Podcast

Soundcheck

Live performances and conversations in which artists talk about their work, their process, and themselves. Genre-blind but open-eared. Hosted by John Schaefer.

Episodes

  • Metric: What Happens in Vegas... (From the Archives)

    Jan 14 2021

    While writing the music for what would become Metric's 2015 record, Pagans in Vegas, front-woman Emily Haines traveled to Nicaragua and Spain, while guitarist Jimmy Shaw holed up at home in Toronto and fiddled with the knobs on synthesizers and pedals. The result of this mashed-up approach to songwriting is an album with tight, taut songwriting, but also the surface sheen of krautrock and 80s synth-rock idols. The band stops by the studio to play a few songs and talk about their latest approach ...more

  • The Gothic Tales of Dark Carnival Band, Dust Bowl Faeries

    Jan 11 2021

    Goth cabaret band Dust Bowl Faeries have kept making music through The 2020 Plague. On their latest record, The Plague Garden, the songs draw from New Orleans Voodoo rituals, Eastern European music, traditional Yiddish folk song, and vaudeville. The band members play all sorts of instruments from accordion to singing saw, lapsteel guitar to ukulele and the band's leader, Faerie Queen Ryder Cooley, may have a checkered past of using instruments as weapons, nay – machines, like Woody Guthrie. With...more

  • Surreal Art-Rock By Saxophonist Donny McCaslin (Archives)

    Jan 07 2021

    Sax player and bandleader Donny McCaslin, who collaborated with David Bowie on Blackstar, freely mixes pop, jazz, electronica, and art-rock on his striking 2018 album, Blow., which sees the band moving into sonic terrain that shows even more of Bowie’s impact. It’s some daring sax-led badassery - a blast of concentrated, powerful, and wonderful pop that rocks, with jazz tendencies - with lyrics and guest vocalists. He and his band play some of the tunes in-studio. (From the Archives) 

  • Tony Visconti Talks Four Decades of Bowie and 'Blackstar' (Archives)

    Jan 04 2021

    The following interview was conducted days before David Bowie's death at 69.  David Bowie was 19 when he met producer Tony Visconti. In 2016, Bowie released his experimental-jazz-flecked studio album, Blackstar. Visconti co-produced it, just as he had produced dozens of the rock icon's records over the course of their more than forty year creative relationship. And since Bowie himself had all but sworn off press, it often fell to Visconti to explicate the processes and the experiments that resul...more

  • Best of Soundcheck 2020, Part 2

    Dec 31 2020

    Revisit spectral electronic songs by L.A. producer Katie Gately (in-studio) and old-time American music from singer, fiddler, banjo player, and scholar Jake Blount, performed remotely. Also, listen to Malian singer, songwriter, guitarist and actress Fatoumata Diawara, recorded in the Before Times, with her full band, in-studio. Then, there's percussionist and songwriter Joachim Cooder and his arrangements of proto-country tunes by Uncle Dave Macon, played on electric thumb piano, joined by his d...more

  • Best of Soundcheck 2020, Part 1

    Dec 28 2020

    Hear some of the best performances from the Soundcheck Podcast series from 2020, despite 2020. From the WNYC Studio, listen to the mighty and relentless groove of Brooklyn's funky Afrobeat band Antibalas, and the dark drone of "Dublin folk miscreants," Lankum. From elsewhere, there's also a tune from John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, who took it back to the boombox recording era early in quarantine. Then, revisit the warm and mesmerizing voice of Boston-based folk-pop songwriter Anjimile. Pl...more

  • Stewart Goodyear: A 'Nutcracker' for Flying Fingers (From the Archives)

    Dec 24 2020

    The phenomenal pianist Stewart Goodyear, known as both an improviser and composer, famously played all 32 of Beethoven's sonatas in one sitting, when he turned 32 years old. In predictably jaw-dropping fashion, Stewart then turned his electrifying powers to Tchaikovsky's 'The Nutcracker,' with his own transcription of the complete ballet. (The album, released in October 2015, was chosen by the New York Times as one of the best classical music recordings of 2015.) He has since recorded Ravel pian...more

  • Celtic Harp Innovator Maeve Gilchrist Weav-Weav-Weaves Wonderful Things

    Dec 21 2020

    Scottish-born Maeve Gilchrist writes and plays new music for an old instrument: the Celtic harp, or Lever harp. Gilchrist is a curious innovator who has played, performed, and recorded with the prog-folk quartet DuoDuo and the Grammy-winning Silkroad Ensemble. In her own original music, some of it drawn from a folk and traditional music well, she has worked on sonic explorations of Celtic harp as a rhythmic instrument, which is hard to do because of the Lever harp’s limited ability to control th...more

  • Squarepusher: Upending Expectations Of Electronic Dance Music (Archives)

    Dec 17 2020

    Squarepusher is the nom de disque of Tom Jenkinson, who makes electronic dance music. EDM is associated with a relentless four-on-the-floor dance beat; it's loud and brightly colored and definitely part of the pop realm. Squarepusher, on the other hand, makes music that rides over a skittish, often nervous set of rhythms; his music may be somewhere on the fringes of pop, but it’s closer to the arty outsider known as Aphex Twin than it is to Tiesto or Calvin Harris or any of the other superstar d...more

