KUER Music

Cumbia: The Music That Moves Latin America

Nov 11, 2013
Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd—hosts of NPR's ongoing series on Latin alternative music—recently stopped by for an episode of Weekend Edition to discuss the history and far-flung influence of cumbia, a syncopated style of music and dance that ranges from the traditional to the Top 40 (you can hear cumbia's influence on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' chart-topping "Thrift Shop.) You can listen to the piece here, along with a handful of song selections that illustrate the various flavors of

The Do's and Don'ts of Going Solo

Nov 11, 2013
Brian Aris

It's an age-old story; band finds success, band's momentum dwindles, lead singer departs for greener pastures in the form of a solo career.  But why is it that some solo ventures—like Morrissey's post-Smiths output, or Beyonce after leaving Destiny's Child—seem to strike gold, while others (like, for instance, Van Halen's David Lee Roth) simply fizzle out of existence?

Ari Shapiro's Five Songs for Earbud-free Biking

Nov 9, 2013
Denise DeBelius/NPR

In the interest of safety, NPR's Ari Shapiro doesn't wear headphones while riding his bicycle; instead, Shapiro prefers to tuck his iPhone into a jacket pocket and crank up the volume on the phone's external speaker.  As he prepares to depart from his position as White House Correspondent to cover London for NPR, he's picked five songs that still shine despite the undeniably tinny speakers mounted on most smartphones.

Hans van der Linden (http://www.flickr.com/photos/herrhanz/)

John Fahey pioneered a musical style called American Primitivism (or American Primitive Guitar) in the 1950's, a sort of amalgamation of the various flavors of American guitar.  Head over to All Songs Considered to check out Lars Gotrich's picks of five contemporary records keeping Fahey's tradition alive.

Tyler, The... Director?

Oct 31, 2013

For those familiar with the work of Tyler, The Creator—the divisive rapper whose Odd Future crew rose to prominence at the close of the 00's with a slew of jarring mixtapes centered around murder, mutilation and mayhem—the new video for "Glowing" might be a bit of a surprise.

Fresh Air Remembers Lou Reed

Oct 30, 2013
Karl Walter/Getty Images

From his counter-culture anthem "Walk On The Wild Side" to a questionable but undeniably bold collaboration with Metallica, Lou Reed was always pushing: pushing himself, his listeners, and often the entire landscape of American popular music in electrifying new directions.  It wasn't always a successful strategy—take that record with Metallica, for instance—but when Reed's restless creative drive was in top form, it really was something to behold.

Beneath The Wig: Bach Examined In New Book

Oct 30, 2013
courtesy of William H. Scheide, Princeton, N.J.

Johan Sebastian Bach's music has enjoyed considerable longevity as a cornerstone of the musical zeitgeist, but his personal life is, for the most part, the stuff of speculation.  The composer's little known personality—his emotions, flaws, and triumphs—may be about to become significantly clearer, however, with the publication of Bach: Music in The Castle of Heaven.  Written by John Eliot Gardiner—himself a renowned composer—the book attempts to unravel a man "filled with contradictions".

First Listen: Cut Copy, Kronos Quartet and More

Oct 28, 2013
Cut Copy

The fine folks over at NPR Music headquarters have rolled out a fresh batch of First Listen streams; head here to hear new music from indie dance mainstays Cut Copy, experimental string outfit Kronos Quartet and more.

Katy Perry's Career 180

Oct 28, 2013
Cass Bird/Courtesy of the artist

Katy Perry has a unique perspective with regards to pop music.  You most likely know her as the sultry star responsible for hits like "I Kissed A Girl", but chances are you might not be aware that Perry is currently in phase two of her career.  Her first stab at the music game was under the name Katy Hudson, singing sterilized Christian pop; it was a move that failed to garner the audiences Perry was hoping for, and she has since moved to greener, more secular pastures.

Do Surprise Album Releases Work For Everyone?

Oct 21, 2013
Brad Barket/Getty Images

What's the value of hype? As part of NPR's The Record, Eric Ducker examines the pros and cons of the spontaneous album release, on the heels of records like Four Tet's Beautiful Rewind and Kanye West's polarizing Yeezus.

Ryley Walker Brings Acoustic Swagger

Oct 16, 2013
Michael Vallera/Courtesy of the artist

Guitarist/songwriter Ryley Walker offers music that "swings and sways", an alluring hybrid of blues, folk and psychedelia.  Check out "The West Wind" now, courtesy of All Songs Considered. 

Rubblebucket Gets Funky

Oct 9, 2013

With their new video for "Save Charlie", Brooklyn indie pop outfit Rubblebucket serves up a technicolor slice of languid funk, complete with neon outlines and shimmering on-screen lyrics.  For more info, head over to All Songs Considered.

Jimmy Katz/Courtesy of the artist

24-year-old Melissa Aldana, the winner of last month's Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, has been gaining quite a bit of buzz as a result of her talents.  Citing artists like Sonny Rollins as key inspirations, Aldana talks with A Blog Supreme about her experiences as a globe-trotting jazz afficionado. 

Deltron 3030 Brings More Interstellar Madness

Oct 5, 2013
Michael Donovan/Courtesy of the artist

Thirteen years after the release of the much-celebrated concept album Deltron 3030, rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien has returned with producer Dan The Automator and turntablist Kid Koala for Event II, another dystopian sci-fi epic packed with nimble wordplay and head-nodding beats.  Listen now at NPR music.

Is Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" A Real Hit?

