Music

Music

Five decades after The Byrds forged the Big Bang of country rock with Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, the impact's still being felt: An alt-country love letter to that influential LP was what tripped the trigger for rising Americana artist Pete Mancini's solo debut.

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Manuel Cuevas moved to the U.S. from Mexico in the late 1950s to pursue his calling as a tailor.

He started sewing when he was 7 when most kids were occupied with other things, such as playing.

"The guys at school were more about playing ball and the slingshots," 78-year-old Manuel explained to his daughter, Morelia, at StoryCorps in Nashville. "That never interested me. I was really an outcast. I'd go to bed and I'd dream about fabrics and leathers and about the things that I'm going to make the next day."

For the past 40 years, John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten, has brandished his rebellious songs — first with the 1970s punk band The Sex Pistols, then with Public Image Ltd.

He's now 61 years old. He may be a bit rounder than he was in his youth, but he still has an impish glare and spiky hair. He's still punk rock.

A late March snow descends on a modest farmhouse in central Anatolia. An oil stove hisses away inside, as afternoon gives way to twilight.

A heavyset man with a thick black mustache adjusts his cap, takes a deep breath and fills the room with a piercing, impassioned cry. The small audience settles back for an evening of traditional dengbej singing.

For centuries, dengbej songs served as a combination news bulletin, history lesson and evening's entertainment. Master singers built up large repertoires of songs — and could recite the historical events they describe.

Kendrick Lamar dropped the presumptive first single — titled "Humble" — from his highly anticipated forthcoming album on Thursday night, just a week after teasing new music with a cryptic Instagram post.

"I pulled out Diamonds And Dirt, that record, and I looked at the album cover and there I had on a pair of silver-toe-tipped boots and a wife-beater with a bolo tie hanging around myself and a mullet hairdo. And I turned to my wife and I said 'Look at this poser.' "

Ryan Adams On World Cafe

Mar 30, 2017

Is Ryan Adams' new album, Prisoner, as heartbreaking as Heartbreaker, his classic 2000 solo debut? In this session, we do talk with Adams about breakup songs, but he says that some of the somber songs on Prisoner came at a different stage in his life. "Strangely, as heavy as the record is for some people, I wrote it when I was very much falling down a rabbit hole of feeling very romantic again in my life," he says.

Asa Taccone and Matthew "Cornbread" Compton made us wait five years before releasing Plural, the follow-up to Electric Guest's breakout debut album. It was worth the wait. The Los Angeles indie-pop group came out of the gate with the excellent single "Dear To Me," which was a highlight of the band's live set in the KCRW studio.

Set List

  • "Dear To Me"

Photo: Dustin Downing/KCRW.

"Definitely cowboy poetry was something I got interested in." Well, that's one way to describe an ancient Greek epic.

When Tracy Chapman released her self-titled, debut album back in 1988, the 24-year old singer was widely praised for her acute observations on the struggles of working class Americans. The album was political and, for some, possessed the kind of anthems that could spark a revolution. Not long after releasing her album, Chapman sat down with NPR's Margot Adler to talk about both the singer's growing popularity and her battle against stereotypes as a black woman with a strong voice in the predominantly white world of modern folk.

Breaking news this morning: Dan Auerbach has been abducted by aliens to compete in intergalactic demolition derbies.

Timmhotep Aku is an NPR Music contributor and occasional guest host for our +1 podcasts. This week he talks with writer, comedian and hip-hop lover Neal Brennan.

Comedy and hip-hop have a lot in common: Both are balms for the sting of the everyday struggle and both hold up a mirror to society's excesses, absurdities and injustices. These two worlds come together in the work of writer and comedian Neal Brennan.

Now and then, Alt.Latino offers programs that feature a single artist in conversation about life, art and anything else on their mind. But if we waited to speak with all of the artists who catch our attention one week at a time, it would take ... well, a long time.

So this week, we offer three shorter profiles of artists — some DJs, a musician and a pair of filmmakers — who are capturing Latino culture in three very distinct forms.

Editor's note: This is one of three segments in this week's episode of Alt.Latino. Listen to the full show.


Two years ago I got a crowdsourcing email from two guys making a movie about, of all things, the rich musical history of south Texas.

Orkesta Mendoza: A Border Story

Mar 30, 2017

Editor's note: This is one of three segments in this week's episode of Alt.Latino. Listen to the full show.

Editor's note: This is one of three segments in this week's episode of Alt.Latino. Listen to the full show.


On her days off, Claudia Saenz scours used record shops, thrift stores and yard sales, keeping her eyes peeled for records her parents grew up on. They remind her of her childhood.

Swedish singer-songwriter Albin Lee Meldau has a profoundly arresting voice that delivers an emotional gut punch with every brooding phrase.

In his chilling new video for the song "Lou Lou," Meldau takes a single, wrenching scene and freezes it in time. Made with one unflinching, steadicam shot, it's an uncomfortably intimate look at the moment paramedics arrive to save a woman who's suffering a drug overdose. Nobody moves. Everything has stopped. It feels particularly helpless and hopeless.

Laura Marling has always been a seeker. The English folk singer made her name as a teenager in early 2000's, writing delicate, contemplative songs that draw heavily from books and art. Marling says she was living in Los Angeles when she met her muse — or several of them, really.

"I think it was a time when I was meeting a lot of incredibly talented women, and wondering whether they have a unique approach to their discipline because of their femininity," she says.

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.

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.


It's somewhat rare to find three singers so in sync as The Wild Reeds' Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva and Mackenzie Howe. Rarer still is the trio's songwriting skills; think Crosby, Stills and Nash.

La Vida Boheme plays upbeat music on somber themes. The Venezuelan rockers' last album, Será, came as student protests were erupting in their home town of Caracas. The band's booking agent was murdered; their tour manager was kidnapped. The four members of the group locked themselves inside their apartments. They would later describe the record, which won a Latin Grammy, as "the soundtrack to an apocalypse."

Sylvan Esso On World Cafe

Mar 29, 2017

Sure, the incredibly intuitive duo Sylvan Esso is releasing its second album, What Now, on April 28, but here's something even better: a chance to hear the new songs before the record's out. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn — on voice and electronics, respectively — performed a selection live in concert at World Cafe's recent 25th anniversary celebration.

Last fall, the Nobel Committee for Literature announced that its newest honoree would be Bob Dylan, immediately generating heated debates on whether he deserved the prize.

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The real band Dream Wife — a name taken from a '50s film starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr — began as fake band in an art school project that was a This Is Spinal Tap-esque mockumentary. The project was created as a way for Rakel Mjoll to explore femininity and its tropes within pop music. Along with Isabella Podpadec and Alice Go, the trio put together the "fictional" Dream Wife, entered a film competition and won.

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