Stephen Thompson http://wuis.org en The Good Listener: Does The World Still Need Cassettes? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-does-world-still-need-cassettes We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the postage-paid crates we'll use to ship home the spring interns is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on cassette tapes and their utility in 2014.<p><em><strong>Jennifer Spuehler writes via Facebook: "Will there be a place for cassette tapes in the future? Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:39:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 23213 at http://wuis.org Merchandise Sprawls Out In The Sunlight http://wuis.org/post/merchandise-sprawls-out-sunlight Merchandise got its start on the Tampa punk and hardcore scene, then got weirder as artier influences like krautrock took hold. As its sound became harder to pin down, the band inspired an 18-month bidding war between record labels: This year, Merchandise finally signed with 4AD, and adventurous new material has begun to trickle out.<p>A new album arrives later this year, but Merchandise was already previewing it at SXSW last month. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 23185 at http://wuis.org Merchandise Sprawls Out In The Sunlight The Good Listener: How Do I Appear Knowledgeable Without Acting Like A Jerk? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-how-do-i-appear-knowledgeable-without-acting-jerk We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the fliers for yard-cleaning services that know a big job when they see one are a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on ways to drop musical knowledge without seeming obnoxious.<p><em><strong>Mvelase Peppetta writes via Facebook: "How do you point out to the children that this 'great' piece of music they're loving right now is actually a cover of something else (most times better) without sounding like an old know-it-all fuddy-duddy? I even failed to do it in that one sentence."</strong></em><p>Ha! Thu, 10 Apr 2014 20:52:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 22759 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: How Do I Appear Knowledgeable Without Acting Like A Jerk? The Good Listener: What Makes An Anthem? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-what-makes-anthem <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT_nvWreIhg</p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 19:19:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 22257 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: What Makes An Anthem? The Good Listener: Am I Too Old For Music Festivals? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-am-i-too-old-music-festivals We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the hundreds of water bottles we were supposed to give away at SXSW is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when a person can rightly be considered too old to attend music festivals.<p><strong><em>Erin Briskie writes via email: "I just caught myself Googling 'how old is too old to go to music festivals.' We all know the answer is 'never too old,' but is there an age range where you start feeling like the not-so-wise, probably-should-have-consumed-more-water godfather of the festival circuit? Thu, 27 Mar 2014 18:16:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 21762 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: Am I Too Old For Music Festivals? One Wytch, Unplugged In A Sunny Backyard http://wuis.org/post/one-wytch-unplugged-sunny-backyard The Wytches' furious, hair-flinging psych-rock isn't the stuff of back-porch acoustic sessions: Both live and on the English band's singles, the energy is so intense, it can barely be contained. Thu, 27 Mar 2014 16:17:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 21751 at http://wuis.org One Wytch, Unplugged In A Sunny Backyard First Listen: Cloud Nothings, 'Here And Nowhere Else' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-cloud-nothings-here-and-nowhere-else The word "maturation" and the word "punk" don't often coexist easily: For a band like Cleveland's <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/03/14/148192652/cloud-nothings-heres-to-the-losers">Cloud Nothings</a>, whose sloppily aggressive songs channel slackerdom and frustration, growing up would seem antithetical to its mission. Mon, 24 Mar 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 21475 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Cloud Nothings, 'Here And Nowhere Else' First Listen: Timber Timbre, 'Hot Dreams' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-timber-timbre-hot-dreams Timber Timbre's members tiptoe across some strange boundaries: Atop atmospheric sound beds that often conjure spaghetti Westerns, Taylor Kirk's dusky croon can seem seductive, inviting and, when he prefers, deeply creepy. Mon, 24 Mar 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 21476 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Timber Timbre, 'Hot Dreams' SXSW 2014: Perfect Pussy, Live In Concert http://wuis.org/post/sxsw-2014-perfect-pussy-live-concert Before her band had played a single note, frontwoman Meredith Graves surveyed a thousands-strong crowd packing Stubb's BBQ at NPR Music's 2014 SXSW showcase.<p>"We're Perfect Pussy," she said. "We're terrified."<p>Listening to <em>Say Yes to Love</em>, the band's eight-song, 23-minute speedball of self-assured confrontation, fear is the last thing that springs to mind. Thu, 20 Mar 2014 17:45:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 21271 at http://wuis.org SXSW 2014: Perfect Pussy, Live In Concert SXSW 2014: Eagulls, Live In Concert http://wuis.org/post/sxsw-2014-eagulls-live-concert The Leeds-based post-punk band Eagulls hit the stage at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Texas, ready to deploy some serrated weaponry. Tue, 18 Mar 2014 16:38:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 21111 at http://wuis.org SXSW 2014: Eagulls, Live In Concert The Good Listener: Do I Come To SXSW If I Don't Have A Badge Or A Billion Dollars? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-do-i-come-sxsw-if-i-dont-have-badge-or-billion-dollars <em>[This story originally ran on Feb. 22, 2013, but still applies today.]