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The Musical Universe

 

You know that lived-in feeling of comfort when you put on your favorite sweater? There's something similarly comforting about Chicago band Twin Peaks' music. It's like hanging out with with lifelong friends – which makes sense, because the band is made up of five close collaborators who've been playing together for 10 years.

Canadian-born pop artist Grimes often sings in the voices of imaginary characters; the spirit of her new album, Miss Anthropocene (an evident pun on "misanthropy"), is a malevolent goddess who personifies climate change.

Miss Anthropocene is a dark record, at times almost indefensibly nihilistic, but at its best it recalls modern horror movies like Us or Parasite, which frighten us with a larger purpose in mind — to shock us into rethinking certain attitudes.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

There's an unexpected jolt of energy that comes with getting caught up — whether you're ready for it or not. This week's selects run the gamet of what it means to get caught up — in the feeling of new love, in the pressure of perception, in the grips of temptation or in the cycle of the same old bulls***.

You know what it is. Stream this week's Heat Check playlist via Spotify and Apple Music.


The Band generated mythic status from the start. Crashing on the scene as Bob Dylan's anonymous-but-not-for-long backup band on his controversial and thrilling electrified tours of 1965-66, the group emerged fully formed, capable of both intense and experimentalist noise and tight, basic rock and roll.

Having seen Jenny Lewis' recent concert spectacle, with its Las Vegas sparkle — complete with a multi-level stage — I loved the contrast her Tiny Desk Concert provided.

Jenny arrived at NPR with just her acoustic guitar and bandmates Emily Elbert, who sang and played guitar, and Anna Butterss on upright bass and vocals. Stripped of all the glitz, it was the words that found their way to my heart. A consummate storyteller, going as far back to her days with her band Rilo Kiley, Jenny's words have comforted and inspired so many.

In making her first album, Expectations, Katie Pruitt wanted to accomplish the same thing that most singer-songwriters want to with their debuts: to convince a new audience of her sharpness as a writer and charisma as a performer.

Jessica Simpson is back in the news, this time in her own words.

In her new memoir, Open Book, Simpson writes honestly about her career as a pop singer, her marriage to and divorce from Nick Lachey, her stint on reality TV, and her time with John Mayer. And she reflects on becoming a fashion mogul with a billion-dollar company.

But she also opens up about sexual abuse she experienced in childhood — and addiction.

Interview Highlights

On why she decided to open up now

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Banoffee was a background musician for megastars like Taylor Swift and Charli XCX. But the singer-songwriter didn't want to stay in the background forever. So she made an album. It's her debut. And it's called "Look At Us Now Dad."

Over the last decade, ghosts have become an increasingly present part of live music, with holographic recreations of Tupac, Michael Jackson and opera great Maria Callas all appearing in concert. Whitney Houston's estate is taking the trend to the next level; starting Feb. 25, the late pop superstar will embark on a hologram tour of Europe.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Inside Sajaegi, K-Pop's Open Secret

Feb 21, 2020

Last fall, Malvo, an indie K-pop artist, was walking to the parking lot after a long day. He had just finished a show at a university festival near Seoul, South Korea. In the lot, a middle-aged man approached the musician, saying he had a "marketing opportunity" for Malvo and his songs. He didn't give his phone number, or his name.

Frank Hicks' initial plan was to open a motorcycle repair shop and parts business, a side job to the body shop he ran down in East Bottoms — an outpost along the Missouri River marked with train tracks, warehouses and industrial businesses in Kansas City, Mo.

To attract more customers to his new, hard-to-find business, Hicks started hosting parties featuring live music and free yard beer; they grew so popular that he began booking them regularly and charging $10 admission to cover costs. He eventually applied for the appropriate licenses and permits and became a legitimate bar.

The music sounds, at first, like it belongs in a power yoga studio: electronic and rhythmic, rising and falling like breaths. But then a higher pitch juts into the mix, and the strains of sound diverge, becoming faster-paced and a bit more like electronic dance music. The rise and swell fluctuates, not entirely predictable. The artists at work are, ostensibly, plants: a philodendron, two schefflera and a snake plant.

