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The Musical Universe

 

What do you go to Facebook for? Given how many of us use it — 68 percent of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center, with 74 percent of them visiting the site at least once a day — it's striking that, anecdotally at least, using the site evokes a sort of dissociative muscle memory, the ritual of dutifully giving posts from family and close-enough friends a thumbs-up.

Bon Iver may take its time between albums, but bandleader Justin Vernon remains a geyser of ideas in his off hours. On Wednesday, he and a pair of fellow idea-geysers — The National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner — launched a new platform for listening, called PEOPLE, and populated it with a trove of music. That trove includes songs by the duo of Aaron Dessner and Vernon, recording under the name Big Red Machine.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Summer comes in shades of life: nightclubbing with besties, poolside with neighborhood children, backyard grilling, making out at parties, hitting the gym grind, hitting the work grind, quietly sobbing to Stevie Nicks-level heartbreak, living whatever version of your best life fills out the hot and sticky days of your hot and sticky mess of a life. It's a seasonal equalizer, the heat making our clothes a little brighter and easier to breathe in, and perhaps resetting our psyches to do the same.

The first time Tony Presley heard Sun June, it was through his apartment floor. The co-founder of up-and-coming Austin label Keeled Scales was living above Estuary Recording Facility, where the band was tracking its debut LP, Years. The album, which Keeled Scales will release June 15, retains the warmth of that initial encounter. Sun June's music is something that comes in snatches, wisps that captivate and escape the ear with all the airy weight of dust rising from an Austin floorboard on every beat of a muffled drum.

On her new album, Courtney Barnett does something I don't think many people could do — I know I couldn't do it. She takes an insult that was hurled at her and turns it into a powerful lyric in one of her songs. The insult-turned-lyric is this quote: "I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you."

The New Age composer, rock music producer, entrepreneur and filmmaker Paul Gilman, who produced a film about using music to communicate with ocean mammals, is being sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly defrauding 40 investors of $3.3 million over the course of three years.

When 14-year-old Grace VanderWaal came to perform at the Tiny Desk I had to confess to her (and her mom) that, until my "accidental concert experience," I had no idea who she was, nor did I know what America's Got Talent was.

It all started this past February, when I went to the 9:30 Club, a 1,200 capacity music venue, to see what I thought was a show by rock guitarist Grace Vonderkuhn and her power trio from Delaware.

R.LUM.R is all about 'framily.' That's the word — a mix of friends and family — that Reggie Williams, who records under the all-caps moniker, uses to describe the tight network he's created as he has established himself as a star on the streaming pop charts. This is how pop artists rise in the South beyond the nerve center of Atlanta: They work together across genres and become masters of the internet.

Jason Bentley captures the hypnotic pulse of modern city life in a weekly dance show on Saturday nights.

Copyright 2018 KCRW. To see more, visit KCRW.

Katie Herzig's trajectory probably doesn't much resemble what you'd expect a professional Nashville songwriter's career to look like, which seems to suit her just fine. She fell into what you might call commercial songwriting almost by accident, when she discovered that the sort of breathy, intimate folk pop tunes she was already writing for her own albums were an excellent fit for the soundtracks to prime-time dramas like Grey's Anatomy.

At a North Carolina nightclub in late May, a woman named Shaneera presided onstage, coyly flicking fake, nut-colored hair over her shoulders. Her eyes, super-sized by drag makeup, were visible from the back of the club as she chanted short spells in Arabic, while her music — all pandemonium and pummel — rattled the venue like a weak earthquake. Despite the diabolical display, when Shaneera looked out into the crowd, her gaze felt unexpectedly tender. At the end of her set, credits rolling behind her, she bowed, removed her wig and laughed herself offstage.

North Texas is steeped in music history. In the 1920s and '30s, Dallas' Deep Ellum neighborhood was renowned for its blues scene, with artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lead Belly, Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson treating the neighborhood as their musical playground.

Rolling Stone wrote that the voice of The Who's Roger Daltrey was one of the most powerful instruments in rock. But when first it started in the 1960s, Daltrey's band was covering American soul songs. At the age of 74, the British rocker is returning to that music for his new solo album, As Long as I Have You.

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When Clarence Fountain was only 8 years old, his family left him at an Alabama boarding school for the blind. He eventually went on to help create The Blind Boys of Alabama.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOO CLOSE TO HEAVEN")

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOMBINO SONG, "OULHIN")

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Netflix has greenlit a Dolly Parton anthology series, set to premiere in 2019, the company announced today. Each of the eight episodes will be based on one of Parton's songs, with the Emmy award-winning singer-songwriter appearing in select episodes and executive producing the series.

"As a songwriter, I have always enjoyed telling stories through my music," Parton said in a statement. "We hope our show will inspire and entertain families and folks of all generations."

Clarence Fountain, a foundational American gospel singer and the last remaining co-founder of Blind Boys of Alabama, died June 3 in Baton Rouge, La. at the age of 88, his manager Charles Driebe confirmed to NPR. No cause was given.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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M. Ward On Mountain Stage

Jun 4, 2018

As a producer, collaborator and songwriter, Portland, Ore.'s M. Ward has a prolific output, to put it lightly: eight studio albums of his own; six She & Him albums with Zooey Deschanel; 2009's Monsters of Folk project; and Mavis Staples' 2016 album, Livin' on a High Note. He has recently carved out time to play his own live concerts, including his first-ever appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded in April 2018.

In celebration of her new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, Courtney Barnett performed an intimate set for KCRW. "Charity" is an album highlight and will surely be a live staple and crowd favorite in the months to come.

SET LIST

  • "Charity"

In making a cover album of Talking Heads' Remain in Light, people kept telling Angélique Kidjo that the absurd songs had no meaning. But it didn't seem that way to her. She connected the music with folk songs from her home country of Benin and interpreted them through the same cultural lens that the band did.

Daniel Caesar and his band had a clear vision for their Tiny Desk performance. While already confined to a small space, they opted to congregate at the piano, where producer and music director Matthew Burnett sat to create what feels like a fly-on-the-wall moment. We're presented a purity that's nearly impossible to capture on an album.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally today, we've heard a lot about the ways that people all across the region have taken the lessons of last year's storms and are trying to move forward. Now we're going to introduce you to someone who's trying to lift up her community through music.

Puerto Rico's Devastation Permeates Plena

Jun 2, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally today, we've been talking about the toll of last year's hurricanes on Puerto Rico, and it's everywhere, even in the music on the streets.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIENTO DE AGUA'S PERFORMANCE OF "PARA UN PLENERO")

How Bomba Music Helps Puerto Ricans Cope

Jun 2, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And we couldn't bring you to Puerto Rico without hearing a little music. Our colleague Adrian Florido is still here with us in studio. And, Adrian, I understand that you have brought us a piece about Bomba.

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