Results for tUnE-yArDs

interviews

Mavis Staples

It's not often we get to share a room with a genuine national treasure. Jim and Greg were honored to speak with gospel and soul legend and Civil Rights icon Mavis Staples. (Greg is also the author of Mavis's 2014 biography I'll Take You There). Beginning her career at age eleven as the lead singer of her family band The Staple Singers, Mavis has inspired countless artists over the past half century.

Her father Pops Staples learned guitar at the feet of Charley Patton in Dockery Farms, Mississippi before moving to Chicago. There, he formed The Staple Singers, a gospel vocal group featuring his children – Pervis, Cleotha, Yvonne, and Mavis taking the lead. The combination of Pops's blues guitar, Cleotha's counterpoint, and Mavis's precociously powerful voice launched them into national attention with their 1956 hit "Uncloudy Day." Soon, the Staple Singers were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, often serving as the opening act to Martin Luther King, Jr. (We'll cover that period in more detail in a second episode with Mavis).

The group had its greatest success once it signed to Stax Records and began recording with the famed session musicians in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on hits like "I'll Take You There." That's also when Mavis began her solo career – reluctantly at first, but still going as strong as ever today. Her latest album Livin' on a High Note found her working with songwriters like Nick Cave, tUnE-yArDs, and Neko Case. Mavis offers Jim and Greg an intimate look at growing up on Chicago's South Side, forming the Staple Singers' signature sound, meeting Mahalia Jackson, and collaborating with Curtis Mayfield and Prince.

Go to episode 593

tUnE-yArDs

tUnE-yArDs's second album w h o k i l l made it onto both Jim and Greg's lists of the Best Albums of 2011 (so far). This week, Jim and Greg are in the studio with the creative force behind the band, New England native Merrill Garbus. Garbus has come a long way since her days as a professional puppeteer, when she performed for modest crowds with the indie act Sister Suvi and lived with her parents. This month the Oakland-based musician will be one of the most anticipated acts at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Like one of her early influences, Paul Simon, Garbus incorporates plenty of African polyrhythms and vocal textures into her music, and she doesn't shy away from discussions about cultural appropriation. She also takes huge risks as a live performer, looping her voice, drums, and ukulele onstage to become a veritable one-woman band. She performs the feat live in the studio, taking Jim and Greg through the beginning of "Powa." With the backing of bassist Nate Brenner and a hefty horn section, she also performs "Doorstep" and the band's breakout song "Bizness."

Go to episode 294
reviews
Livin' on a High NoteLivin' On a High Note available on iTunes

Mavis Staples Livin' On a High Note

Mavis Staples had a legendary career with her family's gospel and soul band The Staple Singers, which was a major part of the protest movement of the 1960s and scored huge hits for Stax in the 1970s. Mavis reinvented herself as solo artist in 2000s, collaborating on records with Ry Cooder and Jeff Tweedy. For Livin' On a High Note, she and producer M. Ward as a producer asked a variety of contemporary songwriters to write material for her to sing, including Neko Case, Nick Cave, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. Jim loves how the best songs bring Mavis full circle by referencing on the Black Lives Matter movement. While the other songs are hit and miss, Mavis Staples is a“national treasure”and her voice is as powerful as ever. Jim is still waiting for her end career masterpiece, but this album is a definite Buy It. Greg – who literally wrote the book on Mavis Staples – points to We'll Never Turn Back as her masterpiece, but says this album is very good too. He loves what she does even with the lesser songs, like Vernon's generic love song, which she transforms into a moving address to her sister Yvonne Staples. In the middle of her 70s, Mavis Staples is doing some of the best work of her career.

