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.
Scott Miller and Rayna Gellert appear together on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown. A veteran of Knoxville's lively music scene and a member of alt-country band The V-Roys, Miller was among the first artists signed to Steve Earle's E-Squared label. He then released a series of solo albums, backed by his own band — The Commonwealth — while continuing to play the acoustic shows that first brought him to prominence.
British sensation Jake Bugg, 19, visits WXPN's studios for Tuesday's installment of World Cafe. Bugg's self-titled debut topped the U.K. charts when it was released last year — and the success didn't stop there. The singer-songwriter was featured on the main stage at the Glastonbury Festival this year, and nominated for British Breakthrough Act at the 2013 Brit Awards.
The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band makes its first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown. One of the most respected and accomplished instrumentalists in popular music, Jorgenson co-founded country-rock's pioneering Desert Rose Band, spent more than half a decade in Elton John's touring band, and led the group of country-guitar wizards known as the Hellecasters.
On this episode of All Songs Considered, hear Robin Hilton explain why he has a Yo Gabba Gabba! song stuck in his head every day, and how the best remedy this week has been the new Death Grips record, Government Plates.
It's been several months since longtime Pixies bassist Kim Deal left the band, and the remaining members are still figuring out how to play together. But the group's new sound seems to coalesce on its latest single and video, "What Goes Boom."
"Since the reunion, there are sounds that I've been coming up with," guitarist Joey Santiago tells us via email. "And a lot of them just got condensed into this one song, with me going sh*thouse on guitar."
We need some help putting together next week's show. Thanksgiving is coming up, and for a lot of you, this means you'll be spending some close time with family. Maybe it's more time with family than you want. Or maybe you can't get enough of it. Either way, it's an opportunity to reflect on the people in our lives and how they've shaped who we are.
This segment, from Sept. 28, 2007, is part of our Vintage Cafe series, in which we revisit some of our best studio performances.
Leslie Feist has long attracted serious buzz: For the last several years, she's appeared on the verge of jumping from underground success to mainstream stardom. In recent weeks, she's started to fulfill that promise, with her song "1234" surfacing in ubiquitous commercials and her face appearing on top late-night talk shows.
Jesse Winchester makes his eighth appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown. Winchester ranks among the elite group of singer-songwriters who can captivate an audience with just his words, his voice and an acoustic guitar.
Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 4:11 pm
"A Rational Conversation" is a column by writer Eric Ducker in which he gets on iChat or Gchat or the phone or whatever with a special guest to examine a music-related subject that's entered the pop culture consciousness. It previously appeared at The Daily Swarm.
Nightsounds was originally chartered in 1987 as a locally produced radio program that showcased artists loosely affiliated with New Age music, which became quite popular with the ascension of such labels as Windham Hill, Optimism, Higher Octave and Narada Records; all studios which featured artists loosely affiliated with acoustic and electronic instrumental music that did not pigeon hole into jazz or even soft record categories.
This week's two-hour Metropolis mix includes a brand-new Disclosure song, Rudimental remixed by Maya Jane Coles, an extended remix of Basement Jaxx's latest jam, MK remixing Sky Ferreira, and the U.K. chart-topping hit by Morgan Geist's Storm Queen alias.
Tiga vs. Audion, "Let's Go Dancing (Solomun Remix)"
Basement Jaxx, "Mermaid Of Salinas (Jaxx Extended Club Mix)"
For all the terrific live sessions Cheryl Waters witnesses in the KEXP live room, she's not often knocked speechless after a first song. Clearly, London Grammar has learned from the best: Thanks to the moody atmospherics of guitarist Dan Rothman and keyboardist Dot Major, as well as the soulfully smoky voice of Hannah Reid, the young U.K. trio has already attracted comparisons to Daughter, The xx and Florence Welch.
Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 10:35 am
Nicholas Murphy chose his moniker to honor Chet Baker, the American jazz musician known both as a trumpeter and a fragile, intimate singer. The Australian electronic musician, producer and rising soul singer — a.k.a. Chet Faker — has teamed up with his countryman Flume, the 22-year-old electronic producer. Together, they're releasing this fabulous track, "Drop the Game." This isn't their first collaboration: Flume and Chet Faker worked on Flume's self-titled record, and that record is up for an Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) award.