Studio One

IPR/Tony Dehner

Wow! Everything anyone has said about siblings singing together is true! Check out the amazing harmony of Jack Torrey and Page Burkum of The Cactus Blossoms. They dropped by IPR’s Studio One for a short performance and some conversation with IPR’s Mark Simmet. The harmonies are really striking and are, of course, reminiscent of a couple of Iowa’s favorite sons The Everly Brothers, but these Minneapolis brothers are top-notch writers and arrangers too! All four of these tunes are from their album “You’re Dreaming” and the final tune you may recognize from the TV series Twin Peaks.

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Songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player Ed Droste began Grizzly Bear in the early 2000s (in Brooklyn) as a solo project.  As often happens, the solo project grew into a full band by the time of the second Grizzly Bear full-length album in 2006.  The time between albums has increased; the new (fifth) record Painted Ruins arrives five years after the last one, Shields.  With rich, layered soundscapes and strong songwriting, most Grizzly Bear fans would say the wait was worthwhile.

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The War on Drugs is a good example of a band with a solid reputation, and along with that, expectations of quality that increase with each new release.  The band began in Philadelphia in 2005, founded by Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile.  Vile left for a solo career after The War on Drugs' debut record in 2008.  A Deeper Understanding is the band's fourth album.  Granduciel and his bandmates create a sound that is vast, rich and expansive.  Something of a perfectionist, the frontman has called this the most focused "band record" to date from The War on Drugs.

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Sam Beam's voice and style are so distinctive that his songs are immediately recognizable as Iron & Wine, even if you're not sure exactly which Iron & Wine song it is.  The new album is Beast Epic, solidly in the Iron & Wine tradition.  Lyrically (according to him), it's Beam's most personal album to date.  Born in South Carolina, Beam currently resides in North Carolina with his wife and five daughters.  Beast Epic was recorded in Chicago, with Beam writing all the songs and producing.

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Arcade Fire was formed by Win Butler and (now former member) Josh Deu when both were college students in Montreal.  Soon music student Regine Chassagne came aboard, the first of many more talented multi-instrumentalists to join Arcade Fire.  Win's younger brother William Butler was also an addition in the early years of the band.  Their 2004 debut album, Funeral was a great success, appearing on many Top Ten lists for that year.

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Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West began Oh Wonder in London in 2014.  In September of that year, the duo began recording and releasing one song per month.  One year later, those songs were collected together and became Oh Wonder's debut album.  In the spring of 2016, while staying at an Airbnb in Brooklyn, the two began writing the songs that would make up their second full-length album, Ultralife.  Vander Gucht and West wrote, recorded, produced and mixed the record themselves.

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Broken Social Scene is a true musical collective, with as many as nineteen members involved in any given project or performance.  Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning formed Broken Social Scene in Toronto in 1999.  Most of the other members (such as Leslie Feist, Jason Collett, and Emily Haines) have their own separate groups and projects.  With so many different players and instruments involved, the group's orchestrated and sometimes experimental music has at times been categorized as baroque pop.

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We last heard from Toro Y Moi just a few months ago when he released an album with the Mattson 2 called Star Stuff.  For that project, he used his birth name Chaz Bundick- which he has reportedly now legally changed to Chaz Bear.  The multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, producer and graphic designer has other pseudonyms as well, including Les Sins and Sides of Chaz.  He's prolific, creative and increasingly confident in producing his own brand of synth-pop music (labeled "chillwave" earlier in his career.)  Boo Boo is his fifth full-length album as Toro Y Moi.

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Before releasing music as Waxahatchee, singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield was in a band called P.S. Eliot, formed with her twin sister Allison Crutchfield.  Katie's debut full-length album as Waxahatchee came out in 2012, and Allison released her first studio album in January of this year.  The two sisters remain close.  In fact, Allison plays keyboards and percussion on the latest (fourth) Waxahatchee record, Out In The Storm.  Lyrically, Katie Crutchfield's song are definitely in the realm of introspective and personal relationship songs.

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Portugal. The Man founding members John Gourley and Zach Carothers met as high school students in Wasilla, Alaska.  They were originally in another band before starting Portugal. The Man in the early 2000's.  Band members came and went, the group relocated to Portland, Oregon, and their first full-length record came out in 2006.  Woodstock is the eighth album, inspired by the spirit of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival.

