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Reflektor by Arcade Fire
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The Current: Arcade Fire Live at Target Center
NPR Artist Profile: Arcade Fire
NPR: Live in Concert - Arcade Fire
Morning Edition: Arcade Fire on its Brand New Beat
All Things Considered: The Arcade Fire, Dark and Energetic
NPR: The Arcade Fire In Concert
Fresh Air: Art-Rock Fueled by Eclecticism and Pain
All Songs Considered: WHAT. THE. HELL. WHO IS ARCADE FIRE?????????
The Current: Album Review: Reflektor
It’s January of 2005, and I’m standing in an Arizona art gallery with some 200 other people. The show is BYOB, and there’s a cooler of tall boys at my feet. Seven band members, dressed like they’re attending a funeral on Halloween, are crowded onto a 15x15 stage. Behind the band is a hand-painted set — wooden cutouts of two Victorian women in profile. The band members tear through a few anthemic numbers from their debut album. They drip sweat. One member dons a helmet, and beats it with drumsticks. About 6 songs in, the band are interrupted by a train rumbling on tracks that run just on the other side of the gallery’s wall. They stop. The train roars and clatters. The front man looks back at the other members. There are subtle nods. The last car passes, and the musicians launch into a cover of The Magnetic Fields’ “Born on a Train.”
That band, that night — in front of 200 people, in a tiny venue besieged by freight trains — performed like they were The Biggest Band in the World. Eight years, four albums, one Grammy and a veritable ton of notoriety later, The Arcade Fire are, in many ways, still the same band I saw play that night. Detractors like to accuse the band of being drunk on fame, bloated with a sense of self-importance. Well, I’m here to tell you that they were always that way, even when the only people listening were a bunch of buzzed college kids in a desert town. And why not? If you’re going to bother making music, why not make it big? (For goodness sake, this is the band that, on its second album, thought, “Hey, a PIPE ORGAN would sound cool here.”) Why not put on a great show for people who spent good money to see you? And why not make music that draws freely, playfully and joyously from your heritage and your heroes?
The band’s fourth album is a bubbling cauldron containing all the magic and heart and guts that created The Arcade Fire (Bowie, jazz, Depeche Mode, U2’s PopMart spectacle, religious studies, Haiti), and James Murphy is the shaman stirring the pot, teasing out the band’s impish spirit. Reflektor is a 75-minute, two-disc hot mess. And it’s a whole lot of fun.
There are themes here — nighttime, Greek mythology, critiques of religion, the cult of celebrity, and colonialism — but, unlike past albums, you won’t find a thread running through this one (at least I couldn’t). Disc 1 begins with the beginning. Listen with headphones and you’ll hear the warped opening chords of Track 1 (“Neighborhood #1 [Tunnels]”) of their 2005 debut, Funeral. From there, Reflektormeanders delightfully. From the butt-shaking sax and keyboard-driven title track, to the smooth FM-pop of “We Exist,” to the dancehall echoes of “Flashbulb Eyes,” to the Freddy-Mercury-Meets-The-Smiths frolic of “You Already Know, ” Arcade Fire switch genres the way Katy Perry changes costumes. The highest points of the disc — and when I say high, I mean soaring — are the ecstatic, Carnival-esque “Here Comes the Night”; the classic rocker (à la Tame Impala) “Joan of Arc,” with its surprising do-wop backing vocals; and “Normal Person,” which features a delicious guitar hook, anti-imperialist lyrics, and Win Butler happily donning his Irish hero’s wraparound sunglasses and swagger.
Disc 2 is a kind of mediation. It starts in the past — with that vaguely familiar electronic squeep we used to hear at the start and end of cassette tapes. “Here Comes the Night Time II” is a lovely, nocturnal, near-dirge that evokes the hum of crickets on a wet night. The center of the disc is a beautiful two-song dialogue between two mythological figures, Orpheus and Eurydice. The former, “Awful Sound (Oh, Eurydice),” sounds like The Beatles channeled through The Decemberists, and the latter, “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus),” is pure ’80s pop with a wonderful R&B-style refrain. “Afterlife,” with its delicate echoes of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” is a solid track, despite being a slightly paler cousin of “Reflektor.” “Supersymmetry” closes the album as a sparkling showcase for the band’s husband/wife vocals. (Well, technically, a hidden track closes the album — but I won’t spoil it for you.)
