Listen

Talia Schlanger

I'm sure you've had this experience at some point: You hear the voice of an artist who was important to you at a particular time and all of a sudden, the sound of it sends you tumbling back through your own memory right to where you were – that college dorm room, those bleachers on that football field, that cross country road trip with your first love — the first time you heard that voice.

In this session, we have some serious musicians who trained at a conservatory and make carefully arranged music with tricky harmonies. Sound like a recipe for fun? It is. This is Lake Street Dive we're talking about, and if you've heard any of the original music they make, you know they take all the most fun bits of pop, soul, disco, jazz, rock and roll and stitch them together into something all their own.

Last Sunday, Philadelphia's own The War on Drugs won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. We consider that a sign. Sure as the National Chicken Council's prediction Americans will consume 1.35 billion chicken wings this weekend, the birds (aka Philadelphia Eagles) are going to take the bowl.

Welcome to a rock 'n' roll reunion, with our guests The Dream Syndicate. In 2017, the band released its first new album since breaking up nearly 30 years ago.

At the end of last year, I spoke to bandleader Steve Wynn about the Syndicate's history. Steve formed the band in Los Angeles in the '80s, which he intended to be in opposition to the way he saw music changing. (For instance, people were putting their guitars down and picking up synthesizers and keytars.) This was happening in the mainstream, it was happening in the underground.

Steve was not into it.

You know when somebody has that special something? The star quality you can't really describe but it's just there? Jidenna has that something.

In this session, we slip into the world of Emily Haines and The Soft Skeleton. Haines is the lead singer of the electro-tinged rock and roll band Metric, but in her solo work you won't find any wailing guitars or radical synths — the spotlight shines right on her voice and the work of art that is her songwriting.

Hear Emily Haines, solo on the piano, in the player above.

In this session, you've got front-row seats to a mini concert by Combo Chimbita, who absolutely lit up the World Cafe with what they call "tropical futurism." What does that mean? You're about to hear it in action. But, just so you know what you're in for, Combo Chimbita uses cumbia as a building block but they get psychedelic, trippy and downright freaky, with an inventive combination of rhythms and sounds from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

What do you get when you cross an Australian post-punk drummer with a lute player who is the descendant of Greek musical royalty? Easy: Today's guests Xylouris White!

Xylouris is George Xylouris, from a famed family of musicians based in a mountain shepherding village on the Greek island of Crete. George has been a professional musician since he was 12.

White is Jim White, an Australian post-punk drummer with a deft touch, able to go from thunderous to tender on a dime. Jim held it down in the instrumental trio Dirty Three, and has also backed Cat Power and PJ Harvey.

Bette Smith grew up in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn: Bedford–Stuyvesant, pre-Mayor Giuliani. Her father was a church choir director who once had to protect his kids by running out of the house waving a two-by-four. He taught Bette to sing. He also taught her that a career in music outside the church was wrong, and it wasn't until after he died that Bette really pursued music. She'll tell the story of coming to that decision, and what she imagines her late parents might think of what's she's doing now.

Luna On World Cafe

Dec 5, 2017

Around the time Luna announced it was breaking up back in 2004, lead singer Dean Wareham said, "This is what bands do." But you can bet any fan of Luna's dreamy, moody sound was secretly hoping they would undo it. And after about a decade, Luna did. (Or: undid.)

Dhani Harrison's new record, IN///PARALLEL, feels a bit like walking through a lucid dream. It's complex and artful, and at first listen, maybe a little dark. But as he explains, he uses the dark to inspire catharsis, not fear. Dhani also told me he writes lyrics with caution: "You have to be careful with — with the words you use in the daytime, I think, because the English language, I think, is probably just a big magic spell, and when you say things they can tend to manifest."

We're in South Louisiana — somewhere between Arnaudville and Leonville — in the backyard of Louis Michot, looking out at his pond. In 1999, Louis and his brother Andre co-founded the band Lost Bayou Ramblers. And the sounds we hear in their backyard in the bayou actually appear on their latest album, Kalenda. So does music, of course; the band isn't here to play the cricket or the frog — more like Louis on the fiddle and vocals and Andre on accordion and lap steel guitar. But the music really does take you to a real place.

William Patrick Corgan would be the first to admit that many people's image of him was locked down back in 1995 as Billy Corgan: frontman of The Smashing Pumpkins. The Pumpkins had just released Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the album with the song "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" -– you know, the one where despite all his rage, he's still just a rat in a cage?