Ken Tucker

Ken Tucker is the pop music critic for Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

He also serves as editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, where his previous work netted him two National Magazine Awards.

Previously a film critic at New York magazine, Tucker's music criticism earned him two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards one in 2003 and the other in 2004.

Tucker is the author of Scarface Nation: The Ultimate Gangster Movie and Roasting Miss Piggy: 100 Things to Love and Hate About Television.

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3:41pm

Fri May 1, 2015
Music Reviews

Nellie McKay Celebrates The '60s With 'My Weekly Reader'

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1:20pm

Mon April 27, 2015
Music

Alabama Shakes Opens New Territory On 'Sound & Color'

Originally published on Mon April 27, 2015 1:31 pm

Over the course of Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes messes with what had already, after its first album, become its signature sound. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has this review.

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3:14pm

Thu April 23, 2015
Music

Dwight Yoakam's 'Second Hand Heart' Is First Class

Dwight Yoakam has been making music that mixes country with rock 'n' roll since the 1970s. Working out of Los Angeles rather than Nashville, he's built a career that has also included a solid acting career, appearing in movies like 1996's Sling Blade and the recent TV series Under the Dome. Yoakam's new album is called Second Hand Heart, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says it's one of Yoakam's most stylistically diverse.

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2:29pm

Tue April 14, 2015
Music

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle Finds Refuge In The Ring

The Mountain Goats have a new album called Beat The Champ. It's unusual in that it is a concept album about professional wrestling, based on the interest in that sport band leader John Darnielle has had since he was a boy. Darnielle is also a prose writer whose novel Wolf in White Van was nominated for a 2014 National Book Award. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has this review.

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3:27pm

Thu April 9, 2015
Music

There Is A Rich World In Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp A Butterfly'

Kendrick Lamar made a big impact for his storytelling skills on his 2012 major-label debut Good Kid, M.a.a.d City, and won two Grammys in February for the song "i." That song appears in Lamar's latest album, To Pimp A Butterfly, which Fresh Air music critic Ken Tucker says has an excitingly adventurous sound.

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3:31pm

Thu March 26, 2015
Music

Courtney Barnett Makes Ennui Vivid On Debut Album

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 11:01 am

Courtney Barnett is an Australian singer-songwriter in her late 20s who's just released her first full album. It's called Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Barnett fills her songs with details about things she observes around her, everyday details that Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says she somehow manages to infuse with a freshness rare in any songwriter, let alone one this young.

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1:40pm

Mon March 16, 2015
Music

Brandi Carlile's Surging Voice Grounds 'The Firewatcher's Daughter'

Brandi Carlile is a singer-songwriter who has cited influences as various as Elton John, Patsy Cline, and Queen's Freddie Mercury. Carlile has been releasing albums for the past 10 years, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says her new one, called The Firewatcher's Daughter, is her best yet.

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3:00pm

Mon March 9, 2015
Music

James McMurtry Is More Expressive Than Ever On 'Complicated Game'

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 1:33 pm

Complicated Game is James McMurtry's first new studio album since 2008. The Texas-born singer-songwriter, now based in Austin, is known for songs with strong narratives and a blend of country, blues, and rock melodies. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Complicated Game demonstrates a new range of style and subject matter for McMurtry.

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2:20pm

Wed March 4, 2015
Music

Nora Jane Struthers Is Wide Awake On New Album

Nora Jane Struthers is a singer-songwriter who grew up in New Jersey and was teaching high-school English in Brooklyn before moving to Nashville to attempt a full-time career in music. With her band The Party Line, she's just released a new album called Wake. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.

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2:14pm

Wed February 25, 2015
Music Reviews

Mavericks' Singer Raul Malo Restlessly Explores Genres

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3:00pm

Wed February 18, 2015
Music Reviews

Robert Earl Keen Delves Into Bluegrass With A Texan Twang

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1:51pm

Tue February 3, 2015
Music

Bob Dylan Looks To The Ageless American Songbook

Bob Dylan's unusual new album Shadows in the Night consists of ten cover versions of standards from the American Popular Songbook including "Autumn Leaves" and "Some Enchanted Evening." Dylan is accompanied by a five-piece band on songs that usually use orchestral accompaniment, and the singer has said the recordings were done live in "one or two takes." Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Dylan both infuses the songs with his personality, while also allowing them to be heard anew.

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12:13pm

Wed January 21, 2015
Music

Sleater-Kinney Comes Roaring Back With 'No Cities To Love'

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 1:27 pm

Sleater-Kinney is one of the most widely-praised rock bands of the last 20 years. The band formed in the mid-90s in Olympia, Wash., and went on to record seven albums. The group split up in 2006, but have reunited to release a new album, called No Cities to Love, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says it's a strong comeback.

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2:32pm

Mon January 12, 2015
Music

Ty Segall Goes 3-D On 'Mr. Face'

Ty Segall is 27 years old, and he does it all — writes, sings, produces, plays guitar and drums. He's released a large amount of music over the past decade, solo albums as well as working with other bands. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker reviews Segall's new four-song EP, Mr. Face, and tries to get a fix on Segall's productivity.

