Arcade Fire, Valerie June, The Smile, Andrew Bird, More: All Songs Considered: NPR

Clockwise from top left: The Smile, Brittany Davis, Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird, Valerie June

Courtesy of the artists


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Courtesy of the artists

As artists have huddled at home in recent years, so many have written music about their time alone and the importance of reconnecting. The first song we hear on this week’s show is by Brittany Davis, a blind, non-binary black musician who has faced so many challenges in life, including homelessness. Their debut EP and title track “I Choose to Live” is a call to action, hoping to empower the listener to face the challenges of the world. Valerie June told me that she wants to spread “light, positivity and beauty” in a world in need. Their song “Use Me” does just that. Then there’s Arcade Fire, featuring their first song from their sixth album, entitled WEATHER. Side one of the album, titled ‘I’, is about fear and loneliness, while side two, titled ‘WE’, is about the joy of reconnection. I’m going to play “Lightning I, II” from this upcoming album, a record produced with Nigel Godrich.

Nigel Godrich is perhaps best known for his work with Radiohead and is now producing The Smile, a new project by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Sons Of Kemet’s drummer Tom Skinner. I’ll play the song “Skrting On the Surface”. The video below, shot in 16mm black and white, film deep in a mine, goes perfectly with this music.

There’s an insane collaboration called Congotronics International. The group includes members of Konono Nº1, the Kasai Allstars, Deerhoof, Juana Molina and more. This mix of musicians blends Congolese guitars and psychedelic sounds in the song “Where’s The One?” There’s new music from the prolific Andrew Bird. The song “Atomized” is inspired by the writings of Joan Didion and her observations proving that things do indeed fall apart.

Another old favorite of mine is the band Typhoon from Portland, Oregon. They’re putting out a series of EPs about resentment, and the first song we hear from it, “New Wife,” is about a voicemail to an ex-wife that’s getting bitter.

Selected tracks and artists:

1. Brittany Davis: “I choose to live”, off I choose Live EP

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2. Valerie June: “Use Me” (single)

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3. Arcade Fire: Lightning I, II off WEATHER

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4. The Smile: “Skrting On the Surface” (Single)

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5. Congotronics International: “Where’s The One?”, from where is the one

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6. Andrew Bird: “Atomized” (single)

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7. Typhoon: “New Wife”, off Underground Complex EP

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