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Soundcheck

Lower Dens: Confidently Embracing Hypnotic Pop On 'To Die In L.A.'

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Baltimore band - fronted by enigmatic songwriter Jana Hunter - returns with its third album, Escape From Evil. Hear the first single, "To Die In L.A."
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Spinning on Air

Piers Faccini's Songs of Time Lost

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Piers Faccini's Songs of Time Lost brings him together with cellist Vincent Segal. David Garland features music from the album, as well as from Arthur Russell, Nick Drake, and more.

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Spinning on Air

Karen Mantler's Lean Songs for Lean Times

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Karen Mantler has felt the economic downturn. In fact, her new album is called "Business is Bad." But for Karen, less has always been more. Her jazzy songs are lean, witty, and keenly observed, without an once of fat, or an extra note. She brings her new trio, with Doug Wieselman and Kato Hideki, to the WNYC Studio, joining David Garland for performances and conversation.

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New Sounds

Unconventional Songs

Saturday, July 19, 2014

We'll hear unusual approaches to songs on this New Sounds program, including something from vocalist/composer/songwriter Julia Holter, whose recent "Ekstasis," both bewitches and confounds with its substantial song-craft and challenging freak-pop.  Listen to songs by Julia Holter, along with recent songs from violinist/composer Carla Kihlstedt, and songwriter Lee Feldman.  Plus, ...

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The Takeaway

How Olympic Figure Skaters Pick the Perfect Song

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The song that frames an Olympic figure skater's routine needs to have a variety of tempos. It needs to have emotional resonance and perhaps a little bit of edge. Most importantly, it needs to be something the skater can listen to over and over and over again. As competitors gear up for the 2014 Olympics, Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic Champion in ladies' singles, reflects on the kind of music that brings home medals.

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Soundcheck

They Were Augustines, Now They're Back With A New Name And New Song

Friday, September 13, 2013

The indie rock band once called We Are Augstines has now changed its name to simply Augustines. The band has also unveiled a new track "Cruel City" for an album due in January.

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Soundcheck

Knee-Jerk Reaction: Arcade Fire's New Song, 'Reflektor'

Monday, September 09, 2013

At long last, after weeks of teases, mystery and leaks, Arcade Fire has finally released its new single "Reflektor" from its forthcoming album of the same name. Members of the Soundcheck team weigh in with their initial thoughts.

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Slate Culture Gabfest

The Culture Gabfest: 2013 Summer Strut Edition

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slate critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner discuss Larry David's new HBO movie "Clear History," the problem of sexual harassment in university philosophy departments, and this year's summer strut playlist.

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New Sounds

Unconventional Songs

Thursday, July 04, 2013

We'll hear unusual approaches to songs on this New Sounds program, including something from vocalist/composer/songwriter Julia Holter, whose recent "Ekstasis," both bewitches and confounds with its substantial song-craft and challenging freak-pop.  Listen to songs by Julia Holter, along with recent songs from violinist/composer Carla Kihlstedt, and songwriter Lee Feldman.  Plus, music from Elizabeth & the Catapult.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Listen to Our Favorite Bronx Songs

Monday, March 18, 2013

On today's show, we took calls from people who recently moved to the Bronx to mark the milestone that the borough saw its first net migration gain in decades. As we were selecting music for the segment, we came across some great songs about the Bronx. Here are some of our favorites -- suggest your own in the comments below!

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Soundcheck

When Bad Grammar Happens To (Mostly) Good Music

Friday, February 15, 2013

We each have songs that, to our particular ear, sound like nails on a chalkboard. And some songs should be deconstructed on a chalkboard…for bad grammar. I’m not talking about slang, colloquialisms, or innovative language. I’m not being punctilious about making sure you don’t end a lyric line with a preposition. In fact, the first dance song at my wedding reception was “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.” I think it would have lost a little something if it were “To You It’d Be So Nice To Come Home.” Nobody wants to sound sort of like Yoda.

What I’m talking about is crappy syntax. Artistic license is one thing, language mangling is another. Bad grammar is jarring; it takes me out of the flow of the song.

Here’s how I define unnecessarily bad grammar in a song: when it wouldn’t change the rhyme scheme to use the correct word or when the syntax results from being lyrically lazy.

Like this, from the Paula Cole song “I Don’t Wanna Wait”:

"So open up your morning light / And say a little prayer for I"

That lyric makes me say a prayer for the objective case.

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Soundcheck

A December Holiday Playlist (No, Not That Holiday)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

While there's other holidays in December, the entire month has been pretty much co-opted by Christmas. And maybe November too. Even outside of the less-often sung about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, Christmas is hardly the only holiday on the calendar in need of a good anthem or two.

