NPR logo Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

Hear Songs By Panda Bear, Father John Misty, Waxahatchee And More

Panda Bear's "Tropic Of Cancer" is one of the tracks public radio couldn't stop playing in January. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Panda Bear's "Tropic Of Cancer" is one of the tracks public radio couldn't stop playing in January.

Courtesy of the artist

Hear The Songs

Cover for Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

08Tropic of Cancer

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    Song
    Tropic of Cancer
    Album
    Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
    Artist
    Panda Bear
    Label
    Domino
    Released
    2015

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Panda Bear, 'Tropic Of Cancer'

  • from Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Opening with somber horns, the mournful winter wind and words of reflection, "Tropic Of Cancer" is a beautiful meditation on loss. Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is the new album by Noah Lennox (a.k.a. Panda Bear), who wrote "Tropic Of Cancer" in the wake of his father's death. The pain is palpable, but this beautifully hazy ballad's power lies in the way he sets his melancholy sentiments against blissful, Beach Boys-esque vocals. —Anne Litt, KCRW

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Song
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
Album
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
Artist
Panda Bear
Label
Domino
Released
2015

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Father John Misty, Born In The U.S.A Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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02Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)

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Father John Misty, 'Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)'

  • from I Love You, Honeybear

The Father John Misty character Josh Tillman embodies in Fear Fun was a bit of a cynical sybarite: His writing was immensely funny and smart while channeling an inner Oscar Wilde. It seems that in the course of recording his new album — the one he convinced himself to call I Love You, Honeybear — Tillman fell in love and embraced real intimacy. "Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)" tells the story of this drastic change. The music and production, with a nod to producer Jonathan Wilson, is over-the-top, complete with strings, a mariachi trumpet and more. —David Dye, World Cafe

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08Air

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Waxahatchee, 'Air'

  • from Ivy Tripp

After two superb albums in only a couple years, Katie Crutchfield and her band Waxahatchee are already returning with Ivy Tripp, out April 7. It's clear from the first single, "Air," that the new album continues Crutchfield's evolution. Against a broader musical palette of swelling keyboards, ghostly vocal harmonies and a stark guitar melody, she sings about love and loneliness, second-guessing the nature of a relationship with precision: "When we are moving, we just pretend to be strangers lamenting a means to an end." Later, in the piercing chorus, she acknowledges, "You were patiently giving me everything that I will never need." —Mike Katzif, WNYC's Soundcheck

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02Elvis' Flaming Star

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    Song
    Elvis' Flaming Star
    Album
    Man It Feels Like Space Again
    Artist
    Pond
    Label
    Caroline
    Released
    2015

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Pond, 'Elvis' Flaming Star'

  • from Man It Feels Like Space Again

The Australian psychedelic pop band Pond, which features Tame Impala drummer Jay Watson, takes listeners on a retro-futuristic odyssey throughout its new album, Man It Feels Like Space Again. With a vintage glam-rock vibe that brings to mind David Bowie and T-Rex, "Elvis' Flaming Star" is filled with explosions, otherworldly sounds and dizzying time changes. A sense of creativity and fun permeates the song, which calls to mind the playful antics of Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips. The results are wonderfully intoxicating. —Cheryl Waters, KEXP

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Song
Man It Feels Like Space Again
Album
Man It Feels Like Space Again
Artist
Pond
Label
Caroline
Released
2015

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06To Keep and to Be Kept

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Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders, 'To Keep And To Be Kept'

  • from Playmates

The Australian band Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders has quietly released a handful of albums, the latest of which is titled Playmates; it's due out in the U.S. on Feb. 24. Ladder's voice has a dusky richness to it that rivals the likes of Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan. "To Keep And To Be Kept" harnesses that mystery with the aid of guest Sharon Van Etten, who adds another intriguing dynamic to Ladder's sound. —Russ Borris, WFUV

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01Get Up

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    Song
    Get Up
    Album
    Reckless Skyline
    Artist
    Caitlin Canty
    Released
    2015

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Caitlin Canty, 'Get Up'

  • from Reckless Skyline

Caitlin Canty's Reckless Skyline — the second full-length album from the Vermont singer-songwriter, who's about to relocate to Nashville — was recorded live in four days in a western Massachusetts studio. With fellow songwriter Jeffrey Foucault at the helm as producer, Canty works with an all-star band that includes Billy Conway (Morphine) and Eric Heywood (Ray LaMontagne, The Pretenders). Thanks in part to Conway's pulsing drums and Heywood's dreamy pedal steel, "Get Up" has a haunting urgency to it. "Get up get up get up / No time to rest or run for cover / Get up get up get up / Before the road pulls you under," Canty sings. "Sleeping on embers breathing in rivers / Waking up shivering on summer's hottest night / Salt crusted sweat dries dust deep in white lines / Dreaming that you'll find it in the nick of time." —Linda Fahey, Folk Alley

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Song
Reckless Skyline
Album
Reckless Skyline
Artist
Caitlin Canty
Released
2015

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02Psych #1

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    Song
    Psych #1
    Album
    854
    Artist
    Eyelids
    Label
    Jealous Butcher
    Released
    2014

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Eyelids, 'Psych #1'

  • from 854

Eyelids' members include current and former members of some of indie-rock's gentry class: The Decemberists, The Minus 5, Guided By Voices and more. The opening hook of "Psych #1" is a whirlwind of tangled acoustic and electric guitars that gets stuck in your head and continues to spin long after the tune is over. The nasally falsettos of lead singer John Moen and bandmate Chris Slusarenko float softly throughout the verses and fit seamlessly between fuzzed-out guitars that nod to early R.E.M. and L.A.'s Paisley Underground scene. —Jerad Walker, opbmusic

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Song
854
Album
854
Artist
Eyelids
Label
Jealous Butcher
Released
2014

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Pop Zeus & Wyatt Blair, "I've Never Been More Alive" Courtesy of Lolipop Records hide caption

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01I've Never Been More Alive

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Pop Zeus & Wyatt Blair, 'I've Never Been More Alive'

  • from I've Never Been More Alive

On the afternoon of Dec. 18, 2014, Michael "Mikey" Hodges was killed in a motorcycle crash in downtown L.A. He was 29. After Hodges died, Lolipop Records' Wyatt Blair tidied up and published the one song they'd finished together: a nugget of squealing power pop that sounds descended from the '70s pop band Shoes and supplemented by punk rock and Ariel Pink. It could be Hodges' best song ever. But its words assume another layer of significance in the aftermath of his death. Singing a story about dumping a no-good lover, Hodges sounds relieved when he cries out, "I've never been more alive." —Ally Schweitzer, WAMU 88.5's Bandwidth

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01Can't Lie

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Fine Print, 'Can't Lie'

  • from Can't Lie

The London band Fine Print has kept its members' identities mysterious, but that hasn't stopped it from attracting early props from an assortment of DJs and music websites. "Can't Lie" features minimalist R&B soundscapes reminiscent of Rhye, but with a little more soul and deeper, syncopated grooves. Skeletal funk, it melds a haunting falsetto with ultra-modern production — perfect for relaxing your mind or performing a two-step. —Chris Campbell, WDET's The Progressive Underground

Heavy Rotation is a monthly sampler of public radio hosts' favorite songs. Check out past editions here.