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

  • Nordic Klezmer Band Mames Babegenush Jazzes It Up

    Sep 11 2019

    Danish outfit Mames Babegenush cooks up a Nordic-Jewish-Balkan musical stew both manic and melancholy. Their tunes embrace the ambience of Nordic snowscapes as well as the lively weddings of Romania, all the while incorporating the vibrant dance music and klezmer traditions of eastern Europe. Since their formation some 15 years ago, the group has performed everything from electronic music to string quartets to opera. Mames Babegenush brings their rich blend of Balkan-Klezmer Jazz for dancing to ...more

  • Icelandic Duo Hugar Creates Glacial Soundscapes In-Studio

    Sep 09 2019

    The Icelandic duo Hugar is multi-instrumentalists Bergur Þórisson & Pétur Jónsson, who sculpt dreamlike layered soundscapes using keyboards, guitar, and electronics. Occasionally they’ll include other chamber players, including one Ólafur Arnalds. Sometimes the music is an attempt to “put our everyday experiences into sounds” – like “walking to school in a snow blizzard and riding your bike in the calm midnight sun” (Sony Masterworks). Their latest record is Varða, which translates to “cairn...more

  • Drummer Marcus Gilmore Creates Continuous Melodies

    Sep 04 2019

    Drummer and composer Marcus Gilmore looks to the creative openness of his drum elders – like his grandfather, Roy Haynes, tabla master Zakir Hussain, or renaissance man and drummer Milford Graves - and underscores the drum set as melodic instrument – exploiting all of the potential of the components – bending notes, playing with the natural vibrations, or augmenting his set up with Sunhouse Sensory Percussion. (With thanks to Modern Drummer Magazine’s June 2019 issue.) He joins us in-studio to a...more

  • Pop Songwriting Mastermind Skylar Grey, In-Studio

    Sep 02 2019

    From pop and hiphop to love anthems, Grammy-nominated songwriter Skylar Grey has multiple hits to her credit. She's the co-writer on Eminem's 'Love The Way You Lie' featuring Rihanna, and featured artist on Diddy's 'Coming Home', and has written and recorded theme songs for TV and film. Lately,  Skylar Grey has embraced her folk rock roots in new songs from her upcoming project ‘Angel With Tattoos’. Fresh from an appearance at the Video Music Awards, she performs in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Watch ...more

  • Flatpicking Acoustic Guitar-Folk From Courtney Hartman

    Aug 29 2019

    Singer, songwriter, award-winning flatpicking guitarist, and Colorado native Courtney Hartman has musical roots in the bluegrass world with her family band, The Hartmans. She recorded and toured with the Grammy-nominated group Della Mae for seven years, and has collaborated with Texan Robert Ellis on a record of tunes by American folk, country, and bluegrass composer and musician John Hartford. Her latest solo record, Ready Reckoner, co-produced with Shahzad Ismaily (a multi-instrumentalist know...more

  • Modern-Day Troubadour Pete Yorn's Jangly-Pop

    Aug 26 2019

    Multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Pete Yorn’s latest record of anthemic, lyrical jangle pop is called Caretakers. It’s also the first release on his own new label, Shelly Music. The New Jersey native joins us in-studio to play some of these tunes in a solo acoustic setting. - Caryn Havlik Set list (Click to watch): “Calm Down” "I Wanna Be The One" "Life On A Chain" Watch the full session here:       

  • Nashville-based Lillie Mae's Countrified Americana-Pop

    Aug 21 2019

    Nashville singer, songwriter, fiddler and guitarist Lillie Mae’s sound has a bit of dark twang, some psychedelia, and the intimacy of front-porch singing. She started out in a countrified sibling band Jypsi and now has two solo records to her credit on Jack White’s Third Man Records. Lillie Mae’s latest is Other Girls, backed by members of her family and a few trusted collaborators. She’s been touring with White’s current band The Raconteurs, and is on the road in the fall as part of Robert Plan...more

  • Quiet Reflection in Acoustic Songs by Daughter of Swords

    Aug 19 2019

    North Carolina singer and guitarist Alexandra Sauser-Monnig records under the name Daughter of Swords, in which she "combines the eerie sound of old Appalachian folk music with elegant guitar playing and touches of lo-fi pop." (John Schaefer) She’s also part of the alternative folk trio Mountain Man, a group of women whose precise harmonies offer songs of warmth, belonging, and community. Sauser-Monnig’s record, Dawnbreaker, a homespun country-pop offering of vulnerability, brings liberation to ...more

  • The Calm Spark of South African Jazz Master Abdullah Ibrahim Persists

    Aug 14 2019

    The South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim (aka "Dollar Brand") has had a notable career, helped early on by Duke Ellington,and  acknowledged later by Nelson Mandela, who called Ibrahim “our Mozart.” In 2019, Abdullah Ibrahim became a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, and he’s recently released a new album, The Balance, (which is his 70th or 71st LP, and that's not including his work as a sideman, which might push the total album credits to over 100!) It's full of "lush h...more

  • Cosmo Sheldrake's Eccentric, Strangely Alluring Pop

    Aug 12 2019

    London composer Cosmo Sheldrake is also a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. He’s got a knack for refreshingly playful and whimsical pop music that often incorporates natural sounds. On his latest record, The Much Much How How and I, the music gyres and gimbles like circus music meets forest-dwelling faeries in the wabe. There’s also a clever interplay of frolicking rhythms which perhaps reflects Sheldrake's work with young people. Cosmo Sheldrake performs some of his latest music in...more

