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World Cafe Next: Birds Of Chicago

Apr 4, 2016

This week's World Cafe: Next discovery is Birds Of Chicago, a group centered on the voices of Allison Russell and JT Nero. The band began in 2012 when Nero started writing songs for Russell, who'd previously been in the Canadian roots group Po'Girl.

The Brooklyn band Parquet Courts usually alternates albums and EPs in quick enough succession that fans never need to feel like they're waiting too long. The extra months it took for the group's latest record to hit the streets, though, might have seemed like cause for worry. Thankfully, the excellent, energized songs on Human Performance prove that even with more production, Parquet Courts' members have lost none of their raw, anxious energy.

It took only a few power chords, a sprinkle of glitter and the occasional jokey line — "We can do our makeup in the parking lot / We can get so famous that I might get shot / But right now I'm in the shower" — to forever hook me on PWR BTTM. The queer, glammy, wildly dressed duo has a keen sense of mischief and a real gift for honest, punk-infused, tongue-in-cheek pop gems.

In 2014, Sergei Roldugin told the New York Times, "I don't have millions."

As Radical Face, Ben Cooper has written song after song about a fictional family. They make up not just one album but a trilogy of them, called The Family Tree. All of the characters on the first two albums, The Roots and The Branches, were made up. But then, Cooper was forced to confront some very real family secrets of his own.

This week in Dallas, a singular work of music is being performed in memory of Tyler Clementi: the 18-year-old college freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge in 2010, after his roommate at Rutgers secretly filmed him being intimate with another man and posted about it online.

Ronnie Spector was part of the heart and soul of the 1960's, and she has never stopped. You might know her as the leader of The Ronettes, the girl group that gave us "Be My Baby" and "Baby, I Love You." She also helped turn rock 'n' roll into a worldwide force.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 100th birthday earlier this year. In a performance of Ravel's Boléro, the orchestra presented a few members of a new generation of players eager to take the music into a new century. They were members of the BSO's OrchKids program, onstage at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to play right alongside regular orchestra musicians.

Bob Moog, the electronic-music pioneer and inventor of the synthesizer that bears his name, loved Asheville, N.C., and lived there for years. That's why the Moog Foundation, run by his daughter Michelle Moog-Koussa, is located there. In this segment, Moog-Koussa discusses her father's relationship to the area and his history as an inventor. Check out the Spotify playlist on this page for more Moog-centric music.

Sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith grew up with Appalachian music, having been carried by their artist parents to festivals and mountain-music gatherings around the Asheville, N.C., area. The banjo- and fiddle-playing sisters embraced that music in their own way and formed the band Rising Appalachia in 2005. Their latest album is last year's Wider Circles.

The latest record from Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, A Man Alive, is a striking alliance with tUnE-yArDs' electro-pop virtuoso, Merrill Garbus. Garbus, who has been friends with singer-guitarist Thao Nguyen for years, produced the record, bringing a muscular electrified quality to the band's sound. Swirled amid looped samples are Nguyen's startling, personal lyrics.

The Piave River flows into the Adriatic Sea, irrigating the vines of the Veneto wine region and sharing a bloody history with two battles during the Napoleonic Wars and WWI. Like that river, life and death are the ever-shifting currents that guide the Italian musician Marco Spigariol on his debut album, Requiescat In Plavem, recorded under the name Krano.

Ben Harper's work with his longtime backing band, The Innocent Criminals, dates back to 1993. Percussionist Leon Mobley, bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Oliver Charles, keyboard player Jason Yates and guitarist Michael Ward joined Harper in most of his musical endeavors until 2008, when the band went on hiatus. In 2015, The Innocent Criminals reunited for a run of shows at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco — and discovered that Harper had been working on a slew of material for a new record.

Time was when every other drama about troubled youth came packaged with evil, inept or uncomprehending government functionaries itching to make matters worse. In Emmanuelle Bercot's sympathetic Standing Tall, one sorely lacking caseworker shows up briefly to rub salt in the prior wounds of a damaged youngster. He is quickly dispatched though, and from then on the film tags along with a team of dedicated workers trying to rescue the teenager from a rotten past, a lousy future, and his own hair-trigger temper. There's not a saint among them, but their devotion rarely flags.

Welcome to the April Fools' edition of the Dose – no pranks, just serious bizness. O.K., maybe not so serious – maybe Team Dose just takes it seriously, because we care.

Ane Brun recently turned 40, and she — like many of us who've reached that milestone — has been taking stock of her life. It's a life filled with music and success, but there have also been a few rough spots. Like the time we scheduled her to play a Tiny Desk concert in 2012 and she was forced to cancel an entire North American tour (with Peter Gabriel) due to a lupus flareup. Brun, a Norwegian native based in Sweden, was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease when she was 27.

So often, we celebrate a singer-songwriter's most personally revealing work as the loftiest of artistic achievements, an accessing of autobiographical authority, a consummate, confessional window to the soul.

Hip-hop music and culture informs most things, including works of art and creative expression that don't sound anything like an MC over a break beat. Though not everybody would file Dean Blunt's output as music that falls under the purview of Microphone Check, we are far too intrigued by his work to find out he would be in Los Angeles and not ask him to sit with us.

Editor's note on April 4, 2016: You may have figured this out already — this story was an April Fools' joke. It's not real. We hope you enjoyed it.

Sense Of Place Asheville: The Honeycutters

Mar 31, 2016

The Honeycutters, a long-running Americana band from Asheville, N.C., is coming into its own with a new album, On The Ropes. The group is centered on the voice and songs of Amanda Anne Platt, who has a way with a heartbreak tune.

Ibrahim Maalouf Plays Umm Kulthum

Mar 31, 2016

The trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf was born in Lebanon and grew up in France; like his father, he studied Western classical music, but also microtonal Arabic music using a custom-built instrument. His latest project in a career full of cross-pollinating ventures was inspired by the late Umm Kulthum, the Arab world's greatest vocalist.

You often don't think of opera at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. Tonight that changes: Charlie Parker's Yardbird gets its New York premiere there. It's an opera about the jazz saxophonist on the very stage where Parker played in his lifetime.

The opera's Swiss-born composer Daniel Schnyder is a jazz saxophone player himself, who is also classically trained. He wants to combine his two favorite kinds of music.

There's adventurous new music from Explosions in the Sky and you can hear a conversation with the band and some of the music on this week's +1 podcast. The Wilderness is the instrumental rock band's first album of non-soundtrack songs in five years, and the sound on this record stretches the already expansive sound of this instrumental guitar band from blissful and emotional to mind-bending and downright scary.

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