WUIS Xponential

WUIS Xponential

The word "epic" sits cheerily amid the most overused hyperbole of our age. Teenage bros proclaim their recent "pretty epic" mild successes; sports commentators call anything which ends dramatically an "epic game"; the Internet-literate are quick to point out an "epic FAIL." But what else do you call a three-CD, nearly three-hour album anchored by a 10-piece jazz band, featuring a 32-piece orchestra and 20-member choir, and driven by the daydream of an imaginary martial arts grandmaster?

Beauty Pill's The Unsustainable Lifestyle was a promising debut album, an immediately accessible patchwork of the band's hometown, Washington, D.C. In 2004, the record left fans wondering what would happen next, but they would have to wait 11 years. That's because bandleader Chad Clark's heart tried to kill him.

On Sunday's All Things Considered, you'll hear Beauty Pill's amazing story of how close Chad Clark came to dying before a single note of Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are could be recorded.

People always ask me, "What's your favorite Tiny Desk Concert?" Well, right now it's the one recently performed by DakhaBrakha. The creative quartet from Kiev, Ukraine make music that sounds like nothing I've ever heard, with strands of everything I've ever heard. There are rhythms that sound West African and drone that feels as if it could have emanated from India or Australia. At times, DakhaBrakha is simply a rock band whose crazy homeland harmonies are filled with joy.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside flyers that assume we have the means to acquire luxury items is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: thoughts on the intensity of online backlash.

Andy S. writes via email: "Why do certain bands get singled out for seemingly out-of-proportion online hate? (See: Nickelback.)"

The French musician Cécile Schott's music sounds a little bit like someone dropped a baroque string instrument into a swimming pool.

Recording under the name Colleen since 2001, she's made music that is purely instrumental and focused on one string instrument in particular: the viola de gamba. But on Captain of None, she's added lyrics for the first time.

The vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth consists of eight classically trained singers incorporating Tuvan throat singing, Appalachian yodeling, operatic trills, rhythmic exhalations and whispered speech into music written by some of the most exciting young composers of the 21st century.

Saxophonist Joshua Redman and the collaborative trio The Bad Plus both stand among the most celebrated, thoughtful and prominent jazz acts of the last couple decades. That, and their contrasting aesthetic sensibilities, made it at least news when they first got together in 2011. As it turns out, that collaboration bore lasting fruit: After a series of gigs last summer, they went into the studio with each others' tunes to record The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (say it out loud), to be released in late May.

Kamasi Washington's 'The Epic' In Concert

Apr 24, 2015

Saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington, 34, has been working on releasing his now three-CD, nearly three-hour, choir-and-strings-assisted album The Epic for the better part of five years now. Even longer, if you consider how long his 10-piece working band has known each other: Most of its members, known collectively as The Next Step or The West Coast Get Down, have known each other since at least high school decades ago in South Central Los Angeles, and in some instances well before that.

Celebrating Joe Temperley In Concert

Apr 24, 2015

For 25 years, the baritone saxophone chair of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has been held by a one Joe Temperley. The Scottish musician, now 85, carries tons of credits to his C.V., especially with big bands: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Clark Terry and — most notably — the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

The pianist and composer Vijay Iyer frames his new trio recording, Break Stuff, around the idea of musical breaks: "a break in music is still music: a span of time in which to act," he writes. Formally, he's referring to breakbeats and other musical breakdowns, but more generally, Iyer's trio exploits opportunities to rupture convention.

This week's guest Quizmaster is Kelly Olsen, drummer for the Philadelphia-based rock trio Cayetana. This is one of our favorite new bands of the past year. We featured Cayetana in a live concert webcast from New York during last fall's CMJ music festival, and most recently for their video for the song "Scott Get The Van, I'm Moving."

Waka Flocka Flame Is Hiring

Apr 24, 2015

They say you can't overestimate the power of a good handshake. If that's the case, my job interview with Waka Flocka Flame was doomed from the start.

I went in for the sort of greeting I'm familiar with -– a clasp that pivots up into a grip and pulls in for a hug — but it unexpectedly continued. He raised our wrists to shoulder level, pointed his fingers out, locked them with mine ... but by that point I was long since lost. He looked at me and smiled sympathetically. First impressions, I thought, resigned, are everything.

