First Listen: Public Service Broadcasting, ‘The Race For Space’

Public Service Broadcasting's new album, The Race For Space, comes out Feb. 23. (Courtesy of the artist)
Public Service Broadcasting’s new album, The Race For Space, comes out Feb. 23. (Courtesy of the artist)

Wrote a long essay about Public Service Broadcasting’s ambitious space-themed concept album, The Race For Space for NPR Music’s First Listen series.

NPR Heavy Rotation: Courtney Barnett, ‘Pedestrian At Best’: Witty And All-Too-Uncomfortably Real

Courtney Barnett's new album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit', is out March 24 via Mom + Pop.
Courtney Barnett’s new album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’, is out March 24 via Mom + Pop. (Leslie Kirchhoff/Courtesy of the artist)

I wrote a short piece for NPR Music’s Heavy Rotation series on Courtney Barnett’s fantastically wordy new song “Pedestrian At Best” from her new album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. You can read that over here.

Below, you can read the fuller version.

Continue reading NPR Heavy Rotation: Courtney Barnett, ‘Pedestrian At Best’: Witty And All-Too-Uncomfortably Real

Waxahatchee’s ‘Air’ Embraces Change And A Broader Palette

Waxahatchee's latest album, Ivy Tripp, is out April 7 via Merge.
Waxahatchee’s latest album, Ivy Tripp, is out April 7 via Merge.

I wrote a quick couple paragraphs about Waxahatchee’s amazing new song “Air” from her upcoming album Ivy Tripp. You can read that as part of NPR Music’s Songs We Love series.

You can also read a slightly different version that was used for NPR’s Heavy Rotation series.

Below, here’s a much longer, and unedited ramble about Katie Crutchfield’s music, about being in transition and embracing change, even when it’s hard.

Continue reading Waxahatchee’s ‘Air’ Embraces Change And A Broader Palette

NPR Heavy Rotation: Bully, ‘Milkman’

Bully's EP is out now.
Bully’s EP is out now.

I wrote this short capsule review of “Milkman” by Bully — an excellent new band I first came across during this year’s CMJ Music Marathon, in a crazy early noon slot at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg. You can read that over at NPR Music’s Heavy Rotation.

Below, you can find the longer version.

Continue reading NPR Heavy Rotation: Bully, ‘Milkman’

First Listen: Mr. Gnome, ‘The Heart Of A Dark Star’

Mr. Ghome's The Heart Of A Dark Star.
Mr. Ghome’s The Heart Of A Dark Star.

This was originally written for NPR Music’s First Listen series. Read the rest over at NPR Music or Soundcheck.

For a record about journeying deep inside the darkest recesses of the mind, there’s nothing introverted about the Cleveland duo Mr. Gnome’s new album, The Heart Of A Dark Star. Named for an evocative phrase in a Neil Gaiman book, The Heart Of A Dark Star is a bold and blustery hurricane of guitars, organs and voices, all swirling around in the night air.

NPR First Listen: Phish, ‘Fuego’

Phish's 'Fuego' is out now.
Phish’s ‘Fuego’ is out now.

This was originally written for NPR Music’s First Listen series. Read the rest over at NPR Music or Soundcheck.

Whether you know its work or just its reputation, you’ve probably already made up your mind about Phish. Maybe you love the band and its music, maybe you can’t stand them, or maybe you liked them and have since moved on to other things. Phish is one of the most dynamic and celebrated live acts in all of music, with a loyal community any artist would envy, but it’s also divisive. This is a band that inspires passion with its multipart compositions, meandering improvisations, playful (often nonsensical) lyrics and unwavering positivity. For the same reasons, it also courts punchlines from its fervent detractors.

Le1f: A Unique And Magnetic Hip-Hop Voice

Le1f performs at the NPR Music showcase at Stubb’s BBQ during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 13, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Le1f performs at the NPR Music showcase at Stubb’s BBQ during South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 13, 2013. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

Every year at South By Southwest there’s a whole slew of high profile stars who drop in with big time shows, taking advantage Austin’s complete media saturation and keeping them firmly in the spotlight. When you hear complaints about SXSW getting too commercial and taking eyes away from smaller acts slogging through many shows a day and fighting to get heard, this is what they mean. In hip-hop, that seems especially true when in recent years Kanye, Jay Z, Snoop, and many more show up with much hype. Still, it’s always possible to find new acts, especially when you cannot get into those packed late night shows. And every year there’s a few names that rise above the fray: Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson, Big K.R.I.T. and Chance the Rapper have all had recent breakthrough sets at SXSW on their way to bigger things.

Last year, one of those names, for me, was Le1f, who I caught at NPR Music’s showcase at Stubb’s.

Continue reading Le1f: A Unique And Magnetic Hip-Hop Voice

Bill Callahan Finds A Garden Escape From The Loud City

Amid the rumble of traffic, crowded streets, and general persistent din of big city life, it can be challenging to find a moment of calm in New York. So it seemed like a peculiar choice when the enigmatic singer-songwriter Bill Callahan said he was interested in playing in a community garden for a Field Recording video WNYC’s Soundcheck co-produced with NPR Music. You could easily envision Callahan’s plaintive music and deep, detached voice getting lost in that noisy clutter.

But in fact, the lush 6th & B Community Garden in the East Village was just the spot for Callahan’s intimate and eerily transfixing performance. Recording previously as Smog, and now simply under his own name, Callahan writes dark, frequently anguished songs inflected with a bleak sense of doom. And yet, there’s actually a surprisingly warm, pastoral quality to his words, and a comforting voice in his sly delivery.

Surrounded by a rich canopy of greenery, ornamented flower beds, and even a small pond full of turtles, Callahan quietly finger-picked “Small Plane,” a song from his new record Dream River (out Sept. 17). And while sounds from just outside the garden’s tall gates trickled in, all those distractions of the city just outside the gates melted away.