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Recent Episodes and Articles

Ask John Schaefer Anything: What Is The Bakersfield Sound?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

By most anyone’s standards, John Schaefer knows a lot about music. Yet despite his two radio shows and various other music-related projects, we get the feeling he's withholding some of that knowledge. So now's your chance to ask Soundcheck's famously brainy host anything as long as it has something to do with music.


Katie Irish asks: "What was happening in Bakersfield, California that spawned its own sound in country music, otherwise known as the 'Bakersfield Sound'?"

Since John Schaefer is a Brooklyn boy, he reached out to Jessie Scott, director of the American roots music performance series Hill Country Live, to find out more about Buck Owens, Jean Shepard, Merle Haggard, and how they influenced The Beatles.

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Glass Animals: Otherwordly Ambient Rock

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The chorus of Glass Animal's song "Gooey" is impeccably written and horrifyingly descriptive: "While my naked fool, fresh out of an icky gooey womb / A woozy you, dopes upon a silky smooth perfume," they sing. It's not surprising that Glass Animals found its lyrics while reading Heart Of Darkness and watching The African Queen. But those smooth lyrics coagulate perfectly into a carefully concocted brew of otherworldly indie rock. Their synth-pop beats come from a grounded, tribal place while frontman, David Bayley's voice adds a lighter, iridescent quality. 

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How To Be Smarter About... Willie Nelson

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Willie Nelson has achieved legendary status in American culture. But that doesn’t quite exempt him from being in some music fans’ blind spots. Nelson might be best known for penning and performing “On The Road Again,” as a designated member of the "Outlaw country" movement, or, perhaps his signature bandana and braids. Or maybe he’s more famous for his "extra-musical activities," like his run-ins with the IRS, or his well-known love of marijuana, a cause which he actively fights to legalize -- and for which he’s been arrested several times.

However, Nelson’s achievements go beyond his cultural cache, says Laura Cantrell, the country singer-songwriter, longtime WFMU radio host, and sometime-Soundcheck guest-host. In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Cantrell explains how Nelson rose to fame, provides some essential tracks, and tells us whether Nelson, at 81 years old, has still got it.

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Song Premiere: Buck 65, 'She Fades'

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Richard Terfry -- the two-time Juno Award-winning Nova Scotian rapper known as Buck 65 -- has always been primarily a storyteller, crafting tales from personal experiences and characters based on people he knows. But with Neverlove, Buck 65’s forthcoming album, and first in three years, his songs have never been more self-reflective. The record delves into what he describes as one of the most wrenching times in his life: the crumbling of his marriage and eventual divorce.

A few months back, fans got to hear the Neverlove's first single, “Only War,” a track that showcases Tiger Rosa -- one of nine female voices that sing opposite Buck 65’s plaintive delivery. Today, we’re getting another preview with the opulent, layered song “She Fades.”

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Download This: Raul Midón, "Don't Hesitate"

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ARTIST: Raul Midón

DOWNLOAD:

Raul Midón, "Don't Hesitate"  

GIG: Tuesday night at Littlefield

“Eclectic” is a word minted specially for the New York guitarist Raul Midón. He’s played with everyone from Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder to Queen Latifah and Snoop Dogg. Bill Withers is on Midón’s new record “Don’t Hesitate,” which is out at the end of the month. Download the title track "Don't Hesitate."

Head to Littlefield tonight at eight to catch Raul Midón.

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Ask John Schaefer Anything: Bakersfield Sound; How To Be Smarter About... Willie Nelson; Helado Negro Plays Live

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In this episode: A listener recently asked John Schaefer to explain country music’s so-called “Bakersfield Sound.” Since Schaefer is a Brooklyn boy, he called on Jessie Scott, director of the American roots music performance series Hill Country Live, to talk him through Buck Owens, Jean Shepard, Merle Haggard, and…The Beatles?

Then: Willie Nelson has been making music for nearly 60 years, but many still know the iconic country singer primarily as the bandana and braided hair-wearing hippie with the cloudy bus and tax problems. Songwriter -- and occasional guest host -- Laura Cantrell gives us some more substantive reasons to love Willie in this primer as part of Soundcheck's How To Be Smarter About... series.

And: Helado Negro is the stage name for Brooklyn-based electronic musician Roberto Lange. Hear Helado Negro and singer Xenia Rubinso perform songs from his latest record, Double Youth, which features cascading synths and psychedelic swirls, and Lange’s unique vocal delivery. Also: tinsel dancers.

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Eugene Mirman's Picks For The Funniest Songs Of All Time

Monday, September 15, 2014

Here at Soundcheck HQ, we're on a mission to build the funniest playlist of all time. Fall is a busy season on the comedy circuit here in New York -- what with several comedy festivals coming through town in the next month or two. And because we can only afford to go to like, one and a half shows, we've decided to supplement our diet of funny with what musical hilarity we can scrounge up in our record collections and on the interwebs. 

