Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey

On January 27, a New Orleans group called Tank And The Bangas uploaded a video to YouTube. It was a simple, one-shot clip of the R&B, spoken-word and hip-hop group performing their song "Quick": a danceable, NOLA revenge-fantasy of sorts.

Another grueling and glorious SXSW has finally come to a close. Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson, the last men on the All Songs Considered island, gathered at 2 a.m. to recap the sets they loved on the festival's closing day. On Stephen's recommendation (he's written about her before), Bob saw Los Angeles singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers in the Central Presbyterian Church.

Late yesterday evening, Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Katie Presley and Stephen Thompson wandered the streets of Austin recapping a day of music. For everyone, it was a day of political music that still made space for joy. Katie saw mostly rap yesterday, and she was especially struck by Moor Mother, whose fiery set had also inspired an excellent performance from New York-based rapper SAMMUS.

Amid truck horns and the distant sounds of Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It," the All Songs Considered team gathered outside of Stubb's BBQ to recount a day overflowing with new musical discoveries and old favorites. On Wednesday night, NPR Music hosted its annual showcase at Stubb's. That event at that place has become as ritual as tacos and crowded streets for this crowd, but the show still astonished them. Stephen Thompson fell for Sylvan Esso's new songs.

It was raining in New York on Nov. 9, 2016, and New Yorkers, tired as the rest of the country from a late night after a long election season, walked about in a fog of their own. The sky was still overcast when we met Angel Olsen at the Fordham University Church, an 1845 New York City landmark whose carillon is said to have inspired Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Bells." There, wearing a green raincoat and accompanying herself on electric guitar, she sang "Give It Up," from her excellent 2016 release My Woman.

In August 2016, Swedish singer-songwriter Daniel Norgren made his first U.S. appearance. His music, however, is indigenous to this soil: His rock-steady ragtime piano playing has a chooglin' ease, and his voice would be right at home echoing off the walls of Levon Helm's barn.

The four women of Warpaint may hail from Los Angeles, but their sound has always conveyed the windswept heft of a rainy Seattle scene. Their hypnotic grooves, ethereal harmonies and massive drums recall bits and pieces of the grunge, alt-rock and shoegaze scenes that mark the region. In a set recorded live in Washington, D.C., that spanned three records — from 2010's The Fool to this year's Heads Up — the band showcased the full power of its moody, grooving sound.

Eyes On The Lines is a striking title for Steve Gunn's latest record. A trucker phrase, it captures the chooglin', highway hypnosis of the songwriter's sound. But to the untrained ear, it might suggest purposefulness or direction. This is not Gunn's artistic project. As he sings in "Night Wander," "He likes to wander / Lose direction and go back home." Even if you know where home is, there's no clean route you follow to get there. The well-defined path is a myth.

The East River Ferry is one of the more whimsical ways for New Yorkers to commute, but it retains its claim to practicality with one key characteristic: It is a very fast boat. So it was that Local Natives came hurtling toward our crew up the river one overcast evening this summer, shouting three-part harmonies over roaring engines for a surprised clutch of fans. When the ferry docked, three of the band's members hurried over to our pier off WNYC Transmitter Park to play this Field Recording.

A day after performing "Hotter Than Hell" on The Tonight Show, rising pop star Dua Lipa performed another one of her songs, "Thinking Bout You," for a much smaller audience: our Noteworthy video crew. Enjoy this extra from our Noteworthy documentary on Dua Lipa and be sure to watch the entire documentary here.

The Columbus Theatre has sat in vaudevillian splendor atop Federal Hill in Providence, R.I., since 1926. It's a place invested with peculiar meaning. Off the intersection of America Street and Broadway by the Atlantic ocean blue, the Columbus supposedly has 1,492 seats. Once a movie theater, then a smut house, the theater has recently found new life through another national pastime, indie folk.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.


Nashville instrumental guitarist William Tyler never has to nail down the meaning behind the songs on his new record, because a word never crosses them. But his freedom from explicit meaning is a gift for listeners, as well. These songs stretch out past the limits of most lyrics and approach a rare sense of mystery.

When All Songs Considered's Bob Boilen heard Car Seat Headrest's new album Teens of Denial, he immediately dubbed it "what is likely to be my No. 1 album of 2016." Twenty-three-year-old bandleader Will Toledo has brought his project from DIY Bandcamp releases onto the big stage. The group performed live at Black Cat in Washington, D.C., on Monday, May 23.

