Bob Boilen

This is not your regular music video – it's a six-minute, miniature epic inspired by "Pleader," the closing cut on alt-J's album Relaxer.

For Laura Burhenn, 2016 was a tough year and she wasn't alone. We lost David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince (and so many more beloved artists).

For a time, Marlon Williams and Aldous Harding, two of New Zealand's most talented singers and songwriters were a couple. Now the two have reunited in song for Marlon Williams' brand new 2018 album, Make Way For Love. This duet, "Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore," is the first time they've been officially co-credited on a tune.

ALA.NI's voice is as much a vibe as a conveyer of ideas, of words and thought. For me, it's evocative of love and heart. This video and the song ALA.NI sings illustrates my point. But I'll let ALA.NI tell more in the magnificent note she wrote to me. She has a lot to get out and is obviously passionate about it:

"The message that I wished to convey in the making of this video is...


"Take it where you can get it, cause lord knows we need as much of it right now in this mad, mad world.

Guest DJ: Weaves

Nov 1, 2017

On first hearing the Gracie And Rachel song "Only a Child," I was struck by the tension and the mystery, both musically and lyrically: "I'm moving my mouth but I don't say a word/My ears are open but nothing is heard/I'm only a child, only a child."

Here is one of the seminal underground records of the late 1960s: The band is Pearls Before Swine, and the album is called One Nation Underground.

This is the most powerful music video I've seen in ages. Inspired by the death of a child, in the midst of a huge refugee crisis, "In Harms Way" takes on a question that songwriter and singer Amanda Palmer says is absent from current political conversations: "Have we forgotten how to be generous?"

We have, nearly five years after the debut release of Woman, new music from Rhye and word of a new album, due next year on Loma Vista. (Given the recent tour announcement that has them hitting the road in February, it's probably safe to say that the album will come not too long after the new year.)

Gaelynn Lea is a violinist, a public speaker and an advocate for people with disabilities. She was born with brittle bone disease and that shapes the way she plays the violin, holding it upright, more like a cello than the traditional method under the chin.

Sego's music is frenetic, agitated and immediate. In a new video for the song, "Whatever Forever," the band speaks to the anesthetized frenzy of the-day-to-day.

The heart of "Capable" from The Wild Reeds is spelled out in these lyrics by Sharon Silva: "You're capable of so much more/Than these people give you credit for/And you just need to show it."

MGMT, the psych-pop duo behind one of the decade's best earworms, is back with its first new music in four years. "Little Dark Age" is the title track to their 2018 album, a pulsing, synthesized meditation on the age of anxiety over a world coming apart.

I think Randy Newman is a national treasure. If he was just a funny guy making music, I'd be OK with that, but his wit is sardonic, satirical and politically on point. Mixing politics and humor with music is usually about the punchline, and his punchlines even make the singer smile.

Randy Newman paints lasting portraits of places and people, all the while poking fun and highlighting injustice, stupidity, power and humanity and he's been doing it for half a century. Here are the opening lines to his recently released song "Putin":

Landlady's music is more than sonic exploration, it's an adventure. The Brooklyn-based band's songs are the initial creation of leader Adam Schatz, who observes the world with fresh, almost alien eyes. The songs can feel a bit drugged-out – a bit high and full of curiosity – but never overly intoxicated or out-of-touch.

Billy Bragg has been writing and singing songs for justice — and against injustice — for more than 30 years; thankfully he is never going to stop. Bragg's continued passion is clear in "Saffiyah Smiles," his new song of solidarity inspired by recent racial tensions in America and an incident that happened closer to Bragg's home in Birmingham, England, at an anti-immigrant demonstration this past spring.

A man in a black cape holds a sitar like a guitar all while singing a dreamy tale about wanting to be a dog. Well actually a "dawg."

Welcome the world of Dawg Yawp, the musical concoction of Rob Keenan and Tyler Randall, where drones and toy pianos are likely to collide with heavy metal electronics and a well-placed melody.

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

One look at (and listen to) the cross-dressing, Asian rock band SsingSsing and you would hardly think they're singing music inspired by traditional Korean folk. But SsingSsing isn't like any other band I've ever seen or heard.

The first time I saw the soulful singer Moses Sumney was in a church in Iceland. The Los Angeles-based singer was laying down loops with his guitar, and the sounds that day made and the songs that he sang had me eager to hear an entire album from this talented man.

Lookman Adekunle Salami, who writes and records as L.A. Salami, is a storyteller and a poet. His songs are deliberate meanderings on the mundane and the poignancy in everyday life. And in the way Bob Dylan took his guitar and harmonica to accompany his rarely repeating ramblings, L.A Salami embraces a similar aesthetic, albeit as a black Englishman instead of a white Minnesotan.