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Heavy Rotation: 5 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

Richard Dumas
Matador Records

In this installment of Heavy Rotation — where we bring to you public radio's new favorite songs — we collaborated with KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., to bring you an exclusive track from British singer Laura Mvula's session on Morning Becomes Eclectic, plus enjoy a download from rising post-punk band Savages, courtesy of WXPN in Philadelphia.

This week's panel includes:

  • Anne Litt, a DJ at KCRW in Los Angeles.
  • Dave P., host of Making Time Radio on WXPN in Philadelphia.
  • Jeremy Petersen, voice of OPBmusic in Portland.
  • DropaJewel, one of the hosts of WEAA's Strictly Hip-Hop in Baltimore.
  • Maggie Brennan, music director at WCBE in Columbus, Ohio.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Heavy Rotation: 5 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

Nick Jaina, "Don't Come To Me"

From 'Primary Perception'

ADVISORY: This song contains explicit language.

Nick Jaina is probably best known to Portlanders as a prolific singer-songwriter, but he's taken some interesting creative side roads in the three years since his last record: He's written three ballets, worked on a film soundtrack and composed music for a play in New Orleans. Primary Perception marks Jaina's return to pop songwriting, and "Don't Come to Me" is among its standouts. The track began as an unlikely attempt to write a song from the perspective of Mitt Romney, and later came to life when Jaina took what he had to band members during the sessions that ended up on the record. This isn't quite the version we play on air — that one includes FCC edits — but it's an earworm either way, the latest of many from one of Portland's most consistent musicians. —Jeremy Petersen, opbmusic.com

Download "Don't Come To Me" (Right-Click and Save As)

Savages, "She Will"

From 'Silence Yourself'

Although my Making Time RADio show on Philadelphia's WXPN plays predominantly electronic and dance music, I'm always searching for dance-friendly rock bands to play on the show. Savages' music exhibits energy, emotion, passion and purpose, and "She Will" has it all: a driving rhythm section, passionate vocals, dark guitar tones and cymbal crashes, all culminating in a 30-second frenzy that keeps building and building. "She Will" recalls '80s post-punk bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees while still sounding fresh, new and relevant. —Dave P., host of WXPN's Making Time RADio

Download "She Will" (Right-Click and Save As)

Ellis, "White Henny Flow"

From 'BMC 2K13 The White Henny Edition'

ADVISORY: This song contains explicit language.

"White Henny Flow" is a smooth hip-hop joint from Ellis' current reissue of BMC 2k13 White Henny Edition. Produced by Brain Trust, the song induces a consistent head-nod from start to finish. The Baltimore native showcases his distinct lyricism, swerving bar after bar; his sound is fresh, his style unique. "White Henny Flow" compares Ellis' flow to that of a smooth, expensive drink that's not easily accessible to the masses. No wonder it's requested week after week. —DropaJewel, host of WEAA's Strictly Hip-Hop

Download "White Henny Flow" (Right-Click and Save As)

Shuggie Otis, "Special"

From 'Inspiration Information/Wings of Love'

Psychedelic soul musician Shuggie Otis was only 20 when his album Inspiration Information came out in 1974. He'd already performed on stage with his father, the late bandleader Johnny Otis; while still a teenager, he wrote "Strawberry Letter 23," which sold millions for The Brothers Johnson. Shuggie Otis turned down offers to play guitar with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Blood, Sweat & Tears so he could make his own way as a frontman. Otis has since become a cult icon, and Inspiration Information has just been reissued with a companion CD called Wings of Love, which is packed with previously unreleased material from 1975-2000. From that disc, "Special" combines a '70s funk vibe with soul, rock and a futuristic feel. It sounds great on the radio, but if you're in the car while listening, be careful: You may catch yourself driving well over the limit. —Maggie Brennan, WCBE music director

Download "Special" (Right-Click and Save As)

Laura Mvula, "Sing To The Moon" (Live On KCRW)

From 'Live On KCRW'

I love the version of "Sing to the Moon" that appears on Laura Mvula's debut album, but when I heard her perform the song live at KCRW, it became an intimate story, performed with heartbreaking delicacy. It definitely qualified as a Top Tune. During her interview for Morning Becomes Eclectic, she said "Sing to the Moon" was inspired by an autobiography of 1950s jazz singer Adelaide Hall, whose father told her to "sing to the moon, and the stars will shine..." Mvula grew up in Birmingham, England, and says she's just a regular girl from a musical family. She even has her younger brother and sister with her in her touring band. That said, there's nothing regular about her at all; the elegance and freedom in her music is captivating. --Anne Litt, KCRW

This download is no longer available.

(Subscribe to Today's Top Tune from KCRW here.)