Podcast

Soundcheck

WNYC, New York Public Radio, brings you Soundcheck, the arts and culture program hosted by John Schaefer, who engages guests and listeners in lively, inquisitive conversations with established and rising figures in New York City's creative arts scene. Guests come from all disciplines, including pop, indie rock, jazz, urban, world and classical music, technology, cultural affairs, TV and film. Recent episodes have included features on Michael Jackson,Crosby Stills & Nash, the Assad Brothers, Rack...more

Episodes

  • Vieux Farka Touré, From The Greene Space

    Aug 08 2022

    From the 2022 New York Guitar Festival at The Greene Space, hear Malian guitar virtuoso Vieux Farka Touré. The Malian singer and guitarist's career began with collaborations with two of West Africa’s most celebrated musicians: the kora player Toumani Diabate and Vieux’s own dad, the famous guitarist Ali Farka Touré. Since then he has worked with American singer Julia Easterlin and popular Israeli musician Idan Raichel, in addition to releasing five solo studio albums rooted in the sounds and rhy...more

  • Fatoumata Diawara: A Traditionalist Who Needs to Experiment (Archives)

    Aug 04 2022

    Some time ago, Malian singer, songwriter, guitarist and actress Fatoumata Diawara did a wonderful and daring thing – inspired by her friend Rokia Traoré, she bought an acoustic guitar, and taught herself to play it. Since then, Fatoumata has put out her debut record, Fatou, collaborated with Damon Albarn's Africa Express, and contributed vocals to albums by Cheikh Lô, AfroCubism, and Orchestra Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Her 2018 record, Fenfo translates as “Something to Say”, and she plays some of ...more

  • Get into the Spiritual Trance Music by Innov Gnawa (Archives)

    Aug 01 2022

    The New York-based band Innov Gnawa performs the traditional healing music of Morocco: Gnawa - a trancey, rhythmic music that is played on an array of unique instruments — from the lute-like gimbri (sintir), to the metal qarqaba (castinets) with which the kouyos (chorus) keep time and pound out clattering, hypnotic rhythms. One of Innov Gnawa's innovations is to collaborate with modern electronic acts like Bonobo, and continue to update  “The Moroccan Blues”. Innov Gnawa performs music from thei...more

  • A Shot of Juke Music: The Band Vintage Trouble Will Not Be Contained (Archives)

    Jul 28 2022

    Los Angeles-based band Vintage Trouble is a powerfully fun time of old-school soul, southern rhythm & blues, sizzling dance moves, and catchy, crunchy guitar-driven rockenroll. When describing their own sound, the band uses the term “formatted recklessness.” Yes, and that almost puts words to their timeless and appealing concoction of old-school soul, powerful riffs and high energy showmanship. Vintage Trouble joined us live in the studio in 2018 to shake the walls with their “live-wired, st...more

  • Andrew Bird Puts His Personal Demons To Work on 'Inside Problems'

    Jul 25 2022

    Singer, songwriter, violinist, guitarist, whistler, glockenspielist, and actor (on Fargo), Andrew Bird, continues “his subversion of indie rock”, (-Schaefer) by including classical, folk, expansive violin solos, and old-time jazz; and has made a remarkable document of tilting at the windmills of his inner demons during these last few years of isolation and insularity. This latest record, 2022’s Inside Problems, sees Bird once again as an entertaining thinker who can couch dark cultural commentar...more

  • Vicente García's Immersive Collision of Bachata, Merengue, Funk, and Rock (Archives)

    Jul 18 2022

    Coming from a rock and funk place, Dominican singer-songwriter Vicente García has become something of a folk pop revivalist, incorporating his love of Afro-Caribbean rhythms, from acoustic bachata to reggae on his latest record, A La Mar. Formerly the lead singer of the band Calor Urbano, the winner of Best New Artist at the 2018 Latin Grammys has been digging into Dominican folklore, despite his having relocated to Bogotá, Colombia. (He was also up for Best Tropical Song for "Bachata In Kingsto...more

  • Jorge Drexler Captivates With Heartfelt Guitar-Based Electrified Songs (Archives)

    Jul 14 2022

    Musician, actor and doctor (otolaryngologist) Jorge Drexler grew up in Uruguay, and now lives in Spain. Listeners may be familiar with Drexler’s music because his theme song for The Motorcycle Diaries won an Academy Award (presented to him by Prince.) His 2018 album of songs, Salvavidas de Hielo, is guitar-based, but augmented by a wide sonic palette of effects – samples, loops and beats created by different parts of guitars, dobros, and banjos. There is a song that touches on the loss of the pl...more

  • Musical Poetry of Neoclassical Composer and Pianist BLKBOK

    Jul 11 2022

    Pianist and composer BLKBOK, (pronounced “Black Bach”) has played with some of the biggest pop names: Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, and John Mayer. Born Charles Wilson III, he grew up in Detroit with a traditional classical foundation and pursued more musical interests including jazz, Motown, hip-hop and the blues. While he’s not conservatory-trained, he creates by channeling his thoughts and reflections, and running them through his fingers onto the piano, creating musical poems in t...more

  • Monsieur Periné Blends Afro-Colombian Styles with Vintage Swing (Archives)

    Jul 07 2022

    The Bogotá-based Monsieur Periné has taken the the Latin music world by storm since their start in 2008. The eight piece band takes the music of their native Columbia, and infuses it with sweet swing sensibilities of the 1920's and a good dash of modern pop styles. Their upbeat and lively arrangements are engaging, detailed, and above all such a joy to move to. Their excellent musicianship and energy has not gone unnoticed; they were given a Latin Grammy award as 2015's best new artist. They hav...more

