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GUY RAZ, host:

Stephen Thompson is our resident scholar, poet, scientist, astronomer.

STEPHEN THOMPSON: Yeah, and statesman.

RAZ: Okay, maybe that's going a bit too far, Stephen.

(Soundbite of laughter)

But he is a music scout for us here at ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

And Stephen, you brought along a playlist of some of your favorite new music, including this track.

(Soundbite of song, "Red Travellin' Socks")

THOMPSON: This is a singer/songwriter named Malcolm Middleton. He was half of a Scottish group called Arab Strap, which played absolutely the most depressing music.

RAZ: Because this is not a depressing song at all.

THOMPSON: This is not a grim and punishing song at all. It's this wonderful sort of spangley, cheerful pop song; sounds very sort of early '90s…

RAZ: Yeah. Yeah.

THOMPSON: …college radio. So far, it's sort of a tribute to, you know - I mean, lots of singers over the years have sort of sung about, you know, their traveling shoes, you know, they're wandering spirits or whatever. And this particular song pays tribute to the socks that make those shoes more comfortable. It's called "Red Travellin' Socks."

Mr. MALCOLM MIDDLETON (Singer/Songwriter): (Singing) I've grown to hate you, red travellin' socks. You take me away from the one I love. All you have is distance and pain. (Unintelligible) are all that remain.

RAZ: Really a good song for the car.

THOMPSON: It is a good song for the car. And I find it just incredibly charming. I think in part by comparison to some of his just astonishingly bleak earlier material. He has a song on a previous solo record called "We're All Going to Die."

(Soundbite of laughter)

And it's the - which is very, very indicative of his work up to that point. So part of what makes this song stand out, in addition to just being really sweet, almost giddy song, is just how much less depressing it is than everything he's ever worked on.

RAZ: Stephen, I'm really curious to hear about this next song. It's a George Harrison song. Obviously, it's not sung by the late George Harrison.

THOMPSON: Right. It's sung by a singer named Jim James from a band called My Morning Jacket, recording - it gets more confusing - recording under the name Yim Yames(ph)…

RAZ: Hmm.

THOMPSON: …which is not most mysterious pseudonym in the world. But he put out a really lovely EP earlier this year called "Tribute To,' and it's six songs written by George Harrison - George Harrison songs and Beatles' songs. And this particular track is a song from "The White Album" called "Long, Long, Long."

(Soundbite of song, "Long, Long, Long")

Mr. YIM YAMES (Singer): (Singing) It took a long, long, long time.

RAZ: It's interesting because Jim James, from My Morning Jacket, in that band they do all kinds of interesting stuff, sometimes funk. I mean. they played with the Boston Pops, the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

THOMPSON: Yeah, there's…

RAZ: This is completely different.

THOMPSON: Yeah, there's a lot of sort of these cavernous, epic rock songs. And at times, I've - at least, me personally - I've sometimes found their music a little bit remote. And part of what I love of about these George Harrison covers is he clearly feels so reverent about the source material, that they're stripped down to their this sort of distilled beautiful essence.

(Soundbite of song, "Long, Long, Long")

Mr. YAMES: (Singing) So many tears, I was searching…

RAZ: Finally, Stephen, there's a track that you picked this week, a band called the Japandroids. And I love this track. It's got so much energy.

(Soundbite of song, "Young Hearts Spark Fire")

RAZ: Who are these guys?

THOMPSON: It's a duo from Vancouver: a guitarist named Brian King, a drummer named David Prowse. And there's just two of them and then they both sort of shout over…

(Soundbite of laughter)

THOMPSON: …each other at the same time. And there's just something so wonderfully full-to-bursting about this record. I mean the fact that they don't necessarily always seem to be playing the same song at the same time, kind of gives it a little sort of shambling quality. But it's ultimately just so full of life.

RAZ: Hmm. This sound reminds me a little bit of Robert Smith from The Cure.

THOMPSON: It does. There's definitely some of that Robert Smith. This particular song is called "Young Hearts Spark Fire," which I think says it all.

RAZ: Stephen Thompson is the curator of NPR's Song of the Day and our scout for new music. You can hear full versions of all of these songs at nprmusic.org.

Stephen, thanks so much.

THOMPSON: Thanks so much for having me.

(Soundbite of song, "Young Hearts Spark Fire")

RAZ: We haven't forgotten about Three-Minute Fiction. We're still reading through the 3,600 submissions that we received in Round Two. And we'll have a winning story read by The New Yorker's James Wood soon.

In the meantime, you can read some of our favorites so far at npr.org/threeminutefiction, and that's Three-Minute Fiction all spelled out.

And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Have a great night.

(Soundbite of song, "Young Hearts Spark Fire")

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