Oct 5, 2013
Lester Cohen/WireImage

It's the number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 with a raunchy video to match, but is Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" a genuine hit?  After the flash-in-the-pan popularity of songs like Bauuer's "Harlem Shake", NPR's Chris Molanphy wonders about the lasting impact of Cyrus' sound. 

Nostalgia 2.0: 90's Rap Release Dates

Sep 29, 2013
Jive Records

More 90's nostalgia! Evan Auerbach delivers this piece for NPR's The Record, celebrating a number of dates from the 1990's that marked the release of classic hip-hop records.  A random highlight: April 17, 1990, which offered the release of A Tribe Called Quest's seminal People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.

Gabe Baltazar

83-year-old saxophonist/clarinetist Gabe Baltazar was recently profiled as part of NPR's Weekend Edition series, offering an in-depth look at one of the foremost Asian-Americans in jazz music.  The piece examines a career that spanned the U.S., and boasted appearances alongside the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderly and Wes Montgomery. 

Drake's Hip-Hop Emotionality

Sep 28, 2013
Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET

Rap superstar Drake, fresh on the heels of his third studio album, Nothing Was The Same, has been garnering quite a bit of attention recently.  NPR's Jason King takes a look at what makes the Toronto sensation so engaging, from his uniquely emotional appeal to an evident talent for verbal calisthenics.  

Cold Chillin' Records

Widely considered a seminal figure in the hip-hop moment for his invention of the process known as sampling, New York DJ Marley Marl speaks with Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley for NPR's Microphone Check series.  Marl describes his memories of  discovering sampling—the act of utilizing sounds recorded from other records—as well as his love for synth-pop pioneer Giorgio Moroder and working with LL Cool J. 

Jessye Norman's Jazz Favorites

Sep 22, 2013
Carol Friedman

In a conversation aired on WBGO, opera singer Jessye Norman shares songs from five of her favorite jazz singers, including the likes of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.  

Tiny Desk Concert: Arturo O'Farrill

Sep 18, 2013

The latest in NPR's Tiny Desk concert series comes from jazz musician Arturo O'Farrill, who performs three songs with a stripped-down, eight-man version of his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.  A multi-talented performer born of a musical family, the sounds O'Farrill offers are "as fluent in Afro-Cuban rhythms as they are in the deep grooves and advanced harmonics of bebop."

Anton Corbijn

Nirvana's seminal grunge record In Utero marks 20 years of existence this year; in celebration of the album's memory and the memory of lead singer Kurt Cobain, Nirvana founders Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic talk with All Songs Considered about the making of the album.  Hit the link for an in-depth look at the history behind the definitive grunge album, and listen to some unreleased out-takes from In Utero.

90's Musicians We Miss

Sep 13, 2013
Mick Hutson/Redferns

Having been born at the decade's inception, I harbor a soft spot for the music of the 1990's.  So does NPR's Ann Powers, apparently, as she picks six pre-millenial artists worthy of nostalgia.  From Janet Jackson to Elastica, the piece should stir some memories of neon-clad mid-90's vibes for anyone fortunate enough to have experienced the decade.  

Who Owns "Funkytown"?

Sep 13, 2013
Michael Ochs Archives

Reporting for NPR's All Songs Considered, Joel Rose examines the turbulent history of Lipps, Inc.'s disco hit "Funkytown", an iconic track that has spawned a decades-long legal battle over the ownership of the piece.  Rose delves into the complicated waters of copyright law, highlighting the age-old conflict of band versus major label.  

Thurston Moore + Ariel Pink + A Moving Train

Sep 10, 2013

Billed as part of Doug Aitken's "art project-journey-collaboration" series Station To Station, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore plays with Ariel Pink and drummer John Moloney on a moving train, offering a meandering jam session whilst winding through the Great Allegheny Passage.  Learn more about the project over at All Songs Considered.

The Bad Plus' Dave King Talks Odd Jobs

Sep 10, 2013
the artist

The Bad Plus—with their careening piano rhythms and rollicking covers of pop songs like "Tom Sawyer"—have long been a bastion for the weirder side of jazz.  Drummer Dave King talks job history with A Blog Supreme, describing his experiences as a paper boy, janitor, delivery driver, and ultimately as drummer for one of jazz's boldest outfits.

The Mix: Britpop At 20

Sep 10, 2013
Steve Jennings/Corbis

It seems to be a landmark year for music genres; hip-hop recently celebrated 40 years of existence, and now Britpop has reached 20 years of age.  NPR's Otis Hart explores the history of the 90's-born UK Britpop scene, a "nebulous black hole of a genre".

Where Have All The Symphonies Gone?

Sep 5, 2013
Derek Bermel

Writing for NPR Music's Deceptive Cadence blog, composer/clarinetist Derek Bermel examines a puzzling phenomenon in classical music: why does no one seem to be composing new symphonies?  Bermel talks to a handful of modern artists about why the label of "symphony" has become anathema to contemporary composers, and examines the complicated standing of the time-tested musical form that is the symphony. 

Tiny Desk Concert: Baths

Sep 5, 2013

The technicolor electronics of Baths' music can fit many molds, as evidenced by an excellent new session for NPR's Tiny Desk concert series.  Baths—created and helmed by Will Wiesenfeld—performs three tracks from Obsidian, his latest album for Anticon records.  

Baldur Bragason

On the heels of Hesitation Marks, the latest album from Nine Inch Nails, front-man Trent Reznor talks with NPR Music, discussing the personal trials and decades of experience that fed into the creation of the new record.