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

Heavy Rotation

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

WXPN and World Cafe can't get enough of new music by stalwart Americana band The Jayhawks. Vivian Johnson/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Whether it's discovering brand-new bands or keeping up with the latest songs by well-loved artists, public radio's DJs and bloggers always seem to know what's going on in music scenes across the country and around the world. That's why, every month, we ask them to turn us on to something new.

This month's mix includes new music by The Jayhawks, FKA twigs and Birds Of Chicago, among others. Two other artists making an appearance are Bayonne and The Wet Secrets, whose songs you can hear (and, until March 31, download) as part of the Austin 100, NPR Music's guide to the bands to discover at SXSW next week.

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

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FKA twigs, 'Good To Love'

  • from Good To Love

On the heels of her dense, complicated concept EP M3LL155X, FKA twigs reverses course with "Good To Love," a single so open and airy that it wouldn't seem out of place in the hands of Sarah Brightman or Enya. Indeed, the song shares certain assets with New Age — a space to breathe, shut out the outside world, and meditate on love's limits — as twigs' voice, always delicate, soars on clouds instead of churning machinery. A bridge of subtle electronic effects layered over a church organ hints at love's swirling tension, just before subtle bass tones dot the final chorus like an anxious heartbeat.

Gabe Meline, KQED

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Song
Good To Love
Album
Good To Love
Artist
FKA twigs
Label
Young Turks
Released
2016

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01Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces

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    Song
    Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces
    Album
    Paging Mr. Proust
    Artist
    The Jayhawks
    Label
    Thirty Tigers
    Released
    2016

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The Jayhawks, 'Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces'

  • from Paging Mr. Proust

Last fall, when David Dye and World Cafe visited Minneapolis for the Sense Of Place series, we caught up with Americana rock band The Jayhawks. During the session, the group played old favorites and premiered several new songs, including "Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces." The song is on The Jayhawks' forthcoming album, Paging Mr. Proust, which comes out April 29 and features lead vocalist and guitarist Gary Louris, bassist Marc Perlman, drummer Tim O'Reagan and keyboardist Karen Grotberg. It's been slightly more than 30 years since The Jayhawks first surfaced out of the Twin Cities, and "Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces" is another immediate classic by a band whose melodies, harmonies and jangly guitars remain timeless.

Bruce Warren, WXPN

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Song
Paging Mr. Proust
Album
Paging Mr. Proust
Artist
The Jayhawks
Label
Thirty Tigers
Released
2016

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Pete Yorn. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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02Lost Weekend

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    Song
    Lost Weekend
    Album
    Arranging Time
    Artist
    Pete Yorn
    Label
    Capitol
    Released
    2016

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Pete Yorn, 'Lost Weekend'

  • from Arranging Time

On March 11, Pete Yorn will release Arranging Time, his first album in six years. With it comes a lesson about time — a reminder that it "only gets faster as you get older," as Yorn says. "Lost Weekend" is a reminder that your perception of time might be ever-changing, but your roots and where you came from remain everlasting. The song hints at a new direction for Yorn: one that's less guitar-driven and more exploratory in its use of synths and other textures.

Amy Miller, KXT

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Song
Arranging Time
Album
Arranging Time
Artist
Pete Yorn
Label
Capitol
Released
2016

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05Milky White

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    Song
    Milky White
    Album
    Synesthetica
    Artist
    Radiation City
    Label
    Polyvinyl
    Released
    2016

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Radiation City, 'Milky White'

  • from Synesthetica

Radiation City's third full-length album, Synesthetica, is a statement piece — a big, bold, catchy album that establishes the Portland band as a pop-music force. "Milky White" is a sleek and sexy song, but its shiny veneer conceals the group's substantial musicianship and gift for intricate songwriting. As the track builds, Elisabeth Ellison's seemingly endless vocal hooks are spurred on by synths, strings and unexpected time-signature changes. Radiation City makes it all sound easy, even when it's not.

Jerad Walker, opbmusic

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Synesthetica
Album
Synesthetica
Artist
Radiation City
Label
Polyvinyl
Released
2016

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01I Can Swing a Hammer

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    Song
    I Can Swing a Hammer
    Album
    I Can Live Forever
    Artist
    The Wet Secrets
    Label
    Six Shooter Records
    Released
    2016

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The Wet Secrets, 'I Can Swing A Hammer'

  • from I Can Live Forever

Edmonton, Alberta's The Wet Secrets is a colorful, energetic sextet that mines the spirit of '50s rock 'n' roll and '70s punk and runs it all through a 21st-century filter. Picture this: The Wet Secrets' members dress smartly in red-and-white vintage marching-band uniforms, complete with towering hats and shiny brass buttons. They happily pound out fuzzy, warm tunes with a punk-rock spirit and a horn section. We all need songs like "I Can Swing A Hammer" in our day — songs we can crank up, not think about too much and just have fun with.