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The band Big Thief released their debut full-length record last year.  Masterpiece was well-received and audaciously titled for a first album.  Now comes the sophomore release, where it has come to be assumed that a band needs to show that the success of their debut wasn't some kind of fluke.  With Capacity, Big Thief have done just that.  Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Adrianne Lenker continues to spellbind with her voice and personal lyrics.  Guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik, and drummer James Krivchenia are the other players in Big Thief.

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Steve Earle had already been recording his songs for a few years before his breakthrough album, Guitar Town, was released in 1986.  In the thirty or so years since then, Earle has continued to be one of the most respected and reliable American songwriters and performers, as well as venturing into record producing, acting and non-song writing (a book of short stories, a novel and a play.)  He's been married several times, been through drug addiction and a drug treatment program, and has well-defined views on politics and social issues.

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Formed in Seattle in 2006, Fleet Foxes are all about finely-crafted folk rock, although these days a more accurate label might be "baroque pop."  Principal songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist Robin Pecknold met guitarist Skyler Skjelset in high school.  Pecknold and Skjelset, along with Casey Curran (keyboards and mandolin) are the remaining founding members of Fleet Foxes.  Josh Tillman (better known these days as Father John Misty) is the most famous Fleet Foxes alumnus.

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Due to the great success of their band The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been able to pursue a lot of other musical projects outside of that one.  Auerbach has worked as a producer for many other artists, established his own studio in Nashville (Easy Eye Sound), started his own record label (also Easy Eye Sound), and formed a whole other band (The Arcs) as a side project to The Black Keys.   He released his first "solo" album in 2009, with the follow-up to that release out now.

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Canadian musician Elizabeth Powell began writing songs as a teenager in Ontario.  She met the other original members of Land Of Talk while she was studying jazz at Concordia University in Montreal.  The band released their first EP in 2006, followed by the debut Land Of Talk full-length album in 2008.  After one more album, the band went on hiatus in 2011.  After a few years of uncertainty and introspection, Powell is back with an appealing new Land Of talk record titled Life After Youth.  

This time on IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Eastern-Iowa funkers Meteor Cat bring their rowdy, cosmic sound (all nine members of it!) to the coffee house. 

Check out the free podcast below to hear cuts off the group's debut album, "Earth Family Elixir," and gain insights on how the group crafts its distinct brand of funk. 

Ben Kieffer

Iowa singer-songwriter and children's book author Chad Elliott brings his knack for simple-yet-profound songwriting to The Java House stage in this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." The accomplished creative also provides glimpses of his forthcoming album, "RINGGOLD." 

Download the free podcast below and hear Elliott's rootsy, gravely growl and impressive, tasteful guitar work. Plus, peek inside the artist's creative process with Studio One host Ben Kieffer. 

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As an American roots musician and songwriter, St. Louis-based Pokey LaFarge has impeccable credentials. The Bloomington, Illinois-born LaFarge even earned his nickname honestly.  As a child, his mother would tell him to hurry up.  His banjo-playing grandfather gave him his first guitar and a tenor banjo.  Growing up, LaFarge was very interested in history and the classics of American literature.  He got into country blues artists like Skip James and Sleepy John Estes, as well as Jimmie Rodgers and bluegrass originator Bill Monroe.

On this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City singer songwriter Nic Arp graces the stage with his band of top-shelf Iowa musicians. 

Download the free podcast below to hear the group tear through a set of songs ripe with Arp's emotive, wise lyrics and propelled by the band's tight sound. Studio One's Ben Kieffer hosts. 

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British musician and songwriter Damon Albarn (of the U.K. band Blur) started Gorillaz in 1998, in collaboration with comic book artist Jamie Hewlett.  Gorillaz is a cartoon, or virtual band.  Albarn and his crew write, play and sing the music behind the facade of the characters he and Hewlett created.   The 2001 debut album Gorillaz sold over seven million copies, and the group officially became the most successful virtual band ever- outselling other virtual bands like The Archies and Alvin & the Chipmunks.