  • The Slamming Wordplay of Poet and Rapper Kate Tempest

    Aug 08 2019

    London-based Kate Tempest is a spoken word performer, poet, recording artist, novelist and playwright. Her visceral writing demands foreground-listening with its physicality of emotions, spoken-sung, delivered as incantation, slammed poetry, swaggering rap verse, a bit tent preacher and protest march. Her work was nominated for the Mercury Prize, her epic narrative poem “Brand New Ancients” was awarded the Ted Hughes Prize for innovation in poetry and she won a Herald Angel Award at the Edinburg...more

  • DOOMSQUAD's Personal and Political Outsider Dancefloor Jams

    Aug 05 2019

    Toronto electro-psych dance-rock sibling trio DOOMSQUAD brings a mix of protest music, catharsis, and groove, plus banging flute solos to their outsider electronica. They’ve written songs about the anarchist and activist Emma Goldman along with New York drag queen Dorian Corey as well as modern societal struggles and eco-crises. Trevor, Jaclyn and Allie Blumas cite as inspirations their tour-mates Tanya Tagaq and Peaches, along with Underworld,  Peter Gabriel, Diamanda Galás, and Genesis P-Orrid...more

  • Sound Artist Lea Bertucci Transforms and Extends the Saxophone

    Aug 01 2019

    NYC-based sound artist, sax player, and composer Lea Bertucci uses tape technology, resonant spaces, and sounds that occupy a gray area between music and noise. She augments her alto sax with processing and delay, turning it into a polyphonic instrument, and creates microtonal effects and complex rhythms as she does so. Her latest album is called Resonant Field; and Lea Bertucci joins us to play two extended pieces, in-studio. Watch the session here:     

  • Anything Goes From Swedish Pop Trio Peter Bjorn & John

    Jul 29 2019

    Hear songs about darker days through a largely upbeat pop lens from Swedish trio, Peter, Bjorn and John. The Swedish trio will “probably never live down the whistling in their song “Young Folks”—an earworm if there ever was one.” (-John Schaefer) Their latest record, Darker Days, is an catchy and dancey, yet lyrically somber collection of songs, where the members find themselves digging into the past, taking on relationship issues, breaking their own bones (hence the imagery), to dig deep and wo...more

  • Indian Tabla Master Zakir Hussain's Percussive Wizardry

    Jul 25 2019

    Genius Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain, is one of the world’s exceptional percussionists. The son of Ustad Alla Rahka (who would have been 100 years old this year), Zakir is also a composer, improviser, and a great communicator in Persian, Gujarati, German, English, as well as in jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms, Nigerian talking drums, or Indonesian gamelan. One of the most exciting ways that Zakir Hussain shares this deep and vast knowledge in performance is by way of the Masters of Percussion Tour ...more

  • The Big Sound of Bayonne's Experimental Electro-Pop

    Jul 22 2019

    Bayonne is quite literally a one-man band. That one man is minimalist composer and experimental musician Roger Sellers, who’s based in Austin, TX, not actually Bayonne, NJ. Partly inspired by the big-sounding symphonic pop of the 1960’s, Roger stacks and layers his voice, synths, live instruments, and percussion through his live looping station to achieve his music. His latest album is called Drastic Measures and he’ll play some of these ultra-layered, textured songs, in-studio. -Caryn Havlik  W...more

  • Quantic's Dancefloor-Ready Jazzy Grooves

    Jul 18 2019

    British producer, musician, and DJ Quantic (aka Will Holland) builds up jazzy, groovy, and dancefloor-ready music around funk guitar and bass riffs, keyboards and synths, punchy drums, sometimes featuring a vocalist, sometimes not. Sometimes he’ll explore traditions from somewhere else: Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, or from other times: psychedelia, experimental and rhythmically rich sounds of deep funk and soul. His latest is called, ‘Atlantic Oscillations’ and Quantic has hand-picked mu...more

  • Pianist and Programmer Dan Tepfer - Man Vs. Machine

    Jul 14 2019

    Dan Tepfer is a sought-after composer and pianist who also studied computer programming and physics. His album of improvisations on Bach’s Goldberg Variations drew a lot of attention some eight years ago. Now, he’s released Natural Machines, a record of music for pianist and computer that responds to his real-time improvisations according to “simple rules” - musical algorithims that he programmed. Dan Tepfer joins us to explain what he’s done, and to do some of it on a Yamaha digital piano, in-s...more

  • A-WA's Timeless Yemeni-Jewish Traditional Songs Meet Arabic Pop

    Jul 10 2019

    The Israeli band called A-WA had a huge hit on its very first attempt when their song "Habib Galbi" (“Love of My Heart”) – which blended traditional Yemenite folk music with modern dance beats – became the first Arabic-language song to ever become the #1 song in Israel. It was also a viral hit throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Even Pitbull got into the act, featuring on a remix of the song.  A-WA is led by a trio of sisters from a Yemeni Jewish family who sing in Arabic and English. Their mo...more

