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

  • 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

  • Piano Manipulator and Producer Kelly Moran

    Dec 07 2018

    Pianist, composer, engineer, and producer, Kelly Moran takes pride in trying to “obfuscate exactly what the piano sounds like. The whole point is to make it sound different.” (Tiny Mix Tapes) Moran, on her latest record, Ultraviolet (Warp Records), has also found a delicate balance of improvisation and structure in her expansive compositions. It'd be a reductionist approach to label her work merely minimalist or ambient music because it's also melodic cascades of these studiously prepared acoust...more

  • The Welcoming Intensity of Incoming Met Opera Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin

    Dec 03 2018

    Canadian conductor and pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the incoming Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, is taking over two years earlier than initially planned. In this interview with John Schaefer for the Soundcheck Podcast, he outlines his plans to welcome more folks to the opera and to make sure that routine does not become the norm. Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s intensity is fueled by his boundless energy and his understanding of the legacy and the history of the Metropolitan Opera. He's the f...more

  • Emily King Supplies Warmth Via Retro Disco-Soul

    Nov 29 2018

    Grammy-nominated chanteuse Emily King went into the family business via a different route, that of an R&B-influenced singer-songwriter. (She’s the daughter of New York jazz vocalists who has moved to the Catskills.) Her latest record, Scenery, due in February of 2019 (on ATO Records), promises to be a clever mix of R&B, pop, and perhaps a little retro disco. A bicoastal preview tour brings Emily King and her band to our studio to perform some of her brand-new “retro-cinematic” tunes (NPR...more

  • Noise-Fuzz-Pop from Upper Wilds

    Nov 26 2018

    With screaming and blistering guitars, power-chord-like vocal harmonies (both clean and processed through an array of guitar pedals), and a rock-solid pummeling of drums, Brooklyn trio Upper Wilds, [Dan Friel (Parts & Labor), Zach Lehroff (Ex Models) and Jeff Ottenbacher], exploits all kinds of sonic textures for a cathartic, electric explosion of melodic and riff-driven noise-fuzz-pop. Expect distortion-filled, high-intensity songs with the “raw hopeful energy of DIY spaces” (Thrill Jockey)...more

  • Grizzly Bear, Live at Brooklyn Bowl, June 2018

    Nov 22 2018

    Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear has been around in some form since 2002, but since assembling their current quartet lineup in 2006 they’ve become one of indie rock’s biggest, most successful, and sometimes most psychedelic bands. They've also collaborated with contemporary classical composer Nico Muhly, Beach House's Victoria Legrand, the Acme String Quartet and the Brooklyn Youth Choir. Grizzly Bear are also public radio fans, and played a set for New York Public Radio in June of 2018 at Brooklyn Bo...more

  • Exuberant Psych-Pop From Australia's Pond

    Nov 19 2018

    The band Pond hails from Perth, the Western Australian city referred to “as the most remote city on earth.” They blend blissful and mind-bending psychedelic rock, with subversive strains of funk, synth-pop, falsetto, somehow both of the moment, and informed by the past. To illustrate, in a recent video, the band went shopping at Amoeba Music in Los Angeles, and showed off their haul: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Young Thug, Tokyo Psychedelic music of the 1990’s, Tom Waits, Neil Young, 1980’s dub from ...more

  • Art-Indie-Rock Band Cloud Cult, In-Studio

    Nov 15 2018

    The cinematic Minnesota band Cloud Cult is a creative collective who continually celebrates life and love, and catharsis through music and multimedia performances, usually involving painting from stage, and lately, film. Cloud Cult’s emotive, melodic, orchestral indie rock is perfectly suited to the movies. Singer/instrumentalist Craig Minowa and his crew have scored shorts and documentary films, The Seeker, The Great Alone, and lately, Minowa has been working on a score for a National Geographi...more

  • Zen Ritual Groove Music by Nik Bärtsch's Ronin

    Nov 12 2018

    Swiss pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch creates playful and carefully balanced works containing both space and riffs. There might be as much listening going on as there is playing, which points to a spiritual focus, trust, and discipline that comes from Bärtsch's avid practice of the Japanese martial art Aikido. In his electric group, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin (after the freelance Japanese warriors who served no master), there is slow-building, ever-shifting, sensual groove reductionism. With newfound ...more