Even the clunkers on this album are B-students at worst. “Porno” is boring and over-simplified — a latter-day, lesser “Roxanne.” The heavy-handed dub of “Flashbulb Eyes” feels like a costume, and the lyrics (“What if the camera really do take your soul?”) have the slight, unsavory smell of primitivism. Which brings me to my one critique of this album and of The Arcade Fire in general: Sometimes the lyrics suck.
Win Butler has two modes of lyric writing: the Storyteller and the Preacher. In the first, he is personal, intimate and specific; see, from earlier albums, the gorgeous imagery of songs like “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and “In the Backseat,” or the narrative leaning of songs like “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”, “The Suburbs” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”. When Butler takes to the pulpit, his lyrics are unimaginative, abstract and dependent on cliché. We heard this mode a good bit on Arcade Fire’s second album, Neon Bible, but forgave it based on the album’s thematic urgency. I find I’m less forgiving of this lyrical mode on Reflektor. Songs destined for greatness are somewhat diminished by lame lyrics (“You’re down on your knees, begging us please”).
I know what the Arcade Fire are capable of — I heard it on The Suburbs' “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” the band's first foray into clubland and a standout track, musically and lyrically. But they’re not quite there yet. Reflektor, for me, finds the band maintaining their pedestal status, but the album is no masterpiece. That, I believe, is forthcoming.
On Air: Live at the BBC: Complete Set by The Beatles
On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 1 by The Beatles
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On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2 by The Beatles
Fresh Air: At the BBC, The Beatles Shocked an Institution
Weekend Edition: The Beatles’ Defining Moment (Hint: It’s Not ‘Sgt. Pepper’)
In the studios of the British Broadcasting Corporation, The Beatles performed music for a variety of radio shows. On Air: Live at the BBC presents the sound of The Beatles seizing their moment to play for the nation. Thrilled to hear these exciting recordings again, Paul McCartney said, “There’s a lot of energy and spirit. We are going for it, not holding back at all, trying to put in the best performance of our lifetimes.”
On Air also features BBC recordings of 30 well-loved songs from The Beatles’ catalogue, including five number ones and other favorites such as “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twist And Shout,” “Do You Want To Know A Secret,” “Boys,” “Please Mister Postman,” “Money,” “And I Love Her” and “If I Fell.”
Stereo Box Set by The Beatles - Past Masters (2LP) The Beatles’ acclaimed original studio album remasters, released on CD in 2009, make their long-awaited stereo vinyl debut.
Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War
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All Things Considered: ‘Divided & United’ Songs of the Civil War Re-Imagined
ATO Records and music supervisor Randall Poster (Moonrise Kingdom, Boardwalk Empire, Rave On Buddy Holly) have joined forces to releases Divided & United: Songs of the American Civil War., a two -disc set of Civil War songs brought to life through fresh interpretations by the pioneers. Hall of Famers and rising young stars of county, bluegrass , folk and beyond. The collections celebrates music deeply vital to the history and spirit of America in tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Each song offers a unique window on the past, with themes exploring race identity and reconciliation in a manner that echoes profoundly today. The tremendous talents on Divided & United pan several generation and genres: Loretta Lynne, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack, Ralph Stanley, AA Bondy, Jamey Johnson, Chris Thile, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Taj Mahal, Shovels & Rope, Cowboy Jack Clement John Doe Karen Elson and many more.
Crossroads: Eric Clapton Guitar Festival LIVE
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2013 two CD collection containing highlights from Eric Clapton’s celebrated music festival. In addition to rousing performances of Blues classics and renowned hit songs, many of the most memorable performances saw artists coming together for some stirring collaborations. Among the highlights were the surprise pairing of John Mayer and Keith Urban for the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” Vince Gill and Clapton taking on “Lay Down Sally,” Keb Mo and Taj Mahal covering the Sleepy John Estes’ song, “Diving Duck Blues,” Gill performing “Tumbling Dice” with Urban and Albert Lee and members of the Allman Brothers - Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks - joined forces for a haunting acoustic cover of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.” As you would expect, Clapton features prominently throughout the show. The legendary guitarist also tore through the Derek and the Dominos’ classic “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad” with the Allman Brothers Band, revisiting the time in 2009 when he joined the band during their annual residency at the Beacon Theater in New York.
A Mary Christmas by Mary J. Blige
Iconic Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist Mary J. Blige has recorded her first-ever holiday album, A Mary Christmas, for Matriarch Records/Verve Records/Interscope Records. A Mary Christmas is an extraordinary collaboration between collaboration between Blige and legendary producer and Verve Music Group Chairman, David Foster. ‘Working with David Foster is a singer’s dream. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to make this soulful classic Christmas album with him. David’s music has touched so many lives, I’m so proud of what we’ve created and I believe my fans will love it as much as I do,’ says Mary J. Blige.