  • Blick Bassy Heals By Remembering The Stories

    Jul 08 2019

    France-based Cameroonian musician Blick Bassy’s quiet and beautiful songs fall somewhere on the spectrum of blues, folk-soul, and pop, and embody a deep reverence for the traditional music of Cameroon and other parts of Africa. On his latest, record, 1958, dedicated to the memory of Ruben Um Nyobé, Felix Moumié and the other heroes of Cameroonian independence, Bassy embraces a listener (mostly in his ancestral language of Basaa) over minimal cello, trumpet, trombone, keyboards, and electronic pr...more

  • The Sweet, Slow Burn of Nakhane's 'Anti-Gospel' Pop

    Jul 04 2019

    London-based Xhosa singer, actor, musician, and author Nakhane (born Toure) grew up on a musical diet of Mozart, Handel, and South African choral pieces, along with Marvin Gaye and the O’Jays in South Africa, eventually wrenching himself away from a conservative Christian upbringing to accept, then embrace his sexuality. Now a leading voice among queer musicians, Nakhane seduces, swaggers, and charms with his tender falsetto in his sometimes dance-leaning, grandly orchestrated “anti-gospel” glam...more

  • Sinkane's Funk Exploration of the Immigrant's Journey

    Jul 01 2019

    The Sudan-born, Ohio-raised and Brooklyn-based singer and musician Ahmed Gallab records under the name Sinkane and the latest Sinkane record, Dépaysé, is an irresistible mix of western and African funk, Sudanese folk music, 1960s psychedelia, with pop, rock, soul music besides. Dépaysé is a French word that means being taken out of your homeland, being dislocated and as Gallab writes, the record “is the story of an immigrant’s journey of self-discovery in the Trump era.”  Sinkane, as an American...more

  • Ambient Chamber Space Pop By Big Bend, In-Studio

    Jun 27 2019

    Big Bend is a collaborative project led by pianist Nathan Phillips, who assembled a rotating cast of musicians, including ambient zither player Laraaji, the renowned slide guitarist Susan Alcorn, and many others. Although Phillips is a composer, the Big Bend project grew out of improvisations, and the resulting songs live in a gray area between art song, pop song, and ambient music. Nathan has assembled a version of Big Bend, with guitar and strings, and they'll perform songs from his latest, Ra...more

  • Tamino's Intimate and Confessional Pop, In-studio

    Jun 24 2019

    Belgian singer and songwriter Tamino is of Egyptian and Lebanese descent and has had recent success as a model. Comparisons to Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke might be inevitable; his is a voice that feels like a cuddle, with an incredibly rich falsetto at his high end. That Tamino's vocal lines and riffs sometimes incorporate Arabic quarter notes and that he brought in a group of Middle Eastern instrumentalists, known as “Nagham Zikrayat,” to record on his debut, Amir, hearkening to the so-called g...more

  • Arabic Poetry-Infused Chamber Jazz by Layale Chaker and Sarafand

    Jun 20 2019

    Violinist and composer Layale Chaker has done something exquisite in her music with the Ensemble Sarafand from the record, Inner Rhyme: she has gone about capturing the “shape and essence of epic testimonials on life, death, war and love that make the heart of Arabic poetry.” (Layale Chaker) It’s an alchemical wedding of music derived from the form, rhythm and structure of Arabic sung poetry using chamber music instruments: her violin, along with piano, cello, double-bass, and hand percussion. C...more

  • Australian Bass Virtuoso Tal Wilkenfeld Shines a Light

    Jun 17 2019

    Australian-born Tal Wilkenfeld has made her sizable reputation by playing bass for some of the music world’s biggest stars – Prince, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, the Allman Brothers. In March she released her first album of her own singing and songwriting, Love Remains, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it went right to the top of Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. Tal Wilkenfeld joins us in-studio with her band to play some of these tunes in-studio. Set list: Killing Me Love Remains Corner Painter Watch the...more

  • Baroque-Pop and Folk-Leaning Songs From Henry Jamison

    Jun 13 2019

    It would be easy to label the Vermont-based singer/songwriter Henry Jamison as a folk musician. After all, his voice sounds a little like Nick Drake, and he’s covered a song by Canadian folkie Gordon Lightfoot.  His songs are full of vivid and arresting imagery, and on this record, Gloria Duplex, he addresses toxic masculinity, drops in some feminine wisdom, draws on an Irish folk ballad, and distills psychological writings. The record was produced by Thomas Bartlett, aka “Doveman”, and contains...more

  • Saying What Must Be Said, The Oddysy Combines Funk, Bass, Beats, And Samples

    Jun 10 2019

    The Oddysy is a funk/rock/hip hop duo comprised of KJ (Kevin Jacoby, formerly of the psychedelic salsa band La Mecanica Popular) and DJ Johnny Juice, a Rock N Roll Hall of Famer best known for his work with Public Enemy and Rob Swift. They’ve got a lot to say about frustration and anger, protest and resistance. Recently, they released music dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., and his refusal to meet violence with violence, featuring a verse by the hip hop legend Chuck D, of Public Enemy. The Od...more

  • The Playful Arty Post-Punk and Swirling Psych of Michelle Blades

    Jun 06 2019

    Michelle Blades was born into a well-known family of salsa musicians in Panama – you may have heard of her Grammy-winning uncle Ruben Blades. But she grew up as a multi-instrumentalist nomad who is now based in France. Her own music draws on rock, especially the psychedelic end of things and the angular arty sounds of post punk. Michelle Blades and her band play some music from her recent record, Visitor. Watch the session here:    Michelle Blades - Visitor by Michelle Blades

