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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1:12pm

Mon October 20, 2014
Music

Ex Hex's 'Rips' Does What It Says On The Cover

Punk rock lives on the debut album by a new trio, Ex Hex. The album is called Rips, and it's at once a throwback to bands like the Ramones and the sound of something new. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says the three women who make up Ex Hex have created an exhilaratingly energetic piece of work.

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1:43pm

Thu September 18, 2014
Music

Pere Ubu's 'Carnival Of Souls' Is A Dreamscape That's Never Dreamy

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 3:39 pm

Pere Ubu's new album, Carnival of Souls, is a reference to the 1962 cult horror film. But as Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker hears it, the band, led since the late '70s by co-founder David Thomas, has created something far more rich, experimental, and emotional than spooky, horror-movie music.

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12:27pm

Wed September 3, 2014
Music Reviews

The New Pornographers Return With A 'Celebration Record' That's Fun To Figure Out

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11:45am

Tue August 26, 2014
Music Reviews

At 71, Elvin Bishop Is Still Vigorous, And Can Do Wrong Right

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1:51pm

Fri August 22, 2014
Music

Benjamin Booker Is Raw, Yet Disciplined On Debut Album

There's something about a rapidly strummed guitar chord followed quickly by an urgent vocal that is one definition of an effective rock song, and Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker thinks he's found quite a few examples of this on Benjamin Booker's self-titled debut album. The 25-year-old guitarist-singer-songwriter has already served as an opening act on Jack White's recent tour, and he may be ready for headliner status.

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1:55pm

Mon August 11, 2014
Music

At 74, Outlaw Billy Joe Shaver Is Still An Outlier

In 1973, Waylon Jennings released an album called Honky Tonk Heroes that consisted almost entirely, with one exception, of songs written by Billie Joe Shaver, a then-unknown Texas songwriter.

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1:52pm

Mon August 4, 2014
Music

Spoon Wants Your Soul

Spoon has just released its first new album since 2010's Transference. Fresh Air critic says that "They Want My Soul is another fine Spoon album in a career that has now come to display a remarkable consistency."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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12:52pm

Mon July 28, 2014
Music Reviews

Jenny Lewis' 'The Voyager' Is An Album To Spend Time With

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 1:30 pm

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1:03pm

Tue July 15, 2014
Music

The Cowboy That Wasn't A Cowboy Sings

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 1:52 pm

Cowboy Jack Clement, who died in 2013 at age 82, was a prolific producer, songwriter, arranger, and talent scout. He brought Jerry Lee Lewis to Sun Records, helped nurture the career of one of the few black country stars, Charley Pride, and worked on important albums for artists as various as Waylon Jennings and U2.

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12:46pm

Wed July 9, 2014
Music

If Jim Lauderdale Is A Song, More People Should Hear It

Jim Lauderdale's new album is called I'm A Song, a title that suggests his deep
immersion in songwriting. His compositions have been covered by singers ranging from George Strait to Solomon Burke, from the Dixie Chicks to Elvis Costello. Since his debut album in 1991, he's recorded more than 25 albums for a variety of record companies, and I'm A Song contains a generous 20 songs. Rock critic Ken Tucker says Lauderdale's career is at once admirable and somewhat puzzling.

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12:49pm

Wed July 2, 2014
Music

Strand Of Oaks: Songs Heal All Wounds

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 8:49 am

If you're going to be downbeat, glum, or morose, it's best to do it the way Timothy Showalter does it. Which is, with an energy and purpose that doesn't contradict the melancholy, but rather frames it as various stories — studies in seriousness. He records under the name Strand of Oaks, he writes and performs nearly all of the music on this new album himself. It's titled Heal as in "healing a wound," something Strand of Oaks frequently seems in need of.

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12:09pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Music

Lana Del Rey's 'Ultraviolence' Has A Firm Grasp On Pop History

Lana Del Rey is a figure of some controversy for her suggestive lyrics, and critical debate as to the extent of her vocal talent versus her talent for publicity. She recently caused a stir when she gave an interview in which she said, quote, "I wish I was dead already," and drew criticism from, among others, Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean.

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12:36pm

Tue June 17, 2014
Music

Parquet Courts' Misery Is Exhilarating

Parquet Courts is a Brooklyn by way of Texas band that has just released its new third record, Sunbathing Animal. The quartet has drawn comparisons to New York rock and punk acts as various as the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls, and Sonic Youth, but rock critic Ken Tucker says this album proves Parquet Courts is an original.

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1:28pm

Wed June 4, 2014
Music

Miranda Lambert's 'Platinum' Has Backyard Swagger

Miranda Lambert's new album is called Platinum. Lambert has become one of the best-selling artists in country music, and one of the most critically acclaimed. Rock critic Ken Tucker says her new album continues Lambert's ongoing project to create songs about women who are complex, fun-loving, and assertive.

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1:09pm

Mon June 2, 2014
Music Reviews

John Fullbright's Uneven 'Songs' Finds A Way To Fascinate

John Fullbright's new album is called Songs.
Courtesy of the artist

John Fullbright's Songs is the most interestingly uneven album I've heard in a while. The work of a smart young man, it's also the work of a self-conscious young man who's prone to mistaking articulate melancholy for wisdom. Fullbright's debut album contained bold melodies and told stories about daydreamers and offbeat people. On Songs, Fullbright opts for pure mood-setting, sounding morose in an attempt to signal subtle passion, but that's not really how it plays out.

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12:03pm

Mon May 26, 2014
Music Reviews

Two New Items From Hank Williams

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 9:46 am

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3:02pm

Tue May 13, 2014
Music Reviews

Ray LaMontagne Finds The Bright Side On 'Supernova'

Ray LaMontagne's new album is called Supernova.
Samantha Casolari Courtesy of the artist

11:43am

Mon May 5, 2014
Music Reviews

tUnE-yArDs: Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing

tUnE-yArDs.
Holly Andres Courtesy of the artist.

12:44pm

Wed April 23, 2014
Music Reviews

For Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sometimes Sanity Is The Better Option

Jessica Lea Mayfield.
LeAnn Mueller Courtesy of the artist.

2:57pm

Thu April 17, 2014
Music Reviews

A Duo's Debut Album: A Collaboration From 'The Both'

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 7:51 am

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