  • South African Choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo Sings of Peace and Harmony (Archives)

    Jul 04 2022

    The great South African a cappella choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo are a global phenomenon. With their uplifting vocal harmonies and signature dance moves, they’ve been anointed “cultural ambassadors to the world” by no less than Nelson Mandela. (Some listeners might recall them appearing on Paul Simon’s Graceland album back in 1986.) The group was formed in 1960 by Joseph Shabalala, has recorded more than 50 albums, and won five Grammys. Joseph Shabalala retired from the group in 2014, and died i...more

  • Singer, Actress, and Activist Lila Downs Works To Break Down Walls (Archives)

    Jun 30 2022

    Feminist icon and Mexican folklorist Lila Downs’ 2018 album Salón, Lágrimas y Deseo (Dancehall, Tears, and Desire), is dedicated to strong women everywhere. Her lyrics, inviting all “dangerous” women to join her, often highlight issues relating to social justice, while spanning blues to cumbia, folk and ranchera music. Inspired by Frida Kahlo, Downs says in an interview with Remezcla that she finds being Mexican has “a lot of value, even if the world that surrounds one doesn’t believe it.” She’s...more

  • New Zealand Artist Marlon Williams Makes Beauty Out of Agony (Archives)

    Jun 27 2022

    New Zealand singer/songwriter Marlon Williams has a voice like butter which can be charming and flirty as in the timeless crooner soon-to-be-classic, “Vampire Again,” or which can convey despair and longing, see his duet with Aldous Harding - "Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore." After his breakup from musician Aldous Harding, complicated torrents of feeling poured out in song, all delivered in a honey-smooth voice that accepts heartbreak and cultivates its beauty. Marlon Williams' 2018 record w...more

  • Calexico Makes Mariachi-Laced Music for The End Times (Archives)

    Jun 23 2022

    For the better part of two decades, the Tuscon-based desert-noir band Calexico has been making Mariachi- and Cumbia-laced expansive Americana. For their 2018 record, The Thread That Keeps Us, they explore the dual nature of anxiety and hope in these volatile times with some romance and gritty dread. The band joins us to play some of these songs in our studio. (From the Archives.) Their 2022 album, El Mirador, just out this past April, is "a hopeful, kaleidoscopic beacon of rock, bluesy ruminatio...more

  • Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell Explore Reconstruction-Era Music (Archives)

    Jun 20 2022

    African-American string band tradition meets Cajun/Creole and Appalachian music in a collaboration between singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, actor and MacArthur Fellow Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell, a multi-instrumentalist, singer, arranger, songwriter, and actor himself. Together, with banjos and fiddles, they play each other's original songs, music that takes on the slave condition of pre-Civil War times, and chat about their recent project, songs tied to the Reconstruction era cul...more

  • Curse of Lono's Gothic Rock for a Late-Night Drive

    Jun 16 2022

    For the guitarist, vocalist, and bandleader of the London-based Curse of Lono, Felix Bechtolsheimer, these past few years have been steeped with loss: his father, uncle, ex-partner, and his band – whose lineup was completely overhauled to the pandemic. The band’s name comes from Hunter S. Thompson’s 1983 book of the same name, and their cinematic southern gothic country songs land somewhere between The Rolling Stones, Wilco, Lou Reed, the Doors, Leonard Cohen and Lee Hazelwood. Bechtolsheimer’s ...more

  • Richmond Duo Lean Year's Slowcore Minimalist Folk, In-Studio (Archives)

    Jun 13 2022

    Dreamy slow-core folk duo Lean Year is Virginia-based singer Emilie Rex and filmmaker/musician Rick Alverson, along with contributions from Chicago musician/engineer Erik Hall and guest artists. Their musical palette is one of soft-spoken but direct vocals, a Telecaster guitar dredging through peaceful waters, baritone saxophone and clarinet parts, Rhodes, tape-warps, and waves of strings. Lean Year joins us in-studio to play some of these cutting and quiet minimalist folk tunes. (From the Archi...more

  • String Quintet Sybarite5, In-Studio (Archives)

    Jun 09 2022

    Since their inception over a decade ago, the string quintet Sybarite5 has built a global audience, from Lincoln Center to The Cutting Room and the Museum of Sex; from the Apple Store to the Library of Congress, and a music salon-like residency at NYC’s the cell, along with multiple international and national tours, residencies, and festivals. The five players (Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass) have made it their quest ...more

  • Pow Wow Singer Joe Rainey's Voice and Beats: Same River, Different Boat

    Jun 06 2022

    Pow Wow singer Joe Rainey, of the Ojibwe community in Minneapolis, fuses traditional melodies and “vocables” (Philip Sherburne, Pitchfork) with the producer Andrew Broder in something of an avant-hip hop partnership, although in addition to beats, there are field recordings, industrial-sounding processed drums, string arrangements, and vocal processing. He describes his music as being on the same river, but a different boat from other pow wow singers and groups. Rainey’s album Niineta—the title ...more

  • Anbessa Orchestra Plays Music of Ethiopia Straight Outta Brooklyn (Archives)

    Jun 02 2022

    In the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, during the 1960’s and ‘70s, the sounds of American jazz and James Brown-style funk rocketed through the clubs there, combining with Ethiopia’s own exotic scales to produce the golden age of Ethiopian pop. The New York-based 7-piece band Anbessa Orchestra draws from this era and aims to take the listener on a musical journey from Addis Ababa to Brooklyn, with the loping grooves, buoyant brass lines, moody organ, crisp guitars, and solid percussion. Their 201...more

