Soundcheck is the place to hear your favorite bands and discover new ones, featuring interviews and live in-studio performances with artists like Adele, Sufjan Stevens, and Tori Amos.
Roosevelt's Feverish Dance Pop
As recording and performing technology has gotten cheaper, there's been a wholesale revisiting... Show More
As recording and performing technology has gotten cheaper, there's been a wholesale revisiting of the synthy sounds of the mid-80s. At its worst, this excavation has yielded plenty of soulless, robotic machine music?not too dissimilar from the first go-round. But couple a deep love of dub and club sounds, and keen songwriting chops, and you get an artist like Marius Lauber. The musician and DJ known as Roosevelt from Cologne, Germany, has found novel ways of merging dance-heavy rhythms with rock solid song structures, and his understated delivery gives the tunes a kind of wistful, nostalgic quality. Roosevelt's self-titled debut arrived in August as a last blast of summer sunshine, and his band just started a Stateside tour that brings them to the Soundcheck studio.
"The Middle," was a massive hit for Arizona power-pop band Jimmy Eat World in 2001. Usually a... Show More
"The Middle," was a massive hit for Arizona power-pop band Jimmy Eat World in 2001. Usually a song like that is one-and-done, but earlier this year the tech giant Apple released a commercial in which the everything-else giant Taylor Swift was lip-synching along to the song. You can imagine how that went for Jimmy Eat World. A nice re-introduction for the now rock elder statesmen. And what do you know; there's a new record to dig into:
The forthcoming Jimmy Eat World record, "Integrity Blues," is due out on October 21, and is setting the band off on a major tour. But you can catch Jimmy Eat World in a live set from the Soundcheck studio today by clicking play. Show Less
Regina Spektor Returns to Life
Songwriter Regina Spektor was born in the then-Soviet Union and moved to the States on the cusp... Show More
Songwriter Regina Spektor was born in the then-Soviet Union and moved to the States on the cusp of her teenage years. Her beautiful if oblique and surprising songs very often portray an outsider trying to make sense of things. A perfect fit, then, when the Netflix show Orange is the New Black - which is populated with tough-as-nails outsiders and eccentrics - was looking for someone to write a theme song. But it's been four years since we've had a proper new album from Spektor. Her latest is called Remember Us to Life, and displays an idiosyncratic artist at the top of her game. It's political, it's funny, and it's filled with jarring chord changes and evocative melodic runs that simply won't let your attention wander. Spektor doesn't play local gigs until October 17th (at Town Hall) and 18th (at Rough Trade), but you can catch her in our studio first.
Hiss Golden Messenger, In the Studio
M.C. Taylor spent years trawling the countryside of North Carolina as a folklorist, identifying... Show More
M.C. Taylor spent years trawling the countryside of North Carolina as a folklorist, identifying and recording regional musical genetic strands in the tradition of Alan Lomax. As he cataloged and, most importantly, listened, he began to channel his own artistic impulses into the project known as Hiss Golden Messenger. His 2014 breakout "The Lateness of Dancers" came after a string of self- or limited-released recordings, and was a thesis statement of sorts, drawing together grand, stately folk and country sounds into a cohesive whole. It was successful enough that Taylor was able to quit his day job, and work and tour full-time as a performer and songwriter. However, this new-found freedom was coupled with an anxiety about the dutiful obligations of a burgeoning family. This tension was the lyrical source and inspiration for Hiss Golden Messenger's new record, "Heart Like a Levee," which retains the deeply-rooted song structures but adds sonic embellishments that name-check a different geologic layer of American music: the soulful sounds of Stax and Muscle Shoals.
Reuben Hollebon's Terminal Nostalgia
Since medieval times, British folk music has been filled with dark ballads and unsettling... Show More
Since medieval times, British folk music has been filled with dark ballads and unsettling tales. The British singer and songwriter Reuben Hollebon isn't a folk musician, but he's certainly tapped into that dark brand of storytelling with a song like "Faces," which features the equally uncanny (in the sense of "spooky") video below. Probably says something about us that we can't stop listening to it, but his tremulous vocal delivery, urgent acoustic guitar, and eerie, often undefinable other sounds makes for compelling music. His debut LP is called Terminal Nostalgia, and Reuben is here to play some of it for us.
