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Rap's Mama

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Long before rap, there was “the dozens” – the African-American street rhyming tradition that often involved… your mom. Today: Author Elijah Wald shares the surprising musical history of the viciously funny insults. Plus: A live performance from indie veteran Frankie Rose.

The Story of Yo La Tengo

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The town of Hoboken, New Jersey is small – but mighty. It’s given birth to baseball, the music venue Maxwell's…and the rock band Yo La Tengo. Today: an indie rock history, told through one of its hardest working bands – and the place they’ve called home for thirty years. Plus: the New York band Outernational plays live. 


Regina Spektor: Live

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Over the course of her career, singer and pianist Regina Spektor has gone from a cult figure in New York’s “anti-folk” scene to a major recording artist. With a new album out today called “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats,” she returns to our studio for a live perfomance. Plus: A look at the 25 new works added to the National Recording Registry, from the earliest-known commercial sound recording to Prince's "Purple Rain."

Audra McDonald and Sharon Van Etten

Monday, May 28, 2012

From Brooklyn. Today we revisit a favorite show from earlier this year, when Audra McDonald and Sharon Van Etten joined us in the Greene Space -- with two different takes on American popular song. You can watch the entire Greene Space performance below.

This is an encore presentation of Soundcheck.

Deal With The Devil

Friday, May 25, 2012

As the story goes, bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at Mississippi crossroads in exchange for his uncanny guitar abilities. Today, we're joined by Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad – who recently found that the truth behind the enduring rock myth is far stranger than the fiction. Plus: cast members from the Tony-nominated musical "Once" join us to perform live in our studio.

100 Greatest Guitarists... Revised

Thursday, May 24, 2012

From Skrillex to Jam Master Jay, Spin's new list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time has plenty of names you might not expect. Today: a look at who’s in this new crop of guitar heroes, and -- who was left out. Plus, we ask you to nominate your favorite shredders. And, The Spinto Band joins us to play live.

Soundcheck Smackdown: Food, the New Rock?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Has food become the new rebel rock? Following last weekend's Great GoogaMooga food and music festival in Brooklyn, we host a Soundcheck Smackdown debate about the growing influence of foodie culture in music. Plus: New York City rapper Jean Grae previews her forthcoming album, Cake or Death, with a live in studio performance.

Dave Gahan: Soulsaver

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dave Gahan is best known as the frontman of Depeche Mode - but these days, he's moonlighting with an entirely different project. Today on the show, Gahan talks about his new gig as the lead singer for the British music and production duo Soulsavers. Plus: They're an internet sensation - Project Trio’s cellist, bassist and beatboxing flutist play live.

I Can’t Quit You, Song!

Monday, May 21, 2012

We all have that one song that we just can’t stop listening to – just check out your iTunes "plays" column for proof. Today: we talk with a writer and neuroscientist about musical fixation - and ask you to share your "most-played" song. Plus, violist Garth Knox brings his trio in for a live performance.

The Past and Present of Go-Go

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chuck Brown, the cherished innovator of Washington D.C.’s funky go-go sound, died on Wednesday, leaving a city in mourning. Today, we talk about the past, present, and uncertain future of go-go. Plus, Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds joins us in studio for a live performance.

The 78 Project

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The 78 Project is on a mission to record today’s musicians with yesterday’s technology - a 1930s PRESTO direct-to-disc recorder. We'll hear about the project and give it a go, as the project records our musical guest, Justin Townes Earle, live on the air. 

Marching Bands and Hazing

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Today, we look at the role that hazing can play in marching bands - following 11 felony arrests in the death of a Florida A&M drum major. Plus, songs inspired by Nicolas Slonimsky's 1947 book, “Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns.” And, a live performance from New York musician Cat Martino.

Soundcheck Smackdown: Concert Dancing

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

For most, concerts are for listening to music. But for some, concerts are for dancing to music – whether that means rocking out with an air guitar, suggestively maneuvering a hula hoop or diving into the mosh pit. As the outdoor concert season approaches, our Soundcheck Smackdown series continues with a fierce debate about concert dancing. Plus: A live performance from a band wants to make you dance - Brooklyn's Chicha Libre.

