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
11:29 am
Tue April 14, 2015

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle Finds Refuge In The Ring

The Mountain Goats have a new album called Beat The Champ. It's unusual in that it is a concept album about professional wrestling, based on the interest in that sport band leader John Darnielle has had since he was a boy. Darnielle is also a prose writer whose novel Wolf in White Van was nominated for a 2014 National Book Award. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has this review.

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Music
12:27 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

There Is A Rich World In Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp A Butterfly'

Kendrick Lamar made a big impact for his storytelling skills on his 2012 major-label debut Good Kid, M.a.a.d City, and won two Grammys in February for the song "i." That song appears in Lamar's latest album, To Pimp A Butterfly, which Fresh Air music critic Ken Tucker says has an excitingly adventurous sound.

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Music
12:31 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Courtney Barnett Makes Ennui Vivid On Debut Album

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 8:01 am

Courtney Barnett is an Australian singer-songwriter in her late 20s who's just released her first full album. It's called Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Barnett fills her songs with details about things she observes around her, everyday details that Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says she somehow manages to infuse with a freshness rare in any songwriter, let alone one this young.

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Music
10:40 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Brandi Carlile's Surging Voice Grounds 'The Firewatcher's Daughter'

Brandi Carlile is a singer-songwriter who has cited influences as various as Elton John, Patsy Cline, and Queen's Freddie Mercury. Carlile has been releasing albums for the past 10 years, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says her new one, called The Firewatcher's Daughter, is her best yet.

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Music
12:32 pm
Mon March 9, 2015

James McMurtry Is More Expressive Than Ever On 'Complicated Game'

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 10:33 am

Complicated Game is James McMurtry's first new studio album since 2008. The Texas-born singer-songwriter, now based in Austin, is known for songs with strong narratives and a blend of country, blues, and rock melodies. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Complicated Game demonstrates a new range of style and subject matter for McMurtry.

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Music
11:20 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Nora Jane Struthers Is Wide Awake On New Album

Nora Jane Struthers is a singer-songwriter who grew up in New Jersey and was teaching high-school English in Brooklyn before moving to Nashville to attempt a full-time career in music. With her band The Party Line, she's just released a new album called Wake. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.

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Music Reviews
11:14 am
Wed February 25, 2015

Mavericks' Singer Raul Malo Restlessly Explores Genres

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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Music Reviews
12:00 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Robert Earl Keen Delves Into Bluegrass With A Texan Twang

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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Music
10:51 am
Tue February 3, 2015

Bob Dylan Looks To The Ageless American Songbook

Bob Dylan's unusual new album Shadows in the Night consists of ten cover versions of standards from the American Popular Songbook including "Autumn Leaves" and "Some Enchanted Evening." Dylan is accompanied by a five-piece band on songs that usually use orchestral accompaniment, and the singer has said the recordings were done live in "one or two takes." Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Dylan both infuses the songs with his personality, while also allowing them to be heard anew.

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Music
9:13 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Sleater-Kinney Comes Roaring Back With 'No Cities To Love'

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 10:27 am

Sleater-Kinney is one of the most widely-praised rock bands of the last 20 years. The band formed in the mid-90s in Olympia, Wash., and went on to record seven albums. The group split up in 2006, but have reunited to release a new album, called No Cities to Love, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says it's a strong comeback.

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Music
11:32 am
Mon January 12, 2015

Ty Segall Goes 3-D On 'Mr. Face'

Ty Segall is 27 years old, and he does it all — writes, sings, produces, plays guitar and drums. He's released a large amount of music over the past decade, solo albums as well as working with other bands. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker reviews Segall's new four-song EP, Mr. Face, and tries to get a fix on Segall's productivity.

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Music
10:12 am
Wed December 17, 2014

D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah' Collapses Years, Genres

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 10:32 am

D'Angelo has built a considerable reputation on the basis of three albums: 1995's Brown Sugar, 2000's Voodoo, and now Black Messiah, unexpectedly released early Monday morning. The singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist has been widely praised for connecting many decades of different rhythm & blues styles, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Black Messiah is as adventurous as any fan could hope for.

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The Best Music Of 2014
11:24 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Ken Tucker's Top 9 Albums Of 2014, Plus A Book

Elizabeth Grant is better known by her stage name, Lana Del Rey.
Neil Krug Courtesy of the artist

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Music
1:14 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

A Punk Memoir That Makes The Ordinary Seem Transcendent

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 1:19 pm

Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says that one of the best books he's ever read about punk rock is a new memoir by Viv Albertine, one of the founding members of the British punk rock band the Slits. The book, titled Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. chronicles Albertine's life with punk legends such as Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and Mick Jones of the Clash, on through subsequent careers as a film director and mother.

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Music
11:42 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Four Holiday Goodies, Including 'Christmas At Downton Abbey'

In the record industry, it's not too early to be releasing Christmas albums, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has been listening to a lot of them. He's narrowed down his list of goodies to these four: A Merry Friggin' Christmas soundtrack, Christmas at Downton Abby, Earth Wind and Fire's Holiday and the Living Sisters' Harmony is Real.

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