Music to Get in 2008

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Esquire music critic Andy Langer listens ahead for the first great records of the new year.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Well, NPR now knows all your opinions about the best performers and the best releases of 2007. We've all worn out our (unintelligible) album, and we've got our LCD sound system on hand at all times. And who doesn't know the words of Rehab by heart. At this point, it's so 2007.

It's been a good year for music, even Led Zeppelin got back together. But what's next? How can you top that?

Well, loyal listeners, that's too long for '07 and the songs of your past. Today, THE BPP is going to take you into 2008 and introduce you to a few breakout artists to look for in the new year.

Enter: Andy Langer, friend of the BPP and music critic for Esquire.

Mr. ANDY LANGER (Music Critic, Esquire): Hey, there.

STEWART: Hey. So we have four different acts that you're going to introduce us to. Let's start with this first woman named Kate Nash. She's 20-years-old. Her new album, her debut album will be released in January. But that's just a year after her very first gig. How did she go from, mm, my first gig to releasing an album in a year?

Mr. LANGER: It's an Internet thing. You know, she put some stuff on MySpace, Lily Allen and her were sort of friends on MySpace and then Lily Allen fans flocked towards Kate Nash. And Kate Nash has quickly run up the music industry ladder as quick as you can possibly do that kind of thing. I mean, all of a sudden, you know, she's got a solid fan base in there thinking this January, record is going to be a big thing for her.

STEWART: Is she a Lily Allen-act alike?

Mr. LANGER: She is pretty Lily Allenish(ph). You know, but, I mean, any more - no more so than any other sort of lilty(ph) British girl with guitar.

STEWART: All right. Well, let's listen to the lilty British girl with guitar. This is her single, "Foundation."

(Soundbite of song "Foundation")

Ms. KATE NASH (Singer): (Singing) My finger tips are holding onto the cracks in our foundation. And I know that I should let go, but I can't. And every time we fight I know it's not right. Every time that you're upset and I smile I know I should forget, but I can't.

STEWART: I hear a little Joss Stone in her voice.

Mr. LANGER: There is a little. I mean I think the thing about Kate Nash is she sounds just familiar enough that, you know, you hear that and you want to know who it was.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Mr. LANGER: And you hear that song and it's so, sort of, slick and well put together that you wonder immediately who that is. And that's good. And, you know, the bottom line with Kate Nash for us here in America is whether she's too British, you know. There's a line in that song where she ends up saying, you know, that - to her boyfriend that maybe she should go find someone that's fitter, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: That's fitter as in the British hotter - better looking in a way.

STEWART: Ah.

Mr. LANGER: And so it's those kinds of, you know, and that's a key punch line to that song. So, you know, the streets for instance, the hip-hop thing from a couple of years ago should have been huge over here, you know, made a lot of top 10 list, but it was just too British. It was too much stories told in their twist-on-English for us to really get into it.

STEWART: Right. Well the cheek of it all translates if people don't necessarily really understand the inside joke.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah. And that maybe her problem, but you know it hasn't hurt Lilly Allen in all that much. So - and she's supposed to be sort of a less controversial figure offstage, which may or may not help her, but it could. I mean, you know, in it she may actually show up to gigs, she say be sober when she does so. And if you take Lilly Allen and Amy Winehouse of the rotation because they can't seem to keep their thing together, then maybe that's a good thing for Kate Nash.

STEWART: Or stay out of jail.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah.

STEWART: Someone people may have heard of before is Dev Hynes, formerly of the Brit pop band Test Icicles. You have to say that very carefully.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: The press really falling all over themselves about his new project. What is it?

Mr. LANGER: Well he left Test Icicles. Test Icicles have broke up really quickly, I mean, something like, you know, six months after they started. They put out a record and then broke up, and right when the buzz was building for them. And you'd never know from Test Icicles, who were this really abrasive punk band that this guy, Dev Hynes, would come out with a completely different project where it's basically Bright Eyes part two.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: But he goes to Omaha, he makes this old country-ish record, and it sounds nothing like you would expect from a British guy who, you know, was in a punk band.

