Nan Warshaw and Rob Miller of Bloodshot Records
Bloodshot Records is celebrating a big birthday this year: 20 years. The label has been home to some hugely influential and well-known artists: Neko Case, Ryan Adams, Alejandro Escovedo, Jon Langford, The Old 97s and so many more. Founders Rob Miller and Nan Warshaw talk about how the label has survived two decades in the tumultuous independent record industry, how Ryan Adams's Heartbreaker changed its history forever and what Bloodshot albums meant the most to them.Go to episode 473
In the 1990's, the musical attitude of Detroit was reshaped by artists like Eminem and Jack White. But now the Motor City's mood has changed even more, and the minimalist post-punk sounds of Protomartyr are at the fore. The four-piece made a big impact on Greg back at this year's SXSW in Austin, TX with an almost contradictory mix of urgency and restraint, courtesy of guitarist Greg Ahee's stripped down playing and vocalist Joe Casey's sometimes callous, sometimes cool vocals. The band is rounded out by bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard and Greg welcomes them into the studio for a conversation and performance of songs off their sophomore album, Under Color of Official Right. In addition to their connection to literary icon Elmore Leonard, the band also tells Greg about how they went from a somewhat nonchalant beginnings, to constructing a tightly arranged and thoroughly purposeful album guided by the philosophy of doing more with less.Go to episode 470
Robert Plant is arguably one of the most famous names and faces in music history—amazing considering he started his career in the Welsh borderlands of England, or as he says, the Black Country. There he was inspired by sounds from across the pond including the Blues and singers like Little Richard and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Plant went on to found Band of Joy and later Led Zeppelin with his friend, drummer John Bonham, and the two ruled the rock airwaves in the 1970's. Bonham died in 1980, and with him Led Zeppelin. But Plant has never stopped releasing music or exploring new sounds. Examples of this are Raising Sand with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss in 2007 and Band of Joy with singer-songwriter Patty Griffin. His 10th and latest album is called Lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar.Go to episode 469
James Mercer of The Shins and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) formed a band called Broken Bells that combines Mercer's songwriting abilities with Burton's incredible production techniques. The duo has released two albums under that moniker and the project has two fans in Jim and Greg. The band met at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark have continued to work together on-and-off since. Brian talks about their songwriting process which essentially boils down to late night chats about everything under the sun, and then putting those ideas to music in the studio. James describes how Brian pushed him as a singer—making him do take after take until he got it right. Broken Bells' newest album As Greg notes, After the Disco is evocative of that 3 a.m. feeling when things“wear off.”The band joined Jim and Greg for a special performance at the historic Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR. The crowd was courtesy of our friends at opbmusicGo to episode 467
Science Friday host Ira Flatow joins Jim and Greg this week to talk about the meeting of science and music.
First, Jim and Greg ask Ira for his thoughts on a story from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Scientists there took pairs of identical and fraternal twins and tested their musical ability against the time spent practicing. Surprisingly, they found that practice doesn't necessarily make perfect. In other words, your ability to play music is based more on your genetic makeup than your hard work spent rehearsing.
Next, our hosts discussed whether or not teenagers should replace A&R staff at the record labels. According to Dr. Gregory Berns at Emory University, teenagers put into an fMRI machine were able to predict whether an unknown song would be a hit, based on the recorded neural responses to the songs being played.
Music scholars will appreciate the next study, which was published in Scientific American. Specific musical intervals such as the tritone and the perfect fifth influence the organizing behavior of people exposed to those different intervals. People listening to the perfect fifth intervals were able to categorize items in a list better than people who listened to tritone intervals. This may correlate to the idea that a distracted mind is actually one that is better able to concentrate.
Ira brings up a Science Friday interview with Charles Limb, a professor of head and neck Surgery. He found that Jazz musicians who played music while in a fMRI machine had language centers light up in the brain. This suggests jazz musicians may have an unspoken language they communicate through their music.
