Music

Music

Ta-ku & Wafia: Tiny Desk Concert

Nov 7, 2016

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.

At first, the concluding song on SubRosa's For This We Fought The Battle of Ages feels like the haunting denouement to an arc largely inspired by Yevgeny Zamyatin's 1921 dystopian novel We. When the album was released this past August, "Troubled Cells" was revealed not only as a departure from the primary source material but as a bold, extremely personal statement by singer/songwriter/guitarist Rebecca Vernon and the Salt Lake City doom-metal band.

The music Jaime Fennelly makes under the name Mind Over Mirrors creates a sense of everlasting wonder, driven by synthesizers and the Indian pedal harmonium. He finds the center of tones and timbres, then stretches them beyond their origins.

This week a gigantic Pink Floyd box set is released. What's remarkable about Pink Floyd Early Years 1965-1972 is that its 27 discs cover only the band's first seven years! All this week we'll think pink with some of the people who were there. On Friday — the day this collection is released — we'll talk with drummer Nick Mason about those early years. On Tuesday we talk to Roger Waters about his upcoming projects and politics.

Ian Brennan wanted to make a record with music performed by prisoners. He's a Grammy-winning record producer who likes to bring attention to the voices of people who aren't usually heard.

So when he heard that a prison in Malawi had a band, off he went to the maximum security facility. "We just took the leap of faith and went down there," says Brennan, a California native who has worked with artists like Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Bill Frisell and who now lives in Italy.

How Shirley Collins Got Her Voice Back

Nov 5, 2016

In the late 1960s, a lot of popular music was about peace, love, and harmony — but at the same time, an altogether different sound was emanating from a house on State Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It came from The Stooges, a proto-punk quartet made up of two brothers, Ron and Scott Asheton, their friend Dave Alexander and, of course, Jim Osterberg, better known as Iggy Pop.

In a surprising press release NBC announced Friday that Dave Chappelle will host Saturday Night Live on Nov. 12 with musical guest A Tribe Called Quest. This will be the first episode after the presidential election, and an SNL debut for both Chappelle and A Tribe Called Quest.

Joyce DiDonato is one of the most acclaimed opera singers of her generation; this year, she won the Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Solo. Her latest album, In War and Peace: Harmony Through Music, is a collection of baroque arias from the 17th and 18th centuries divided into two sections — one addressing war, the other, peace.

Our guest on Friday's episode of World Cafe was Bob Weir, the founding rhythm guitarist of iconic American band the Grateful Dead.

Bob Weir On World Cafe

Nov 4, 2016

Bob Weir, songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist of the Grateful Dead, used to be a cowboy. As a teenager, he had a job on a ranch in Wyoming and now, many years later, he's written an album about the experience called Blue Mountain.

Imagine being a singer — in this case, a singer of traditional British folk songs and murder ballads, songs of love, hate, revenge, redemption and tragedy. And as the singer of these songs, you get pretty well known in the circles of folk music in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now, imagine a broken heart robs you of your ability to sing. For 38 years, your voice — once beautiful — falls silent.

This is the story of the great Shirley Collins.

If you love Pink Floyd like Bob Boilen and I do, chances are you've got a story or two to tell about how the band's music has figured into your life. Maybe it's the first time you heard them, or a live show you saw, or an important friendship that formed over their music. Whatever your story is, we want to hear it.

More than a year ago, the world first heard the official cast recording of the most successful Broadway musical in recent memory. The album would ultimately go double-platinum and top Billboard's rap chart, owing in part to fired-up fans hitting repeat, memorizing lyrics and absorbing the show's richly textured world.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the CMA Awards, show producers worked a truly impressive number of performers into the Nov. 2 telecast, utilizing everything from moving medleys to photo montages and mentions of legends seated in the audience.

Since his first album in 1992, Common — then known as Common Sense — has championed hip-hop as a vehicle for social commentary. His latest album, Black America Again, continues that legacy and explores the joys and tragedies of black life in the United States.

Texas native Maren Morris won new artist of the year Wednesday night at the annual Country Music Awards ceremony. NPR's Audie Cornish spoke to Morris at the annual South by Southwest music conference about her journey and success. This story originally aired on April 1, 2016, on All Things Considered.

Among the hundred or so bands I saw at SXSW this year, Julia Jacklin's stark, spare voice was memorable. Her debut album is is a lovely listen — no frills. It's the final song on the record that turned out to be a favorite for me, with just the Australian singer and her electric guitar. That song, "Don't Let The Kids Win," turned out to be the last one she wrote for the album, and it's also the title track.

When Maggie Rogers brought Pharrell to tears with her electro-pop earworm "Alaska" last summer, fans of the viral hit quickly scoured the web for more music from the young musician, but came up mostly empty handed.

Review: Sleigh Bells, 'Jessica Rabbit'

Nov 3, 2016

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

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.


Before he began the tour that's documented on the 36-disc set The 1966 Live Recordings, Bob Dylan was on record as being ambivalent about the road.

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


The first thing we must note about this album by the Hart Valley Drifters is that it is not the most authentic bluegrass or old-time music. This is not from a long-lost box of tapes found in a dusty closet, not performed by a group of master folk musicians from somewhere in Appalachia.

I first saw Aurora in a small club in New York City three years ago. She was just 17 years old, but her performance was mesmerizing. Her frail, blonde figure mirrored her enchanting voice and words. The young singer from Norway put out a dramatic and beautiful record earlier this year called All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend.

Thelma's music sounds almost otherworldly. Slightly spooky and often dramatic, it mixes the warm, human sensibilities of folk with slightly off-kilter electronic elements. The intensity in the music makes sense, given its origins: When Natasha Jacobs, the band's founder, began to focus on songwriting, she did so with a commitment to overcome her lifelong fear of performing. A few years later, while studying composition at SUNY Purchase, Jacobs began experimenting with electronic instrumentation.

Indigo Girls On Mountain Stage

Nov 2, 2016

Indigo Girls appears on Mountain Stage, recorded live in Charleston, W.Va. One of the finest folk-rock duos of all time, Indigo Girls first began visiting Mountain Stage 25 years ago, in 1991. And from their band's beginnings in Georgia to its major-label success and beyond, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have remained true to their artistic vision and devoted fan base.

Calling themselves "an accidental brass quartet," the members of The Westerlies, like the prevailing winds, blew east to New York from their hometown of Seattle, where they were childhood friends.

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