If Explosions In The Sky's records are watershed moments for its fans, then the band's live shows are a Biblical flood. The group recently released its sixth studio album, The Wilderness. On Thursday, Explosions In The Sky brought its epic, searching sound to a sold-out show at Washington, D.C.'s famed 9:30 Club.

Johnny Cash knew well how to hold on to the songs and people he loved.

"I don't really know how this song goes yet," Miya Folick said of her song "Anyway." "Nobody's heard it." With a heavy orange light reflected off the creek behind her, Folick was silhouetted as she sang her ramshackle love song with characteristic grace.

Anderson .Paak, drenched in sweat at the end of his set, reached into his catalogue and pulled out "Suede." He released the song on an EP with producer Knxwledge as the duo NxWorries in early 2015. The beat grinds at the back of the pocket as .Paak — "an old soul, twice removed" — flows smooth as the song's title across the top. "That's my time, ladies and gentlemen," he says as the song winds down, as if his days in the limelight aren't just getting started.

Set List

"I'm not concerned by what the latest do," Anderson .Paak sings towards the end of "The Bird." "I choose to follow what the greatest do." It's a line that isn't on the recorded song, but it pins down what makes .Paak so unique. Since his appearance on Dr. Dre's 2015 release, Compton, he's been an emergent force in popular music. He's a magpie across the timeline of greatness, picking the bits that suit his voice with little heed to current trends.

Before his eighth song at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Anderson .Paak remembered where he was in years prior. "We came here a couple times and we've actually drove a couple times. And we ran out of gas. And we slept on floors, and whatnot," he said. "A couple years ago, nobody gave a f--- about us, and this year we're getting to play in front of great big crowds ... I feel really blessed to be here in front of you guys at this historic event." He then proceeded to demonstrate exactly why things have changed for him and his band.

"You're all sexy," Anderson .Paak assures the audience, "so don't be afraid to groove." He and The Free Nationals certainly aren't. Halfway through "Miss Right," .Paak once again takes the drums for a lengthy instrumental breakdown. For minutes — from guitar solo to drum solo and back again — the group loses themselves in the groove without once losing their way.

Set List

"Come Down" is a straight banger, and Anderson .Paak knows how to flaunt it. He leaps off the stage and presses up against the front of the packed crowd, leaning over as they reach toward him. Hyping over a bassline that finds its groove somewhere between P-Funk and G-Funk, .Paak turns tight circles on the stage while a chorus of voices chant "You might not ever come down."

Set List

"Am I Wrong" is a tour-de-force. In four-and-a-half minutes, it scans across Anderson .Paak's capacious set of influences: Club music, disco and West Coast rap meld into an unstoppable groove. The performance emphasizes the ingenious flexibility of The Free National's stage set. Callum Conner can call to mind any genre he likes behind his laptop, while bassist Kelsey Gonzalez and guitarist Jose Rios keep the soul influence front-and-center. At the end of "Am I Wrong," Rios uses octaves and funk voicings to push the song into disco territory.

On the Motown-tinged "Put Me Thru," Anderson .Paak does double-duty on the drums and vocals. The song gives ample opportunity for his band, The Free Nationals, to shine: Guitarist Jose Rios alternates between punchy chords and tasteful shredding, while bassist Kelsey Gonzalez plays gatekeeper to the song's ebb-and-flow groove.

Set List

When Anderson .Paak leaps behind the drums midway through "The Season/Carry Me," he doesn't miss a beat. Instead, his vocals lock in and it becomes clear that everything he does — from drumming, to dancing, to rapping, to capitalizing on his buzz — is meticulously on beat. His band is right there with him; they nail the first single off Malibu, turning around the song during the transition and then setting it straight again for the pulse-pounding finish.

Set List

On the second song of his SXSW set, Anderson .Paak ran through "The Waters." It's one of the more traditional hip-hop songs on Malibu, and it showcases .Paak's confident flow.

Set List

It was fitting that Anderson .Paak started his SXSW set by singing an older song from backstage. When "Green Light" was released last year on an EP by collaborator Jonwayne, .Paak's gripping voice had yet to take center stage and Malibu — the LP that established him as one of the most buzzworthy acts of this festival — was months away from release. Without his bassist and guitarist, .Paak filled the whole stage with Power Rangers references, audience call-outs and effortless dance moves.

Set List

  • "Green Light"

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