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Recent Episodes and Articles

Ten Years Later, William Shatner Is Still No 'Has Been'

Friday, October 17, 2014

It's safe to say that 2004 was a great year for rock thanks to monumental indie rock albums like Arcade Fire's Funeral, The Killers' Hot Fuss and Interpol's Antics -- just to name a few. But that year also brought us an overlooked yet successful album that likely doesn't get mentioned in the same company: William Shatner's Has Been.

Back in 2004, as the title suggests, Shatner was not quite the A-list actor he once was in his Star Trek peak, let alone those T.J. Hooker days. As a longtime thespian and all-around showman, Has Been was not the first time the actor best known for playing Capt. James T. Kirk on TV and in movies had dabbled with music. First there was his delightfully misunderstood 1968 record, The Transformed Man, which coupled cosmic Shakespearean readings and spoken-word interpretations of pop songs like "Tambourine Man" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." Then, in 1978, he hosted The Science Fiction Film Awards where he performed a fantastic and utterly bizarro version Elton John's "Rocket Man."

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The Budos Band: The Staten Island Afro-Soul Group Isn't Afraid To Get Heavy

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Budos Band may describe its sound as "Staten Island instrumental afro-soul," but trying to unpack the musical elements can be fun challenge. Listen for those polyrhythmic Afrobeat rhythms and deep funk grooves; the jazz-infused solos and soulful melodies; and the sonic experimentation of 1960's psychedelic rock. The Budos Band has done it all in ecstatic live performances that get a crowd moving.

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Anthrax's Scott Ian On Thrash Metal, The Yankees, And Beard Conditioning

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The new memoir from Anthrax's Scott Ian is called 'I'm The Man: The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax.'

In addition to sporting one of the most famous beards in music, Scott Ian is also a founding member of the band Anthrax. After spending his formative years as a Yankee-loving kid in Mets territory, Ian dove into New York's punk scene and eventually co-founded Anthrax in 1981. (His facial hair was founded not long after.)

Along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, the band would go on to become one of the so-called "Big Four" bands that defined the sound of thrash metal. Now, Ian tells his version of the band's origin story, and details the highs and lows of Anthrax's long career in his new memoir, I’m The Man: The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, he reflects on his most memorable performances, the band's surprising rap-metal crossover hit and his childhood love of Black Sabbath and KISS. 

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Streets Of Laredo: Crossing Hemispheres With Crazed Cowboy Folk

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Streets Of Laredo -- the band, not the book or the country song -- formed when brothers Dave and Dan Gibson were at something of a crossroads. Dave had put in time with many New Zealand rock bands, but had put that career on hold to run a t-shirt company. Meanwhile, his younger brother began to feel burnt out from his own music projects, and was looking to step away altogether. Dave offered him a job filing shirt orders, and soon, the two began writing songs again -- this time, together. Soon, Dave's wife Sarahjane joined in. After only one hometown show, Streets Of Laredo took the plunge and moved to the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Along the way, the band picked up a few more musicians, and expanded its bi-continental cowboy folk lineup into a sprawling seven-piece ensemble.

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Video Premiere: Nude Beach, 'For You'

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Some bands have a few songs so immediately fun they can change the air in the room. Nude Beach must have at least 20 of ‘em -- each built to win over anyone in the crowd, no matter their tastes. Looking for scruffy punk bangers or spirit-lifting jangling melodies? Hoping for a few triumphantly ripping glam rock solos? What about some good old Heartland AM radio pop or souped-up muscle car rockers made for open-window drives? On its sprawling and satisfying 18-song double album, 77, the Brooklyn trio’s members -- singer and guitarist Chuck Betz, bassist Jimmy Shelton, and drummer Ryan Naideau -- have got you more than covered.

From that first shuffling drum fill that opens Nude Beach’s latest single, “For You,” that feel-good vibe is especially tangible -- and even more so, when you see that song's smile-inducing new music video.

