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Illinois Rock'n'Soul.

 

Some of us are verbal processors, who feel like certain vexing issues just can't be solved until we've exhaustively enunciated every angle. The hope is that the act of explaining a problem aloud will draw out a perspective previously unseen; sometimes you just have to start a sentence to see where it will lead. On "Let Down," from the four-member Gingerlys, Jackie Mendoza and Colin O'Neill's call-and-response vocals feel like two sides of a conversation with the self, an attempt to sketch the contours of tangled relationship in search of a way out.

This essay is one in a series celebrating women whose major contributions in recording occurred before the time frame of NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women.

The Roots Feat. Bilal: Tiny Desk Concert

Oct 30, 2017

Can you believe it? Yes, those are The Roots packed behind the Tiny Desk. Black Thought, Questlove and the crew carved out a few hours in their hectic Tonight Show schedule to visit NPR headquarters in Washington D.C. Why travel four hours for a 12-minute concert when you own the late-night airwaves? The answer can be found in the lyrics to The Roots' new song, "It Ain't Fair."

Note: This piece is better heard than read. To hear this review and the specific musical moments it references, listen at the audio link.

Mark Korven specializes in making scary sounds.

Calling Fats Domino an architect of rock and roll almost sounds like faint praise. Indeed, the amiable country boy from the Lower Ninth Ward, with the help of bandleader impresario Dave Bartholomew and one of the world's truly legendary gangs of sidemen, dug the hole and laid the actual foundation.

The music of The Lemon Twigs has a sound that channels decades long past.

Michael, 18, and Brian D'Addario, 20, the brothers who make up the band, have a look that matches: We're talking peak 1970s shag haircuts, oversized tinted aviator shades and high-waisted bell-bottom jeans.

Advisory: The above video may contain language and imagery some may find offensive.

Rapsody's first video from her recently released LP Laila's Wisdom lives up to the song's title. In a word, "Power" conveys just that, without relying on hip-hop cliché.

Big K.R.I.T. is well-versed in the dual nature of man. His entire discography is packed with lyrics that split the difference between the carnal and the spiritual. Balanced between strip club rituals and Sunday morning salvation, the man born Justin Scott carved a space for himself among Southern rap royalty. Three years after his last proper studio release, it only makes sense that his latest effort, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, comes as a 22-track double album in which he thoroughly mines his personal, and artistic, dichotomy.

Jorge Drexler leads a sort of double life as a musician. The Uruguayan's six album released in Latin America are extremely popular and are full of profoundly literate lyrics with musical accompaniment that range from cumbias to tangos. He makes the kind of records you might hear at the best apartment parties in Latin America, where people to dance in the middle of the room or debate the lyrics off in a corner.

Just shy of a month after Nicki Minaj complimented her fellow female artist on reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart — a feat Minaj herself has yet to accomplish — it appears the Queens rapper has made her co-sign of the Bronx-bred Cardi B official.

Loving pop music means loving all pop music, or at least our ambiguous modern definition of it. For every "Teenage Dream" there's a "Call Your Girlfriend," for every "Safety Dance," there's a "Cloudbusting" – it's all in the same breath, both exploding and refining sugar in a space that is made for everyone, even if we don't always agree on its refinement.

The blues have traveled far and wide over the last century — exerting a vast cultural influence worldwide, yielding myriad offshoots, and generating fortunes for some of the biggest musical acts of our time. But it's also still the product of local conditions, and bound by hardscrabble local concerns.

On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll go to Clarksdale, Miss., to get a temperature reading at ground level, where struggling musicians are finally beginning to reap the benefits of a recent wave of blues tourism.

We know. Halloween can be a weird one. You have to exercise an excruciating amount of self-control around office candy. People are making bad puns. You have to come up with a last-minute replacement for your Wonder Woman costume because you just realized it's the most popular costume of the year and you were really hoping to be an original (sorry to be the one to tell you).

Grizzly Bear had only played a handful of shows behind its new album when the band arrived at Apogee Studio to tape this session for KCRW. Most of the band members now live here in Los Angeles, and seeing the group back together on stage after a notable hiatus was a real treat.

SET LIST

  • "Four Cypresses"

Photo: Dustin Downing/KCRW.

At the risk of hyperbole: London's La Vida Es Un Mus is one of the most exciting punk record labels going, possessing an unmistakable ear for innovative, dark sounds spanning continents, languages and style. There doesn't appear to be any method to when their releases become available, though its always an event.

Natalia LaFourcade is a successful singer-songwriter whose voice and music live on the edge of pop, but maintain a distinct independence.

A few years ago, while Lafourcade was traveling Brazil, she felt a great nostalgia for her native Mexico and its folk music. When she finally returned home, she immediately called some friends for the kind of party that is ubiquitous in Latin America: lots of social drinking, lots of food and lots of guitars and singing. Classic folk songs were on the playlist and a good time was had by all.

We have, nearly five years after the debut release of Woman, new music from Rhye and word of a new album, due next year on Loma Vista. (Given the recent tour announcement that has them hitting the road in February, it's probably safe to say that the album will come not too long after the new year.)

My guest David Rawlings has a new album. Well, a new old album. It's called Poor David's Almanack, and in writing it, Rawlings set out to craft new folk songs that evoke old folk traditions.

Iron & Wine On World Cafe

Oct 27, 2017

Iron & Wine, the nom de plume of songwriter Sam Beam, returned to World Cafe for a solo set in front of a live audience. His latest abum, Beast Epic, was recorded at the Wilco Loft in Chicago and released on his original label Sub Pop.

Iron & Wine began his live set with the first song that Sub Pop ever released, a 7-inch single of "Call Your Boys." Hear it in the player above.

A singer, rapper, poet, author, speaker and all-around mogul, Dessa can be forgiven for waiting three-plus years (and counting) to follow 2014's excellent Parts of Speech.

Weezer has never quite made the same album twice. Over 25 years of making music and nearly a dozen releases, guitar rock has remained the band's core sound. But the moods and narratives, the production and frontman Rivers Cuomo's singing style have all shifted so dramatically with each album that it's sometimes hard for some fans to make sense of it.

There can be no more personal or generous a gift from an artist to their fans than to say: Here is the museum of my heart as I prepare to die. Please come in. This room smells like Chanel No 5. It's the scent of all the letters sent by my old flame. That room is an exact replica of my baby's nursery. It's where we performed our old "Bedtime" routine: "I'd get you to your crib, slowly lower you down. Then pull my hands away, as if from a bomb. Then I'd step away, one step at a time, the floors were full of sounds, all the creaks of time." That window looks out at "The Lake," Lake Ontario.

Half a minute into the first track of Big Thief's second album, Capacity, I thought of a lyric by Jenn Wasner from her solo project Flock of Dimes: "It is the quiet voice that says it best." The further I ventured into Capacity, the more that lyric became a mantra.

What song terrifies you? A few years ago, we asked our listeners to answer that question, and enshrined the feedback in a playlist. This year, we again besought you to help us DJ the most wicked Halloween party this side of the underworld by adding your picks for the freakiest songs of all time.

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