Steve Gunn makes music that feels like it was tailor-made for road trips—expansive, panoramic, full of twists and sharp left turns. A gifted guitarist and clever songwriter, the Brooklyn-based musician has been honing his craft for years, writing and recording with the likes of Hiss Golden Messenger, Mike Cooper, The Black Twig Pickers, and playing in Kurt Vile's band, The Violators. Since releasing his first solo album in 2007, Gunn's sonic palette has gradually expanded from lo-fi home recordings made alone in his bedroom into kaleidoscopic, full-band productions. His songs coolly blur the line between gentle singer/songwriter fare and noodly psychedelia while also giving passing nods to winsome folk music and Grateful Dead-worthy stoner jams. His music, much like the narratives in his songs, contains multitudes.
For well over a decade, Susanna Wallumrød has written and recorded some of the most beautiful and inscrutable pop music in the world. Originally working under the moniker of Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, the Norwegian singer first drew international attention with albums that mixed original songs with a variety of unconventional covers. (Her versions of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” are essential.) During the last 10 years—and simply under the name Susanna—she has released five evocative solo albums, the latest of which, Triangle, was released on Friday. Described as “soul music for lost souls,” the album comprises songs that examine and dissect popular notions regarding religion and spirituality, stitched together by piano, violins, horns, and Susanna's otherworldly voice. It is, as the press materials describe it, a record “filled with magical omens, apocalyptic fires, black holes, and floodwaters that constantly threaten oblivion.”
For the better part of 23 years now, Will Oldham—better known these days by his chosen nom de plume, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy—has released music that has both celebrated and playfully subverted American musical traditions. To say that he is a folk musician or that the music he records qualifies as "Americana" would be a misnomer, as his music toys with these ideas and transcends them. Over the past two decades he has released nearly 20 albums (under the monikers of Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and Will Oldham), worked as a film and theater actor (his turn in Kelly Reichardt's 2006 film Old Joy is particularly fantastic), and generally floated around the edges of popular culture in ways one might not expect (such as having his songs covered by the late Johnny Cash, making a cameo appearance in R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" video).
In short, Will Oldham is equally talented and inscrutable, the kind of wonderfully gifted and gently eccentric artist that one encounters all too rarely these days. And though he is generally reticent in interviews, when he does sit down to talk he is always interesting. We caught up with Oldham in New York City, where he is currently appearing at BAM in the Actors Theater of Louisville's production of Charles Mee's The Glory of the World. Ostensibly we're meant to chat about Pond Scum, a newly released compilation of old Peel Sessions Oldham recorded over the years, some dating back to as early as 1993. Though there is a certain schizophrenic quality to Pond Scum (Oldham recorded six Peel Sessions for BBC Radio over the years, three of which are represented here) it does provide a fascinating window into his psyche and his ever-evolving body of work.
It seems totally logical—if not actually inevitable—that Tori Amos would eventually write a musical. Over the last two decades, the singer and composer has created work that exists in its own rarefied universe. Her music is often character-driven, populated by winding narratives in which Amos herself serves as both muse and guide. It is these talents that Amos brings to her musical The Light Princess, which made its debut at London's National Theatre in 2013 to great acclaim. Based on the 19th-century fairy tale by George Macdonald, the musical tells the story of a prince and a princess, who each lost their mother at a young age. The young prince becomes so forlorn that he is unable to ever smile, while in another kingdom a young princess becomes so light with her own grief that she floats into the air. Balancing the whimsy of a floating heroine with heavier themes regarding grief and rebellion, The Light Princess feels both remarkably contemporary and incredibly prescient. Though it remains to be seen when a full-scale production of the musical will arrive stateside (Amos hints that plans are afoot), the original cast recording was released earlier last month—a beautifully-packaged disc that includes two songs from the musical performed by Amos herself.
When first speaking with Callum Turner in person, it's hard not to be hypnotized. The 25-year-old English actor and model has the effusive, unassuming charm and awkward good looks that make him believable as a wistful young soldier, a terrorized punk rocker, or a married woman's paramour—all roles in which he's recently excelled. Meeting up at a quiet bar in Brooklyn, Turner exudes the unbridled enthusiasm of someone just coming into his own as an artist. "Today was so surreal," he says. "I'm in New York City, and I spent the day floating around in a pool with my clothes on. Now I'm here with you in a bar, and later I'll try to learn to speak Polish for my next movie role. Like, what is this? What's happening?"