  • Anna & Elizabeth Transform Old Traditions of Mountain Music (Archives)

    May 30 2022

    As bands go, Anna & Elizabeth have quite the origin story. Anna & Elizabeth began thanks to a broke down car and a shared desire to explore the traditions of Appalachian roots music. The immersive, intimate combination of Elizabeth LaPrelle’s deep mountain voice (from Virginia), Anna Roberts-Gevalt’s modern one (from Vermont), their sweet harmonies, and minimalist arrangements is striking. The duo’s latest record, The Invisible Comes to Us, co-produced by Anna and Benjamin Lazar Davis (a...more

  • Canadian Indie-Pop Band Stars Suggests Nostalgia With Love

    May 26 2022

    Canadian indie-pop band Stars makes almost orchestral pop that has the bonus quality of being danceable. They’ve also got a knack for vividly descriptive storytelling, built around the dueling vocals of singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. Formed in the early 2000’s, Stars has been “remarkably stable” over the years; they enjoy making one another laugh, they've written a play, and even fiction about themselves.  Their ninth studio album, From Capelton Hill, covers pandemic shock, explores me...more

  • Jose Conde's Funk-Tropical Pop Refracts Miami's Musical Landscape

    May 23 2022

    Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and bandleader Jose Conde (of the tropical Latin dance band Ola Fresca) draws on the musical melting pot of Miami for his latest solo effort, Souls Alive in the 305. With some music inspired by cicadas and frogs, and George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog,” he combines funk, breakbeat, disco rap, rock n roll, Cuban music and salsa into songs that sound like “the Miami musical landscape of my youth.” Jose Conde and his band perform remotely for the Soundcheck Podcast. - Caryn...more

  • Members of British Band Porridge Radio, Live From The Greene Space

    May 19 2022

    Part art-rock, part post-punk, Porridge Radio is a band from Brighton, UK, led by singer and guitarist Dana Margolin. Her earliest songs were full of imagery of the sea and the seaside town where the band resides, and the latest collection of songs are intense, addressing joy, fear, and endlessness - and full of dry wit. Now that they’ve had a restful 2020, Margolin and bandmate Sam Yardley (keyboards, drums) play stripped-down versions of tunes from their new record, Waterslide, Diving Board, L...more

  • Wardruna: Nordic Folk Music of the Ancients, Rooted in Nature (Archives)

    May 16 2022

    Norwegian band Wardruna creates music born of Nordic history, Norse runes and nature - and is led by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Einar Selvik, who composed music for the TV series Vikings. (He was formerly the drummer in the black metal band Gorgoroth under stage name Kvitrafn, for those keeping track.)  Hear a captivating combination of old and recreated Norse historical instruments: Tagelharpa (bowed harp-lyre), birchbark lure (a trumpet), goat horns, Kraviklyra, instruments from natu...more

  • Bette Smith: Muscular Soul at a Fever Pitch (Archives)

    May 12 2022

    Bette Smith was born and raised in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn – but on her debut LP called Jetlagger she draws on the gospel she sang in the church and the soul music she heard on the block on hot summer nights music growing up on the corner of Nostrand and Fulton. On the 2018 record Jetlagger, the tunes range from originals to covers of Staples Singers and Isaac Hayes classics, showcasing Smith’s deep, confident, and powerful voice. Amidst rugged, muscular arrangements that hearken to the timeless soun...more

  • Manchester Rock Band elbow Makes Joyful, Emotive, Orchestral Songs (Archives)

    May 09 2022

    The rock band elbow (small "e") hails from greater Manchester and makes subtle, sensitive, anthemic, joyful music, sometimes augmented with the strings of the Hallé Orchestra, (which they did not bring with them.) Guy Garvey’s vocals and wordplay are perched atop a well-orchestrated but never overwrought blend of melodic bass, guitar and piano riffs, and pulsing percussion, all the while squeezing out a wide range of bottled emotions onto expansive life paintings. They’ve referred to themselves ...more

  • Bjarte Eike & Barokksolistene (The Alehouse Boys) Tear It Up In-Studio (Archives)

    May 02 2022

    The Norwegian band called Barokksolistene is out to give classical music a bad name. They’re trying to drag classical music – and especially Baroque music – down to the level of folk musicians fiddling in back of a pub. We here at WNYC fully support this sort of thing. Led by violinist Bjarte Eike, the band Barokksolistene has created a project they call The Alehouse Sessions, where they merrily blend together the sounds of Baroque music, drinking songs from the British Isles, and folk fiddling ...more

  • Philadephia's The Districts Dance Forward In Spite of Fear

    Apr 28 2022

    Philadelphia's The Districts have opened for Modest Mouse, and been compared to Sharon van Etten and the Killers. On their latest, 2022's Great American Painting, the songs take on the paradox of the state of the country, going from the big, tough ideas about gun violence, police brutality and oppressive structures to contemplating spiritual life in the remote and isolated pure landscapes and scenery in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, (Track by track, Flood Magazine.) The band’s aim is to p...more

  • The Pioneering Techno of the Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble

    Apr 25 2022

    Composer, DJ, and techno pioneer Carl Craig joins us with the Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble. Lately, Carl Craig has been venturing beyond the usual techno venues through his work with chamber ensembles and orchestras, including the Chineke! Orchestra. Recently, the Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble played at Carnegie Hall, as part of its Afrofuturism series. The Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble recorded live tracks at Spot Lite in Detroit for today's podcast. Carl Craig - Max Fine Set List: "At L...more