Hear Iowa City's premier heartland rock group, Crystal City, play through a set of rich and universal songs on this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." 

Download the free podcast, lay back, and listen to the group's feel-good tunes plus interviews and insights from Studio One host Ben Kieffer. 

IPR/Tony Dehner

It's just about time for our monthly trip to the Des Moines Social Club, as we welcome Middle Western to Studio One Underground on June 1st!

Middle Western is the Iowa-based "supergroup" featuring David Zollo and William Elliott Whitmore, along with Stephen "The Kid" Howard, Brian Cooper and Stevie Doyle. This is Middle Western's second appearance on Studio One Underground: the band joined us last June as we highlighted artists participating in the Iowa Music Project.

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The new album from The Mountain Goats is titled Goths, inspired to a large extent by the band's love for bands of the post-punk era.  Bands like Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Cure, Bauhaus and Gene Loves Jezebel.  The previous Mountain Goats studio album Beat The Champ had songs that dealt with the professional wrestling circuit.  Just like the songs on that album, John Darnielle's lyrics on Goths go deeper than the ostensible subject matter.  Darnielle's words are smart and funny as usual, and definitely dominate the proceedings.

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San Fermin mastermind Ellis Ludwig-Leone studied composition at Yale.  While a student, he assisted famed composer Nico Muhly on some projects.  Ludwig-Leone had been in bands, but didn't really intend to make pop music after graduation.  He realized that he could combine his classical training with "pop songs," and set out to write the first San Fermin album in 2013.    Belong is album number three; with music, lyrics and arrangements written by Ludwig-Leone who leads the band as keyboard player.  Lead vocals are shared by Charlene Kaye and  Allen Tate.  

IPR/Tony Dehner

Des Moines-based Prairie Soul singer, songwriter and guitarist Adam Bruce played two sets of his compelling original songs on May 4, at the Basement venue of the Des Moines Social Club.  Adam Bruce was accompanied by his wife April Lynn, and the duo demonstrated some beautiful vocal harmonies.  The show was broadcast live as part of the Studio One Underground series.  

You can listen to both sets right here! 

IPR/Tony Dehner

On April 6, Bo Ramsey and Pieta Brown each played a live set for IPR's Studio One Underground series, at the Basement venue of the Des Moines Social Club.  It was a great night of music from these celebrated Iowa musicians, with Bo Ramsey drawing upon his deep catalog of songs for his set, and Pieta Brown (accompanied by Ramsey) showcasing her new album Postcards along with older favorites. 

Enjoy both sets! 

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Even after three years, it seems that the Baltimore-based band Future Islands can't be written about without mentioning their breakthrough live appearance on the David Letterman show in early 2014.  Their performance of "Seasons (Waiting on You)" on that show is closing in on 2,000,000 YouTube views.   Frontman Sam Herring's vocal intensity and energetic dance moves simply can't be denied.  Iowans could see this for themselves during Future Islands' exciting set at the Hinterland Festival in 2015.  The synthy dance party continues on the fifth Future Islands album, The Far Field.  

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The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States is commonly considered to have lasted from the years 1947 to 1991.  The band Cold War Kids formed in southern California in 2004, so the group's members were indeed children during the final years of that span.  The band isn't particularly political, but on LA Divine, their sixth studio album, they have a lot to say about people and their conflicts.  And love as well.  While talking about the record, and the title song that didn't make the final cut, Cold War Kids' frontman Nathan Willett said:  "It's about supernatural lo

Jordan Mayland and the Thermal Detonators rip through a set of infectious tunes in this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." The Des Moines group— one of Mayland's many musical projects— released a new record, This Mess, in March.

Download the free podcast to listen to a live, stripped down version of the Detonators. Studio One's Ben Kieffer hosts. 

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According to the band's website:  "The New Pornographers are AC Newman and a group of ridiculously talented people uniquely equipped to realize his musical ambitions."  That sums it up pretty well.  Carl Newman wrote all of the songs on their fine new record Whiteout Conditions, ably supported by Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, Todd Fancey, John Collins, Blaine Thurier and Joe Seiders.  Dan Bejar decided to sit this one out.  Many of these people write songs and release records of their own.

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