Episodes
Austin-based guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist Carl “Buffalo” Nichols wants to remind folks of the value of the blues as a cultural art form. “Listening to this record, I want more Black people to hear themselves in this music that is truly theirs.” The self-described music nerd considers Delta blues, Chicago blues, West African Malian guitar rhythms, and the African ancestry of the clawhammer banjo in his sonic experimentation and ongoing study of chords and riffs. Nichols, who lived in...
Published 10/18/21
Puerto Rican composer/performer/educator Angélica Negrón, who writes tiny and big sounds for chamber ensembles, orchestras, films, plants, robots and drag queens, joins us for the Soundcheck Podcast. Angélica takes us into her sensory world, and explains how her overlapping creative adventures feed into each other – say writing for the Dallas Symphony or for drag queens, or for the dreambow band, Balún. She offers a live performance - triggering sounds via plant art, programmed surface...
Published 10/14/21
Musical ghosts haunt the Memphis band Lucero. The late Warren Zevon is evoked in one song, and the spirit of the late Alex Chilton’s groundbreaking Memphis group Big Star can be felt throughout the record. (Their 2015 album title, All A Man Should Do, is a line from a Big Star song.) Songwriter Ben Nichols uses a stirring blend of classic rock and Memphis soul, but maintains a distinctive voice. Lucero plays songs from All A Man Should Do, in-studio. (From the Archives, 2015.)
Published 10/11/21
The Brooklyn-based band Wet first turned heads in 2013 with an EP packed with 90s-style synth-pop goodness. New Yorker magazine critic Sasha Frere Jones referred to their song “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” as “completely perfect” and made it one of his songs of the year. In 2016, after a major label bidding war, they released their full-length debut, called Don’t You. Wet (as a trio) joins us to play some of those songs, in-studio. (From the Archives, 2016.)
Published 10/07/21
It's no small thing to command the attention of billions of people with nothing but the sound of your voice and an acoustic guitar. Ask British singer/songwriter Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, whose song "Let Her Go" became a legit worldwide phenomenon after its release in 2012. The song snowballed in slow motion, no instant smash, and wormed its way into ears and hearts one play at a time. Rosenberg brings his thoughtful and subtle songwriting to bear, playing songs from his 2016...
Published 10/04/21
Pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey, wear their composer and collaborator hats simultaneously in new music by Vijay Iyer, who reminds us that “the most turbulent music may contain stillness, coolness, even wisdom,” (Uneasy liner notes.) They share the joy in hearing each other together in a room creating something collaboratively based on something put on the page. The members of the trio talk about optimism and hope - in spite of it all, their decades of...
Published 09/30/21
In Hayden Pedigo’s acoustic guitar playing one might hear the “loneliness and the space” of the Texas panhandle. The musician, composer, and former city-council candidate cites inspiration by guitarists from previous generations like Anthony Phillips (original Genesis guitarist), John Fahey, and Leo Kottke to sound very much like kickass fingerstyle guitarists of now, like Gwenifer Raymond and Toby Hay. Guitar nerds take note: Segovia is invoked, as are variations on multiple non-standard...
Published 09/27/21
Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash curates a program exploring the importance of protest music as part of our shared cultural history. She talks of how the rich oral tradition of roots music embraces migration stories, loss, resistance, and how we are moving to something better, but that it might be painful. And ultimately, protest songs can show us a path to get there. (Originally from Live With Carnegie Hall from June 2020.) Set list: Rosanne Cash and Leventhal plays Bob Dylan's "License to...
Published 09/23/21
The Norwegian-born, London-based singer Kari Jahnsen records under the name Farao. Her 2015 debut album is called Till It's All Forgotten, and prompted comparisons with Tune-Yards, countrywoman Jenny Hval, and a few other musical outliers. But Farao’s blend of arty pop and unusual arrangements might actually fool listeners into believing they’re hearing something like conventional pop. They are not. Farao uses stately synthesized strings, big grooves with anxious bursts of drumming, and her...
Published 09/20/21
Some songs you love because they communicate deep thoughts or powerful emotions. And sometimes you just want a ridiculously catchy hook. BRONCHO is certainly capable of the former, but in the case of its song "Class Historian," it wouldn’t matter if the band was singing about filing taxes, you might still be bouncing in our seats with that infectious melody stuck in your head all day. While the Oklahoma band has been banging out classic fuzzed-out sounds for awhile, the band got a spike of...
Published 09/16/21
Tennessee-based songwriter Amythyst Kiah loves both roots and alternative music; and her songs often clothe dark subjects - suicide of a loved one, a descent into alcoholism - in bluesy stomps and ecstatic rock. The singer, guitarist, banjo player, and scholar (she holds a degree in Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Country Music Studies), has made records on her own and is a member of the formidable quartet called Our Native Daughters. On her 2021 solo album Wary + Strange, Amythyst Kiah sings of...
Published 09/13/21
The Brooklyn band Golden Suits is led by singer and guitarist Fred Nicolaus. You may know him from his earlier band Department of Eagles, or perhaps his duo with Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen. Fred released the first Golden Suits album in 2013 and has just put out the band’s followup effort, called Kubla Khan. It’s full of catchy, often literate, occasionally eccentric songs, which the band plays in-studio. (From the Archives, 2015.)   Here's the dancey "Gold Feeling," where Nicolaus is out...
Published 09/09/21
Guitarist and singer Becca Steven's resume includes stints with the adventurous jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, electrifying trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and hip-hop inflected jazz vocalist José James. She’s part of New York’s new music scene, and has contributed to a compilation of Laura Nyro covers. So you might guess that The Becca Stevens Band would not be your typical indie rock group. And you’d be right. The band’s 2015 debut record is called Perfect Animal, and it’s full of...
