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July 17, 2020

On Friday, the band formerly known as The Dixie Chicks — now simply The Chicks — released their first studio album in 14 years, Gaslighter. Critics are describing the album as "stunning" and "slick," with the Los Angeles Times deeming it the band's "most intensely personal effort yet, with song after song apparently inspired by [Natalie] Maines' 2019 divorce."

The album deals with heartbreak and resilience, but also offers startling honesty about Maines' separation from actor Adrian Pasdar, including a song about "the girl who left her tights on my boat." "I was like . . . 'Are we actually allowed to put that in the song?'" Justin Tranter, who collaborated on lyrics, explained to The Washington Post before realizing "I knew the answer to my own question." Listen below. Jeva Lange

April 17, 2020

Fiona Apple's first new album in eight years, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, earned rave reviews upon its release Friday, with Pitchfork giving it a perfect score. "Fiona Apple's fifth record is unbound, a symphony of the everyday, an unyielding masterpiece," the website's critic wrote. "No music has ever sounded quite like it."

Pitchfork last gave a new album a flawless 10 out of 10 score a decade ago, to Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In conjunction with the release on Friday, Apple, 42, told Vulture "making this album has really helped me get through stuff, and I don't know if I can say that about my other albums."

Listen on Spotify here, or below. Jeva Lange

June 7, 2019

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered his court on Thursday to release the audio of a voicemail message President Trump's personal lawyer John Dowd left for a lawyer for Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Nov. 22, 2017, after releasing the call's transcript last week.

At the time of the call, Flynn had already met with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, and Dowd, who resigned last year, asked Flynn lawyer Robert Kelner to give Trump's legal team a "heads up" if Flynn was going to cooperate with Mueller or share information that "implicates" Trump, citing possible "national security issues" and "protecting all our interests." Dowd also reminded Flynn of Trump's enduring "feelings" for him. Mueller cited Dowd's call in his report, using it to underpin one of at least 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice.

Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller, and he is currently awaiting sentencing. On Thursday, however, his lawyers informed Sullivan that Flynn had fired them and retained new counsel. "Flynn's decision to change attorneys at this late stage is unusual and has triggered speculation in legal and political circles that he's considering backing out of his plea deal with the government in a play for a presidential pardon," Politico reports, adding that there could be other reasons, like money.

Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor and special counsel alumnus, called Flynn's move "a very foolish thing to do." The lawyers he just fired "had positioned him to get probation for a single count of false statements," Zeidenberg told Politico. "If he tries to withdraw his plea, he is going to get pummeled. Unless he has gotten some signals that he may get pardoned — always a possibility — this makes no sense." CNN has more analysis of the day's Flynn news below. Peter Weber

June 29, 2018

What began as a prank call to the White House on comedian John Melendez's Stuttering John Podcast quickly developed into a distressing lesson on just how easy it is to fool the Trump administration. By the end of the podcast, the jokesters — who had been impersonating a made-up British assistant named "Sean Moore" and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D) — actually received a phone call back from the president while he was on Air Force One. While it seems almost too good to be true, Politico's Annie Karni confirms that the White House "has been scrambling this morning to figure out how this happened."

Melendez is best known for his work on The Howard Stern Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and he has met with President Trump as a result a number of times over the years. After failing to get through to Trump on Wednesday while recording his podcast, Melendez called the White House switchboard back claiming instead to be Menendez's British assistant. The operator told "the senator's assistant" that Trump was busy giving a speech, so Melendez gave him his cell phone number for a return call. While the Southern California area code raised suspicions, Melendez explained it away by claiming he was on vacation — and was subsequently cleared by a number of White House aides, including senior adviser Jared Kushner.

"This is how easy it is to infiltrate the administration," Melendez boasts before playing the audio. "Probably any administration. And if you think the KGB — I mean, this could be Russia doing it."

Listen to the whole saga — including Trump's conversation with a man he believes is Menendez, the New Jersey senator — below. Jeva Lange

November 28, 2017

The 60th Grammy Awards announced their nominations Tuesday morning, with rapper Jay-Z leading the pack with eight, Variety reports. Kendrick Lamar followed with seven nominations, Bruno Mars with six, and Childish Gambino (the musical stage name for actor Donald Glover), SZA, Khalid, and No I.D. coming in with five each.

The hit "Despacito," by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, was nominated for song of the year, and could become the first Spanish-language track to ever win that award, the Los Angeles Times reports. Taylor Swift's new album, Reputation, which sold over 1.2 million copies in its first week, did not make the cutoff to qualify for this year's awards; however, her single "Look What You Made Me Do" did, but was not nominated.

The awards will air live on CBS on Jan. 28. Read the full list of nominees at Variety. Jeva Lange

August 3, 2017

Last week, then-White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci made a fateful phone call to The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza. In the conversation, Scaramucci dropped multiple expletives (some of them creatively lewd), badgered Lizza to reveal his confidential sources, and ripped his White House colleagues.

While Lizza's recounting of the conversation is well worth a read, it's also, as one might imagine, worth a listen — and thankfully, The New Yorker Radio Hour has turned "The Scaramucci Call" into an episode. You can listen below (although if you want the uncensored version, you'll need to watch John Oliver). Jeva Lange

April 4, 2017

Former President Barack Obama's speechwriters Jon Favreau and Jon Lovett appealed to Fox News hosts on their podcast "Pod Save America" on Monday, following new reports about sexual harassment cases that were covered up by the cable news giant. The topic arose as the hosts recapped reports that Fox News and Bill O'Reilly paid around $13 million to settle sexual harassment and verbal abuse accusations made by five women since 2002.

"I am just so sick of, in the conversation about media organizations ... it's like, 'And then there's organizations on the right like Fox News that just have a conservative viewpoint and organizations on the left like The Huffington Post.' No. Fox is nothing like that. Fox is a garbage organization that protects sexual harassers," Favreau said.

He added: "There are some legitimate reporters in there. A few left. A few."

Lovett jumped in, addressing Chris Wallace and Shep Smith directly. "You guys gotta look in the mirror," he said, "because you're a part of something f---ing evil. And you can't pretend it's not. It is evil. There is evil in the world." Lovett sighed: "It's so awful, man."

Listen to the entire podcast below, with the discussion of Fox News beginning at minute 29. Jeva Lange

March 28, 2017

The creators of the popular true crime podcast Serial released the highly-anticipated seven-episode audio documentary S-Town on Tuesday. Hosted by This American Life's Brian Reed and Serial's Sarah Koenig, the podcast follows Reed as he befriends a man who claims to have information about an unsolved murder in a rural Alabama town. "While [S-Town] boasts the seamless audio production of Serial, it's tonally a very different beast — equal parts Twin Peaks-style quirky-small-town portraiture and the unsettling Southern Gothic of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood," writes Quartz.

As the podcast's executive producer, Julie Snyder, told Wired: "With Serial, we were experimenting with using television as a model. With this one, we looked to novels. In a novel, you're entering into a hermetic world. That's what we were trying to do, that we hadn't yet done with a podcast: where you can enter their specific world, and you don't know really know what it's about or where it's going, but hopefully you're compelled to stay in it the whole time."

The podcast took three years to make and Vulture raves it is "unnaturally sophisticated." The entire series can be streamed here. Jeva Lange

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