Chris Dave And The Drumhedz: Tiny Desk Concert

Feb 21, 2020

"If you've never been to a Drumhedz show... ...we're gonna take you on a quick journey as if you're going through a record store," Chris Dave told the NPR Music offices at the top of his set, "picking up different genres of music and putting it in your bag."

When Archers of Loaf reunited in 2011 for a series of shows, members of the '90s indie-rock band looked downright elated onstage. Eric Bachmann, in particular, fed off the energy of the crowd with a giddiness that contrast his gruff exterior. But rather than blithely dive into the studio after renewed purpose, the band wisely waited until it had more to say.

In 2014, we created a music contest in hopes of discovering unknown artists we otherwise might not get to hear. Each year since, thousands of unsigned musicians from across the country have sent us videos of themselves performing their original songs in true NPR Music fashion: behind a desk. Our winner gets to play a Tiny Desk concert and then goes on a victory tour of sorts with NPR Music. We call it the Tiny Desk Contest.

The Po' Ramblin' Boys On Mountain Stage

Feb 20, 2020

Birthed in the shadow of Dollywood at the tourist mecca that is Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Gatlinburg, Tenn., The Po' Ramblin' Boys play a spirited and aged brand of straight-ahead, Monroe-style bluegrass.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The acorn must crack in order for the seedling to sprout. That's the energy I felt when I saw Rashad Becker, a German mastering engineer and artist, perform his own music live at London's multi-venue MODE Festival back in September. The setting was a gutted building in the middle of the city's shopping district, which added its own layer of dissonance.

Morning Edition's series One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs focuses on musicians or bands whose careers in the United States are defined by a single monster hit, and explains why their catalogs have much more to offer.

Watching Elisapie perform, her intensity is undeniable. I feel it in her gaze, in her deep, soulful bellow. Elisapie is a Canadian singer and songwriter born in Salluit, on the northern tip of Quebec. Her lyrics, most often sung in her native Inuktitut as well as English and French, touch on her life as an adopted child and on meeting her biological mother. Now, as a mother herself, she sings about what it must have meant to her own mother to give up her child. Elisapie left her birth-village, Salluit, as a teenager and headed to Montreal, leaving her community and her sick mom.

As doctors in London performed surgery on Dagmar Turner's brain, the sound of a violin filled the operating room.

The music came from the patient on the operating table. In a video from the surgery, the violinist moves her bow up and down as surgeons behind a plastic sheet work to remove her brain tumor.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One of hip-hop's brightest young stars has died according to his record label. Bashar Jackson, who performed as Pop Smoke, was 20 years old. The details surrounding his death are still emerging. NPR Music's Sidney Madden joined me here in the studio to talk about Pop Smoke's music and legacy.

SIDNEY MADDEN, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: For those who don't know his music, who was Pop Smoke, and what space did he occupy in the hip-hop scene?

Bashar Jackson, better known as the Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke, died Wednesday morning in Los Angeles during what appeared to be a home invasion. He was 20 years old.

While the Los Angeles Police Department would not identify Jackson by name as the victim in Wednesday morning's shooting, NPR confirmed his death through his record label, Republic Records.

It started somewhat humbly on Saturday, Feb. 14, 1970. Valentine's Day.

Madison McFerrin is almost like a hypnotist: She creates expansive, atmospheric grooves that grow and bloom, layer by layer. It's the kind of music pulls you in before you even realize just how much is going on. And she does it all with just her laptop, a loop station and her voice.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

For decades, Go-go has been the unofficial music of Washington, D.C. But today, its status becomes official when the city's mayor signs some legislation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Wind me up.

DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall, a titan of underground dance music, died Monday in London at age 56. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism, according to a statement released by his management.

Weatherall started producing in London in the mid-'80s, and was known for a wicked sense of humor — and for blending an eclectic mix of genres.

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