July 31, 2006 For NPR.org's Stephen Thompson, the 25th birthday of MTV brings up memories of his own appearance on the network, co-hosting an episode of Alternative Nation with Kennedy in 1993. The details of what transpired during those moments can only be known by Thompson and a few close friends, who are still laughing.
July 13, 2006 A vivid and unnerving ode to vampirism, Chad VanGaalen's "Red Hot Drops" does an exceptional job capturing its subject's sinister allure — the surrender and ease of "draining with no pain" — before rupturing into a rare moment of oddly funky release.
July 5, 2006 By the time he turned 20, Micah P. Hinson had stared down drug problems, jail time, homelessness and financial ruin. His background goes a long way toward explaining the depth of the appreciation he conveys on his warm and wonderful "The Day the Volume Won."
June 27, 2006 Grant-Lee Phillips' nineteeneighties would seem to be an odd creative detour — the set finds him covering '80s alt-rock classics by the likes of R.E.M., the Cure and the Pixies — but it's surprising how smoothly its tributes fit into his homespun, heartfelt catalog.
June 20, 2006 When NPR.org launched its Song of the Day feature in March, we opted to keep the column as current as possible, sticking primarily to material with some sort of news peg: Each choice is new, or it's just been re-issued, or the artist recording it has just done something newsworthy, such as shuffle off this mortal coil. But that also meant excluding a few brilliant songs from 2005, so here's a quick round of catch-up...
June 13, 2006 In a career spanning more than 25 years, pop-music parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic hasn't exactly ranked among the music business' fiercest iconoclasts: He doesn't release his song parodies without the consent of the artists being parodied, and he's rarely used the Internet as more than a tool to promote his projects and connect with his fans. But a music label's efforts to block a (relatively tame) parody of James Blunt's ubiquitous hit "You're Beautiful" has Yankovic fighting back publicly, and using his Web site as a tool to do so...
June 9, 2006 As a fiercely independent and idiosyncratic singer/songwriter who plays the piano, Regina Spektor draws easy comparisons to Tori Amos. But her work feels less remote and more versatile, thanks to a singular songwriting voice that spans genres and personas with grace and apparent ease.
June 6, 2006 As expectant parents do their best to avoid -- or, in a few cases, guarantee -- a 6/6/06 birthday for their children, many musicians have opted to release new CDs on the big day. The date, which only occurs once a century, seemed like a natural for the overtly Satan-friendly likes of Deicide and Slayer. But both responded with afterthoughts: an EP for Slayer (released exclusively through Hot Topic, no less!), and two new iTunes-only tracks for Deicide, whose entire career should have been building to this moment.
May 30, 2006 Stephen Thompson, a music producer at NPR Digital Media and editor of NPR's Song of the Day, offers the following Midwestern musical recommendations: Between the unimpeachable glory of Wisconsin and the lush Pennsylvania countryside, the scenery is mostly a dire hellscape of tollbooths, traffic jams, construction sites, interchangeable rest stops and the occasional belching smokestack. Fortunately, the industrial Midwest has inspired a handful of amazing companion CDs, which should be required listening for anyone passing through...
May 19, 2006 Even when she was singing in the poppy punk band Tiger Trap, Rose Melberg had a flair for sad, gentle melodies. During a career evolution that's taken her through stints as leader of Go Sailor and the appropriately named Softies, those melodies have only gotten sadder and gentler.
May 9, 2006 Unearthed shortly after Johnny Cash's death, a batch of recordings marked "Personal File" turned out to contain an assortment of unreleased songs — including a standout moment in which Cash reads the riveting, darkly funny Robert W. Service poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee."
May 3, 2006 Jolie Holland's fatalistic, woozily paced songs come with a body count, but she rarely spares herself: She often sings about doomed lovers, and she ranks topmost among the damned. In its own way, however, "Springtime Can Kill You" qualifies as an inspirational anthem.
April 24, 2006 Tom Brosseau understands the sentimental pull of places — the way a building or a town can come to life in memories as vividly as loved ones do. He often sings about home as more than a bricks-and-mortar construct: It lives, breathes, feels, and dies.
April 14, 2006 Maritime has a sweetly buzzing collection of ingratiating power-pop. Springtime anthems don't get much catchier than "Tearing Up the Oxygen," a wonderfully sunny gem propelled by bleeping synths and "ah-ah" choruses.
April 11, 2006 Rhett Miller, the charismatic frontman for alt-country favorites Old 97's, has just released arguably his most commercially accessible disc, The Believer. "Question" closes the album with a sweet slice-of-life sketch detailing a marriage proposal.
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