Peter, Bjorn, & John Reach Their Breakin' Point
It's been a whole decade since the Swedish trio known as Peter Bjorn and John burst on the... Show More
It's been a whole decade since the Swedish trio known as Peter Bjorn and John burst on the scene with the indelibly catchy "Young Folks," which featured the best use of whistling since Billy Joel's "The Stranger." This year Peter Bjorn and John are marking the tenth anniversary of their breakout hit?and moving on with a new batch of songs, on a meticulously-produced new album called Breakin' Point. Whether the title is a sly commentary on the pitfalls of landing a chart-topper, or a nod to a fresh start, the band visits the studio to play a few of the new tunes?well, almost the whole band. Peter & Bjorn (minus John) bring an interesting duo perspective to the new material, which bears all the hooks and flourishes that have become hallmarks of their career thus far.
Nada Surf Swells Its Sound
Plenty of bands stick around well (well) past their expiration date, touting each new release... Show More
Plenty of bands stick around well (well) past their expiration date, touting each new release as a "reinvention" or a "reintroduction." But occasionally, a group really does kick into high gear after decades in the business. Witness: Nada Surf. They burst onto the scene in the mid-90s with a somewhat gimmicky (if mind-numbingly catchy) tune called "Popular." And then? Well, let no one argue that Nada Surf "disappeared," but they certainly didn't replicate that initial success right away. Thank goodness they stuck around; they've aged gracefully, and buoyantly. Their latest album is packed with some of the strongest, most melodic tunes of their career. It's called You Know Who You Are---and it certainly sounds like the band knows who it is. Plus, there's another, sweeping new record due out at the end of October, which sees the band playing in front of the Babelsberg (Germany) Film Orchestra.
Dar Williams, As Cool As She's Always Been
For two decades, Dar Williams has been writing some of the most trenchant and emotionally open... Show More
For two decades, Dar Williams has been writing some of the most trenchant and emotionally open songs in the folk-pop vein, and has achieved her considerable stature and recognition outside the formal workings of the mainstream record industry. Her first three albums, released independently, and an early national tour with the great Joan Baez, cemented her name in the ranks of top-tier songwriting and performing talent. This fall, Williams is revisiting that formative, fruitful period in her life by touring behind those first albums. Currently, she's performing her sophomore release in full in concerts throughout the country. Mortal City, released in 1996, is a funny, sad, political, personal, and beautiful collection of songs about and from Main Street America that, given current conversations about economic inequality, is perhaps as relevant as ever.
River Whyless Gathers Many Musical Tributaries
When we promoted River Whyless' headline show at Rough Trade a few weeks ago, listener Jim... Show More
When we promoted River Whyless' headline show at Rough Trade a few weeks ago, listener Jim commented on the Gig Alert page: "Fabulous. Just fabulous." We couldn't agree more. The group's razor-honed songwriting and thoughtful vocal harmonies steal the spotlight, but equally impressive is the nuanced musical arsenal they deploy. Of particular note is the Asheville, N.C., band's melding of hill folk with the syncopated rhythms and staccato guitars of the so-called "desert blues" tradition of Mali. Taken as a whole, the band's new record "We All the Light" is a triumph of emotional connection and musical alchemy. The group visits the studio to play from the album and talk about their many influences.
Bear's Den: Americana from Britannia
If you have a three-legged stool, and you remove one of the legs, it's pretty much a given that... Show More
If you have a three-legged stool, and you remove one of the legs, it's pretty much a given that the stool will collapse. In the case of British rock trio Bear's Den, when one of their members left earlier this year, the band only returned more triumphant than ever. Their new album, just released, is called Red Earth and Pouring Rain - an ominous image, but containing some of the group's most cinematic work to date. Bear's Den now has a muscular new lineup, but today the core duo visits our studio with just acoustic guitars in hand.
Cymbals Eat Guitars Has a 'Pretty Year'
If, as Lou Reed said, cymbals "eat" the sound of guitars on a recording, the band Cymbals Eat... Show More
If, as Lou Reed said, cymbals "eat" the sound of guitars on a recording, the band Cymbals Eat Guitars seems hell-bent on bashing through feelings like anger, fear, loneliness, and resentment with high-octane tunes. On the cover of their new record Pretty Years, out on Friday (and streaming at NPR First Listen now), there's a vacuum cleaner adjacent to an open casket: the heavy silence expected of a somber event juxtaposed with the high-pitched whine of a quotidian reality. The record is produced by John Congleton, who has recently helped artists like St. Vincent and War On Drugs achieve career highs by stretching their existing boundaries, and is working here to similar results. Hear the Staten Island band perform a live set of the new songs, and talk about their ever-expanding palette.