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Video Premiere: Heaven's Jail, 'Long Island Sound'

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Synths and laptop beats might seem ever-present right now, but don’t count out good old guitar rock just yet. From The War On Drugs’ sprawling moody jams to Strand Of Oaks’ explosive anthems to Ty Segall’s lip-curling glam, it’s already been a particularly strong year for bands putting their spin on familiar classic rock sounds. Compared to those three, Heaven’s Jail may be a relative newcomer. But the Brooklyn band is still capable of exploring similar territory on its just-released album, Ace Called Zero.

Heaven's Jail makes blustery rockers perfect for drives on wide open highways, yet it's brooding enough to channel the Pacific Northwest -- as seen through the lens of Twin Peaks or The X-Files. The distinctive visuals of those shows certainly comes to mind in the band’s eerie new music video for the “Long Island Sound.”

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The Ways 1976 Rocked America; Curtis Harding Exercises 'Soul Power' In Studio; James Fearnley's Years With The Pogues

Thursday, August 28, 2014

In this episode: In The Spirit of '76: From Politics to Technology, the Year America Went Rock & RollDavid Browne reminds us that 1976 was the year of the Apple computer, Saturday Night Live, the Ramones, and a presidential candidate who hung out with rock stars. He tells host John Schaefer why it was the year the counter-culture became the culture

And: The Michigan-bred, Atlanta-based songwriter Curtis Harding has written and sung backup for Cee-Lo Green, spent time rapping with Georgia group Proseed, and currently plays in the band Night Sun with Cole Alexander and Joe Bradley of punk outfit Black Lips. But somehow, despite his history of songwriting, Soul Power is Harding's first solo effort. The record takes the many musical influences Harding has encountered and re-contextualizes them over a foundation of energetic soul, and Harding joins us to play some of the songs in the Soundcheck studio.

Plus: Here Comes Everybody: The Story Of The Pogues is James Fearnley's account of his 12 years touring with the shambolic Celtic-punk band from London. Fearnley talks about the unpredictable genius of frontman Shane MacGowan, and about how he himself went from being a session guitarist, to a novelist, to an accordion player for a punk band. He also describes the sometimes fraught position of being in a British band playing politically-charged Irish music. 

 

This is an encore edition of Soundcheck. 

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Download This: Reigning Sound, 'North Cackalacky Girl'

Thursday, August 28, 2014

ARTIST: Reigning Sound

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Reigning Sound, "North Cackalacky Girl"  

GIG: Thursday Night at Bowery Ballroom ($8)

The new record from the band Reigning Sound is called Shattered… a slightly misleading title, since the songs offer evidence of a group coming together and finding their beat. The song “North Cackalacky Girl” highlights both the band’s chemistry and production work from the white hot Daptone studios.

Catch Reigning Sound live tonight at Bowery Ballroom.

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Listen: Chris Thomas King, 'The Wind Cries Mary'

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ARTIST: Chris Thomas King

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Chris Thomas King, "Wind Cries Mary"

GIG: Wednesday Night at Iridium ($25)

Chris Thomas King is known by many for his film role as bluesman Tommy Johnson in the Coen Brothers film “O Brother Where Art Thou.” But the New Orleans-based guitarist has found success both on-screen and on record. Here’s his nuanced and multi-layered treatment of the Jimi Hendrix standard, “The Wind Cries Mary.”

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Jenny Lewis On 'The Voyager'; WTF's Marc Maron Picks Three; How Herman's Hermits Hit No. 1

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In this episode: Singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis rose to prominence as the vocalist for the guitar pop band Rilo Kiley. Her latest solo album, The Voyager, was six years in the making, and features production work from Beck and Ryan Adams among others. Hear Lewis and her band play a few new songs and an old classic in the Soundcheck studio.

Comedian Marc Maron is the host of the hugely popular podcast WTF, and star of the IFC series Maron. We call him up in his famous garage to talk about music snobbery, his growing vinyl collection, and his passion for blues guitar riffs -- plus, he shares a few of his favorite songs as part Soundcheck's Pick Three series.

