The members of Vertical Scratchers don't have to pretend: They are free spirits, making music that is at once tightly composed, whimsical and anarchic.
The vocals on a Vertical Scratchers song tend to be high-pitched and yearning. John Schmersal creates harmonies from his vocal tracks that have a keening romanticism. His guitar lines are a series of slashed chords — vertical scratching, and thus the band's name. At the same time, there's a compressed intensity to the tunes, which uncoil with a snap, again and again.
It wasn't an easy road to the Tiny Desk for the four guys from Louisiana who make up Brass Bed. Their tour, for the band's debut album The Secret Will Keep You, was plagued from the start: Singer Christiaan Mader had the flu, there was a death in the family and multiple dates had to be canceled. Their van was broken into and their instruments stolen. So when they heard that a big snowstorm was headed for D.C. at the same time they were to play the Tiny Desk, it felt like yet another bad omen.
Our Vintage Cafe this week is with Beck, whose new album, Morning Phase, will be released nationally on Feb. 25.
This interview from 2007 was conducted in the wake of the deluxe edition of his album The Information. The studio session contains some fine performances, including "I Think I'm In Love," and a wide-ranging discussion touching on the hip-hop and indie music scenes. Also, Beck looks back on dropping out of high school and traveling the world before ultimately settling in Southern California.
It's a family affair for Seattle artist Noah Gundersen. Accompanied by his sister, brother and friends, the soft-spoken singer-songwriter performed a dynamic, yet delicate Morning Show session featuring tracks from his debut full-length, Ledges.
Diane Cluck has been under-appreciated for so long, it's hard not to try to make up for lost time. So, before you listen to Boneset for the first time, take a few minutes to listen to one of the best songs of the last 10 years: "All I Bring You Is Love," from Cluck's fourth album Oh Vanille / Ova Nil.
Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 10:41 am
We're just now starting to recognize early-aughts downloads with the same nostalgic air that we do a lucky score at a record store. Slow modems, improperly tagged files, Sharpie-scrawled CDRs — well, at least some of us think of those times fondly. It's an odd relationship, clicking on a not-so-legal rip of an all-too-rare LP only previously known to record-store clerks and collectors, knowing that it's only a poor facsimile. But there's still the thrill of discovery, however removed from the source.
The story of how singer and guitarist Domenic Palermo came to form the noise-rock band Nothing sounds like a Behind the Music episode gone bad. Growing up in the crime-infested neighborhood of Kensington in Philadelphia, Palermo hung with a tough crowd that, in his own words, drove around with large amounts of cocaine and guns while listening to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless.
In three albums as St. Vincent, plus the 2012 David Byrne collaboration Love This Giant, Annie Clark has proven adept at writing rock songs that flirt with the tense and uneasy. Her streak continues on St. Vincent, a new album replete with dissonances and distortions that make even its prettiest melodies read as disturbing.
A lot of obscure bands want to reach a national audience, and they send their records to NPR. Unfortunately, there's a lot of forgettable stuff in the mix, and recently the staff of All Things Considered received the kind of CD it would usually toss.
It's got a pair of singles by two bands — The Blue Jean Committee, which came out of the 1970s Massachusetts folk scene; and The Fingerlings, a British post-disco/synth band of art-school graduates. Both sound desperately tiresome.
A drum from the Argentine Pampas fuels the music of Sofia Rei in this video: The way Franco Pinna has it incorporated into a traditional drum set serves as a musical metaphor for the music Rei performs alongside Pinna and guitarist/bassist JC Maillard.
When I first walked through the door of Fred Ho's apartment in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, I asked, "How are you?" And he said, "Not good. I'm dying."
Ho has always been matter-of-fact and in-your-face. He painted himself green and posed naked for the cover his album, Celestial Green Monster. In the photo, he has a baritone saxophone placed strategically between his legs. He looks strong — like the Hulk.
Even before our Sense of Place visit to New Orleans, we had been hearing about the band Hurray for the Riff Raff, led by Alynda Lee Segara. The band rose from the streets of the French Quarter, where Alynda really learned how to be a musician. She is originally from the Bronx and left home to ride the rails all over the country before landing in New Orleans.
Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 6:03 pm
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Beck single that keeps tricking us into thinking it's the new Beck album are a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when superfans sever their allegiances.
Piano Jazz remembers John Dankworth with a special session recorded before a live audience at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. A saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, arranger and bandleader, Dankworth and his wife and longtime musical partner, singer Cleo Laine, appeared on the program in 1998, along with host Marian McPartland and bassist Jeff Campbell. Dankworth enjoyed a long career as one of England's most celebrated jazz musicians.
Today on World Cafe's Sense of Place we speak with John Timmons about the Louisville music he knows so much about, and he picks the five greatest all-time Louisville artists. Timmons moved to Louisville in 1975 and opened one of America's great record stores, Ear X–Tacy, in 1985. It had a good run until 2011.
John Timmons' 5 Greatest Louisville Bands Of All Time:
Laura Shine is the afternoon host and assistant program director at our World Cafe affiliate WFPK in Louisville, Ky., and she still finds time to devour that city's rich local music scene.
We asked her to pick five bands to showcase that vibrant scene. They range from Cabin, the work of Noah Hewett-Ball who's a visual artist-songwriter creating music as a soundtrack to his paintings, to the retro sounding Small Time Napolean. Shine also explains why Louisville is ripe for all this creativity.
For our Sense Of Place visit to Louisville, Ky., we have a chance to meet singer-songwriter Cheyenne Mize. After working with fellow Louisvillian Will Oldham in 2009 on a 10" recording of 19th-century Parlor music, she started making her own records. The latest, Among The Grey, was released last summer.
Eddie Palmieri has been a force for Latin jazz since the 1950s, when he hosted the legendary mambo shows at New York's Palladium Ballroom. His groups, including the renowned La Perfecta, revolutionized Latin music in the 1960s and '70s. His records number more than 30 as a leader, and he's won nine Grammy Awards. At 76, Palmieri is still a foremost ambassador for the music he loves.
On the day its second full-length album (Voices) came out, Phantogram was on Morning Becomes Eclectic, performing in L.A.'s Village studios. The New York duo combines trip-hop beats, spaced-out keyboards and Sarah Barthel's airy vocals to create a sound big enough to fill some of L.A.'s largest venues. Only a few days old, the album already has a few songs on heavy rotation at KCRW — including this one, titled "Black Out Days."
The London electronic/funk/dance collective Jungle has popped up many times in our Metropolis mixes over the past six months. The group, led by the vaguely anonymous duo J and T, is releasing its debut album later this year, and is primed to catch on in America during stops in New York City and SXSW next month.
Metropolis host Jason Bentley premiered the record's first single, "Busy Earnin'," on KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., on Wednesday morning. If you weren't listening, we've got you covered — you can stream the radio edit right here.