Tom Moon

Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die (Workman Publishing), and a contributor to other books including The Final Four of Everything.

A saxophonist whose professional credits include stints on cruise ships and several tours with the Maynard Ferguson orchestra, Moon served as music critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1988 until 2004. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, Blender, Spin, Vibe, Harp and other publications, and has won several awards, including two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Music Journalism awards. He has contributed to NPR's All Things Considered since 1996.

"You know I love you, but you're mean."

Here's one of those eternal refrains. Nobody owns it; it's been in the air since forever. Maybe it was initially uttered by a songwriter toiling deep in the Brill Building, or first sung by a girl group.

As it comes back around, an echo distorts the qualities of a sound just enough to encourage you to hear it differently. Maybe it's just distance changing the plain into the transcendent, but there's a trace of magic in an echo. It's like Narcissus' reflection, only better — inexact, an impression with new fuzz and new dimension to it. No choice but to appreciate it differently.

To music obsessives of a certain age, the current generation of listeners sometimes appears as lightweight grazers at the Internet smorgasbord who seem unwilling (possibly unable) to focus attention at depth on a single piece of music. The summary dismissal: The kids today, they can't handle all of what somebody like a Frank Zappa (or a band like King Crimson) throws at them.

Two minutes and 11 seconds into "They Dream," from Bear in Heaven's fourth album Time Is Over One Day Old, the music takes a strange turn. The band has been shuttling along at a riveting adventure-movie clip, with Jon Philpot's reverb-swaddled voice functioning as the primary distinct element in a sleek blur. Then, abruptly, the tempo stops. A wash of Space Mountain synths dissolves slowly — the set has been struck. When Philpot begins to sing again, he's the sole occupant of the spotlight.

Melissa Aldana, who became the first female instrumentalist and first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition last fall, is not the average talent-contest winner.

"The madness runs in cycles," Tom Clarke sings forebodingly in "The Glow," one of the highlights of the U.K. duo Cloud Boat's second album. The music rushes along, propelled by the high-efficiency tick of a drum loop, but there's no trace of madness or even anxiety in his voice. Instead, Clarke radiates priestly calm as he gives listeners a set of vague, odd instructions: "Take some of these candles," he intones darkly, as if calling from some Middle Ages theater. "The glow will guide you."

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MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: A jazz singer for the hip-hop generation - that's how Jose James was described after he released his first album last year for the famed Blue Note record label. James has now released a follow-up. It's called, While You Were Sleeping. And reviewer Tom Moon says the 35-year-old shows phenomenal growth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING")

JOSE JAMES: (Singing) Shadows long upon my face. Shadows long upon my face.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Catch up with Jose James now because he's a rarity - an artist evolving at warp speed.

You probably haven't been waiting around for some singer-songwriter to update Harry Chapin's inescapable 1974 hit "Cat's In the Cradle," the slightly cloying tune about the changing dynamic between parents and children over time. And if you did happen to be waiting for such a song, you probably wouldn't put Conor Oberst, noted sensitive indie-rock soul, in charge of writing it.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Damon Albarn's first solo album is out today. Albarn was the frontman of the acclaimed British rock band Blur in the '90s, and since 2000, he has spearheaded the multi-platinum group Gorillaz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WINDMILL")

GORILLAZ: (Singing) Take it all it on your stride. And it's sticking, falling down. Love forever...

SIEGEL: Reviewer Tom Moon says Albarn's new work seeks out the flipside to the Gorillaz' manic intensity. The new album "Everyday Robots."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYDAY ROBOTS")

The creators of pop music are usually able to break down the fundamentals of their craft — that search for the clever rhyme, the killer beat, the singable chorus. They are less articulate, understandably, about the other quest, the one that powers those everyday searches: the pursuit of ecstasy in sound. There's something almost paranormal about that part of the creative process, yet we know those moments, instantly, when we hear them.

Every language has words and phrases that elude easy translation. In Portuguese, "saudade" (pronounced by Brazilians as "sow-DAH-djee") is one of those. Some musicians equate it with the blues; it's generally associated with melancholy and longing. In its most recent bio, the Washington, D.C., electronic duo Thievery Corporation defines it as "a longing for something or someone that is lost."

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

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The thumbnail summary already circulating for Beck's 12th full-length album goes like this: It's a sequel to Sea Change, the brooding 2002 record frequently mentioned as his masterpiece.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Finally this hour, a new perspective on the enduring influence of The Beatles. It comes from another four-piece British rock band called Temples. The group is from the town of Kettering. Critics have been raving about them since last summer. Their debut album, "Sun Structures," has now been released here in the U.S. And hearing it might whisk you away to 1960s Liverpool. Here's our critic, Tom Moon.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: If nothing else, Temples has impeccable timing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHELTER SONG")

It makes cosmic sense that Sun Structures, the debut album from Temples, arrives at the height of the current nostalgia wave associated with the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania and the British Invasion.

Guitarist Pat Metheny is revered for his bright, accessible modern jazz. Saxophonist and composer John Zorn is associated with much knottier, often dissonant experiments.

When singer Thom Yorke stepped away from his influential rock band Radiohead in 2006 to release The Eraser, many thought the quirky electronic project was a one-off. Not so, it turns out. Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich called on rock-star friends for a tour, and since then, the group has convened occasionally in the studio.

An expanded version of Fleetwood Mac's 1977 album Rumours comes out this week, to mark the 35th anniversary of one of the top-selling albums of the '70s. The deluxe set includes demos, outtakes from the recording sessions, live recordings and a documentary DVD, along with a vinyl pressing of the original album.

After a slew of multidisc sets devoted to key points in the career of Miles Davis, you'd think Columbia Records would have unearthed every speck of consequential music by now. But not quite.

This week, Columbia brings out Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 — a three-CD, one-DVD set devoted to the jazz maverick's "lost" quintet, his touring band from 1969.

The spread of formal jazz education has created a new breed of global musician: one who uses improvisation, and other devices associated with jazz, to transform folk and traditional music. The Albanian singer Elina Duni is part of this rising class. Her latest release, Matane Malit ("Beyond the Mountain"), offers a transfixing balance of old and new.

It's gotten to that point in the dog days of August where the air is stale and nothing seems to be moving. But sometimes all it takes to snap me out of a late-summer heat coma is the sound of a new and electrifying voice — like that of Lianne La Havas.

When the pianist Esbjorn Svensson died in a scuba accident in 2008, many fans of his group, the Swedish trio known as E.S.T., wondered if there might be some unreleased experiments lurking in a studio vault. There were. Just out is a disc called 301, which was recorded in 2008 during sessions for the group's final album.

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