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1:32pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Music

D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah' Collapses Years, Genres

D'Angelo has built a considerable reputation on the basis of three albums: 1995's Brown Sugar, 2000's Voodoo, and now Black Messiah, unexpectedly released early Monday morning. The singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist has been widely praised for connecting many decades of different rhythm & blues styles, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Black Messiah is as adventurous as any fan could hope for.

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2:24pm

Tue December 16, 2014
The Best Music Of 2014

Ken Tucker's Top 9 Albums Of 2014, Plus A Book

Elizabeth Grant is better known by her stage name, Lana Del Rey.
Neil Krug Courtesy of the artist

4:19pm

Fri December 5, 2014
Music

A Punk Memoir That Makes The Ordinary Seem Transcendent

Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says that one of the best books he's ever read about punk rock is a new memoir by Viv Albertine, one of the founding members of the British punk rock band the Slits. The book, titled Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. chronicles Albertine's life with punk legends such as Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and Mick Jones of the Clash, on through subsequent careers as a film director and mother.

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2:42pm

Tue November 25, 2014
Music

Four Holiday Goodies, Including 'Christmas At Downton Abbey'

In the record industry, it's not too early to be releasing Christmas albums, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has been listening to a lot of them. He's narrowed down his list of goodies to these four: A Merry Friggin' Christmas soundtrack, Christmas at Downton Abby, Earth Wind and Fire's Holiday and the Living Sisters' Harmony is Real.

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1:48pm

Wed November 19, 2014
Music

Bob Dylan's Atmosphere Captured In New Basement Tapes

A batch of lyrics that Bob Dylan wrote in the late 1960s were given by Dylan to producer T-Bone Burnett, who came up with the idea to have some contemporary musicians set the words to music. Burnett gathered Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes, and Rhiannon Giddens from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and they recorded an album over the course of two weeks in L.A. It's called Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes, and Showtime will air a documentary about the making of the album on November 21.

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1:26pm

Fri November 7, 2014
Music Reviews

Lee Ann Womack Scales Back And Goes Traditional And Moody

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11:52am

Fri October 31, 2014
Music

Taylor Swift: The Peppiest Pop Star We Have Right Now

Taylor Swift's fifth album is called 1989, the year she was born. For the past few years, she's been the young queen of country music, by far its biggest-selling artist. But 1989 sidesteps country music entirely to become Swift's first pure pop album. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.

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3:12pm

Mon October 20, 2014
Music

Ex Hex's 'Rips' Does What It Says On The Cover

Punk rock lives on the debut album by a new trio, Ex Hex. The album is called Rips, and it's at once a throwback to bands like the Ramones and the sound of something new. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says the three women who make up Ex Hex have created an exhilaratingly energetic piece of work.

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3:43pm

Thu September 18, 2014
Music

Pere Ubu's 'Carnival Of Souls' Is A Dreamscape That's Never Dreamy

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 5:39 pm

Pere Ubu's new album, Carnival of Souls, is a reference to the 1962 cult horror film. But as Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker hears it, the band, led since the late '70s by co-founder David Thomas, has created something far more rich, experimental, and emotional than spooky, horror-movie music.

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2:27pm

Wed September 3, 2014
Music Reviews

The New Pornographers Return With A 'Celebration Record' That's Fun To Figure Out

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1:45pm

Tue August 26, 2014
Music Reviews

At 71, Elvin Bishop Is Still Vigorous, And Can Do Wrong Right

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3:51pm

Fri August 22, 2014
Music

Benjamin Booker Is Raw, Yet Disciplined On Debut Album

There's something about a rapidly strummed guitar chord followed quickly by an urgent vocal that is one definition of an effective rock song, and Fresh Air critic Ken Tucker thinks he's found quite a few examples of this on Benjamin Booker's self-titled debut album. The 25-year-old guitarist-singer-songwriter has already served as an opening act on Jack White's recent tour, and he may be ready for headliner status.

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3:55pm

Mon August 11, 2014
Music

At 74, Outlaw Billy Joe Shaver Is Still An Outlier

In 1973, Waylon Jennings released an album called Honky Tonk Heroes that consisted almost entirely, with one exception, of songs written by Billie Joe Shaver, a then-unknown Texas songwriter.

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3:31pm

Mon August 4, 2014
Music

Spoon Wants Your Soul

Originally published on Mon August 4, 2014 3:52 pm

Spoon has just released its first new album since 2010's Transference. Fresh Air critic says that "They Want My Soul is another fine Spoon album in a career that has now come to display a remarkable consistency."

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3:30pm

Mon July 28, 2014
Music Reviews

Jenny Lewis' 'The Voyager' Is An Album To Spend Time With

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3:03pm

Tue July 15, 2014
Music

The Cowboy That Wasn't A Cowboy Sings

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 3:52 pm

Cowboy Jack Clement, who died in 2013 at age 82, was a prolific producer, songwriter, arranger, and talent scout. He brought Jerry Lee Lewis to Sun Records, helped nurture the career of one of the few black country stars, Charley Pride, and worked on important albums for artists as various as Waylon Jennings and U2.

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