Every year Bob Boilen, NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and I prepare for South by Southwest by listening to songs from roughly 1,500 artists. And when you go through that many bands you start to see trends in the names. The two most commonly occurring words are always — always — "black" and "DJ." In addition to those two, this year we noticed that "white" appears an awful lot, too, as does the name John. Michael, Paul and Jesse are also pretty popular. Go figure.
Our Sense of Place: Austin guest today, Shakey Graves, has been described as one of the best solo acts in town. With his finger-picked guitar and suitcase drum he takes over the stage. He put out his full length debut Roll the Bones in 2011 and an EP Donor Blues a year later. He has also spent time chasing acting parts, including one in Friday Night Lights. He even moved to LA to pursue roles, but ended up spending the time working on his music.
Orthy is our World Cafe: Next band for our Sense of Place visit to Austin. We picked Orthy, whose two EPs touch on electronic dance music, to illustrate the breadth of the Austin music scene. The inspiration for Ian Orth, who is at the heart of this band, is his ongoing weekly dance party Learning Secrets. He established Learning Secrets to turn rock fans on to dance music and vice versa. The full Orthy plays live, sharing music from their latest EP, E.M.I.L.Y.
Let It Go, the new album from Grammy-nominated bluegrass-rock expansionists The Infamous Stringdusters, will be released April 1 on the band’s own High Country Recordings. The new album is a milestone for the group - Andy Hall (Dobro), Andy Falco (guitar), Chris Pandolfi (banjo), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle) and Travis Book (upright bass) - that showcases their eight-year evolution from IBMA Award-winning bluegrass torchbearers to multi-dimensional string explorers, mixing tight song craft and a flare for improvisation.
Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 8:55 am
When it's nearly impossible to understand what a band is saying, discerning the message means cues have to come from elsewhere. The Syracuse noise-punk group Perfect Pussy issues maybe five easily discernible lines over the course of its frenetic 23-minute debut album, Say Yes to Love, but the band doesn't lack for conversation-starters.
Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 8:56 am
"Under the Pressure," the nine-minute song that kicks off Lost in the Dream, opens with a few seconds of hair-raising electronic ticking and closes with two and a half minutes of full-band, synchronized, undulating feedback. In between, The War on Drugs shows many of the cards in its stacked deck: chugging drums, horn stabs, guitar runs that fly off into the atmosphere, keyboards with a strong melodic gravitational field pulling weight for singer Adam Granduciel's wandering mystic tenor.
Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 9:46 am
Benmont Tench, who plays those perfect piano lines and organ fills as a member of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, has just released a solo album. It's called You Should Be So Lucky and contains 10 originals that Tench has been saving up, sometimes for years and sometimes just for a few weeks, before finally recording them with Don Was.
The members of KINS come from different parts of Australia and the U.K., but now call Brighton home. They each bring different influences to the table, and clearly relish the idea of crafting a unique sound that defies categorization, much like their fellow Brits in Alt-J. KINS' members strive to explore new sonic boundaries, and they succeed mightily in their song "Mockasin's."