  • Courtney Barnett, In The Greene Space (Archives)

    Dec 14 2020

    Courtney Barnett's songs are wild, shaggy and wordy, mixing witty, mundane, and sometimes heartbreaking observations with devastating self-assessment. And with a sound rooted in the slack jangle-rock of the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Barnett delivers plainspoken lyrics and roll off the tongue as if she's thinking them up on the spot. You can hear that in her break-out song "Avant Gardener" or in "Pedestrian At Best," from 2015's superb album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just ...more

  • Staten Island's The Budos Band Brings the Heavy (Archives)

    Dec 10 2020

    With its 2014 record Burnt Offering, The Budos Band seems to have spent many hours listening to bands like Black Sabbath, Pentagram, or Deep Purple on endless repeat. Their riffs and grooves are way heavier, and still it's clear that the Afrobeat force is still with them. Here the ensemble leans towards scorched earth guitar distortion, some blistering brass, and the sinister droning organs, all of which conjures a far more ominous and raging vibe. While not wholly a reinvention, The Budos Band'...more

  • Regina Carter: A Jazz Violinist Explores Her Southern Roots (From the Archives)

    Dec 07 2020

    Violinist Regina Carter's 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 conti...more

  • Mike Doughty’s Ghost of Vroom

    Dec 03 2020

    Ghost of Vroom is singer/songwriter Mike Doughty’s new band with bassist and longtime collaborator Andrew “Scrap” Livingston. One of theme was in Soul Coughing and the other is in the composers' collective ThingNY. This interview, and an intimate performance from Doughty’s home in Memphis, were presented live by The Greene Space in Nov. 2020. "Chief of Police":

  • ÌFÉ Honors the Ancestors in Futuristic Yoruba Prayer Songs

    Nov 30 2020

    Afrofuturism and electronics meet ancient Yoruba rituals and spiritual practice in the music of the Puerto Rican band ÌFÉ, headed by producer and percussionist Otura Mun. ÌFÉ honors the ancestors through futuristic interpretations of traditional ceremonial Lucumi (Yoruban Diaspora) prayer songs, featuring trap beats, electronic triggers, and Autotune. All power to the ancestors.   "Music for Egun Movement 3": "3 Mujeres": "Higher Love":

  • Buster Poindexter, Live in The Greene Space (Archives, 2015)

    Nov 26 2020

    Buster Poindexter is the lounge-lizard alter-ego of David Johansen, one of rock’s most influential singers. After founding the seminal glam/punk band The New York Dolls and beginning a successful solo career, Johansen unveiled his Buster Poindexter character in the mid-80s, and you’ve been dancing to his version of “Hot Hot Hot” at weddings ever since. Buster has been known to sing pop standards, novelty songs, rock’n’roll, and old blues, and long ago in the before times he performed this set li...more

  • Three Vocalists of The Hamiltones Deliver a Vintage-Sounding Soul Swagger

    Nov 23 2020

    Hamiltones started out as the backing singers for singer Anthony Hamilton, but this Grammy-Nominated vocal trio has developed their own soul sound, combining sweet falsetto croons and smooth round harmonies with some funky grooves and trap beats, and a little vintage-sounding swagger in the production. Their 2020 release, called 1964, references the year that the Civil Rights Act was signed. What began as a Juneteenth song expanded into an album of song and story combining sampled speeches and i...more

  • Icelandic Pianist-Composer Ólafur Arnalds Highlights the Importance of Rituals

    Nov 19 2020

    Ólafur Arnalds is an Icelandic composer and multi-instrumentalist whose work toes the line between classical music, electronic music and film scores, mostly with a delicate undercurrent of minimalism. For his latest introspective album, some kind of peace, which reflects on connections and rituals, he has incorporated piano, strings, and electronics, but also live and taped voices. There’s the recorded sound of a healing ritual of the upper Amazon, or piano captured via an Edison phonograph reco...more

  • Joachim Cooder Revamps Proto-Country Tunes For Electric Thumb Piano

    Nov 16 2020

    Percussionist and songwriter Joachim Cooder rearranges traditional music made popular by songster and banjo player Uncle Dave Macon in the early 20th century (or so) for the completely unexpected and inventive choice of electric mbira (thumb piano.) These re-composed and re-worked tunes, much-admired by multiple generations of Cooders, get stunning makeovers for his debut record, Over That Road I’m Bound. For this Soundcheck Podcast, Joachim Cooder performs these tunes in new duo versions for mb...more

  • Guitarist Gwenifer Raymond: Instrumental Tales of Old Weird Wales

    Nov 12 2020

    Welsh guitarist Gwenifer Raymond tells tales without words with her fast and aggressive fingerpicking - adapting “American Primitive” style for "old weird Wales." The fast and aggressive part might be due to her having played in punk bands, but her musical roots extend to the blues, opera, and folk, while leaning into the darkness, goth imagery, and British paganism - and sometimes there's blood. She joins us from Brighton, England to play tunes from her new record, Strange Lights Over Garth Mou...more

