Music

For nearly a decade, Tune-Yards' Merrill Garbus has been known for drumming, strumming and dancing wildly onstage as she coaxes sound from a handful different instruments and a trusty loop pedal. While the signature sound of Tune-Yards is distinct, Garbus isn't one to put labels on her music.

"It's always the hardest thing," she says. "I appreciate how I'm allowed to maybe not classify the music I play because as soon as you do, assumptions begin to be made and you start shutting out people."

Based on a YA novel by Heidi McLaughlin, the endearingly old-fangled Forever My Girl is basically a stretched-out country music song with eye-catching Southern visuals and a familiar loop of lovelorn sorrow topped with uplift you can see coming from scene one.

Brandy Clark On Mountain Stage

Jan 18, 2018

Brandy Clark notes in her first appearance on Mountain Stage that she has become known for songs with a "tinge of revenge," citing Miranda Lambert's "Mamma's Broken Heart" (which she co-wrote) and her own hit "Stripes" as examples. In the introduction of her latest tale of retribution, "Daughter," Clark says it has become her favorite because "it's not about blowing anything up or slashing any tires.

Fifteen hours southwest of the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg is the beautiful city of Cape Town. A picturesque spot along the coast, mountains rise out of the sea and winding roads snake along the ocean, connecting a downtown filled with high rises to smaller bayside villages. People here have a reputation for being more relaxed, and moving at a slower pace.

Over the last five years, a psychedelic and garage rock scene has sprung up here that has gained attention across the country.

For our latest installments of the series Sense of Place we're exploring two cities in South Africa: Johannesburg and Cape Town.

We started our trip off in Johannesburg, which is the economic hub of the country. (Think skyscrapers, a fast pace of life and a sense of energy — and sometimes danger.) The city still feels the lasting effects of apartheid, with the much poorer township of Soweto nearby. Both are a sharp contrast to the city 900 miles to the south we would later visit, the more laidback – and maybe more beautiful – Cape Town.

Take Me On: The Art Of The Cover Song

Jan 18, 2018

What makes a great cover song?

Is it a total reimagining, like Devo singing “Satisfaction,” Ike and Tina Turner taking on “Proud Mary” or Jimi Hendrix playing “All Along The Watchtower?”

Is it a performance that brings a new energy or feeling to the original, like Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” or Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah?”

Or can a covering artist bring a weight to a song that makes it feel all their own, like Johnny Cash singing “Hurt?”

The answer is yes.

Hot Snakes is a rock 'n' roll band. Just the name alone — Hot Snakes — sounds like a weathered 45 from the Nuggets proto-punk era, when no one really knew what they were doing. When John Reis started Hot Snakes with Drive Like Jehu bandmate Rick Froberg in the early 2000s, that felt like the M.O.: plug in and play as loud as possible. In 2005, they broke up.

Sometimes the things we do to escape our pain end up sinking us into deeper depths. It's a cycle of desperation all too familiar to Abhi the Nomad.

"Binge and drink again, smile and pretend again / Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to rock bottom," the rapper/singer intonates on "Marbled." The song serves as a mixed metaphor of sorts, with Abhi narrating the life of a loner whose stage name is not just for show.

Looking back on Common's gripping Tiny Desk performance at the White House in 2016, I recall a couple of prophetic moments. The first was that the rapper confessed his desire for an Emmy Award while fixated on Bob Boilen's trophy on the desk in front of him.

I have a soft spot for Yo La Tengo's curiosities, like the cloudy bossa nova shimmy of "How To Make A Baby Elephant Float" or the spelunking drones and gurgling rock improvisations heard on The Sounds Of The Sounds Of Science, which soundtracked a series of underwater documentaries.

We're dang near a quarter-century into the new millennium and George Clinton is still out here slingin' gut buckets of funk. At this point, the good Dr. Funkenstein is more than a living institution; he's half-man, half-amazing.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW W.K. SONG, "MUSIC IS WORTH LIVING FOR")

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Geography has a way of seeping into music, and Calexico has never shied away from that fact. Throughout the group's 22-year existence, co-founders and multi-instrumentalist Joey Burns and John Convertino have drawn on the arid clime and vibrant culture of the American Southwest — and its sister territory across the border — to inform their sprawling, cross-cultural indie rock.

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