Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing : World Cafe Hear new music by Big Thief, Sheer Mag, Seratones and more in April's mix of the songs taking over the left side of the dial.
NPR logo Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

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

Big Thief's "Real Love" is a favorite at opbmusic in Portland, Ore. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Big Thief's "Real Love" is a favorite at opbmusic in Portland, Ore.

Courtesy of the artist

Each month, we ask music curators at public radio stations across the country to introduce us to one new song they can't stop spinning. In April, these denizens of the left side of the dial loved songs by Brooklyn electric-folk band Big Thief, Philadelphia power-pop quintet Sheer Mag, Louisiana garage-rock outfit Seratones and more. Hear all 10 selections below.

Hear The Songs

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04Real Love

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    Song
    Real Love
    Album
    Masterpiece
    Artist
    Big Thief
    Label
    Saddle Creek Records
    Released
    2016

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Big Thief, 'Real Love'

  • from Masterpiece

Although you likely wouldn't know it from listening to "Real Love," Brooklyn rock band Big Thief's sound is rooted in lyrically dense modern folk music. Founding members Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek actually started out writing as an acoustic duo, but then Lenker discovered the electric guitar. "There's just so many different kinds of sonic worlds [that the electric guitar opens up]," she told opbmusic in a recent session. In "Real Love," the band explores a lot of them. The song features a cascade of quirky guitar parts and tasteful — but off-kilter — use of dissonance and distortion. While the guitar work is immense, Lenker's words steal the show. In the opening verse, she describes an abusive relationship punctuated by an act of domestic violence: "Real love makes your lungs black." It's the kind of devastating line you'd find in the darkest folk songs.

Jerad Walker, opbmusic

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Song
Masterpiece
Album
Masterpiece
Artist
Big Thief
Label
Saddle Creek Records
Released
2016

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07Brea

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    Song
    Brea
    Album
    Odd Tape
    Artist
    Oddisee
    Label
    The Orchard
    Released
    2016

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Oddisee, 'Brea'

  • from Odd Tape

Beat tapes provide blueprints for songs, but the best can stand on their own. Oddisee showed his mettle on the mic last year with the wonderful The Good Fight, and now the New York rapper and producer is switching back to his instrumental roots with The Odd Tape. "Brea" is a lush, head-nodding orchestration, with Oddisee as the starry-eyed conductor. Each refrain explodes like a fireworks display, as horn and piano melodies dance around one another. You can imagine a voice on top, but you don't need one — the song is already lyrical.

Art Levy, KUTX

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Song
Odd Tape
Album
Odd Tape
Artist
Oddisee
Label
The Orchard
Released
2016

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Cover for Kidsticks

041973

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    Song
    1973
    Album
    Kidsticks
    Artist
    Beth Orton
    Label
    Anti-
    Released
    2016

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Beth Orton, '1973'

  • from Kidsticks

What would it sound like if Beth Orton embraced electronic music again, as she did in 1996 when she established herself with her first album, Trailer Park? Based on "1973," from her upcoming album Kidsticks, the answer is "completely different." Twenty years ago, the electronic squibs and whooshes drizzled a hip icing over Orton's singer-songwriter fare. By contrast, this new production from F*** Buttons' Andrew Hung is an adorably catchy pop song from the first beat. The only nostalgic thing about it is the words; Orton sings about the titular year — when, for the record, she was 3. At less than three minutes long, you won't be able to resist playing it twice.

David Dye, World Cafe

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Song
Kidsticks
Album
Kidsticks
Artist
Beth Orton
Label
Anti-
Released
2016

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01New York 93

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    Song
    New York 93
    Album
    New York 93 (Single)
    Artist
    Yaeji
    Label
    GODMODE
    Released
    2016

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Yaeji, 'New York 93'

  • from New York 93 (Single)

Producer and multi-instrumentalist Kathy Lee, a.k.a. Yaeji, has been a recent staple of New York's visual-arts scene, but she's now branched out to releasing music. "New York 93" is a melodic reference to the year she was born, an ethereal tone poem melded with arresting vibes and sensual grooves. Singing in both English and Korean, Yaeji spotlights her heritage while deftly crafting a sound that's both futuristic and atmospheric. Her music, released on the electronic label GODMODE, evokes instant curiosity with its ability to transport the listener.

Chris Campbell, 101.9 FM WDET's The Progressive Underground

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Song
New York 93 (Single)
Album
New York 93 (Single)
Artist
Yaeji
Label
GODMODE
Released
2016

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03Pretective Boy

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    Song
    Pretective Boy
    Album
    Big Fit
    Artist
    Skating Polly
    Label
    Chap Stereo
    Released
    2016

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Skating Polly, 'Pretective Boy'

  • from Big Fit

Stepsisters Kelli Mayo, 16, and Peyton Bighorse, 20, have been making music as Skating Polly since a 2009 Halloween house party. Skating Polly's fourth studio album, The Big Fit, finds the Oklahoma City (by way of Tacoma, Washington) duo building on its self-described "ugly pop" sound. Loud and aggressive songs abound, mixed in with a grab bag of pop music. The most striking example of the latter is "Pretective Boy," whose title refers to someone being protective of another before having reason to be. It's got a sweet, slow, bouncy build that gets rowdy before seemingly falling apart at the end.