  • Introspective Fuzzy Folk By This Is The Kit

    Nov 09 2020

    This Is The Kit is British singer and songwriter Kate Stables (lately based in France) and whoever joins her. Her early albums were rooted in the long British folk/rock tradition, but her new record, Off Off On, has a different sound – grander arrangements, with more flesh on them, for one - perhaps more so for her having toured (in the before times) and with The National. She joins us remotely to play some of these pre-pandemic songs in their intimate solo form, and invites us to be uplifted. "...more

  • Galya Bisengalieva’s Music Tells of Man-Made Catastrophe

    Nov 05 2020

    Kazakh-British violinist and composer Galya Bisengalieva plays music from her debut album Aralkum (released on Björk’s One Little Independent record label.) Aralkum is named after the desert that exists where the Aral Sea between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to be, which used to be the world’s  fourth largest lake, but has been catastrophically shrinking due to irrigation and drought. Bisengalieva has worked on albums by Radiohead and Frank Ocean, as well as Thom Yorke’s soundtrack to the remake of...more

  • Elvis Costello and Michael Leonhart on the Joy In Music-Making

    Nov 02 2020

    Elvis Costello’s new album, Hey Clockface, veers through all kinds of musical territory: melancholy ballads, spoken word soundscapes, abrasive rockenroll, and songs with an old time jazz flavor. While most of the songs were written in Helsinki and Paris before the Covid-19 lockdown, Costello also collaborated from a distance with New York trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader Michael Leonhart on some of the songs, as he provided words and vocals over music for Michael Leonhart's new mate...more

  • Vijay Iyer: Transforming Veterans' Dreams Into Music (From the Archives)

    Oct 29 2020

    For the 2.4 million veterans who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experience of war isn’t necessarily ended by coming home. Memories -particularly traumatic ones - stay with them for life, often manifesting themselves in dreams. The retelling of those dreams is at the heart of Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project, a 2012 collaboration between pianist and composer Vijay Iyer and poet Mike Ladd. Together with Iraq War veteran, poet, and vocalist Maurice Decaul, they discuss the impa...more

  • Juanita Stein Sublimates Grief Into Sonic Sunshine

    Oct 26 2020

    Wrap yourself in the reverb-drenched guitar-driven songs from Brighton-based Juanita Stein, sometimes seen fronting the band Howling Bells (originally from Sydney, Australia.) Inherent in her music is a love of pop, psych, and rockenroll from the 1950s and 60s, mixed with some American country, folk, and the Blues. On her latest album, Snapshot, written in tribute to her late father, who was also a musician and guitar player, the layers of guitar twang and fuzz are artfully arranged together wit...more

  • Sam Amidon Transforms Traditional Folk

    Oct 22 2020

    London-based Sam Amidon has a reputation for having collected, re-imagined, and performed American traditional tunes or other folk music in unconventional ways. The Vermont-born singer/fiddler/banjoist/guitarist is the scion of a legendary family of shape-note singers, has fallen in with New Music folks like Kronos Quartet, Nico Muhly and Icelandic label Bedroom Community, and relocated to London. His latest album, Sam Amidon, explores classic known tunes – shape note anthems, murder ballads, tr...more

  • Thao And The Get Down Stay Down: Playful And Reinvigorated (Archives)

    Oct 19 2020

    Songwriter Thao Nguyen performs with one of the best band names in the business: Thao And The Get Down Stay Down. Their 2013 album We The Common, marked a turning point both in Nguyen's musical career and in her life. During a hiatus from touring and recording with the band (Thao released a collaborative album with singer-songwriter Mirah in 2011), Nguyen spent time connecting with family and volunteering at a women's prison, where she met an inmate named Valerie Bolden. Bolden's story inspired ...more

  • Naomi Shelton And The Gospel Queens: Fiery Spirit In A 'Cold World' (Archives)

    Oct 15 2020

    Alabama native Naomi Shelton came to Brooklyn as part of The Great Migration of African-Americans out of the South, and she brought along her deep affection for gospel and soul music. Her collection of gritty grooves and commanding vocals recalls both her Daptone labelmate, Sharon Jones, and R&B-infused rock bands like Alabama Shakes. Shelton sings passionately about the human condition and personal burdens along with the Gospel Queens. This is music for the spirit -- and for the feet. (This...more

  • Aldous Harding: Delicate, Gothic Folk (From the Archives)

    Oct 12 2020

    Hailing from New Zealand’s Southern port town of Lyttelton, Aldous Harding digs deep into classic folk music with her acoustic-based brooding songs. Her music is utterly captivating, yet melancholy and bleak; the arrangements are delicate, simple, and elegant - with subtle harmonies, perhaps a touch of fiddle or keyboard, supporting acoustic guitar and Harding’s haunting voice. Hear the New Zealand singer-songwriter perform fragile & intense songs in the studio.  Set List:  "Stop your Tears"...more

  • Folk-Baroque Pop From Singer-Guitarist Lomelda

    Oct 08 2020

    Lomelda is the stage name of Texas-born singer and guitarist Hannah Read. The distinction between Lomelda and Hannah is one she wrestles with on her new album, called “Hannah.” She has a remarkable voice and her songs can swing from softly sung ballads to roaring guitar-based rock; and those songs can cover topics like family, music, creativity, and most notably on this new album, Hannah Read. The album is called Hannah, and in addition to “Hannah’s Sun,” we get tracks called “Hannah Happiest” a...more

