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Phoebe Bridgers has one of those voices that can make a rowdy arena crowd go silent and then leap to its feet. I saw it happen when she joined Conor Oberst on stage this past summer at the WXPN XPoNential Music Festival. I can't imagine many people in the crowd knew who she was before they heard Conor invite her on stage for a duet. By the time she was done — standing ovation.

It's always a little irritating when women in rock bands are dubbed "vulnerable." The word is often meant as a compliment, but one given without consideration to the fact that music always opens up its makers to a wide range of emotions. And as if women, in particular, bear some magical burden of openness, lacking the ability to rage and strut and cause trouble like guys do.

What does vulnerability sound like, anyway? Maybe it's just the willingness to occasionally sound awkward. To hit a bum note. To say the thing that makes you look a little dumb.

earthsongs.net

The video for "Sorry" by San Francisco's The She's is the stuff dreams are made of. A beautiful duo frolics on the beach, the sun is shining, the sparks are flying, a sweet series of kisses are shared in the surf, and, as in so many dreams, the whole thing is tinged with a creeping sense of existential dread.

Haley Fohr meditates on existence with telescopic ears and eyes. In the decade since she began Circuit Des Yeux, Fohr has mapped herself onto a world alone, seeking connection through music that rumbles in tandem with her oaken baritone.

As the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant has one of the most recognizable, and some have said, best voices in rock and roll.

After a year of touring, New York City's Sunflower Bean are back with "I Was a Fool," a glistening and gloomy love song that makes you feel a little bit happy, a little bit sad, and a little bit like you want to dance. Singer and bassist Julia Cumming, who plays in the trio with guitarist Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Faber, tells NPR they wanted to capture the heart-sickening dizziness of all-consuming love. "It's confusing," she says, "that's the point."

Watching my guest Josh Ritter stand on stage and perform, you would swear that his feet aren't touching the ground. It looks like he's been lifted straight up by the music he's playing, somewhere between standing on his tip toes and actual levitation. His smile is huge. And you get this overwhelming sense of joy.

Pinegrove's Cardinal was a messy and charming debut that felt with exacting detail. There's a sense of restlessness in it, run through the twinkly pangs of emo-twang. Go to any live show, or just watch the band's Tiny Desk Concert, and the crowd's sing-alongs are more than just mouthing to their favorite songs — it's living them.

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