Music

Music

Trent Reznor promised new Nine Inch Nails material by the year's end, and has now delivered with Not The Actual Events. The EP, recorded with co-conspirator and now official band member Atticus Ross, is among Reznor's heaviest and most manic work. "Branches/Bones" and "The Idea Of You" team with chaotic punk, and the industrial doom of "She's Gone Away" and "Burning Bright (Field On Fire)" rivals Godflesh in its gloomy clank.

We at NPR Music love a big, flashy rock 'n' roll concert as much as the next person. But we're especially fans of those moments when our favorite artists bring their music into smaller spaces, when singers and guitarists and producers and drummers reckon with the particular intimacy and joy that go along with performing in close quarters.

Happy holidays, my friends! Here's a gift from World Cafe to you: The Oh Hellos' annual Christmas Extravaganza. The Oh Hellos are a family band hailing from San Marcus, Texas. Brother and sister Tyler and Maggie Heath have been recording together since 2012 and released their first Christmas album in 2013.

Hanukkah commemorates the Macabee family's rebellion against Greek attempts to suppress the Jewish religion. So it makes sense, perhaps, that a group of musicians looking to tell the story of that holiday would turn to music inspired by another rebellion: the American Revolution.

The shopping's almost done. Menus are planned. The relatives are relatively under control.

Just one thing's missing from your holiday checklist — music.

Instead of fumbling through dusty CDs, LPs and cassettes, how about a click-of-the-mouse playlist of classical, and classy, holiday music?

There should be something here for just about everyone: plenty of Christmas carols, a few Hanukkah favorites and some off the beaten slope items.

Mondo Cozmo is one of the most promising artists in the Los Angeles music scene at the moment. It's the project of Joshua Ostrander, formerly of Eastern Conference Champions, who has emerged with a collection of evocative pop singles. "Shine" was a standout of his KCRW performance.

SET LIST

  • "Shine"

Photo: Brian Feinzimer/KCRW.

Watch Mondo Cozmo's full Morning Becomes Eclectic session at KCRW.com.

There seems to always be a time during winter when snow falls in slow motion, gliding to earth like a parade of tiny white parachutes. Many people hope that time will fall on Christmas, but if you're not seeing white in your neck of the woods this weekend, you can at least recapture a bit of the feeling by listening to Windy & Carl's "Christmas Song." The pair's patient guitar strums and shoegazing reverberations cascade down like gentle weather, the kind that takes its time while you watch from the warmth of your window.

On Dec. 4, just before Bon Iver took the stage at Pioneer Works, an old ironworks warehouse turned nonprofit arts and culture space, these prophetic words from Union Army officer Sullivan Ballou echoed off the Civil War-era brick walls:

"Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield."

Return To Daddy

Dec 22, 2016

If there was one moment in Houston on Saturday night that brought meaning and context to Aphex Twin's first U.S. performance in eight years, it was when the storm arrived, about 30 minutes in.

Gucci Mane has had a roller coaster of a career. Born Radric Davis, he grew up in his grandfather's house in a small town in Alabama. He made his name in Atlanta, over time becoming a central figure in Southern rap and a mainstay on commercial radio. But his successes were interrupted by time in jail.

The results of this year's Jazz Critics Poll — NPR's fourth annual and my 11th, counting from its 2006 inception in the Village Voice — slightly resemble those of the last two.

The 2016 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

Dec 21, 2016

More love songs should sound like a vintage Dodge Charger slamming into a brick wall. The Sacramento noise-punk band So Stressed channels the chaotic scuzz of Spazz with ramming speed, but pulls a brooding melody out of a jam.

So Stressed announces its third album, Please Let Me Know, with a lovesick bruiser titled "The King's Wig." Guitar, synth and drums careen at incredible speed with surprising control until the sludgy anti-chorus, as Morgan Fox declares (threatens?), "I only think about you / I only write love songs, and I would not change it for anything."

Grouper's music exists between the hues of memory, reflected in quiet swirls of guitar and Liz Harris' voice. Her most recent album, 2014's Ruins, stripped away much of the ambiance (to chilling effect) and played with environment as an instrument.

'Tis right around Christmas and wherever you go
It's "Run Rudolph Run," "Jingle Bells," "Let It Snow"

And while classics are great, and you love them no doubt
You may feel a little bit jingle belled out

But don't fret, for musical Santa is here!
With a playlist that brings you hip holiday cheer!

Hey Rosetta! delights with a sweet, heartfelt jam
Plus Sufjan Stevens with some holiday Ham...mond

Kadhja Bonet's latest album, The Visitor, is the product of a quarter-life crisis. She was 25 years old when she realized she wanted to take her life in a different direction. "I was in film school, I was miserable ... and I wasn't able to express myself," she says. So she found another outlet: music.

Doyle Bramhall II has been playing guitar all his life. At 18, he became the rhythm guitarist in Jimmie Vaughan's band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bramhall's father, the first Doyle Bramhall, was a drummer. The younger Bramhall was headed in that direction, too, until he picked up the guitar (left-handed, strung upside down) and taught himself in the style of his idol Albert King.

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Director Hiro Murai has a keen eye for the unusual. While he's not yet a household name, you might know him from several Donald Glover projects, including music videos and the FX comedy series Atlanta. In line with Murai's previous works, the video for Baauer's song "Day Ones" dabbles in the surreal by taking a simple idea and adding a twist.

Frank Ocean, 'Nikes'

Dec 20, 2016

Following a four-year hiatus, Frank Ocean's Blonde was arguably the most highly anticipated release of 2016.

Jamie xx, 'Gosh'

Dec 20, 2016

Beyoncé, 'Lemonade'

Dec 20, 2016

Bonobo, 'Kerala'

Dec 20, 2016

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