STEWART: And going under the moniker Lightspeed Champions, let's listen to a little bit from the album "Falling Off The Lavender Bridge."

(Soundbite of song, "Everybody I know Is Listening to Crunk")

Mr. DEV HYNES (Lightspeed Champion): (Singing) Kiss me uncomfortably, my sweet. Take me to the genesis to sing softly. But no, no, it's over. We tried to get over the mountain.

STEWART: So he worked with a producer who is super hot right now. Tell me who he worked with and what are these producers' skills?

Mr. LANGER: Well, Mike Mogus, who is one of the three permanent members of Bright Eyes and the producer behind the Bright Eyes records. Mike Mogus produced this record. Nate Walcott who does the string arrangements and he's one of the other three permanent members of Bright Eyes is on the record as well. And he went to Omaha to make this record and it sounds like a Bright Eyes record. And that's a good thing because it sounds like a really streamlined, really focused Bright Eyes record. And the problem with Bright Eyes is, you know, there's just so much bloat, there's so much ego, there's so much kind of robust that this is something new in that vain and it's got really rich melodies, really complex orchestral landscapes, I mean, it's chamber pop with sort of a sly, funny twist. I mean, a lot of this stuff is borders on the x-rated, I mean, there's, you know. That song is called "Everybody I know Is Listening to Crunk." There's a humor sides of this that I think Bright Eyes never has had.

STEWART: All right, I - you have to describe what Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion looks like.

Mr. LANGER: He's - well, he's black and has, you know, a giant afro. He's exactly what you wouldn't picture with this music sounding like.

STEWART: Well he, also, is taken to wearing this, sort of, like a Tina Turner's hair got turned around…

Mr. LANGER: Yes.

STEWART: …and pushed forward.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: On his head.

Mr. LANGER: Exactly. Yeah, I mean, and that's I think part of the comedy of this, is that, you know, it's not what you'd expect, and it really works. And I think that this is a record that is going to - 12 months from now wind up on a lot of those 10 - top 10 list.

STEWART: All right. This next artist we're going to talk about - I have a friend who is so into The Cool Kids. Tell the people who they are.

Mr. LANGER: The Cool Kids are a duo that call themselves the black Beastie Boys.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: And…

STEWART: Let's listen for it (unintelligible). That might explain it.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah. I mean, their names are Chuck and Mikey and they have yet to put out a full length record. They got another EP that's coming out early in the year that's called "The Bake Sale" EP. And they're just two kids who rap like old school, you know, Eric B. & Rakim, EPMD. You know it's very nostalgic but very current sounding hip-hop.

STEWART: All right. Well let's check out The Cool Kids. This is "Black Mags."

(Soundbite of song, "Black Mags")

THE COOL KIDS (Rap Duo): (Singing) Pedal down the foot hills wheelies on the front. I got this 89-90, Pistons champ flat bill black starter cap with the hologram tags. White Mag rims, red rubber tires chain, frame, pegs, grips, shift to my supplier. Dope man attire, gimme 'bout an hour and I'll have it clicking, ticking, gliding, flying like MacGyver.

STEWART: I mean this is the best way. It sounds like they made it in their basement.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah. And that's what, sort of, refreshing about it. I mean, look at, you know, how much money a Kanye West cost or a Jay-Z record. I mean, these guys are doing it completely old school. And that song we just heard "Black Mags" that's about a bicycle. That's not about a Maboc(ph) or, you know, Lamborghini that the other guys are rapping about. That's about a bike. They've got a song there for the BMX kids.

STEWART: Are they self-produced?

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, they are self-produced, you know, they both rap, they both produce.

