It was way below freezing outside, a couple weeks before the holidays — the kind of cold that requires layers of long sleeves and flannel beneath your jacket. But in the basement of Songbyrd Music House in Washington, D.C., a swirling mass of hardcore kids leapt through the air, sweat flopping off heavy cotton since they had nowhere to stash their Bane and Judge hoodies. Heads narrowly avoided metal poles in a underworld dance of thrown elbows and knee-pumping swarm. Welcome to the gleeful insanity of a Turnstile show.

The '80s are alive and well in "Real Thing," a retro, synth-heavy new song and video from Lower Dens. Shot through a lens presumably slathered with Vaseline and captured on grainy VHS tape, the video features frontwoman Jana Hunter singing and playing guitar on a darkened stage, dimly lit by hazy red lights. "I'm married to a terrific guy," Hunter sings. "I'll never leave until I die. But I just love to get out and get it on."

Artists make the best cultural critics. They reveal what's happening around us with whatever level of transparency they see fit, with whatever level of opaqueness they desire to sustain mystery. They're observers, internally and outwardly, operating in a space that allows us, the voyeur, the listener, to learn. Kim Gordon has been teaching us for over three decades. Now she's doing it under her own name.

Derek Gripper was a musician with a problem. He'd been playing classical music since he was 6 years old — violin, then piano and finally guitar. He was poised for an international career as a classical guitarist. But he remembers going to the homeland of one of his favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach.

"It felt kind of strange," he says. "It felt strange to be in Germany playing Bach to them."

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Between his bands The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, as well as his more recent solo work, Jack White has won 12 Grammy awards and sold millions of albums.

I remember the first time I heard Ramones. It was the first Saturday after its April 23, 1976 release date, back when I was 14 and working weekends at the House of Guitars, Rochester, N.Y.'s greatest and still thriving record store/musical instrument shop/freak magnet.

The North Carolina fraternal Americana quartet, the Avett Brothers, released their ninth album 'True Sadness' over the summer. KSUT will feature the CD Friday 9/9 at noon.

True Sadness was produced by the legendary Rick Rubin who has been working with the band for years. He challenged them to fine-tune each track - a big change for a band accustomed to playing it straight and live. Check out the result on the Four Corners Feature CD.

Taylor Ross knows his way around a melody. More specifically, he knows how to peep into melody's third eye, hug the fruit-striped void and send it sideways down the yellow brick road.

And so, it ended with, very appropriately, a deathly quiet. "Fabric is closed. That's it. Heartwrenching silence around the room." So read a Tweet by Jeremy Abbott, the digital editor of Mixmag, who was in the room on Tuesday night when the Islington council licensing committee's met to determine whether the London neighborhood would permanently revoke the operating license of fabric, one of the city's longest-running and most iconic clubs.

Local Natives On World Cafe

Sep 9, 2016

Those who have followed Local Natives since the release of its debut, Gorilla Manor, in 2009 --- or for even longer, since the band had formed in Los Angeles years earlier — can't help but notice how the band has constantly toyed with its sound. For its second album, 2013's Hummingbird, Local Natives switched things up by working with producer Aaron Dessner of The National.

Regina Spektor is back with another preview of her upcoming album, Remember Us To Life. Her latest song is a gorgeous, soaring ode to love and heartache called "Black And White."

After a ten-year break, Grandaddy is back. The Modesto, Calif. band has signed with Danger Mouse's 30th Century Records and released two new songs, "Way We Won't" and "Clear Your History." The group has also officially announced a new full-length album coming sometime next year. It's the first new music from Grandaddy since 2006's Just Like The Fambly Cat. From the sound of the new songs, the band has lost nothing in the years since.

M.I.A. grew up in war-torn Sri Lanka, and later in public housing in London. She's made a career singing and speaking about the social justice issues around refugees and minorities.

Soul singer Allen Stone, the son of a preacher and a self-described hippie, hails from rural Washington. He's said Stevie Wonder is one of his biggest influences, and that's evident in a brand-new song he played live on KCRW, "Naturally."


  • "Naturally"

Photo by Dustin Downing/KCRW.

Nels Cline is unabashed about his love for sound. "I get a kind of fundamental, if not moronic, pleasure from sound as soon as it starts," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Even in sound checks, once we start playing, I'm in the zone. I'm happy, because I like playing."

Ever since he left Rage Against The Machine in 2000, there have been rumors, false starts and complete scraps of Zack de la Rocha's debut solo album.

The Pretenders are back with the band's first new album in eight years, this time collaborating with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach as producer. The album is called Alone, and the first single is a jangly pop cut with arpeggiated synths and quirky guitar riffs called "Holy Commotion!"

First Listen: Cymbals Eat Guitars, 'Pretty Years'

Sep 8, 2016

First Listen: Against Me!, 'Shape Shift With Me'

Sep 8, 2016

Two years ago, Against Me! released Transgender Dysphoria Blues, the band's first album since leader Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman. Up to that point, the Florida band had become renowned for gritty, literate slices of life set to roaring folk-punk.

Review: Dawes, 'We're All Gonna Die'

Sep 8, 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.

First Listen: Jóhann Jóhannsson, 'Orphée'

Sep 8, 2016

One of the most enduring stories at the intersection of music and love is the Orpheus myth. The ancient Greek paragon of all-encompassing musical talent and fatalistic passion has inspired artists of all stripes in all eras.

Amanda Shires has a way of pausing over a note and pulling it in a few directions. Some have called this a warble, others a catch. In "Harmless," a dive-bar torch song from her new fourth album, My Piece of Land, Shires employs this instrument of indeterminacy while describing the beginning of a risky relationship: "Yea-a-ah," she intones after each phrase about spilling a drink or admiring this stranger's thunder-colored eyes.

As a 16-year-old, Pretty Yende was sitting with her parents in their rural South African home watching TV when a British Airways ad came on. As the sweet music swelled and voices intertwined, Yende was mesmerized. The only problem: She had no idea what to call the beautiful music she'd just heard.

When he first surfaced as a solo artist four or five years ago, singer and multi-instrumentalist K. Ishibashi specialized in piecing together an intricately looped sound, centered on violin samples he'd recorded live, cut to ribbons and re-purposed to head-spinning effect.

Keaton Henson can't help but make things. But, as he establishes throughout his new album Kindly Now, the English songwriter not only suffers for his art; he also seems to suffer because of it. In "The Pugilist," one of Kindly Now's many heartbreakers, Henson reveals the inner struggle he endures so that he can craft work that connects with others, and possibly last after he's gone.

The Head And The Heart On World Cafe

Sep 7, 2016

The Seattle band The Head and the Heart had major success with its second album, Let's Be Still, which came out on Sub Pop in 2013. Its folk-pop sound, superior harmonies and fine writing struck a chord with audiences and sent the band on the road for over a year.

First Watch: T-Rextasy, 'Gap Yr Boiz'

Sep 7, 2016

In T-Rextasy's new animated video for the song "Gap Yr Boiz," a female protagonist tries to deal with the boys who have broken her heart during that year-long break between high school and college.

When we invited William Bell to the Tiny Desk, we looked forward to witnessing part of a veteran soul hitmaker's journey back to the spotlight. Bell is known for writing and performing several of the R&B classics that emerged from Memphis' Stax Records in the 1960s, "You Don't Miss Your Water" and "Everybody Loves A Winner" among them.

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