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Archival releases from R.E.M., Orbison in spotlight this week

Tuesday, May 20: R.E.M. remains the only band to ever twice headline MTV’s highly successful Unplugged series, once in 1991 and again a decade later. Despite the popularity of those performances, the Georgia-based band never released the music to a commercial audience. A new two-CD set offers listeners the first chance to hear not only those two shows in their entirety but previously unreleased material as well. We’ll hear from that recording as well as selections from Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, the latest release from Sturgill Simpson. The Kentucky-based singer-songwriter blends elements of classic outlaw country artists such as Waylon Jennings with contemporary sensibilities that bridge the distance between rock and country.

Wednesday, May 21: Someday World is the new release from legendary producer Brian Eno and Karl Hyde of the band Underworld. The album has earned the duo comparisons to contemporary acts Vampire Weekend and Dirty Projectors. We’ll hear from that release and from Days of Abandon, the latest from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

Thursday, May 22: We celebrate the centennial birthday of legendary musician Sun Ra with music from his own recordings as well as tributes from NRBQ, Spacemen 3, Patti Smith, Medeski, Martin & Wood and others.

Friday, May 23: Brooklyn, New York native Kris Delmhorst has been releasing music since the late 1990s. Her latest recording, Blood Test is her first of all-original material since 2008. Listen for selections from that on this episode of Strange Currency as well as selections from To Be Kind, the new release from legendary experimental rock band Swans. The new album features guest appearances from St. Vincent as well as members of The Paper Chase and Amanda Palmer’s Grand Theft Orchestra.

Saturday, May 24: We’ll hear selections from Surfing With The Alien, 1987 album from guitarist Joe Satriani. It is the New York-born guitarist’s most successful albums and one of the few instrumental rock albums to land in the Top 40 of Billboard’s album charts. The album single-handedly revitalized interest in guitar instrumental music and features “Always With Me, Always With You,” a song that has been nominated for a Grammy Award on three separate occasions. Plus music from Mystery Girl, the 1989 release from Roy Orbison. Orbison, who’d experienced a career renaissance in the late 1980s thanks to his association with the supergroup Traveling Wilburys (featuring Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne), died before Mystery Girl could be completed. Upon its release in early 1989, the record, which features contributions from Petty, Lynne, U2’s Bono, and others, became a major hit, seeing Orbison land five albums on Billboard’s album charts after his death, a distinction previously held only by Jim Croce and Elvis Presley.

Monday, May 26: UK’s psychedelic rock quartet Syd Arthur offer a strikingly fresh take on 21st century psychedelic music with their exceptional musicianship, elemental songcraft, and an unabashed spirit of adventure. Nourished by a steady diet of jazz and funk, folk and world music, Sound Mirror explores the myriad possibilities of improvisation as Syd Arthur impels themselves and their one-of-a-kind vision. Sound Mirror echoes Syd Arthur's deep connection to their home turf, with the album title referencing the massive concrete structures placed around coastal England to detect incoming enemy aircraft in the pre-World War II era. We’ll hear from that recording on tonight’s show as well as music from Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.