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Summer '94: Jeff Buckley's 'Grace' Still Endures At 20

Wednesday, July 23, 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.

In August 1994, 27-year-old Jeff Buckley quietly released his album Grace. The album was the only full-length studio record that the singer-songwriter -- and son of folk legend Tim Buckley -- released before his death in 1997. With songs like "Last Goodbye" and a stunning cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," the record is now viewed as one of the best albums of all time.

"Everything was special: The vocals, the emotional depth, passion, energy," says Daphne A. Brooks, professor of African-American Studies, Theater, and American Studies at Yale University, and author of the 33 1/3 book on Grace. "This is the height of alternative rock masculinity."

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'Hallelujah': The Story Of One Song's Ascent

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It’s possible that you might have first heard "Hallelujah" in its original form, on Leonard Cohen's 1984 album Various Positions. But it’s much more likely that you first encountered it somewhere else: Maybe in a small East Village pub, being sung by Jeff Buckley. Or at the Winter Olympics, being performed by k.d. lang. Or on the soundtrack for the animated film Shrek, sung by Rufus Wainwright. Or in a scene on TV drama The O.C., performed by Imogen Heap. Simply put: "Hallelujah" has, against all odds, become one of the most widely recorded songs in music history.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, music journalist and author Alan Light explains the enduring popularity of the song in his book, The Holy Or The Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & The Unlikely Ascent Of Hallelujah.

This segment originally aired on Dec. 13, 2012.

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Sharon Jones: Back On Her Feet, And Back On The Road

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Prison guard-turned-soul singer Sharon Jones is known for her vintage R&B sound and her energetic stage presence. But a recent battle with cancer put her music career on hold, and made her doubt that she'd ever sing again. In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Jones reflects on her path to recovery, and about hitting the road again with her band the Dap-Kings. Plus, they take a listen to some of her latest album, Give The People What They Want.

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Pick Three: WDET's Ann Delisi Shares Three Songs From '94

Tuesday, July 22, 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.

Normally, Ann Delisi seeks out new discoveries as a DJ at Detroit public radio station WDET. But in a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, she looks back 20 years, to her first "tour of duty" at the station in the 1990's, and shares a playlist of three favorite songs from 1994.

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Download This: Arto Lindsay, 'Personagem.'

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ARTIST: Arto Lindsay

DOWNLOAD:

Arto Lindsay, 'Personagem'  

GIG: Tonight at 8pm at Le Poisson Rouge.

During a long career, the musician and producer Arto Lindsay has worked in so many different styles, it was perfectly reasonable to call his new CD retrospective The Encyclopedia of Arto. A member of New York’s so-called “No Wave” scene of the 1970's, Lindsay is a pioneer of modern experimental music, while embracing jazz, funk and the sounds of his Brazilian homeland. Here’s the song “Personagem.”

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Sharon Jones On Fighting Cancer And Her Latest Album; Summer '94 Pick Three; Bell X1 Plays Live

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In this episode: Sharon Jones is one of soul music’s most magnetic and energetic stars. But last year, she was diagnosed with cancer – and it almost took her life. Now, seven months after it was announced that her cancer was in remission, she’s back and on the road again with her band, The Dap-Kings. She talks her about her treatment and her upcoming VH1 special, and listen to some of her most recent album Give The People What They Want.

Then: Ann Delisi of WDET in Detroit shares a Summer ’94-themed playlist of three of her favorite songs from Jeff Buckley, Massive Attack and Beck.

And: Irish band Bell X1 performs songs from its latest album, Chop Chop, in the Soundcheck studio.

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Watch: PHOX, Live On Soundcheck

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

While PHOX may have only just released its self-titled album in June, the sextet has already won people over with heartfelt pop songs and the charismatic stage presence of lead singer Monica Martin. When you see PHOX perform, or to hear those songs, there's an undeniable chemistry that extends past the music. 

But it makes sense: PHOX's members all share the same hometown, Baraboo, Wisconsin. After graduating high school, each left home to pursue an array of passions: music, cosmetology, and even a job in Homeland Security. But eventually, they all found their way back to Wisconsin, moved into a house together in Madison, and soon began writing and performing together. It's not surprising that their cohabitation has become an influence on their work: "It's the collaboration and having a wide variety of influences is what makes us PHOX," says guitarist and trumpet player Matt Holmen. "If there was one person directing the record, it wouldn't be us."

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Summer '94: Comedian Hari Kondabolu On The Golden Age Of Weezer

Monday, July 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.

In May 1994, quirky garage rockers Weezer released their self-titled debut album, often called The Blue Album. It went triple platinum in the U.S., charmed critics with its geeky realness and wry lyrics, and gave millions of angsty teenagers a smart, goofy outlet. The Blue Album made Weezer a household name and opened the door for nine more studio albums. The music videos for smash singles "Buddy Holly" and "Undone -- The Sweater Song" won director Spike Jonze four MTV Video Music Awards and, along with his video for The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage," essentially kickstarted his career. 

