ARTIST: Hassan Hakmoun
GIG: Saturday at Joe's Pub ($20)
Hassan Hakmoun is one of Morocco’s greatest musical exports. Since he moved to the US in 1987, he’s been busy mixing the traditional melodic sounds of his homeland with jazz, western classical, soul and blues. The hypnotic results are evident on new track "Balili (My Father)."
Hassan Hakmoun is at Joe’s Pub tomorrow night to celebrate the release of his new record called Unity.
ARTIST: Conor Oberst
GIG: Gigstock, Thursday, April 10
These Gig Alerts tune you in to the best show in New York each night. Well, if we do say so ourselves, the biggest show in town is at our house tonight: in The Greene Space. Singer songwriter Conor Oberst will be closing the two-day festival we’ve been calling Gigstock. If you were lucky enough to score a ticket, you might hear Conor play this new song, "Hundreds of Ways."
Yes, tonight’s show is sold out, but you can catch the whole thing on our special live webcast at Soundcheck.org. Tune in at 8 p.m. for James Vincent McMorrow, with Conor immediately following.
In this episode, Soundcheck looks back on three different decades of Britpop. First up, The Beatles versus The Rolling Stones is of course one of rock’s greatest rivalries. But how did the bands themselves feel about it? It’s a topic John McMillian explores in his recent book, Beatles Vs. Stones.
Then, 25 years ago, a Manchester band called The Stone Roses released an influential, self-titled debut album. A recent documentary chronicles the unlikely reunion of the group, whose rise and fall is the stuff of rock legend. The film's producer Mark Herbert and New York Times writer Jeff Gordinier talk about the band's musical and cultural legacy.
And: When Arctic Monkeys emerged in 2006, the band did more than just turn heads. The English rock band’s first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was the fastest selling debut record in British history. Its latest album, AM, is full of layered, energetic, and always witty electro-rock songs. Hear Arctic Monkeys perform a stripped-down set in the Soundcheck studio.
The last time Marco Beltrami talked with Soundcheck, the fate of humanity rested in the balance. We were all facing the zombie apocalypse. (Again.) But inspired perhaps by Marco’s dramatic soundtrack, the world was saved in the movie World War Z, so that left the composer free to tackle a subject closer to home -- though further away in time.
ARTIST: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
GIG: Gigstock, Wednesday, April 9
Tonight, Soundcheck kicks off a mini-festival inspired by the Gig Alert. We call it Gigstock. Tonight’s lineup was curated by the indie concert site Oh My Rockness! and features The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. They’ll play songs from their upcoming album Days of Abandon like this one, “Simple and Sure.”
You can watch live video of tonight’s Gig Stock, featuring this band, Pains of Being Pure At Heart. It all starts at 8pm ET on Soundcheck.org.
In this episode: When Nickel Creek called its 2007 final tour “Farewell (For Now),” fans had a feeling that the virtuosic bluegrass trio would be back. Turns out, we were right: the group, comprised of Chris Thile, Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins, has recently reformed and released a new album, A Dotted Line. Hear Nickel Creek perfom new songs in the Soundcheck studio, and tell us about the woes of being mistaken for Nickelback.
Then: Last time we heard from composer Marco Beltrami, the world was engulfed in a zombie apocalypse, in World War Z. Now Beltrami turns his sights closer to home with the new AMC TV series Turn, about America's first spy ring, based in Beltrami's hometown of Setauket, Long Island.
And: Recently, the indie rock band Shearwater visited the Soundcheck studio, and during our interview, the band’s frontman and songwriter, Jonathan Meiburg, told us how much he admired Peter Matthiessen -- the author and naturalist known for writing 30 books, including The Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of the Lord. He won three National Book Awards, and he co-founded the legendary literary magazine, The Paris Review. Matthiessen died this past Saturday on Long Island. He was 86 years old. His latest book, In Paradise, came out this week -- and it was a book that Meiburggot a chance to read ahead of schedule. And not long before Matthiessen died, Meiburg got a chance to meet this personal hero. He shares that story.
By any pop music measurement, 1965 was long on incredible No. 1 hits. The Rolling Stones released "Satisfaction" and The Beatles released "Yesterday." The Byrds topped the charts with Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and the Righteous Brothers got all swoony with "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling."
And then there were Herman's Hermits.
Twenty years ago today, Kurt Cobain -- the lead singer for influential early 1990s rock band Nirvana -- was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot, with a suicide note at-hand. He was 27.
By the time he died, Cobain’s influence on the Seattle grunge rock scene was obvious, but his importance in the music world at large has been debated and analyzed for two decades. Charles R. Cross, who was a deeply embedded part of the Seattle music culture as editor of the Northwest music magazine Rocket, wrote an exhaustive biography of Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven, in 2001.
