Music

Music

Two recurring themes run throughout the albums we're featuring on this week's New Music Friday: artists who are pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, and lots of songs that reflect on the need to be better, do better and make the world a better place. This includes the buoyant, joyful pop of English singer Frank Turner, the inspired rock of Shakey Graves, soul singer Leon Bridges, the incredibly ambitious narratives of Damien Jurado and much more.

Featured Albums:

  1. Frank Turner: Be More Kind

When Liz Phair's debut album, Exile in Guyville, broke onto the indie rock scene in 1993, it was at a time when the music industry was very into shock value.

"My way of doing that was to sort of take agency of my sexuality and just say, like, shocking things in this little girl voice to see if anyone would notice," says Phair.

People did notice. Her graphic, feminist lyrics rattled rock and roll, and her double LP became one of the most well-loved albums of its time.

British singer-songwriter Tracey Thorn writes music that chronicles themes in women's lives that aren't often addressed in pop lyrics. Take, for instance, the single "Babies," off her new solo album Record. The song is meant to be a humorous ode to birth control, but there's also a deeper feeling to it.

In 2011, Alejando Rose-Garcia burst onto the scene armed with a guitar and suitcase kick drum and released his first album as Shakey Graves. Seven years later, he's about to release his latest studio album, Can't Wake Up, out on May 4. It's a record that explores themes of death and dying, sleep and sleeplessness, and it has the most interesting sonic landscape to match the lyrical content.

A couple of hours before he's scheduled to show up for an interview, Tim Gent sends a text message asking if it would be alright to bring one of his managers along. When he arrives at a Nashville deli with his videographer, Devyn Betancourt, it's immediately clear that the twenty-something rapper and singer doesn't roll with an entourage in some attempt to boost his ego and muscle-up his image.

Aspiring orchestral musicians have long known that the road to a professional career is arduous and paved with risks. But new research from the U.K. shows that even attaining the brass ring of an orchestral job does not necessarily provide financial security. In fact, even with salaried, full-time employment, many British orchestral musicians are struggling to pay their bills.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Sounds

May 3, 2018

This week Fiona Ritchie handpicks new releases from the musical spring tide that has recently flooded the Thistle offices. Featured are exciting new sounds from "The Musical Nest," a hotbed of learning and creativity on the Islands of Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Erin Rae makes quiet music for the mind swept into a torrent. It'd be easy to call her sound escapist, as her gentle voice offers a balm over softly strummed guitar and brushed percussion. But Rae also unearths uneasy revelations with hard wisdom, in particular in Putting On Airs, her new album.

Jade Bird is a whirlwind of talent, energy and spunk. Her raw and robust voice is a prominent feature on most of her songs. It's here, in this solo piano ballad "If I Die" where you can hear the 20-year-old's voice and musical talent shine.

SET LIST

  • "If I Die"

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


From the beginning of his career as a recording artist, Ry Cooder has treated the music of the past as a resource, turning to old (and very, very old) songs for guidance, mentorship, life lessons, spiritual advice.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


For as long as humans have roamed the earth, forests have captivated a special slice of our collective human imagination. From hot, wet jungles to dry, snowy taigas, forests are sites of refuge, mystery and abundance.

There's a well-known Russian folktale, "Snegurochka," that tells the story of an elderly couple who yearn to have a child; they create a little girl out of snow, and she comes to life. In her novel The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey reimagined that story and set it in her home state of Alaska — and now the story has made one more leap, to the theatre at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF ASHLEY MONROE SONG, "WILD LOVE")

Jab'o Starks, the drummer who provided the steady beat for James Brown's iconic mid-'60s band and who stayed with the King of Soul through the early '70s, died at the age of 79 Tuesday morning at his home in Mobile, Ala. According to his manager, Kathie Williams, Starks was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes, a bone marrow disorder, in January 2017, which developed into acute leukemia one week ago, after which he entered hospice care.

To twist a meme normally reserved for Drake, get you a Rosali Middleman because she can do both. The Philly-based musician leads Long Hots, the chooglin' psych-rock trio featuring members of Spacin' and Hothead. Grab a tallboy; this is music that boogies your brain into heavy hypnosis.

GZA & The Soul Rebels: Tiny Desk Concert

May 2, 2018

GZA's performance at the Tiny Desk was a rare appearance for the legendary Wu-Tang Clan emcee, in part because he's notoriously introverted, and because he brought along The Soul Rebels, an eight-piece New Orleans brass ensemble. Once they stepped behind the desk they got right down to business, opening with the sparkling "Living In The World Today," from GZA's 1995 solo album Liquid Swords.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Activists have been trying since last summer to get the music industry to sever its ties to R&B singer R. Kelly, following years of allegations from women who say the singer sexually and emotionally abused them.

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