A Mary Christmas features Blige’s soulful interpretation of classic holiday tunes including ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,’ and ‘The Christmas Song.’ Blige is joined by a number of A-list guests, starting with Barbra Streisand, who duets with Blige on ‘When You Wish Upon A Star,’ along with Jessie J on ‘Do You Hear What I Hear;’ The Clark Sisters join Blige on ‘The First Noel’ and ‘Noche de Paz,’ is a Spanish collaboration with Mark Anthony.Other highlights on the album include ‘Little Drummer Boy,’ ‘My Favorite Things,’ ‘This Christmas,’ ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ and Tino Rossi’s ‘Petit Papa Noël.’
The Christmas Album by Bright Eyes
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Originally released in 2002 as a Saddle Creek Online Store exclusive with all proceeds benefiting the Nebraska AIDS Project, Bright Eyes’ A Christmas Album is now available via widespread commercial release. Available on CD, 180 gram vinyl, and digital formats, check out the album The New York Times called “the saddest, sweetest holiday recording you hear all season.”
The Songs of Leiber & Stoller
Fresh Air: Jerry Leiber
If songwriters gained as many plaudits and fans as those performing their compositions then Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller would be two of the biggest stars of modern music. However, with none other than Elvis Presley as a vessel for the partners work they couldn t have asked for better, from Hound Dog to Jailhouse Rock they remain among the founding fathers of Rock And Roll. Add to that Stand By Me and scores of other classic hits and you can be sure that with these 75 tracks you are truly among songwriting royalty.
CD1 1. Hound Dog - Elvis Presley 2. Ruby Baby - Dion 3. Take It Like A Man - Gene Pitney 4. My Boy John - Baby Jane & The Rockabyes 5. Love Me - Johnny Burnette 6. Lucky Lips - Ruth Brown 7. It’s My Turn To Cry - Jay & The Americans 8. Spanish Harlem - Ben E.King 9. Kansas City - Wilbert Harrison 10. Some Other Guy - Richie Barrett 11. I’ll Be There - Damita Jo 12. Alligator Wine Screamin’ - Jay Hawkins 13. Cafe Espresso - Leiber-Stoller Orchestra 14. I Keep Forgettin’ - Chuck Jackson 15. Smokey Joe’s Café - The Robins 16. Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello - Elvis Presley 17. Don Juan - LaVern Baker 18. The Bossa Nova (My Heart Said) - Tippie & The Clovers 19. All Is Well - Johnny Mathis 20. Fools Fall In Love - The Drifters 21. Falling - Sammy Turner 22. Hollerin’ & Screamin’ - Little Esther 23. Charlie Brown - The Coasters 24. Keep Tellin’Yourself - Marv Johnson 25. Love Potion No.9 - The Clovers CD2 1. Stand By Me - Ben E. King 2. Baby I Don’t Care - Buddy Holly 3. There Goes My Baby - The Drifters 4. Tears Of Joy - Etta James 5. Shack Daddy - Betty Jean Morris 6. Poison Ivy - The Coasters 7. The Chicken And The Hawk - Big JoeTurner 8. Riot In Cell Block # 9 - Wanda Jackson 9. Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots - The Diamonds 10. Blues For Me - Eddie Fisher 11. Drinkin’ Fool - Big John Greer & His Rhythm Rockers 12. You Laugh - Jack Jones 13. Your Old Lady - The Isley Brothers 14. Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley 15. Corn Whiskey - Jimmy Witherspoon 16. The Snow Is Falling - Ray Charles 17. Heavenly Blues - King Curtis 18. You’re The Boss LaVern - Baker & Jimmy Ricks 19. Dancin’ - Perry Como 20. Lips - Roy Hamilton 21. TakeMy Love - Mabel Scott 22. Framed - Ritchie Valens 23. Sorry,But I’m Gonna HaveTo Pass - Lonnie Donegan 24. Don’t - Elvis Presley 25. Jack O’Diamonds - Ruth Brown CD3 1. Dance With Me - The Drifters 2. I’m A Woman - Peggy Lee 3. Kansas City - Little Willie Littlefield 4. You’ll Be There - Clyde McPhatter 5. Searchin’ - The Coasters 6. King Creole - Elvis Presley 7. Saved - LaVern Baker 8. Tricky Dicky - Richie Barrett 9. Drums - Jay & The Americans 10. The Draw - Sherman &The Teenagers 11. Hound Dog - Big Mama Thornton 12. Fanny Lou - Frankie Marshal 13. Back Door Blues - Jimmy Witherspoon 14. It’s Been So Long - Jo Stafford 15. Teach Me How To Shimmy - The Isley Brothers 16. Get Off My Wagon - Linda Hopkins 17. I SmellA Rat - Big Mama Thornton 18. Broken Patty - Andrews 19. Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin’) - The Cheers 20. I Want To Do More - Ruth Brown 21. Treat Me Nice - Elvis Presley 22. Destination Love - Wynonie Harris 23. The Lady Wants To Twist - Steve Lawrence 24. Flesh,Blood And Bones - Little Esther 25. Here Comes Henry - Young Jessie
Artpop by Lady Gaga
Morning Edition: Lady Gaga Writing a Song is like a Factory Investing in a New Machine
Soundcheck: Lady Gaga
2013 release, the third album from the Pop superstar. Artpop musically mirrors Gaga’s creative process. Simply put, Artpop is a celebration of obsession set to a carefully crafted musical landscape that brings the listener on a truly unique audio journey. With producers White Shadow, Zedd, Madeon and others on board, Gaga’s signature Dance/Pop sounds have risen to new heights, bringing a fresh experience that is destined to shake up the current state of Pop music.