Charts guru Chris Molanphy explains how two songs by the British group Herman's Hermits hit No. 1 in 1965 -- “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” as part of Soundcheck's series That Was A Hit?!?

This is an encore edition of Soundcheck. 

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Download This: Jen Shyu, 'Eu e Tu'

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ARTIST: Jen Shyu

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Jen Shyu, "Eu e Tu"
GIG: Tuesday Night at Korzo ($20)

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu merges traditional Taiwanese, Korean, and Javanese music with Western classical, jazz, and other genres – and a voice powerful enough to peel the paint off walls. The combined effect is mesmerizing. This song has a Portuguese title, “Eu e Tu” – me and you.

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World's Most-Used Musical Sequence; Five-Part Harmonies With Pentatonix; How To Ruin Your Band Name

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In this episode: David Garland, host of WNYC's Spinning On Air, has compiled more than 50 tracks that feature the distinctive musical footprint known as the Andalusian Cadence. In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Garland argues that the so-called "Diatonic Phrygian Tetrachord" may be the most-used theme in Western music, and he explains how -- and why -- you can hear this sonic architecture in everything from "Greensleeves" to *NSYNC.

And: the young vocal quintet known as Pentatonix performs in the studio. The Texas-based a cappella group won NBC's The Sing-Off back in 2011, scoring $200,000 and a recording contract with Sony. Since then, they've put out two full length albums (PTX Vol. I and II) and racked up hundreds of millions of YouTube views. The group stops by our studio to share a couple of originals and a few of their famous covers, and to talk about their skyrocketing pop career. 

Plus: Dan Ozzi is the editor for VICE's music site, Noisey, and he has a problem with band names. Lots of problems, actually. He talks about a few of them and explains why he shouldn't have to know decades' worth of history to understand a name like SUNN O))).

This is an encore edition of Soundcheck. 

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Download This: Shilpa Ray, 'Mother Is A Misanthrope'

Monday, August 25, 2014

ARTIST: Shilpa Ray

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Shilpa Ray, "Mother Is A Misanthrope"  

GIG: Monday Night at City Winery ($15)

You and I might find it difficult to have a swaggering stage presence while playing a harmonium, but it can be done. Witness the Brooklyn singer-songwriter Shilpa Ray, who is also armed with a voice can go from growl to purr and back again in an instant. This song is called “Mother is a Misanthrope.”

You can see Shilpa Ray at City Winery tonight.

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Big Star's Alex Chilton Revisited; Elizabeth & The Catapult Plays In Studio; How 'Teenage' Was Invented

Monday, August 25, 2014

In this episode: He may not be a household name, but Alex Chilton, the late songwriter and frontman of the band Big Star, sure does get a lot of attention -- from the The Replacements' song “Alex Chilton” and name-checks by R.E.M. and Wilco to the recent documentary film, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. Alex Chilton’s status as an underground music icon is reaffirmed – again – in Holly George-Warren’s recent book, A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man

After the success of their 2010 album The Other Side of Zero, Elizabeth & the Catapult frontwoman Elizabeth Ziman took several years off from the band. But now, Ziman has reunited with her old bandmates Dan Molad and Pete Lalis (both of whom also play with the band Lucius) for a new record, Like It Never Happened. Hear Elizabeth & the Catapult perform songs from that new album in the Soundcheck studio.

Plus: The concept of “teenage” -- that angsty, pubescent and glorious time between childhood and adulthood -- didn’t really even exist until the 20th century. Matt Wolf, director of a recent documentary that explores the advent of the term, delves into the earliest examples of movements defined by teenagers -- and why music often played a defining role.

This is an encore edition of Soundcheck. 

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Inside Joy Division With Peter Hook

Friday, August 22, 2014

The British post-punk band Joy Division existed for less than three years -- all told, from January of 1978 to May of 1980. But its influence on music over the last 30 years has been enormous, heard in the sound of bands from U2 to Interpol. Joy Division’s story is also a sad one; the group’s singer, Ian Curtis, took his own life just days before the group was scheduled to make its first US tour.