  • Kae Tempest Leaves on a Note of Love

    Apr 21 2022

    Kae Tempest is a gifted wordsmith and performer; their two previous albums were both nominated for the Mercury Prize. Their 2022 album, The Line is a Curve, addresses struggles with mental health, as well as Kae’s own journey with their non-binary identity, and features collaborations with some of the South London creative community. Tempest offers live performances of music from the record, and spoke with host John Schaefer in London about the new album. - Caryn Havlik Set list: “More Pressure”...more

  • So Percussion Hits for the Cycles With Jason Treuting's 'Nine Numbers'

    Apr 18 2022

    The four members of Sō Percussion can turn nearly anything into a playable instrument – blocks, bells, drums, and other surfaces (as well as lumber, flower pots, garden tools – don’t set them loose in a hardware store.) Composer and So-founding member Jason Treuting has even turned the numbers 1-9, as in the Japanese puzzle game, sudoku, into an immense pattern-based work called Nine Numbers, which uses interlocking rhythms and melodies, as well as the plosives (some of the hard consonants in En...more

  • Songwriter Lizzy McAlpine's Tender Pop Is Laced With Stealthy Wit

    Apr 14 2022

    Singer/songwriter/guitarist Lizzy McAlpine processes heartache, dreams, love, and breakups, with striking detail and sharp wit on her latest record, Five Seconds Flat. McAlpine is already a veteran songwriter who sets a tone with some chords on the guitar, and vividly describes vulnerable situations and tender feelings with a clever balance of wit and weirdness. She has lately been working at setting up her ideal balance of silence with big productions, some including guest artists Jacob Collier...more

  • The Intimate, "Deranged Pop" of Songwriter/Composer Gabriel Kahane, Live From The Greene Space

    Apr 11 2022

    Gabriel Kahane writes classical music and what he called “deranged pop”; his new 2022 album, Magnificent Bird, was written after spending a year off the internet. The results are deeply personal but also a celebration of his musical community. He plays most of the new album as well as songs from his previous album, Book of Travelers, which documented an 8,980-mile railway journey in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Gabriel Kahane and a special guest string quartet perform in an intimate setti...more

  • Minimalist Droney Dream Pop by Saltland (Archives)

    Apr 07 2022

    Hear music from the Montreal-based one-woman band, Saltland, aka cellist Rebecca Foon, from her2017 album, A Common Truth. She layers multiple loops of her cello, atop a rich set of drones, live in-studio. (From the Archives, 2017.)     

  • Anand Wilder (Ex-Yeasayer) Returns to Songcraft With A Jangly Pop-timistic Retro Sound

    Apr 04 2022

    Anand Wilder has released his debut solo album after the breakup of the band Yeasayer.  I Don’t Know My Words (written and recorded throughout lockdown) is full of great, wide-angled pop, which may look to 1970s hippie music and Indian popular cinema. For the Soundcheck Podcast, Anand Wilder and his band play some of these songs from his studio, in arrangements including mountain dulcimer and steamy EWI (electronic wind instrument.) – Caryn Havlik

  • Powered by Breath and Electronics, Tuba Player Theon Cross Plays to Win

    Mar 31 2022

    Theon Cross is a stunning tuba player, a member of Mercury-nominated group Sons Of Kemet, and a central figure on London’s new music scene. He’s also just released a solo album full of inventive ways of processing and extending the tuba’s sound, while drawing on Caribbean music, grime, jazz, and the city’s spoken word scene.  He and his quartet offer live, instrumental versions of some of those songs for the Soundcheck Podcast.

  • Traditional Music Enthusiast Jake Xerxes Fussell Shines Up Antique Songs

    Mar 24 2022

    North Carolina-based traditional musician Jake Xerxes Fussell approaches ostensibly antique songs of the American south as a folklorist and as a creative musician, pulling out the relatable bits and going for the unexpected arrangements, including pedal steel, horns, and strings. He’s a lifelong student and researcher of folk and roots and blues music – second generation, actually, since his father was also a folklorist – and can hold forth on murder ballads, disaster songs, Choctaw fiddlers, se...more

  • Cloud Cult Hums Through the Change, With a Sense of Wonder

    Mar 21 2022

    The orchestral-folk-rock Minnesota band Cloud Cult is a creative collective who continually celebrates catharsis, change, and comfort through music and multimedia performances. [They’re also hailed as one of the Top 10 Green Bands by Rolling Stone with environmentally-sound packaging, a geothermal-powered studio, and touring with net zero greenhouse gases.] The latest record, Metamorphosis, is “all about inner change... from the kind that's marinated in joy to the kind that hurts like hell but s...more

  • Strings and Soul of Haitian Songstress Emeline Michel

    Mar 17 2022

    The New York-based Haitian singer and songwriter Emeline Michel combines traditional Haitian kompa, rasyn, and twoubadou music with jazz, R & B, and her gospel choir roots. She is a Red Cross Ambassador, and some of her lyrics deal with social issues, especially those affecting women and children. Emeline Michel and her band play moving and joyful tunes, both old and new, for the Soundcheck Podcast. Emeline Michel plays at Chelsea Table + Stage on Friday, March 18. Set list: Pé Leténel, Que ...more

