NPR’s Second Stage Podcast listening Marathon 1

The xx: ‘Crystalised’
They may only have a couple of official songs and a handful of demos to their name now, but The xx is a band to watch. Both casually cool and absolutely magnetic, this young London four-piece makes music that’s simple and raw, but utterly captivating.

Lucy Bland: ‘Sea Level’
Lucy Bland’s debut, full-length release, Down to Sea Level, is a soul-warming balm for the endlessly rainy days of their hometown Seattle, Wash. Delicate, electronic beeps and pops mingle with melodic strings and singer Cat Biell’s cozy vocals. It’s the sonic equivalent of lazing in a gently swaying hammock, under a cloudless day at the beach.

Woods: “To Clean”
When the band Woods started out, it was just two guys making largely improvisational music, with a rotating cast of guest musicians who referred to themselves as “woodists.” Jeremy Earl and Christian DeRoeck say they’ve since figured out how to craft a melody and wield a tambourine, but their music still has a beautiful clumsiness to it, as though the group’s members are playing with joyful abandon, without worrying about it all falling apart. It’s a refreshing, innocent sound you can really hear on this track, from the band’s fourth and latest CD, ‘Songs of Shame.’ This one is called “To Clean.”

Lissy Trullie: Self-Taught Learner
Lissy Trullie makes smart, off-kilter guitar-pop with lots of swagger and catchy hooks. The band is fronted by Lizzy McChesney, a petite, leather-clad songwriter who sings with a meaty growl. She’s originally from Washington, D.C., but now lives in New York, where she spends time performing, recording and modeling. Her face has graced the pages of Elle, SOMA and Jalouse.

Emily Jane White: Hole In The Middle
Emily Jane White, an acoustic San Francisco-based singer-songwriter with a dark streak, has the perfect voice: a coarse but beautifully aged alto soaked in rye. “Hole In The Middle” is from her latest CD, the appropriately titled ‘Dark Undercoat,’ a beautifully produced collection of songs that gives you shivers, and one I’ll be returning to many times this year.

James Yuill: You Always Do
Anyone who’s paid much attention to this blog, or to All Songs Considered, knows that I’m a shameless sap for lo-fi, softly sung neo-folk songs. Think M. Ward, Sam Beam of Iron & Wine or Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. So when you listen to today’s Second Stage track from singer James Yuill, you’ll immediately hear the appeal.

Paul and the Patients: “Well Done You World”
I’ve whined a lot over the years about how bad I think pop music was in the ’80s, only to find myself liking new bands today that sound an awful lot like groups from 25 years ago or that at least borrow heavily from that period. Add Paul & The Patients to the list. A quintet from Brooklyn, it doesn’t crib entirely from the ’80s; in fact, the group’s sound is really fresh. But there’s an unmistakable ’80s ring to the guitars and some of the melodies on the band’s new EP, To the Lions. Give a listen to this song and see what you think. It’s called “Well Done You World.”

Math The Band: “Tour de Friends”
Bonkers. There’s no better word to describe the Rhode Island-based duo Math the Band. Kevin Steinhauser and Justine Mainville are a couple who make music with reckless abandon. In fact, the two play with such intensity during live shows, they’ve reportedly suffered seven broken bones and multiple stitches from thrashing around. Now that’s a show. This cut is called “Tour de Friends,” from Math the Band’s new CD, ‘Don’t Worry.’

Salim Nourallah: “Be Here Now”
Salim Nourallah is a Dallas, Texas-based singer-songwriter and producer who crafts simply constructed songs tinged with wistful and evocative lyrics. Nourallah’s last album Snowing In My Heart got some attention thanks to the single “Don’t Be Afraid” which appeared on HBO’s acclaimed series The Wire. But now Nourallah has returned with his fourth solo album Constellation, a tight collection of music of joyful indie pop melodies written and recorded with songwriter and producer Billy Harvey. The album also features a guest appearance from Austin musician Bob Schneider. Take a listen to this cut “Be Here Now,” a perfect little love song about embracing moments of happiness.

That’s The Spirit:
Like so many great journeys, “Orienteering” begins with a quiet moment of introspection and finishes with loud, rocking catharsis. Alongside bandmates Tom Thompson (pedal steel guitar, keys), Brennan Pilkington (drums), Simon Wright (bass), and Nicholas Dyson (trumpet), songwriter Ben Wilson records as That’s the Spirit. “Orienteering” is one of those songs that seems perfect for an early-morning road trip through the countryside. The folky pop songs on the band’s debut album (Staying Places) are held together by gorgeous production, intricate arrangements and a travel-based theme that Wilson says was made for “explorers and armchair travelers alike” and was inspired by “misadventures as much as adventures.”

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