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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 rhy…
 
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 Symph…
 
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 …
 
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, …
 
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 w…
 
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 somethin…
 
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 fingerstyl…
 
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 …
 
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 he…
 
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 infectio…
 
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 …
 
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, oc…
 
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 Ban…
 
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…
 
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…
 
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. Th…
 
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. Likewis…
 
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 cons…
 
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 gorg…
 
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 …
 
"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 …
 
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 …
 
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 …
 
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 ent…
 
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, T…
 
In Appalachia, a "holler" is a colloquialism for a valley or "hollow." So not only is the band name Quiet Hollers a fun oxymoron, it's also a sly shout-out to the band's roots in Kentucky. The group says it makes "weird, sad music for weirdos like you." But they named one of the standout songs from their 2015 self-titled record "Aviator Shades," wh…
 
Guatemalan-born, Mexico City-based cellist, singer, producer, and songwriter Mabe Fratti creates music using electronics, voice, and cello, and the sounds of nature. Fratti has a mighty array of effects, turning the cello into sound source capable of drone, full feedback squeals, percussive plucky samples, and talks about how she is "addicted to im…
 
The Brooklyn-based orchestral collective known as The Knights began as an informal gathering of friends to play late night chamber music. Founded by brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen, the Knights have grown into a variable ensemble that brings the element of surprise back into orchestral concerts. Sometimes that’s in the way they present the music, …
 
Pulling from soul and funk, psychedelic rock and punk, New Orleans brass bands and "Gypsy-reggaeton," Mucca Pazza's repertoire is can be a bit proggy (Yes, Weather Report, Rush) and perhaps hard to march to. Chicago’s “interdisciplinary instrumental music and performance ensemble” – or circus-spectacle alt marching band joins us in-studio. (From th…
 
British quartet Sons of Kemet blends jazz, Afrofuturism, electronic music, hip hop and Caribbean rhythms in their music and is composed of sax/clarinet player and composer Shabaka Hutchings, tuba player Theon Cross, and two drummers - Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick. Their latest album Black to the Future comes packed with urgent social commentary, and …
 
The English outfit called Public Service Broadcasting builds its records around archival and documentary sounds, then layering in live drums, guitar, banjo, bass flugelhorn, and electronics. Their 2015 album The Race For Space was full of voices from the Apollo moon missions; and their 2017 album, Every Valley, is built around documentary sounds of…
 
On the face of it, Red Baraat is a dhol-driven big band full of brass instruments and drums (both the dhol and drumset keep the groove going), rooted in Bhangra music (Punjabi dance music), who bring a party with them wherever they go. On their l2018 record, Sound the People, they combine the sounds of South Asian diaspora, along with jazz, hip-hop…
 
The Argentine singer/songwriter and brilliant producer of experimental off-kilter folk-tronica, Juana Molina, has a former life as a well-known comic actress. She embraces that playful humor and explores ancient folk legends involving bone on her latest record, Halo. The ever-changing electronic textures feel mysterious, and are full of shadows, bu…
 
Lute-based and percussion driven, the rugged duo of Cretan lauto player George Xylouris (scion of one of Greece’s most revered musical families) and Australian drummer Jim White (he’s played with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, PJ Harvey, Nina Nastasia, Cat Power, and Dirty Three) perform groove-based, improvisatory music that is both grounded in Cretan tra…
 
Composer, pianist, and vocalist Samora Pinderhughes writes urgent, poetic and immersive music that responds to the times and fits neatly into no genre, all while putting his heart right on the table. Samora Pinderhughes plays some of these intimate and revolutionary songs remotely: recent work from his Black Spring EP, along with new work from his …
 
France-based Cameroonian musician Blick Bassy’s quiet and beautiful songs fall somewhere on the spectrum of blues, folk-soul, and pop, and embody a deep reverence for the traditional music of Cameroon and other parts of Africa. On his latest record, 1958, dedicated to the memory of Ruben Um Nyobé, Felix Moumié and the other heroes of Cameroonian in…
 