  • 216 Is The Magic Number for Guitarist Brad Barr's Collection of Instrumentals

    Mar 14 2022

    Guitarist and songwriter Brad Barr of the Montreal-based indie-folk band The Barr Brothers has just released an unusual solo record of instrumentals, The Winter Mission -  “a kaleidoscope of sound” (Schaefer), featuring many different members of the guitar family, loops, and the shruti box (used to provide the drone in Indian classical music.) Over the 12 songs of the album (and perhaps 216 notes), there is “a gorgeous unsettledness that resists the drift into background music," (Missing Piece G...more

  • The Immersive Sonic Flow of Finnish Duo Tapani Rinne & Juha Mäki-Patola's 'Open'

    Mar 10 2022

    Finnish composers Tapani Rinne (tenor sax, clarinet) and Juha Maki-Patola (keyboards and electronics) skate between jazz, neo-classical, and ambient music, leaning heavily on improvisation and electronic processing for their collaborative album, Open. These two veteran musicians – saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Tapani Rinne has been releasing records since the 1980’s while Juha Maki-Patola is a producer, musician, and engineer – connected online via Instagram during the pandemic, and beg...more

  • Yonder Mountain String Band Brings the Fiery Shred

    Mar 07 2022

    Bluegrass quintet Yonder Mountain String Band dips into rock, prog, and improvisational music for their latest record, Get Yourself Outside. The band - founding members guitarist Adam Aijala, bassist Ben Kaufmann and banjoist Dave Johnston, plus fiddle player Allie Kral (who joined in 2015) along with new multi-instrumentalist Nick Piccininn - began writing the album remotely during the pandemic, collaborating virtually across time zones. The sound is entirely acoustic (and without drums) with f...more

  • Shane Parish Expands Sea Shanties for Electric Guitar

    Mar 03 2022

    Guitarist Shane Parish of the avant instrumental jazz-mathpunk band Ahleuchatistas, is also an educator, arranger, composer, and podcaster. Lately, as a solo artist, he has mined the world of folk music – specifically “weird old Americana” and  “traditional music filtered through one guitarist’s non-traditional subjectivity,” (Bandcamp) Shane Parish's most recent musical adventures on a new record called Liverpool are based around spacious, moody, unexpected arrangements of sea shanties for elec...more

  • Feel the Force of OMD's Electro Dance-Pop Revival (Archives)

    Feb 28 2022

    The appealingly danceable music of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, or OMD, as the trailblazing synth-driven electronic band came to be known, has delighted and charmed listeners for decades. They formed in the late 1970's, greatly inspired by Kraftwerk, and with influences ranging from CAN to Barry White. Their string of breakout hits stretched through the 1980's, like "Electricity," "Tesla Girls," & "So In Love," while their song, "If You Leave," written specifically for the John Hughes ...more

  • Emily Wells Smolders and Scorches, Sends Her 'Regards To The End'

    Feb 24 2022

    Polymathic composer, producer, and video artist Emily Wells plays new works off her latest album Regards to the End. On it she explores the AIDS crisis, climate change, and her lived experience—as a queer musician from a long line of preachers, watching the world burn—in immaculately layered yet spare songs that impel the listener to be attuned, acting like a magnet on our attention. Wells, a multi-instrumentalist who comes from a classical background in violin, builds the songs by sampling her ...more

  • Pink Martini's Exotic Musical Journey Continues (Archives)

    Feb 21 2022

    Portland, Oregon-based Pink Martini whisks listeners away on globetrotting musical journeys, singing in Armenian, Portuguese, Arabic, French & Xhosa, among many other languages - and that's just their latest record, Je Dis Oui!. Their founder, pianist Thomas Lauderdale, recently described the group this way: "If the United Nations had a house band in 1962, we aspire to be that band." The 'little orchestra'- some 12-members strong, takes over our studio. 

  • Shilpa Ray Hand-Stamped The Nightlife And She's Stronger For It (Archives)

    Feb 17 2022

    The wonderfully twisted, self-possessed, wry, leather jacket-armored dark humored queen of the downtown night, Shilpa Ray, survived working the door at the Lower East Side / New York City bar Pianos. And she’s turned that harsh reality into an album of cutting commentary. On the 2017 record Door Girl, Shilpa Ray plays with throwback “girl group” sounds – except she’s got backing guy vocals and crisp production. Her songs are full of acerbic observations on desperate people, some quite personal -...more

  • Unhinged and Opulent Pop Music by Cate Le Bon

    Feb 14 2022

    The musician, songwriter, and producer, Cate Le Bon, offers new music from her latest album, Pompeii, composed in the “uninterrupted vacuum,” of the current times –global pandemic plus climate emergency’s colliding eco-traumas. Le Bon plays every instrument (except drums and saxophones) on hazy, opulent, and sometimes sonically minimal songs, which are of the moment, playful, satirical, and surreal. Unhinged opulence rests in sonic deconstruction that finds coherence in pop structures, when Cate...more

  • FPA's Chamber-Electronic Story of Princess Wiko

    Feb 10 2022

    FPA, aka Frances Priya Anczarski, the Minnesotan songwriter, producer, artist, and daydreamer, works with a slow and romantic beauty in her music. She loves the ellipsis of possibility, and on her 2021 release, Princess Wiko, fuses bedroom pop, folk traditions, spoken word, hip hop, and chamber orchestration (aided by producer/musician Andrew Broder, a mainstay of the 37d03d collective) for a melancholic, medieval-era princess on a journey of love and self-discovery. FPA performs a few of these ...more

