Here's the starting point for the story of Seun Kuti: He's the youngest son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. He began playing with his father's band Egypt 80 at age 8 — and took it over upon his father's death just six years later.
In north central Alabama, punk rockers often know as much about football as they do mosh pits. A guy with an arm-sleeve tattoo will open the door for a woman and call her "ma'am." Self-identifying as a blue dot in a red state doesn't preclude Sunday brunch with relatives whose own cars boast confederate-flag stickers. Such differences can arise anywhere, but they can feel more pressing in the Deep South, where history is sticky, like a 90-degree rainy day, and intimate, like Grandma's questionable advice.
It's counter-intuitive, but making deeply emotional music often comes across as a matter of restraint and timing, calculation and manipulation, rather than as an indulgence or purging. All over its darkly shimmering second album, Hundred Waters shows a new ability to pull listeners' strings. Think of musical intensity as an instrument to be mastered — twisted and pulled in different directions, not just dialed up or back.
The free-form duo Protect-U is part of a small electronic-music community in the nation's capital. It sprouts from unlikely but fertile ground: punk and hardcore, which inform the darker tendencies that turn up on Protect-U's recent debut album, Free USA.
This weekend on All Things Considered, NPR Music's critic Ann Powers spoke with guest host Tess Vigeland about Xscape: the posthumous Michael Jackson album released Tuesday, on which contemporary producers flesh out unfinished demos from throughout Jackson's career. (Read our review for details.)