Music

Music

In the music of Alcest, beauty reigns above all. Even in the French band's early days playing gauzy black-metal, attention was paid to the curves of song and sound. From 2014, Shelter departed completely from Alcest's metallic roots for shoegaze, a conscious move on mastermind Neige's part that, while pretty, was airy in its noticeable lack of heft.

Life is like an endless forest lined with many paths, each leading to an entirely different experience. But what happens if you leave the path altogether?

They came, they measured, they built and they plotted. But first, they had to borrow a few things from the NPR office.

Blue Man Group designed new instruments and a small-scale show solely for a one-time performance at the Tiny Desk. Celebrate the group's 25th anniversary with this musical and comical adventure, which you can watch this Monday, Sept. 26, at npr.org/tinydesk.

Dizzy Gillespie once described Charlie Parker as the other half of his heartbeat. They were young men creating something from whole cloth, stretching the limits of their creativity and intellect every time they drew a breath together on the bandstand.

If Jenny Hval's music is the bramble, her message is the Disney castle nestled (or, depending on perspective, trapped) inside. The experimental singer-songwriter surrounds her vulnerable voice and razor's edge lyrics with spiky, disarming instrumentation and production that work to both belie and bolster the intensity and intimacy of her work. Blood Bitch, Hval's sixth album, is her first that offers a sword for cutting through the thorns.

Drive-By Truckers has always been a political band.

First Listen: Pixies, 'Head Carrier'

Sep 22, 2016

When the Pixies re-formed in 2004, expectations were high. As a live act, frontman Black Francis and crew — guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering — more than delivered. But 10 years later, when the legendary band finally got around to releasing its comeback album, Indie Cindy, things didn't go so well. Largely lackluster and missing bassist-singer Kim Deal, who had just quit the group, Indie Cindy was a ding on the Pixies' otherwise spotless discography.

With nearly seven decades in the rearview mirror and some of the finest songs in the English language under his belt, John Prine can do whatever tickles his fancy. As septuagenarian status looms, the celebrated singer-songwriter's muse has moved him to release an album of country duets.

Violence against women is no modern tragedy. Composer John Adams found that out when he saw an exhibition about the tales of the Arabian Nights — ancient stories in which Scheherazade tells her murderous husband a new tantalizing tale each night for 1001 nights, thus sparing her life a day at a time. The composer, writing in Scheherazade.2's booklet notes, says he was surprised by how many of the stories included women suffering brutality.

At noon on Oct. 8, 2016, the performance artist Taylor Mac will take the stage at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a full orchestra and backup singers — 24 musicians total. They'll begin singing American songs from the year 1776. Each hour, one person will leave the stage — and each hour, history will advance one decade, without a break. By midday on Oct. 9, Mac will be the only one left on stage, singing songs from the present day.

It's a show that Mac has spent years developing, called A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.

KSUT will give listeners a preview of the new CD from John Prine  For Better, Or Worse, a duet album and follow up to the Grammy nominated In Spite of Ourselves, on Friday 9/23 at noon. In this timeless album, produced by Jim Rooney, John sings with country sweethearts Iris DeMent, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Kathy Mattea, Kacey Musgraves, Fiona Prine, Amanda Shires, Morgane Stapleton, Susan Tedeschi, Holly Williams, and Lee Ann Womack.

If there's one piece by Chopin that can truly be called "trippy," it's the Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17, No. 4 – especially in this spellbinding performance by pianist Pavel Kolesnikov. The young Russian has just released a new album of Chopin's Mazurkas, arranged not chronologically but by mood and texture, flowing like a mixtape.

For the past 25 years I've had this notion that on every successive Leonard Cohen record his voice would get deeper and deeper until one day he'd put out an album so subsonic that you'd just feel it, not hear it. Well, we're close. On this day, Leonard Cohen's 82nd birthday, he's given us a gift: It's dark, it's beautiful and it's deep. "You Want It Darker" is the title track to his soon-to-be-released album, his 14th studio album in his 49-year recording career. The album of nine songs, out Oct. 21, is produced by his son, musician Adam Cohen.

Many jazz pianists play tunes from the Great American Songbook, that beloved canon of standards from the early 20th century. But pianist Edward Simon has chosen to focus on another great collection of American standards for his newest album, Latin American Songbook.