Somewhere in Queens during that summer of '94, an adolescent Hari Kondabolu was nurturing a new love of Weezer -- and beginning to traffic in bootlegs and ultra-slow downloads on his 28.8k modem. (The future comedian's first AOL screen name was a blatant Weezer reference.) Kondabolu joins Soundcheck host John Schaefer to talk about his obsession, pick his favorite songs from The Blue Album, and discuss the heartbreaking disappointment that comes with being a Weezer fan (discussed at length on Kondabolu's new comedy album, Waiting for 2042.)

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That Was A Hit?!?: Warren G, 'Regulate'

Monday, July 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.

Given its lyrical content, "Regulate" is shockingly smooth. Performed by Warren G and featuring Nate Dogg, "Regulate" is a hip hop song built on the most unlikely of foundations: a sample from a No. 4 hit from 1982 called "I Keep Forgettin'" by Michael McDonald. That slick vibe audibly forms the basis of "Regulate," which peaked at No. 2 on the charts in 1994, out-placing the original, and even appeared in the film Above The Rim.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, pop chart analyst and contributor to NPR Music and Slate Chris Molanphy tells the story of 1994's summer smash and its improbable chart success as part of Soundcheck's That Was A Hit?!? series.

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Hear Weezer's New Song 'Back To The Shack'

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ask anyone who grew up listening to those first Weezer albums, and they'll tell you that news of a new record comes attached with some trepidation. It's a fair reaction, especially for fans who felt a little burned by a string of, um, not-so-good, seemingly tossed-off efforts -- I'm looking at you, Raditude! Now it's been four years since the band's previous record, 2010's Hurley, and honestly, it's been even longer since a great Weezer album.

So when Weezer unveiled "Back To The Shack" during its Weezer Cruise back in February, many fans guessed this garage-y new song would not only land on the band's next record, but serve as a return to that Blue Album\Pinkerton era we all know and love. There's some rumblings and teases that the recently-announced Everything Will Be Alright In The End will indeed channel those early years -- Ric Ocasek is back as producer -- and of course, there's a great deal of anticipation (second guessing and "Oh god, please don't hurt me again" snark) over what these new songs will be like. Plus, with 2014 being the 20th (!) anniversary of Weezer's iconic debut, it makes sense that even Rivers Cuomo himself is experiencing some nostalgic feels for the good old days when it was just him and his unravelling sweater.

Today, Weezer has officially premiered the studio version of "Back To The Shack" -- and judging from the song's title, its signature pop punk riffs, and some completely self-referential lyrics ("rocking out like it's '94") the band's itch to recapture its past could not be clearer. 

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Download This: Jenifer Jackson, 'Texas Sunrise'

Monday, July 21, 2014

ARTIST: Jenifer Jackson

DOWNLOAD:

Jenifer Jackson, 'Texas Sunrise'  

GIG: Tonight at 8pm at Rockwood Music Hall

Jenifer Jackson moved from New York to Austin, Texas a few years ago, and the Lone Star State certainly has left its rootsy mark on her music. The prolific songwriter’s eleventh album is called Texas Sunrise, and on it Jennifer Jackson is backed by her band, the Texas Gentlemen. Download the title track from the album Texas Sunrise.

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Relive Summer '94: Weezer And 'Regulate'

Monday, July 21, 2014

In this episode: Soundcheck's Summer ‘94 retrospective continues: Comedian Hari Kondabolu looks back on an album so near and dear to his heart that it that inspired his very first AOL screen name – Weezer’s self-titled debut, known to most as the "Blue Album."

Then: Also that summer: hip hop met yacht rock, when Warren G and Nate Dogg sampled Michael McDonald’s hit slow jam “I Keep Forgettin’” on their song “Regulate.” It was a match made in heaven. We feature the song in our occasional series “That Was A Hit?!?”

And: Hear Dum Dum Girls perform music from its latest album, Too True, in the Soundcheck studio.

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The Soundcheck Guide To Bassist Charlie Haden

Friday, July 18, 2014

Last week, the jazz world lost Charlie Haden, one of the most renowned and influential bassists of all time, who died at the age of 76. Haden played with luminaries like Ornette Coleman, Pat Metheny, and Keith Jarrett -- with whom he recorded the fittingly titled album, Last Dance, which was released about a month ago. But he also sometimes stepped outside of the jazz realm, revisiting the country music of his childhood spent touring with his family’s band.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Nate Chinen, the jazz and pop critic for the New York Times, reflects on Charlie Haden's diverse musical career and shares a couple of his must-hear recordings.

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Watch James' 'Moving' New Music Video

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Check out James' moving new music video." Well, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d be typing.

James, the British pop band of the early '90s, is best known in the States for a single song – “Laid” – and its dryly funny, gender-bending video. I liked the album, also called Laid, that they did with producer Brian Eno, but that was back in 1993. So I was a little startled to find that not only is the band still around, but that the band has a new album -- its first in six years -- set to be released to the U.S. in September. Apparently, lead singer Tim Booth’s mom died while they were making the record, hence the album's title, La Petite Mort.

In the new record's single, “Moving On,” Booth is still in great voice. But the music video here is quite remarkable; it's poignant and beautiful, and made entirely out of yellow yarn. Award-winning animator and director Ainslee Henderson does what a really good video director should do: instead of slavishly following the song, he creates an alternate storyline, moving in counterpoint to the music itself.

