SXSW Dispatch: Partying with NPR Music, TV On the Radio, Stromae and more

TV On the Radio | Photo by John Vettese
TV On the Radio | Photo by John Vettese

At SXSW, the word “party” can mean just about anything: singer songwriters strumming in the courtyard of a bistro, pyschedelic bummer-rockers playing off of the sixth street chaos, a DJ spinning to a crowd of ten somewhere on the other side of the highway. For its annual opening night party at Stubb’s, NPR Music defined “party” very literally; every one of the eclectic array of artists exuded energy and cheer, and got the packed-in crowd moving in a big way. Continue reading →


Does it matter that the Tiny Desk Contest winner was once signed by Interscope?

Fantastic Negrito, winner of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest
Fantastic Negrito, winner of NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest

Without a doubt, the Tiny Desk Contest was one of the most inspiring musical happenings of the past year.

After developing a global fan base with their uniquely-curated videos of unfussy, informal concerts held at producer Bob Boilen’s desk, the NPR Music team this winter opened up the floor to the public, inviting them to shoot their own DIY Tiny Desk-esque videos and submit them via YouTube for a chance to win a slot on the series.

On the one level, it felt like the small-time local heroes from around the country were being given a chance at stardom in that special, Tiny Desk kind of way. Beneath the surface a bit, those of us who work in music know that many of the artists already featured in the series are in the midst of some sort of press cycle, a national promotional push for whatever album they happen to be selling at the time.

As I said, it’s a well-curated run of videos, but most of the artists who make their way to Boilen’s desk are doing so with some level of industry connectedness in hand. Continue reading →


Spoon debuts a new song LIVE at 2PM today

Burak Cingi/Redferns via Getty Images
Burak Cingi/Redferns via Getty Images

Spoon release their new album They Want My Soul on August 5th. Below, watch the band debut a new song, “Rent I Pay” via NPR music from Le Poisson Rouge in New York City.


Stream Conor Oberst’s new release, Upside Down Mountain, via NPR Music

Photo by Butch Hogan
Photo by Butch Hogan

Singer-songwriter Conor Oberst releases his new album, Upside Down Mountain on Tuesday, May 20th. You can listen to it in its entirety here via NPR Music. WXPN Welcomes Conor with special guests Dawes to the TLA on Wednesday, May 21st. The show is sold out.

Writing about the album for NPR Music, Tom Moon says:

Upside Down Mountain suggests that Oberst is growing, rapidly, as a craftsman. It’s the first truly intimate set of songs he’s offered in a while — really since his 2008 eponymous gem, though contemplative moments seeped into 2009’s Outer South, which he recorded with the Mystic Valley Band. Oberst visits some of the rowdy backbeats of those previous works, but even in the driving rock tracks (the -ish “Zigzagging Toward the Light”), he’s brokering interior thoughts, choosing clusters of words for the ways they thrive, or sometimes disappear, inside the sonic swirl.

Upside Down Mountain was co-produced by Jonathan Wilson, who also plays various instruments throughout the album. Oberst gets some additional help from Blake Mills, Orenda Fink, Mike Moogis and Andy LeMaster. The gorgeous back up vocals are performed by Klara and Johanna Söderberg, known to many as the duo First Aid Kit.

Listen to Upside Down Mountain here.


Listen / Watch: Judd Apatow interviews Pearl Jam via World Cafe and NPR Music

Photo by Danny Clinch
Photo by Danny Clinch

Pearl Jam releases their new album, Lightning Bolt, on Tuesday, October 15th. You can listen to it now in its entirety on the Pearl Jam artist page here via iTunes.

Today, NPR Music premieres a video – and World Cafe, the radio version – of a conversation with Pearl Jam and writer and director Judd Apatow that you can watch and listen to below. World Cafe will broadcast the interview in two parts. Listen to part one below; it will also be broadcast today on WXPN at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET and on stations around the country here. Part two will run tomorrow on World Cafe.

Writing about the video, NPR Music’s Ann Powers says:

It’s a pleasure to watch these interviews. Through the Apatow interviews, a full portrait of Pearl Jam at 26 emerges. Guitarist Stone Gossard’s words on “digging in” get to the heart of what it’s like to be in a long-standing working unit. Jeff Ament’s joy in playing with his mates shines through his enthusiastic responses. Matt Cameron, the band’s drummer, shows his acerbic cool. Mike McCready talks about the meticulousness with which he still approaches his guitar solos. And Eddie Vedder , philosophical as always, hones in on how he keeps making Pearl Jam new for himself and for the band’s loyal fan base.

Listen to part one of the World Cafe segment below, and watch NPR Music’s video of the interview.

After closing the Spectrum with four shows in 2009, and performing Made in America in 2012, the band plays the Wells Fargo Center on Monday, October 21st and October 22nd. Get tickets and information on the show here. Pre-order Lightning Bolt here.


Song premiere: “Gimme” by Beck

Today we have a premiere of another new song by Beck. Listen to it below.

Robin Hilton of NPR Music writes:

This is the third single Beck has released this summer. In June he released the woozy, chopped-up cut “Defriended.” He followed in July with the lush and hazy “I Won’t Be Long.” His third and final single in the trilogy is called “Gimme.” None of the singles will be on Beck’s next, and as yet unnamed, full-length record, due out sometime before the end of the year.


Watch Vampire Weekend live in concert from NPR Music

vampire2 Vampire Weekend released their new album, Modern Vampires of the City, on Tuesday and recently performed a 12 song set at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio in Santa Monica for KCRW and NPR Music. Vampire Weekend play the Firefly Music Festival on Sunday, June 23. Video, set list below.

“White Sky”
“I Stand Corrected”
“Diane Young”
“Diplomat’s Son”
“Ya Hey”
“Oxford Comma”
“One (Blake’s Got A New Face)”


My Morning Download: “Ghosts and Creatures” by Telekinesis (playing Johnny Brenda’s on May 7)

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 11.36.15 AM April is Public Radio Music Month and to celebrate, NPR Music is offering ten free songs to download, curated by various stations around the country including WXPN. XPN’s pick was “Strictly Reserved For You” by Charles Bradley that you download here. Today’s download comes from the band Telekinesis, the project of Seattle based multi-instrumentalist Michael Benjamin Lerner. Telekinesis recently released its third album, Dormarion, on Merge Records. Below, download “Ghosts And Creatures” via NPR Music. Telekinesis plays Johnny Brenda’s on Tuesday, May 7th. Go here for tickets.


SXSW required watching: Alt-J live in concert from Stubb’s (playing a sold out show this Thursday at TLA)

Alt-J lead vocalist Joe Newman from Stubb's in Austin. (Photo by Adam Kissick for NPR)
Alt-J lead vocalist Joe Newman from Stubb’s in Austin. (Photo by Adam Kissick for NPR)
Alt-J played SXSW this past week as part of the NPR Music showcase along with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Waxahatchee, and Cafe Tacuba. Alt-J put on a mesmerizing performance and if you’re not yet convinced about what all the fuss is over the Mercury Award winning UK band, watch their performance below from the concert. You can download the full set here. Alt-J play a sold out show this Thursday night at the TLA.