The Fame Monster - “Lady Gaga isn’t flesh and blood like the rest of us. She is made of amazingness.” ~Simon Price, The Independent (London)
Wrapped in Red b y Kelly Clarkson
Fresh Air: Kelly Clarkson ‘Wrapped in Red’
The original American Idol returns with her first holiday collection. The album’s first single, “Underneath The Tree,” was written by Kelly and hit songwriter/producer Greg Kurstin as well as produced by Kurstin. Kelly enlisted Kurstin who was one of her partner’s on the Grammy Award winning album Stronger. Together, Kelly and Greg bring a fresh, contemporary sound to this new holiday music ensuring the songs are big hits and evergreen holiday favorites.
Lightning Bolt by Pearl Jam
NPR Music: Watch: Pearl Jam In Conversation With Judd Apatow
All Songs Considered: The ’90s Are Back, Or Whatever…
World Cafe: Pearl Jam On World Cafe: Part 1
World Cafe: Pearl Jam On World Cafe: Part 2
All Songs Considered: Hear Pearl Jam’s New Single, ‘Mind Your Manners’
The Current: Album Review - Lightning Bolt
Album Review by Mac Wilson, host of The Current
One of Pearl Jam’s defining characteristics is that they have wedged themselves into their own corner of American rock music. While this place is both safe and predictable, it’s also enviable in that their identity is secure. If they wished, they could settle in as a legacy act or continue to record a new album every three years; either way, they can rest assured that their spot in the canon will remain unaltered.
Pearl Jam’s new album, Lightning Bolt, is more of the same. Depending on your history with the band, this statement could be construed as a compliment, a reassurance or a condemnation by faint praise. For a band on their tenth studio album, it’s easy to dig up the hoary cliché that no one expects them to reinvent the wheel, but really, did Pearl Jamever reinvent the wheel? While devotees will dissect the merits of Vitalogy versus Vs.versus Yield, they have never been a band to impose radical stylistic shifts from record to record. There’s no easily discernible outliers like Nebraska or Automatic for the People in their catalogue, instead subsisting on a steady stream of “rock” albums that come out every few years, reliably go gold, and give them an excuse to tour. So while the prospect of Pearl Jam throwing us a curveball may sound enticing, it’s frankly not something we would have any reason to expect.
The record begins with the driving, 1-2 punch of “Getaway” and “Mind Your Manners,” both of which will surely become the requisite “new standards” of their live set. The power ballad “Sirens” may also become a live staple. I’ve seen “Sirens” described as treacly, overblown, and like an outtake from the Armageddon soundtrack, all of which is technically accurate, though its emotional sincerity gives it points for sentimentality alone. Even if folks have got out of the habit of bringing lighters to rock shows, “Sirens” will give them an excuse to remember!
After starting with urgency, Lightning Bolt gradually recedes into a series of unmemorable tracks; Eddie Vedder and company know as well as we do that once the album’s support dates are over, we’ll never hear most of these songs again. In 20+ years of work, Pearl Jam have amassed an impressive roster of classics, whether they be singles or live standards, but like their alt-rock contemporaries Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers, their album tracks have never felt like a vital cog in their machine. Fans will have their favorites, of course, but casual PJ listeners have little to draw them in, aside from the heavily played singles. This has worked against the band for years, and sadly, continues on Lightning Bolt.