Ira also mentions a Current Biology study that found that there are some people who just don't like music. They have a condition called "Specific Musical Anhedonia." Hopefully Sound Opinions hasn't transferred this condition to any of you listening.Go to episode 466
Ted Leo and Aimee Mann seem like an unlikely pairing: he's punk, she's folk, but as The Both, the duo make beautiful music together. And inspiration for forming this“mutual admiration society”came from some strange places including Twitter and a shared love of comedy and Thin Lizzy. And the project seems to have been liberating for both musicians—freeing them up from their typecast constraints of“political rocker”or“singer-songwriter.”Ted and Aimee perform songs from The Both's self-titled debut, including a celebration of "Milwaukee" and its utterly bizarre "Bronze Fonz."Go to episode 463
This past July, Sound Opinions took the show out of the WBEZ studios and in front of a live audience at Chicago's Lincoln Hall. The impetus for a field trip? Tweedy, the new project by Wilco lead singer and founder Jeff Tweedy. The band features Jeff on vocals and guitar, Jeff's 18-year-old son Spencer Tweedy on drums, Liam Cunningham on keyboards, Jim Elkington on guitars & Darrin Gray on bass. Jeff and Spencer spoke with Jim and Greg about how the 20 song album, Sukierae, came together after Spencer played drums on One True Vine, the Jeff Tweedy-produced album by Mavis Staples. In fact, Spencer calls Mavis another“Grandma.”Sukierae came at a much-needed time for the Tweedy family; Jeff's wife, Sue Miller, began her fight against lymphoma. And her nickname provides the album its title. So what is it like to tour with your dad and play actual "Dad Rock"? What happens if Spencer dates a Wilco fan? And when can we expect new Wilco music from the now-20-year-old band? Tune in for answers to those questions, plus songs from the new record.Go to episode 460
Benjamin Booker has caused a stir in the indie rock world by melding the blues, punk and soul with a signature rasp. Fresh off the heels of his national television debut on Late Night with David Letterman, Booker visits the studio to perform songs from his first major label release on ATO records. He also tells Jim and Greg about transitioning from being a barista at Starbucks to touring with Jack White all in one year. He can also count influential label head Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records as a fan. Despite all this, Booker's parents are still not quite sold on this whole music thing.Go to episode 457
R&B singer/songwriter Kelis has been making music since her debut release in 1999…longer if you count her time at the "Fame" school (New York's LaGuardia High School of Music, Art & Performing Arts). But it wasn't until 2003's breakout hit "Milkshake," that Kelis really brought all the fans to the yard. That song, produced by Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes, went gold. But, Kelis' next step was surprising. She released 2006's Kelis Was Here and then took a big break…to go to culinary school! By this time she had married rapper Nas, and in 2009 they publicly announced their split while Kelis was 7 months pregnant with her son. All of that—motherhood, family and food—has made its way on to the new record, aptly titled Food. It's a focused reinvention of sounds, produced by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek. Kelis stopped by our studio to performed songs from Food and talk about the pitfalls of stardom, her breakup with Nas, and how Jerk Ribs found its way into a song title.Go to episode 454
Considering that Rosanne Cash was born into music royalty, she's a veteran of the business. But that hasn't stopped her from blazing her own trail. The eldest daughter of Johnny Cash, Rosanne, too, is something of a maverick, never fitting into any proper "Country" or "Rock" cagetories. She eschewed the binding confines of Nashville for New York City, where she lives with husband and musical partner John Leventhal. Rosanne recently released her 13th studio album, The River and the Thread, and she joined us for a special live performance at the WXPN studios in Philadelphia. She talked with Jim and Greg about her father's legacy, working with her husband, breaking away from the Nashville industrial complex, and how she can write a beautiful song based on a tweet.Go to episode 452
Rob Reiner on This Is Spinal Tap
