(Soundbite of music, "Foni tu Argile")

GUY RAZ, host:

Ah, music of old Europe. Sounds a little Bulgaria, some Transylvania thrown in, Northern Serbia. But this song comes to us from New Mexico, a duo who call themselves A Hawk and a Hacksaw. The song is title - well, something I'm something I'm not sure how to pronounce.

Stephen Thompson, help me out here.

STEPHEN THOMPSON: I believe its pronounced "Foni tu Argile." But, you know, I'm a print guy. You're the radio. You should be telling me how to pronounce it.

RAZ: Stephen Thompson is behind NPR's Song of the Day at npr.org. And the song we're hearing is one of his picks this week.

Stephen, I love this song. Lots of energy here, reminds me of a gig I saw in Belgrade about nine years ago.

Who are these guys?

THOMPSON: Well, it's a duo. It's called A Hawk and a Hacksaw. One of them was the drummer in the band Neutral Milk Hotel…

RAZ: Uh-huh.

THOMPSON: …which is, I mean, a much more of a wonderful Indie rock band. But they're one of sort of a movement of American musicians channeling the music of Eastern Europe and mixing different parts of the world together, and kind of smashing them up in sort of a melting pot.

RAZ: Yeah. I mean, hear some Mariachi sound.

THOMPSON: Yeah, there's - I mean, there are other bands. I mean, there's a band called Beirut, a band called Davotchka, a band called Man Man, where they're doing that. You can't necessarily trace a point of origin for it. That's part of what's interesting about this song, which is also just a wonderful, catchy, fun little song.

RAZ: It really is.

All right, let's move on to another track you picked this week. This song is called "Breaking of a Man." And I have to say the story behind the song and the singer John Forte is probably the most astonishing thing about it.

Let's it hear for a moment.

(Soundbite of song, "Breaking of a Man")

Mr. JOHN FORTE (Singer): (Singing) I know you think breaking of a man, you take it all again as if the house we made was made of the sand…

THOMPSON: John Forte was associated with a group that had a bunch of hits called The Fugees. And he ended up going to prison for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and was sent away for years and years, and ultimately was pardoned by President Bush.

And what had happened was the singer Carly Simon talked to her friend, Orrin Hatch…

RAZ: The senator from Utah.

THOMPSON: …the senator from Utah, who went to Bush and convinced him to pardon this guy, John Forte, who was associated with The Fugees.

And so, while he was in prison, he wrote this record. So he's rapping about life in prison and sort of the struggle that he's gone through, and sort of how he's come out at the other end of it.

(Soundbite of song, "Breaking of a Man")

Mr. FORTE: (Singing) You can say the judge killed me and I came to life. But don't fawn like a neophyte. Hope for love on the tree of life, it took the letter I don't need to write.

THOMPSON: Nice song but, as you said, the story behind is irresistible.

RAZ: And the song is a narrative, as well.

THOMPSON: The song is a narrative, as well.

RAZ: Stephen, I want to ask you about one more song that you picked this week. It's called "Youlogy," and that's spelled Y-O-U-L-O-G-Y. And the band is called Volcano Choir.

I have to say the band asks a lot from the listeners.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: It's like they're channeling John Cage. It's just a very minimal, atonal sound. Let's hear it.

(Soundbite of song, "Youlogy")

Unidentified Man (Singer, Volcano Choir): (Singing) Look down. Look down little lonesome road…

RAZ: Stephen Thompson, the song takes a little while to get going.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Tell me about this band and the song.

THOMPSON: Okay, I absolutely love this song. Basically, it's a collaboration between an experimental band called Collections of Colonies of Bees from Milwaukee and Justin Vernon, who's the singer from Bon Iver.

RAZ: Bon Iver.

THOMPSON: And if you listen to the Bon Iver record from last year, which is my favorite album of last year, it's absolutely heart on the sleeves, you know where he's coming from, and it's this very human record.

This record, by contrast, is totally ethereal. It's a little harder to follow. It goes down these side roads. But it ultimately reaches an interesting place and the song builds to this beautiful conclusion.

RAZ: This payoff that you get about two minutes into the song, this gorgeous choral echo.

(Soundbite of song, "Youlogy")

RAZ: Sounds like a gothic cathedral.

Stephen Thompson is the curator of NPR's Song of the Day. You can listen to all his picks this week and find lots more new music at npr.org/music.

Stephen Thompson, as always, a pleasure.

THOMPSON: Always a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

RAZ: And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Have a great night.

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