Jock Jams

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tennis champion Serena Williams is the latest athlete to moonlight as a recording artist, joining the ranks of boxer Manny Pacquiao, basketball great Shaquille O’Neal and even the ‘86 Mets. Today: when jocks make music. Plus, a live performance from Icelandic singer and songwriter Ólöf Arnalds.

'Dark Shadows' Over 1972

Friday, May 11, 2012

The ‘60s Gothic soap opera 'Dark Shadows' has returned via the big screen – and in new film, beloved vampire Barnabas Collins finds himself in 1972. Today, Soundcheck examines this memorable year in music with the film’s music supervisor and Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke. Plus: A live performance from "Nice Work If You Can Get It" Broadway star Kelli O'Hara.

John Peel's Record Collection

Thursday, May 10, 2012

For almost 40 years, the late BBC radio host John Peel spun cutting-edge tracks and launched entire careers with his legendary “Peel Sessions.” Along the way, he amassed an enormous, meticulously organized record collection. Today, we look into John Peel’s archives - and the online museum that has become its home. Plus: Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo has a new solo record. He joins us with his band to play live.

M. Ward: Solo Again

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Musician M. Ward has become quite the collaborator, as part of the supergroup Monsters of Folk and one half of the duo She & Him. Today: M. Ward shows off his solo side, with a performance of songs from his new album, “A Wasteland Companion.” Plus: Aaron Freeman, aka "Gene Ween," talks about his solo debut - based on the work of best-selling poet and balladeer Rod McKuen. And: We turn to the "Copy Cat" for a look at recent copyright capers.

Rufus Wainwright Returns to Pop

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Today: singer, songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright joins us for a live performance of songs from his new pop-tinged album "Out of the Game." And: five months ago, New York DJ Jonathan Toubin was left in critical condition after taxi cab crashed into his hotel room. He joins us to talk about his recovery - and a return to spinning records.

Glenn Frey: An Eagle After Hours

Monday, May 07, 2012

Glenn Frey is best known as a founding member of the Eagles. Now, the Grammy winner is releasing his first solo album in 17 years – a collection of classic love songs and vintage pop. Today, Frey talks about recording the music of his childhood. And, a live performance from Montreal singer/songwriter Patrick Watson and his band.

Dance Crazes: Here and Now

Friday, May 04, 2012

Today, we conclude our dance craze series with a look at what’s hot on the dance floor right now, with help from choreographer Joey Dowling and YouTube's hip-hop dance instructor, Brice Johnson, a.k.a. Professor Lock. Plus, the band Shearwater returns to our studio to play live. And, we take a moment to remember Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys.

Everybody Mambo!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Today, our dance craze series continues with a look back at the mambo wave that swept through New York in the mid-20th century. Plus: we hear about the nineties megahit that just wouldn’t stop – the Macarena. And, songwriter and producer Santi White, aka Santigold, talks about her new album "Master of My Make-Believe."

Tales From the Mosh Pit

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

In the early 80s audiences at hardcore punk shows began pushing, shoving, and slamming into each other…in the friendliest of ways, of course. Today, our dance craze series heads into the mosh pit for a look at slam dancing. Plus, bassist Mike Watt of the punk band Minutemen joins us with a photo memoir. And, we get a preview of the new "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" music festival. Guests include guitarist Bryce Dessner, of The National.

From The Jitterbug to The Dougie

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Since Cab Calloway recorded the “Call of the Jitterbug” in 1935, the term has been closely tied to acrobatic dances like Lindy Hop and swing. Today, Soundcheck’s dance craze series continues with Chris Calloway Brooks - the grandson of the hep cat himself. Plus, we examine the deep African-American roots of American social dances. And, a live performance from a group that blends klezmer, hip hop and funk: Abraham Inc.