Up there with The Ramones in the“Rock Canon”is this band: Spinal Tap. Fans first met the heave metal trio in 1984 upon the release of Rob Reiner's mock rocumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Now, those aging headbangers are even older—30 years older to be exact. But, This is Spinal Tap remains, without a doubt, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll film, ever. This is because, fictional or not, it's the truest. From the arenas to the airplane hangars, all of the clichéd moments of excess and gladhanding, of sexism and machismo and utter stupidity…they all ring very true! There are real“Black”albums and real drummer tragedies. And this authenticity was thanks to its music-loving stars and writers, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, and their fair leader and fellow writer Rob Reiner. The man many of us came to know as“Meathead”in All in the Family plays the fake director Marty DeBergi in the movie. But in real life, he's directed classics like Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men. His latest, And So It Goes, stars Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas and is out July 25th. But Rob was kind enough to indulge all of Jim and Greg's burning Spinal Tap questions.Go to episode 451
From St. Louis, to Chicago to Asheville, NC, Angel Olsen is now a national figure in indie rock. Her first big break came after performing backup for Bonnie Prince Billy, but Olsen has grown into a confident artist in her own right. Her songwriting has been compared to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and her voice has been compared to that of the great Roy Orbison. For most of her career, Olsen has made sparse, introspective records, starting with her first EP, Strange Cactii, and then with her debut album, Half Way Home. Now with her latest record, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, the critical acclaim has matched that of fans. During her studio visit, Angel Olsen played songs from this new record, talked to us about the challenge of playing with a full band, and how she views songwriting as an exercise in acting.Go to episode 447
Richard Thompson is a rock survivor, and with each decade comes a new successful era—whether it's Fairport Convention in the 1960's, with Linda Thompson in the '70s or as a solo artist. (You can check out producer, Joe Boyd, talking about Thompson & Fairport Convention here.) In fact, he's one of only a handful of artists, along the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who have sustained a high level of artistic intensity and integrity since the '60s. And to further set him apart, he's one of few guitar heroes from that generation without an obvious debt to the blues. Instead, you'll hear blends of Eastern tones, jazz, Scottish balladry and Celtic folk. Jim and Greg agree he's one of the most underrated guitarists and songwriters in folk history and would urge acts like Mumford & Sons to“Listen and Learn.”The first step would be to study his live performance, which includes a gem from the "Capitolyears," the yet to be released "Fergus Lang," and the Richard and Linda classic "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight." Plus, check out the bonus track, Greg's request, "Dimming of the Day," which may be his most beautiful love song to date.Go to episode 446
The Baseball Project
Summer has finally arrived, bringing us sunshine, days spent lounging on the beach—and, of course, baseball. While the game is America's official national pastime, some Sound Opinions listeners may think rock n'roll deserves that title… Thankfully, five baseball-obsessed musicians are bringing the two together. In 2007, Peter Buck and Mike Mills of R.E.M., Scott McCaughey of Minus 5 and The Young Fresh Fellows, Linda Pitmon of Zuzu's Petals, and her husband, The Dream Syndicate founder Steve Wynn created The Baseball Project, a supergroup devoted to making music about the sport. Steve and Scott tell Giants-fan Greg and baseball-ignorant Jim about why they love the game, their favorite baseball tunes, and how they're exploring the unsavory side of the sport.Go to episode 445
Jim and Greg are joined in the studio this week by the Los Angeles band, Warpaint. The band is made of Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman on guitar and vocals, Jenny Lee Lindberg on bass, and drummer Stella Mozgawa. The band combines rock, electronica, r&b and a host of other genres into a mix that they like to call“sexy,”apt for a band formed on Valentines Day of 2004. Jim and Greg talk to them about musical influences, why it takes so long between records and what is was like working with production superstars, Flood and Nigel Godrich. The band plays us 3 songs from their latest self-titled album, Warpaint.Go to episode 444
