Popular Music

Nik Carman (right) records "Wagon Wheel" at Studio Anatomy, accompanied by his brother, Andrew, on guitar.

Interlochen Public Radio is your source for the arts from northern Michigan. Whether you're looking for new music from northern Michigan artists or NPR's First Listen, you'll find the stories here.

In America, there is a rare echelon of pop stars so big they only need one name: Madonna, Cher, Prince. In Italy, that name is Zucchero.

As the shorter half of the sketch-comedy duo Key & Peele, Jordan Peele was ever on the lookout for distinctive ways to tackle ethnic stereotyping, so it makes sense that he'd leaven his film directing debut with more than just a dash of social satire.

Get Out, billed in its opening credits as "from the mind of Jordan Peele," is a horror-flick with a decidedly Peelean take on genre and on race — one that subverts familiar horror tropes while encouraging audiences to simultaneously react to them, and step back to look at them more closely.

Little Bandit is a group devoted to the songs of Alex Caress, who's making classic country music with a sassy and subtly political twist. Caress first impressed Nashville audiences as part of the dream-pop band Ponychase, which was led by his sister, Jordan. More recently, he's played keyboards in breakout punk-blues star Adia Victoria's band.

The Associated Press is reporting that Beyoncé will not make it to Indio, California in April for her planned headlining performance at Coachella, one of the world's most successful and highest-grossing music festivals.

It may be easy, as you focus in on the sharp synths, rolling bass and snapping drums (one can hardly be blamed) driving "Meticulous Bird" to miss the remarkable message being sung by Thao Nguyen, leader of Thao And The Get Down Stay Down.

When STRFKR's Josh Hodges and Keil Corcoran wrote the synth-pop romper "In The End," they say they imagined it as "a cross-dresser, alien-abduction-type thing." Their new video for the cut came close — it's a drag queen heist film.

Gabriel Garzón-Montano is one of the most promising new artists of 2017. His full-length debut on Los Angeles label Stones Throw, Jardín, is a solid listen from front to back, and his sexy, soulful songs have been a favorite on KCRW's airwaves. He and his drummer performed our current favorite, "Crawl," live in our studio.

SET LIST

  • "Crawl"

Photo: Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW.

Whatever else you might say about the themes of La La Land — that it's a film about the ins and outs of young romance, or the pros and cons of creative ambition, or the movie musical as a renewable art form, or the culture of Hollywood, or the state of jazz (more on that in a sec) — you'd have to acknowledge the line it draws between illusion and disillusion.

On Wednesday, as protesters near the Dakota Access Pipeline began to break down their shelters and leave the area, Brooklyn singer Holly Miranda released a song, a cover of an obscure late-'70s science-fictional folk song, that she'd been working on for two months in support of those leaving.

From its very beginnings, country music has scarcely lacked for songs about Jesus — you could fill several box sets with them and barely scratch the surface. But thanks to rising Texan alt-country songsmith Jason Eady's "Barabbas," the shadowy figure whose presence is crucial to Christ's tale is getting a rare shot at the spotlight.

Buried somewhere in the fathoms of YouTube is a recent clip of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, apparently filmed with a smartphone in Santiago de Cuba. The band, synonymous with the ebullient spirit of New Orleans, is playing a staple of its book, Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras." What's notable about this version of the song, from December of 2015, is the punchy assist provided by some Cuban percussionists, who fall right into step with its second-line groove.

For nearly 20 years, Little Big Town's members have plugged away through label troubles, divorces and the death of loved ones, but they've never endured a lineup change.

My enduring memory of Chicano Batman dates to the first time I saw them perform, back in 2010, at a bar called Footsies in Los Angeles's Glassell Park neighborhood. It'd be generous to even describe the space as "tight," as the group was surrounded by fans so close that one could have swiped Bardo Martinez's keyboard off the ironing board he used as a stand.

First Listen: Blanck Mass, 'World Eater'

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As half of the experimental electronic duo F--- Buttons, Benjamin John Power has spent most of his musical career pushing toward extremes.

First Listen: Ibibio Sound Machine, 'Uyai'

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Eno Williams, the lead singer and spiritual force behind Ibibio Sound Machine, was born in London, but she relocated to her mother's native Nigeria as a girl. It's a move that, years, later, would make a profound impact on musical career. In 2014, Ibibio Sound Machine's eponymous debut album skillfully combined London electronic club music with Nigerian funk and pop, making for a compelling, ear-popping experience. The band's follow-up album, Uyai, strengthens and deepens that cross-cultural alchemy.

An air of nonchalance hangs over Talaboman's debut album. To read producers John Talabot and Axel Boman describe their collaboration, there's not much to it: just "a Catalan and a Swede talking blip blop until we felt that we had something worth saying." As for which thematic platitudes might best describe that "something," the underwhelming admissions — "a journey to reach our subconscious," to "push imagination," "open your mind," the realization that "love is all this world needs" — all make a decent case that sometimes the "blip blop" should speak for itself.

The 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which takes place every four years, begins later this spring in Fort Worth, Texas. For the past six weeks, judges have been traveling the world to hear potential competitors audition. One notable stop is Moscow — where the American pianist for whom the contest is named stunned the world 59 years ago, winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition at the height of the Cold War.

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Danish songwriter Agnes Obel's session might give you the shivers for more than one reason. Her latest album, Citizen Of Glass, was named for a pretty eerie concept. "I got the idea from the German term gläserner mensch, which is the term you use when an individual in a state has lost all his or her privacy," she says.

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