Music

Music

Okovi, the latest full-length from Zola Jesus, is a monstrously tortured album, built with densely layered grief and pain. Nika Roza Danilova, who's been writing and recording as Zola Jesus since releasing her debut in 2009, bares her most vulnerable thoughts and feelings as she sings about serial killers, suicide, crushing depression and fear. At times, even Danilova admits the songs are hard to hear.

When I listened blindly to nearly a thousand songs while attempting to make my schedule of bands to see at this year's SXSW music festival, one of the few tracks that leapt to the top was "Arizona" by Frances Cone. I wasn't alone. NPR Music's Stephen Thompson also singled out this now Brooklyn-based band for the way it wraps its storytelling in a catchy, pop parcel.

In a rap game dominated by trap and mumble, Rapsody provides a different energy. An adept lyricist the likes of Lauryn Hill, she isn't fixated on summer anthems or hooks that loom over the words. Instead, Rapsody is a throwback to late-'80s /'90s hip-hop, when gritty beats and intricate wordplay were held in higher regard.

In this World Cafe Nashville session, we welcome Ashley McBryde. McBryde has one of those voices that might belong to your sister or your best friend – if your sister or your best friend could belt like Loretta Lynn and croon like Reba McEntire.

Amber Mark is a young singer with a tremendous amount of promise. The New York-based musician wrote and self-produced her excellent debut EP, 3:33am, released earlier this year. "Lose My Cool" was a highlight of her Morning Becomes Eclectic session.

SET LIST

  • "Lose My Cool"

Photo: Brian Feinzimer/KCRW.

Watch Amber Mark's full Morning Becomes Eclectic performance at KCRW.com.

You can find the name of Len Blavatnik, the Ukraine-born, Russia-raised billionaire and owner of the world's third-largest record label Warner Music Group (WMG), on several of the world's most prestigious buildings: London's Tate Modern and V&A Museum, New York's

Kelly Clarkson has long been a force in pop music, from 2004's "Breakaway" to her most recent smash, 2015's "Heartbeat Song," and now she's poised to release her eighth album, Meaning of Life, on October 27, led by the sensual single she released today, "Love So Soft."

Going The Distance

Sep 7, 2017

I first stumbled onto a music festival-sponsored 5K race by accident. On a humid June morning in 2013 at Manchester, Tenn.'s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, I went out for a run, rounded a corner and came upon a group of festival goers safety-pinning paper race numbers to their clothes, very possibly hungover or sleep-deprived , but nonetheless motivated enough to rouse themselves from sleep and run 3.1 miles at 9 am, several hours before the day's first performances were scheduled to start. Glad to have found company, I slipped into the herd just before someone shouted, "Go!"

There should be an industrywide rule that only acts of quality are allowed to name their project something wholly impossible to Google. Luckily for Sports — a Philadelphia-via-Gambier, Ohio twee-punk four-piece — it makes the cut.

If you haven't heard "Namesake," one of the many wildly joyous highlights of Tunde Olaniran's 2015 debut Transgressor, take a few minutes to listen before proceeding with... well, anything in your life. A boundlessly inventive ode to individuality, it sounds, appropriately enough, like nothing else.

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.

Last week, All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen and I took note of an article from The Guardian examining something within music that's uniquely byzantine: the practice of giving guest artists credits in song titles. You've no doubt seen some variation of it — "Song Title (feat. An Artist)." It's something that should be fairly straightforward, no? Well, no.

Tori Amos is the kind of artist you might describe as a seeker. Since she started recording in the 1990s, Amos has used her songs to ask big questions about the world she observes. Time has made her powers of observation more acute, and on her new album, Native Invader, Amos takes stock of the present moment.

Seminal singer-songwriters Billy Bragg and Joe Henry make their duet debut on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, Pa.

In this episode, we remember Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, one of Ireland's most influential artists, with the music he recorded and produced over three decades. Host Fiona Ritchie features legendary Celtic music groups of which Domhnaill was a member — Skara Brae, The Bothy Band, Relativity and Nightnoise — along with other recordings featuring the guitarist, producer, composer and singer who contributed to over 100 albums.

We are very sad to confirm that Holger passed away yesterday, in his home, the old Can Studio in Weilerswist.

His wife passed away only weeks before. Holger was devastated by the loss of his beloved partner, but was looking forward to making more music and was in good spirits. His passing has come as a shock. — Can, in a statement issued Sept. 6. Czukay was 79 years old.

Martin Shkreli, the "pharma bro" convicted in early August of securities fraud, is claiming he's prepared to sell the sole copy of a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album.

If you made a list of the most influential guitarists of all time, you'd have to include David Gilmour towards the top of that list. The legendary guitarist and voice of Pink Floyd is our guest for this World Cafe session.

"I don't shine if you don't shine' is a lesson I learned from my best friend," wrote the journalist Ann Friedman in 2013, coining the term "shine theory" to describe her commitment to sharing credit and the power it brings. Friedman's pal (and podcast cohost) Aminatou Sow, she wrote, had helped her realize that instead of competing, women make greater progress by banding together and highlighting each other's strengths. From comedy to indie rock to celebrity posses, shine theory is a major force today.

Every Boston band starts in a basement, but not every Boston band hopes to leave one. Bad History Month, a glum anti-folk act that formed there back in 2007, has never been concerned with fame. For starters, the band's music uses a combination of ribald jokes, effervescent self-deprecation and blunt existentialism focused on understanding oneself from the inside out in service of isolation — assuming the position of the middle school loner in the back of a classroom.

Singer Dave Matthews, who formed his band in Charlottesville, Va. in 1991, will host a benefit concert for the city following last month's violent protests there. Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Pharrell, Chris Stapleton, The Roots and Brittany Howard of The Alabama Shakes are slated to perform, along with other not-yet-named special guests.

Recording under the name Silver Torches, Seattle singer-songwriter Erik Walters specializes in smart and melancholy Americana — the sort of stuff that ought to be catnip to fans of, say, Ryan Adams or late-period Paul Westerberg.

This essay is one in a series celebrating deserving artists or albums not included on NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums By Women.

Gun Outfit has, finally, figured out a way to describe the cactus-chewing, smoke-signaled rock music that it perpetually rolls towards sundown: "Western expanse music." Henry Barnes (of Amps For Christ, Man Is The Bastard) coined the phrase while on a recent European tour with the band, boiling down the out-of-time essence of Gun Outfit to a cowboy poetry swirled in honky-tonk postmodernism.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESPACITO (FT. JUSTIN BIEBER)")

LUIS FONSI AND DADDY YANKEE: (Singing) Despacito...

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The story-in-progress of Run The Jewels is one of triumph. El-P and Killer Mike met in 2011, and after a fruitful collaboration joined forces officially in 2013, forming Run The Jewels. Four years and three critically acclaimed albums later, they have become one of the most unlikely success stories of 21st century hip-hop.

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