In 1887, American journalist Nellie Bly had herself committed to New York's notorious Blackwell's Island insane asylum — on purpose, as part of an assignment from the New York World newspaper. When she was released 10 days later, she had seen cruelty that made her shudder.
Only on occasion does it make sense to praise music as scary, and somehow many of those occasions coincide with Swans sending new sounds out into the world. Since 1982, when the band emerged from the same New York "no wave" scene as noise-rock acts like Sonic Youth, Swans' seething intensity has been a default mode. Every element of the Swans sound is alarming, brutal, dark and sublimely beautiful for all the rage that gets articulated — and the sense of release that gets promised, too.
Mirah wrote Changing Light, her fifth full-length solo album, in the years-long aftermath of a punishing breakup. Maybe it's the amount of time it took for the material to gestate, or maybe it's the thoughtfulness and patience gleaned from a nearly 20-year career, but Changing Light keeps looking at her ache from wise angles. Nervy and sonically inventive in spots, tender and graceful in others, it's a breakup record that eschews childish outbursts and pointless wallowing.
It's been four years since Agalloch released Marrow of the Spirit, a spectacular record that exposed the cultish metal band to a wider audience seeking something ritualistic and caustic in heavy music. For all of its lengthy and textured songs, Marrow kept things fairly linear — thrilling in its momentum, for sure, but onward and forward.
The product of an unlikely pairing of musicians, Sylvan Esso works in equally unlikely ways: Singer Amelia Meath first surfaced as a singer in the largely a cappella Vermont folk group Mountain Man, while Nick Sanborn plays bass in the versatile North Carolina psych-rock band Megafaun.
There are so many "whoa, stop" moments in the first three minutes of Sturgill Simpson's second album. A few selected quotes, which Simpson delivers in a stretched-out Waylon croon: "I've seen Jesus play with flames ... met the devil in Seattle ... met Buddha yet another time," "Don't waste your time on nursery rhymes and fairy tales of blood and wine," "Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, DMT, they all changed the way I see," and "There's a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane / where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain." Wait, what?
As part of a series called "My Big Break,"All Things Consideredis collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers. The following is what you might call an "almost big break."
And if you're just joining us, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. Climate change is melting polar ice at an alarming rate. While this terrifies many people, especially those living near sea level, some businesses are seeing an opportunity, a big opportunity. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the year-round ice cover in the Arctic is now half the size it was in the 1980s. And previously inaccessible natural resources are now there for the taking.
If you're just joining us, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. What connects the films "Drugstore Cowboy," "Pet Cemetery," "Batman Forever" and "Frida?" You can skip Kevin Bacon and connect them all with just one name, composer Elliot Goldenthal.
This week, the NFL will hold its annual draft of college players. And if one name has risen beyond the sports pages, it's Michael Sam who will become the first openly gay player in an NFL locker room. Last season at the University of Missouri, Sam was an All-American and a co-defensive MVP of the toughest conference in college football. But some draft watchers say there's a chance Michael Sam won't be drafted at all. Here's NPR producer Phil Harrell.
Gerry Adams, the leader of the mostly Catholic party Sinn Fein, was released Sunday after five days of police questioning about a 1972 murder. Adams' arrest had rattled the delicate power-sharing arrangement in Northern Ireland. His release was confirmed by a police statement today.
Urging the release of separatists detained during Friday's unrest that left dozens dead, more than 100 pro-Russia activists surrounded a police station in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa Sunday.
Update at 4:30 p.m. ET: More Activists Released
Police in Odessa say 67 pro-Russia activists were freed Sunday.
CNN quotes the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's website:
Darth Vader walks the Earth today. By that, we mean he's walking all over the place. Fans of the sci-fi franchise are celebrating Star Wars Day — or May 4 for the less geek-inclined.
The day brings an excuse for people to dress as storm troopers and rebels and celebrate the films that first hit theaters in 1977. Star Wars Day is also being commemorated by businesses offering deals — discounts on videos, comics and other merchandise, from backpacks to Vans sneakers. You can find a list of the deals here.