  • Guitarist Sarah Louise's Experiments in Drone-Folk

    Jun 02 2019

    North Carolina based composer and guitarist Sarah Louise is also one-half of the duo House and Land. Her music evokes forests and creeks and frogs, and when she’s on a 12-string acoustic guitar, combines both drone and folk (somewhat reminiscent of the fingerpicked styles of “American Primitive” guitar (think John Fahey, Jack Rose, Gwenifer Raymond, or Glenn Jones). She’s also recently released an album, Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars, built around improvisations on electric guitar, which wer...more

  • Qasim Naqvi's Experiments in 21st Century DIY Modular Synth

    May 30 2019

    Composer and modular synth experimenter Qasim Naqvi, who is also a drummer and one-third of the electronic jazzers Dawn of MIDI, writes chamber and electronic music for film, dance, theater and ensembles. His latest creation, two years in the making, “Teenages”, is for his own custom-built modular synth, which he encourages to behave “almost autonomously” (The Quietus). The combination of machine, (dare we say AI?), and subtle guidance by the composer will be on display as Qasim Naqvi performs h...more

  • Flamenco Guitar Pyrotechnics of Rodrigo y Gabriela

    May 27 2019

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  • Nick Waterhouse Wants to Make You Boogie

    May 23 2019

    With his heavy horn section, electric backing vocals and a crack band, California soulful rocker Nick Waterhouse serves up a neo-noir concoction of modern rhythm and blues with surf-rock. Inspired by crate-digging in record stores for 45’s, Waterhouse has embraced the mid-century sound and is looking to make folks boogie. He and his retro-modern band play songs in-studio from his latest record, his fourth, a self-titled affair, Nick Waterhouse.   - Caryn Havlik Watch the session here:     

  • The Soulful Melancholy of Heather Woods Broderick

    May 19 2019

    Multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Heather Woods Broderick’s talents have been put to use by Sharon Van Etten and Laura Gibson; and she’s been a member of Efterklang and Horse Feathers. Her latest record, Invitation, is a grand and mysterious adventure into quiet and dark introspection. Piano riffs anchor this baroque-folk pop, and string arrangements might reflect the swells and whispers of her new digs around the impressive coastal landscape of Oregon. Or, as Western Vinyl puts it: "...more

  • Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi Transport as They Discover Common Roots

    May 15 2019

    Multi-instrumentalist, composer and songwriter, host of the podcast Aria Code, and MacArthur Fellow Rhiannon Giddens’ latest collaboration is with the Italian pianist and percussionist Francesco Turrisi. Entitled there is no Other, the twelve songs explore the connections between European, Arabic, African-American and Mediterranean sounds and at once offer opposition to "othering" and “a celebration of the spread of ideas, connectivity, and shared experience” (Nonesuch Records). The duo’s artist...more

  • The Eels Tear Things Apart To Find the Beauty Inside

    May 13 2019

    Through his band the Eels, singer/songwriter Mark Oliver Everett has drawn on the tragedy and turmoil in his life and counters it with humor and hope. He is the son of a quantum physicist who developed the Many Worlds Theory, who now has a son himself. Eels’ latest, The Deconstruction, brings the feelings with a bit of wry optimism, and plenty of reflecting. It brings Mark Oliver Everett, aka E, to the studio to play some stripped-down versions of his songs and perhaps tell tales of the world ar...more

  • Singer Alice Merton Writes Songs So We Feel Good

    May 09 2019

    German-Canadian-English singer and songwriter Alice Merton crafts upbeat dance-pop tunes anchored by punchy-funk basslines, complete with swirling synths and chiming guitars. Growing up in Canada, she was classically trained in piano and voice. Later, her family moved to Germany, where she studied at Popakademie (the University of Popular Music and Music Business), before the family moved to England. With her best friend and manager, she created her own international label, and earlier this year...more

  • Indie Popsters AJR Go From Buskers to Arena Rockers

    May 06 2019

    Formed in 2005, New York-based indie pop trio AJR mixes close sibling harmonies, electronic music, strings, and jangly riffs into their sunny sound. The Met brothers family band, made up of multi-instrumentalists Adam (vocals/bass), Jack (vocals/guitar) and Ryan (guitar/piano/vocals), got their start busking around the city, playing covers of Vampire Weekend, the Beach Boys, and Fun. They’ve worked with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and are about to release their latest, Neotheater. The band joins us in...more

  • Combo Chimbita Channels Ancestral Wisdom Via Latinx Psych-Funk

    May 01 2019

    Hear tropical psych-rock from Combo Chimbita, a quartet based in New York City by way of Colombia. Their tropical psych-rock is an alchemical experiment of drawing on ancestral mythologies, metal strangeness, and deep groove. Their latest record, Ahomale, is a blend of futuristic flange-y electric rock and funk, with vintage synths and tropical rhythms, all supporting Carolina Oliveros’s powerful vocals in a quest to connect with the spiritual realm. Combo Chimbita joins us in-studio to play som...more

  • Andrew Bird Creates Beauty and Endures

    Apr 29 2019

    On his latest record, cheekily titled My Finest Work Yet, Andrew Bird manages to embrace self-doubt, engages with both beauty and terror, and goes into the depths of the intimacy between adversaries, all the while leaving room to make things personal or escalate them to the international. It is with immense fan reverence and celebration that we welcome Andrew Bird to the studio to perform some new material from My Finest Work Yet. -Caryn Havlik

