Originally published on Mon January 21, 2013 10:41 pm
Most young bands hope to get some kind of break or media exposure as soon as they possibly can. But as Django Django, a four-piece originally from Edinburgh, discovered, it's possible to get noticed a bit too early. In 2009, the group released its first single, "Storm," as a seven-inch through a friend's Glasgow-based record label. The song quickly stirred up buzz, but the group didn't have anything to release as a follow-up — "Storm" was truly the first thing they had ever done together.
In 2008 and 2011, respectively, Miguel Zenón and Dafnis Prieto received MacArthur Fellowships — known as "Genius Grants" — from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. They were cited for their achievements in expanding boundaries and combining vocabularies. And you can hear them in action from Newport on JazzSet.
Her voice is soft and sweet, her guitar work deft and evocative, but Anaïs Mitchell is a songwriting storyteller first and foremost. Robbed of a gift for melody and poetry, Mitchell would probably (and may yet) write some tremendous novels.
At first glance, our top picks for 2012 may seem to range far and wide, from a fresh take on an epic late Beethoven string quartet to cellist Maya Beiser playing spaciously layered new music by Michael Harrison. What unites this diverse bunch is a spirit of discovery — not just in new music that we'll return to again and again but in the artistic energy that animates each of these projects.
Having the courage to break away from alt-pop cult favorite Stereolab seems to have given Laetitia Sadier a personal charge and social conviction that's on full display throughout her second solo album, Silencio. She casts a spell in this live performance, which places her gorgeous voice in the spotlight where it belongs.
As of this year, the vocal group Anonymous 4 has been introducing modern audiences to medieval music for a quarter century. When the all-female quartet asked David Lang to help mark the occasion by writing them some music, he didn't need any convincing. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer was already a big fan.
We call them "buttons" and "deadrolls" — and, less cryptically, "breaks" — but most NPR listeners know them as the interstitial music spots that pepper NPR's newsmagazines. They add shading, mood, energy and other nonverbal context to our stories.
Dave Brubeck, the jazz musician best known for "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk" died Dec. 5, 2012, a day short of his 92nd birthday. In 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet's album Time Out became the first jazz album to sell a million copies.