This is where you come in – we want you to tell us about the songs that crack you up. Maybe they were intended to be funny -- like songs by Weird Al and PDQ Bach. Or maybe they weren't meant to be funny at all, but are completely gut-bustingly hilarious (to you, at least). Tell us about the songs that make you laugh in the comments section below, tweet us @Soundcheck or leave a voicemail at 866.939.1612. 

Comedian Eugene Mirman knows from funny: In addition to being a TV star (he's currently the voice of Gene on the Fox animated series Bob's Burgers) and a frequent comedic sidekick to Neil deGrasse Tyson on StarTalk Radio, he's also the curator of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, coming up this weekend in Brooklyn. In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Mirman offers up his own list of the funniest songs of all time. 

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Sarah Jaffe: From Folk Songwriter To Adventurous Electro-Pop Artist

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sarah Jaffe became known as a folk singer-songwriter making quiet acoustic songs on her 2010 debut, Suburban Nature. Over the last few years, however, the Texas native has seamlessly transitioned to pop. But this stylistic shift didn’t happen overnight. Jaffe’s previous album, The Body Wins, marked a turning point in her new musical direction, working with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Angel Olsen) to enliven her stormy songs with a denser sound full of industrial electronic beats and synthesizers.

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Download This: Youn Sun Nah, 'Lament'

Monday, September 15, 2014

ARTIST: Youn Sun Nah

DOWNLOAD:

Youn Sun Nah, "Lament"  

GIG: Monday night at Blue Note Jazz Club

Youn Sun Nah was born in South Korea to musician parents. As a young woman, she decided she would just, y’know, enjoy music as a hobby. Fast forward a few years, and the singer was attending FOUR music conservatories in Paris – all at the same time. The work has paid off in a dazzling way --- you can hear it on a song like “Lament.”

Head to Blue Note Jazz Club tonight to hear Youn Sun Nah. 

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Eugene Mirman's Funniest Songs Of All Time; Ryan Adams Plays Live

Monday, September 15, 2014

Comedian and actor Eugene Mirman presents his list of The Funniest Songs Of All Time. Plus, Soundcheck asks listeners to chime in with your suggestions and stories -- and we’ll compile the (sort of) authoritative playlist at the end of the week.

Once known for his songwriting prolificacy, Ryan Adams stepped away from music for a time to deal with a crippling inner ear disorder and build his Los Angeles studio Pax-Am. Now, the singer-songwriter is back, not only with a new self-titled album of country and rock songs, but a 10-song punk EP. Hear Adams perform a pair of songs from each recording in the Soundcheck studio. Plus, he explains why 7-11 is the gravitational center for the world’s weirdos, geeks out on recording gear, and explains how Star Wars legitimizes analog recordings.

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'20,000 Days' In The Life Of Nick Cave

Friday, September 12, 2014

The new documentary 20,000 Days On Earth revolves around the enigmatic Australian musician Nick Cave, best known for a 30-year career supported by his backing band, the Bad Seeds. Unlike a traditional "rockumentary," the film aims to depict an ordinary day in Cave's extraordinary life, as he chats with a psychotherapist, rummages through his personal archive, writes songs for a new album (2013's Push the Sky Away) and drives around in his luxury car with pop star Kylie Minogue, actor Ray Winstone and former Bad Seed and Einstürzende Neubauten founder Blixa Bargeld. 

The film's experimental combination of Cave's scripted narration and fly-on-the-wall footage is the result of Cave's long relationship with its directors, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. Over the past eight years they developed a friendship, shooting the Bad Seeds' promotional music videos and producing the soundtrack for the audiobook version of Cave's 2009 novel, The Death Of Bunny Monro

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That Was A Hit?!?: Enigma, 'Sadeness'

Friday, September 12, 2014

Romainian-born, Germany-based Michael Cretu had been a fixture in the German music scene long before the success of "Sadeness — Part 1." When he produced a cover of "Everlasting Love" for pop singer Sandra, Cretu mixed in a faint Gregorian chant at the beginning of the track. But with "Sadeness," Cretu wanted to take the concept further, combining old gothic recordings with contemporary dance beats to create "Sadeness" under the moniker Enigma.

The song became a global hit and went on to become one of Virgin Record's best sellers for a number of years.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, charts guru and frequent guest Chris Molanphy helps explain the unexpected — and long-lasting — popularity of the 1990 song as part of the series That Was A Hit?!?

This segment originally aired on May 27, 2014.

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Listen To This: Egberto Gismonti, "Salvador"

Friday, September 12, 2014

ARTIST: Egberto Gismonti

LISTEN:

Egberto Gismonti, "Salvador"  

GIG: Friday night at Symphony Space

In 1970, the Brazilian guitarist and composer Egberto Gismonti recorded two singles in France, one record in Italy, another in Brazil… and ANOTHER in Germany. He’s slowed the pace just slightly, but he remains one of Brazil’s most prodigious cultural treasures. Here he is on the song “Salvador,” released in 2000.

Don’t miss the iconic Brazilian guitarist and composer Egberto Gismonti, live at Symphony Space tonight. 