  • Chamber Jazz by Avi and Omer Avital

    Apr 25 2019

    Avi Avital is an astonishing mandolin player, whether he’s playing classical music or Eastern European folk songs. Omer Avital, though born in Israel, has been an essential part of the New York jazz scene for over 20 years as both a bass player and a composer. Their collaboration, Avital Meets Avital, draws on Moroccan and North African sounds, folkloric and classical traditions, Israeli harmonies and Mediterranean rhythms and jazz improvisation. In fact, Gramophone calls out their "sense of del...more

  • New Chamber Music by Kinan Azmeh and The Knights

    Apr 22 2019

    The flexible chamber collective, The Knights, together with the groundbreaking Syrian clarinetist, Kinan Azmeh play Azmeh’s Concertino Grosso, commissioned in part by Carnegie Hall's 125 Commissions Project. It’s a work that allows for maximum freedom and flexibility in the approach to the score, as well as chances for solo sections. Also, The Knights perform a short work by Antonio Vivaldi – one of his “most personal and searching musical statements”, according to Colin Jacobsen’s program notes...more

  • Matmos Finds "Audio Gold" in Plastics, In-Studio

    Apr 18 2019

    Only the Baltimore-based electronic duo Matmos (M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel) might be able to make an entire record from the sounds of a washing machine, or for their latest - only from plastic. They've sampled the percussive qualities of a police riot shield (purchased on Ebay from the Albuquerque police department), made patterns, saved, repeated, and voila! Electronic music that is fun to be unsettled to. There’s a squeaky “crying pill” made of plastic, a PVC pipe as percussion and pseudo di...more

  • American Troubadour Steve Earle Covers Texan Great Guy Clark

    Apr 15 2019

    Watch the session here:   Steve Earle has been many things – a Grammy-winning musician, a political activist, a writer, an actor. He’s also, a music fan. Specifically, he’s a fan of two late, great Texas songwriters, Townes Van Zandt, and Guy Clark. Ten years ago, he released an album called Townes, where he covered that singer’s work. Now it’s Guy Clark’s turn. Steve Earle and The Dukes have recorded a whole album of Clark’s songs – the record is called Guy, and it brings Steve Earle back to o...more

  • Dreamy Dance Pop by Savoir Adore

    Apr 11 2019

    The Brooklyn-based band Savoir Adore, French for “to know love” consists of songwriting team Paul Hammer  (Yes! Son of composer/producer/keyboardist Jan Hammer) and Lauren Zettler. Lately, they have crafted mostly electro-pop songs intent on dispensing magic and dreams, showcased in a two-part album, First Bloom, released last year, and most recently, Full Bloom. Savoir Adore and guests join us in the studio to play sunny music from these records. The band plays Thursday night, April 11, at Else...more

  • Intimate and Patient Atmospheric Pop by Helado Negro

    Apr 08 2019

    Miami-born, New York-based songwriter and electronic musician Helado Negro, (artist Roberto Carlos Lange) makes spacey folky electro-pop that is introspective, yet wide-reaching, utterly inviting and open; it pulses with the gentle power and warmth of loving and being loved. The record, This Is How You Smile, is a collection of delicate and painstakingly-crafted confessionals and affirmations that are designed to work their way into your heart or your mind or your home, which he calls “the most ...more

  • Luther Dickinson and Sisters of the Strawberry Moon

    Apr 04 2019

    The band Luther Dickinson and Sisters of the Strawberry Moon is a musical pot-luck with friends put together by Dickinson, the guitarist and co-founder of the North Mississippi Allstars. On their new record, Solstice, the guests at the gathering include singer-songwriter and upright bass player Amy LaVere, the secular gospel duo Birds of Chicago (JT Nero and Allison Russell), fife player Sharde Thomas, singer-songwriter and drummer Amy Helm (daughter of Levon), fiddle-playing singer/songwriter L...more

  • Cosmic Funk by The Comet Is Coming

    Apr 01 2019

    London-based trio The Comet Is Coming are often described as a jazz band, although this is cosmic funky jazz where young musicians have incorporated elements of electronic music, hip hop, psych, and rock. This apocalyptic dance party jazz features Shabaka Hutchings on sax, Max Hallett on drums, and Dan Leavers on keys. Fresh from inciting rooms of folks to sweat and mosh in Austin, TX, The Comet Is Coming performs new material from their 2019 album, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, fo...more

  • Inuk Folk-Pop Artist Elisapie Finds Her Center In The Far North

    Mar 28 2019

    Montreal-based Inuk folk-pop singer and songwriter, Elisapie, is from the Far North, and her music draws from and takes pride in her Inuit and First Nations origins – while also journeying through some heavy emotional territory. The JUNO-nominated Elisapie (Élisapie Isaac) is originally from Salluit, Nunavik, but has lived in Montreal for 20 years. On her most recent record, The Ballad of the Runaway Girl, Elisapie reaffirms her connections to her sonic roots in Inuit and Native folk music. She ...more

  • 47SOUL Brings the Shamstep Party With a Message

    Mar 25 2019

    “Shamstep” band, 47SOUL, take their name from the Arabic name for the Levant region – Bilad al-Sham, with members from Jordan, Washington DC, and Israel - spanning the divides of the Palestinian Diaspora. The music is a mix of dubstep, hip-hop and electro-Arabic dabke with lyrics in both Arabic and English, which are intensely political in their call for celebration and freedom in the struggle for equality. The quartet 47SOUL performs their smart dance music in-studio.  - Caryn Havlik Watch the ...more