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Keren Ann: Songwriter, Composer, Pop Music Chameleon

Friday, July 18, 2014

Keren Ann Zeidel is something of a musical chameleon, changing her sound or her medium from project to project. A singer-songwriter, producer, composer, and sound designer, Keren Ann has not only put out six recordings under her own name, but has written music for a variety of other formats: She wrote the original film score for the feature Yossi; has had songs featured on TV series like Grey’s Anatomy, and Six Feet Under. And even more impressive, she co-wrote the opera Red Waters with Bardi Johansson, which was produced by The Opera de Rouen and performed in four different opera houses in France. 

It's been almost exactly three years since she released her critically acclaimed 2011 album101, a record of pristine synth pop, ghostly melodies, and shadowy noir atmosphere. And while there is still no news of a new album, (Zeidel had a baby in 2012), the Israel-born musician is now resurfacing in New York to perform at City Winery, as part of the Newish Jewish Musical Festival -- and to play in the Soundcheck studio.

This segment originally aired on March 25, 2014.

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Download This: Bombay Rickey , 'Tuco’s Last Stand'

Friday, July 18, 2014

ARTIST: Bombay Rickey

DOWNLOAD: 

Bombay Rickey, "Tuco's Last Stand"  

GIG: Tomorrow Night at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn (Free)

As you can probably tell by their name, the band Bombay Rickey borrows some of its sound from Bollywood. But there’s very little the group doesn’t borrow for its sonic stew. You can hear strains of garage rock, opera, surf guitar, spaghetti western, country, and even Mozart. See what you can taste in this song, “Tuco’s Last Stand.”

Bombay Rickey plays Saturday night at Tea Lounge in Brooklyn.

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The Soundcheck Guide To Bassist Charlie Haden; Marco Benevento Sings; Keren Ann Plays Live

Friday, July 18, 2014

In this episode: Last week, the jazz world lost Charlie Haden, who died at the age of 76. One of the most influential bassists of all time, Haden played with luminaries like Ornette Colman, Pat Metheny, and Keith Jarrett -- with whom he recorded the fittingly titled album, Last Dance, released about a month ago. But he also sometimes stepped outside of the jazz realm, revisiting the country music of his childhood spent touring with his family’s band. Nate Chinen, the jazz and pop critic for the New York Times reflects on Charlie Haden's diverse musical career and shares a couple of his must-hear recordings.

Then: You may know Marco Benevento from his winding, sonically rich instrumentals -- or from the Soundcheck theme song, which he wrote. But now, with help of producer Richard Swift, Benevento's forthcoming album, Swift, features the longtime keyboardist singing. Get a taste with his new song "At The Show" -- and watch the music video.

And: Singer and guitarist Keren Ann wowed fans three years ago with a collection of smoky pop songs. Hear her perform live in the Soundcheck studio.

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The Real And Made Up History Of The Theremin

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The theremin is an instrument that seems to be from the future. It’s played by waving your hands between two antennas -- without actually touching anything -- and the hands' distance from one antenna determines frequency (pitch), and the distance from the other controls amplitude (volume).

But in fact, the theremin was invented almost a century ago, peaking in popularity in the 1950s, when its eerie otherworldly sound appeared in sci fi film scores like The Thing and The Day The Earth Stood Still. And in 1966, the Beach Boys used an instrument called the Electro-Theremin -- also known as the Tannerin -- on their classic hit “Good Vibrations.”

Now the theremin and its creator, Leon Theremin, are the subject of the new book by Sean Michaels, Us Conductors, which is a fictionalized take on the life of the instrument’s inventor. In a conversation with Soundcheck host, John Schaefer, Michaels discusses where the novel embellishes and adheres to the inventor's actual story of dancing, espionage, and unrequited love for Clara Rockmore, the first theremin virtuoso. 

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Video Premiere: Marco Benevento, 'At The Show'

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall during a recording session? Even now, with all we know about what it takes to make an album, it remains this mythologized, analyzed and documented thing -- in hopes gleaning tidbits of wisdom and witnessing fleeting sparks of creativity at play. And yet, the meticulous and workmanlike process of tracking, overdubbing, mixing and mastering, is, to me anyway, far more interesting than the embellished origin story. Often, watching in studio footage helps demystify the proceedings, and offers a glimpse of how they did it, and why.

Which brings us to a new, decidedly home-made music video from keyboardist Marco Benevento, one that drops us right in the action -- with the assist of a GoPro camera.

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Listen To This: Robert Cray, 'Nobody’s Fault But Mine'

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ARTIST: Robert Cray

LISTEN: 

Robert Cray Band, "Nobody's Fault But Mine"  

GIG: Thursday Evening at Waterfront Plaza of Brookfield Plaza (Free)

Blues guitar stalwart Robert Cray has sold more than 12 million albums and was the youngest musician ever to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. But 40 years into his career, Cray’s not resting on his laurels. His latest album “In My Soul” features this song “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

Robert Cray plays on the waterfront behind World Financial Center as part of the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival tonight.

 

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