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Subway Songs: A Soundtrack From The Ears Of A New York Newcomer

Thursday, October 16, 2014

One night, while waiting on the Grand Central Station subway platform, the cleaning crews non-discriminately sprayed burning hot water on the stairs above where I was standing. A puddle dropped at my feet, splattering in my face. A young woman next to me said, “There’s nothing like the fluorescent lights of the subway to melt away a magical night.” We agreed, and soon exchanged stories of our night.

Since I moved to New York about a month ago, the subway has been an endless supply of frustrated inspiration and, in this case, horror. But, as a newcomer, I still think there’s a certain mystical charm about the subway. There's nothing quite like sharing close quarters and occasional stories with the full spectrum of humanity.

That communion with public transportation is a new thing to me. I'm from Colorado -- where we bike or drive. But here, I've quickly noticed each line has it's own personality. The best way I know to describe a feeling, situation -- or in this case cars full of people strung together, is with music. I've paired songs that I believe match the character of my limited subway commute, music diary style.

What's the soundtrack to your subway line? What songs do you like to listen to? Tell us in the comments below, or on Twitter at @Soundcheck.

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Download This: Homeboy Sandman, "America The Beautiful"

Thursday, October 16, 2014

ARTIST: Homeboy Sandman

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Homeboy Sandman, "America, The Beautiful"  

GIG: Thursday night at Glasslands 8:30 PM

The lyrical talent of the Queens-based rapper known as Homeboy Sandman is on full display on his new record, “Hallways.” Funny, scathing, and always politically engaged – all qualities that show up on the track “America, The Beautiful.” 

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Scott Ian, 'That Guy From Anthrax' Has A New Memoir; 'Stations Of The Elevated' Revisited; Sinkane Plays Live

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In this episode: In addition to sporting one of music's most famous beards, Scott Ian is also a founding member of the longtime New York metal band Anthrax. The thrash metal pioneer has a new memoir, I'm The Man: The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax.

Then: Director Manny Kirchheimer’s 1981 film, Stations Of The Elevated, was an early musical portrait of New York’s subway graffiti culture at its peak in the late 1970s. More than 30 years after its release, the film is being revisited with a run of showings at BAM. Kirchheimer looks back at this documentation of this bygone era – and the film’s soundtrack of music by Charles Mingus.

And: Ahmed Gallab has had a busy year. He directed a musical tribute to the Nigerian synth-funk musician William Onyeabor – a collaboration that included musicians like David Byrne, Joshua Redman and Dev Hynes of Blood Orange. And, Ahmed just released a new album under his moniker Sinkane, Mean Love. He and his band play some of it live in the Soundcheck studio.

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'Stations Of The Elevated' Fuses Train Graffiti And Mingus

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In the late 1970s, graffiti-covered subway cars were as much a part of New York City's iconic landscape as the Empire State Building. But the art form was mostly despised. Graffiti was criminalized by city officials, erased from subway trains, and ignored by the high-art community. Then in 1977, the radical filmmaker Manfred Kirchheimer documented those painted trains rumbling through the Bronx and Brooklyn -- and forever changed the way we view the medium. His 45-minute film, Stations Of The Elevated, premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1981, is now considered a cult classic among graffiti artists.

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Hear: Marco Benevento, Live On Soundcheck

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

For years, Marco Benevento has created jazz-inflected, post-rock instrumentals which feature him on an array of instruments -- from pianos and keyboards to tape loops and circuit-bent electronics. His music is easily recognizable, full of winding passages and layered electronics and singable, memorable melodies. So for those familiar with Benevento's work (or maybe from Soundcheck's very own theme song, "Eagle Rock"), one thing will immediately jump out with his new record: For the first time, the longtime keyboardist is singing.

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Leonard Bernstein's 'On The Town' Is Back On Broadway

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein is one of a handful of individuals who will forever be an indelible part of New York history and culture. His work continues to be performed, studied and cherished as classic New York-a-philia. And now, a new revival of one of Bernstein's classics is set to open on Broadway again this week. 