</em><p>We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Valentine's Day cards that got returned with no forwarding address is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how music fans could and should approach SXSW, the gigantic music festival held every March in Austin, Texas.<p><strong>Laura Ann Klein writes: "How does a non-industry professional manage the big festivals like SXSW? Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:06:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 20279 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: Do I Come To SXSW If I Don't Have A Badge Or A Billion Dollars? The Good Listener: For Bands And Fans, The No-Fault Divorce http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-bands-and-fans-no-fault-divorce We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15333650/beck">Beck</a> 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.<p><em><strong>Kirsten Elbourne Mathieson writes via Facebook: "How do I deal with the guilt of having virtually abandoned some of my once-favorite artists — who continue to release albums — for cooler current ones? Fri, 21 Feb 2014 19:23:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 19456 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: For Bands And Fans, The No-Fault Divorce First Listen: The Notwist, 'Close To The Glass' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-notwist-close-glass On paper, the German electro-pop band <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15802775/the-notwist">The Notwist</a> sounds less accessible than it is: Since getting together 25 years ago, its members have delved into everything from hardcore to underground hip-hop to proggy jazz, with many varyingly arty detours in between. But the latter half of its history, particularly once you hit the sublime early-'00s breakthrough <em>Neon Golden</em>, is wonderfully warm and approachable. Mon, 17 Feb 2014 14:58:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 19132 at http://wuis.org First Listen: The Notwist, 'Close To The Glass' First Listen: Death Vessel, 'Island Intervals' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-death-vessel-island-intervals Joel Thibodeau's music doesn't emanate from a single place: The singer who records under the name Death Vessel was born in Germany and raised in New England, and he recorded his new album <em>Island Intervals</em> in Reykjavik with the aid of producer Alex Somers and <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15189623/sigur-r-s">Sigur Rós</a> singer <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/123604659/jonsi">Jónsi</a>. That list of places provides context beyond mere biographical background, because Thibodeau's music reflects virtually every direction in which he's been pulled. Mon, 17 Feb 2014 04:09:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 19114 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Death Vessel, 'Island Intervals' The Good Listener: How Do You Make A Platonic Mixtape? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-how-do-you-make-platonic-mixtape We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Fun-Dip valentine cards we ordered strictly for the Fun-Dip is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, just in time for Valentine's Day, thoughts on platonic mixtapes.<p><strong><em>Stephanie Marten-Ellis writes via Facebook: "How do you share good music with someone without giving the impression that you're 'trying to say something'? You just like the song and want someone to know about it! Fri, 14 Feb 2014 15:57:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 18975 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: How Do You Make A Platonic Mixtape? First Listen: Phantogram, 'Voices' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-phantogram-voices <a href="http://www.npr.org/search/index.php?searchinput=phantogram">Phantogram</a> plays spiky, dense and danceable pop-rock songs with an electronic pulse: Most of its songs have an insistent grind to them, with a percussive through-line snapping and jabbing and infusing virtually every moment with jumpy urgency. Wed, 12 Feb 2014 04:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 18798 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Phantogram, 'Voices' First Listen Live: Real Estate, 'Atlas' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-live-real-estate-atlas The members of <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/121428836/real-estate">Real Estate</a> are awfully young to pine for their lost youth, but nostalgia remains crucial to the New Jersey band's tender, impeccable sound. Tue, 11 Feb 2014 17:04:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 18751 at http://wuis.org First Listen Live: Real Estate, 'Atlas' Suzanne Vega: Tiny Desk Concert http://wuis.org/post/suzanne-vega-tiny-desk-concert In pop-music circles, <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15131195/suzanne-vega">Suzanne Vega</a> is known almost entirely for two songs from the late 1980s: the child-abuse ballad "Luka" and a song that launched literally dozens of dance remixes, "Tom's Diner." But Vega has been making vital, inventive music the entire time — much of it folk-based, though her sound has taken many smart detours along the way — and is about to put out her first album of original material in seven years, <em>Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles</em>. Mon, 10 Feb 2014 19:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 18685 at http://wuis.org Suzanne Vega: Tiny Desk Concert The Good Listener: What's The Perfect Soundtrack To Teenage Flirtation? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-whats-perfect-soundtrack-teenage-flirtation We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2014/01/17/263470185/you-can-now-send-someone-you-temporarily-like-a-bachelor-bouquet">Bachelor Bouquets</a> we ordered ourselves in order to appear loved is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on music to play at a dance for nervous, flirtatious teenagers.