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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11:31am

Fri August 31, 2012
Music Reviews

Shoes: After 18 Years, The Power-Pop Band Re-Ignites

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 4:16 pm

Shoes.
Courtesy of the artist

11:58am

Mon August 6, 2012
Music Reviews

Dan Auerbach Likes It Fast, Simple And Loud

Originally published on Mon August 6, 2012 1:23 pm

Producer Dan Auerbach achieves an ideal version of JEFF The Brotherhood and Hacienda on their respective new albums.
James Quine

Dan Auerbach, one of two founders of The Black Keys, also maintains an active side business as a producer for other bands that share his love for blues- and country-influenced rock. Auerbach's production work can be heard on two new records: Hacienda's third album, Shakedown, and the major-label debut of JEFF The Brotherhood, titled Hypnotic Nights.

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1:38pm

Mon July 30, 2012
Music Reviews

This Time, R. Kelly Burns With (Relatively Chaste) Passion

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 4:56 pm

RCA Music Group

In recent years, the Chicago-based R&B singer R. Kelly has alternated between elaborate ballads and and the more erotic collection of songs and videos for his series Trapped In The Closet. His new album, Write Me Back, may be relatively chaste in its sentiments, but it's by no means without passion.

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4:00pm

Thu July 26, 2012
Music Reviews

Ocean's 'Orange' Revolution

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 6:35 pm

Frank Ocean performs onstage at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in April.
Karl Walter Getty Images

Born in New Orleans and still in his mid-20s, Frank Ocean has already written songs for major pop stars. He sang on the Kanye West/Jay-Z collaboration Watch the Throne, and he's been part of the tumultuous Los Angeles musical collective known as Odd Future. None of which quite prepares a listener for the beautifully moody music that dominates his new album, Channel Orange.

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11:51am

Fri July 6, 2012
Music Reviews

Big K.R.I.T.: Music Straight 'From The Underground'

Originally published on Fri July 6, 2012 2:20 pm

Big K.R.I.T.
Courtesy of the artist

Big K.R.I.T.'s distinction as a rapper is the way he spreads his vowels out over his beats like gravy. There's little that's harsh in his phrasing, even as his lyrics can be tart or tough. In general, though, his tone over the course of Live From the Underground is a voice of coolness, of relaxation or resignation, even occasionally serenity.

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12:23pm

Tue July 3, 2012
Music Reviews

The dB's: Still Plaintive After All These Years

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 3:05 pm

The dB's.
Courtesy of the artist

If there was any doubt that The dB's have any use for being considered through the haze of memory, or limited to the misty fondness from fans who remember them from the early 80s, the blast that opens their new album Falling Off the Sky, a song called "That Time Is Gone," could not be more explicit. Group leaders Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, along with drummer Will Rigby and bassist Gene Holder, are taking back their sound after 30 years, sprucing it up and re-exploding it for the days we live in now.

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12:53pm

Tue June 26, 2012
Music Reviews

Fiona Apple's 'Wheel' Of Extravagant Emotions

Originally published on Wed June 27, 2012 10:49 am

Known for brevity's sake as The Idler Wheel..., Fiona Apple's new album is her first in seven years.
Lionel Deluy

"These ideas of mine / percolate the mind," Fiona Apple sings in "Every Single Night," the song that opens her new album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Some people are going to listen to the entire record and come away with the feeling that the percolation in Apple's mind has bubbled over like a coffee pot left on a stove too long. But for me and perhaps for you, Apple's bubbling thoughts, words and music are thrilling — eager and direct, heedless about being judged or misunderstood.

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12:22pm

Thu June 14, 2012
Music Reviews

On 'Banga,' Patti Smith Pays Homage To Friends

Originally published on Thu June 14, 2012 5:39 pm

Patti Smith.
Courtesy of the artist

Featuring Patti Smith's former New York punk-era colleague Tom Verlaine on solo guitar, "April Fool" is one of the prettiest songs on Smith's new album, Banga. Verlaine sends out long, thin, delicate tendrils of sound as Smith's voice suffuses the melody with full-throated urgency. Although Smith has said, with typical art-democratic directness, that "almost everybody in the world can sing," a few songs on Banga make you aware of what a good voice she has.

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11:39am

Wed June 6, 2012
Music Reviews

Making Music From Messy Relationships With 'Kin'

Originally published on Fri June 8, 2012 11:08 am

The new album Kin is a collaboration between author Mary Karr and singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell.
Deborah Feingold

It's not unusual for poets to try their hands at pop music-making. Patti Smith was a poet before she was a rock star. In recent years, print-poets such as David Berman and Wyn Cooper have put out more-than-credible song collections. But Mary Karr, known more for prize-winning memoirs such as The Liars Club and Lit than for her excellent poetry, has taken a high-profile risk that's paid off.

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11:40am

Fri June 1, 2012
Music Reviews

Diamond Rugs: Carefully Constructed Drinking Tunes

Originally published on Fri June 1, 2012 1:11 pm

Diamond Rugs.
Amie Ledford

Diamond Rugs is one those bands that wants you to think it prizes spontaneity and sloppy good fun more than careful song construction and technical polish. And the album, also titled Diamond Rugs, almost succeeds in convincing you of its sloppy aesthetic, dispensing songs about drinking and carousing only to be left morose, in one's cups.

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12:17pm

Mon May 21, 2012
Music Reviews

John Fullbright: How To Connect 'From The Ground Up'

Originally published on Thu May 24, 2012 8:51 am

Though he's not yet 25, Fullbright's music sounds like he's lived through a lot — or at least thought it through.
Vicki Farmer

John Fullbright's voice rises up and around the guitar chords in "Me Wanting You," his tone intended to haunt the person he's addressing. His desire, his "me wanting you," is as direct as he can possibly make it — it's not a cry of despair or hope or lust. It's the sound of someone intent on making as strong a connection with the listener as he possibly can.

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10:53am

Mon April 23, 2012
Music Reviews

Todd Snider: 'Stoner Fables' With A Layered Worldview

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 11:20 am

Courtesy of the artist

Todd Snider is, on one level, your average guitar-strumming singer-songwriter with varying amounts of musical accompaniment for songs he sings with mush-mouthed intimacy. But Snider, now in his mid-40s and impressively prolific, is also an exceptional singer-songwriter, able to set up scenes with quick, precise details.

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11:41am

Mon April 16, 2012
Music Reviews

Loudon Wainwright III Looks Back At His 'Old Man'

As Loudon Wainwright III says in his song "In C," he likes to sing about "my favorite protagonist — me."

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12:25pm

Tue April 10, 2012
Music Reviews

Bonnie Raitt's 'Slipstream': A Barnstorming Good Time

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 4:39 pm

Bonnie Raitt.
Courtesy of the artist

The warmth and vigor of Bonnie Raitt's voice throughout her new album Slipstream, even when she's covering an oldie such as Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down the Line," is vital and fresh — urgent, even. Raitt has always possessed a gift for taking a familiar phrase and rendering it in a manner that compels a listener to think anew about what the words really mean.

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11:11am

Tue April 3, 2012
Music Reviews

There's Only 'One Direction' For This Boy Band: Up

One Direction.
Courtesy of the artist

The callow croon over a pulsating beat, the massed harmonies in the chorus, the lyrics about partying that name-check Katy Perry and include a wistful wish for a nameless girl to kiss the singer — this is boy-band music at its newest and its most timeless. The five young guys who comprise One Direction are single-minded.

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