In a conversation with host John Schaefer, Cross discusses his most recent book, Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact Of Kurt Cobain, which illustrates Cobain's ongoing influence in areas like gender rights, fashion, suicide prevention, and, of course, music.
For a time -- long before Hobbits, before Flight of the Conchords, and before Lorde -- New Zealand's biggest pop culture export was Neil Finn, the singer-songwriter and frontman of Split Enz and Crowded House. In the time Crowded House was active (roughly 1985 to 1996), the Australian pop band found success in the U.S. with its self-titled debut, which reached No. 12 on the charts in 1987, and later scored international top ten hits like "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong." And while the band parted ways for a time, Finn delved into a fine solo career, and put together the 7 Worlds Collide project -- before reforming Crowded House in 2006.
Lately however, Finn has been going solo again, releasing his third album, Dizzy Heights, in February. But for Finn, this latest record is both a collaboration (Dave Fridmann produced), and truly a family affair: his wife Sharon plays bass, and his sons Liam and Elroy play guitar and drums. And the result is a collection of dreamy psychedelic pop and soulful, R&B-inflected jams. For an artist as decorated as Neil Finn, it's another welcome high-water mark in his discography.
ARTIST: James Vincent McMorrow
GIG: Gigstock, Thursday, April 10
Tomorrow, Soundcheck begins Gigstock, a two-day mini-festival inspired by your daily Gig Alert, live in The Greene Space. The first night is filled with paint-peeling guitars. But things calm down on Thursday, when Irish singer James Vincent McMorrow takes the stage. You’ll hear his striking falsetto on songs like this one, “Look Out” from 2013’s Post-Tropical.
Thursday’s show is sold out, but you can catch the whole thing as it happens via webcast. Visit Soundcheck.org at 8, and tune in tomorrow at 8 for Parquet Courts and Pains of Being Pure At Heart.
In this episode: Twenty years ago today, Kurt Cobain -- the lead singer for influential ‘90s rock band Nirvana -- was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot. He was 27. Seattle music writer Charles R. Cross, who has authored several books about Kurt Cobain, reflects on the lasting impact of the young artist.
Then: Charts guru Chris Molanphy explains how two songs by 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?!?
And: Hear jazz violinist Regina Carter reach back to her roots with her band as they perform songs from her latest album, Southern Comfort, in the Soundcheck studio.
One of pop music's most eclectic, shape-shifting artists is about to be inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Peter Gabriel's art-rock pioneering band Genesis was added to the Hall in 2010. But he left that group long before its Phil Collins-fronted assault on stadiums in the 1980s.
"Peter Gabriel exploded out of Genesis and decided to try every idea he ever had," says Jon Pareles, The New York Times pop music critic. The year is 1977. Popular appetite for the progressive rock sound that Gabriel helped define with Genesis is waning. Gabriel's first self-titled record (of four) is released just shy of the punk explosion. So you might expect that an artist, recently set free from a band with a out-of-favor sound, would latch on to that popular sea change. And, as Pareles knows well, you would be wrong.
"You gotta love a guy who starts his solo career with a song called 'Moribund The Burgermeister' -- it's about some kind of plague affecting some medieval town. This is not your big commercial move."
Gabriel's defiance of commercial expectations will, ironically, be honored by The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this week when he joins just a few other musicians who have been inducted to The Hall on multiple occasions.
In a lengthy conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Pareles -- who's documented Gabriel's career for four decades -- talks about Gabriel's most creatively fertile period, the gap between Genesis and So, with notes on Gabriel's many extracurricular interests in interspecies communication, record label innovation, political activism, and more.
ARTIST: Parquet Courts
GIG: Gigstock, Wednesday, April 9
This Wednesday and Thursday, Soundcheck presents Gigstock: a two day festival of music and conversation in the Greene Space, based on…this, your daily Gig Alert! Kicking off the fun on Wednesday is a lineup curated by the indie site Oh My Rockness. It features the Brooklyn punk band, Parquet Courts.
You can catch Parquet Courts’ show at WNYC’s The Greene Space on Wednesday night via live webcast. They’ll be joined by The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Just point your browser to Soundcheck.org at 8 p.m. ET.
BONUS: Here is Parquet Courts playing "Stoned And Starving" from 2013's Light Up Gold for KEXP Seattle recently...
In this episode: Before Peter Gabriel is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jon Pareles, the veteran New York Times pop music critic looks back at his groundbreaking early solo albums, and his quixotic championing of world music.
