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Gary Clark Jr. brings family and blues-rock to the NPR Music Tiny Desk

Gary Clark Jr. | still from video

Blues-rock champion Gary Clark Jr. took on the NPR Tiny Desk stage this week with a dazzling, stripped back set. Behind the famous desk, Clark shared songs from his recent album, This Land, which reflect on the black experience in America after the 2016 election, as well as stories from his personal life. Clark chose to focus on the personal rather than the radical in this performance, but as NPR put it, “these songs still roared with the assurance and force of a showman at the top of his game.” Continue reading →

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Aretha Franklin was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize

Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace | still from film

When the Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday, the legendary gospel / R&B / rock / soul force of nature Aretha Franklin received a posthumous Special Citation award.

Franklin passed away on August 16 of last year following a fight with pancreatic cancer. Prior to that, she spent more than a half century working in music: singing in the gospel circuit during her teenage years, becoming a pop star in the 60s, and continuing recording and performing for the rest of her life, from a late 90s collab with Lauryn Hill to her final U.S. tour in 2017. Continue reading →

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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Wedding Bell Blues” by Morrissey ft. Billie Joe Armstrong

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Morrissey | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | joedeltufo.com

“Wedding Bell Blues” is a song written by Laura Nyro in 1966 and first recorded on her debut album of the same year, More Than A New Discovery. Three years after Nyro released the song, it was covered by the singing group The 5th Dimension, who had a number one hit with it.

Teaming up with Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong, Morrissey covers “Wedding Bell Blues” on his new collection of cover songs, California Son. Continue reading →

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#XPN5050: 2005

For fifty weeks this year, we’re celebrating the music of a specific year every Saturday on WXPN. We’ll be choosing the years randomly; for this week’s #XPN5050, Helen Leicht is putting the musical spotlight on the year 2005.

Fourteen years ago, LCD Soundsystem made their debut and brought indie-dance mania into the mainstream spotlight; hard-working artists Grace Potter, My Morning Jacket, and Kathleen Edwards got their due with stellar albums, Bright Eyes released two stylistically diverse records in one shot, Fiona Apple returned with her long-awaited Extraordinary Machine, and Beck brought the party once-again with the Dust Brothers-helmed Guero.

The pop charts lit up with releases from James Blunt, Jack Johnson, Coldplay, and Gorillaz, and legacy rockers Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt released compelling work.   Continue reading →

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#XPN5050: 2014

For fifty weeks this year, we’re celebrating the music of a specific year every Saturday on WXPN. We’ll be choosing the years randomly; for this week’s #XPN5050, Mike Vasilikos is putting the musical spotlight on the year 2014.

It was the year that The War on Drugs got Lost in the Dream, Lana Del Rey lit our way with Ultraviolence, Beck revisited his introspective side on Morning Phase, Taylor Swift broke records with 1989, St. Vincent’s self-titled record blessed us with “Digital Witness,” and Sam Herring of Future Islands danced our way into our hearts. Continue reading →

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#XPN5050: 1996

For fifty weeks this year, we’re celebrating the music of a specific year every Saturday on WXPN. We’ll be choosing the years randomly; for this week’s #XPN5050, Stephen Kallao is putting the musical spotlight on the year 1996.

1996 was a year of action, adventure, drama, baggy pants, and the massive amount of music in the post-Alternative boom. After spending the first several years of the decade listening to grizzled grunge rockers scream, the year saw the return of melody in modern rock hits like Fiona Apple’s Tidal, The Fugees’ The Score, Jamiroquai’s Traveling Without Moving, Sheryl Crow’s self-titled, and Wilco’s Being There. It was also the year of funky fun party rock crossovers like Beck’s “Where It’s At” from Odelay and Cake’s “The Distance” from Fashion Nugget, oddities like Moby’s punk record Animal Rights and indie classics like Belle & Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister. Continue reading →