To understand American history, Jon Lauck says you have to understand the Midwest's role in some critical events.
KCRW’s DJ Travis Holcombe joins us regularly to play some of the music that’s been catching his ear.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GONNA LOVE YOU")
DON CAVALLI: (Singing) Where you gonna be my love tonight? I'm gonna love you. Where you gonna be my love tonight? I'm gonna love you.
HOBSON: That is "Gonna Love You" by Don Cavalli. We heard about him from Travis Holcombe, a DJ at KCRW in Santa Monica, California. We have him on regularly. And Travis is with us once again to tell us about some new music that he is listening to. Hey, Travis.
TRAVIS HOLCOMBE, BYLINE: Thank you, Jeremy. Glad to be here.
HOBSON: Great to have you. Tell us about Don Cavalli.
HOLCOMBE: Well, first of all, his name makes him sound like he's an Italian fashion designer, which he's not.
HOLCOMBE: He's actually from Paris. He is a Parisian blues man. But you know, when we say blues, we should be clear, you're not getting like the French Muddy Waters, but it's more in a sense that The Black Keys are a blues-based band. But Don Cavalli is a little bit poppier and a little bit funkier. He's really big into his wah-wah pedals. Let's just say he's blues-influenced.
HOBSON: And you love his 2008 album "Cryland," one of your favorite albums of all time, you say. I want to hear a song from that. This is "Gloom Uprising."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GLOOM UPRISING")
CAVALLI: (Singing) Moon is rising. Sun is sinking down low. Wind is howling. Man down lonesome with love.
HOBSON: You know, the funny thing is, I can't hear a tiny hint of a French accent there.
HOLCOMBE: No. You know what's weird? There's nothing particularly French-sounding about Don Cavalli. I mean he sings - all of his songs are in English and he's got sort of like a weird, boozy Johnny Cash kind of delivery. But there's not even a hint of an accent when he sings.
HOBSON: And that was from his 2008 album. Let's compare that now to "Voice of the Voiceless" from his new album, "Temperamental."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOICE OF THE VOICELESS")
CAVALLI: (Singing) Chant a little louder. Chant to chanted love. Shout out hallelujah. Oh, shout now in the highest. In a deep dark jungle, wild and restless, how, how, trying to shout from a hollow.
HOBSON: He's got that signature style still right there.
HOLCOMBE: Yeah. It's like a very old-school delivery with modern production techniques. So it kind of sounds old and at the same time very modern.
HOBSON: What are some of his influences?
HOLCOMBE: I would say, I mean, he's definitely influenced by the Mississippi blues. A lot of his earlier work that never really came out in the States was more rockabilly and country influenced. In those songs you could really hear more of the Johnny Cash thing.
HOBSON: All right. Well, let's hop from France to England now. And another group you've told us about - this is Temples. The song is "Shelter Song."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHELTER SONG")
JAMES BAGSHAW: (Singing) One night, you came on over to me. Late night, we shared a drink or three. Night, night, I read a proverb to you. That night, she left a room with a view. Take all the time, time that you want to. Make up your mind, mind how you go. Take me in time, time to the music. Take me away to the twilight zone.
HOBSON: I can almost hear a little Beatles in there, Travis, a little John Lennon, Paul McCartney thing going on.
HOLCOMBE: You know what, it's very - it's - I hesitate to compare anyone to the Beatles because obviously...
HOBSON: Fair enough.
HOLCOMBE: ...the Temples don't have the body of work of the Beatles. They've only released four songs. So we're kind of really early on this, but they just released their first seven-inch here in the U.S. on the Fat Possum label. And that particular song, "Shelter Song," was probably my favorite music discovery of the year, this year. And it's very catchy, sort of hallucinogenic pop with the jangly 12-string guitar that the Beatles employed.
It came out originally at the end of last year on a small British label on a seven-inch. And finally, it took a couple of months, but it finally got to me earlier this year, and I've just been playing it like crazy ever since I heard it.
HOBSON: Well, let's come over to this country. This is Jackson Scott from Asheville, North Carolina. The song is called "That Awful Sound."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THAT AWFUL SOUND")
JACKSON SCOTT: (Singing) (Unintelligible) that awful sound. I know it's true, I want to say. Guarantee reality is killing me.
HOBSON: So tell us about Jackson Scott.
HOLCOMBE: So Jackson Scott is a 20-year-old songwriter out of Asheville, North Carolina. Just for a little back story, he put up some songs on SoundCloud, and the people at Pitchfork found it, which is sort of the most influential indie music site around, and gave it like a best new music designation, which jumpstarted his career. And he got signed to Fat Possum Records here in the States, which is also a home to Unknown Mortal Orchestra. And in the past The Black Keys have released lots of releases on that label, and Band of Horses. And he's currently on tour with Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
HOBSON: And he's only 20 years old?
HOLCOMBE: Only 20 years old.
HOLCOMBE: And the music he makes is - it's all self-produced. You can - it's got a very intimate feel. And from what I read, he recorded it on a four-track and then re-edited things in GarageBand, but that's the way it kind of feels. I mean it also is very rough around the edges, but Jackson Scott - just such a great year for melody that you can't help but to get sucked in.
HOBSON: Finally, Travis, we've got a song from a group out of D.C. They are called Misun, and here is "Dark Room," off their new compilation album.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DARK ROOM")
MISUN WOJCIK: (Singing) Keep me in your dark room, honey. I've got a lot of things to say. Take me to your dark room, honey, and I'll do everything that you say. Keep me in your dark room, honey. That's the only place I want to be. Take me to your (unintelligible)...
HOBSON: So what do we know about Misun?
HOLCOMBE: Misun - they've got an interesting story too. They met in a restaurant that they all worked at. It's a trio. And they met in a restaurant and kind of figured out, hey, we all kind of like a lot of the same music. Let's get together and record some stuff, and so they did. And I came across them again. This is another SoundCloud discovery. I followed their producer, Nacey, who's mostly known as a dance music producer.
But he started posting all of their songs up on their SoundCloud for free. And as I kept on hearing the songs, I would play it on the air and get a good response and keep on finding more and more of this stuff, and I've just been hooked ever since.
HOBSON: You know, Travis, I - the interesting thing about you is I can't pin you down into one category of music. And some people, you know, you could say they like more dancy stuff or they like more rocky stuff or whatever. Yours are just all over the place. They're good, but they're all over the place.
HOLCOMBE: Well, I take that as a compliment. Yeah.
HOBSON: Travis Holcombe, DJ on KCRW, public radio in Southern California. Thanks as always.
HOLCOMBE: Thank you, Jeremy.
HOBSON: And speaking of music, it sounds a little like John Lennon. We want to leave you with "Met You" by Misun, featuring Sammy Bananas. Some people on the group's Facebook page taught they were hearing a riff on John Lennon's "Jealous Guy." See what you think. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MET YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.