STEWART: Jaymay is the final artist we're going to talk about. "Autumn Falling" is, sort of, book ending with girls who - or let's say young women who write thoughtful music. She's from New York, and…

Mr. LANGER: Yeah. And she's from Long Island originally and then move to New York for a seven-month stint before she made this record. And I think, you know, Jaymay, sort of, the closest thing to what we saw last year, the success of Regina Spektor, the success of Feist, a little bit before that K.T. Tunstall. All these people that like Neko Case. I mean this is what they're aiming for with Jaymay, that's why she become somebody who was blogged about a lot and then got herself a nice record deal with Blue Note. It's because people think there's going to be a market for that in 2008.

STEWART: With Blue Note Records, that's kind of interesting. I mean I think of them as a jazz label. But I mean, they actually branched out with, was it Norah Jones?

Mr. LANGER: Yeah.

STEWART: Who sort of…

Mr. LANGER: It's gotten a little more traditional singer-songwriter over the years.

STEWART: All right. Well let's listen to a little bit of Jaymay. This is "Sea Green, See Blue."

(Soundbite of song "Sea Green, See Blue")

JAYMAY (Singer): (Singing) I miss winter just because I miss when I knew you best. I miss the typewriter in the basement, I miss making your room a mess. I miss not being misused. I miss it all, so I guess I lose. Sea green.

STEWART: Okay, so I don't mean to be cynical but when you're 26 and you're going by one name, is there, you know, it's a very fine line to write these kind of songs and not be very sweet and sort of pretentious and precious.

Mr. LANGER: Well, I mean, just that clip we heard, she missed not being misused. She can turn a phrase better than you know most people twice her age. And you know she's got another line on that song where the lover that's left her, she says, you moved to Montreal to be closer to France. How does that working out for you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: And, you know, she's sort of, you know, part Patty Griffin part Sarah Silverman or something like.

STEWART: So you tell me there's a little bit of grit there to her.

Mr. LANGER: And she's got this really sweet, clear voice where you can understand everything she says, and she's plucky and she's spunky, and she's got a real shot at, you know, a bunch of different formats. You know, this could play pop, this could play, you know, adult alternative. She could be the face of Starbucks this year. We'll see.

STEWART: Now do you think there's any - oh, continue. I'm sorry.

Mr. LANGER: No, no. I think that's where this is - this is that, sort of, record that is not going to offend anybody, but a lot of people are going to find lovable in this sort of little left turns it takes.

STEWART: And of all the music trends we saw in 2007, which do you think we will embrace hardly in 2008 or if you can't think anyone of that - can't think of that, what do you think is going to get left behind and really become a sound of '07?

Mr. LANGER: Hmm. I mean, I do think like I said these women that came through in 2007, that's what people are going to still be chasing in 2008. You know, we're sort of, without a Lilith Fair we're seeing, sort of, a Lilith Fair nation come back. And I think that's a good thing. I think it's a dangerous thing because when you group women from different genres together as, quote, "women's music" that's bad for all women.

STEWART: Right.

Mr. LANGER: Did that make sense? I mean I think that's what the Lilith Fair did back in the day was make, you know, women that played blues, women that played rock, women that played alternative country made them all the same thing, just women. And it was easy to dismiss women as a whole when we moved on to the next thing. I think we're going to see more that because of Feist, because of K.T. Tunstall and that, you know, that's going to be a trend this year. And, you know, there's not other than Zeppelin, there's not a lot of big reunions this year. And I think that reunion thing last year where we saw The Police, where we saw The Stooges, that there's going to be fewer of those this year.

STEWART: Andy Langer is a music critic for Esquire magazine, and a friend of THE BPP.

Thanks for introducing us to all the new music, Andy.

Mr. LANGER: You got it.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: I expect to make some downloading in my future after listening to Andy's suggestions.

ROBERT SMITH, host:

In fact, I'm just going to hum along.

STEWART: Okay. You do that I'll start the credits.

Hey, thanks for listening to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT today.

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