What makes a torch song a true showstopper? Great lines help, and Maren Morris' tearjerking ballad "Once" offers one right off the bat. "Darling, we were too gone to stay," she sings in an alto that's as blue as two hours after midnight. "Couldn't get through the night, so we had to call it a day." The melody descends, perfectly matching the resignation in Morris' lyric.

It's a big summer for conventions, the Olympics — and Barbra Streisand. She's on tour in nine cities across North America, and has a new album of duets called called Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway. Her collaborators include Anne Hathaway, Daisey Ridley, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jamie Foxx, Melissa McCarthy, Antonio Banderas, and a host of other film stars.

After making two solo albums, singer and guitarist Charlene Kaye hit a creative wall. She was stuck, mired in writer's block and self-doubt — until she went on the road as the frontwoman for the baroque-pop band San Fermin. Now, she's rediscovered her own voice on a new EP, Honey, released under the moniker KAYE.

Singer-songwriter Ana Egge is a collaborator at heart: She's worked with Ron Sexsmith, Steve Earle, The Stray Birds and many others throughout her rich career. Her latest partnership is with M.C.

The wait for a new Frank Ocean album is over — sort of. Late Thursday night, the reclusive singer unveiled Endless, a starkly minimal multimedia project that does indeed feature new music, but leaves many other questions unanswered.

When you stop to think about it, there really is no one like Barbra Streisand. There's Barbra the young Broadway legend, the movie star, the glass-ceiling-smashing movie director, the recording artist and now the venerated elder stateswoman of the showstopper.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Yeasayer On World Cafe

Aug 19, 2016

Musically, Yeasayer has never been able to stand still. Its 2007 debut, All Hour Cymbals, with its world-beat pulse and huge choruses, caused some listeners to peg the Brooklyn band as a bunch of flower children. Three years later, Yeasayer changed course with its synth-poppy second album, Odd Blood.

There's always an air of introspection hanging above self-titled albums produced by musicians well into their careers. It's especially prominent when producers who've spent their entire creative lives hiding behind monikers, suddenly jump out. The moment can't help but scream "personal statement." In the case of Alan Abrahams, the Cape Town, South Africa-born electronic producer who for the better part of two decades has been successfully floating upward in the European dance music scene, under the names Portable and Bodycode, this moment may be especially salient.

Eddie Palmieri: Tiny Desk Concert

Aug 19, 2016

Different Tiny Desk performers pop up in NPR Music's workspace just about every week, and frequently more often than that. While every artist is special, it's rare to have a true legend come through.

Eddie Palmieri is that once-in-a-lifetime musician, bandleader, composer and arranger. An icon for both modern and Latin jazz, he continues to break tradition and innovate within many musical styles, including salsa, fusion, Latin funk and more.

Thursday night, singer Frank Ocean released a long-awaited new work: Endless, available exclusively — at least for now — as a 45-minute film on Apple Music.

This is Ocean's first studio project since his Channel Orange was released in 2012, the musician's breakout year as a solo artist after his days as a member of the Odd Future collective and, prior to that, as a songwriter for artists like Justin Bieber, John Legend and Brandy.

Natalie Maines took one look at the wildly cheering fans in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena Wednesday night and knew just what to say. "I like what you're wearing," she coyly remarked. It felt as if the singer could see every Southwestern-print skirt, pair of fringey ankle boots and vintage "Cowboy Take Me Away" t-shirt in the packed arena.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats never fail to deliver a rousing, soulful performance. Rateliff and his band were in fine form — particularly in this take on their hit single "S.O.B." — when they stopped by our studio in the middle of summer-festival season.


  • "S.O.B."

Photo by Dustin Downing for KCRW.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Recalcitrant singer-songwriter Cass McCombs has never cared for The Man. The quiet iconoclast is about to release his eighth studio album, Mangy Love, and not once has he caved to the whims of labels, critics or fans. That's not to say his music is confrontational; in fact, his '70s AM vibe might go down too smoothly for some. But McCombs' dedication to craft and distaste for compromise is unwavering.

When Jerry Garcia died unexpectedly in August 1995, his Grateful Dead bandmate Bob Weir went right back out on the road to deal with the loss of his friend.

First Listen: The Album Leaf, 'Between Waves'

Aug 18, 2016

Jimmy LaVelle hasn't always been this quiet. Before launching the hushed solo ambient project The Album Leaf in 1999, the native San Diegan made chaotic noise in a handful of experimental hardcore bands, most notably Swing Kids, The Crimson Curse and The Locust. He turned toward more contemplative sounds with the post-rock group Tristeza, which he co-founded in 1997 (and left in 2003). But it's his solo effort that's brought LaVelle the most attention and acclaim.

The shiny, polished pop of today sometimes sounds effortless, as if it hatched fully realized from the keyboards of genius producers. But just because the technology is different doesn't mean the creative process is.

Noteworthy, a new video documentary series from NPR Music, spends a day with a musician to understand the real work that goes into the creative process: how they get ideas for melodies and lyrics, the places and people that inspire them.

This week, KSUT is featuring another artist performing at this year's Four Corners Folk Festival over Labor Day weekend.  Sierra Hull was first recognized as a virtuoso mandolin-player at age 11, astonishing audiences and fellow-musicians alike. Now a seasoned touring musician nearing her mid-20s, Hull has delivered her most inspired, accomplished, and mature recorded work to date; no small feat. 'Weighted Mind' is a landmark achievement, not just in Sierra Hull's career, but in the world of folk-pop, bluegrass, and acoustic music overall.

Dinosaur Jr. On World Cafe

Aug 17, 2016

Dinosaur Jr., formed in 1984 in Amherst, Mass., is well known for its influence in the noisy, guitar-heavy, DIY style that permeated college-radio airwaves in the late 1980s and 1990s. The group, which then included Lou Barlow on bass and Murph on drums, often served as a vehicle for frontman J Mascis' songwriting and guitar work.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Our childhood haunts us. In playgrounds, forests, bedrooms and on neighborhood streets, we try to understand a new world as beings in constant formation — full of wonder, full of fear. It's there we first make ourselves human and, in many ways, that nascent humanity scars like an old wound never stitched.

Bobby Hutcherson, a vibraphonist whose improvising and composition helped to define modernity for jazz as a whole, has died. He had long struggled with emphysema. He was 75.

As a mallet percussionist, he expanded the scope of what was possible on his instrument. And the sound he created was widely influential.

Jace Clayton circles the globe looking for new sounds, from home studios in Morocco to teen parties in Mexico. Performing as DJ /rupture, he incorporates them into his work — and in his travels, he's found that digital technology has profoundly changed how music is produced, even in the most unlikely places.

That's the subject of his new book, Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture. He joined NPR's Audie Cornish to talk about it; hear the radio version at the audio link, and read an edited version below.

Steve Gunn On World Cafe

Aug 16, 2016

The guitarist, singer and songwriter Steve Gunn has become increasingly well known for his dense, energetic playing. Even when he's not working on his own material, Gunn always seems to have another project going on; most notably, he was an early member of his friend Kurt Vile's band The Violators.

The fabulously flamboyant duo PWR BTTM takes a melancholy turn on its latest single. The sweetly sentimental sounding "New Hampshire" ponders the end of everything, from a love affair to the birds in the sky and the burning sun. But it shrugs it all off as an inevitable evolution of any life. "Don't be sad," sings guitarist Ben Hopkins. "I've done my share of living."

Rafael Pereira and Felipe Salmon, who make up the Peruvian duo Dengue Dengue Dengue, create electronic music inspired in part by time-honored Latin American styles. Their approach is all about building layers upon layers.