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

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)

The Many Layers of Bayonne

Bayonne is the performance name of composer Roger Sellers. If the stack of turntables and computers he makes his music behind tempts you to call him a DJ, you're not alone. But Sellers uses his considerable electronic arsenal to make music that has as much to do with the naturalistic patterns of Steve Reich as dance floor bangers. He's also a self-avowed member of the Phil Collins fan club. Bayonne visits the Soundcheck studio to play songs from his Bayonne debut Primitives; click the player above to hear him talk about the power of the gated drum sound.

Ile: From Salty Hip Hop to Smooth Classics

Ileana Cabra Joglar performs these days as Ile. But for the better part of a decade, she was known as PG-13 — the sweet complement to her salty brothers in the Puerto Rican hip-hop group Calle 13. Having started her career in her mid-teens and worked with some of the rowdiest (and most successful) beat- and trouble-makers in the island's vibrant scene, the sound of Ile's first solo record can only be called a "departure," in the very best sense: the product of maturation, curiosity, and talent. The album, Ilevitable, mines the wealth of multiple Latin American musical traditions, and delivers both cool and passionate renderings of ballads, boleros, and classic midcentury sounds. Ile made her first solo U.S. appearance in the Soundcheck studio. Click the player above to hear her live.

New Madrid Ties Your Brain in Knots

Sometimes, you can't hire a better copywriter than YouTube. On the site, the video for New Madrid's "Knots" (below) is praised by commenter "etdursee" as follows: "This song is as amazing as Bob Dylan making love to a psychedelic mushroom!" That pretty much sums things up: trenchant songwriting (when you can decode it) and ecstatic, swirling guitars. Click the player above to catch a live set from the Athens, Georgia, foursome in the Soundcheck studio.

Caveman Goes to 'War,' Melodies in Tow

The first time Caveman played in our studio, in 2011, listener Kat from Brooklyn commented "I love this band and I'm 50 years old. It's nice to hear interesting melodies, harmonies and rhythms. Makes me feel young again." Well, it's been five years, but age has only improved the band's willingness to tweak and augment its sound: the New York natives continue to push the sonic envelope and create airy, catchy tunes with rock-solid melodic spines. Their new album Otero War is just out, and they joined us to play some of the new material. Click the player above to learn just where, exactly, Otero is, and to hear the band perform live.

Benjamin Clementine Builds a Nest in New York

With his dramatic voice, his elliptical but emotive songs, his classically-derived piano playing, and his striking presence on stage, Benjamin Clementine occupies a singular place in the music world – somewhere between art music and pop. We met him last year when he joined us in the Soundcheck studio. Two weeks later, he won Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize. Coincidence? Maybe. But after years of hard work and street hustle in London and Paris, the high-flying artist has finally landed (for the moment) in New York, and we're happy to have him back at our piano to play more songs from that Prize-winning debut album, called At Least For Now. Click the player above to hear the set and conversation.

Time is Very Much on Their Side: Why the Stones are Forever

Rich Cohen's new biography of the Biggest Band in the World is called The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones, and it got its title from Keith Richards himself. It was Keef's way of pondering the fact that the author had only ever known a world with The Rolling Stones, that they were as much an elemental fact of life to Cohen as, well, the sun and moon. But after years of exclusive access to the band (and a fanboy's dream job of working side-by-side with Mick Jagger on HBO's Vinyl) Cohen has cleaned his critical lens and taken a hard look at why all the booze, drugs, women, and touring—and years—haven't derailed this particular rock'n'roll circus. Imagine, he says, hearing "Satisfaction" on the radio, for the first time, in Middle America. Imagine what that did to the cultural landscape. How did this group of musical misfits manage to reinvent itself every five years for the forty years since—and why does it matter at all?

Fantastic Negrito, Reignited

How do you pronounce 'Xavier Dphrepaulezz'? If you're Xavier himself, you pronounce it "Fantastic Negrito." To hear the Oakland blues and funk artist tell it, it's more than a stage name — it's the vessel for a new musical incarnation, one that follows years of "street shit," terrible luck, and cultural miscues. The autobiographical story is told in the new record, The Last Days of Oakland, along with a load of observational storytelling from an angry, politically engaged and street-honed performer — all of which is clear on the album. But you can hear the story straight from the artist himself, in a scorching live set and conversation from the Soundcheck studio. Just click the player above.

Rogue Wave Rides a New High

Rogue Wave has a number of associations with water: they're from Oakland, California, for starters. There's that "wave" right there in their name. One of their most identifiable tunes is a love song to Lake Michigan. And their new record Delusions of Grand Fur features the song, "Ocean," which features all the hallmarks of this now-veteran indie band – angular, surprising instrumental elements, and melancholy lyrics that surf on sunny, nostalgic melodies. Click the player to hear the group play some of the new tunes live in the Soundcheck studio.

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