Jacob Ganz

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We're going to turn now to the week in music news with NPR's Jacob Ganz. Hey there, Jacob.

JACOB GANZ, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

In 2014, when the band Hundred Waters programmed the first installment of its FORM festival in the eco-friendly desert village known as Arcosanti, it was an entirely DIY affair.

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Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen to a sampler of the five discs in this release with Spotify or the full five albums with the Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The 59th Grammy Awards were last night, and the show raised a few questions for us. Here to talk about the biggest night in music is NPR Music senior editor Jacob Ganz. Welcome.

JACOB GANZ, BYLINE: Thanks, Kelly.

There's no explicit narrative threading together Brandy Clark's second album, Big Day In A Small Town. Instead, the 11 interconnected songs map a small collection of streets, landmarks, loves, betrayals and heartbreaks that cohere into a place as particular and as universal as Winesburg or Grover's Corners.

Over the last week, Barack and Michelle Obama have been spending plenty of time mixing it up in the pop culture and music sphere. Last week, the President spoke at SXSW Interactive, giving a keynote that touched on the uses of technology in government, from Apple's conflict with the Dept.

As a songwriter in Nashville, Chris Stapleton has written hits for Kenny Chesney, George Strait and Darius Rucker.

Over the last decade, Battles has firmly established an ethos (sweaty, impossible-sounding music constructed out of live instrumentation and loops) and a signature sound (broken-robot rock). So it's kind of surprising to realize that the musicians — once a quartet, now a trio — have only three albums, none following the same formula. Their 2007 debut, Mirrored, won fans for its hyperactive, head-nodding momentum.

"It's all love songs this time," says Mac DeMarco when we connect over Skype (cell reception at his place in Far Rockaway, Queens, is spotty) to talk about Another One, his latest mini-album. Make that love songs with little problems: Each of the songs on this charming, scruffy collection takes on love that's just out of reach, whether it's doomed from the start or just run its course. "It's just kind of like every angle of how somebody might feel if they're having strange feelings in their chest," DeMarco says.

The Internet is a strange and wonderful place.

Say you're an up-and-coming singer-songwriter and you're looking for an audience. You've got an active presence on social media, a deal with a major label and a proven sound that, while a little dated, probably would have sold reasonably well if it had come out around the peak of the late-'90s/early-'00s bubblegum pop era.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Apple has announced the launch of Apple Music, an app that adds a subscription streaming service to iTunes, the largest music retailer in the world.

For our +1 mini-podcast this week, Bob is joined in the studio by NPR Music's Jacob Ganz to talk about how we connect to songs we love in the age of streaming. The conversation highlights what we'll miss most about physical forms of music and what we hope the future takes into account.

There was a moment in the mid-2000s when it seemed like we might be collecting songs, one-by-one, into eternity. Internet connections were getting faster, hard drives stored more data in tinier spaces, songs were easier than ever to find and available for little or no money. Every year, the new version of Apple's iPod, first introduced in 2001 with a now-adorable 5GB of storage space, held thousands upon thousands more songs.

Sharon Van Etten's 2014 album, Are We There, was one of the more focused, devastating recordings of the year, an unflinching set of songs that trace the contours of a doomed relationship. The album doesn't spare either party — Van Etten is as critical of her own decisions as she is damning of her lover's minor cruelties and missteps. It's an uncut catharsis machine, and listening to it can wring you out.

There's something mysterious, almost opaque, about the songs of Lower Dens. The ones on the band's new album, Escape From Evil, are lush but distant, beautiful things held just out of reach.

"I've been coming here for so long," Jack Antonoff says of SXSW while waiting for a breakfast table at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin. "The first time I came, in 2003, I had one show at a sushi place that like nine friends came to. Which I thought was the coolest thing because I was like, 'I'm at South by Southwest!'"

"This song's for anybody who couldn't make into this show, if there is anybody," Courtney Barnett says before blasting through "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party," from her just-over-the-horizon debut album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. The modesty is cute but unnecessary; Barnett has the attention of many crowds at SXSW 2015, and a live show that can hold it.

Last year, as an April Fools' Day joke, the label Bloodshot Records announced that it had brought together 21 affiliated artists for a roughed-up roots take on the music of Prince, to be pressed as a "purple swirl colored double vinyl LP" set.

Sam Smith, the British singer whose debut album, In the Lonely Hour, was one of only two albums released in 2014 to go platinum, won four Grammys, including Record and Song of the Year, as well as Best New Artist.

Traditionally, the folks at NPR Music make a list of their 100 favorite songs of the year. But this time, they expanded the list to 302 songs and made a really long mix tape.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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