  • Shamir's Latest Indie Pop Skews Industrial Synth

    Feb 07 2022

    Shamir is a musician, songwriter, producer, painter, chef, actor, and filmmaker, and on his new album, Heterosexuality, uses the sounds of rock, R&B, and industrial synth - all within a pop framework - to challenge perceptions about gender and to explore his own queer identity. As he croons on his song “Cisgender” that “I don’t want to be a girl / I don’t want to be a man / I’m just existing on this god forsaken land /And you can take it or leave it / Or you can just stay back”, he reaches h...more

  • Spell Songs Works Magic to Reconnect To and Re-Wild Nature

    Feb 03 2022

    Folk collective Spell Songs was born as a musical companion to the two books of meditations on nature by writer Robert MacFarlane and artist and naturalist Jackie Morris. The recordings are tender naturalist-chamber-folk spell-poems of wildness, beauty, loss, and hope, inspired by the creatures, art and language in The Lost Words and The Lost Spells books. Each spell is a summoning of sorts, conjuring an animal, bird, tree or flower - from Barn Owl to Red Fox, Oak to Bramble, Jay to Jackdaw - wi...more

  • Electronic Pop & Chamber Music By Anna Meredith (Archives)

    Jan 31 2022

    British singer, producer, and composer Anna Meredith is a musical chameleon, fusing contemporary chamber with electronics and dance music on her record, Varmints. Actually, classical, rock, electronica, and minimalism are all part of Anna Meredith’s sonic palette, and in addition to a stint as composer in residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, she is also a singer/songwriter who leads her own unusually constructed band - wielding keys, laptop, bells, & clarinet alongside a band ...more

  • British Songwriter, Laura Marling, As Ever, Herself (Archives)

    Jan 27 2022

    The British singer/songwriter Laura Marling returns with a refined sixth record Semper Femina, whose Latin title implies a more gender-specific note. The album is a gripping collection of poetic takes on womanhood- complete with seductive and ravishing arrangements. Unexpected deployments of strings – all kinds - and electronics create graceful swooping textures to augment her poised and polished songs. Laura Marling and her band play some of these intimate literary musings in-studio. (From the ...more

  • Sam Amidon Experiments with Folk Music (Archives)

    Jan 24 2022

    The London-based Vermont-born singer/fiddler/banjoist/guitarist and scion of a family of shape-note singers, Sam Amidon, has a reputation for having collected, re-imagined, and performed American traditional tunes or other folk music, in addition to collaborations with Kronos Quartet and composer Nico Muhly. In spring of 2017, Amidon released his first album of original music, which is an experiment in trying out the Appalachian music he loves, as well as "improvisation, beats, Don Cherry, Vermo...more

  • Aimee Mann's Catchy, Dark, Smart & Thoughtful Songwriting (Archives)

    Jan 20 2022

    Songwriter Aimee Mann left her successful major label band Til Tuesday back in the early 1990's and never looked back. Her stunning recording resume includes classic songs from "Magnolia," include the Oscar-nominated "Save Me", as well as numerous records, released on her own label. Many of her slow, bruising, crafty, and catchy songs may shine with sadness on the outside, but as ever, they bristle with smart observations and intriguing perspectives. Aimee Mann and her trio play songs from her 2...more

  • Beirut-based Band Mashrou' Leila Courts Controversy (Archives)

    Jan 17 2022

    Beirut-based indie-rock band Mashrou’ Leila tackles taboo topics - political corruption, same-sex love, religion (inter-religious marriage), and Middle Eastern feminism. Their catchy and danceable Arabic pop songs are full of guitars, drum machines, samples, violin and frontman Hamed Sinno’s sensual voice. In the years since they first formed in 2008, they’ve become both enormously popular and enormously controversial, even banned in some countries. Mashrou’ Leila’s 2015 record, Ibn el Leil - me...more

  • Silvana Estrada Explores Love and Loss

    Jan 13 2022

    The Mexican singer-songwriter and arranger Silvana Estrada offers poeticism and a fresh take on traditional folk music resulting in a deeply heartfelt and lyrical sound which may tug at the heartstrings. A multi-instrumentalist raised in a musical home in the mountain town of Veracruz, she plays the Venezuelan cuatro (a four-stringed guitar) in many of her songs. The tangled roots of her musical influences mix the folk stylings of son jarocho (from the Gulf Coast of Mexico), Portuguese fado, jaz...more

  • Guitarist Margaret Glaspy Delivers Crunch & Thunder (Archives)

    Jan 10 2022

    Guitarist and singer Margaret Glaspy released her album Emotions and Math in 2016, and promptly found herself on a whole bunch of year-end lists of the best albums of the year, including those of the New York Times and NPR. It’s not hard to hear why – at times Glaspy snarls her way through love’s trials and travails, while her guitar snarls and thunders right along with her. At others, she offers something a little more subdued, even melancholy. Glaspy and her trio join us to play songs from Emo...more

  • John Doe (Frontman of X): An L.A. Punk Plays Tough Folk (Archives)

    Jan 06 2022

    John Doe is a musician, actor, and author, and one of the founding fathers of the L.A. punk scene with his band X, which continues to this day. He has co-authored and collected first-hand accounts of L.A. punk experiences in the book, Under the Big Black Sun. John Doe has also done country and folk music with his other band The Knitters, and released ten solo albums. The last is called The Westerner, which came out in 2016, and John Doe returned to play some of his solo songs in-studio in 2017. ...more

  • The Captivating Analog Synth Artistry of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (Archives)