Then: As the frontman of ‘90s band Semisonic, Dan Wilson notched a timeless hit with the bar anthem “Closing Time.” Since then, the Grammy-winner has become an in-demand songwriter for big name artists: he co-wrote Adele’s “Someone Like You” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice.” Now, he's readying his first solo album since 2007. Hear him perform songs live in the Soundcheck studio.
The ideal way to witness Perfect Pussy is in a cramped room mobbed with fans, collectively losing their minds to the ecstatic, pile-driving fury. On stage, the Syracuse hardcore band’s set is somehow both the shortest and longest 15 minutes of unforgettable punk music you’ll see right now; an assured barrage of scorching guitars, feedback squall -- and the powerful vocal assault of frontwoman Meredith Graves, who sings with an unfiltered and ecstatic rage.
Another storied New York concert venue is about to close its doors: Roseland Ballroom will cease operations on April 7, after a stylish sendoff/residency from Lady Gaga.
Say goodbye to Roseland Ballroom by sharing a memory of a great concert, a great run-in or a legendary evening. Post your story below, tweet us @Soundcheck, or leave us a voicemail at 866-939-1612.
Back in early March, Baltimore synth pop band Future Islands played its new single, "Seasons (Waiting On You)" on the Late Show with David Letterman. For most bands, a Letterman spot is a routine part of the promotion cycle. But thanks to the melodramatic singing and jaw-droppingly great, GIF-ready dance moves of Future Islands' kinetic frontman Samuel T. Herring, everyone -- including Letterman -- was blown away.
The next day, the clip went completely viral.
For fans, it felt like a well-deserved triumph for a hard-working band finally getting noticed in a big way. But it also felt like a resurgent moment of edge and relevance for Letterman and his show, especially in this overstuffed and highly competitive environment where most (younger) eyes are trained elsewhere on the dial (er, Hulu). And while Future Islands is just the most recent act to ricochet to a new level after playing the talk-show circuit, let's be honest: this joyfully meme-able video is the most I've heard anyone in my circles drop reference to Letterman in some time.
Which makes it particularly ironic that just as the Late Show's most talked-about moment in years seemed to infuse new life in the show, Letterman announced his impending retirement. On Thursday, during an especially earnest moment of the show's taping, Letterman said he will be stepping down in 2015 -- 22 years after his Late Show premiere in 1993, and 33 years after he first became host of Late Night on NBC.
While not wholly unexpected, the announcement has many of us at Soundcheck a tad wistful for his acerbic and oddball "anti-talk-show host"-style comedy, all those bizarro characters, and especially our favorite musical acts that graced the Ed Sullivan Theater stage. So, without further ado, from the home office in Sioux City, Iowa, here's tonight's Top Ten list of our favorite musical moments from Letterman's Late Show run.
In this episode: Roseland Ballroom is set to close on April 7, after Lady Gaga completes a run of high-profile concerts. Dating back to 1919, the various incarnations of the Roseland have played host to countless stars and myriad eras of New York music. Music writer Ira Robbins and listeners share their memories of a storied nightclub as part of Soundcheck's occasional series, Vanished Venues.
Then: Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the seminal L.A. punk band X, John Doe, is looking back at his 25-year-long solo career with a retrospective. Hear him perform in the Soundcheck studio.
ARTIST: Alexandra Stewart
Singer Alexandra Stewart is Canadian born & raised, though she currently resides in Brooklyn with her band. Her debut album, called WÀBÀ, was released in October. The album title is taken from the village where she was raised in Ontario. The song “Soul Like A Ghost” is from that collection; take a listen.
BONUS: Here's an album preview for WÀBÀ:
Renowned jazz violinist Regina Carter's latest album, called Southern Comfort, started out as an exploration of her family tree -- an attempt to discover and interpret the folk songs that her grandfather, a coal miner in Alabama, perhaps would have heard during his lifetime.
What resulted, however, is a deep and expansive look at how the Appalachians' blend of Irish and Scottish settlers, Native Americans and slaves combined to create the music that we today know as traditional Americana -- and, how that music has continued to evolve and inspire artists throughout our nation's history.
After visiting the Library of Congress and listening to field recordings made by John Wesley Work III and Alan Lomax, Carter -- who has previously explored the jazz standards of her mother's youth and the music of the African diaspora -- narrowed down the pieces that caught her ear. The resulting album includes Cajun fiddle tunes like "Blues de Basile," gospel hymns like "I'm Going Home," and even a few more contemporary songs, like Hank Williams' "Honky Tonkin'." All performed, of course, in Carter's signature imaginative -- and always swinging -- style.