I wanted to open this review with a variation on the old “I’d Rather Be Fishing” bumper sticker: “I’d Rather Be Reviewing Arcade Fire.” In four albums, Arcade Fire have far surpassed the artistic scope and variety that Pearl Jam possessed even at their mid-’90s commercial peak. Every moment of the Arcade Fire pulses with creativity and thinking outside the box; even the (relative) failures of the new AF album are stunning in their adventurousness. It’s apparent that Arcade Fire made sure that every second of their new record was at least interesting, which makes it all the more bewildering that Pearl Jam, supposed elder statesmen, seemed content with cranking out some fun rawk songs and hitting the road.
Rock n Roll Animal by Lou Reed
Fresh Air: Never Back Down - Lou Reed Remembered
NPR’s The Record: What Lou Reed Taught Me
NPR’s The Two-Way: Lou Reed, Leader Of The Velvet Underground, Has Died At 71
All Songs Considered: Question Of The Week: What Does Lou Reed’s Music Mean To You?
All Things Considered: Lou Reed, Beloved Contrarian, Dies
World Cafe: World Cafe Remembers Lou Reed
The Current: 9:30 Coffee Break: Lou Reed
NPR: Lou Reed in Concert
Morning Edition: Influential Musician Lou Reed Dies
Lou’s best live album, remastered from the original tapes and featuring two previously unreleased performances of Caroline Says and How Do You Think It Feels !
Move Me Brightly: A Ducumentary Concert Film Celebrating Jerry Garcia's 70th Birthday
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All Things Considered: The Practical Side Of The Great American Jam Band
Move Me Brightly is a film based around a musical gathering at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios in San Rafael, California to mark what would have been Jerry Garcia’s 70th birthday on 3rd August, 2012. The revolving line-up of performers included fellow Grateful Dead members along with many guest artists who joined together to celebrate Jerry Garcia’s life and work. The evening’s program was originally conceived by film director Justin Kreutzmann, the son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill, and the complete five hour set was webcast live. This film combines live performances from the studio alongside interviews with Jerry Garcia’s family members, Grateful Dead bandmates and other musicians who played with or were inspired by him. It is fitting tribute to one of rock music’s most creative and imaginative composers and performers.
Springsteen & I
Q with Jian Ghomeshi: ‘Springsteen & I’ Showcases Fan Devotion
Springsteen & I is a unique feature music documentary celebrating a rock n roll icon: Bruce Springsteen. Working with the filmmakers, Springsteen’s fans have helped create a film that reflects on their personal insights and experiences to explore what this timeless artist means to them. Their stories are at times touching, at times humorous, at times extraordinary and they all come from the heart. Combined with previously unseen archive footage of performances throughout Springsteen’s career, this is a film by the fans and for the fans created with the full support of Bruce Springsteen.
Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen - Marking the Boss’s 17th studio album, Wrecking Ball features 11 new Springsteen recordings and was produced by Ron Aniello with Bruce Springsteen and executive producer Jon Landau.
Said long-time manager Jon Landau, “Bruce has dug down as deep as he can to come up with this vision of modern life. The lyrics tell a story you can’t hear anywhere else and the music is his most innovative of recent years. The writing is some of the best of his career and both veteran fans and those who are new to Bruce will find much to love on Wrecking Ball.”
Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
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Morning Edition: Freddie Mercury: Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Humble Showman
On April 20th 1992, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon, the surviving members of Queen, took to the stage at Wembley Stadium for the start of one of the biggest events in rock history, which the band had organized to pay tribute to their former colleague the incomparable Freddie Mercury. Queen was joined by some of the greatest musical talent in the world to celebrate Freddie’s life and work and to increase public awareness of AIDS, the disease that had prematurely ended his life the previous year. As well as being great entertainment, the concert raised a huge and still growing sum of money for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity formed at the time whose charter is the relief of suffering from AIDS throughout the world. Now for the first time both halves of the concert are being made available on SD-Blu-ray along with additional bonus material in this special edition release.
Dead Man’s Bones by Dead Man’s Bones
NPR Music: Dead Man’s Bones: Halloween Arrives Early
Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields share an affinity for the eerie. Their result of their musical collaboration is a striking collection of doo-wop songs about werewolves, haunting melodies telling tales of zombies with broken hearts, and children singing the joys and pains of being alive, or being dead. Features The Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children’s Choir. RIYL: Grizzly Bear, Daniel Johnston, Beirut, Nick Cave, Lon Chaney.