    Jan 03 2022

    The west coast-based sound-maker and experimenter Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith weaves melodic patterns and pulses, using various analogue synthesizers – like the rare EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer, a vintage Buchla modular synthesizer, earning her a fun title as a composer and producer – “synthesist.”  On Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's 2017 album, The Kid, she crafts a playfully strange expression of human awareness via these synthesized sound designs that falls neither in the pop world nor the avant/classical o...more

  • Best of Soundcheck Podcast 2021, Part 2

    Dec 30 2021

    Listen to London’s Afrofuturist jazz masters Sons of Kemet, New York-based poet, composer, and stutterer JJJJJerome Ellis, and the custom baritone guitar of South African Guy Buttery. AND you must see and hear the prepared guitar of Sardinian composer, ethnomusicologist, and instrument builder Paolo Angeli, who filmed a beautiful remote session on the shores of Sardinia. Grammy-winning diva Angélique Kidjo brings a super-charged performance to The Greene Space and puts an exclamation point on 20...more

  • Best of Soundcheck Podcast 2021, Part 1

    Dec 27 2021

    Hear/Watch some of the 2021 highlights for the Soundcheck Podcast by Amsterdam-based Turkish psych band Altin Gün, London pianist and soundscape artist Neil Cowley, composer/vocalist/pianist Samora Pinderhughes’ art/protest songs, and Guatemalan cellist Mabe Fratti. Plus, singer and guitarist Torres and her band, live from The Greene Space. - Caryn Havlik Altin Gün – “Ordunun Dereleri” Neil Cowley – “String Think” Samora Pinderhughes – “Stare Straight Ahead”Mabe Fratti – “Nadie Sabe”Torres – “T...more

  • Angelica Garcia Rocks With Country-Blues Roots (Archives)

    Dec 23 2021

    Los Angeles-born, Virginia-based singer-songwriter Angelica Garcia harnesses some country-blues twang, playing songs from her debut full-length, "Medicine for Birds," live, with her full band, in the studio. She taps into the magnolia trees, starry skies, and the ghosts of gothic Americana, written in her newfound isolation of a dusty old parish house in Accomac, Virginia.  

  • Sam Lee: A Trailblazer For The Traditional (Archives)

    Dec 20 2021

    Sam Lee is much more than a musician - he's a storyteller. In "Blackbird," from his album The Fade In Time, his deep croons and intricate vocals breathe life into forgotten stories, drawing you into a colorful and heart-wrenching world. The album title is appropriate, since he collects traditional English songs and repurposes them for a new place and time.  Not many traditional English folk singers came from North London, studied at Chelsea School of Art and worked as a forager and wilderness ex...more

  • Garland Jeffreys: Still 'Wild In The Streets' (Archives)

    Dec 16 2021

    Lou Reed. Dr. John. Bruce Springsteen. John Cale. Levon Helm. Garland Jeffreys has collaborated with all of them, and his gravelly voice, roots-rock DNA, and trenchant writing has always channeled the best bits of each of them.  A recording artist since the 1960s, Brooklyn native Jeffreys has had more career ups (and downs) than most artists can dream of today, but he's riding yet another wave of creativity and energy. His loose and rollicking 2013 album Truth Serum was lauded by critics and fan...more

  • Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra Build Crystal Structures of Chamber-Dance Music (Archives)

    Dec 13 2021

    London-based dance music artist, classically trained pianist/composer, and Chicago native Kate Simko, along with the London Electronic Orchestra, combine harp, violin, cello & laptop, live in the studio. Layers of clubby electronics and keyboards support delicate harp, violin and cello melodies. Altogether, the result is a buoyant, airy, and uplifting hybrid dance music - something like a film score for a documentary about a days-long party in Ibiza. (From the Archives, 2017.)  

  • Songwriter Jennifer O'Connor Shakes It Up And Surprises

    Dec 09 2021

    Singer, guitarist, songwriter, and label owner, Jennifer O’Connor has gone from acoustic guitar to plugged-in rockenroll band and now to crafting nostalgic-sounding Logic-based songs in her 20-year career. Her latest album is the perhaps misleadingly-titled Born at the Disco, recorded in large part by O’Connor herself at home, upending her usual process by using drum machines and synths to play and create, with touchstones like the Jesus and Mary Chain and maybe the Swedish pop artist, Robyn. Je...more

  • The Brilliant Power Pop of The New Pornographers (Archives)

    Dec 06 2021

    Since forming back around the turn of this century, the New Pornographers have consistently been one of indie rock’s top attractions - reliable purveyors of big hooks, anthemic choruses, and Technicolor orchestrations. The band is a supergroup of sorts, with a mutable lineup of singers and instrumentalists, but the first among equals has always been vocalist and songwriter Carl Newman. He joins John Schaefer to talk about the band’s 2017 album, called Whiteout Conditions. AND, some of the band p...more

  • Southern Blues & Rock of Reverend Sekou & The Sealbreakers (Archives)

    Dec 02 2021

    The Reverend Osagyefo Sekou draws from a deep well of American music on his new album, called In Times Like These. Blues and gospel traditions, but specifically also "North Mississippi Hill Country Music, Arkansas Delta Blues, 1960s Rock and Roll, Memphis Soul, Chuck Berry St Louis vibes, and Pentecostal steel guitar." Now if you’re thinking that those are musical holdovers from another time, the activist, author, documentary filmmaker and theologian Reverend Sekou wants you to know that that mu...more

  • Into It. Over It. Has Standards. (Archives)