<p><em><strong>Nanna writes via Facebook: "This Valentine's Day, I will attend a formal thrown for freshman and sophomore college students in the Netherlands — they are giving us, the lecturers, fre Fri, 07 Feb 2014 20:22:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 18534 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: What's The Perfect Soundtrack To Teenage Flirtation? Playing SXSW 2014? Send Us Your Songs http://wuis.org/post/playing-sxsw-2014-send-us-your-songs Every year around this time, the <em>All Songs Considered</em> team begins the process of listening to nearly 2,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. We acquire them from any number of sources, as bands willing to circulate their songs for consideration make them available online. But every year, we wind up missing something. Thu, 06 Feb 2014 21:13:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 18448 at http://wuis.org Playing SXSW 2014? Send Us Your Songs First Listen: Cibo Matto, 'Hotel Valentine' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-cibo-matto-hotel-valentine For many bands who return after long hiatuses, the absences melt away quickly. <a href="http://www.npr.org/search/index.php?searchinput=my+bloody+valentine">My Bloody Valentine</a>, gone 22 years, put out an album last year that jumped directly from the sound of 1991's <em>Loveless</em>. Mon, 03 Feb 2014 04:02:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 18179 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Cibo Matto, 'Hotel Valentine' The Good Listener: Leave 'We Built This City' Alone! http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-leave-we-built-city-alone <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1b8AhIsSYQ</p><p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NTDHjVKQyo</p> Fri, 31 Jan 2014 15:46:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 18035 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: Leave 'We Built This City' Alone! First Listen: 'Sweetheart 2014' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-sweetheart-2014 Compiled by Starbucks every few years, the <em>Sweetheart</em> 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. Mon, 27 Jan 2014 04:02:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 17704 at http://wuis.org First Listen: 'Sweetheart 2014' First Listen: Jeremy Messersmith, 'Heart Murmurs' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-jeremy-messersmith-heart-murmurs Minneapolis singer-songwriter <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/94242287/jeremy-messersmith">Jeremy Messersmith</a> 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. This is a guy who, whenever possible, tours with an eight-piece band that includes a string section, and who once released a tremendous album (2010's <em>The Reluctant Graveyard</em>) in which the songs were written from the perspective of the dead. Mon, 27 Jan 2014 04:02:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 17705 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Jeremy Messersmith, 'Heart Murmurs' The Good Listener: How Can I Conquer A Musical Blind Spot? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-how-can-i-conquer-musical-blind-spot <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6EvO_dExO4</p> Fri, 24 Jan 2014 17:44:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 17567 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: How Can I Conquer A Musical Blind Spot? First Listen: Dum Dum Girls, 'Too True' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-dum-dum-girls-too-true Dee Dee Penny and her band <a href="http://www.npr.org/search/index.php?searchinput=dum+dum+girls">Dum Dum Girls</a> made their name on primitivism, only to demolish the expectations they'd created for themselves. Even the name Dum Dum Girls suggests adherence to the garage-bound basics, and the group's early recordings follow suit. Mon, 20 Jan 2014 04:02:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 17271 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Dum Dum Girls, 'Too True' First Listen: The Autumn Defense, 'Fifth' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-autumn-defense-fifth Side projects often provide a chance to take wild left turns; to indulge a desire to experiment outside the formulas dictated by a musician's primary creative outlet. For The Autumn Defense — which features bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, both of <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15164119/wilco">Wilco</a> — it's actually a chance to pursue a narrower focus. Mon, 20 Jan 2014 04:02:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 17270 at http://wuis.org First Listen: The Autumn Defense, 'Fifth' The Good Listener: How Do You Know If You'll Love A Song Forever? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-how-do-you-know-if-youll-love-song-forever <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWNaR-rxAic</p><p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8LIRtPnuA8</p><p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg00YEETFzg</p> Thu, 16 Jan 2014 19:13:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 17089 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: How Do You Know If You'll Love A Song Forever? First Listen: Warpaint, 'Warpaint' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-warpaint-warpaint A few years back, the band <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/16700848/low">Low</a> sold T-shirts emblazoned with a fine unofficial motto for its music: "I don't like cool, I like beautiful." For the four women who make up <a href="http://www.npr.org/search/index.php?searchinput=warpaint">Warpaint</a>, those two qualities aren't mutually exclusive: The L.A. group's swirling sound is full of mysterious buzzes and coos, and there's a sense of everything-in-its-right-place grace and impeccability to it, yet the songs themselves never feel icy or distant. Mon, 13 Jan 2014 04:01:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 16799 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Warpaint, 'Warpaint' First Listen: Against Me!, 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-against-me-transgender-dysphoria-blues The bracingly political Florida punk band <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/127482144/against-me">Against Me!</a> has been a going concern since 1997, but <em>Transgender Dysphoria Blues</em> can't help but feel like a debut: It's the group's first album since singer Tom Gabel came out as a woman. Mon, 13 Jan 2014 04:00:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 16802 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Against Me!, 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues'