Segments and Articles
- Listen Moby Plays Along With Others On 'Innocents'
- Listen Moby Picks Three Songs Discovered On College And Public Radio
ARTIST: Melvis Santa
Harlem has long been identified with black culture and music. But the neighborhood was also instrumental in the development of Latin jazz, as well. Tonight, the Cuban singer Melvis Santa -- recognized as one of that country’s leading young talents -- plays with her quartet at Minton’s in Harlem. Here’s her song “Inmensidad.”
Catch Melvis Santa and her quartet, tonight at Minton’s.
For Soundcheck's occasional series Pick Three, we ask guests to share a playlist of three favorite songs. Sounds simple right? Well, music nerds tend to be talented, high-achieving types, and so they tend to make the task more difficult by selecting a theme. Enter Moby.
The musician, songwriter and DJ joined us recently to perform songs from his new album Innocents live in our studioThe acoustic set reveals Moby's deep love of folk, gospel and other American roots music -- the genres he has successfully blended with electronic sounds since 1999's Play. But when asked to compile a Pick Three, Moby's choices were decidedly New Wave -- circa 1979.
His theme: "Three songs that I discovered exclusively through the world of college radio and public radio."
When you listen to the music of Moby, it's easy to picture him tinkering with sounds and samples, instruments, gadgets and vintage drum machines alone at home. That may well be the case, but for Innocents -- his latest, and 11th(!) album -- the always inventive and ever-shape-shifting musician reached out for collaborations to a degree he never has before. Innocents is Moby's first full-length record with an outside producer (Mark "Spike" Stent) and features an impressive cast of guest vocalists -- from Cold Specks' Al Spx and Skyler Grey to Mark Lanegan, Damien Jurado, and The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne.
As one might expect with the vocalists as the main focus, the songs on Innocents take on a variety of styles for each singer. And while the songs may not feel as cohesive compared to 1999's sample-heavy hit Play, each song retains Moby's distinctively beautiful production and emotional weight that helps to unify the work as a whole. The result is a record that showcases many sides of a musician known for searching for something new and unique.
In this extended session in the Soundcheck studio, Moby discussed Innocents and performed three songs from the new record, along with older songs: "Natural Blues," originally found on Play, and "The Poison Tree," part of an expanded version of his 2011 album Destroyed.
Moby is joined in the studio with his backing band: Vocalists Inyang Bassey and Kelli Scarr; violinist Claudia Chopek; harmonica player Daron Murphy -- and an impromptu choir of friends, label folks, WNYC videographers and Moby's infant goddaughter.
There's a Dan Hicks song called "How Can I Miss You When You Don't Go Away." Well, the band Nickel Creek never really went away; they just took some time off to do other things. Still, we missed them just the same, as that time off stretched to nearly seven years. Mandolinist and singer Chris Thile played with... uh, everyone it seems. And won a MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called Genius award). And starred in the film Another Day / Another Time. Violinist and singer Sara Watkins guest hosted A Prairie Home Companion -- the public radio equivalent of filling in for the Pope -- toured with The Decemberists, and released her own solo music. And Sean Watkins formed his own project, Fiction Family
So the band's recent reunion album and tour was big news.
GIG: Tonight at Drom.
The group Abjeez takes its name from Persian slang for sister, and indeed the band revolves around a sister act, the Iranian-born musicians Safoura and Melody Safavi, But the group also sings in English, Swedish and Spanish. Abjeez plays an unplugged show tonight at Drom; this song is called "Tu Me Haces Falta."
In this episode: Recently Soundcheck and NPR’s Latino USA teamed up during the Latin American Music Conference for a special night of music and conversation at WNYC's Greene Space. Hosted by John Schaefer and Maria Hinojosa, the bill showcased two fantastic acts who re-imagine Latin roots sounds in extraordinary ways: the Brooklyn psychedelic salsa band La Mecánica Popular and the sonically adventurous Argentinian songwriter Juana Molina.
Hear highlights from those performances – as well as hear from the ambitious and renowned Labyrinth Theater Company.
The documentary film Mateo tells the story of one of the more unusual figures in Latin music. "Mateo" is actually Matthew Stoneman, a red-headed white man from New Hampshire who learned mariachi music and a bit of Spanish while serving time for robbery in a California prison. Living in Los Angeles, California, Stoneman becomes a kind of cult figure as the "Gringo Mariachi" and begins making enough money to record periodically in Havana, Cuba.
Sounds like a light-hearted fish-out-of-water story, doesn’t it? But the film has a surprising dark side. Yes, Mateo has a lovely voice, but he's a complicated guy, and he’s almost shockingly okay about sharing that with the camera.