Mike Heidorn of Uncle Tupelo
You can trace alternative country's roots to the 1960's when rock musicians such as Gram Parsons, The Byrds and the Flatlanders began dabbling with and reinvigorating country music. It was part of a wider investigation of American roots music in rock, a move toward more“authentic”styles. These rockers looked to country greats like Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard for inspiration — Bob Dylan famously collaborated with Cash on "Girl From the North Country." In the '70s and early '80s, a new generation of punk rockers started digging into traditional country for inspiration, including X, The Mekons, Rank & File, Jason and the Scorchers and the Long Ryders. Then third wave of alt country hit in the late '80s and early '90s, led by The Jayhawks out of Minneapolis and Uncle Tupelo, the trio of Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn, out of Belleville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. Uncle Tupelo's debut album,“No Depression,”took its name from a Carter Family song, "No Depression in Heaven," and it's one of many the key albums in defining the alt-country movement of this era. We have this band to thank for groups like Farrar's Son Volt, Tweedy's Wilco, Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown, the Drive-By-Truckers and the Old 97's …and not to mention No Depression Magazine. Legacy Recordings recently reissued No Depression, complete with some never before released demo tracks from 1987 to 1989. And to talk about it, Jim and Greg are joined by Uncle Tupelo's founding drummer Mike Heidorn.Go to episode 442
Jim and Greg joined by the duo Darkside, featuring electronic artist electronic artist Nicholas Jaar and multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington. They first met while they were both students at Brown University. Harrington first worked with Jaar as a musician in his band during a solo tour, and then on Jaar's 2011 breakout album, Space Is Only Noise. The two musicians talk to Jim and Greg about writing songs that defy the genre definitions of electronica, jazz, funk & classical music. They also explain the route of the band's name, which involved a freak incident at a Berlin hotel. Plus, they play two tracks from Darkside's critically acclaimed 2013 album Psychic.Go to episode 441
John Kennedy O'Connor on Eurovision
The Eurovision Song Contest is largely unknown to most Americans, but for much of the world, the annual songwriting contest is one the biggest (and occasionally, one of the most controversial) cultural events of the year. Like the Superbowl meets American Idol on steroids, the nearly 60-year old televised contest has grown to include more than 35 countries from in and around Europe duking it out to decide who has best original song. Each year an estimated 125 million people tune in to watch and it's their votes which determine who comes out on top.
Despite the fervor before and during the contest, most Eurovision winners rarely go on to further success as artists - with few exceptions. Chief among those is ABBA, who arguably wouldn't have become a pop music powerhouse for 40 years if it weren‘t for their big break at Eurovision. To learn more about their musical birthplace, and just why it’s so darn popular, Jim and Greg recruited John Kennedy O'Connor, author of The Eurovision Song Contest: The Official History, to share the storied, and oftentimes strange, history of the annual music phenomenon. They‘ll all be tuning to watch this year’s contest in Denmark on May 6th.Go to episode 438
Elisabeth Vincentelli on ABBA
Forty years ago this month, Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Agnetha Fältskog took the stage at Eurovision 1974, decked out in platform shoes and sequined suits, to perform a new song called "Waterloo." ABBA would become the first Swedish act to win the song contest. And while Eurovision winners rarely stay relevant, ABBA proved a huge exception, cranking out hit after hit in the 1970s before disbanding in 1983. But their legacy is complicated, explains Elisabeth Vincentelli. By day, she's the chief drama critic for the New York Post. But by night she's an ABBA superfan who wrote a 33 1/3 book on ABBA Gold, the group's definitive best-of collection (and one of the top-selling albums in European history).