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Soundcheck

Hearing 'Free To Be... You And Me' For The Very First Time

Thursday, November 15, 2012

As the adage goes, "a lady never reveals her age." But then again, terms like "lady" aren't really all that welcome in the world of Free To Be… You And Me, so I'm just going to come out and say it: I'm 26 years old. I was born 14 years after the 1972 release of the feminist children's album that we've been talking about all week on Soundcheck. As a result, I had never even heard of Free To Be until a few weeks ago.

From what I remember, my favorite children's music pretty much avoided the issue of gender entirely, singing instead about animals. There was Raffi's "Baby Beluga," a song about an adventuresome whale that's never identified as a boy or girl, and Red Grammer's non-gendered cows and ducks and coyotes that all had a "Place In The Choir." My favorite cassette tape included a song about a stereotypically male farmer who had 500 sheep, but it was in French. And since I didn’t speak French, well, I had no idea what was going on. 

However, as a little girl who was raised in a non-feminist household -- and who gravitated naturally toward the girliest of the girly things in life -- I also listened to plenty of Disney music, with all of its poofy dress-wearing princesses and heteronormative values. But despite a lack of childhood exposure to message-driven music like that on the album Free To Be… You And Me, it was always very clear to me that I could grow up to be anything: a doctor, a lawyer, a musician, whatever. And I also knew that it was really fun to play California Barbie Hot Dog Stand (yes, you read that right) with the little boy from down the street practically every afternoon. He seemed to think it was fine and dandy too. 

When I did finally get around to listening to Free To Be just a couple of weeks ago, I was initially struck by how much the sound reminded me of the music from Sesame Street. That makes sense, because the album was produced by Carole Hart -- who, along with her husband Bruce Hart, worked on Sesame Street -- and some of its composers, like Stephen Lawrence, also worked on the show.

I was also quickly impressed by how the album balanced silliness with forthrightness, something that was perhaps lacking in my own animal-heavy childhood music experience. (Seriously, what's up with that?) The spoken word track "Boy Meets Girl," in which two babies (played by Marlo Thomas and Mel Brooks) meet in a hospital nursery and discuss whether they might be boys or girls, is hilarious. But it's also a very direct look at male/female stereotypes. I can't recall anything quite like it from my own childhood. 

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New Sounds

The Art of New Songs

Saturday, September 08, 2012

We'll hear works that exist at the juncture of art song and pop song on this New Sounds. There's music from Clogs, who have lately become purveyors of vocal chamber pop, with additions of singers from the indie rock world. There's also a brilliant collection of new work from Corey Dargel, a Texas-born, Brooklyn based composer, who impishly crafts classical pop song cycles. Plus, music by Natalie Merchant, Alex Cline, Brian Dewan, and David Sylvian.

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Annotations: The NEH Preservation Project

The "Overpoweringly Witty" Fiction of Noël Coward

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WNYC

Celebrating the appearance of his first published novel, Pomp and Circumstance (1961), Noël Coward coolly rebuts those critics calling him "antiquated, snobbish, and belonging to an earlier, more complacent age." 

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Soundcheck

Rock(abye) Around the Clock

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Everyone pretty much agrees that singing to babies is a good thing. Singing can help strengthen the bond between parent and child; it nurtures brain development; and in fact, women are being taught to sing to their babies while they're still in the womb. Heck, even dogs know that it's important. 

 

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Soundcheck

Songs of our Summers

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It seems like every summer has one song that takes over the airwaves.  But that’s not always the song you remember later on.  The Soundcheck crew offers songs that recall past summers.

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New Sounds

Unconventional Songs

Thursday, March 22, 2012

We'll hear unusual approaches to songs on this New Sounds program, including something from vocalist/composer/songwriter Julia Holter, whose recent "Ekstasis," both bewitches and confounds with its substantial song-craft and challenging freak-pop.  Listen to songs by Julia Holter, along with recent songs from violinist/composer Carla Kihlstedt, and songwriter Lee Feldman.  Plus, music from Elizabeth & the Catapult.

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Slate Culture Gabfest

Slate: The Culture Gabfest, Silence Is My Breakup Album Edition

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In this week's Culture Gabfest, Slate music critic Jody Rosen joins the Gabfest to lament the death of pop superstar Whitney Houston. Next, our critics share their personal Valentine’s Day playlists. For their final segment, Gabfesters find the lost gen

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The Takeaway

The Art and Business Behind Holiday Songs

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's everywhere in the air right now — at the supermarket, the pharmacy, in elevators, and in streets of cities across the country — not good cheer, but that endless loop of holiday music. Aside from annoying cynics or providing a soundtrack to Norman Rockwell-times around the dinner table, well-worn tunes like "White Christmas" or "Here Comes Santa Clause" mostly mean big business for bands releasing Christmas albums.

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