Hearing their performance on KEXP, you'd think that super-duo Minor Alps had played for audiences together many times, but this effortless, stripped-down set of lyrically poignant songs was their first live performance — ever.
Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 10:16 am
Chinese-born pianist Yuja Wang isn't one to do anything in half measures. So when we invited her to record a performance in a room at the Steinway & Sons piano factory, she showed up in Queens that frigid morning with her A game.
The Beatles may be an odd place to begin a Cate Le Bon conversation, but I remember being struck by the way four guys from Liverpool could sing without their English accents. That's true of most pop singers, whose words often come out sounding more American than anything else. But that's not true with Cate Le Bon. Her phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh.
The Baltimore trio Future Islands recently returned to KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic with an extra member in tow. By adding Mike Lowry on drums, the synth-heavy band brings a new dynamic to its live performances of songs from the forthcoming album Singles. We love the new track "Seasons (Waiting on You)" — which you can watch here — but check out the full session for the premiere of a brand-new song.
In pop-music circles, Suzanne Vega is known almost entirely for two songs from the late 1980s: the child-abuse ballad "Luka" and a song that launched literally dozens of dance remixes, "Tom's Diner." But Vega has been making vital, inventive music the entire time — much of it folk-based, though her sound has taken many smart detours along the way — and is about to put out her first album of original material in seven years, Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles.
We were already excited to have legendary musician John Doe of the pioneering punk band X join us in the KEXP studio, so you can imagine our surprise when he walked in with the also-legendary Mike McCready of Pearl Jam. Doe's musical partner, Exene Cervenka, caught a cold during the Seattle stop for the band's cleverly named "X-Mas 2013″ tour, so Doe called on his old tourmate from 1999.
Truth be told, I was scared. We've stuffed a lot of musicians behind the Tiny Desk, but when I saw Fanfare Ciocarlia (pronounced "fan-FAR-eh cho-car-LEE-ah") at Globalfest the week before the band arrived at NPR, I couldn't fathom how we'd corral these 12 musicians and their various assorted horns and drums into that truly tiny space.
Don't let Cahalen Morrison and Eli West's simple two-man sound fool you. The music itself isn't simple so much as an exercise in artful restraint. The Seattle duo's new album, I'll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands, is packed with exquisite instrumentation and close country harmonies. But the stories they tell and the melodies they employ are complex and wrought with nuanced emotion.
"Down in the Lonesome Draw" is about searching for work and opportunity — an old American story with nearly as much relevance now as when the Western states were still a frontier.
With the fate of Sonic Youth up in the air, founding guitarist Lee Ranaldo has found steady ground with his group The Dust, featuring fellow SY orphan Steve Shelley on drums, along with guitarist Alan Licht and bassist Tim Lüntzel.
The windowsills were lined with people standing, as every nook between every office desk filled to capacity with NPR employees and their assorted guests. Pixies, after getting misplaced for a time in our parking garage during a moment worthy of This Is Spinal Tap, showed up in time to encounter the largest crowd we've ever assembled for a Tiny Desk Concert. (Our new office space allows for more guests than the old one did, but it's still a mark of this band's significance for so many youthful grownups.)