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The Musical Universe


Sleater-Kinney took a lot of chances on its latest album, The Center Won't Hold, upending its much beloved sound to experiment with strange sonics, dark textures and surprising forms. The result is one of the most adventurous, exciting – and best – albums the band has ever made. We open this week's New Music Friday with a look at how and why The Center Won't Hold works and what the recent departure of drummer Janet Weiss means for the band at this point in its quarter-century long career.

On Monday, The Associated Press reported that as many as nine women were accusing revered opera star Plácido Domingo of sexual harassment over decades. Domingo has adamantly denied the allegations. The LA Opera, where he is the general director, announced it would hire an outside firm to investigate the accusations.

The saxophonist and clarinetist, a student of Sidney Bechet and a specialist in early styles of the music, died Aug. 4 at the age of 91. He spoke with Terry Gross in 1988, excerpted here. (Hear the full interview through the Fresh Air archive.)

Electric Miles. Few word pairings in the jazz lexicon are apt to inspire so much contention and challenge and ferment. What the phrase refers to, of course, is a period in the career of trumpeter Miles Davis, spanning the last third of his life. And while there are other important antecedents, the big bang of this period is an album recorded 50 years ago by the name of Bitches Brew.

On The Border With Maybelle Carter And Lydia Mendoza

Aug 15, 2019

Imagine, if you will, being a listener to a radio station on the U.S.-Mexico border in 1939. You would likely be listening to XERA, a radio station broadcast from Cuidad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico, across the border from Del Rio, Texas. You might hear a song like "La Pollita," performed by Lydia Mendoza.


The eight women we chose to honor in this season of Turning the Tables were skilled singers, writers, instrumental innovators and musical pioneers.

Fifty years ago, the tiny town of Bethel, N.Y., was transformed into a teeming city of more than 400,000 people brought together by peace, love and music. Today, the site of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, as it was officially called, is on the National Register of Historic Places. For some who were there, it's a place of pilgrimage, memories and the site of a museum full of memorabilia.

Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” has shattered Billboard Hot 100 records after 19 chart-topping weeks.

A Lifetime Of Labor: Maybelle Carter At Work

Aug 14, 2019

At 16 years old Maybelle Addington, soon to be Carter, quit school and went to work. She joined a steady flow of girls who left the rural communities of their upbringing and went to the city in the 1920s. In her case, it was Bristol, where she started work at a hosiery mill, one among many factories opening in the foothills of Virginia and Tennessee. Mill girls, as they were called, bridged the agricultural past and the industrial present as they sought out wage work and made new technologies run. But they also carried an independent streak.

Record producer T Bone Burnett has worked with legendary artists including Bob Dylan, Brandi Carlile, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, Elton John, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. He's also produced soundtracks for films like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Crazy Heart.

Even your dedicated Alt.Latino crew has to take some time off every now and then. As we dispersed to beaches, poolsides or family gatherings, the new music piled up so this week we try to squeeze in as many as we can and we'll probably have to do it again.

And do I really need to say it? The range of stylistic and genre expressions astounds. Prepare to add Latino bluegrass to your list of likes!

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

What It Means To Listen To Sleater-Kinney Now

Aug 14, 2019

Consistency and longevity are the two parents of expectation, which can hang immovably over the corners of fandom. In music, when a band is very good for a very long time, it becomes impossible to imagine it being anything else. It must be said that Sleater-Kinney has been so good for so long, it is unfair.

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For the last 10 weeks, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been demonstrating everywhere...


GREENE: ...From the streets to Hong Kong's bustling international airport.


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All right. Some bittersweet news from the world of K-pop this week.


BTS: (Singing in Korean).

GREENE: That's the sound of Korean pop supergroup BTS.


The Dominican Republic has the historic distinction of being the landing spot of Christopher Columbus in 1492 after he sailed the ocean blue, but that European invasion set off a series of historical and social events that reverberate to this day.

A chance accident performing a simple skateboard trick changed the shape of the latest Beirut record, Gallipoli. What was supposed to be a recording session in New York City ended up happening in Berlin and the result is a different set of songs that retain that signature Beirut sound.


The Highwaymen had "Highwayman," a song about outlaws sung by the outlaws of country music.

Folk-fusion artist Lila Downs knows a thing or two about loving where you’re from.

She’s devoted her decades-long music career to celebrating her Mexican roots — from the beauty of Oaxaca to lifting up indigenous populations to creating protest soundscapes.

Her latest album, Al Chile, examines heritage and home with a culinary twist.

From Rolling Stone:

When Rolling Stone surveyed the 100 greatest guitar players of all time in 2015, two women made the list: Bonnie Raitt at No. 89, Joni Mitchell at No. 75. Most guitar player lists fare worse for women; Joni makes it in around No. 50 maybe, but not always. Spin's 2012 list is slightly brighter: Nine spots out of 100 go to women, with Carrie Brownstein at No. 39 and PJ Harvey cresting at No. 27. But no other women break even the top 50, and not a single woman makes the top 25. Guitarworld's list of the Most Badass Guitar Players contains not a single female.


ALA.NI celebrates the joy of finding yourself by releasing a light and free music video for her latest single "SHA LA LA."

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Hidden inside the three minutes and eight seconds of "Holyfields," are the basic schematics for i,i, the deceptively ambitious fourth Bon Iver album.

Settling into summer's swelter, this week's additions to Heat Check include re-surfaced favorites, lovesick tropes, a gut-punch of a wake-up call and, of course, a couple swerving, drink-spilling bops for good measure.

Shovels & Rope's latest album is called By Blood and it resonates out into all of their work. Of course, the duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are partners, musically and in life. They recently celebrated the birth of their second child, which means the family now is four strong on the road.

In April 2018, the iconic Mexican regional band Los Tigres del Norte walked in the footsteps of country music legend Johnny Cash, performing inside of California's Folsom Prison, both as a tribute to Cash's historic 1968 concert and an attempt at raising awareness of its shifting population.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify or Apple Music

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LIL NAS X: (Singing) I got the horses in the back...