  • Louisiana Legend Aaron Neville Sings Some Prayers (From the Archives)

    Oct 05 2020

    New Orleans has produced plenty of remarkable singers, but few of those native sons and daughters sing quite like the legendary Aaron Neville. He joined us in 2010 to talk about one of his first loves – gospel music - and his album I Know I’ve Been Changed. That release marked 50 years of recording for him and featured fellow New Orleans heavyweight, the late Allen Toussaint; the material is familiar old songs and spirituals, infused with New Orleans family ties, country, folk, blues, and even s...more

  • Randy Newman Songbook, In-Studio (From the Archives)

    Oct 01 2020

    Singer-songwriter Randy Newman's 50-plus year career has been filled with lyrical commentating on America’s brightest—and bleakest—moments. In 2011, he had just released the second volume of “The Randy Newman Songbook.” Randy joined us live in the studio to talk about chronicling his life's work on the three-volume retrospective, which features stripped-down piano and vocal arrangements of songs spanning the decades. He plays in-studio. (From the Archives, 2011.) “Baltimore” - Randy Newman (The ...more

  • Instrumental Fingerstyle Guitar by Ben Harper

    Sep 28 2020

    Ben Harper is a three-time Grammy winner, a singer/songwriter/producer and multi-instrumentalist who’s played in a wide variety of styles and with a Who’s Who of famous musical colleagues. But his upcoming album, Winter Is For Lovers is just Harper and a single lap steel guitar, inspired by the so-called American Primitive style of the late John Fahey and Leo Kottke. In interviews, Harper has declared himself a big fan of flamenco, classical, Hawaiian and blues guitar, and there might be some of...more

  • Adele, In-Studio (From the Archives)

    Sep 24 2020

    Back in 2008, the English singer-songwriter Adele turned heads with her hit “Chasing Pavements" from an album called 19. Then in 2011, she released what would become a juggernaut of a record, called 21. Adele joined us to talk about it just about a week before it came out, and gave us a sneak preview with a live performance of her huge hit, "Rolling in the Deep." (From the Archives, 2011.)

  • Monte Raises Environmental Awareness Via Lush Electronic and Natural Music

    Sep 21 2020

    Monte is the project of Simón Mejía of Bomba Estéreo, whose new record Mirla is a meeting of electronic dance, ambient music, and environmental sounds. Mejía describes how he was inspired by the traditional folk music of Colombia, and Indigenous music from all over the Americas, which is largely based on bird sounds and natural sounds. So, Mejía got a really good microphone to put on his phone, and that every time he went on a trip in Colombia, to the jungles of the Amazon or along the Magdalena...more

  • Simone Dinnerstein: Playing Bach's 'Inventions And Sinfonias' (From the Archives)

    Sep 17 2020

    Simone Dinnerstein avoided the child prodigy route in her career – taking her time to mature and avoiding the "competition circuit" - catching the ears of many by playing the works of J.S. Bach, including The Goldberg Variations. The Brooklyn-based concert pianist returns to the studio to perform selected Bach compositions, specifically the Inventions and Sinfonias. Those pieces were originally written in 1723 as a musical guide for keyboard players and remain part of the core repertoire for stu...more

  • Redemptive Journeys In Anjimile's Buoyant Indie-Pop

    Sep 14 2020

    Anjimile wrote their new album, Giver Taker, after a battle with addiction and while they were establishing their identity as a non-binary trans person. Their tales of love, identity, and family unfold in a surprising mix of folk, African pop, and Western pop sounds. They play live from their home in Boston. 

  • Suzanne Vega: A Vivid and Vibrant New York Songwriter

    Sep 10 2020

    Millions know Suzanne Vega’s hits, like “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner.” Since her debut album in 1985, she has been one of America’s leading songwriters; but her new album recorded last year at the Café Carlyle, An Evening of New York Songs and Stories, shows that she is even more specifically one of the great New York City songwriters. For this podcast, she recounts her experiences with days-long parties, describes how Lou Reed threw doors open for her lyrically as a songwriter when she was a student...more

  • Psychedelic Dance Music by Electro-Cumbia Bomba Estéreo (From the Archives)

    Sep 07 2020

    Columbian band Bomba Estéreo explores their South American roots, mixing up cumbia, vallenato, & champeta with club & dub dance beats on their latest, "Ayo." Bomba Estéreo joins us in-studio in this 2017 session from the archives.

  • Celestial and Lush Songs of Hope and Mourning by Owen Pallett

    Sep 03 2020

    Singer, violinist, songwriter, composer, and arranger extraordinaire Owen Pallett has recently released a new album, Island, full of some of their most ambitious music yet. And that's saying something. (Pallett says that "there are more parts than a Ligeti score.") Pallett is known both for their own music: several albums of songs, the film score for Her, and work for the Barbican and Bang on a Can; and their orchestrating work - which runs the gamut from folk, to punk, to R & B, to orchestr...more

  • CocoRosie: A Savory, if Slanted, Sonic Stew (From the Archives)

    Aug 31 2020

    Since releasing their first album together in 2004, the band CocoRosie has beaten its own path through a thicket of musical styles. You’ll hear elements of indie rock, freak folk, electronic music, and hip hop, but CocoRosie are not bound by any of those genres. The two American sisters who make up the band, Bianca and Sierra Casady, have brought their band, which includes a table full of toys to play songs from their album Heartache City, in-studio. 

