Music

Music

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.


Nashville instrumental guitarist William Tyler never has to nail down the meaning behind the songs on his new record, because a word never crosses them. But his freedom from explicit meaning is a gift for listeners, as well. These songs stretch out past the limits of most lyrics and approach a rare sense of mystery.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

In the late 1980s, Moby was drawn to what he calls "the dirty mecca" of New York City. As a DJ and electronic musician, he was a staple of the rave scene: massive crowds dancing until dawn, probably under the influence of a substance or two, all moving as one to his songs.

We're guided, derailed and thrown out by passion, and we keep crawling back because it's what we know. Ever since Mike Kinsella started Cap'n Jazz with his brother Tim at age 12, he's lived the musician's life with scattered rewards. But over the last three decades, he's seen how his Chicago bands like Joan Of Arc, American Football and Owls have shaped a thriving and evolving rock scene.

The mountain hamlet of Woodstock in upstate New York was well known as an artists' colony even before the mid-'60s influx of musicians. In fact, it was known well enough among the musicians who lived there, particularly Bob Dylan, that it lent its name to the famous festival that actually took place many miles away.

On this week's episode we've got one of the sunniest bands of all time, mesmerizing music from the Sahara and an elegy to growing old.

Co-host Robin Hilton gets things started with a sweetly sad song from Matt The Electrician, a pop-folk singer based in Austin who no longer has anything to do with his own hands, while host Bob Boilen follows with Esmé Patterson, a singer with roots in folk music and a new album that stretches into the world of gritty rock.

Summer is almost here and you need summer jams. There are always competitors for the title "songs of summer," but when you're sitting on a porch or hanging by a pool, there's no room for competition; you just want a steady string of tunes.

When All Songs Considered's Bob Boilen heard Car Seat Headrest's new album Teens of Denial, he immediately dubbed it "what is likely to be my No. 1 album of 2016." Twenty-three-year-old bandleader Will Toledo has brought his project from DIY Bandcamp releases onto the big stage. The group performed live at Black Cat in Washington, D.C., on Monday, May 23.

Hey, Hey, It's 50 Years Of The Monkees!

May 23, 2016

The surviving members of The Monkees are about to celebrate their 50th anniversary. To mark the occasion, they're releasing a new album, titled Good Times! Here, NPR's Stephen Thompson tells Ari Shapiro about "Me & Magdalena," a new song written for the album by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie.

Looking for a musically sensitive, responsive bandmate? Maybe you should try out Shimon.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Robert Ellis somehow finds wide-eyed wonder in heartbreak. His downbeat themes come up against sonically ambitious and lushly arranged sounds on his self-titled, fourth album, which plays with country and Americana music tradition, not to mention the legacy of '70s singer-songwriters.

So much about the band SHEL comes down to family. The group's name is an acronym for the four members — Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook — who happen to be sisters. They grew up in Fort Collins, Colo. and were home-schooled by their mother, but it was their dad who really pushed his daughters to learn music and singing together.

Classical music fans know the names Mendelssohn and Schumann. Chances are, Felix and Robert leap to mind — but Felix's sister Fanny was also a composer, and so was Robert Schumann's wife Clara. Those are just two composers featured in Anna Beer's new book, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music.

When you grow up on the prairies of Saskatchewan, you learn how to do a lot of things on your own. At least, that's how life went for Andy Shauf. So when it came time to record his new album, The Party, he decided to play almost all the instruments himself.

The ongoing controversy in North Carolina over access to bathrooms has increased the general public's awareness of issues facing transgender people. One thing you might not think about is voice: How does that essential tool of communication change with gender transition? It's something that has deep emotional and psychological resonance. It's also something that's playing out in a growing number of transgender choruses across the country.

As a young child growing up in South Africa, Gillian Power sang in school and church choirs.

Watch A Long-Lost Video For Vivien Goldman's 'Launderette'

May 20, 2016

In 1981, Vivien Goldman was a writer for the London music weekly Sounds and a sometime backup singer. In the shadows of Thatcher and the wake of The Sex Pistols, subcultures and dub cultures were mingling and merging in her Ladbroke Grove neighborhood; her neighbors included Joe Strummer and the reggae band Aswad.

The Estonians are serious about singing. The power of human voices practically propelled the small Baltic country to independence during the Soviet era. In the late 1980s, hundreds of thousands of Estonians routinely gathered to perform forbidden patriotic songs. The events energized the nation, leading to what was called the "Singing Revolution."

Saskatchewan singer-songwriter Andy Shauf is the kind of guy you'd find laying low at a party, maybe tucked into the corner of a room with a drink in his hand, keeping to himself but taking everything in. He's soft-spoken and reserved, more comfortable delivering the news than being a part of it (though "comfortable" may be too strong a word).

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If Explosions In The Sky's records are watershed moments for its fans, then the band's live shows are a Biblical flood. The group recently released its sixth studio album, The Wilderness. On Thursday, Explosions In The Sky brought its epic, searching sound to a sold-out show at Washington, D.C.'s famed 9:30 Club.

Latin Roots: Gepe

May 19, 2016

Gepe is the stage name for Chilean singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Riveros, who's been described as the "guru of indie folk" for his driving indie pop involving elements of Andean folk. Riveros attributes the creativity in the Chilean indie-music scene to an "anything goes" attitude of experimentation that permeates the first post-dictatorship generation in his home country.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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