Stuck On AM 8
Why listen to the radio in 2014? Among the many answers is the survival of the live in-studio session. When you’re listening to music on Spotify or any of these other newfangled streamy things, the band is never playing directly to you in real time. In-studios capture the intimate experience of seeing a band live for the airwaves. Radio K’s Stuck on AM series has been compiling the station’s best in-studios since 1996. Stuck on AM 8 features performances from some of the best touring acts who have stopped into our humble studio over the past few years, including Kurt Vile, Baths, Cate Le Bon, Cloud Nothings, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and more. The compilation is being released exclusively on vinyl, a first for the series.
Stuck on AM has consistently captured bands at their rawest and showcased the diversity of American independent music. The very first volume of Stuck on AM featured a frenzied rendition of the Cows’ classic song, “Sexy Pee Story,” right next to Dylan Hicks’s heartbreaking alt-country ballad, “Renaissance Man.” Stuck on AM 8 continues in this tradition of eclecticism and reminds us of the musical commonalities that transcend genre and geography. A stunning version of Kurt Vile’s acoustic, crooning “Never Run Away” sits naturally next to WHY?’s live choral hip-hop cut, “Shag Carpet.” San Francisco’s downtempo dreamboat Tycho and Toronto noise boys Metz logically occupy the same sonic universe. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the internet has turned us all into music scholars. We are allowed to appreciate every genre. Punk kids and backpack hip-hop heads can hang out together, and that reality is on display all over Stuck on AM 8.
Let’s get back to what’s so special about these performances themselves. Take Kurt Vile’s “Never Run Away.” Radio listeners were treated to the very first public performance of this dreamy single from 2013’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze. Without the support of a band or the possibility of another take, you can hear Vile’s vulnerability in the wavering of his voice. Indie-rapper Milo’s “Budlong Woods / Xergiok’s Chagrin” medley disputes the notion that contemplative, intellectual hip-hop isn’t worth hearing live. On their original records, these songs kick back on near DOOM levels of lazy flow. Performing live in Studio K, however, Milo brings desperate urgency to his delivery.
Ultimately, Stuck on AM 8 is great for the same reasons college radio is great. The seams are visible. You sense that Metz is just barely keeping it together on their wild romp through “Headache.” Cate Le Bon’s voice is worn down and gritty on “Are You with Me Now.” Like the volunteers and DJs that make these in-studios possible, these bands aren’t getting paid. They’re on grueling tour schedules, but they manage find a couple of hours to come in and share their work on the air. There’s purity and generosity to these performances, and when you listen, you imagine yourself driving alone with the voice on the radio singing only to you.