The other three members soldiered on under the name New Order -- changing from the dark, intense sound of Joy Division to something more dance oriented. New Order went on to rule '80s radio, but Joy Division never really went away.

Peter Hook, who played bass in both bands, tells his side of the tale, with his book Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division. Along the way, you get a tale full of humor, dopey pranks, perseverance, fights, friendship, and a band that changed the sound of rock.

This segment originally aired on Jan. 31, 2013.

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Watch: Trixie Whitley, Live On Soundcheck

Friday, August 22, 2014

Trixie Whitley is one performer who has made quite an impression on us here at Soundcheck. You may have heard her in the studio a few years back singing with Daniel Lanois in the group Black Dub. Or, you may have listened to a recent Check Ahead album stream of her brand new blues-soul record, called Fourth Corner. In fact, a lot of you did, and told us how much you liked it. Now, she returns to the studio to play music from the record, and tell us more about her triumphant debut.

This segment originally aired on Jan. 31, 2013.

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Download This: SW/MM/NG, 'All I Want'

Friday, August 22, 2014

ARTIST: SW/MM/NG

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SW/MM/NG, "All I Want"

GIG: Friday night at Muchmore's

The Fayetteville, Arkansas, quintet known as SW/MM/NG has a new record coming out next week. It’s called “Feel Not Bad,” and there’s no false advertising here: the band’s shimmering, jangly pop is concocted to make you feel… not bad. Might even make you feel…good! Take a listen to “All I Want.”

You can see Swimming at Muchmore’s tonight, Radio Bushwick tomorrow night, and Baby's All Right on Sunday. 

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Peter Hook On Joy Division; Trixie Whitley's Powerhouse Blues

Friday, August 22, 2014

In This Episode: Longtime New Order bassist Peter Hook reflects back on his first band: the short-lived yet influential post-punk group Joy Division. The band existed for less than three years -- and its story is tragic. But its influence on music over the last 30-odd years has been enormous.

Plus: The powerful blues singer Trixie Whitley, daughter of the late musician Chris Whitley, brings her triumphant debut album to the Soundcheck studio. Watch a video of her performing the song "Gradual Return."

This episode originally aired on January 31, 2013.

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Electric Zoo EDM Festival Returns To New York

Thursday, August 21, 2014

One of the last events on the summer concert calendar is the Electric Zoo Festival. The electronic dance music gathering returns for its sixth year in New York City this Labor Day weekend. But last year, the festival was shut down early after two festival-goers died. Both of their deaths were attributed to their consumption of “molly,” a popular term for a drug that people often assume to contain pure MDMA, or ecstasy -- but often contains other adulterants and contaminants as well. 

This year, several drug-related deaths have already been reported at EDM concerts and festivals across North America. This month alone, two people died at the VELD Music Festival in Toronto, and two more died at the Mad Decent Block Party in Columbia, Maryland. Two others died in July at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas.  

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Missi Wooldridge, executive director at DanceSafe -- an organization that works to promote health and safety within the EDM community -- talks about what Electric Zoo is doing this year to try to prevent fatalities, and about the limits that festivals have when approaching drug education and on-site testing. 

DanceSafe is holding a "Zoo Survival Night" on August 28 near Union Square.

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Summer '94: Oasis' 'Definitely Maybe' At 20

Thursday, August 21, 2014

This summer Soundcheck is looking back to the summer of 1994 to explore the hits, defining albums and pop culture of 20 years ago.    

The song “Wonderwall” by the British rock band Oasis was a massive hit in the fall of 1995 and carried the loud and sometimes controversial group to super-stardom. But before “Wonderwall,” there was the band’s 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe. Lead members and brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher talked-the-talk with self-inflating lyrics on songs such as "Rock N Roll Star" and "Live Forever." But they had the sales to back it up. Moving 86,000 copies in its first week, Definitely Maybe became the fastest-selling debut album in British history at that point. Even now, the record endures for many people -- it was recently given the 20th anniversary deluxe box set treatment and documented in a new 33 1/3 series installment.

