When bassist and singer Lou Barlow first formed Sebadoh in 1986, he was an early-twentysomething who wrote sublime, brooding songs about youthful angst and heartache. Now in his late 40s, Barlow writes songs under the Sebadoh moniker that are no less introspective. But he's more agitated and inspired by the trappings of adulthood, from the pressures he feels to make money to life lessons he should have learned by now, to how best to care for his children.
Gregory Alan Isakov made his debut in 2003 and released his fifth album, The Weatherman, last year. Isakov was born in South Africa but lives in Colorado where — with the aid of his degree in organic farming — he grows his own food. Controversy erupted among his fans when one of his songs appeared in a McDonald's ad, and he offers a thoughtful response in this session for World Cafe.
Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 11:56 am
Potty Mouth formed in Northampton, Mass., in 2011. The band released a vinyl EP in 2012, and last year put out a full-length record called Hell Bent. With a name inspired by the title of a Bratmobile album, Potty Mouth revels in the sheer volume and eager, youthful enthusiasm of punk.
One of the loudest bands ever to play the World Cafe studios, Potty Mouth performs songs from Hell Bent in this session.
Pete Seeger believed songs were a way of binding people to a cause. He popularized "This Land is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome" and wrote "If I Had a Hammer." In 1940s, he co-founded The Weavers, who surprised everyone, including themselves, when they became the first group to bring folk music to the pop charts — until they were black listed. Seeger refused to answer questions about his politics when he appeared before House Un-American Activities committee in 1955.
Much will be said and has been said about Pete Seeger, who died Monday at 94, as an activist and musician. Blacklisted, tireless, stubborn, and funny, he wrote a lot of songs that seem to have simply always existed: "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?", "If I Had A Hammer," "Turn, Turn, Turn."
A tireless campaigner for his own vision of a utopia marked by peace and togetherness, Pete Seeger's tools were his songs, his voice, his enthusiasm and his musical instruments. A major advocate for the folk-style five-string banjo and one of the most prominent folk music icons of his generation, Seeger was also a political and environmental activist. He died Monday at age 94. His grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, said he died of natural causes.
On Sunday night, Daft Punk took home the top Grammy Awards — both for their hit single "Get Lucky" and its parent album, Random Access Memories. But if you were hoping to catch a glimpse of the faces behind their masks or hear the voices of the French electronic act, you were out of luck. Their collaborators spoke for them. Last year, though, the "robots" spoke with us about their work. In honor of their big wins, we revisit that interview.
The Districts started out as a high-school band in Lititz, Penn. After some wise touring that included a SXSW visit last year — as well as a video with more than 300,000 views — the group now has a self-titled EP due out Tuesday on a national label. You can download two of the folk-pop band's catchy songs on the World Cafe: Next podcast.
At the beginning of the 2014 Grammy Awards show, it seemed that one story would dominate the night. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the Seattle duo whose highly accessible take on hip-hop became last year's indie-to-mainstream success story, took home three awards during the ceremony's pre-telecast portion.
In a segment from January of last year — around the time they released their successful debut, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic — Foxygen's Jonathan Rado and Sam France turn up on World Cafe to perform and discuss songs from their album together.
Angel Olsen came to the Tiny Desk on an odd autumn day, as an impending storm loomed outside our office windows. It all seemed just right for occasion: Watch her and you'll see calm in her eyes; listen to her and you'll sense torment in her heart. Olsen gave us a preview of her third record on that October day; she wouldn't tell us the title, but she did say the word "Burn" with a hint of the title in the words to a song she'd sing.
Not sure if it's a compliment to be called a "thinking man's metal band" — if nothing else, it's not so nice to the other metal bands — but Helmet has always made smart music that never loses its punch. Singer and guitarist Page Hamilton founded the group back in 1989, and since then it's gone through the usual motions of a successful band: early attention leading to a label signing, a series of albums that grow more critically acclaimed but sell less than expected, band dissolution and breakup, subsequent solo work and collaborations, and an eventual reboot.
Well, let's move from the pre-telecast to the artists you did see on TV, if you were watching; the winners and nominees who were on stage at the Staples Center for a marathon evening ceremony. NPR television critic Eric Deggans joins us to talk about the big show.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: First, let me ask you this. With most of the awards given out actually before the ceremony, the Grammys - unlike the Oscars - are not really an awards show. What would you call it?
French dance music producers Daft Punk won Album of the Year for Random Access Memories and Record of the Year for their hit "Get Lucky" at the 56th annual Grammy awards on Sunday night. In a ceremony heavy on collaborative performances (Robin Thicke with Chicago, Kendrick Lamar with Imagine Dragons and Metallica with Lang Lang were a few of the more random pairings) and light on surprise, no single artist dominated.
Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 9:21 am
Compiled by Starbucks every few years, the Sweetheart compilations adhere to a simple concept in which well-liked contemporary artists cover well-liked classic love songs just in time for Valentine's Day. But, more importantly, the collections revolve around a refreshing and consistent mindset: There are no arch piss-takes, no goofs, no skirting sincerity with a wink and a sneer. Even when an effort feels like a minor pairing or a failed experiment, goodwill carries the day.
Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 9:22 am
Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith sings sweet, timeless songs about love, desire, death and grief — not, it would seem, the stuff of grandiose artistic ambition. And yet Messersmith stands out by trying harder, doing more and always reaching farther than it seems.
Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 9:23 am
On her sixth album, Boston-born singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler gets darker than ever before: Its title must refer to a cold, polarizing kind of July, with the frigid climes that accompany an early-February release.
Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 10:14 am
Gina Chavez's voice stops you in your tracks the first time you hear it. At least that's how it worked for me when I came upon her performance during South by Southwest a few years ago. She was playing a semi-acoustic set on a sunlit patio above a busy sports bar — a setting not exactly conducive to her intimate songwriting.
Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 9:21 am
The first thing you'll hear when listening to CEO's Wonderland is a sample from 2010's Feathered Cocaine, a documentary about the secret funding of al Qaeda as told through the experiences of an American falconer. The second and third things you'll hear are childlike yelps and music that could be the soundtrack to some John Hughes end credits. This song is called "Whorehouse." There is no better way to introduce yourself to the mind of Eric Berglund, the sole proprietor of CEO.
Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 10:13 am
The quality of mystery is undervalued in music these days. It's often mimicked via indecipherable lyrics, mumbled vocals or spooky sound effects, but that's not the real stuff. Rarely does anyone touch upon that delicate, open-ended state of unknowing that can descend on any given day, whether you're locked in a lover's embrace or just sitting in front of the television.
David Crosby may have one of the most cherished voices in rock history, but it's rare for listeners to hear it alone. His new solo studio album, Croz, is only his fourth such release in more than 50 years of making music.