Music

Music

The Courtneys recently became the first non-New Zealand act to sign to Flying Nun Records, a not-insignificant feat considering the 35-year-old label's incredible history. The Vancouver trio shares the ramshackle pop aesthetic of Flying Nun alums such as The Clean and The Chills, and nails simultaneously glum and bubblegum hooks with grinning purpose. The Courtneys II is the band's first album in four years, and it more than lives up to the reputation of its new label home.

The three women in The Wild Reeds love a good crescendo. They have three powerful upfront voices in Sharon Silva, Kinsey Lee and Mackenzie Howe and they all write songs to honor and embrace their soaring voices. Since their Tiny Desk Concert a little more than a year ago, over a half of a million people have seen it on our YouTube Channel.

The way Melina Duterte tells the story, it was a tipsy, spur-of-the-moment decision over Thanksgiving in 2015.

Shirley Collins' recent World Cafe session is a perfect jumping-off point for exploring the world of British folk and folk-rock in the 1960s. Bands like Fairport Convention and artists like Richard Thompson got their start as "British Byrds" with electrified folk tunes.

There's a line on Fred Thomas' last album, 2015's All Are Saved, that perfectly captures his stream-of-consciousness style: "If you see me and I seem too entertaining / I'm not singing, I'm just talking to you." Thomas delivers his songs in a conversational cadence, jamming as much as he can into each line. His sneakily catchy tunes aren't effortless, but it feels as if he's chatting with you on the street — or even talking to himself in the mirror — rather than singing to you from a stage.

This year's Winter Jazzfest, which took place last week in New York City, presented an explicit theme of "Celebrating Social Justice." Conceptually and musically, Winter Jazzfest pushes the genre forward; after taking in as many of the 130-plus acts across many stages in Manhattan and Brooklyn as they could, our team reported back with some of the festival's highlights.


"Stories like forests are subject to seasons."

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Spend some time in Boston's indie rock circles, and the name Pile is bound to come up in awestruck tones. The acerbic, noisy rock band's four previous albums and ceaseless DIY tours have earned it local hero status among the leagues of die-hard fans who shout along to frontman Rick Maguire's every word. And Pile is well-known as an idol for its peers, too – just ask defunct Boston cult favorites Krill, who named an EP in the band's honor.

First Watch: Fawn, 'Good Earth'

Jan 11, 2017

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Recently, NPR brought you the story of one of 2016's most successful musicians: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Last year, the Universal Music Group released a 200-CD box set of the composer's works. Multiply that by the 6,000-odd sets sold worldwide as of early December, and you had 1.25 million CDs. And that, we said, had given Mozart a hit release.

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When Agalloch broke up last May, it came down to a classic struggle over direction between the band's founder and the musicians who'd made it such a creative and somewhat mystical force in black metal. Aesop Dekker, Don Anderson and Jason Walton have since formed Khôrada with Giant Squid's Aaron Gregory, and are currently working on their debut album. Pillorian, the new band from guitarist and vocalist John Haughm, features members of Maestrus and Uada, and has just released its first single.

Every January, we look forward to globalFEST, a one-night showcase of newly emerging and well-established artists from around the world. This annual event, held at Manhattan's Webster Hall, is where industry insiders and cool-hunters alike ferret out the next big global music acts on the touring circuit — the buzzed-about bands playing on this single winter night form the vanguard of what you're going to be watching at festivals and at venues across the country over the next couple of years.

"Restless" is one of 2017's first great songs: a dreamy, sweetly throbbing electro-pop jam with a warmly soaring, heartfelt vocal at its core. The latest single from darkDARK, a production duo based in LA and Austin, the track features some of the best ingredients around, from charming analog synths to the relentlessly pleasing voice of Haley Bonar.

The latest single from Bonobo's upcoming album, Migration, is a brooding, four-on-the-floor dance thumper featuring vocals from Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker). At first, "No Reason" seems to drift into focus from another dimension, glittering with Murphy's delicate falsetto over gently arpeggiated synths. But the mood makes a subtle shift toward something darker and edgier once the beat kicks in.

NPR's YouTube channel, Skunk Bear, answers your science questions. This week, we picked one in honor of David Bowie.

The world music festival globalFEST, held every year in New York, is regarded as a snapshot of rising acts in international music. It's also quite a scene: Music industry professionals make up a large portion of the crowd, and they're all there to scope out which acts from Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and beyond might just be hot in the next couple of years.

World Cafe Next: New Year, New Music

Jan 9, 2017

Now that the new year's well under way, World Cafe hosts David Dye and Talia Schlanger share their most anticipated upcoming releases of 2017. Their picks include new music from Sampha, who served as the secret sauce on some of the best R&B tracks of the past year, and from instrumental geniuses Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau, who've melded minds for a double album that comes out later this month.

When Tyler Randall and Rob Keenan of Dawg Yawp were discovered by their manager and producer, fellow Cincinnati musician Rob Fetters, they were performing seated on the floor at their local creperie.

Looking to the future is the right way to start off a new year. In the video for the electronica-tinged Latin American folk song "Futuro," Café Tacvba looks beyond binaries to see time and the universe through an optimistic lens.

The Joshua Tree, the album that made U2 global megastars, turns 30 this year. To mark the milestone, the band will perform the seminal album in its entirety at several live performances scheduled throughout the year, including a headlining spot at Bonnaroo in June.

As the lead singer and songwriter in The Hold Steady — and, before that, Lifter PullerCraig Finn filled the air with a frenetic flood of words, singing vividly about antiheroes who seek escape and redemption in the form of drugs, religion, rock 'n' roll and many pursuits in between.

There is a sense of pensive melancholy as the wail of Keyon Harrold's trumpet pushes its way past the Hitchcock-esque piano that sets the tone for "Stay This Way." With Philadelphia singer Bilal and Southern rapper Big K.R.I.T. contributing vocals, the song asks if euphoric moments are meant to last, or if they're naturally fleeting.

Near the beginning of the track, Bilal sings almost waveringly:

David Bowie had long wanted to make a record with a jazz band, and on Jan. 8 of last year, he realized his dream with the release of Blackstar. Two days later, he was gone. Donny McCaslin's band helped him make that record, and now, a year later, we pay tribute to Bowie and Blackstar by bringing McCaslin's band to the Tiny Desk.

Lukas Forchhammer, frontman of the Danish pop band Lukas Graham, grew up in a neighborhood called Christiania in the capital city of Copenhagen. It's not your typical urban environment: It used to be an army base, but it was abandoned in 1970, and squatters turned it into an autonomous settlement in 1971. To this day, it operates very differently from the city that surrounds it.

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