Published 09/06/21
The late American pianist, composer, and “Legend of Jazz,” Randy Weston, stretched across history to forge connections to an African past, as he had done for decades. On his 2017 recording, The African Nubian Suite, Weston took as his subject matter the very origins of humanity – the fossilized skeletal remains of “Ardi,” a hominid who lived around 4.5 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia. This "planetary music," as Weston called it stretches across millennia, looking to the Nubian...
Published 09/02/21
Genius Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain, is one of the world’s exceptional percussionists. The son of Ustad Alla Rahka, Zakir is also a composer, improviser, and a great communicator in Persian, Gujarati, German, English, as well as in jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms, Nigerian talking drums, or Indonesian gamelan. One of the most exciting ways that Zakir Hussain shares this deep and vast knowledge in performance is by way of the Masters of Percussion Tour – which is exactly as stunning as a music...
Published 08/30/21
Pom Pom Squad is more than a punk band. Led by singer and songwriter Mia Berrin, their music is a romp through many musical styles: a seemingly disparate collection of punk and grunge, Motown, crooner jazz, and wall-of-sound 60’s pop all built on feelings - heartbreak and injustice and intimacy, and navigating the way through treacherous waters. Their 2021 album Death of a Cheerleader takes a knowing, ironic look at pop culture through a queer lens, focusing on the romance and glamour of 20th...
Published 08/26/21
Since his 2007 breakthrough album, Spiderman Of The Rings, Dan Deacon has assumed numerous roles. He’s a staple of Baltimore's Wham City art collective - and a classically-trained composer and film scorer. On stage, he’s a mad scientist tinkering with colorful electronics - and a ringleader encouraging his wild fans in absurdist dance-offs. Likewise, his music delivers both exquisite bliss and full-on beat-heavy cacophony. But no matter the setting, Deacon's unfettered sense of humor and his...
Published 08/23/21
Rachika Nayar is a composer and producer who uses her electric guitar as a sound source, creating rich layers of sound in real time. She then "mutilates" and "contorts" these sounds, processing them, arranging them into the finished pieces on her 2021 LP Our Hands Against The Dusk and its companion record, the 2021 EP Fragments, which could be considered as a collection of Etudes; none of the works on Fragments were translated into larger pieces. Nayar's guitar playing is informed by math...
Published 08/19/21
It took Aoife O’Donovan a decade to record her debut as a solo artist, the 2013 album Fossils. But it’s not like she was sitting around twiddling her thumbs prior to that. She was busy playing with the high energy bluegrass band Crooked Still, or collaborating with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, and other stars of the strings. O’Donovan’s gorgeous 2016 record In the Magic Hour ties together elements of pop, folk, and bluegrass in a cohesive, emotive package. She plays songs in-studio...
Published 08/16/21
Natalia Lafourcade had writer's block. Her 2009 album Hu Hu Hu had been a critical and commercial triumph, nominated for Grammy awards and hailed as one of the best records of the decade by tastemakers in the Latin music world. How to move forward? She returned to her roots to find inspiration, mining her home country of Mexico for fresh ideas and deep connections, and responding to Latin American songwriters like Simón Díaz and Caetano Veloso. In fact, she called the 2015 record Hasta...
Published 08/12/21
"Warm and melodic" aren't exactly words the members of Publicist UK are used to hearing. Each of them has worked in some heavy, aggressive bands on the metal and hardcore scenes. But together, in this new underground supergroup, they have created urgent and moody music that revels in melody and massive, insistent choruses. And if it's not all warm and fuzzy, it is at least supportive: Publicist UK's debut album is called Forgive Yourself.  The band began as a long-distance experiment by...
Published 08/09/21
Singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson documents the turbulent and heavy stuff of life with warmth and fierce intensity. The multi-instrumentalist offers an album, “written as a sort of purge and a prayer,” of dynamic contrasts, clasping hands with blistering rage and working out how to deal with fear and pain. Laura Stevenson plays tunes remotely with her band from her self-titled 2021 record. Set list: “State,” “Don’t Think About Me,” “Sky Blue, Bad News” Watch "State":
Published 08/05/21
The jazz drummer Jaimeo Brown formed his trio Transcendence back in 2013 – their first album, also called Transcendence, was built around samples of old southern singing married to an inventive mix of blues, jazz, and distant echoes of hip hop. Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence released Work Songs in 2016, which takes more sampled sounds from America’s past and uses them as the template for a new series of songs. Actually, the samples extend well beyond the States this time, but the song “For Mama...
Published 08/02/21
Forró In The Dark's music is meant to be played under the cover of night. The band is named after forró, a type of Northeastern Brazil dance music. The New York based Brazilian ex-pats give traditional music an update with jazz, rock, psychedelia, folk and charismatic and attentive rhythms. Since their formation in 2002 (beginning as a birthday entertainment for lead singer, Mauro Refosco), Forró In The Dark has worked with musicians like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Thom Yorke's Atoms For...
Published 07/29/21
Olivia Chaney is part of the latest wave of British folk music, although her definition of “folk” is as likely to include Baroque music, Norwegian jazz, and original songs as it is old murder ballads or sea shanties. Chaney plays an assortment of instruments, including guitar and piano, and has a strikingly pure vocal tone. Her debut full-length, The Longest River, is on Nonesuch Records, and while performing a brief set at a Nonesuch 50th anniversary event in 2014, she so impressed her...
Published 07/26/21