Celebrating wild and wonderful early music is the mission of Britain's excellent I Fagiolini, led by Robert Hollingworth. Last year's world premiere recording of Alessandro Striggio's enormous 40-part Mass, paired with another larger-than-life piece, Thomas Tallis' 40-part Spem in Alium, became something of a sleeper hit, scoring surprisingly big sales and winning a Gramophone Award.
It's not unusual for poets to try their hands at pop music-making. Patti Smith was a poet before she was a rock star. In recent years, print-poets such as David Berman and Wyn Cooper have put out more-than-credible song collections. But Mary Karr, known more for prize-winning memoirs such as The Liars Club and Lit than for her excellent poetry, has taken a high-profile risk that's paid off.
Grammy-winning singer and bass player Esperanza Spalding recently led her band, including a large horn section, through a set of jazzy jams in the KCRW studios. Watching her play funky bass lines while singing with incredible range and soul was truly a sight to behold, especially in "Smile Like That." You can watch the entire performance at KCRW.com.
If Death Grips isn't the fourth horseman of a hip-hop apocalypse, its music at least tests the genre's threshold of extremity: The trio's abrasive, jittery style teeters on the edge of palatability, and plays toward a morbid curiosity to which many listeners won't succumb. From The Money Store, "I've Seen Footage" seems to run the beats from Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" and Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It" through a rusty meat grinder. Meanwhile, MC Ride tells a forceful story, as he catalogs the paranoia and police brutality that drove him to the insanity the song exemplifies.