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Bob Mould Plays Live; '20,000 Days' In The Life Of Nick Cave; That Was A Hit?!? Enigma Edition

Friday, September 12, 2014

In this episode: Bob Mould, the former angst-ridden Husker Du and Sugar frontman, first went solo 25 years ago with Workbook, and just released his 11th studio album, Beauty & Ruin, earlier this summer. Hear him perform solo in the Soundcheck studio.

Then: The film 20,000 Days On Earth is a movie about musician Nick Cave, but it's not quite a documentary. Directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard talk about this unusual film, which began during the recording of Push the Sky Away, Cave's latest album with his backing band, the Bad Seeds.

And: Charts guru and writer Chris Molanphy explores the puzzling success of another chart-topping single -- this time, the sexy New Age, Gregorian chant-laden “Sadeness” by Enigma -- as part of our series That Was A Hit?!?

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Watch: Helado Negro, Live On Soundcheck

Friday, September 12, 2014

False memories manifest when parents recall the story of your first movie, or finding an old photo of yourself that you have no recollection of taking. Trying to piece together hazy and vague memories is what Roberto Lange's latest album as Helado Negro, Double Youth, is all about.

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'Another Side Of Bob Dylan': A Personal History On The Road And Off the Tracks

Thursday, September 11, 2014

This year marks 50 years since Bob Dylan released his fourth studio album, Another Side of Bob Dylan. It also marks the release of a new book about the life and times of Dylan as told by his tour manager and friend Victor Maymudes. Maymudes passed away before he could finish writing the book, but his son Jacob Maymudes set to the task of completing his father’s work. The book, Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and Off the Tracks, lends new perspective to famous stories, like the time when Dylan met The Beatles and the motorcycle accident that marked a break in his relentless touring.

In the book, Maymudes talks about first meeting Dylan and being shown the beginnings of the song "A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall." Instead of being concerned about whether it was good or not Dylan wanted to know how it made him feel.

“He was writing it, and showed him pieces of it like poetry,” Jacob Maymudes says in a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer. “Throughout their relationship that is how they talked about his music. Bob always wasn’t necessarily looking for help with writing, but what the meaning was.”

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Ten Essential Kate Bush Songs

Thursday, September 11, 2014

English singer-songwriter Kate Bush began her career in the mid-1970's, quickly topping the U.K. charts with her debut single “Wuthering Heights.” But since her first tour in 1979, Bush has shied away from the stage – and has only performed publicly a handful of times. Now, she’s in the midst of a comeback of sorts – a 22 night run at London’s Hammersmith Apollo that’s also regenerated an interest in her back catalog. Eight of her albums have charted on the UK Top 40 albums chart in the past few weeks.

With Bush back in the news and back on the charts, we figured that now would be a good time for us all to get a little bit smarter about the elusive artist. In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer (the audio link above), Sophie Harris of Time Out New York and Ben Ratliff of The New York Times delve into Bush's music, her recent run of shows and more. Below, Schaefer shares his list of ten essential Kate Bush songs.

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Download This: Elephant Stone, 'Knock You From Yr Mountain'

Thursday, September 11, 2014

ARTIST: Elephant Stone

DOWNLOAD:

Elephant Stone, "Knock You From Yr Mountain"  

GIG: Thursday night at The Rock Shop

The Montreal trio called Elephant Stone trades in the finest tropes of psychedelic rock and indie pop on its new album, Three Poisons. Swirling guitars meet melodies that sound ready for big rooms. For a taste, here’s “Knock You From Yer Mountain.”

Elephant Stone is at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn tonight. 

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How To Be Smarter About... Kate Bush; Smoke Fairies Plays Live; Another Side Of Bob Dylan

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In this episode: In the midst of Kate Bush’s 22-show run in London, Soundcheck gets the essentials on the English singer-songwriter – who recently made history when she had eight albums simultaneously in the U.K. Top 40 Albums Chart.

Then: The British duo Smoke Fairies makes dreamy pop that draws on folk and blues. Add their exquisite harmonies and an aura of mystery and you have a can't-miss session in the Soundcheck studio.

And:  From 1961 until the mid-1990s, Victor Maymudes was Bob Dylan’s road manager, confidant and “official joint roller.” At the time of Maymudes’ death in 2001, he had been working on a Bob Dylan biography – a project that his son, Jacob Maymudes, completed for him. Maymudes discusses about that book, Another Side of Bob Dylan.

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30 Years Ago, MTV Hosted The First VMAs

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Last month, MTV broadcast its annual Video Music Awards -- an event that this year was marked by Beyonce's triumphant (and lengthy) night-ending performance. Thirty years ago, however, on September 14, 1984, MTV broadcast its very first VMAs -- an event that became historic for another female performer's on-stage antics. Madonna -- who had only released her debut album a year before -- performed a brand new little ditty called "Like A Virgin." 

While her manager congratulated her on ruining her career that night, history would prove that Madonna's memorable performance at the inaugural VMAs would go down in the books as a career-launcher and an instant classic. 

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Rob Tannenbaum -- author of I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution -- looks back at other memorable moments from the station's first awards ceremony, and at some of the biggest music videos celebrated that year.

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