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Call JD McPherson's style a throwback if you like, but don't mistake it for novelty. The former punk rocker and middle-school art teacher crafts a raw and energetic blend of jump blues, rockabilly and early rock 'n' roll on his debut album Signs & Signifiers, recording to 1/4 tape on analog equipment. Still, McPherson is as likely to cite The Smiths or Wu-Tang Clan as influences as he is Little Richard or Ruth Brown.

Remembering Nora Ephron

Jun 27, 2012

As you've probably heard, the wonderful Nora Ephron has died. We're all big fans here, and we were delighted to have Nora join us on stage at Carnegie Hall in 2010. She came early, she stayed late, she was quick, she was funny, she was glamorous, and most of all...she was gracious enough to let us ask her a string of silly questions. You can listen to that segment, which aired the following January, here.

For New York Polyphony, it's location, location, location. The four-man vocal ensemble thrives on music from the Renaissance, much of it designed for cavernous, reverberant spaces. Think voices soaring through arched cathedrals. But madrigals by Flemish composer Orlando di Lasso, with their more intimate storytelling vibe, are suited for smaller venues — like, say, the living room of New York Polyphony bass Craig Phillips.

I fell in love with Bruce Springsteen for his swagger. It was ridiculous and offered so much hope. Here was a bony dude with the worst haircut ever, who wore T-shirts covered in holes — seriously, he looked like the fry cook at the amusement park where I worked as a counter girl in the summer — making music as big as the known universe.

This week on All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton offer sneak previews of some of the summer's most anticipated releases.

It's hard to pick a favorite Tiny Desk Concert from the hundreds we've done, but this could be the one. For me, music is best when it surprises, takes chances and makes me smile. Comedian and musician Reggie Watts performed three "songs" at the NPR Music offices, all of them spontaneous improvisations and all of them playful, even magical.

Watts came with a simple setup of loop pedals, delay pedals and a microphone. He laid down the beats and bass, entirely with his voice, and built up layers of sound, melody and rhythm — more like a magician than a musician.

Armed with cameras and microphones, we recently invaded the rehearsal spaces of prominent musicians. The result is "In Practice," a new series of videos you can watch here.

Mindless Arcade Friday: The Grading Game

Jun 22, 2012


What: First Person Tutor: or, The Grading Game

You're a destitute graduate student with overdue student loans, and the only way to pay them back is grading papers for Dr. Paynuss, an evil professor determined to fail all his students. You earn points by finding spelling and grammar errors in their papers within a thirty-second time limit. The lower their grade, the higher your salary.

Joe Pug: 'Hymn' For A Lasting Relationship

Jun 21, 2012

A hymn is a faith song, and Joe Pug knows about faith. It was a leap of faith which moved him to quit school in pursuit of songwriting in the first place. So it's no surprise that his stirring new song "Hymn #76" balances on faith. "To love me is to set up on a mountain," he sings. "Every step is harder than the last."

Being a mariachi is a specialized gig. You might be able to fool people who don't know the music by wearing those tight pants and little jackets and playing with lots of vibrato. But hardcore mariachi fans will call you out in a minute if you try to fake it.

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