On The Town originally premiered on Broadway in 1944. With music by Bernstein and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, songs such as "New York, New York" and "Lonely Town" are immediately familiar to anyone attending. It's fair to say On The Town was ahead of its time -- not only for the timeless songs themselves, but in the racial diversity of its cast, the feminist themes of its story and the raunchy lyrics in numbers like "I Can Cook, Too."

"I had the thrill of being involved in something huge, something wonderful, something evolving," says Billie Allen, an early cast-member. "Change was going on, to be more inclusive in the American life. And here I walk into it right on the stage. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven."

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Allen and Carol Oja -- a Harvard musicologist and author of Bernstein Meets Broadway: Collaborative Art In A Time Of War -- look back on this 70-year-old musical and why it's as fresh today as it was during World War II.

 

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Download This: The Shivas, "Ride On"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ARTIST: The Shivas

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The Shivas, "Ride On"  

GIG: Album release Wednesday night at The Cake Shop, and Thursday night at The Palisades

As the fall weather gets more and more blustery and summer gets further in the rearview mirror, it’s important to include some fuzzy surf rock like this as part of a balanced musical diet. Help fight seasonal affective disorder by taking a shot of this song, “Ride On.”

The Shivas bring the sound of the beach to The Cake Shop tonight – they’re also at Palisades tomorrow night. 

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Bryan Ferry On His New Album; 'On The Town' Back On Broadway; Wordless Music Orchestra Plays 'Tubular Bells'

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In this episode: English singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry rose to prominence in the 1970's as the leader of the art rock band Roxy Music. The impossibly dashing gentleman talks about his upcoming album, Avonmore.

Then: In honor of the latest Broadway revival of Leonard Bernstein’s On The Town, Soundcheck talks to an early cast member of the original show, as well as Carol Oja -- a historian who has written a book about Bernstein, Jerome Robbins and the rest of the young creative team behind this groundbreaking musical.

And: Members of the Wordless Music Orchestra unveil some of its new arrangement of Tubular Bells, the jovial Mike Oldfield classic that was used to such creepy effect in the movie The Exorcist.

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Who Isn't Featured on Bryan Ferry's New Album?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fans of Bryan Ferry most likely first heard his unmistakable voice on the records he made with the adventurous and experimental yet highly romantic group, Roxy Music. Or, perhaps their first encounter with the experimental English pop musician was with his solo material, covering the music of other artists and writing his own original hits.

Now, four years after his last solo record, Ferry is taking an original turn on his latest album, Avonmore. The record follows up Ferry's 2012 album, The Jazz Age, on which he reinterpreted many of his his past classics as jazz songs. Avonmore features eight new compositions and just two covers -- a very unusual reinterpretation of the Stephen Sondheim standard “Send In The Clowns" and a collaboration with Norwegian DJ Todd Terje, on the late Robert Palmer's "Johnny and Mary." In addition, Ferry showcases an all-star cast of collaborators, including Ronnie Spector, guitarist Nile Rodgers, bassist FleaJohnny Marr of The Smiths, Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler and saxophonist Maceo Parker.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Ferry talks about his upcoming album (out Nov. 17), his collaborators on that album and the prospect of reuniting with Roxy Music.

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Sari Botton 'Never Can Say Goodbye' To New York

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sari Botton's latest book is Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers On Their Unshakable Love For New York.

The notion of leaving New York might be met with disbelief, grief, and disgruntled groans from longtime New Yorkers -- let alone those waiting for the next excuse to move away. But no matter where you go, Sari Botton says, the city follows you. Last year, in the wake of her relocation upstate, Botton edited Goodbye To All That: On Loving And Leaving New York, an anthology in which more than 25 writers penned essays about their complicated feelings about the city and how they renounced their residency.

