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Heavy Rotation: 8 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

alt-J's "U&ME" is featured in October's edition of Heavy Rotation.
Rosie Matheson
Courtesy of the artist
alt-J's "U&ME" is featured in October's edition of Heavy Rotation.

October's edition of Heavy Rotation, chosen by NPR member stations, features music from The Killers, My Morning Jacket, Remi Wolf and more.

All of this month's picks are available to stream on the Heavy Rotation Spotify and Apple Music playlists at the bottom of the page. As always, you can discover fantastic music programming happening across the country in real time by clicking the links to each station's website.

Allison Russell, "Nightflyer"

Nashville-based Americana singer-songwriter Allison Russell's recent solo debut album, Outside Child, was a decade in the making. Through various projects including the roots duo Birds of Chicago and more recently Our Native Daughters, Russell's solo record is a soaring musical triumph of joy and resilience in the face of her traumatic childhood. The gorgeous, lilting sway of "Nightflyer" is the centerpiece of the album. In arecent interview on World Cafe, Russell says "for me, it's a thesis statement for the whole record. It starts with the pain of my childhood and goes through the arc and transformation of art and music saving me, and of me becoming a mother." - Bruce Warren, WXPN

alt-J, "U&ME"

The dynamic lead single from English band alt-J's first album in four years, The Dream, is a love story about an idyllic day at a music festival. They embrace that laid-back swagger that has made them one of the most accessible experimental pop bands, with layered vocal harmonies, chilled out drums, and expansive guitar. Written before the pandemic, mostly during soundchecks while touring the world, "U&ME" captures the feeling of having a good time being with your best friends, with lyrics more straightforward than the songs alt-J usually serve. The band has said to expect more personal stories on The Dream mixed with songs about their obsession with true crime podcasts, dark stories of Hollywood, and the famed Chateau Marmont hotel. The new album comes out February 2022, nearly a decade after their Mercury Prize winning debut. - Alisha Sweeney, Indie 102.3

Anderson .Paak, "Fire In The Sky"

In 1964 Quincy Jones scored his first film. He had a successful career, working with Elvis Presley, Dizzy Gillespie, and as bandleader for Barclay, and scoring film was just one more way to show off his many talents. Anderson .Paak is this generation's Quincy Jones. Like Jones, there is seemingly nothing he can't do, be it pop music with Bruno Mars as Silk Sonic, matching bars with Kendrick Lamar, or film. Anderson .Paak composed this song for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (which is an excellent film if you haven't seen it.) It's another gift we get from this once-in-a-lifetime talent. - Justin Barney, Radio Milwaukee

The Killers, "Quiet Town"

For years it seemed like Brandon Flowers of The Killers was searching to unlock his inner Bruce Springsteen. The band got there to some extent with 2006's Sam's Town, but their latest album Pressure Machine is the realization of that search. Concentrating on his own hometown of Nephi, Utah, Flowers crafts clear character studies in these songs, influenced by his own childhood. "Quiet Town" leads us through the lives of Nephi townsfolk, showcasing some of the best storytelling of Flowers' career. And while the American vibe is prevalent here, the band's signature synths are tasteful accents bringing forth some of the band's most complete work to date. - Russ Borris, WFUV

My Morning Jacket, "Love Love Love"

"Love Love Love," the lead single of My Morning Jacket's new self-titled album, marks the official return of one of the most beloved indie rock bands of the 21st century. Reconvening from a recent hiatus that resulted in solo projects from frontman Jim James and guitarist Carl Broemel, plus full-band collaborations with Timothy Showalter of Strand of Oaks, My Morning Jacket went back to the basics for their ninth studio output. With a pulsing drumbeat, hammering guitar riff, and breezy backing harmonies, "Love Love Love" is a modern-day chant packing so much zest that you can't help but groove along. - Desiré Moses, WNRN

Orquesta Akokán, "Mi Conga Es De Akokán"

The big band era didn't survive past the Truman administration, however there's a reason why the old folks loved it: in the right hands, this music swings. And in the capable hands of Cuba's Orquesta Akokán, big band mambo hasn't sounded this alive and swinging since your grandparents' heyday. The frenzy of percussion, horns and hollers is uncommon in 2021, but leave it to a classic-minded label like Daptone to bring back the fire to a new audience. Remarkably all of their material is written in-house, yet you'd swear "Mi Conga Es De Akokán" is a lost classic melody somehow sprung from a time capsule. My español is laughable but my heart, hips, and feet clearly get the message. - Rick McNulty, KUTX

Remi Wolf, "Grumpy Old Man"

Remi Wolf has released three EPs since 2019 and in early October she dropped Juno, her first full-length LP for Island Records. Like everything we've heard from her before, the album is filled with total ear worms, and single "Grumpy Old Man" is no exception. The track kicks off with a bouncy bass line that grabs the listener's attention, before a breakbeat kicks in and Wolf sagely advises us to "look over the fence" to learn about things we don't know about yet. It's an upbeat track that she says is inspired by "some of the most benign things [that] can make me irritated and defensive, which makes me feel old, fragile, and careless." "Grumpy Old Man" is a perfect example of Wolf's ability to build meticulously-crafted pop songs that are as fun as they are infectious, no matter the subject. - Brian Burns, WUNC

Terence Blanchard (ft. The E-Collective, Turtle Island Quartet), "The Elders"

As this year's consummate Halloween composition, this unsettling, discordant epic—arranged by the E-Collective pianist Fabian Almazan—is typical of Terence Blanchard's output these days. Is this a standalone jazz-classical hybrid or part of some new, noir film score Blanchard's been working on? No time for that now; the more pressing question is how you survive to the end of this one without meeting your maker. In a movie, music this freaky portends someone biting it. For Blanchard, perhaps emboldened by Academy Award nominations in 2019 (BlacKkKlansman) and 2021 (Da 5 Bloods) and the recent premiere of his opera Fire Shut Up in My Bones at the Met, pushing the envelope like this is just another day at the office. –Matt Silver, WRTI

Stream Heavy Rotation on Spotify and Apple Music, updated monthly.

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