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.
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.
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.
Parsonsfield: On Borders, Real and Imagined
The five-piece group Parsonsfield is based in western Massachusetts. Its music draws on both... Show More
The five-piece group Parsonsfield is based in western Massachusetts. Its music draws on both the string bands of Appalachia as well as anthemic rock. The band's new single, "Barbed Wire," is about the closing of the prairie and, maybe, the closing of a few minds?with pleasant overtones about the destruction of the planet. Parsonsfield's suggestively-titled new album Blooming Through the Black is just out, and the band joined us to play and talk about, among other things, why telephone "killed" the radio...or didn't.
Hockey Dad: Late Summer Jams from Down Under
The band Hockey Dad hails from one of the better place names: Windang, Australia. And they've... Show More
The band Hockey Dad hails from one of the better place names: Windang, Australia. And they've released... a "dang winner" of an album this year. (Sorry, couldn't help ourselves.) It's called Boronia and it's filled with chunky summer jams of an impeccable quality. The band gives away its winning recipe on the song "I Need a Woman" when they suggest, "give it some mellow vibes; try not to make it dull." Hear the duo talk about their burgeoning career and play some of their catchy, immediate-sounding tunes.
Music as Paint Colors: Making 'Swiss Army Man'...
The Manchester Orchestra is neither an orchestra nor from Manchester. They're an indie rock... Show More
The Manchester Orchestra is neither an orchestra nor from Manchester. They're an indie rock outfit from Atlanta, with a decade of composing and performing as a unit under their belt. But now, singer Andy Hull and guitarist Robert McDowell have done something quite different: the soundtrack to the film "Swiss Army Man," which stars Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. The film is odd enough: equal parts fable, existential comedy, and buddy flick -- in which one of the buddies is dead. The score is equally unexpected, both the music itself, and the ways in which it's incorporated into the film. Hull and McDowell visit the studio to tell host John Schaefer how the soundtrack came together -- sans instruments -- and how they got inside the head of an island survivor.
El Perro del Mar: A Swedish Salty Dog Looks East
El Perro Del Mar, "the dog of the sea," is the unexpected?and unexpectedly Spanish?name for the... Show More
El Perro Del Mar, "the dog of the sea," is the unexpected?and unexpectedly Spanish?name for the work of the Swedish singer and songwriter Sarah Assbring. But doing the unexpected has become the norm for the artist over the past decade. She started as a kind of bedroom pop artist but has evolved continuously over the course of five albums. Her sixth album, KoKoro, comes out on September 16, and it contains echoes of Asian and African musical traditions?and El Perro Del Mar is here to give us a taste of what's to come.
Jamie Lidell and The Royal Pharaohs Dig Up Some...
The British singer Jamie Lidell captivates huge audiences just by sampling and looping his own... Show More
The British singer Jamie Lidell captivates huge audiences just by sampling and looping his own voice, then deploying smooth soul over the top of the cascading layers. But surely, firing all those samples and stompboxes gets a little distracting for a performer. Like, maybe, just get a band? Well that's what Lidell has done?and what a band. The proof is in the first single from his forthcoming record with The Royal Pharaohs, Building a Beginning. "Walk Right Back" has Lidell's trademark croon, but the live feel of a crack ensemble?all of which packs into the Soundcheck studio for a live set.
Jherek Bischoff Plumbs New Depths
For LA-based multi-instrumentalist Jherek Bischoff, a collaborative spirit has practically... Show More
For LA-based multi-instrumentalist Jherek Bischoff, a collaborative spirit has practically become his calling card: he effortlessly blends his many melodic talents into projects with a strikingly diverse array of artists, from Xiu Xiu to Amanda Palmer, David Byrne to Wilco's Nels Cline. His solo debut, Composed, similarly mixed his many pop, rock, and classical impulses to striking effect, but was largely recorded instrument by instrument by Bischoff himself. When he last visited the Soundcheck studio, Bischoff brought the New York-based classical ensemble Contemporaneous, which was re-enlisted for the recording of Bischoff's latest effort, Cistern?an ambient, instrumental affair. The whole group returns to the studio to play selections. Show Less