Now Botton is mayne eating her words with her latest collection, Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers And their Unshakeable Love For New York. This time, she's collected stories from another impressive array of New Yorkers -- Rosanne Cash, Susan Orlean, Whoopi Goldberg, Nick Flynn, and Jason Diamond, among others -- who illustrate their love-hate relationship with the city that never lets you go.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Botton reflects both collections and their opposite positions on New York, and getting inspired by Liza Minnelli's "City Lights."

You can catch a reading from Sari's book tomorrow, October 15, at 7:30 at Greenlight Bookstore. Featured contributors will include Alexander Chee, Stephen Elliott, Patricia Engel, Anna Holmes, and Adelle Waldman.

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When Senators Sing: The Musical Endeavors Of Our Elected Officials

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Election Day here in the U.S. is just three weeks away. And if you forgot, or thought you'd just sit this midterm election out, rapper Lil Jon and the Rock the Vote campaign would like to encourage you to, well, turn out. (For what?)

All this singing about voting has got us thinking about what happens when politics and music collide -- something that's touched on in a new off-Broadway play called Tail! Spin! Created by Soundcheck contributor Mario Correa, the play is a look at four real-life political careers gone horribly and hilariously wrong. In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Correa talks about some of the more musical moments from his play -- and to share some other examples of elected officials pursuing their musical dreams. 

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Wordless Music Orchestra Performs 'Tubular Bells'

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Even if you don't recognize the name Tubular Bells, you've likely heard its unsettling, iconic opening notes. Known to most as the theme from The Exorcist, it's difficult to hear Tubular Bells without picturing scenes from William Friedkin's film: the Ouija board, the girl spider-crawling down the stairs, her demonic possession taking hold, and that elderly priest chanting "The power of Christ compels you!" as the room shakes. You already have goosebumps, right?

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Download This: Bang On A Can All-Stars, "Steel Hammer: Characteristics"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

ARTIST: Julia Wolfe

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Bang On A Can All-Stars, "Steel Hammer: Characteristics"  

SHOW: Tuesday night at Brookfield Place

John Schaefer's annual “New Sounds Live” concert series begins tonight at Brookfield Place with a special performance of this work by the composer Julia Wolfe. It’s called “Steel Hammer,” loosely based on the old John Henry tall-tale, and it’s being performed by Wolfe’s ensemble Bang On A Can All-Stars and the vocal group Trio Medieval.

You can see and hear the entire “Steel Hammer” work performed tonight at Brookfield Place. 

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When Music And Politics Collide; Sari Botton's 'Unshakable Love For New York'; Ariel Pink Plays Live

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In this episode:  Election day is just three weeks away -- and that's got us here at Soundcheck thinking about what happens when music and politics collide. Hint: It isn't always pretty. The creator of the off-Broadway play Tail! Spin! – who happens to be regular contributor Mario Correa -- stops by to share greatest hits from some of our nation's most “musically-inclined” elected officials.

Then: Writer Sari Botton talks about the musicians whose love for New York means they can never leave it behind. She follows up her last book, Goodbye To All That: Writers On Loving And Leaving New York, with a new one, Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers On Their Unshakable Love For New York.

And: Ariel Pink made waves two years ago with his wild pop record, Mature Themes. Now the unpredictable Los Angeles songwriter is back with his forthcoming album, pom pom, and previews new songs in the Soundcheck studio.

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Download This: Bing & Ruth, "The Towns We Love Is Our Town"

Monday, October 13, 2014

ARTIST: Bing & Ruth

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Bing & Ruth, "The Towns We Love Is Our Town"  

GIG: Monday night at Le Poisson Rouge

When our friends at NPR recently offered a preview of the new album from this group, one commenter observed “This is the soundtrack to a dream I’ll never have." Well, dear Commenter, try this: fall asleep surrounded by a piano, two clarinets, two basses, and a cello. That might do the trick. Here’s Bing And Ruth’s “The Towns We Love Is Our Town.”

Bing & Ruth is at Le Poisson Rouge tonight. 

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