  • The Timeless, Endless Love of Classic Soul Singer Lee Fields

    Mar 21 2019

    The classic sound of soul – the bright horns, the snappy hi-hat in the grooves, and expressive, heartfelt vocals – has never really gone out of fashion. There are singers like Lee Fields, who has been at it since 1969, when he released his first single. This April, he’s about to put out a new album called It Rains Love – with tender melodies and deep funk beats, and one which draws from Lee's own rock-steady love in his 40+ year- marriage. The soul legend Lee Fields joins us in-studio to perform...more

  • Heartbreaking and Dark Songs by Amanda Palmer

    Mar 17 2019

    Singer, writer, pianist, and activist Amanda Palmer is also a listener, a “love-lover, rule-hater and co-founder of the Brechtian punk cabaret duo, The Dresden Dolls” (Bandcamp). She has a way of connecting with people and directly asking for what she needs, as well as giving back to her fans. Her latest record, There Will Be No Intermission, is a “five hanky” record, full of dark songs on abortion, miscarriages, cancer and grief, all the while in a way that hints at hope and delivers community....more

  • Captivating Chamber-Electro-Pop by Emily Wells with Metropolis Ensemble

    Mar 14 2019

    Composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Emily Wells works in the space between art-pop and neoclassical chamber music using electronic and acoustic instruments: synths, strings, and hip-hop production in elegant layers to support her singular and dramatic vocals. For her latest, This World Is Too _____ For You she has expanded her sonic palate to include a string quintet and French horn for a collection of swirling and dramatic chamber-pop showpieces.  Together with the Grammy-nominated cha...more

  • Crafty, Charismatic Chamber Jazz of Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom

    Mar 11 2019

    New York-based drummer Allison Miller is also a composer, teacher, and the leader of the band Boom Tic Boom, a group featuring violinist Jenny Scheinman, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, bassist Todd Sickafoose and pianist Myra Melford, who celebrate ten years of working together this year. Miller's experience in leading this specific group of improvising collaborators, along with the openness in her compositions, gives each member of the band space to shine. And shine they do -...more

  • Adia Victoria Carries The Legacy of the Blues

    Mar 06 2019

    Nashville-based singer-songwriter, guitarist, and poet Adia Victoria crafts Southern Gothic pop deeply rooted in the blues. On her new record, Silences, produced by The National's Aaron Dessner, she clothes her plaintive melodies with a velvet-robed ferocity, like a self-dubbed “Dope Queen”; the fully fleshed, orchestral-pop arrangements of woodwinds, brass, strings, and electronics are simply majestic. Adia Victoria and her band perform these new songs, more “in touch with her Southernness”, an...more

  • J.S. Ondara Says Hello To The 'American Dream'

    Mar 04 2019

    J.S. Ondara is a Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter whose love for Bob Dylan spurred him to move to Minnesota from Nairobi, Kenya in 2013. Since he won a Green Card lottery that allowed the move, he learned to play guitar and has lived the so-called “American Dream.” He learned English both in school and because he wanted to understand the lyrics in music by Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Nirvana, Death Cab for Cutie Neil Young, and Dylan.   Ondara, in an interview with Rolling Stone, describes his musi...more

  • Excruciatingly Beautiful Future-Soul Music From Jacob Banks

    Feb 27 2019

    British singer Jacob Banks was born in Nigeria before moving to Birmingham, England. There he has developed a large following for his remarkable voice and his equally impressive storytelling gifts – stories he tells in songs and in a series of videos – short films really. His debut LP, called Village, features electro-enhanced R&B with deep powerful grooves spread across a smartly-arranged full spectrum of sound. Jacob Banks is here with his band to play some songs for us today.  Watch the s...more

  • Cherry Glazerr’s Soft and Sharp Power Pop

    Feb 25 2019

    Los Angeles trio Cherry Glazerr, led by singer/guitarist/founder Clementine Creevy, is fierce, furious, but also weary. Creevy has found some inspiration by looking inward, and just hanging out with the demons of self-doubt instead of fighting in some of the songs from the new record, Stuffed & Ready. Creevy is self-deprecating, but at the same time, trying not to beat herself up, as she lets out her rage. As Creevy looks outward, she's come into some world-weary wisdom too. “Being a feminis...more

  • Nilüfer Yanya's Twisted Pop Embraces Imperfection

    Feb 21 2019

    Guitarist and songwriter Nilüfer Yanya writes songs that, while dark and a bit twisted, yet direct and elegant, ultimately embrace imperfection. Her music might easily flow between Nina Simone, pop punk, crisp jazzy chords, and the dynamic, sweaty explosiveness of The Pixes. Nilüfer deploys her impressive voice in all kinds of styles - falsetto crooning, growls and yelps, speak-sing indie, and smooth soul - as she spins out songs inspired by tube ads bombarding us with self-improvement or those ...more

  • Mandolin Orange's Bittersweet Pickin' Tunes

    Feb 18 2019

    Mandolin Orange is the folk duo of North Carolinians Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz, who blend traditional Americana roots music – folk, country, bluegrass – in their warm and intimate, bittersweet acoustic songs. They met at a bluegrass jam, and have been known to wield mandolin, guitar, banjo and violin between them, with Marlin mostly doing lead vocals and Frantz, who thinks of herself as a harmony singer. Mandolin Orange sometimes expands to five instrumentalists for the live shows, but stil...more