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Video Premiere: Elephant Stone, 'Knock You From Yr Mountain'

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The fusion of traditional Indian sounds and Western pop is perhaps less eye-opening than it was when George Harrison first introduced so many to the sitar on “Norwegian Wood.” But the way Rishi Dhir melds those Hindustani classical elements together with psychedelic rock has made him one of the most sought-after sitar players around the scene. A former member of The High Dials, Dhir has recorded and performed alongside The Black Angels, The Horrors, and even Beck. Yet as the singer, sitar player, and spirit guide for Elephant Stone, Dhir can truly express his full vision, thanks to an approach more textural than melodic, using the instrument as another rich, evocative color in his music.

On the Montreal band’s third album, The Three Poisons, Dhir’s songs are soulful and psychedelic, spiritual and heartfelt. Yet underneath the droning layers, the buoyant grooves, and tripped-out noisy flourishes that paint the corners of each song, is a songwriter with an ear for incredibly catchy, singable melodies.

And as you can see from its latest music video -- a live in-the-studio performance of “Knock You From Yr Mountain” recorded at Studio Plateau in Montreal -- Elephant Stone is a formidable live band as well.

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Download This: Baby Gramps, 'Casting My Spell'

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ARTIST: Baby Gramps

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Baby Gramps, "Casting My Spell"

GIG: Thursday night (9:30pm) at St. Mazie in Brooklyn

The singer known as Baby Gramps is an amalgamation of salty old pirate, story teller, vaudeville performer, joker, and folk singer. He’s actually been called the Salvador Dali of Folk Music – which can only mean totally bizarre and equally captivating. Listen to Baby Gramps work his magic on the song “Casting My Spell.”

Catch Baby Gramps live tonight at St. Mazie and tomorrow night at Terra Blues. 

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Electric Zoo Preview; Liam Bailey Plays Live; Oasis' 'Definitely Maybe' At 20

Thursday, August 21, 2014

In this episode: The Electric Zoo Festival returns for its sixth year in New York City this coming Labor Day weekend. But last year, the electronic dance music festival was shut down early after two concert-goers died after taking "molly," a drug often assumed to contain MDMA, or ecstasy. Missi Wooldridge, executive director of DanceSafe -- an organization that works to promote health and safety within the EDM community -- talks about the steps that Electric Zoo is taking this year to ward off fatalities. Plus, we get a musical preview of some of the DJs and producers who will be performing at this year's festival on Randall's Island. 

Then: Liam Bailey is a British singer and guitarist of Jamaican extraction. Hear him play some of his Hendrix-inflected soul from his latest album Definitely Now, in the Soundcheck studio.

And: Marah Eakin, editor at The A.V. Club, is a rare breed indeed: a music writer who isn’t embarrassed to love the British rock band Oasis. She discusses the Brothers Gallagher's fiery 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe.

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Demystifying EDM: What Do House, Trance And Dub Step Mean?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Whether you’re planning on attending the Electric Zoo Festival or not, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to the artists and music that will be featured there. EDM, or electronic dance music, has become a hugely popular and commercially successful genre in the past few years -- so popular, in fact, that it's even been parodied on Saturday Night Live

We talk with Michelle Lhooq, editor at Thump, Vice’s dance music channel, about the acts to catch at this year's Electric Zoo Festival -- plus, she explains what terms like "house," "trance," "dub step" and "techno" mean, and how you can tell one EDM sub-genre from another. 

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How To Be Smarter About... New Age Music

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Let's face it: as much as we all know and love about music, everyone has at least some blind spots. In our new series, "How To Be Smarter About…" Soundcheck aims to help you become a more impressive conversation partner at cocktail parties and around the water cooler.

Lately we've been asking guests to reveal their musical blind spots. When Christopher Barnes of the Massachusetts band Gem Club visited the Soundcheck studio, he told us that he wants to know more about New Age music. To help, we turned to Mike Rubin, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, to help us get smarter about the largely misunderstood and poorly-defined genre. Rubin, who recently wrote a piece for the Times called "For New Age, The Next Generation," tells Soundcheck host that Barnes isn't the only contemporary indie musician expressing an interest in the long-derided form.

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