Mumbai-born singer, composer, bandleader, and ultra-marathoner Priya Darshini is based in Brooklyn. Her musical studies range from Indian Classical music and ghazals (devotional songs) to jazz, and she has experience in Mumbai indie rock bands and on Bollywood film soundtracks besides. Darshini takes a cross-cultural approach to song for her origin…
 
Brooklyn-based Ellen Kempner (who performs as Palehound) and L.A.-based musician Melina Duterte (who performs as Jay Som), have joined forces as Bachelor – a friendship, not just a band. They play songs from their collaborative debut album, Doomin’ Sun, which combines vivid imagery, adventures in production, and an intimate sense of comfort. On Jun…
 
New York’s own gypsy punks Gogol Bordello have roots in Eastern European folk and Brecht-ian cabaret, along with punk and dub. With a band that usually includes accordion, fiddle, horns, percussion, jangly and electric guitars, Gogol frontman Eugene Hutz leads the turbo-charged “avalanche of rage-turned-joy,” whipping up frenzied crowds all over th…
 
The singer Ala.Ni has a cosmopolitan background: born in Britain to parents from Granada and now based in Paris. So it perhaps shouldn't be a surprise that her music is varied too. And yet, Ala.Ni’s forthcoming debut album, called You And I, is nothing but surprises. Often sounding like a long lost artifact of the mid-20th century, her striking voi…
 
Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn have each – in their own separate ways during their separate careers – been reinventing the sound of the banjo. Bela has drawn on jazz, classical, rock, folk, and world music; Abigail is fluent in Mandarin and has used her voice and banjo to draw connections between Chinese and Appalachian music. Together, though, th…
 
Nashville-based Montreal-born Scottish-Grenadian-Canadian multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, poet, mother, and runner Allison Russell (Birds of Chicago, Our Native Daughters, Po’ Girl) presents her autobiographical record, Outside Child, which sees her breaking the cycles of abuse and violence and celebrating having found her chosen community and c…
 
Japanese-born, NYC-based pianist and composer Erika Dohi, is also one half of Contemporary Music Duo RighteousGIRLS. Her new record I, Castorpollux (37d03d) deals with duality, the idea of a “split self”–in works that float between composed and improvised music, as well as Dohi’s exploration of her Japanese-American identity, as well as pondering t…
 
Old Sea Brigade is the work of Nashville-based, Georgia-born musician Ben Cramer, who makes atmospheric Nashville-informed indie folk, infused with 80s synthpop and jangly guitars. "Cramer’s feathery vocals dovetail nicely with the guitars’ indie-rock-in-the-aughts sound," and the melodies are enhanced with warm synths and hazy production (John Sch…
 
Atlanta-based Manchester Orchestra crafts cinematic, lush, long-form rock, with such detail about the characters, that it makes the stories even more believable on the songs from their latest record, The Million Masks of God. The band’s songwriting duo of Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, invokes the poem that inspired the album’s title, “Gold Leaves”…
 
As a performer, Robert Randolph is nothing like the guys who play pedal steel in country music. He sets off pedal steel fireworks with his gospel-rooted soul-funk; he'll dance around the instrument, wrestle it, push it off its four legs, moved by the spirit - an ecstatic spectacle. Randolph, on his 2017 record Got Soul, continues to take the pedal …
 
Since 2009, the Ecuadorian-American singer and songwriter Roberto Lange has been making records under the name Helado Negro (that’s “black ice cream” in Spanish.) His music has been literally bilingual, in the sense that he sings in both Spanish and English, but it’s also been metaphorically bilingual, with its mix of art and pop. 2016's Helado Neg…
 
Dark and light constantly fuse, diverge, and unite in Brooklyn violin-piano duo, Gracie and Rachel. Their 2015 debut album Go, begins with a single haunting note. Pizzicato violin from Rachel Ruggles and Gracie Coates' piano ebb and flow together in a rocking orchestral rhythm, while Gracie's milky vocals add a delicate layer of gothic pop on top. …
 
Irish singer and songwriter Adrian Crowley is known for his often detailed but surreal storytelling, and for his rich baritone voice. Crowley says that his latest batch of songs “straddle the conscious and subconscious world and some are even psychedelic in my mind, but to me they are all at once true stories and born of another place.” Produced by…
 
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