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

Jherek Bischoff Plumbs New Depths

For LA-based multi-instrumentalist Jherek Bischoff, a collaborative spirit has practically become his calling card: he effortlessly blends his many melodic talents into projects with a strikingly diverse array of artists, from Xiu Xiu to Amanda Palmer, David Byrne to Wilco's Nels Cline. His solo debut, Composed, similarly mixed his many pop, rock, and classical impulses to striking effect, but was largely recorded instrument by instrument by Bischoff himself. When he last visited the Soundcheck studio, Bischoff brought the New York-based classical ensemble Contemporaneous, which was re-enlisted for the recording of Bischoff's latest effort, Cistern—an ambient, instrumental affair. The whole group returns to the studio to play selections.

Passenger's Wandering Heart

It's no small thing to command the attention of billions of people with nothing but the sound of your voice and an acoustic guitar. Ask Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, whose song "Let Her Go" became a legit worldwide phenomenon after its release in 2012. The accompanying video has been viewed more an a billion times in the last four years—only a handful of artists have achieved the same milestone. The song snowballed in slow motion, no instant smash, and wormed its way into ears and hearts one play at a time. Which is a perfect representation of Passenger's career at large: even, steady, with eyes fixed on a traveling horizon. Rosenberg's thoughtful approach to writing and workhorse performing schedule (he recently busked in Washington Square Park because, why not?) have inured him to his new-found ubiquity. Some guy even once asked him why he plays so many Passenger covers. His new record, Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea, is his eighth, and though it doesn't drop until September, he joins us in the studio to play some of the new songs live.

Etienne Charles: Afro-Caribbean Jazz in Service to a Big Idea

Trumpeter Etienne Charles leads a big band and writes about big ideas. He's made a name for himself by combining Afro-Caribbean musical traditions with American jazz. His new "San Jose Suite" is an ambitious 10-part work inspired by San Jose, California; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Etienne's hometown of St. Joseph on the island of Trinidad—which was also called San Jose during the years of Spanish colonization. The "San Jose Suite" deals with conquest, resistance, and community, and came out of Etienne's own work with indigenous musicians in each of the three places. Click the player above to hear Etienne and his ensemble play excerpts from the piece, and talk about the meaning of roots.

The UK Post-Punk Trio Shopping Refuses to Choose

Ever heard of the "paradox of choice"? It's the idea that when we're given a million different options to choose from, we become paralyzed and can't choose any of them. The UK post-punk trio that calls itself Shopping released its first full length a few years ago with the title Consumer Complaints, and their latest is called Why Choose. So, yes, Rachel Aggs, Billy Easter and Andrew Milk make music that subverts modern culture in proper punk fashion. But you don't need a Ph.D. in marketing theory to understand the band's head-nodding dance beats. Their propulsive, DIY sound is drawing universal comparisons to early Gang of Four meets The Slits, and their anti-groupthink goes down easiest when jumping around in front of a stage.

Savoir Adore: What Remains When Everything Changes

Since the last time we heard from Brooklyn duo Savoir Adore, everything has changed, and nothing has changed. For starters, only half of "the duo" remains from the band's first two records. Principal Deirdre Muro has departed, and singer Paul Hammer has built the band back up from scratch, starting with new performing partner Lauren Zettler, for the band's forthcoming album The Love That Remains. As we noted when we premiered the single "Giants" in Feburary, what "remains" after the reboot is the power of the songs themselves: enormous, striding affairs, bespeaking the ability of studio wizardry to underscore powerful pop hooks. Hammer somewhat famously builds his songs using the studio as a tool, but today he and Zettler join us to reverse engineer some of the new tunes, acoustically rendered in a somewhat more intimate setting than their intended home: a live stage, the bigger the better.

Femi Kuti: Social Conscience with a Beat

Nigerian musician Femi Kuti famously hasn't listened to another artist's music in over a decade. It's tempting to think that's because he's the son of one of Nigeria's greatest musical minds, the late superstar Fela Kuti—the weight of history, expectations, etc. But Femi says he keeps his ears quiet as a way to get in touch with his own deepest creative impulses. And indeed his most recent Afrobeat offering, No Place for My Dreams, is a strikingly clear-eyed take on the world as it is today, musically and politically. Femi Kuti follows his recent sweltering set at Prospect Park with a session here in our studio.

Sara Watkins Plays a Guitar Named 'Pat'

At age 10 — when most kids are still practicing their air guitar in front of a mirror — Sara Watkins was already touring with her brother Sean and friend Chris Thile in the folk trio Nickle Creek. A decade later, and the group was one of the biggest live acts of the 2000s. It also launched high-profile independent careers for each member. Sara's spent time in various bands (both with and without her brother), but her new solo album is called Young In All the Wrong Ways. It's a full-throated declaration of independence from the artist, who went through personal and professional breakups during the record's gestation. As a result, the songs explode in a number of musical directions, fitting for an artist who has made a career of genre-hopping. Sara Watkins doesn't play in NYC until the fall, but she brings some of her new songs to our studio first.

The Irresistible Lera Lynn

Fans of the HBO show "True Detective" will be familiar with singer-songwriter Lera Lynn: she played a recurring role in the second season as a down-and-out bar singer who obliquely comments—through her music—on the show's action. The show aptly showcased Lynn's total command of the slow burn, as does her new record "Resistor." Several of the tracks add a bit of Ric Ocasek-like pop to the equation, like standout singles "Shape Shifter" and "Drive." Lynn joins host John Schaefer to play a few of the new tunes.

Miss Sharon Jones Gets Her Close-Up

The new documentary film Miss Sharon Jones! opens with the titular, ebullient soul singer getting her head shaved. It's a sobering way to set the stage for the story that follows: Sharon's fierce fight with cancer as the backdrop in the run-up to a major homecoming show at New York's Beacon Theatre. For film director Barbara Kopple, it was the first time she met her screen star. "I was aware she was sick," Kopple tells John Schaefer, "but it was never the reason for doing the film." The reason for doing the film was the same reason audiences around the world have been captivated by the diminutive singer: she's an irresistible force of nature. As has been well-publicized, Jones worked for many years as a corrections officer before finding her performance identity (and band, the razor-sharp retro outfit The Dap-Kings) relatively late in life. So the film's opening scene serves as a stark reminder that this woman simply doesn't give up. Click the player above to hear John Schaefer's full interview with Sharon Jones and Barbara Kopple. Miss Sharon Jones! opens in New York on July 29, and across the country throughout the summer.

Joseph Arthur Reanimates the Family Piano

It could be the plot of an old Victorian novel: a piano that has belonged to the same family for generations is slowly lost to the sands of time, only to show up in a warehouse in 2012. It falls into the hands of a musician just before a hurricane comes and nearly swamps both artist and instrument. But both survive, and as the songwriter goes looking for the piano's origins, he begins to learn important things about his family, families in general, and himself. This is the true genesis story of Joseph Arthur's new album The Family, which meanders through real and imagined family forces, intertwined with long-arc historical elements. Click the player above to hear Arthur play songs from the record, and talk about family politics and histories. This is Joseph Arthur in the Soundcheck studio with Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam in 2012. Which one is behind the mask and which one is the hands? Tune in to find out. (John Schaefer)

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