Grant Lawrence, CBC Music

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Song
I Can Live Forever
Album
I Can Live Forever
Artist
The Wet Secrets
Label
Six Shooter Records
Released
2016

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01Dim Star of the Palisades

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    Song
    Dim Star of the Palisades
    Album
    Real Midnight
    Artist
    Birds of Chicago
    Label
    Five Head Entertainment
    Released
    2016

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Birds Of Chicago, 'Dim Star Of The Palisades'

  • from Real Midnight

I've loved the music of both JT Nero and Allison Russell, independently of each other, for years. Nero's poetic songwriting for his band JT & The Clouds and Russell's energy and gorgeous vocals with Po'Girl grabbed me early on. Fast-forward to 2016: The two have not only paired up musically as Birds Of Chicago, but have also married each other and begun touring relentlessly with their 2-year-old road-warrior daughter. Birds Of Chicago's new album, Real Midnight, was produced by Joe Henry and is a clear example of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts. "Dim Star Of The Palisades" beautifully showcases the pairing of Nero's writing with Russell's soulful voice and their impressive vocal harmonies. It combines a melancholy look in the rearview mirror with a little trepidation about the future, and yet it still conveys a joyful, uplifting feel.

Linda Fahey, Folk Alley

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Real Midnight
Album
Real Midnight
Artist
Birds of Chicago
Label
Five Head Entertainment
Released
2016

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Cover for You Know Who You Are

01Cold To See Clear

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    Cold To See Clear
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    You Know Who You Are
    Artist
    Nada Surf
    Label
    Barsuk
    Released
    2016

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Nada Surf, 'Cold To See Clear'

  • from You Know Who You Are

After first surfacing in 1996 with the catchy hit "Popular," Nada Surf could have faded away like countless other acts who've achieved early and seemingly instant success. Instead, the band has spent the past two decades crafting great album after great album of guitar-driven power pop with a generous spirit. The latest is You Know Who You Are, whose opener, "Cold To See Clear," is an obvious standout.

Russ Borris, WFUV

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You Know Who You Are
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You Know Who You Are
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Nada Surf
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Barsuk
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2016

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Bayonne. Pooneh Ghana/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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03Spectrolite

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    Song
    Spectrolite
    Album
    Primitives
    Artist
    Bayonne
    Label
    Mom + Pop Music
    Released
    2016

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Bayonne, 'Spectrolite'

  • from Primitives

Here's an artist to keep an eye on at SXSW next week. Bayonne is the alter-ego of Austin's Roger Sellers, who actually dropped "Spectrolite" under his given name a few years ago. Whatever the release date, this song is timeless. It builds a hook around polyrhythms and bits of electronic pop, like Brian Eno with the dreaminess dialed way up. Onstage, Sellers re-creates the loops like a mad scientist, running between his drums, sequencer and mic in a Technicolor blur.

Art Levy, KUTX

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Primitives
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Primitives
Artist
Bayonne
Label
Mom + Pop Music
Released
2016

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01Smaller Than My Mother

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    Smaller Than My Mother
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    Smaller Than My Mother
    Artist
    Overcoats
    Label
    579161 Records DK
    Released
    2015

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Overcoats, 'Smaller Than My Mother'

  • from Smaller Than My Mother

Synchronization could go either way: It can be hauntingly scary, like The Shining's Grady twins, or it can be hauntingly beautiful, like the music of Ibeyi and Lucius. New York friends Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell most definitely fall into the latter, cooler category, creating spellbinding harmonies as the folktronica duo Overcoats. Their self-titled debut EP is a wealth of trip-hoppy loops and tormented tones, especially in the hypnotic single "Smaller Than My Mother."

Joni Deutsch, WVPB's A Change Of Tune and Mountain Stage

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Smaller Than My Mother
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Smaller Than My Mother
Artist
Overcoats
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2015

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01Paracetamol

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    Paracetamol
    Album
    Paracetamol
    Artist
    Declan McKenna
    Label
    Columbia
    Released
    2016

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Declan McKenna, 'Paracetamol'

  • from Paracetamol

Declan McKenna is a wonderful artist from Hertfordshire in the U.K. McKenna is only 17, but he's already attracting international attention for songs that are thoughtful and socially conscious well beyond his years. Not long after winning the Glastonbury Festival's Emerging Talent Competition last year, he signed to a major label (after a bidding war) and released this song, "Paracetamol."

Huw Stephens, BBC Radio 1

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Song
Paracetamol
Album
Paracetamol
Artist
Declan McKenna
Label
Columbia
Released
2016

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