  • Songs of Love and Protest by Gregory Porter (From the Archives)

    Aug 27 2020

    In 2010, jazz singer Gregory Porter made a big splash with his first outing, Water, billed as “an album of love and protest.”  Porter, a New York-based Californian who spent long years in musical theatre, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Vocal Jazz Album category for the record. Gregory Porter talks about his love of Nat King Cole, and about the Detroit riots in 1967, the Algiers Motel shootings, and the riots after MLK's assassination in 1968. He plays "1960 What?," a song that addresses ...more

  • Richard Thompson: 'Still' Breathing Life Into Folk (From the Archives)

    Aug 24 2020

    By the age of 21, Richard Thompson had already helped to define the sound of 60s folk-rock with his band Fairport Convention. He emerged as a leading songwriter of his generation in a series of albums with his then-wife, Linda Thompson, culminating in one of the most harrowing breakup albums ever made, Shoot Out The Lights in 1982. Since then, he’s had a notable solo career, both for his own songwriting and for his eccentric and eclectic side-projects, like the brilliant 1000 Years of Popular Mu...more

  • Carrie Rodriguez's Chicana Americana (From the Archives)

    Aug 20 2020

    From the 1940s to the 1960s, Eva Garza’s voice could be heard singing Mexican rancheras throughout Latin America. Though her story and music is largely forgotten today, her genes live on: Garza's great-niece is the Texas singer-songwriter Carrie Rodriguez. In 2016, she released Lola, a bi-lingual record that combines her own Americana sound with the echoes of her family’s musical heritage, courtesy of a crack band led by Luke Jacobs that includes guest guitar polymaths Bill Frisell and David Pul...more

  • Thundercat: Soulful Space-Age Bass (From the Archives)

    Aug 17 2020

    Thundercat is Stephen Bruner - an electric bassist and vocalist who racked up some serious cred through his session work and touring with Erykah Badu and Snoop Dogg. Since that time, he's parlayed that success into his own solo career; after impressing Flying Lotus while playing on his 2010 album Cosmogramma, the esteemed producer ended up working on the entirety on Thundercat's 2011 debut, The Golden Age of Apocalypse.  Fast-forward to spring of 2020, when Thundercat released It Is What It Is, ...more

  • Bruce Hornsby Ranges Into Hazy Drone Music

    Aug 13 2020

    Bruce Hornsby wrote a classic pop song with “The Way It Is” in 1986 (later sampled by Tupac Shakur for "Changes.") But his new album, Non-Secure Connection, is full of unexpected collaborations with Jamila Woods and Vernon Reid, and the late Leon Russell, as well as sounds drawing from contemporary classical music, hazy drones, driving minimalism, and the film scores he’s done with Spike Lee. (In fact, some of the tunes on the intriguing and at times, daring, record were inspired by music cues w...more

  • The High Lonesome Sound of Kentucky Songwriter S.G. Goodman

    Aug 10 2020

    S.G. Goodman writes songs that deal with the hard lives and hard truths of the rural south. She's a farmer's daughter with a high lonesome sound to her voice who grew up singing in church. Her album Old Time Feeling is about being a progressive, gay songwriter who lives in and loves her conservative Western Kentucky community. She joins us via the interwebs at home to play some of her latest songs.  "Old Time Feeling": "Supertramp":  

  • Julianna Barwick's Stormy Record 'Will' (From the Archives)

    Aug 06 2020

    Julianna Barwick has been a repeat visitor in the studio (April 2013, Spring 2018.) In 2013, she was teasing songs from the protean, beautifully hazy Nepenthe, to which Sigur Rós's producer Alex Somers lent some of his trademark Icelandic sheen. Barwick's album, Will, preserved that ethereality, but also added sonic jags, peaks, and valleys. (Still no word on whether her collaboration with Dogfish Head brewery had any influence on this ...woozier... sound.) Julianna Barwick performs songs from W...more

  • Remembering Leon Fleisher, An American Original

    Aug 04 2020

    On Sunday, pianist Leon Fleisher passed away at the age of 92. In the 1950s and early 60s, Fleisher was one of those classical musicians who was genuinely famous beyond classical music circles. Then disaster struck, and Fleisher was forced to reinvent himself – at least twice. His story is one for music fans (and possibly sports fans, of which Fleisher was one) of all stripes, and he told it over a couple of visits to the Soundcheck studio.  Celebrate an American original with this special memor...more

  • Pianist and Singer Benjamin Clementine (From the Archives)

    Aug 03 2020

    With his dramatic voice, his elliptical but emotive songs, his classically-derived piano playing, and his striking presence on stage, British artist, poet, vocalist, composer, and musician Benjamin Clementine occupies a singular place in the music world – somewhere between art music and pop. Clementine's debut album At Least for Now won the 2015 Mercury Prize; he was named knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 2019, and together with his spouse and artistic/musical ...more

