Once a week, different employees at NPR write about something they read recently that intrigued them. We call it #NPRreads. I wrote one about Nick Cave’s new album, and a solid track review in Pitchfork:
In my mind, all great records have a right place on the calendar. Not when they’re released necessarily, but when the world’s climate conforms to them.
Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle is a winter record, Real Estate’s Days is a spring record, and Who Is Mike Jones is best enjoyed in the dog days of summer. This is inarguable.
Skeleton Tree, the grief-stricken new album from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, is an autumn masterpiece.
Sam Sodomsky captured the album’s “stirring core” track, called “I Need You,” in a review for Pitchfork this week:
“Cave drifts between half-recalled memories, placing them into a more fragmented mindset than his trademark, character-filled storytelling. He sees a red dress falling, a black car waiting. He’s standing in the doorway; he’s in line at the supermarket. The images never coalesce into a clear narrative, but they amount to something even greater: a lifetime flashing before your eyes, so sad and real that it could be your own.”
Skeleton Tree is a cool evening’s walk through a town where you’re surrounded by people, and known by no one. It’s a record tailor-made for you to watch the leaves fall.
Brian Fallon, photographed by Danny Clinch. (Courtesy of Big Hassle Media)
With his band The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon was on the precipice of rock stardom in the late 2000s. The band played “The Late Show with David Letterman” multiple times, and topped the Billboard charts.
While critics loved the band’s first few albums, they also saw a similarity between Fallon’s gravelly tone and New Jersey storytelling and the state’s native son, Bruce Springsteen.
Now, with his first solo record, Fallon says he doesn’t want his career to be lost in a Springsteen comparison.
My NPR Music and Here & Now profile of Fallon originally aired nationally on Sept. 6. You can listen to it here, and check out a curated Brian Fallon playlist I made.
Beach Slang, photographed by Craig Scheihing
It’s been a remarkable 12 months for James Alex, a year full of contradictions and firsts. The lead singer and songwriter for the band Beach Slang, Alex and his wife Rachel had their first child, Oliver, to start 2015. Then in October, the band released its debut album, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, which has meant nonstop touring.
Alex’s dad wasn’t a part of his life growing up, a theme that crops up again and again in his songs. He now has to negotiate being away from Oliver, for weeks at a time, in order to make a life for the little boy.
“I’m always that kid always out of place,” Alex sings on “Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas.” “I try to get found / I’ve never known how.”
I went to Philadelphia with NPR Music video guru Colin Marshall to document a day in Alex’s life. Part dad, part rock star. You can watch Colin’s video, and listen to my radio story here.
Silas Simmons, 109, leaves a polling place after casting his ballot November 2, 2004 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Tim Boyles/Getty Images)
“Sometimes I think there’s a perception that Florida is God’s waiting room,” Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith told me, in an interview about Florida voters.
Although old voters make up only a quarter of the state’s electorate, they have a strong reputation because of their reliability. The issues they care about however, can’t be nailed down to just Social Security and Medicare.
Here’s a link to my Here & Now story, which aired nationally March 14.
Chvrches started out humble enough. A few singles hitting the Internet, some online buzz and a debut album recorded in a basement.
Less than four years later, however, and the band is massive – headlining summer festival stops the past two years across the country, while playing more than 350 shows.
On September 25, the band released “Every Open Eye,” a follow-up to their critically-acclaimed 2013 debut, “The Bones of What You Believe.”
You can listen to my story about their ascent to the top of the indie-pop world here. It aired aired nationally on Here & Now on Oct. 5.
Liz Treston received thousands of dollars from FEMA and the Small Business Administration after Superstorm Sandy destroyed her basement. Two years later, FEMA demanded more than $4,000 of that money back. (Alex Welsh for NPR)
As the rain and wind swirled outside the window during Superstorm Sandy more than two years ago, Liz Treston’s family helped her into bed.
Treston, 54, was disabled in a diving accident when she was in her 20s. She uses a wheelchair to get around her Long Island, N.Y., home and an electronic lift machine to get into her bed. The night the storm hit, she wanted to be ready for sleep in case the power went out.
Under the covers, she listened as water rushed into her basement, pouring over the appliances and furniture she kept down there.
“I’m laying in bed and I could hear the refrigerator fall over and just make this wretched screeching noise, and it’s dark,” she says. “You could feel the water rising. I opened the drapery and you could actually see whitecaps in the middle of the street.”
The government gave her money to fix what she lost that night. But they accidentally overpaid her. And now they say she owes that excess back to them, more than two years later.
This investigation was the focal point of the NPR portion of my time as the 2014-15 Stone & Holt Weeks Fellow. It aired nationally on Morning Edition, and NPR’s graphics team did a fantastic job visualizing the numbers. You can listen and read the story here.
Ryan Shepard looks on. | Sean McGinnis Scanlon/Courtesy of Shepard 2016 Campaign
It’s not hard to reach presidential candidate Ryan Shepard; he doesn’t have a media relations office or a slick-tongued press secretary.
Shepard, 40, is a bartender at Roc Brewing Co. in Rochester, N.Y., while also working toward a bachelor’s degree in creative writing at nearby SUNY Brockport. He plans to enroll in an master of fine arts writing program after he graduates.
He is also just as much a candidate for U.S. president as Ted Cruz, who was billed by many as the first and only candidate to file so far.
“I’m doing something,” says Shepard, when asked about his campaign. “You know, people can complain about the government all they want, but you see very few people actually attempting to do anything. A lot of those people don’t even vote.”
Cruz got 13,000 retweets when he announced on Twitter. Shepard shared a photo announcing his campaign on Facebook, and got eight likes.
You can read and listen to the rest of this piece, as it originally aired nationally on All Things Considered on April 6 , 2015.