  • Hypnotic Brass Leads The Way

    Feb 14 2019

    The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is a musically free-ranging band of seven brothers from the south side of Chicago. Their music draws from funk, funky jazz, Afrobeat, hip hop, rock, reggae, and R&B, and they’ve performed with Tony Allen, Wu Tang Clan, De La Soul, Prince, Femi Kuti, Gorillaz, Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), and the B52's, to name a few. Growing up, the members of HBE were raised with music as a constant, as they are the sons of the late jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran (Earth, Wind, and Fire,...more

  • The Custom-Built Pop Experiments of Buke and Gase

    Feb 11 2019

    Buke and Gase is an experimental pop duo that’s collaborated with everyone from The National to the Blue Man Group. The band is named after two of the instruments they’ve invented, a baritone ukulele and hybrid guitar-bass. Their songs are tasty slices of angular melodies and problem-solving off-kilter percussion that are creatively stacked like a magical, warped, and playful sandwich of aural goodness. And on their new album, Scholars, Buke and Gase offers a sound more rooted in electronics – e...more

  • Rubblebucket Parties Like Their Hearts Hurt

    Feb 07 2019

    Dancey and dreamy, Brooklyn-based Rubblebucket makes psychedelic and jazz-conscious pop swimming in a strange and lovely mix of celebration and melancholy. Their latest record, Sun Machine, is a celebration of the connection between trumpeter Alex Toth, and saxophone player Kalmia Traver, The two have survived momentous life-challenges like cancer and alcoholism, and their romantic uncoupling, and still managed to transform their musical partnership in a positive way. The expanded version of Rub...more

  • India.Arie Spreads Love and Music

    Feb 04 2019

    Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer India.Arie has returned to spread love and joy through music and words. Her latest album, due out in February, is a collection of enchanting and soulful electro-acoustic pop songs, full of smart observations, sensuality, spirituality, and yes, empowerment. On one tune, “That Magic,” she lovingly describes the connection between two people that we can all hope for. Her latest single, “What If,” begins with the memorable lines, “what if Martin didn’t stand...more

  • RaaDie's Trumpet and E-Zither Make Loops and Waves

    Jan 31 2019

    Meet RaaDie, which is the latest musical project of Vienna-based trumpeter Lorenz Raab (Volksoper Vienna, XY-Band, Bleu) and the composer, bassoonist, and zither player Christof Dienz (Die Knoedel, Quadrat:sch, XY-Band). With a balance of composition and improvisation, the duo crafts music using trumpet and e-zither with electronic effects and looping station, at times spacey, funky, contemplative, and eerie.   Besides Prokofiev, Ravel and Schubert, Dienz also names Prince, AC/DC, Björk and Xena...more

  • Alejandro Escovedo Searches for the American Dream

    Jan 28 2019

    Mexican-American rock musician, songwriter, and singer Alejandro Escovedo draws from DIY punk, Tex-Mex country, and Americana rock for his latest record, The Crossing, a growly and crunchy guitar-filled, instrumentally cinematic, and in-your-face loud search for the American dream. In a cool twist, Escovedo has co-written the album with an Italian instrumental band, Don Antonio, and uses avatars, a young boy from southern Italy named Salvo, and a young boy from Mexico named Diego, who meet in So...more

  • London's Groove-Based Ezra Collective

    Jan 24 2019

    London-based quintet Ezra Collective makes music with an irresistible blend of groove that includes Afrobeat, hip-hop, grime, reggae, and jazz. Led by drummer Femi Koleoso, and anchored by his brother TJ Koleoso on bass with keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, and featuring what looks like a hard bop frontline of Dylan Jones on trumpet and James Mollison on tenor sax, the group’s members are all skilled improvisers who can easily incite packed crowds into a sweaty dance party with their infectious rhyt...more

  • Guster, More Alive Than Live

    Jan 21 2019

    Coming from jangle-pop garage rock origins in the 1990’s in the Boston area, the band Guster is a group of talented songwriters, down to the last harmony. With electronic augmentation beyond just guitar amps, Guster long ago dropped its acoustic guitars and bongos in favor of arena rock with electrified-pysch-pop leanings. Their live shows are known for their quirky humor and legions of devoted fans singing along, and their latest batch of sing-along anthems from their record, Look Alive, is an ...more

  • Banjo-Wielding Kaia Kater Is 'Swimming in Her Own Shadow'

    Jan 16 2019

    Montreal-born folk singer, songwriter, banjo player, and guitarist Kaia Kater grew up surrounded by her family’s ties to folk music and Appalachian music in West Virginia. Her music often touches on social issues, and her latest album ranges even wider, including her family’s Grenadian-Canadian background, while still drawing upon old-time banjo music. In her liner notes to her latest record, Grenades (Smithsonian Folkways), she writes, “Here’s to swimming in your own shadow.” She then explained...more

  • Leyla McCalla Plays the 'Capitalist Blues'

    Jan 14 2019

    A New York–born Haitian-American living in New Orleans, the multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla draws from traditional Creole, Cajun, and Haitian music, as well as American jazz and folk. McCalla is a former member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, but her latest record, Capitalist Blues, contains very little of her signature instrument, the cello. While the tunes range from blues to calypso, and folk with some Haitian Creole, she explores connections between New Orleans and Haiti and tries to ma...more

