The Week In 'Song Of The Day' NPR Music's Song of the Day features a new track every weekday, with analysis of the music, links to each artist's Web sites and, of course, a chance to hear the song itself. Here, Song of the Day editor Stephen Thompson talks about recent selections by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Kurt Elling and more.
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The Week In 'Song Of The Day'

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The Week In 'Song Of The Day'


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The Week In 'Song Of The Day'

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(Soundbite of song, "Too Much Time")

Mr. JOHN VANDERSLICE (Musician): (Singing) Woke up on the sand and I tied up my sleeping bag.

GUY RAZ, host:

We're listening to a new track by indie rocker John Vanderslice. It's called "Too Much Time." And if you regularly check out NPR's Song of the Day section at our Web site, you might have heard it this past Monday.

Stephen Thompson is the man who brings you NPR's Song of the Day. And he's with us to talk about some of the picks this past week.

Hi, Stephen.


RAZ: An interesting mix of stuff here, Stephen. You've got some indie-college music. We've got this song we're listening to by John Vanderslice. Some piano lounge jazz. And then a band that sort of defies description, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, which we'll get to in a sec.

But I want to ask you about another song first. It's called "Shook Down" by a band called The Dead Satellites. Let's take a listen.

(Soundbite of song, "Shook Down")

Mr. MATTHEW RYAN (Vocalist, The Dead Satellites): (Singing) I sat down with some friends. Familiar strangers. It's said that in the end, we know the danger.

RAZ: A rather jingly guitars here. The guy sounds a little bit like Ian McCulloch from Echo & The Bunnymen. Tell us about this song and the band, Steve.

THOMPSON: Okay. It's a brand-new band. The singer's been around a while. His name is Matthew Ryan. And it's kind of a groth(ph), you know, slightly sort of Springsteeny guy. There's a little bit of a throwbacky, kind of slightly replacementy vibe to it as well.

RAZ: Right. Paul Westerbergy.

THOMPSON: Oh, yeah. And…

RAZ: Are we getting to insider here?

(Soundbite of laughter)

THOMPSON: I don't think so. But the song's got - it's got a little bit of an interesting back story to it. Matthew Ryan wrote the song because his father had lost his - a significant chunk of his lifesavings the way so many of us have.

RAZ: Right.

THOMPSON: And so he wanted to write kind of a modern-day protest song to that effect. And what's kind of interesting about it is if you listen closely, that outrage is in the lyrics but at the same time, it functions just like the way whether you're listening closely or not.

(Soundbite of song, "Shook Down")

Mr. RYAN: (Singing) Shook down, shook down.

RAZ: It's an interesting song, I've got to admit, I didn't love it. But he does sort of beat you over the head at the end with this kind of…


RAZ: I mean he says, the average CEO makes 400 times the average worker makes.

THOMPSON: It's very hard to work that statistic into a rock lyric even the…

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: And he manages to do it.

THOMPSON: He does a little - yeah. He does a little spoken word coda at the end.

RAZ: Okay. The next song that we're going to play, thankfully, Stephen, is not indie-college rock.

(Soundbite of laughter)

But it's a gentle cover of John Coltrane's "Lush Life."

(Soundbite of song, "Lush Life")

Mr. KURT ELLING (Musician): (Singing) I used to visit all the very gay places. Those come-what-may places where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life to get the feel of life from jazz and cocktails.

RAZ: Okay. I've got to admit, I love this song. I mean, this is a great song. This guy has an amazing voice. His name is Kurt Elling. Who is he?

THOMPSON: Like a 40-year-old mid-Western jazz singer. The thing with jazz vocals - it's so tricky when you're talking about just purely jazz vocalists making it not sound like you're going to hear it in the hotel bar. No matter how strong the singer is, you're always sort of up against that. And I think this is a very pure thoughtful vocal and ultimately, a beautiful rendition of the song. Billy Strayhorn wrote it when he was 16 years old. And it's from this record of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman songs, it's all covers.

(Soundbite of song, "Lush Life")

Mr. JOHN COLTRANE (Musician): (Singing) Then you came along with your siren song to tempt me to madness. I thought for awhile that your poignant smile was tinged with sadness of a great love for me.

RAZ: Makes me want to have a martini and sit back and watch "Madmen."

THOMPSON: When don't I feel like that?

RAZ: Right. Well, now, I was told, you have a very special pick for Song of the Week, Stephen.

THOMPSON: The song the week.

RAZ: And I mentioned it briefly at the beginning, a band called Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. First, how would you describe this band?

THOMPSON: Okay. Very, very tricky. And I saw them live at South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin early this year, and it was absolutely over the moon.

RAZ: Sounds like there's a lot of people. There's Edward Sharpe and on the Magnetic Zeros...

THOMPSON: It's 10-piece band. When I saw the band, it was as if you had like handed a 6-year-old a kitten. Like I was just sitting there, I was like (unintelligible).

RAZ: Oh, you were the…

THOMPSON: I was the 6-year-old, and I guess that that would make the band the kitten.

(Soundbite of laughter)

So it was incredible, just unbelievably electric.

(Soundbite of song, "Home")

EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS (Rock): (Singing) Well, hot and heavy (unintelligible), chocolate candy Jesus Christ (unintelligible). Home. Let me come home. Home is whenever I'm with you. Home...

THOMPSON: The record actually has a tricky time capturing, what makes this band so unbelievably great. And I feel like it's as if you were doing an art exhibit where you filled the Grand Canyon entirely with marshmallow fluff. You could - which I don't recommend. But if you did that - if you took a picture of the Grand Canyon full of marshmallow fluff, it's not going to compare to standing at the mouth of the Grand Canyon full of marshmallow fluff and just taking in the sheer enormousness of that experience.

(Soundbite of song, "Home")

EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS (Musician): (Singing) (Unintelligible) I'm coming home.

RAZ: Such a good song.

THOMPSON: It is a wonderful song and...

RAZ: Great tune.

THOMPSON: Wait until see you this band live. When people see this band live, that's where they're going to fall head over heels in love.

RAZ: The song is called "Home." It's by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Stephen Thompson's pick of the week. You can hear more of Stephen Thompson's picks by going to and checking out the Song of the Day.

Stephen, thanks so much.

THOMPSON: Thanks so much, Guy.

(Soundbite of song, "Home")


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

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