  • Glimmery Electro Art-Pop by Arthur Moon

    Nov 08 2018

    Arthur Moon is the moniker of composer/singer/multi-instrumentalist Lora-Faye Åshuvud. As Arthur Moon, she is the anchor who has gathered collaborators- including Cale Hawkins (Quincy Jones, Bilal, Wyclef Jean) and Martin D. Fowler (a composer for This American Life) and other folks. They trade demos and build on musical perspectives, which she then arranges and composes by way of experimentation and improvisation. The result is dazzling music that feels beautiful, affecting, and strange. Arthur...more

  • Michael Feinstein on Oscar Levant

    Nov 05 2018

    In the mid-20th century, pianist Oscar Levant (1906 –1972) was a pre-digital version of a social media star – a ubiquitous, witty presence on American TV and radio, and films. He was also a bestselling author, radio game show panelist, and a talk show host. As a concert pianist, his Gershwin performances, especially a 1945 version of the “Rhapsody in Blue”, were the best-selling classical records in America. But, Levant was a troubled figure off-camera and out of the limelight. He’s the subject ...more

  • Composer and Drummer Tyshawn Sorey Explores Time

    Nov 01 2018

    Newark-born composer, multi-instrumentalist, collaborator, and 2017 MacArthur Fellow Tyshawn Sorey, is also the Assistant Professor of Composition and Creative Music at Wesleyan University. A recent Instagram post (Sept. 2018) of the day’s listening ranges from Nigerian King Sunny Adé and a record by legendary drummer Tony Allen to Frank Zappa with Joseph Jarman (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Art Ensemble of Chicago), Steve Reich, and Karlheinz Stockhausen in between. On...more

  • Richard Reed Parry's 'Quiet River of Dust'

    Oct 29 2018

    Richard Reed Parry is perhaps best known as the really tall, really redheaded guy playing half a dozen instruments in the Grammy-winning band Arcade Fire. But he’s also a founder of the instrumental group Bell Orchestre, and a composer of contemporary classical music. His latest project is called Quiet River of Dust, and it was at least partly inspired by the psychedelic folk/rock scene in Britain in the late 1960's. He and Quiet River of Dust perform some of the musical meditations live in-stud...more

  • Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen Is In No Hurry

    Oct 25 2018

    Jorma Kaukonen is a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, co-founder of Hot Tuna, a teacher, and a top-notch  guitarist. But though he will always be associated with the rock music of the 1960's, he’s had a much longer and more enduring relationship with American blues and folk music, as anyone who’s heard his duo Hot Tuna or his own solo performances will know. Together with his wife, Vanessa, he owns and operates Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp, a center in Ohio for studying guitar and other inst...more

  • Matthew Dear's Sticky and Decadent Electro-Thump

    Oct 22 2018

    The composer, singer, and tinkerer, Matthew Dear, is a DJ, dance-music producer, experimental pop artist, and bandleader. He keeps four music-making aliases and has released five albums and two dozen EPs, along with multiple commissioned remixes. On this latest record, Bunny, his weird, wild, gothic, body-shaking, bouncy electronica seems sinister, yet soft; a mix of charming villain and heroic basement nerd. Matthew Dear displays his enhanced baritone as he performs some of this new music, in-s...more

  • Songwriter/Guitarist Jill Sobule Keeps Moving on 'Nostalgic' New Record

    Oct 18 2018

    Denver-born songwriter, guitarist, singer, activist, and performer Jill Sobule, is possibly best-known because of her breakthrough hit of “I Kissed a Girl” (pre-dating Katy Perry by more a decade), and “Supermodel,” the anthem from the film Clueless. In her over seven albums, troubadour Jill has "mused on topics such as the death penalty, anorexia, shoplifting, reproduction, the French resistance movement, adolescence and the Christian right." She has also written music for TV and theater, been ...more

  • Meredith Monk's 'Cellular Songs'

    Oct 15 2018

    Vocalist and composer Meredith Monk is a multi-disciplinary artist, whose work involves music, dance, film, theatre, and now: biology meets anthropology. In her most recent large-scale work, Cellular Songs, musical forms evoke biological processes as layering, replication, division, and mutation in a “deeply affecting meditation on the nature of the biological cell as a metaphor for human society” (Financial Times). Through this work, Monk takes the microscopic unit of the cell, then projects an...more

  • Inventive Art-Rock by Ohmme

    Oct 11 2018

    Chicago-based duo OHMME serves up fuzz and melodies, along with vocal hockets and harmonies, oh - and lots of time and feel changes. Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, the songwriters and multi-instrumentalists of Ohmme, are both trained classical pianists with ties to the collaborative Chicago improvising scene. They made a decision to stretch their comfort levels and go with the guitar for their noise-making, and have composed a hard-to-categorize batch of songs that lean toward the experiment...more