On the day its second full-length album (Voices) came out, Phantogram was on Morning Becomes Eclectic, performing in L.A.'s Village studios. The New York duo combines trip-hop beats, spaced-out keyboards and Sarah Barthel's airy vocals to create a sound big enough to fill some of L.A.'s largest venues. Only a few days old, the album already has a few songs on heavy rotation at KCRW — including this one, titled "Black Out Days."
The Missouri-based band Ha Ha Tonka's unusual name pays tribute to the Ozark region — it's the name of a state park. The four-piece visited our World Cafe studios to play music from its latest album, Lessons. During our chat, singer and songwriter Brian Roberts explained some of the many things that trigger his creativity, including this Fresh Air interview with Maurice Sendak.
Hearing their performance on KEXP, you'd think that super-duo Minor Alps had played for audiences together many times, but this effortless, stripped-down set of lyrically poignant songs was their first live performance — ever.
This week's feature CD is a great new live album, "Timeless," by John Hammond. Here, he digs deep into acoustic blues by covering legends like Little Walter, Elmore James and Howlin' Wolf, plus originals and re-toolings of songs by the likes of Tom Waits and Chuck Berry. Tune-in this Friday, February 21 at noon to hear the whole CD. Correctly answer host Jim Belcher's trivia question at about 12:30 and you could win lunch at Zia Taqueria!
Hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton open this week's show by reminiscing about a recent Son Lux and San Fermin show that delivered epic sounds with bold, cinematic rock. Bob and Robin's shared love for walls of noise leads them directly to the orchestral opening track on this week's program, "Beneath The Brine" by The Family Crest.
Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 2:20 pm
For today's Vintage Cafe, we revisit iconic singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega's time in the World Cafe studios back in February.
Vega burst on the New York City folk scene in 1987 with her second album, Solitude Standing, and specifically the song "Luka." Later, a short a cappella song from that album, "Tom's Diner," was remixed by DNA and became a pop sensation.
The Beatles may be an odd place to begin a Cate Le Bon conversation, but I remember being struck by the way four guys from Liverpool could sing without their English accents. That's true of most pop singers, whose words often come out sounding more American than anything else. But that's not true with Cate Le Bon. Her phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh.
Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 1:16 pm
The word "eccentric" pops up often in descriptions of Annie Clark and the music she performs as St. Vincent. It's a word attached to trailblazers of many kinds. Often though not always, there's a degree of respect wrapped up in the idea of eccentricity — and intrigue, certainly — but there's also a gentle admonishment, a "we both know you're breaking the rules" eyebrow-raising inherent in that descriptor. A more apt word for St. Vincent, written into every inch of her self-titled fourth album, is fearless.
Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 1:17 pm
On paper, the German electro-pop band The Notwist sounds less accessible than it is: Since getting together 25 years ago, its members have delved into everything from hardcore to underground hip-hop to proggy jazz, with many varyingly arty detours in between. But the latter half of its history, particularly once you hit the sublime early-'00s breakthrough Neon Golden, is wonderfully warm and approachable.
Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 1:18 pm
Joel Thibodeau's music doesn't emanate from a single place: The singer who records under the name Death Vessel was born in Germany and raised in New England, and he recorded his new album Island Intervals in Reykjavik with the aid of producer Alex Somers and Sigur Rós singer Jónsi. That list of places provides context beyond mere biographical background, because Thibodeau's music reflects virtually every direction in which he's been pulled.