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Sean Rowe has a voice and a style that stands out in popular music. His voice is deep — really, truly deep — fine, and often doleful. He's a baritone troubadour who sings of roads not taken, regrets and the dreams that shake you awake at 3 in the morning.

After years of working bars, road houses and more bars, Rowe is playing concert stages and winning over critics for his story-songs and that remarkable voice. But, as he tells NPR's Scott Simon, he wasn't always so proud to be a singer.

Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson is a modern-day troubadour whose crooning voice and acoustic folk songs often get him compared to Bob Dylan. Matsson recently released his third full-length solo album, There's No Leaving Now, under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth.

English singer-songwriter Beth Orton is one of the best-known practitioners of a subgenre in which folk songs are set to electronic beats — it's a sound she employed to popular and powerful effect throughout the late '90s and early '00s, on hit albums such as Trailer Park, Central Reservation and Daybreaker.

Here's Anders playing Love is Taking its Toll.

Seth and Scott Avett spend a good chunk of their lives on one tour bus or another, so asking them to perform in one isn't all that different from asking them to perform in one of their own living rooms. They may be far away from their native North Carolina — to be exact, they're captured here in a Camden, N.J., parking lot in conjunction with the XPoNential Music Festival — but the setting is cozy enough for Seth Avett to brew tea before performing.

Aimee Mann's eighth studio record, Charmer, comes out in a month. Charmer is also the title — and subject — of the album's first video, which features a robot double of Mann played by three-time Academy Award-nominated actress Laura Linney of The Truman Show, The Squid and the Whale and The Big C.

The video, directed by Tom Scharpling, deals lightheartedly with the idea of fame and persona with Mann playing herself and Linney playing her robot double.

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America is an album packed with melody and noise, minimalism and excess, harshness and beauty — sometimes all the same time. Dan Deacon's music is steeped in pop, electronics and classical music, making this record an absolute adventure.

The prelude to Canadian singer-songwriter Corb Lund's new album sounds like a classic country music song. Lund built a cabin in rural Alberta with his longtime girlfriend and favorite uncle, but after the cabin was completed, his girlfriend left and his uncle died. Snowed in for weeks at a time, Lund emerged with Cabin Fever, the title of his new album.

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The word "supergroup" gets thrown around like so much confetti, then affixed to any band whose members have worked on high-profile projects of any kind in the past. But not all supergroups are the bloated product of committee thinking or Frankensteinian ego exercises; some are just established musicians who've discovered organically that they like working with certain other established musicians.

On this week's show hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton share some of their favorite new discoveries, including the Kate Bush-inspired Swedish duo Niki And The Dove, German experimental pianist Nils Frahm, and a surprising new album from singer Amanda Palmer.

Also on the show: the best new music in a decade from the Chicago-based band Sea And Cake; the inimitable storytelling of Swedish pop singer Jens Lekman; and an epic new album from post-punk veterans Swans.

Debo Band: Ethiopian Funk, Reinvented

Aug 13, 2012

Boston's Debo Band takes inspiration from a golden era of popular music in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the late '60s and early '70s. During a brief period of cultural freedom in Ethiopia, funk and soul music fused spectacularly with local traditions. Debo Band's debut album both honors and updates the sound of "swinging Addis."

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For the L.A. band Lord Huron, there's far more to music than merely playing sweetly summery, rhythmically inventive pop. There's also an air of mystery: a desire to tell stories, play with identities and craft visuals to complement its sounds. The bouncy "Time to Run" is a tremendously ingratiating song, but the band's video piles on new dimensions to make it that much richer.

Alejandro Escovedo On World Cafe

Aug 9, 2012

Alejandro Escovedo has played virtually every kind of rock 'n' roll there is to play, from punk to orchestral to country, during a career dating back to the 1970s.

Hollywood is often at its best when it's making fun of itself, and few movies are funnier or more fun than Singin' in the Rain, the broadly satirical musical comedy about the transition from silent movies to sound.

Gene Kelly, who co-directed the film with Stanley Donen, stars as the stuntman turned matinee idol who falls in love with adorable Debbie Reynolds. He even gets to parody his own swashbuckling in MGM's Technicolor Three Musketeers.

It's gotten to that point in the dog days of August where the air is stale and nothing seems to be moving. But sometimes all it takes to snap me out of a late-summer heat coma is the sound of a new and electrifying voice — like that of Lianne La Havas.

Dan Auerbach, one of two founders of The Black Keys, also maintains an active side business as a producer for other bands that share his love for blues- and country-influenced rock. Auerbach's production work can be heard on two new records: Hacienda's third album, Shakedown, and the major-label debut of JEFF The Brotherhood, titled Hypnotic Nights.

Even if you've never heard of Billy Edd Wheeler, you might recognize "Jackson," a song he wrote with the help of songwriting heavyweights Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller back in 1963. It was a Top 20 pop hit for Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra in 1967, and got to No. 2 on the country charts that same year in a version by Johnny Cash and June Carter.

" 'Jackson' is a fun song," Wheeler says. "It's been my most famous and most lucrative song. It helped build our house."

Yesterday my husband and I had the same thought at the same time. It's not an uncommon occurrence for two writers who've spent decades arguing and enthusing about pop music. I mention it, in part, to stave off accusations that I'm plagiarizing from a nearby source, but also because I think what we reflected upon in light of the writer Jonah Lehrer's fatal mistake was probably in the minds of many music obsessives.

Today's show has been canceled due to severe storm alerts. We're so sorry and will see you back at the park next Sunday with Mary Adam 12. Details...

The Drop: Four Tet Remixes Hot Chip

Aug 1, 2012

As a radio producer, I've been trained to never let a piece begin with the sound of a person's breath; it's sloppy. So when I first heard the remix of Hot Chip's "Look At Where We Are" by Four Tet, the tape-cutter in me dove for the delete button. Right before the music starts, you can clearly hear a sharp intake of air from singer Alexis Taylor.

Sigur Rós could be forgiven for sounding better on record than in concert. The Icelandic band's songs either billow out deliberately or stomp majestically, and in every case entail the building of layers upon intricate sonic layers. Plus, singer Jónsi — he of the otherworldly voice, singing mostly in a ghostly language of his own devising — is no Mick Jagger when it comes to calling attention to himself.

The high-tech pop intro to The Very Best's song "Kondaine" suggests a carefree summer party. There's Afropop uplift to the sound and Top 40 melodiousness to the vocal.

On this week's All Songs Considered: funny concert memories, one album with a wacky cover and a surprisingly great sound, a bittersweet goodbye and (of course) lots of new music.

Everything I've ever written about Sam Phillips has been a cheat.

Having already found success as the singer of the Irish band The Frames and as half of the folk-pop duo The Swell Season, singer-songwriter Glen Hansard is venturing out as a solo artist.

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