Latin Al­ter­na­tive’s An­glo Ad­vo­cate

The Washington Post Sunday - - Arts - By J. Free­dom du Lac

HSANTA MON­ICA, Calif. ere’s your melt­ing pot. Right here, in a base­ment stu­dio on the Santa Mon­ica Col­lege cam­pus, where we find ra­dio tastemaker Nic Harcourt hov­er­ing over a con­trol panel. It’s shortly be­fore 11 on Fri­day morn­ing, and Harcourt — host of KCRW-FM’s flag­ship show, “Morn­ing Be­comes Eclec­tic” — is in­tro­duc­ing yet an­other wide-rang­ing mix of songs to an ad­ven­tur­ous pub­lic-ra­dio au­di­ence. There’s a new track by the Liver­pool indie-rock band Clinic and an old one by psy­che­delic soul man Shug­gie Otis, along with tunes of vary­ing age from Mex­i­can gui­tar duo Ro­drigo y Gabriela, Amer­i­cana artist Lucinda Wil­liams and a Dan­ish garage-rock group by the name of the Blue Van.

And this, Harcourt says: “A remix of ‘Yo No Se’ by Los Ami­gos In­vis­i­bles.” The Venezue­lan dance-mu­sic group is com­ing to town for a show next week, Harcourt says, and KCRW is giv­ing away tick­ets. And then, speak­ing, as he al­ways does, in dul­cet tones, with a dis­tinc­tive Bri­tish-by-way-of-Aus­tralia ac­cent (most no­tice­able when he says “artist,” which be­comes “AH­HHH- tist”), he re­peats the band’s name: “Los Ami­gos In­vis­i­bles.” The in­vis­i­ble friends. As if. Harcourt’s mu­si­cian friends and ac­quain­tances and in­ter­ests — all those artists he cham­pi­ons on his pro­gram and as KCRW’s mu­sic di­rec­tor — tend to get no­ticed. Work­ing in a com­pany town, for a sta­tion whose lis­ten­ers have his­tor­i­cally in­cluded record ex­ec­u­tives and Hol­ly­wood mu­sic su­per­vi­sors and late-night TV book­ers, he serves as some­thing of an early-warn­ing sys­tem. Since he ar­rived at KCRW in 1998, Harcourt has helped break Coldplay and No­rah Jones, both of whom be­came multi-plat­inum in­ter­na­tional stars. He’s also been an im­por­tant, early sup­porter of count­less other acts that have achieved at least a mod­est level of suc­cess: Dido, Damien Rice, Sigur Ros, the Shins. He’s Amer­ica’s an­swer to the leg­en­dar­ily in­flu­en­tial BBC Ra­dio 1 pre­sen­ter John Peel. In a Sun­day mag­a­zine profile two years ago, the New York Times dubbed Harcourt “The Star­maker of the Semipop­u­lar.” Lately, the list of Harcourt-ap­proved semi-stars has grown to in­clude some of the lead­ing play­ers from the Latin al­ter­na­tive genre. Tune in to “Morn­ing Be­comes Eclec­tic,” which is broad­cast week-


Of the lit­tle-known-but-wor­thy songs he brings to a wider world, Harcourt says: “I just have to like it; it has to touch me in some way.”

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