Growing up in Venezuela, near the northern edge of South America, was an advantage for Simon. His early listening encompassed music from the north — Cuba and Puerto Rico — and also extended southward to the music of Chile, Brazil and Argentina.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

To the people that knew and played with him, the late guitarist Jack Rose was a towering example of virtuosity and dedication, interweaving ragtime, pre-war blues, raga and American primitivism. When he died of a heart attack in 2009, he left a huge gap in communities worldwide that almost seven years later no other player has been able to fill — as evidenced by a new wave of reissues that cement Rose's visionary status: On Sept.

Neil Young's latest single is a jangly, shuffling folk-rock song that takes on the Dakota Access Pipeline, a vast oil duct under construction near Native American land in North Dakota. The track, called "Indian Givers," supports the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which is attempting to block the pipeline's construction, and targets the government and oil companies. "Behind big money," Young sings, "justice always fails."

The 2016 Americana Honors & Awards Ceremony

Sep 19, 2016

For the last 15 years, the Americana Music Association Honors & Awards has recognized instrumentalists and songwriters across the roots-music spectrum. But, really, it's a big party with loads of performances at the legendary Ryman Auditorium. On Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

Margo Price has had an incredible year, but there's a long story to be told leading up to Midwest Farmer's Daughter. The country singer-songwriter will join NPR Music's Ann Powers during AmericanaFest, along with friends and collaborators who have made East Nashville such a thriving hub of roots music. Everyone will share songs and stories in-the-round, with a live webcast on this page on Sept. 21, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Don Buchla believed in the humanity of wires. The modular synth pioneer created an instrument like none other, one that relied on intuition, learning and, most importantly, human touch. He died September 14 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 79.

Lisa Hannigan's song "Funeral Suit," from her latest album, At Swim, displays her knack for showcasing beauty in the ordinary. The Irish singer-songwriter says the song is autobiographical, and it's all about drawing out the complexity and significance of a moment in time.

Dwight Yoakam definitely doesn't need to pad his resume. He's recorded more than 22 albums — and sold over 25 million. He's received 21 Grammy nominations. He's worked with everyone from Johnny Cash and Buck Owens to Kid Rock and Jack White.

Since the music video dropped last week for Bomba Estéreo's 2015 hit, "Soy Yo," the video has drawn attention — and plaudits — across the world. It's been called an ode to little brown girls everywhere. A swaggier Little Miss Sunshine. An empowerment anthem.

One half of the Colombian electro-cumbia group, instrumentalist Simon Mejia, talked with NPR's Rachel Martin about the song. Mejia, who records with vocalist Liliana Saumet, tells Martin about how the video came about, how they found their charismatic young actress — and how she came by those bomb dance moves.

Dawes On World Cafe

Sep 16, 2016

The California band Dawes has released several albums of breezy Golden State guitar rock centered on Taylor Goldsmith's emotionally loaded songs. Those songs are filled with statements that are irresistibly uplifting when heard in a crowd. (Think "anyone that's making anything new only breaks something else" from "When My Time Comes.")

Not too long ago, Will Sheff found himself in a difficult place. His bandmates in Okkervil River were moving on from the beloved indie-rock group to other projects. Sheff, too, was restless — the rock 'n' roll lifestyle was wearing on him, and his grandfather, with whom he was close, had passed away.

On one of those late summer New York City evenings when a thunderstorm left a double rainbow hanging over Manhattan, the downtown club City Winery provided the perfect setting for a lucky crowd of a few hundred to experience a performance by The Head and the Heart.

In terms of sheer intensity, Saul Williams' Tiny Desk concert may be the most potent in our eight-year history. Only Kate Tempest comes to mind as its equal, which makes sense given that both mix music with bracing, truthful poetry. In Williams' opening song — "Burundi," from his album MartyrLoserKing — the main character is a computer hacker who lives in Burundi and fights for democracy:

Classic Dose: Larry Heard

Sep 16, 2016

It's been 30 years since a handful of singles from the Southside of Chicago — handed out to and played by Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy, two local DJs then helping define the sound that came to be known as "house" — transformed dance music all around the world. The tracks came from Larry Heard, a twenty-something musician who worked at the Social Security Administration by day, and drummed in cover bands (art-rock, reggae, jazz fusion) by night; but it was only when Heard decided to invest in a synthesizer and drum machine that he unwittingly changed the nature of club music forever.

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