As Elisabeth reveals to Jim and Greg, there's way more to this band than just "Dancing Queen." Both Agnetha and Frida were well-known performers in Sweden before they married Benny and Björn and started ABBA (Agnetha was also an accomplisehd songwriter). Unfortunately, the two couples struggled to maintain their relationships in the limelight, leading to a downward spiral that Elisabeth likens to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac (with less tabloid coverage). Things finally fell apart in the early '80s. But a decade later, ABBA saw a strange resurgence among punk and gay subcultures, then among mainstream crowds, thanks to the Australian dramedy Muriel's Wedding and Broadway smash Mamma Mia!. The four members have all found success on their own, but Elisabeth has a bold prediction to make… Could an ABBA reunion could be in the works?Go to episode 438
Giorgio Moroder is on his 6th musical decade, and he's showing no signs of slowing down. He's a name many will identify with Donna Summer's great hits of the Disco era, as well as solo hits like "From Here to Eternity." In fact, subsequent artists and producers talked about going after that“Moroder beat.”While today we hear the synth-heavy "Love to Love You, Baby" and "I Feel Love," and are immediately taken back to the 1970's, at the time they were the sounds of the future. No less than Brian Eno said just that to David Bowie, one of Giorgio's collaborators on the Cat People soundtrack. Giorgio also composed memorable scores for movies like Scarface and Midnight Express, as well as hit songs like "Flashdance…What a Feeling," "Call Me" and "Take My Breath Away." Recently, he's ad a renaissance of sorts, collaborating with Daft Punk on their Grammy-winning album Random Access Memories. And at 73, he's still appearing at festivals like Ultra Music, Pitchfork and MoogFest.Go to episode 437
Heavy Metal, Post-Metal, Grindcore, Post-Grindcore…you name it, Pelican has been called it. But, however you categorize this hard rocking instrumental group, they bring an awesome noise—especially live. Trevor de Brauw, Bryan Herweg, Larry Herweg and Dallas Thomas talk about their desired intensity and play songs from their 2013 album Forever Becoming, the band's first release since the departure of founder Laurent Schroeder-Lebec.Go to episode 436
Alan Paul on The Allman Brothers Band
This year The Allman Brothers Band will celebrate its 45th anniversary, and sources say this year may be the band's last. In fact, due to Greg Allman's bronchitis, it remains to be seen when the band can close out its residency at the famed Beacon Theater in New York. But, after four decades, fans still shelled out upwards of $6,000 to get a ticket to the Beacon gigs. The Allmans still captivate, and for good reason, according to Alan Paul. He's a senior writer at Guitar World and the author of the New York Times bestselling biography One Way Out: The Inside History of The Allman Brothers Band. Alan talks with Jim and Greg about the band's unique mix of blues, jazz, country and psychedelic rock, and their quintessntially American lineup, in which bigger was better. The Allman Brothers Band had two guitartists, Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, and two drummers, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johansen. Rounding out the group at its formation was bassist Berry Oakley. But since 1969, there have been a number of personnel changes and dramatic ups and downs, including the loss of Duane only two years years into the band's lifespan. But, despite all odds, as Alan explains, The Allman Brothers Band has maintained its vision and its soul (except for that whole keytar incident).Go to episode 435
By the early 1980's, punk had become less about sticking it to the man, and more about conforming to a set of rules. Then came the Minutemen with Double Nickels on the Dime, the 1984 album that threw out the punk rulebook. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Double Nickels, Jim and Greg revisit their 2011 conversation with Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, who founded the San Pedro hardcore group alongside drummer George Hurley and larger-than-life lead singer and guitarist D. Boon. The Minutemen weren't afraid to experiment with their sound, incorporating jazz and funk, as well as "Econo"—a lo-fi, DIY attitude that would later inspire indie rock. Ever the motor-mouth philosopher, Watt waxes poetic about jamming econo, the true meaning of "Double Nickels on the Dime," and his idea of a "Hot Topic."Go to episode 433
Allen Toussaint is a flat-out musical legend. The New Orleans native has been playing music since the age of 7 and has collaborated with a who's who of the New Orleans scene: Dr. John, Huey Smith, Irma Thomas, Earl King & many more. The piano man has also written songs for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, DEVO, Warren Zevon, and Patti Labelle. Allen joined Jim and Greg in the studio after the release of his latest album Songbook, a live recording that documents his career via a series of solo piano shows at Joe's Pub in New York City. Allen talks about about the origins of his most popular songs, like "Fortune Teller" and "Working in a Coal Mine," as well as "Whipped Cream," which became the theme for The Dating Game.Go to episode 432
Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini of Sly & the Family Stone
In the 1960's, Sly & the Family Stone, with its multi-racial, co-ed lineup, broke down barriers of how a band should look and sound. It also bridged rock, funk, R&B, soul and jazz, thanks in large part to its virtuoso musicians: guitarist Freddie Stone, bass player Larry Graham, drummer Greg Errico, keys player Rose Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson and sax player Jerry Martini. Then, of course, you have Sly Stone, one of the most charismatic frontmen in music history. But, once the charming star who stole the show at Woodstock and on Dick Cavett, Sly Stone dropped out of public life in 1975. We've had occasional glimpses since then, but for the most part his legend only lives on in recordings. Luckily fans have a new box set called Higher! Upon its release, Jim and Greg spoke with Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini.Go to episode 431
Welcome to the 31st Century: Earth is a wasteland ruled by roving gangs. Corporate greed, runaway technology and economic disparity have finally caught up with the planet. This dire, science fiction scenario is anything but ordinary hip-hop. And, that's not surprising considering how extra-ordinary Deltron 3030 is. This supergroup is made up of Dan“the Automator”Nakamura, the man behind sounds by Gorillaz and Dr. Octagonecologyst; Del the Funky Homosapien, an innovative Oakland MC who wrote lyrics for his cousin Ice Cube's group Da Lench Mob; and finally, turntable wizard Kid Koala. All three crossed paths during the making of other projects like Handsome Boy Modeling School and Gorillaz. And in 2000, with a futuristic comic-book inspiration, Deltron 3030 released its self-titled debut. The world has changed a lot since then, and the sequel, Event II, presents a new idea of the future (one that made Greg's Best of 2013 list) Del, Dan and Kid talk about their new, loftier goals for this album and how such dense, off-the-wall recordings get made. They also riff on everything from Transformers to David Byrne to 1984.Go to episode 430
The Dismemberment Plan
Like its peers Death Cab for Cutie & The Shins the Washinton D.C. band The Dismemberment Plan was on its way to major success in the early part of the new millenium, and then in 2003, decided to pack it in. Bassist Eric Axelson, guitarist Jason Caddell, drummer Joe Easley and singer Travis Morrison went in different directions (Easly at N.A.S.A.!), but more than a decade later the D-Plan is back with Uncanny Valley. They talked with Greg about their multiple musical influences, including punk rock, hip-hop & D.C.'s Go-Go scene. Lead singer Travis Morrison says that ultimately the band is still figuring it out, much like Ferris Bueller did.Go to episode 427
January 10 marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles stateside debut, Introducing the Beatles! This was 10 days before Meet the Beatles!, but whether you were introduced to these lads from Liverpool or you met them, you were hit with a thunderbolt—one that has continued to electrify decades after. So what were these four like before they were fab? Who were John, Paul, Ringo and George as young men, performing in skiffle groups like the Quarrymen and jet setting to Hamburg with Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best? To get insight into these early days, leading up to Beatlemania and their smash debut, we turn to leading Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn. He worked with the band on The Beatles Anthology and now has a new book out called The Beatles All These Years, Volume 1: Tune In. In its 800 pages, Lewisohn reveals who had the biggest row with Stu (Paul), who had the biggest appetite for prellies (John), and most important, who was the biggest stud (Ringo). He also sheds light on John's complicated relationship with women and why The Beatles were so ahead of its time, even in 1962.Go to episode 425
Rodrigo y Gabriela
The Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela joined us for a special performance at the Goose Island Barrelhouse in Chicago. The duo moved from Mexico City to Dublin and famously busked on the streets. It's now a worldwide phenomenon, combining the sounds of flamenco music, heavy metal and folk rock. Gabriela acts as the bands drummer, using the body of her guitar as a percussive instrument, and Rodrigo plays the guitar as if he were headbanging. In fact, Greg wonders about his collaboration with Testament guitarist Alex Skolnik. The band's last album, Area 42, took them to Cuba, where they collaborated with local musicians.Go to episode 424