Music

Music

Music in Exile is a recording project that collects songs and stories from people displaced by humanitarian crisis. Alex Ebsary, a member of the Music in Exile team, explains that its mandate is straightforward: "What we do is go around, either to refugee camps or to places that we know there will be refugees or internally displaced Iraqis, and try to find musicians," he says. "They can be anyone, from somebody who knows how to sing a few songs to professionals."

A year ago today, terrorists attacked six locations in Paris, killing 130 people. Most of them were shot during a rock concert at a venue called the Bataclan. The attacks led to heightened security throughout Europe, and they've also led to some changes in how rock bands tour.

A Tribe Called Quest Stands United, One Last Time

Nov 11, 2016
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I had not heard this interview with Leonard Cohen since 1993, the second year of World Cafe's existence, until we revisited it upon hearing of his death this week. I'd traveled to talk with Cohen backstage at a 1,000-seat theater he was playing in the suburbs outside Philadelphia. This was different from the large, triumphant tours he played in his 70s — it was almost workaday, a performance for the gathered faithful. The man who passed away Monday at the age of 82 was spry in his 60s.

Popular music, like every creative form, has produced iconoclasts and idols, whose charisma intersects with the historical moment to carry them into a singular space of greatness. Leonard Cohen was not that kind of star. He was the other kind, arguably more necessary: the companionable genius, compelled by the need to track the muse through the hallways of the everyday, to understand how profane existence can be shot through with profundity.

Adam Torres' voice makes Pearls To Swine a constant listen for me. It's high and lonesome, but more frail than the voices of the bluegrass pioneers who defined that sound, like Ralph Stanley. Besides, Torres isn't a country singer or a folksinger so much as an atmospheric storyteller.

Shortly after his 82nd birthday, Leonard Cohen sat down with KCRW's Chris Douridas for an interview. The two talked about Cohen's health, the role of religion in his life, his 14th and final album, You Want It Darker, and much more.

The conversation took place at the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles on Oct. 13 as part of a special listening session for You Want It Darker. It's the last interview Cohen gave before his death on November 7.

Last week Bob Boilen and I asked you to share your favorite memories of Pink Floyd and what the band's music has meant to you. It's one of those bands that stirs up powerful feelings.

On May 3, 1972 I saw the most amazing show of my life. It was a few years post-Woodstock, we'd lost Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, and you could feel this special generational music, sounds that brought together a culture, going commercial. There were syrupy bands like America, "soft-rock" was a thing, and your mom and dad could actually like what you heard.

Musical Cannibalism With Cyro Baptista

Nov 10, 2016

Anthropofagia — cultural cannibalism — is a concept based on an essay published by the poet and father of Brazilian modernism, Oswald de Andrade. A passage from that "Manifesto Antropofagico" reads:

"Only cannibalism unites us. Socially. Economically. Philosophically. The unique law of the world. The masked expression of all individualism and collective movement."

Brazilian "percussionista" Cyro Baptista has applied this philosophy to create ingenious music for more than five decades.

Danish producer Trentemøller recently brought his trademark melancholy and darkly atmospheric music to KCRW's studio. "One Eye Open" — the first song he worked on for his fourth full-length, Fixion, with singer Marie Fisker — was a highlight of a fantastic live set.

SET LIST

  • "One Eye Open"

Photo: Spencer C. Amonwatvorakul/KCRW.

The xx is back with new music, and it feels like this wonderfully languid band may have just received a shot of adrenaline.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.


For nearly 20 years, guitarist, singer and label head John Dwyer has followed an incredibly circuitous creative path: Charting the course of just one of his bands involves breaking down a discography that includes records by Orinoka Crash Suite, OCS, Orange County Sound, The Ohsees, The Oh Sees and, now, Thee Oh Sees. (This says nothing of his work with other groups around San Francisco, most notably Coachwhips.)

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

In 2013, the Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan and his wife, filmmaker Marilena Delli, traveled to the African country Malawi to record the music of inmates at the maximum-security Zomba Central Prison. They came back with a stunning collection of song-stories that made up the Grammy-nominated record I Have No Everything Here.

Lætitia Tamko's music exists in the spaces between memory and reality; in the spots where stories are misremembered and tangled up in our feelings. The Cameroon-born, New York-raised musician records as Vagabon, and her songs capture that ambiguity with somber clarity as Tamko's assured voice glows deeply and brightly like a new bulb.

In the opening line of "Grass (Survivor's Guilt)," Topaz Jones declares he's "found love — a great distraction from checking the evening news and staying up on what's happening." Coming from someone whose father was a guitarist and whose mother was an activist, it feels like a mission statement.

Jim James On World Cafe

Nov 7, 2016

Jim James, the leader of the Louisville, Ky., band My Morning Jacket, has a new solo album, Eternally Even. It's a political album — not because it is directly about climate change or immigration or this election's other hot-button issues, but because it addresses the mindset that has led to such a divided nation. It's about love and fear.

Ta-ku & Wafia: Tiny Desk Concert

Nov 7, 2016

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.

At first, the concluding song on SubRosa's For This We Fought The Battle of Ages feels like the haunting denouement to an arc largely inspired by Yevgeny Zamyatin's 1921 dystopian novel We. When the album was released this past August, "Troubled Cells" was revealed not only as a departure from the primary source material but as a bold, extremely personal statement by singer/songwriter/guitarist Rebecca Vernon and the Salt Lake City doom-metal band.

The music Jaime Fennelly makes under the name Mind Over Mirrors creates a sense of everlasting wonder, driven by synthesizers and the Indian pedal harmonium. He finds the center of tones and timbres, then stretches them beyond their origins.

This week a gigantic Pink Floyd box set is released. What's remarkable about Pink Floyd Early Years 1965-1972 is that its 27 discs cover only the band's first seven years! All this week we'll think pink with some of the people who were there. On Friday — the day this collection is released — we'll talk with drummer Nick Mason about those early years. On Tuesday we talk to Roger Waters about his upcoming projects and politics.

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