The town of Guča, in Serbia, has a population of just over 2000 people -- except for August, when the annual trumpet festival and competition, Dragačevo Assembly, -- known to some as "the World Cup of brass band music" -- attracts nearly half a million people. Most of them, of course, are Serbian fans of the infectious Balkan brass bands and their distinctive rhythms. But many come from elsewhere. One Balkan brass band that’s taken part in the Guča festival is from right here in New York, Zlatne Uste Brass Band.
Their story -- plus the larger, more complicated story of the Serbian festival itself -- is told in the documentary film Brasslands. As the film vividly depicts, there is much more to the competition than just dancing and good vibes. At stake is national pride, the famous golden trumpet trophy, and for some native musicians, even a year of income.
Boogaloo was the reigning Latin music of 1960's New York City. The distinctive genre combined the sounds of the last decade's popular Cuban mambo with R&B, jazz, and funk to create distinctive and danceable beats that were popular across ethnic and racial lines. While boogaloo enjoyed a heyday in the '70s thanks to the iconic label Fania Records, salsa music eventually eclipsed it and gained a national following that eludes boogaloo to this day. But now a new documentary, We Like It Like That, aims to honor and to introduce listeners to the infectious sounds of the genre. The film celebrates the 50th anniversary of Fania and remembers the boogaloo legends that shaped the label and New York's Latin music scene.
In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, the film's director Mathew Ramirez Warren talks about discovering boogaloo when sifting through old records, and brings along bandleader Joe Bataan to talk about music industry resistance that some claim was the death of boogaloo.
ARTIST: Sun Kil Moon
The latest album from songwriter Mark Kozelek and his project, Sun Kil Moon, is packed with hyper-personal stories … and very some frank lyrics. It’s not for the faint of heart, but “Benji” might be one of the best albums of 2014. In this song, Kozelek gets an update on family members.
Within in the theater community, Idina Menzel has been known and celebrated for years. Beginning with her role as Maureen in Rent, and later for originating the role of Elphaba in the Broadway musical Wicked -- for which she won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical -- Menzel has demonstrated her powerful, stirring voice in countless beloved stage productions, as well as on TV shows (Glee) and in films (Enchanted).
But it wasn't until last year, with her turn as the voice of Elsa the Snow Queen in the 2013 Disney film Frozen, that the New York actress and singer achieved international stardom. Built on the strength of the ubiquitous empowering hit "Let It Go," which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, Frozen not only became the highest-grossing animated film of all time, but made Menzel a household name. (Well, that and John Travolta's bizarre "Adele Dazeem" name flub at this year's Academy Awards.)
In this episode: Soundcheck goes to the movies, with three music documentary films.
First: The new documentary We Like It Like That looks at the roots of New York boogaloo music in the 1960s, it's peak popularity in the '70s, and its eventual decline. Director Matthew Warren and boogaloo bandleader, Joe Batann, who appears in the film, talk about the movie, the music, and tell us who's listening to boogaloo today.
Then: The film Mateo is about Matthew Stoneman, a white guy from New Hampshire who becomes a singer of Latin songs in L.A. Sounds like a light-hearted piece of fluff, but Stoneman's story turns out to be darker and more complex. The film's director, Aaron Naar, and its star tell the story.
And: The movie Brasslands follows a New York-based Balkan brass band to the world's biggest brass band competition, in an otherwise tiny town in Serbia. Along the way, the filmmakers come up against the region's difficult history, and its uneasy relationship with its own Roma, or gypsy, musicians.
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."
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
This segment originally aired on Dec. 13, 2012.
ARTIST: Lage Lund
Lage Lund titled his most recent album “Foolhardy,” but clearly this Norwegian-born guitarist is making some smart moves. Lund attended the Berklee and Juilliard schools of music and won the coveted Thelonious Monk International Jazz competition.
In this episode: In August 1994, 27-year-old Jeff Buckley quietly released Grace, the only full-length studio album the singer-songwriter would put out before his death three years later. Twenty years later, it’s one of the greatest records of all time. Daphne Brooks, professor of African-American Studies, Theater, and American Studies at Yale University, who wrote about Grace for the 33 1/3 book series, shares her favorite tracks.
Then: Music journalist and author Alan Light explains the enduring popularity of "Hallelujah" -- the Leonard Cohen song given new life by Jeff Buckley. It's the subject of his book, The Holy Or The Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & The Unlikely Ascent Of Hallelujah.
And: Hear Wisconsin sextet Phox, led by singer Monica Martin, perform its understated folk pop songs in the Soundcheck studio.
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.
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.
ARTIST: Arto Lindsay
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.”
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.