    Nov 29 2021

    There’s something about the band name Into It. Over It. that seems perfect for the digital age, when we rush to crown the Next Big Thing one week and abandon it for the new Next Big Thing a week later. But Chicago singer and songwriter Evan Thomas Weiss has managed to keep an even keel through nearly a decade and several full-length albums, keeping Into It. Over It. as both a touring band and as an occasional solo project. The band’s 2016 album was called Standards (no, he doesn’t sing Gershwin ...more

  • Sharkmuffin: Jagged, Riotous Power Pop (Archives)

    Nov 25 2021

    Brooklyn's Sharkmuffin met cute on July 4, 2012 at a beach house that was later destroyed by Hurricane Sandy - a possible reason why the band's music is visceral, explosive, sharp and a little dangerous. Tarra Thiessen (guitar, vocals, theremin, pocket piano) and Natalie Kirch (bass, vocals, claps) make up the core of the band, with frequently-rotating drummers. Hear them perform their short slap-in-the-face songs live in-studio. (From the Archives, 2015.)

  • Mac McCaughan: Superchunk's Frontman Goes Solo On 'Non-Believers' (Archives)

    Nov 22 2021

    For longtime indie rock fans, it's kinda hard to believe that Mac McCaughan has been making music for more than 25 years. Soon after leaving Columbia University in 1987, the Durham, North Carolina native both formed Superchunk and co-founded Merge Records - alongside bassist and savvy financial manager Laura Ballance - in 1989. And since then, Superchunk has released ten albums and countless singles -- and several more records with his on-again/off-again project Portastatic. And Merge has grown ...more

  • Torres Approaches Power Pop Crunch

    Nov 18 2021

    Torres, aka singer and guitarist Mackenzie Scott, unleashes the exuberant energy of a post-plague celebration with her latest album, Thirstier. She writes about passion and desire and “bringing my girlfriend lunch so she can keep painting.” Adding to these romantic sentiments are the overt power pop crunch of muscular and hooky guitars, Moog-enhanced melodies and Torres’ expressive voice, which goes from hug to howl. Torres and her band declare their arena rock intentions live in The Greene Spac...more

  • Little May: Urgent Harmonies, Anthemic Appeal (Archives)

    Nov 15 2021

    Little May is an Australian trio whose signature sounds include dark and poetic lyrics, urgent guitar strumming and, above all, beautiful 3-part vocal harmonies. Their 2015 album, For The Company, was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and may have a bit of New York in its musical DNA. The band has toured with Mumford and Sons, Alabama Shakes, and others, and in 2015, they stopped by our studio for a live set. (Archives.)

  • Danish Chamber-Pop Group Efterklang Keeps Experimenting

    Nov 11 2021

    Efterklang is a Danish band consisting of the 3 childhood friends Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen & Rasmus Stolberg, although the band often expands when playing live. For over twenty years, they have been collaborating and experimenting to arrive at a sound that evades easy labeling, so we’ll call it art-rock-indie-folk-chamber-pop. They play new songs from their latest, "Windflowers," remotely for the Soundcheck Podcast.

  • Poet, Composer, Stutterer JJJJJerome Ellis Creatively Shapes Time

    Nov 08 2021

    Poet, sax player, electronic music producer, storyteller, and composer JJJJJerome Ellis is a stutterer. On his 2021 album The Clearing, he takes speech disfluency and considers how it affects one’s experience of time. JJJJJerome Ellis offers live performances of works from his new album and shares how to say “I stutter” in Portuguese. 

  • Paolo Angeli: Between Innovation and Tradition

    Nov 04 2021

    The guitarist, composer, ethnomusicologist, and instrument builder Paolo Angeli is associated with traditional Sardinian music and has co-organized an international arts festival in Palau since 1996. He has collaborated with Pat Metheny (who uses Angeli's guitar in Orchestrion), Fred Frith, Hamid Drake, Iva Bittova, Zeena Parkins, and Derek Gripper. Paolo Angeli plays the prepared Sardinian guitar, a hybrid electro-acoustic instrument that looks like a guitar crossed with a cello, and has virtua...more

  • Angélique Kidjo: Building Connections and Living Her Passion

    Nov 01 2021

    Multiple Grammy-winner and longtime UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo pulls together multiple generations, collaborating with global pop stars Burna Boy and Yemi Alade among others, in addition to focusing on our connection to the natural world for her latest album, Mother Nature. Through a signature combination of West African music, jazz, and funk, and using her incredible voice as instrument, Kidjo asks us to honor Mother Nature, and hopes that one lesson that people might learn from...more

  • Squealy-Fuzz Pop Band Upper Wilds Throws Down Very Fast Love Songs

    Oct 28 2021

    Brooklyn trio Upper Wilds features Dan Friel (ex-Parts & Labor) on guitar, vocals, and effects, bassist Jason Binnick, and drummer Jeff Ottenbacher and is really exceptional at making fuzzy-noisy songs with big pop riffs, usually concealed within explosive sonic textures.  They’ve now released the third in a series of albums about the planets, Venus, and the band is continuing their way further out as they go, planning to release a seven inch when they get to Pluto. Friel confides that he’s ...more

  • South African Guitarist and Sound Technician Guy Buttery Plays With Possibility

    Oct 25 2021

    Guitar innovator and part-time sound technician Guy Buttery discusses the spontaneous recording session with two master musicians, Mohd. Amjad Khan (tabla) & Mudassir Khan (sarangi), called One Morning In Gurgaon. He plays Indian classical music-inspired tunes remotely from South Africa on a custom baritone guitar and improvises on Raag Yaman playing the surbahar (bass sitar). Watch "Kya Baat": Watch "Surbahar the Mule":