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Pick Three: David Mitchell

Friday, September 19, 2014

David Mitchell has been celebrated for his heady, otherworldly novels like Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas. His latest book, The Bone Clocks, is a time-leaping story that blends the very real with the very fantastical. Mitchell frequently employs music within The Bone Clocks as an important part in his characters’ storylines — perhaps because it plays such a big part in his own story. “I couldn’t imagine a life without music, and wouldn’t want to,” Mitchell says. “It’s one of the great reasons to be alive.” David Mitchell speaks with Soundcheck host John Schaefer about his love of music in this Pick Three.

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Those Darlins: Magnetic Nashville Rockers

Friday, September 19, 2014

Despite its namesake, Those Darlins’ songs are far more sinister than sweet. The Murfreesboro-turned-Nashville band makes scorching hot country-fried, punked-up rockers, and its fantastic 2013 album, Blur The Line, oozes with lip-curling charisma and hair-raising guitar lines, and choruses that can get a crowd swaying, whiskey in hand.

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Craig Finn Of The Hold Steady Picks His Favorite Replacements Songs

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Craig Finn is the lead singer and songwriter for the hard-rocking stalwarts The Hold Steady, known for his lyrical bar-end philosophizing and striking characterizations of down-on-their luck normal Joes. Growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Finn says hometown heroes The Replacements illustrated for him what rock music could be about. 

"I never knew anyone who looked like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith," says Finn. "But I knew a lot of guys who looked like [Replacements lead singer] Paul Westerberg. So when I saw The Replacements for the first time, I thought 'Oh my god, I can do this.'"

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Funniest Songs Ever: Hari Kondabolu's Picks

Thursday, September 18, 2014

We’re still collecting your submissions for the funniest songs of all time – we’re on a mission to build the funniest playlist ever. Leave a message on our voicemail line at 866 939 1612, or leave your song suggestion here

New York comedian Hari Kondabolu joins us with his list of funny songs -- including one from his brother, Ashok Kondabolu, and his former group Das Racist. Check out his list of songs below, and let the laughs ensue. 

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Jeff Goldblum: From Acting On Screen To Playing Jazz at the Carlyle

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Most know Jeff Goldblum from his roles in Jurassic Park, Independence Day, or The Fly -- or more recently, in Wes Anderson's film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. However, unless you're familiar with the Los Angeles jazz scene, Goldblum's long-time hobby may come as a surprise: The actor, now 61 years old, has been playing jazz in front of audiences every week since the 1990s. Before beginning his acting career, Goldblum started piano at an early age. By 15, he was setting up gigs as a pianist at cocktail bars around Pittsburgh.  

Inspired by Woody Allen's weekly gigs at New York City's Café Carlyle, Goldblum is now making his New York debut this week for a series of shows at the same café. Goldblum performs alongside his band, The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, which features guitarist John Storie, bassist Tim Emmons, Zane Musa on tenor saxophone and Kenny Elliott on drums. Mixing standards and a few originals, Goldblum's shows are known to stray from a setlist, with sets mostly improvised in a jam-session style.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Goldblum tells us how he came to this music, and shows off his piano chops in the Soundcheck studio with his jazz orchestra.

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Download This: Una Lux, "Simon"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

ARTIST: Una Lux

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Una Lux, "Simon"  

GIG: Thursday night at Glasslands

Kelso Norris is the singer for the New York based quartet known as Una Lux. It’d be hard to miss her on this new track, “Simon” – her voice drifts and drones over layers of buzzing synths and creates an altogether hypnotic listening experience. Hear for yourself:

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Hari Kondabolu On Funny Songs; Sarah Jaffe Plays Live; The Hold Steady's Craig Finn On The Replacements

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In this episode: Comedian Hari Kondabolu shares his picks for the funniest songs of all time.

Then: Texas singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffe has completed a five-year transformation from folk-pop balladeer to kinetic electro-pop star. Hear her perform songs from Don’t Disconnect in the Soundcheck studio.

And: Tomorrow night, New Yorkers will hear a mighty and rowdy sound from the east when the recently-reunited Minnapolis band The Replacements plays Forest Hills Stadium in Queens. Leading another famously loud band on the bill is Craig Finn, the frontman of The Hold Steady. Finn shares his favorite songs by the The Replacements and reflects on their influence.

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The Road To Justice For Chilean Singer Victor Jara

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Victor Jara is one of the most beloved Latin American musicians of all time, but his death is still shrouded in controversy. Jara was a vocal supporter of the socialist regime that was brought down by a violent (U.S.-backed) coup in 1973. And just this month, three suspects were charged in the brutal 1973 torture and killing of Jara.

In the world of protest singers, few have been as controversial and inspirational as Jara, and his music lives on through the many activists and musicians he inspired -- including Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan. 

On her new album, Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love and ProtestAni Cordero -- a singer-songwriter and one of the founding members of the Latin rock band Pistolera -- includes a cover of Victor Jara's song "Deja La Vida Volar." In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Cordero reflects on the secret to Jara's lasting musical influence, the Chilean politics that inspired him, and the latest in the 40-year-long search for his killers.

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Download This: Islands, "Death Drive"

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ARTIST: Islands

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Islands, "Death Drive"  

Gig: Wednesday night at Baby's All Right 

The protean rock group known as Islands routinely reinvents its sound, neatly side-stepping any genre label you can throw at them. The Montreal group’s latest record is called Ski Mask, and takes a raw, straightforward tack. The record features this darkly-titled but surprisingly bubbly song, "Death Drive."

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The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle's New Novel; A Music Guide To Victor Jara; Camera Obscura Plays Live

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In this episode: John Darnielle is the mastermind behind the indie group The Mountain Goats, and has gained a reputation as one of rock's great storytellers. Lately, he's been working on a bigger canvas, his new novel, Wolf In White Van.

Then: Chilean folk singer and activist Victor Jara was a casualty of the violent U.S.-backed coup d’etat that brought Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973. He’s recently been in the headlines as the Chilean government has charged three individuals with the singer’s death. Singer Ani Cordero provides a short guide to Jara’s life and work.

And: On the eve of the Scottish independence referendum, Soundcheck revisits a recent session with one of that country’s great musical exports, Camera Obscura. The indie pop band performs songs off their latest record, Desire Lines, in the Soundcheck studio.

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John Darnielle On His New Book 'Wolf in White Van'

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

John Darnielle's new book is Wolf In White Van.

John Darnielle is best known as the mastermind behind the The Mountain Goats, a band that built a following for both the emotionally raw music and the literary quality of its song's lyrics. And Darnielle himself earned a reputation as one of rock's great storytellers. So it makes some sense that the songwriter's latest project is working with a bigger canvas, his new novel, Wolf In White Van.

The book tells the story of a horribly disfigured man, Sean Phillips, who runs a role-playing mail game out of his home. And the story adds a structural twist: it's told backwards. In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Darnielle talks about the similarities between him and the book's main character, about Christian rock, and writing in reverse.

Update: Since the airing of this broadcast John Darnielle's Wolf in White Van has been nominated for the 2014 National Book Awards for Fiction

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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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Buck 65 Crafts A Sonically Opulent Breakup Album

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

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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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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

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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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