It's true that you can still get by in rock 'n' roll on the strength of a unique voice. But it helps if said voice has something interesting to work with.
On the first three records by Heartless Bastards, that wasn't always the case. The Mountain, from 2008, had some terrific songs about a breakup, and a few that got bogged down in a rut. But on the band's latest release, Arrow, every song has a powerful, almost magnetic melody.
Uruguay boasts that it has the longest Carnival celebration not just in Latin America, but the world. The 40-day celebration is dotted with makeshift stages all around the capital city of Montevideo for performances of choral music called murga. Murga is both entertainment and a sociopolitical commentary that survived the military dictatorship of the 1970s.
For the first time, the Pritzker Architecture Prize has been awarded to an architect based in China. Wang Shu, 49, is interested in preservation, working slowly and tradition — ideals that sometimes seem forgotten in today's booming China. Wang says in the 1990s he had to get away from China's architectural "system" of demolition, megastructures and get-rich-quick — so he spent the decade working with common craftspeople building simple constructions.
"I go out of system," Wang says, "Because, finally I think, this system is too strong."
Theologian Lauren Winner was 21 when she became a Christian.
Although she was raised in a Jewish household and had converted to Orthodox Judaism, she says she felt drawn to Christianity. Her surprising conversion is the subject of her first memoir, the bestseller Girl Meets God.
In Winner's new book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, she writes about a spiritual crisis.
Winner, an ordained Episcopal priest who teaches Christian spirituality at Duke University, says it happened around the time her mother died and her marriage collapsed.
This week, weekends on All Things Considered begins a new series called "Why Music Matters": stories from fans, in their own words, about how music has changed their lives. In this first installment, Seattle resident Nathan Hotchkiss reflects on a sheltered childhood.
"My parents were very religious," he says. "I was limited to listening only to Christian music and classical. My father would stay away a lot, and my mother would be wrapped up in her own turmoil, and it would spill over onto me."
Earlier today, a court ended a corruption trial against Silvio Berlusconi. But that's not the end of the road for the former prime minister, he still faces charges that he paid an underage teenager for sex. Friends of Berlusconi say that he is lonely and increasingly isolated. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz talks to writer Philip Delves Broughton who got unprecedented access to Silvio Berlusconi in Rome and wrote about the interview for The Atlantic.
Gas prices are on the rise and there's a slew of possible reasons as to why. Tensions with Iran, the Obama administration's policies, and Wall Street speculators have all been cited as factors. But it still doesn't answer why prices are increasing while U.S. demand for gasoline is going down. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz talks with NPR's John Ydstie about some hidden factors behind the jacked up gas prices.
President Obama and his GOP rivals are sparing over gas prices. In an election year, that pocketbook issue could hurt the president, but Republican voters still have no clear cut nominee to face off in November anyway. Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney square off in Michigan on Tuesday, with poll numbers flipping between the two. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz speaks with Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page about these and other news stories from the week.