  • Sad Dream Pop by Canadian Band, Dizzy

    Jul 30 2020

    Juno Award-Winning pop band from Oshawa, Ontario Dizzy consists of three brothers, Charlie, Alex and Mackenzie Spencer and their friend, lead singer Katie Munshaw. They make self-described “Sad Dream Pop” drawing on the intimate and detailed drama of “all the lousy things being a human entails -being jealous of your friends, pushing away the people you love most, being afraid of aging and death and on and on and on.”  Dizzy connects from Canada to play new music from their sophomore record, The ...more

  • Alt-R& B From Steven A. Clark: A 'Lonely Roller' No Longer (From the Archives)

    Jul 27 2020

    Miami-based Steven A. Clark grew up in the shadow of Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. There was little about his time there that suggested the sweeping musical sound brewing in his head; he received the distinction of "Most Quiet" in his high school yearbook. Clark broke the silence in 2012 with a well-received indie release cheekily titled Fornication Under Consent of the King (check the acronym), and in 2015, he dropped his major-label debut, Lonely Roller. He's released another ful...more

  • Emmy The Great: Elegant Pop And Poetic Wordplay (From the Archives)

    Jul 23 2020

    Emmy The Great has always had a way with words. Her big break came in 2009 when she contributed the song “Seattle” to the Brighton Port Authority, an album by famed producer Fatboy Slim that also featured such heavyweights as David Byrne and Iggy Pop. The London-based singer-songwriter showed her fascination with the U.S. in “Seattle,” which had as poetic a description of sunrise as you’ll ever hear in a pop song: “a blue sky forming like a wire warming up America.” In 2011, her second record, V...more

  • Wynton Marsalis on Arts in the After-Times (Future NYC)

    Jul 20 2020

    Trumpeter, composer, and educator Wynton Marsalis is arguably the most famous jazz musician of our time – though few would actually argue the point. He’s won multiple Grammys and in 1997 became the first jazz composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for his piece Blood On The Fields, a work about two slaves and their difficult journey to freedom. Born into one of the great families of New Orleans jazz, Marsalis has been closely tied to New York, and particularly to Lincoln Center, since the late 80s. ...more

  • Scottish Hip-Hop Group Young Fathers, In-Studio (From the Archives)

    Jul 16 2020

    zYoung Fathers defies labels in its songs. A tapestry of electronic music, rock, pop, and R&B, the alternative hip-hop group crafts songs as unique as its multi-ethnic background, which spans Scottish and West African lineages. Producer 'G' Hastings and vocalists Alloysious Massaquoi and Kayus Bankole all met in Edinburgh, Scotland as teenagers, and later formed the band in 2008, named after the fact that each member has the namesake of their fathers, hence, Young Fathers. But Young Fathers ...more

  • Songs Without Words by Guitarist Yasmin Williams

    Jul 13 2020

    Yasmin Williams reinvents the guitar with a dazzling array of two-handed techniques, hammering, bowing, and percussion effects – but all in the service of the music. Music that dances, and, in its own way, sings. Her next full-length album, Urban Driftwood, both a beautifully melodic and, of course, percussive affair, is due out in the fall of 2020. Yasmin Williams shares her latest songs without words – featuring all her multi-tasking limbs - remotely, from her home in Virginia. 

  • Robert Glasper Experiment with Bilal (From the Archives)

    Jul 09 2020

    Robert Glasper draws together his parallel passions for hip hop and jazz on his 2012 release, Black Radio. In addition to his formal jazz training, the pianist has long navigated the nebulous territory between the two genres – working with artists like Q-Tip, Kanye West, and Erykah Badu. In 2012, The Robert Glasper Experiment (featuring Casey Benjamin, Derrick Hodge, and Chris Dave) joined us for a live set in the Greene Space with a special guest – “Black Radio” collaborator and Grammy-nominate...more

  • The Weather Station's Intimate Folk (From the Archives)

    Jul 06 2020

    The Weather Station's 2015 record Loyalty features eleven songs with that most laudable quality of sounding like they are being sung directly to the listener, and recorded in a small quiet room. Which is all the more remarkable for the fact that the album was actually made in a large tumbledown French chateau outside of Paris. But the intimacy captured on the record is no accident. It's the sound of The Weather Station principal Tamara Lindeman and just two multi-instrumentalist accomplices, who...more

  • Leon Bridges: Polishing The Golden Era Anew (From the Archives)

    Jul 02 2020

    Nostalgia permeates the blood running through Leon Bridges' debut album, Coming Home. It's unusual for a 25-year-old to be so plugged into the Golden Age of soul and R&B, but with an expansive online music education and an influential mother from the era, it's hard not to be. The Fort Worth native's music is haunted by Sam Cooke's swaying rhythms and Nat King Cole's smooth romance, yet Bridges doesn't get lost in wistfulness.  The album outlines a world in vintage bass lines and delicate per...more

  • The Continuing Aural Adventures in Kaki King's Guitar Family

    Jun 29 2020

    Guitarist Kaki King is perhaps best-known for her virtuosic instrumental guitar compositions and extended technique, but she’s also written songs, chamber music, and film scores. She’s come up with innovations that change the nature of the guitar itself; she taps, she bends, she projects onto the guitar body, and now she has added a bridge called a Passerelle to her guitar. A Passerelle is a bridge that turns any regular six string guitar into a twelve note zither-like creation that can produce ...more

  • Trent Reznor And Atticus Ross On The Sound Of 'Gone Girl' (Archives)

