Ken Tucker

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.

Tucker is the author of Scarface Nation: The Ultimate Gangster Movie and Kissing Bill O'Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy: 100 Things to Love and Hate About Television.

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Music Reviews
11:03 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Slaid Cleaves: 'Still Fighting' With Smart Lyrics And Stories

Slaid Cleaves' music is influenced by singer-songwriters such as Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
Karen Cleaves Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 2:34 pm

Raised in South Berwick, Maine, and residing in Austin, Texas, Slaid Cleaves is no one's idea of a music-industry insider. He writes and sings songs primarily about working-class people and romantics both hopeful and hopeless. That said, it's also not difficult to hear another element of the fortysomething Cleaves' past: He was an English and philosophy major at Tufts, and his lyrics are underpinned by both a fine sense of meter and moral perspicacity.

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Music Reviews
1:01 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Jason Isbell: Literary, But Keeping An Edge On 'Southeastern'

Jason Isbell's latest album, Southeastern, is personal and intimate.
Michael Wilson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 2:18 pm

When Jason Isbell was part of Drive-By Truckers, his guitar contributed to the band's sometimes magnificent squall of noise, while his songwriting contributed to the eloquence that raised the band high in the Southern rock pantheon. But the group was led by two other first-rate songwriters, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley.

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Movie Reviews
11:02 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Vampire Weekend Comes Of Age In 'The City'

Vampire Weekend (left to right: Chris Tomson, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij, Ezra Koenig) met while they were all students at Columbia University.
Alex John Beck XL Recordings

Originally published on Thu May 30, 2013 10:02 pm

The New York City band Vampire Weekend has carved out a sense of immaculate melancholy for our era as surely as Steely Dan once did for Upstate New York in the '70s. Characterized most immediately by the earnest, concise, sometimes surprisingly expansive vocals of Ezra Koenig, Vampire Weekend makes atmospheric music.

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Music Reviews
10:14 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Daft Punk: Accessing Electronic Music's Humanity

Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are the two men behind Daft Punk.
David Black Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 12:08 pm

I freely admit that, until the new Random Access Memories, I wasn't much of a Daft Punk fan. I could appreciate the craft and imagination that went into creating the French duo's mixture of electronic genres — techno, house, disco — but the mechanical repetitions and heavily filtered vocals didn't turn me on in any other way.

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Music Reviews
11:07 am
Tue May 14, 2013

Dawes Knows Where It's Been And Where It's Headed

Noah Abrams Big Hassle

Originally published on Sun May 19, 2013 8:27 am

If you heard the Dawes song "Just Beneath the Surface" and said, "Somebody's been listening to their old Jackson Browne albums," you're not exactly insulting Dawes. The band has actually backed Browne on tour — and Browne has sung backup on at least one of its songs — so you could say that Dawes comes by its riffs and phrasing honestly.

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