His band's new album is called Lost in the Dream, but The War on Drugs' Adam Granduciel sounds like he's just woken up from one. While it's only the band's third record since forming nine years ago, Lost in the Dream is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors: Granduciel transforms his ambient, oft-meandering Americana into grander and more propulsive arrangements that are no less exploratory. Like private songs writ large, they reach their full intensity in the hands of his entire band.
Singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo are often at opposite ends of the volume knob. But what started as separate sets during a mutual tour, then a few walk-ons during Leo's solo set, is now an adventure in collaboration and mutual songwriting — and the birth of The Both. Months after this Tiny Desk Concert, which we recorded in February, there's an album.
The Infamous Stringdusters' members have been a major part of the bluegrass world since their debut, Fork in the Road, back in 2007. Now on its sixth studio album, Let It Go, the group has just returned with more great progressive acoustic music.
Canadian artist Jessy Lanza grew up playing piano and studying jazz, and she only started exploring electronic music five years ago. She performed as a one-woman band during her Morning Becomes Eclectic debut on KCRW, with club-ready songs like "Keep Moving."
Lunice is a DJ and producer from Montreal who got his start B-Boying. He works under his own name and, with Hudson Mohawke, in TNGHT. While in Austin, Texas, he rolled up on Microphone Check co-hosts Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley in a loaner Bentley, sat down in a sunny backyard (that bordered another backyard full of dogs) and spoke on his performance style, learning from the greats and reading autobiographies.
Petra, Rachel and Tanya Haden are three sisters in love with the art of singing. Born in 1971 to a famous musical father (Charlie Haden is a world-class upright jazz bassist), they've separately taken on vastly different music projects. You may have heard Petra with The Decemberists or tackling the music of The Who a cappella. Tanya plays in Let's Go Sailing, while Rachel sometimes turns up with The Rentals and other projects.
The three brothers in the Southern rock band Pontiak could tear the roof off any coliseum with their arena-sized riffs. Hailing from rural Virginia, the Carney brothers — Van, Jennings and Lain — have crafted a long string of albums filled with fuzzy, feedback-laden neo-psych stoner jams since forming Pontiak a decade ago.
The Outfit, TX are a trio from Dallas who came together at the University of Houston. Dorian and Mel have been partners since middle school, and they met JayHawk in a freshmen dorm. The three of them sat down with Microphone Check hosts Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley in the Austin sunshine, cracked a few Lone Stars and opined on Texas funk, Texas weather, church and their business plan. They also spoke about the career stage they're at right now:
The Wytches' furious, hair-flinging psych-rock isn't the stuff of back-porch acoustic sessions: Both live and on the English band's singles, the energy is so intense, it can barely be contained. But when NPR Music arranged a Wytches session during SXSW — held in the charming backyard setting of Friends & Neighbors in east Austin — singer-guitarist Kristian Bell stood in for the whole band, with just his voice and an acoustic guitar.
Microphone Check co-hosts Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley spoke to Young Chop in the backyard of a store on the east side of Austin, Texas. Even in the midst of SXSW, the Chicago producer was selling beats and putting in studio time. He took a rare break to talk about studying songs from the '70s, Polow da Don's snare and encouraging up-and-coming artists, including those who step to him at the Texaco.