    Jun 25 2020

    Trent Reznor is a thoughtful composer and meticulous sonic manipulator. With Nine Inch Nails, he has constructed ominous, seething and often abrasive songs and dense albums built upon infinite layers of sounds, invoking feelings of pain, rage and doom. And together with British composer, audio engineer, and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross, he has scored David Fincher's The Social Network (2010), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) -- which won a Grammy, and in 2014, Gone Girl. For that fil...more

  • Jake Blount Transforms American Roots Music

    Jun 22 2020

    Jake Blount is a singer, fiddler, banjo player, and scholar of old time American music –he’s especially interested in the deep roots of the African-American music of the southeast, where his own family is from. And given that this is Pride month, it’s probably worth mentioning he’s a board member of the group Bluegrass Pride as well. Jake has just released his first full-length album, called Spider Tales – a reference to Anansi, the West African trickster figure who takes the shape of a spider. ...more

  • The Relatives: Gospel Funk In The Greene Space (From the Archives)

    Jun 18 2020

    In the early 1970's, veteran Dallas gospel singer Rev. Gean West and his brother Tommie formed The Relatives, a band that pulled together traditional gospel and soul with psychedelia and funk and earned a reputation for their fiery live shows. While the band toured nationally, they recorded only three singles, apparently pressing small batches of 45's that never seemed to get any traction outside of North Texas. And unfortunately after recording their final session with legendary engineer Phil Y...more

  • John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats Takes It Back to the Boombox

    Jun 15 2020

    Songwriter, guitarist, bestselling novelist, former nurse, and the mastermind behind The Mountain Goats, John Darnielle delivered an April surprise: a boombox album of songs. As he writes on The Mountain Goats Bandcamp page, "pandemics call for wild measures" - and this was one thing he could do to offset the cost of a cancelled spring tour. The album was inspired by the Pierre Chuvin book A Chronicle of the Last Pagans, and recorded with his trusty boombox to cassette, with stories - "told in b...more

  • Celestial Hymns By Pedal Steel Guitarist Luke Schneider

    Jun 11 2020

    You might have heard the weepy twang of Nashville-based Luke Schneider playing pedal Steel with Margo Price, or more recently with Orville Peck. But Schneider has just released a new record of experimental and dreamy drone music for the end of the world, called Altar of Harmony. No matter how unrecognizable it might sound, this is ambient atmospheric music made with only the pedal steel guitar (a 1967 Emmons Push/Pull pedal steel guitar, to be precise), and processing (shout-out to Electro-Harmo...more

  • British Artist Jessie Ware Finds Her Spotlight (From the Archives)

    Jun 08 2020

    English singer-songwriter and podcaster Jessie Ware's profile has grown very quickly into stardom in just a few years. With her new album, What's Your Pleasure?, due this June 2020, we revisit a studio visit from 2014, on the release of her second album. Written in three different cities - -New York, Los Angeles, and her home in London- Jessie Ware's Tough Love showcased Ware's skill as a songwriter and singer, while maintaining her South London charm amid the spotlight.  In a conversation with ...more

  • John Cale's 'Shifty Adventures' (From the Archives)

    Jun 04 2020

    John Cale made rock history as a founding member of The Velvet Underground in the 1960s. He's also a composer, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He's long been a part of the musical avant-garde, working with the first of the so-called minimalist composers, and later with people like Brian Eno. He sings and can play guitar, bass, keyboards and viola.  Cale dropped by with his band in 2012 to perform songs from his album Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood and to talk about his days with The V...more

  • Composer and Producer Emily Wells Scales Back to Elemental

    Jun 01 2020

    Violinist, singer, keyboardist and drummer Emily Wells is a producer and composer capable of producing a full band sound; her series of “symphonies” turned her voice and live-looped violin, drums, percussion, and effects into a one-woman orchestra. In 2019, she released her swirling and dramatic chamber-pop collection, This World Is Too _____ For You, complete with a string quintet and French horn. Now, Emily Wells has revisited some of those grand cinematic songs on her latest record, In the Da...more

  • Janka Nabay: Bubu Music With An Indie Rock Twist (Archives)

    May 28 2020

    The songs of singer Janka Nabay (aka "the Bubu King") mix a regional folk music from his native Sierra Leone called bubu with the high-octane sounds of Brooklyn's vibrant Afropop scene. Bubu music has found new fans in the indie rock community thanks to its driving rhythms and psychedelic guitar riffs. Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang's record En Yay Sah is both political and highly danceable, while revamping some of the classic bubu sounds. In this in-studio visit from 2012, Janka Nabay and the Bu...more

  • Filmmaker Alex Gibney: 'Sinatra Grew Up With America' (From the Archives)

    May 25 2020

    Ol' Blue Eyes. The Chairman of the Board. Frank Sinatra has been called a lot of things—not all of them flattering—but there's no denying his stature as a true American icon.  Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney turns his lens on the singer for the film, which came out in 2015, in time for the singer's 100th birthday. Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All chronicles the unlikely rise of the kid from Hoboken, through his peerless celebrity years, and centers around Sinatra's 1971 "Retirement Concert...more

  • Overcoats Fight To Feel Excited for the Future

    May 20 2020

    The NY-based indie-pop duo Overcoats latest, 'The Fight,' was birthed in March 2020 - the "before times." They preview a benefit online festival, called The Fight For NYC,” which they've curated and are playing in, and share new songs from the record. 

