Soundcheck

Soundcheck

From WNYC Radio

Soundcheck, hosted by John Schaefer, is WNYCs daily talk show about music. Covering all musical genres, Soundcheck celebrates the musical passions of performers, composers, critics, and the public radio audience. Listeners enjoy intimate conversations with and live performances by leading artists from around New York and around the globe.More from Soundcheck »

Most Recent Episodes

Robyn Hitchcock Channels the Man Upstairs

Robyn Hitchcock's career has included several notable bands: his late 70s group The Soft Boys, then in the 80s The Egyptians, followed by The Soft Boys reunion, and more recently the Venus 3 with Peter Buck of REM and other notables. He's been the subject of at least two full-length documentaries, and cut a brief but creepy figure in the movie The Manchurian Candidate (the Jonathan Demme remake, not the original – jeez, how old do you think he is?). But through it all, he has maintained a troubadour's existence, traveling solo and playing in everything from a corner pub in London to some of the biggest stages and art centers. And when it comes to appearances on Soundcheck, Robyn is a serial offender. On this occasion, he plays a couple new tunes and talks about his many musical and geographic inspirations.

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Walter Martin: Arts, Leisure, and Rhythm

When Walter Martin last joined us, he was playing songs from his acclaimed "children's album for grownups" We're All Young Together. The story at the time was that his "other" band, Brooklyn indie rockers The Walkmen, had gone on extended hiatus, Walter had a kid, and he was looking for a warm and funny way to express the stress of the previous year. Fast forward to 2016, and Martin is releasing his first solo grownup album for grownups— though it's a far cry from the "raunchy biker rock record" he threatened to make. Instead what we have is Arts & Leisure, a batch of wryly observed tunes about obscure painters, architects, and the art world. And if that sounds like more of a nightmare college course than a rock record, keep your ears open long enough to hear the Cure-like slink of "Down by the Singing Sea" or the witty Loudon Wainwright shuffle of "Charles Rennie Mackintosh."

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The Mighty Swirl of The Besnard Lakes

The Montreal-based band The Besnard Lakes drops their fifth album of confounding space rock today. Like the previous four, the record's title — A Coliseum Complex Museum — is as circuitous and coded as the group's music. Twin opening salvos "The Bray Road Beast" and lead single "The Golden Lion" recall in equal measure the massive sounds of 90s Britpop and Pink Floyd psychedelia. A bit difficult to imagine, then, that the record was actually conceived at a quiet, bucolic lake escape in Saskatchewan. The band brings its space-gear to the Soundcheck studio to talk about and plays songs from the new album.

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No, Today's Music Doesn't Suck

It's a trope that's been around as long as the phonograph: Old folks griping about how today's music sucks. Wall Street Journal music writer Jim Fusilli has a word for these people: the Gee-Bees — the Generationally-Biased. It's your uncle who just can't hear anything from today's artists without telling you that Dylan got there first. And while some people will just never be able to get over what they listened to as teenagers, Fusilli thinks there are structural ways in which musicians and the music industry can help older listeners discover new sounds without feeling threatened or condescended to. His new book is called Catching Up: Connecting With Great 21st Century Music, and he tells host John Schaefer about the music he's included in his book as a sort of primer, and thinks through the generational differences between the Sinatra and Beatles age groups and more recent examples of generational rift.

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Ron Pope and The Nighthawks: Nashville, Ragtime, and Everything in Between

Ron Pope and the Nighthawks' self-titled debut dropped on January 8, but it's hardly the world's first taste of Pope's songwriting chops. The magazine American Songwriter says, "Singer-songwriter, Ron Pope, is going places..." But he's already gone plenty! His single "A Drop in the Ocean" is a million-seller; he's appeared as himself on the TV series Nashville. Folk, blues, swing, ragtime, and roots rock'n'roll... Pope's played it all over the course of five records and thousands and thousands of tour miles. So let's not call his new 7-piece band a "debut"; it's more like a restart. Pope visits the Soundcheck studio to play some of the exquisitely taut stuff on his new record, and to talk about a documentary film about this decidedly old-school musician's pioneering success on digital platforms.

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Wet Dives Back Into the Fray With New Album

The Brooklyn trio called Wet first turned heads in 2013 with an EP packed with 90s-style synth-pop goodness. New Yorker magazine critic Sasha Frere Jones referred to their song "Don't Wanna Be Your Girl" as "completely perfect" and made it one of his songs of the year. Now, after a major label bidding war, they're about to release their full-length debut, called Don't You. Wet joins us to play some of their new batch of songs.

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Ancient Warfare, Modern Post-Rock Sounds

Kentucky-based singer/guitarist Echo Wilcox is haunted by voices – sometimes these voices will briefly emerge, half-heard in the background static, but more often they are unheard and unseen, part of the dark background in Ancient Warfare's cinematic album, The Pale Horse. Wilcox's stories may be love songs of a sort – but they seem to be as much about the landscape as the people in it. It is a noir-ish, American landscape; but don't mistake Ancient Warfare for an Americana band. Multi-instrumentalist Emily Hagihara (who's played with Jim James) and classically-trained violinist Rachael Yanarella seem to have taken a page out of the post-rock playbook, with arrangements that build into grand and gothic climaxes. Click the link above to hear the band play live versions of their expansive songs.

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Beach Slang Slings Guitar

Beach Slang is a four piece rock band from Philadelphia that made one of the year's most bracing records. It's only got one song that stretches over the 3 minute mark; most of the album is furious power chords and crunched amp stacks. But the record title doesn't sound very punk. It's called The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us. And it features the delicate, yearning "Too Late to Die Young," a song that could be read as a wistful personal statement from lead singer James Alex — to find out, click the player above.

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Tony Visconti Talks Four Decades of Bowie and 'Blackstar'

David Bowie was 19 when he met producer Tony Visconti. Tomorrow, Bowie turns 69, and releases his experimental-jazz-flecked new studio album, Blackstar. Visconti co-produced it, just as he has produced dozens of the rock icon's records over the course of their more than forty year creative relationship. And since Bowie himself has all but sworn off press, it often falls to Visconti to explicate the processes and the experiments that have resulted in latter day masterpieces like The Next Day and the new record. Tony Visconti Visconti also has an interest in keeping these records alive and vital, as a result of the intimacy of his relationship with Bowie's oeuvre. Thus, Visconti's current side project: a band called Holy, Holy, which is currently performing the entirety of the 1970 album The Man Who Sold the World live around the New York area. Click the player above to hear Tony Visconti reflect on the influence of Mick Ronson, Jack Bruce, Marc Bolan, digital production, and Visconti's relationship with his "lead singer," David Bowie.

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Suede Shoes and Memphis Trains: The Beginning of Sun Records

Truth in advertising is a powerful thing. So when you name your book Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll — How One Man Discovered Howlin' Wolf, Ike Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, and How His Tiny Label, Sun Records of Memphis, Revolutionized the World — you've already promised a lot. But it's an appropriately descriptive and sprawling title for the life story of a multi-faceted and occasionally contradictory man. And it's a book and story filled with great rock and roll. Author Peter Guralnick visits Soundcheck and tells host John Schaefer why Sam Phillips' musical DNA is imprinted on the modern world through his many innovative moves in the 1950s and beyond. Click the player above to listen to the interview.

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