JimGreg
Go to episode 536
Nikki NackNikki Nack available on iTunes

tUnE-yArDs Nikki Nack

Merrill Garbus, the creative force behind tUnE-yArDs, is back from Haiti with adventurous new rhythms and a whole lot to talk about. The result is her third album, Nikki Nack. Expectations for this release were high for Jim and Greg, who lauded 2011's W H O K I L L, and were wowed by the band's live performance on Sound Opinions. But Garbus has outdone herself on Nikki Nack. Greg loves the unconventional Haitian percussion tapping underneath as Garbus 's voice, an instrument in its own right, explores deep, dark themes with a soaring“ecstasy.”Jim agrees, only taking issue with the cannibalistic interlude, "Why Do We Dine on the Tots?," a quirky skit adapted from Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" that lets Garbus showcase her puppeteer training. Otherwise, Jim admires the empathy for women and the poor that comes through in these experimental pop songs, and thinks that Garbus got more out of her Haitian visit than Arcade Fire did. Both critics will Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 441
lists

One-Person Bands

One-Person Bands Ever had a vision that only you could execute? This week, Jim and Greg list their favorite one-person bands: projects where artists write all the lyrics, play all the instruments, and sing all the parts themselves, free from the annoyances of working with other people.

Go to episode 612

SXSW 2011

Music fans and industry insiders have been gathering at the SXSW Music and Media Conference in Austin, TX for twenty-five years. While it has gotten too big for its britches in recent years, SXSW remains the place to hear new artists and issues facing the business. Jim and Greg didn‘t have high hopes for this year’s keynote speaker Bob Geldof. What has the Boomtown Rats done for us lately? Well, not much. But he provided one of the most insightful keynotes our hosts have ever heard. Geldof, who brought the world Live Aid, encouraged American musicians to wake up. He explained that rock ‘n’ roll needs to be against something – whether that's in reality or in spirit. Another noteworthy panel featured independent concert promoters from around the country, as well as Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard. The Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger was approved last year, and this panel attempted to find out how that has affected the concert industry. There were no concrete answers; ticket prices have skyrocketed but it's too early to attribute this to consolidation.

It's panels by day and music by night. Jim and Greg always return from SXSW with a truckload of new music. Here are their respective discoveries of artists to watch in 2011.

Go to episode 278

Best Albums of 2011

Go to episode 315

Top Albums of 2011…So Far

We're halfway through 2011, which means it's time to get a jump on the Best-Of Lists. Here are Jim and Greg's mid-year best.

Go to episode 292
rock doctors

Sandy

Once again, it's time for the Rock Doctors to put on their white coats and stethoscopes. During this appointment, Jim and Greg attempt to mend a broken heart with some great new tunes. Their patient is Sandy from Chicago. She's recently divorced after 17 years of marriage. She wrote Sound Opinions saying it“was an eye-opening and heartbreaking experience.”Sandy is now in her early 50s and feels like she“lost or squandered her youth.”The doctors' job is to help her awaken her musical self.

Sandy was completely open to new genres of music but tends to favor classic rock. Some of her favorite artists include Led Zeppelin, Heart and Van Halen, however she also enjoys more eclectic artists like St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs. While she is a consultant by day, she has a background in acting and singing opera. Sandy is looking for music that will make her feel a sense of exhilaration like she does when she's performing and making art.

Jim's prescription is the album Show Us Your Mind from Portland's Summer Cannibals, while Greg recommended Fantasies by Canadian rock band Metric. During their follow-up appointment, Sandy shared that she really enjoyed both records. She liked the strong voices of the female lead singers as well as the instrumentation. Greg and Jim decide that Sandy might be the nicest patient the Rock Doctors have ever treated and are glad to have helped her.

Do you need to see the Rock Doctors? Or know someone who does? Fill out new patient form and send to interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 484
news

Music News

Every year it's interesting to look at what albums took the top slots on the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll. This is a much more accurate barometer of any given year in music than the Grammy Awards. However, this year Jim and Greg actually gave negative reviews to a lot of the Pazz & Jop winners including Watch the Throne and Let England Shake. But they were happy to see Tune-Yards' Whokill at #1.

Members of the Velvet Underground including John Cale and Lou Reed have filed a lawsuit against the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts over the famous banana featured on their 1967 album cover. Warhol served as producer of the album and gave the band the image, however it was never copyrighted. And now the Velvets want to prevent the banana from going Apple.

Jimmy Castor isn‘t a household name, but chances are you’ve heard his music, or at least samples of it. He had a pop-funk hit with "Troglodyte (Cave Man)" in 1972, but also a string of funk and soul gems that ended up being sampled by hundreds of hip hop acts. Castor died this week at age 71, so to honor the late musician, Jim and Greg play one of the often-sampled tracks, "It's Just Begun."

Go to episode 321