What goes on in your brain when you hear a new song? Is there a formula for what makes a perfect pop song? What's better, something brand new, or something familiar? It's nearly impossible to completely explain or understand why we like the music we like. But Susan Rogers, a music cognition expert and associate professor of music production and engineering at the Berklee College of Music, gets closer to making sense of it than we've heard before.

After relocating to Portland, Oregon, from their native Stillwater, Oklahoma, Other Lives used the new surroundings for a different perspective on their new album. The result is their third studio release, Rituals, which marries an orchestral rock sound with a classic singer-songwriter sensibility. New songs like "Easy Way" were standouts in their latest visit to KCRW.

SET LIST

  • "Easy Way"

My Brightest Diamond, 'This Is My Hand'

Apr 24, 2015

Life changed a lot after that day in 1877 when Thomas Edison spoke "Mary had a little lamb" into a contraption he called a phonograph and discovered he could reproduce sound. Back then, tinfoil cylinders captured just a few flickering moments. Today Wagner's entire Ring cycle fits on a 16GB flash drive.

Latin Roots: Essential Cumbia

Apr 23, 2015

Of all the styles of Latin music we've been exploring on our Latin Roots Essential series, there are few that are more essential than cumbia. Catalina Maria Johnson from Chicago's Beat Latino is up to the task of exploring this wide-ranging genre. She brings some great musical picks — and she made this extended Spotify playlist for your further enjoyment.

Judah & The Lion On World Cafe

Apr 23, 2015

Judah & the Lion join us live today. They're a three-piece band from Nashville consisting of of Judah Akers (vocals and guitar), Brian Macdonald (mandolin) and Nate Zuercher (banjo).

In 2011, like many new young bands from Music City, they met at Belmont University. After a couple of EPs, they released their debut full length, Kids These Days, in September of last year.

One thing you will note is how upbeat these guys are lyrically. There is no way you can leave a concert with Judah & the Lion without feeling better than when you arrived.

Queens-via-Uruguay songwriter Juan Wauters rose to internet acclaim as a member of the obstreperous rock band The Beets, one of New York City's most beloved DIY acts of the 21st century. In the time since The Beets' initial breakup in 2012, Wauters has pursued a more introspective, subdued sound, writing songs that explore who he is and how "he" came to be.

For a solid decade, Washington, D.C. was firmly on the map as the punk capital of the nation. During the 1980s, you could see Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Fugazi and Mission Impossible (featuring a 16-year-old Dave Grohl) in DIY spaces all over town. And what made it vital and game changing was that do-it-yourself ethos: no corporate anything, no major labels, just kids burning with energy, rage and creativity.

Every Thursday this year we're celebrating All Songs Considered's 15th birthday with personal memories and highlights from the show's decade and a half online and on the air. If you have a story about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email: allsongs@npr.org.

Ta-ku is that dude on SoundCloud. Over the past few years, the Australian producer has established himself as one of the frontrunners in the musical playground of remix kings and percussive trap. Days after dropping a Flume re-remix that fits neatly into that universe, he flips the script with "Love Again," the first single from his upcoming EP, Songs To Make Up To.

Crafting dance tracks around snippets of catchy R&B vocals is a longstanding tradition in the electronic music game. Some might even call it cliché at this point. But when it's done well, it can imbue otherwise anonymous music with real emotional heft that speaks to a much wider audience.

The tragic story of Cambodia in the '60s and '70s is well-known: It became engulfed in the Vietnam War, then more than a million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge regime. Doctors, lawyers, teachers — educated people — were targeted in the communist takeover. So were artists and singers.

Metropolitan Opera Chorus Master Donald Palumbo knows voices, and how to instruct singers to protect them.

Palumbo says that all singers have to monitor their voices while rehearsing during the day. The goal, he says, is to insure singers are at their "freshest" and "most solid" for the evening performance.

I love this band. For its chaotic, full-throttle rock. For its world view — a mix of sweet idealism and brooding cynicism — and for its self-deprecating sense of humor. You can hear it all in the NEEDS song, "We Forgot The Records To Our Record Release Show," from the Vancouver band's self-titled debut.

Feufollet On World Cafe

Apr 22, 2015

Feufollet are from Lafayette, Louisiana and have been together since the late '90s, when the members were just kids. At that point, thanks to time spent in French immersion school, the band played the French Cajun music repertoire.

Pages