Heavy Rotation: 5 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing
In this installment of Heavy Rotation, you can download "You and I," as well as Yeasayer's latest single, a heart-on-sleeve love song from Robert Francis, and some catchy folk tunes from two bands on the rise, The Stray Birds and Shovels & Rope.
Avant, 'You & I'
Currently in rotation on: KCEP Power 88 in Las Vegas
R&B favorites Avant and Keke Wyatt return with yet another stellar single, "You & I"; it'll be on Avant's new album, Face the Music, due out in February. The song sounds like an old Motown classic, with Avant singing like Marvin Gaye and Wyatt channeling Tammi Terrell. It's been 12 years since Avant and Wyatt joined forces — for a cover of Rene & Angela's 1983 classic "My First Love" — and the chemistry they create when together in "You & I" is so strong, I think it's Avant's most soulful slow jam since his first album. If these two made an album of duets in the near future, I would not be mad at all. — DJ Benzo, Power88 music director
Shovels & Rope, 'O' Be Joyful'
Currently in rotation on: KHSU in Humboldt Country, Calif.
In the glorious tradition of music duos who blur the lines between professional and personal — John and June Carter Cash, Tammy Wynette and George Jones, et al — comes South Carolina troubadours Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. After hitting the road together in 2003 and recording an album titled Shovels & Rope in 2008, the moniker stuck to the couple. Culling country, blues, folk and garage-rock influences, the pair creates a real-deal revival, as the title track of Shovels & Rope's superb full-length debut indicates. Hearst's confident lead vocal recalls the raw soul of Loretta Lynn, while Trent's sweet weariness edges toward Townes Van Zandt, and they combine to create a single potent voice. — Mark Shikuma, KHSU music director
The Stray Birds, 'Dream In Blue'
Currently in rotation on: WUMB in Boston
When you listen to hundreds of CDs a month, it can be hard to let a particular sound stand out. The Stray Birds' music makes you remember where you were when you first heard it. The voices are what do it for me; some songs are more about harmony, while others are about a single voice. This particular track features Maya de Vitry, who used to sing Iris DeMent songs to her kindergarten class during show and tell — how great is that? The Stray Birds' debut album is terrific, but this track keeps bringing me back in. — Jay Moberg, WUMB music director
Robert Francis, 'Perfectly Yours'
Currently in rotation on: WTMD in Baltimore
Robert Francis continues his impressive evolution with Strangers in the First Place, on which he creates sweeping soundscapes that never lose their slinky, sensual groove. The music has a loose, rambling quality that's a perfect accompaniment for his dark and sometimes oblique lyrics of desperation, heartbreak, lust and love. "Perfectly Yours" is one of the most immediately accessible songs on the album: It's catchy, but it also reveals a complex tapestry of instrumentation and production flourishes upon further examination. Francis writes with confidence and intelligence that's almost scary for someone so young — he's 24 — and he possesses a potent, subtly soulful voice. Don't overlook this album. — Scott Mullins, WTMD program director
Yeasayer, 'Reagan's Skeleton'
Currently in rotation on: Iowa Public Radio
The best indie-rock bands may evoke certain genres — such as '80s new wave or Gothic dance music, in the case of Yeasayer's "Reagan's Skeleton" — yet they remain original and of their time. After a weird backward-vocals introduction, the synth and guitar pulse kicks in and the story begins "outside of Ventura." Reagan's bones are stalking the land, but politics take a backseat to musical delights in a five-minute song that gets its hooks into you good. More than three minutes in, there's a cool synth bleeps-and-bloops break, and then it's back to the chorus. With this last repetition, Reagan's skeleton marches eternally as Yeasayer closes the deal. — Mark Simmet, host of Iowa Public Radio's Studio One