Angel Olsen & Opinions on Lana Del Rey

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Singer-songwriter Angel Olsen shares her dramatic tunes of heartbreak and humor. Later, Jim and Greg review the new album from singer Lana Del Rey.

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Casey Kasem, a voice of musical authority almost as well known as Jim and Greg, passed away earlier this month at the age of 82. For nearly four decades Kasem counted down the county’s biggest hits on his syndicated radio program American Top 40. While Kasem was born in Detroit, he drew on his family’s Lebanese storytelling traditions to inject colorful commentary in between the songs on his countdowns. His unique contribution to music history is matched by his contribution to television history – Kasem voiced the character of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo for over thirty years.

Another memorable voice gone this month belonged to contralto jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott. Though small in stature (Scott’s growth was stunted pre-puberty by Kallmann’s Syndrome), his voice resonated through the decades with artist as varied as Lou Reed, Marvin Gaye, and Frankie Valli. For nearly 66 of his 88 years, though, Scott was unknown to most people, as he was often not credited for his work singing on other people’s records. He’d nearly faded into obscurity when a record executive heard Scott sing at a friend’s funeral and offered him a solo recording contract that brought Scott’s powerfully melancholy voice back to move a whole new generation. In his honor, Greg plays the song Sycamore Trees performed by Scott in the final episode of the television series Twin Peaks, which was created by another one of Scott’s admirers, David Lynch.

Angel Olsen

From St. Louis, to Chicago to Asheville, NC, Angel Olsen is now a national figure in indie rock. Her first big break came after performing backup for Bonnie Prince Billy, but Olsen has grown into a confident artist in her own right. Her songwriting has been compared to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and her voice has been compared to that of the great Roy Orbison. For most of her career, Olsen has made sparse, introspective records, starting with her first EP, Strange Cactii, and then with her debut album, Half Way Home. Now with her latest record, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, the critical acclaim has matched that of fans. During her studio visit, Angel Olsen played songs from this new record, talked to us about the challenge of playing with a full band, and how she views songwriting as an exercise in acting.

Ultraviolence Lana Del Rey

Ultraviolence

Lana Del Rey has come a long way since her dismal performance on Saturday Night Live in 2012. While critically polarizing, her release Born to Die went on to sell 7 million copies worldwide. Then a remix single, Summertime Sadness, became a Top 10 hit. And she was tapped to contribute to the big Disney release Maleficent. Now she’s back with a full-length record called Ultraviolence. If Jim and Greg were grading Del Rey on acting or performance, she might get an A. But, this show is about music. And with tired lyrics, a drugged-out vocal style and dragging tempos, Ultraviolence can only get a Trash It.

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