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Intern Uprising: Songs Our Bosses Missed

Make your way through the halls of NPR's fifth floor, and you'll eventually find yourself in a triangular oasis of music and arts. This is the lair of an eclectic, sharp-witted, mostly harmless and extremely hardworking group of music curators. But don't let their senses of humor fool you -- selecting what to keep and what to can is a contentious, dangerous process.

Each winter, as the South by Southwest music festival approaches, these normally mild-mannered audiophiles bring out their boxing gloves for a series of staff meetings to pick bands for NPR to showcase at the event. Cue the arrival of four innocent interns, each wide-eyed and optimistic, eager to share his or her ideas with the world. We certainly didn't expect to find ourselves entrenched in an epic battle, as the NPR Music staff fought to secure its favorite bands a spot on the bill. Initially hesitant to get caught in the crossfire, we figured it was all we could do to observe the scene as innocent bystanders. But it wasn't long before our inner music geeks took over, compelling us to passionately plug our preferred acts. We spoke out. We fought fervently for our artists. We even tried performing circus tricks. The response? Chirping crickets.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't that dramatic. In fact, the NPR Music team has nurtured us through thick and thin, and fostered nothing but mutually rewarding professional working relationships. But now that our time is almost up, any respect that we've cobbled together over the past few months is effectively moot. At the end of this week, our precious NPR ID cards will be revoked, and the next time we try to enter the building, we'll probably be politely escorted out. On Friday, we'll be hurled into a future of unemployment, untoasted bread and unthawed TV dinners. But before we go, we finally get a chance to speak our minds. After several months spent listening to our bosses pontificate about the bands and songs they love, it's our chance to shine a light on some of the artists we pitched unsuccessfully to our superiors. Although our pleas may have initially fallen on deaf ears, these are songs that we think need to be heard. Step aside, NPR Music team -- it's our turn to talk.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Fax Shadow

Sami Yenigun, General Music Intern

Chazwick Bundick is that guy right now. I love the chillwave vibe -- hazy synths, messy drums, ambient sounds -- and I love, LOVE, a good hip-hop beat. Toro Y Moi brings the best of both worlds together. The samples in "Fax Shadow" show that this guy has a knack for chopping and screwing, and that he can work a mood into his compositions. The big chillwave movement came in the summer of '09, but now that it's getting warm, I'm finding myself going back to the tunes custom-made for lounging in the sun. Hey, NPR Music, don your shades and come kick it with me; this guy has the stuff!


Will Butler, All Songs Considered Intern

South China is a band that I picked a few months ago for All Songs Considered's Second Stage. They're a couple who make beautiful, sparse and experimental folk songs. The music absolutely shimmers with tasteful cello lines and delicate wind instruments, not to mention Jerusha Robinson's vocal prowess. Though I was able to give South China a nice shout-out on the blog, I really wanted to get the band in for a Tiny Desk Concert. I lobbied the Music Team endlessly to give the duo's album, Washingtons, a listen, and take it into consideration. Alas, this was in the heat of our preparation for SXSW 2010, meaning that, well, no one paid attention. So, South China, if you're out there, this one's for you.

Warriors Get Your Gear On

Sarah Scanlon, Classical Music Intern

After being introduced to Joy Ike by her friend -- and Tell Me More intern -- Danielle Gerson, I knew I needed to find a way to share her with the world. The minute I heard her, it was evident that Joy possessed a voice and talent beyond her years. The depth of subjects she tackles in her poetic lyrics are perfectly complemented by a unique blend of neo-soul, with just the right dash of pop. Her new album, Rumors, is set to be released on May 16. A truly compelling act to watch in person, with the ability to create an intimate setting in locations big and small, Joy Ike would be a perfect candidate for NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts series (hint, hint).


Sarah Scanlon, Classical Music Intern

I remember, at one particularly passionate meeting, when the pressure was on to pick our final artists for NPR Music's SXSW Parish showcase. We had a listening party full of songs from the potential candidates. After hearing recordings by indie-rock band after indie-rock band, one of which claimed to have incorporated Latin influences into its music (though certainly not that I could hear), I began to get a little bored. And then a little contentious. Instead of having a lineup of indie-rock bands "influenced" by world music, why not just go straight to the source and include some world music in that lineup? To be fair, NPR did a commendable job of branching out by including Brooklyn Rider and G-Side in that Parish line-up. But with this one last chance to voice my opinion, here's my attempt to spice up the mix with some music that possesses actual Latin roots.

Skull Taste

Eamonn Fetherston, General Music Intern

At one of our weekly editorial meetings, I lobbied to get Mux Mool's Skulltaste lined up for our Exclusive First Listen series. Mux Mool would be an interesting choice for a First Listen, I argued, because his work has enough in common with the electronic artists we've featured in the past -- Fever Ray and Washed Out come to mind -- while delving further into straight-up electronica. The fact that Mux Mool, a.k.a. Brian Lindgren, draws from nearly every sub-genre of electronic music would also help expose our audience to a variety of sounds it'd possibly never heard before. Alas, my pleas fell on deaf ears. However, I can't help but feel somewhat vindicated by the glowing reviews Skulltaste has received since its release. The title track is a great example of Lindgren's knack for throwing chopped-up, spacey synth lines on top of bouncing hip-hop beats.

New Dawn Fades

Eamonn Fetherston, General Music Intern

My next pick wasn't an artist I pitched to the NPR Music team, but one that I happened to discover as a result of pitching the aforementioned Mux Mool. When Skulltaste arrived in the mail, it came with a mysterious second disc, It All Falls Apart by The Sight Below, another artist on Mux Mool's label, Ghostly International. As I've previously mentioned, I'm a huge fan of Ghostly's output, so I gave The Sight Below a listen. It All Falls Apart is all eerie ambience -- reclusive producer Rafael Anton Irisarri bends guitar sounds through e-bows and looping stations, occasionally adding a subtle beat to propel his haunting soundscapes along. "New Dawn Fades" features the only vocal performance on the album, courtesy of Jesy Fortino. It's by far the most accessible song on the record, but with a little patience, the less direct tracks begin to reveal their subtle beauty, as well.