Ryan LaCroix, KOSU's The Spy

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Song
Big Fit
Album
Big Fit
Artist
Skating Polly
Label
Chap Stereo
Released
2016

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07The Government Road

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    Song
    The Government Road
    Album
    Del And Woody
    Artist
    The Del McCoury Band
    Label
    McCoury Music
    Released
    2016

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The Del McCoury Band, 'The Government Road'

  • from Del And Woody

Some say Del McCoury's voice is an acquired taste; I acquired it the first time I heard it. Now, the bluegrass veteran has become one of the chosen few (joining the likes of Wilco and Billy Bragg) to put music to Woody Guthrie's unused lyrics. To me, McCoury and Guthrie are like pork and beans: They may not be on the rich man's plate, but they've satisfied working people for a long time. As Guthrie's daughter Nora said, "If my dad had had a band, it would very possibly have sounded very much like Del's." With songs like "The Government Road," McCoury and Guthrie have each proven that this land is their land.

Larry Groce, Mountain Stage

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Song
Del And Woody
Album
Del And Woody
Artist
The Del McCoury Band
Label
McCoury Music
Released
2016

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Cover for Get Gone

09Don't Need It

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    Song
    Don't Need It
    Album
    Get Gone
    Artist
    Seratones
    Label
    Fat Possum
    Released
    2016

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Seratones, 'Don't Need It'

  • from Get Gone

Hailing from Shreveport, La., Seratones will soon release Get Gone on the widely respected Fat Possum label. The record, the band's debut, is a wild ride of punk sensibilities and sass with a distinct live feel. These are incredible musicians, and singer A.J. Haynes absolutely shreds through each of the songs, melding sweetness and saltiness to perfection. "Don't Need It" serves as a great introduction to the band; it just leaps off the radio.

Russ Borris, WFUV

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Song
Get Gone
Album
Get Gone
Artist
Seratones
Label
Fat Possum
Released
2016

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01Bronze Worlds

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    Song
    Bronze Worlds
    Album
    Casino Drone
    Artist
    Mike Adams at His Honest Weight
    Label
    Joyful Noise
    Released
    2016

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Mike Adams At His Honest Weight, 'Bronze Worlds'

  • from Casino Drone

Mike Adams isn't afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve, and that's a good thing. When Adams isn't hosting his own talk show, he's crafting indie-pop jams that pay homage to his favorite bands in unexpected ways. This is the case in "Bronze Worlds," the lead cut from his upcoming album Casino Drones. The swirling, dreamy atmospherics and subdued melodies hint at his love of the obscure (Starflyer 59) and the renowned (The Beach Boys), creating something unique in the process.

Sean Cannon, WFPK's The Guestlist

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Song
Casino Drone
Album
Casino Drone
Artist
Mike Adams at His Honest Weight
Label
Joyful Noise
Released
2016

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05Look Up

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    Song
    Look Up
    Album
    For A Song
    Artist
    Mark Erelli
    Released
    2016

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Mark Erelli, 'Look Up'

  • from For A Song

Life should be more than a series of grueling tasks and unrewarding routines; it should take your breath away with its wonders and joys and beauty. It certainly can do that. (And how!) But here's the catch: You have to be aware of what life is offering. Mark Erelli's "Look Up," from his new album For A Song, is a reminder not to sleepwalk through our daily existence. It also suggests that maybe there's no difference between the sacred and the secular — that maybe, deep down, we all dream the same dreams. "Look Up" is told from the perspective of not one, not two, but three different narrators. Erelli plays all three roles to perfection and shares the spotlight with Paula Cole, who provides some gorgeous harmony vocals.

Elena See, Folk Alley

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Song
For A Song
Album
For A Song
Artist
Mark Erelli
Released
2016

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Sheer Mag, 'Nobody's Baby'

  • from III 7"

For all the attention that Philadelphia quintet Sheer Mag gets for its Thin Lizzy-style dueling guitar solos, power-pop rhythms and other 1970s throwback elements, at its core the band simply writes great songs. "Nobody's Baby" is timeless — it could work in the hands of the Marvelettes, The Rolling Stones or even Bon Jovi. At a recent show in a tattoo-shop lobby, I watched as singer Christina Halladay belted the song to a dancing crowd of about 100, all of us falling over each other and reveling in the righteous declaration of singledom. Ain't it just like great rock 'n' roll to bring isolated people together?

Gabe Meline, KQED Arts

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