  • Courtney Barnett, In The Greene Space (From the Archives)

    May 18 2020

    Courtney Barnett's songs are wild, shaggy and wordy, mixing witty, mundane, and sometimes heartbreaking observations with devastating self-assessment. And with a sound rooted in the slack jangle of the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Barnett delivers plainspoken lyrics and roll off the tongue as if she's thinking them up on the spot. You can hear that in her break-out song "Avant Gardener" or in "Pedestrian At Best," from  2015's superb album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit,...more

  • Bandleader, Comedian, and Beatboxer Reggie Watts (From the Archives)

    May 14 2020

    Vocal artist, comedian, actor, beatboxer, musician, and bandleader Reggie Watts is versatile and unpredictable. But to watch him do his thing live, is even more extraordinary. He's masterful at looping layer upon layer of beats and rhythms, melodies and countermelodies, entirely with his voice, to create a dense and soulful, hip-hop-infused sound. And his hilarious lyrics seem to be pulled out of thin air, improvised with impossibly quick wit. Watch Reggie Watts demonstrate his brilliant skills ...more

  • Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers (From the Archives)

    May 11 2020

    Actor, author, and comedian Steve Martin released his debut album as a banjo player in 2009, but he first picked up the instrument as a teenager and later incorporated it into his hit stand-up act during the 1970's. He joined us back in 2011 with his band from North Carolina, the Steep Canyon Rangers, playing songs from his Grammy-nominated album, Rare Bird Alert, in this session from the archives. (Recorded live in The Greene Space)

  • Ed Helms, on Making Old-Timey Magic for The Whiskey Sour Happy Hour

    May 07 2020

    Banjo player, comedian, actor, and musician Ed Helms has combined music and comedy in an online show for the pandemic era, The Whiskey Sour Happy Hour, presented by The Bluegrass Situation. He joins John to talk about making old-timey magic, with music performed by the featured artists like Aubrie Sellers and her mother Lee Ann Womack, multi-instrumentalist Robert Ellis and his glorious robe, and Helms himself. Plus, a discussion of that scene of Helms playing the sitar in the Christmas party ep...more

  • Legendary Drummer Tony Allen (From the Archives)

    May 04 2020

    Pioneering drummer Tony Allen, who was called “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived" by Brian Eno, has died in Paris, at the age of 79. Allen was the longtime drummer and musical director for the Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti where his unique, propulsive, funky, innovative drum patterns helped to define the style known as Afrobeat. He was self-taught and said that he created that signature sound through listening to recordings of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers and Max Roach. A l...more

  • Soul Singer Charles Bradley (From the Archives)

    Apr 30 2020

    The late funk and R&B singer Charles Bradley’s life story was one filled with poverty, struggle and unappreciated talent. But after catching the eye of a Daptone Records agent (while doing a James Brown routine in a Bushwick club) Charles Bradley put out several singles and several full-length releases on Daptone. His debut record was called No Time For Dreaming, and the soulful singer was in-studio to sing some of it live, back in 2011.

  • Parquet Courts Thrashes With Elegance (From the Archives)

    Apr 27 2020

    Parquet Courts exploded into New York music fans’ collective consciousness in early 2013, with the release of their blistering post-punk LP, Light Up Gold. They formed in Brooklyn, in 2010, but its members all met in Texas years before. Lean and urgent like the best of the early punk rock bands, Parquet Courts’ output is of mostly short and spunky songs, written by guitarists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown. They performed in-studio for us, back in early 2013. Set List: "Master Of My Craft"/"Bor...more

  • Regina Spektor, In-Studio (From the Archives)

    Apr 23 2020

    Songwriter, pianist, and singer Regina Spektor was born in the then-Soviet Union and moved to the States on the cusp of her teenage years. She began playing small cafes and clubs, before moving up to big arenas, and in 2019, a run of shows at a Broadway theater. Her songs are full of charm, wit, and surprises, and very often portray an outsider trying to make sense of things. This session from 2012, was around the time of her release What We Saw From the Cheap Seats. Here’s Regina Spektor, in-st...more

  • Jon Batiste and Stay Human, In-Studio (From the Archives)

    Apr 20 2020

    Pianist, composer, and bandleader Jon Batiste comes from a long line of New Orleans musicians, and got his start playing in his family’s band as a percussionist when he was just 8. Now based in New York as the musical director for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, we sometimes forget what a formidable musician he is. Jazz, funk, R & B, even classical music – he plays it all. It’s clear that most chances he gets, he’d gladly lead a parade just about anywhere with his “mouth piano,” but for ...more

  • Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3, In-Studio (From the Archives)

    Apr 16 2020

    In his four decades writing songs and playing them alone or with friends, the English-born Nashville-based singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock has earned a devoted fan base. His songs can mix gleeful surrealism, sexual frustration, drinking, death, sadness, spiders, snakes, and the occasional movie quote. Never one to be at a loss for words, and possessed of the greatest patterned shirt collection in all of folk-alt-psych-pop-dom, the singer-songwriter, guitarist, harmonica player, and pianist Rob...more