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

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Every month, NPR Music calls public radio hosts to check on what's hot on their playlists. Here's a sampling of what's in heavy rotation.

RYAN LACROIX: My name is Ryan LaCroix. I'm the host of the Oklahoma Rock Show on KOSU and The Spy in Oklahoma City.


LACROIX: What I picked this month is "Back In Town" by Beau Jennings and The Tigers. There is this parallel to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. There's that hard-charging guitar, a definite wall of sound.


BEAU JENNINGS AND THE TIGERS: (Singing) No one bothers anymore to try and write the hits.

LACROIX: You know, Beau's kind of an institution here with his band Cheyenne and his other projects. And Beau Jennings really delivers a really honest line towards the end, and it becomes a refrain about wanting to go see a local band but first he gets - he has to get a babysitter. It's (laughter) it's just a really funny refrain that as a dad I totally relate to and that I think a lot of parents can relate to.

BEAU JENNINGS AND THE TIGERS: (Singing) The empty bottles are playing tonight. I think I'm going to get a sitter. The empty bottles are playing tonight.

TALIA SCHLANGER: Hey, I'm Talia Schlanger, a new contributing host at World Cafe. My pick for heavy rotation is called "Creeping" and it's by Obongjayar. It's kind of your first introduction or our first introduction to this brand-new artist who feels like he's just leapt out of the gate fully formed and sucking you right into his world.


OBONGJAYAR: (Singing) Creeping, squeezed from the floorboards, this city don't sleep, this city don't sleep.

SCHLANGER: Oh, did you hear that, that drop out - that drop out there? I am a sucker for when the bass drops out of a song and Obongjayar has done that so powerfully in this tune. It's not even a minute in and he's just pulling the rug right out from under you.


OBONGJAYAR: (Singing) No cell but believe none of these people all leave (ph).

SCHLANGER: Obongjayar wrote this tune about sort of the unsung heroes of 24-hour London. These are the people that you don't see or appreciate because they're working while you're sleeping. And you can hear that in the soundscape on this song, right? And you've got that picture, corners, crevasses, late night.


OBONGJAYAR: (Singing) Squeezed from the floorboards. Yeah, this city don't sleep.

SCHLANGER: It's just so rare to hear sort of the first offering from an artist who has as distinct a point of view as Obongjayar has on this. And I think it's really that fearless outsider mentality, right, Nothing to lose. This is what I see.


OBONGJAYAR: (Singing) They're creeping in, they're creeping in, creeping (ph).

ALISA ALI: Hey, there I'm Alisa Ali from WFUV in New York City. So the heavy rotation pick this month is "Same Old Lie" by Jim James.


JIM JAMES: (Singing) It's the same, it's the same, it's the same old lie.

ALI: Jim James, like most people, is real - he's really focused on our current political climate. And it's really hard to, you know, not feel disappointed in what's going on.


JAMES: (Singing) It's the same old lie you've been reading out, bleeding out. Now who's getting cheating. You best believe it's the silent majority and if you don't vote, it's on you, not me.

ALI: That's a truth bomb right there. And it's a clear call to action. So this is a political song for sure - no doubt about it. But the thing that I love about it is that it's not preachy and that he approaches it from a place of hopefulness and of positivity. He feels that, you know, we can make a change.


JAMES: (Singing) It's the same old lie. It's the same, it's the same, it's the same old lie.

SIMON: A sampling of music in heavy rotation at public radio stations across the country. You can see the full list at nprmusic.org. Our own heavily rotated theme music is by BJ Leiderman.

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