Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

Jul 8, 2013
Originally published on March 18, 2014 3:31 pm

Another month, another great mix of new music chosen by public radio's top DJs. Download an explosive new track from Neko Case, discover the Shabazz Palaces-approved Seattle rapper Porter Ray and get to know Valerie June, one of public radio's frontrunners for Best New Artist of 2013. Grab all 10 of our picks below, as chosen by the following contributors:

  • Chris Campbell, DJ at WDET's ALPHA channel in Detroit
  • Lars Gotrich, producer and host of Viking's Choice at NPR Music
  • Anne Litt, DJ at KCRW in Los Angeles
  • Larry Mizell Jr., DJ at KEXP in Seattle
  • Dave P., host of Making Time RADio at WXPN in Philadelphia
  • Jewel Parker, host of Strictly Hip-Hop on WEAA in Baltimore
  • Jeremy Petersen, DJ at opbmusic in Portland
  • Fiona Ritchie, host of NPR's Thistle & Shamrock
  • Kim Ruehl, writer for FolkAlley.com
  • Gwen Thompkins, host of Music Inside Out at WWNO in New Orleans
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


And now, from sports to music in our series Heavy Rotation. Each month, NPR Music asks public radio personalities at member stations around the country to tell us about a song that they just can't get enough of. We invite one of them to share their pick on MORNING EDITION. And today, a voice already familiar to many NPR listeners.

GWEN THOMPKINS, BYLINE: Gwen Thompkins, NPR News, Mogadishu.

GREENE: NPR's former East Africa correspondent is now back in her hometown of New Orleans at station WWNO.

THOMPKINS: I'm Gwen Thompkins and I host Music Inside Out. It's a weekly, hour-long interview program with tons of music in which we showcase a standard bearer of Louisiana music.

GREENE: Thompkins says her reporting in Africa has informed her current gig.


THOMPKINS: I may be the only person who can say from experience that the New Orleans music scene is very much organized the way that the Somali clan...


THOMPKINS: ...culture is organized in East Africa. You know, families and clans kind of have set the tone for music in New Orleans.

GREENE: And that's definitely true for the song Gwen has on Heavy Rotation. It's by a member of the Marsalis family. They're considered the first family of jazz. The song is called "Ballet Class," and it showcases the vibraphone.


THOMPKINS: Jason Marsalis is the youngest of the six brothers in the Marsalis family, four of whom of course play jazz. And he came up as a drummer and also embraced the vibraphone.


THOMPKINS: It's a way to embrace rhythm but at the same time, to add a melodic quality to rhythm.


GREENE: Thompkins says "Ballet Class" keeps listeners on their toes.

THOMPKINS: The song is restless at the same time, you know, because it conveys this sense of movement - and movement that can take so many forms.


THOMPKINS: And the thing about Jason Marsalis is I think he's in his mid 30s, but he's got three little girls. I don't know if they dance ballet, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did. And I can just see him looking at their toes and coming up with these wonderful vibraphone sounds.


GREENE: That pick for Heavy Rotation comes to us from Gwen Thompkins. She's the host of Music Inside Out at WWNO in New Orleans.

THOMPKINS: The song I'm listening to over and over and over again is called "Ballet Class" by the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, on the quartet's latest album "In a World of Mallets."

GREENE: And you can hear more from the series at nprmusic.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BALLET CLASS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.