  • Dollshot's Experimental Dream-Pop

    Jan 09 2019

    Brooklyn band Dollshot crafts experimental dream pop that is a crazy-quilt of electro-art-rock, cabaret music of Schoenberg, chamber music by Poulenc, and futuristic noir soundscapes. They offer an unusual and often unsettling combination of sounds, with breathy, featherlight vocals floating over wailing saxes and pounding drums. Their new album called Lalande comes out on January 25 and today they’ll play a few songs from it, in-studio.  Watch the session here:   

  • My Brightest Diamond Hits the Dance Floor

    Jan 06 2019

    Not many people can front a rock band, sing Górecki’s Third Symphony, deliver heavy works on themes of social justice for youth chorus, and compose pop songs for marching band, back-to-back. But Shara Nova of My Brightest Diamond can. The classically-trained vocalist, composer, and self-taught multi-instrumentalist has continued to reinvent herself on her journey through the worlds of chamber music, art-pop, rock, and new music. Her latest record, A Million And One, marries symphonic-leaning pop...more

  • Twangy-Gothic-Folk by Vera Sola, In-Studio

    Jan 03 2019

    New York/Canada-based songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and poet Vera Sola, aka Danielle Aykroyd, crafts twangy-gothic-folk that might stem from horror punk as much as Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee. With a little wry and dark humor, a streak of seriousness, a few eloquent barbs, and a whole lot of vulnerability, Vera Sola channels the sounds in her head ("something like a demon’s orchestra", as she puts it) on her debut album, Shades. She and her band join us in-studio to play some of th...more

  • Best of The Soundcheck Podcast 2018, Part 2

    Dec 31 2018

    From the live in-studio performance series, here's part two of our favorite sessions from 2018. Hear everything from a Cuban orchestra to a famous South African choir, along with music from My Brightest Diamond that came from our live performance series, The Soundcheck Podcast. The big band collective Orquesta Akokán channels the spirit of dance orchestras of the 1940’s and 1950’s of Havana and plays original Cuban Mambo music. Then, tenor sax superstar Joshua Redman and string quartet Brooklyn ...more

  • Matisyahu and Band Spiritually Summit the Jams

    Dec 27 2018

    The once-bearded Jewish-American roots-reggae vocalist and beatboxer Matisyahu found success in both the Hasidic spiritual community and beyond, back in the mid-2000’s. He has continued to reflect on seeking the divine, despite the surprise of shaving off his trademark beard, and started bringing a little more stretch and even more groove into his newer music. Matisyahu and his top-notch band - original Stubbs guitarist and longtime staple of the downtown New York improv scene Aaron Dugan, Dub T...more

  • Best of The Soundcheck Podcast 2018, Part 1

    Dec 24 2018

    From the live in-studio performance series, we’ll be recapping our favorite sessions from 2018. Part 1 features the Norwegian band Wardruna, Chicago-based duo OHMME, the dance-jazz band Sons of Kemet, porch and mountain music duo Anna & Elizabeth, and the qawwali devotional collaborative music by Junun.   Hear the ancient Norse ritual music of Norwegian band Wardruna, and their captivating combination of old and recreated Norse historical instruments. Their music has also scored episodes of ...more

  • John Grant's Electro-Brooding Dreamy Songs

    Dec 20 2018

    Michigan-born, Colorado-raised, but now Icelandic-based singer/songwriter John Grant crafts anguished, lush ballads and spacey electro-pop. He speaks five languages and is also a former member of The Czars, a Colorado-based band that split in the early 2000’s. After battling personal demons in New York, Grant returned to music and recorded with Texan folk rock group Midlake. He just got a publishing deal for his autobiography, and released his latest record, Love is Magic. It brings John Grant t...more

  • The Badass Blues-Rock of Larkin Poe

    Dec 17 2018

    Larkin Poe is Rebecca & Megan Lovell -two singer/songwriters and multi-instrumentalist sisters who are originally from Atlanta, but are now Nashville-based. Combining guitar, lap steel, minimal percussion, and sibling harmonies, they make roots-infused southern heritage-steeped rockenroll, with a helping of both gut bucket and Delta blues. Larkin Poe are acutely aware of the historicity of blues legends, touching on the imagery of the crossroads (Robert Johnson) and including a version of Sk...more

  • Quiet and Sharp Story-Songs by Laura Gibson

    Dec 13 2018

    Singer-songwriter and producer Laura Gibson was born and raised in the small Oregon logging town of Coquille but now splits her time between Oregon & NYC. She recently completed an MFA in fiction writing (Hunter College) and her sharp story-songs quietly and gracefully explore darkness on her latest, Goners. Gibson’s storytelling is both raw and bold in its exploration of the depths of grief and other hidden feelings; the music hearkens toward folk traditions with unexpected arrangements, wi...more

  • Algiers' Postpunk Soul Music for Disrupting

    Dec 10 2018

    Algiers is a mesmerizing band of musicians born in Atlanta, Georgia and now splitting time between London and New York. Their urgent, genre-resistant, chill-inducing, and fist-shaking music taps into and channels the frustration of locally-informed global citizens in these dark times - with a soulful and compelling roar. Their live sets feel spiritual and cathartic, but also might be for dancing. Then again - they also put out a music/zine series of somewhat more experimental sounds. 1st Novembe...more