and Allison Crutchfield had a band back in Birmingham together, The Ackleys; these days, Katie performs as Waxahatchee, while Allison's band is called Swearin'.
World Cafe's Sense of Place visit to Toronto continues with a session from Memoryhouse, the duo of singer Denise Nouvion and composer-arranger Evan Abeele. When Memoryhouse formed in 2009, Nouvion, who had a background as a photographer, hadn't sung much. Abeele, on the other hand, had studied classical composition.
On this installment ofWorld Cafe, folk-soul musician Amos Lee returns to the WXPN studios to perform a rousing live set. Lee released his first album in 2005; six years later, Mission Bell made its debut at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart.
Ashley Monroe makes her first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown. A native of Knoxville, Tenn., Monroe moved to Nashville and signed a publishing deal when she was only 20.
Grammy Award-winning musician Esperanza Spalding has a problem with using the phrase "protest song" to describe her new recording, "We Are America." The song, along with its accompanying music video, demands congressional action to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
" 'Protest' doesn't seem accurate to me," she tells NPR's Celeste Headlee. "We weren't thinking of a 'protest' song, we're thinking of a 'let's get together and do something pro-active, creative and productive' song."
Pianist, composer and author Kenny Werner is known for his 1996 book Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within, which has become a university textbook for improvising musicians and other artists. His album of original compositions, No Beginning No End -- a meditation on loss, death and renewal — was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2010.
I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to composer anniversaries but this year, marking 100 years since the birth of Benjamin Britten, has been absolutely fascinating for me. I am now living proof that such centenaries can indeed change the way we look at a composer and provide us with opportunities to explore their breadth and depth. In Britten I have found a new hero, a musically surprising and multi-dimensional citizen of the world.
Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 9:11 am
The Umbria Festival in Italy turns 40 this summer. Umbria presents jazz indoors and out in two historic cities — Perugia in summer, Orvieto in winter. Marching bands parade; gospel choirs sing. Concerts start at noon, midnight and all the hours in between. (The New Year's Eve show in Orvieto begins at 1 a.m. on New Year's Day.) And the musicians can be delightfully unfamiliar, at least to American ears.
World Cafe welcomes British trio London Grammar to WXPN's studios for Thursday's session. Vocalist Hannah Reid, guitarist Dan Rothman and multi-instrumentalist Dot Major initially met in 2009 as students at University of Nottingham.
Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 9:38 am
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the holiday gift baskets from which our interns will receive their only sustenance is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how to meet your favorite musicians without feeling like a complete stooge.
Helen Okolicsanyi writes via Facebook: "How can you not be awkward when you get a chance to meet your favorite musician in person? I never know what to say besides 'Love your music' without sounding like a fangirl."
If you're going to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner next week, you've probably already started gathering the traditional ingredients — but your ingredients are most likely very different from those that made up the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621. (Marshmallows with those sweet potatoes, anyone?)
Our Sense of Place: Toronto series continues with a stripped-down session from Metric. The band was formed in Toronto in 1998 by vocalist-keyboardist Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw. Drummer Joules Scott-Key and bassist Joshua Winstead round out the rest of the group, though they don't appear onWednesday's episode.
Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 1:41 pm
To find out about terrific local bands for our Sense of Place stop in Toronto, we went straight to one of the city's best-known sources: Frank Yang, founder of the Canadian music and arts blog Chromewaves. Yang has won numerous awards for the site, including Best Music Website in Toronto by NOW Magazine in 2008. Yang has also been a member of the Polaris Music Prize jury since 2006.