Music

Music

The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women

Jul 24, 2017


140. Norah Jones

The Shins have been a constant part of NPR's musical DNA for much of the 21st century. The group's poetic pop has shown up in something like 25 stories on our website, not just because many of us are longtime fans, but also because our listeners love them.

Recorded in Music City at RCA's legendary Studio A, Jason Isbell's latest album, The Nashville Sound, tackles issues like race and privilege, anxiety, sobriety, hope and family. (Isbell is married to Amanda Shires, a talented fiddle player and singer-songwriter who is also a member of Isbell's band, The 400 Unit; they have a toddler named Mercy.)

NOTE: Each day this week we'll be rolling out a series of videos from Sylvan Esso that comprise the duo's upcoming visual EP, Echo Mountain Sessions.

A few years ago, my friend Jill Sternheimer and I started a conversation one night while driving around the streets of New Orleans. Both of us are music nerds, and we regularly attend the kinds of musical retrospectives that have become common in this age of historical exploration via tribute shows and historical playlists. Jill, in fact, often organizes such shows at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, where she is the director of public programs. I sometimes write about them, and often ponder how music history's being recorded and revised in the digital age.

The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women

Jul 24, 2017

This list, of the greatest albums made by women between 1964 and the present, is an intervention, a remedy, a correction of the historical record and hopefully the start of a new conversation. Compiled by nearly 50 women from across NPR and the public radio system and produced in partnership with Lincoln Center, it rethinks popular music to put women at the center.

You probably have a mental image of what NASA's space missions look like — rockets blasting off into the sky, fiery clouds of exhaust after liftoff — but what do they sound like?

Every month, NPR Music asks our friends from public radio stations across the country — hosts, music directors and writers — for the new songs they simply can't stop listening to. Sometimes they're hot tracks that have dropped just the week before, and sometimes they're songs that have taken a couple months to slow-burn into our memories. Either way, the result is a mix that's perfect for the moment.

Mark Campbell is one of the most prolific and celebrated librettists in contemporary American opera. But, as he recently told an audience at the Guggenheim Museum, not everyone thought his latest project was a good idea.

Willie Nelson And Jackie King On Piano Jazz

Jul 21, 2017

Richard D. James loves to clear the vaults. A couple years ago, he sent Aphex Twin fans on a scavenger hunt through a series of anonymous SoundCloud accounts, where he had uploaded 200 old tracks and demos leading up to the release of Syro. Then he deleted them.

On Tuesday, two separate lawsuits were filed against Spotify in Nashville's federal court over a single issue. Both Bluewater Music, an independent publisher and copyright administration company, and Robert Gaudio, a founding member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – and a songwriter behind the enduring hits "Sherry" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" — accuse the streaming service of improperly licensing song compositions.

Since H.E.R.'s 2016 debut, Volume 1, there's been a smokescreen surrounding the anonymous singer. She's lights down low, sunglasses on, a curly head of hair seen from behind. Her music is the opposite. Vulnerable and honest, her new EP, Volume 2, explores the best and worst parts of intimacy. But "I Won't" finds H.E.R. at an important transition point: outside of any intimacy at all.

Few singers can command an audience's attention quite like Albin Lee Meldau. When I first saw him perform, at a church in Austin, Texas during South By Southwest last March, it felt like the entire audience was on the edge of its seat, hanging on every twisted word. His voice is breathtaking, soulful, thunderous and impossible to ignore.

Chester Bennington, one of the lead singers for the band Linkin Park and a former singer for Stone Temple Pilots, has died. His death was confirmed to NPR Thursday afternoon by the Los Angeles County Coroner's office, which said that his body was discovered at a house in the 2800 block of Palos Verdes Estates in Los Angeles and that investigators are currently on the scene. The death is "being looked at as a possible suicide at this time," according to Brian Elias of the coroner's office. Bennington was 41 years old.

Beth Ditto is a force of nature. Her incredible voice and charming personality earned her dance-punk band Gossip an international following, and those same qualities now drive her solo career. We hosted her for a live KCRW session to celebrate the release of Fake Sugar, her full-length debut under her own name.

SET LIST

  • "Oo La La"

Photo: Mark Leibowitz/KCRW.

Who would doubt that Michael McDonald could still sound groovy and relevant while ushering the musical feel of 1978 into 2017? Only a fool.

By now, we've been living with the popular archetype of the singer-songwriter for half a century or so, and multiple generations have worn their grooves into it, accumulating familiar lexicons along gender lines. We learned to expect our troubadours to work with particular personas, settings and themes, depending on whether they were women or men. Depictions of self-discovery through restless rambling were often heard as expressions of masculinity, while femininity was more closely associated with craving a settled existence and valuing intimate attachments.

Pardoner can't stop saving us from 'blah' punk. That's what Uncontrollable Salvation means, right? Or maybe Pardoner's some kind of Judge Dredd, a combination of judge, jury and savior whenever a perp is making lame punk crossed with '90s alt-rock.

Carlos Santana turns 70 years old Thursday. It's difficult to wrap my head around that: To me, as to so many other fans, he'll forever be the just-turned-22-year-old grimacing and grooving at Woodstock in August 1969.

Seratones On Mountain Stage

Jul 20, 2017

Shreveport, La., quartet Seratones makes its debut on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences in Charleston, W.Va. Imagine if Yma Sumac's birdlike vocals carried Nirvana's guitar riffs in a run-down garage in Louisiana, and you'll get a sense of the psych-soul-rock produced by these musical hell-raisers. Given frontwoman A.J.

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.


Think of this three-disc set as The Rise of Elvis Presley: The Granular Detail Version.

When history ranks 2017 among hip-hop's wonder years — and from the sounds of the previous six months it certainly qualifies — Vic Mensa's long-awaited full-length debut will be a big part of the reason why. The Chi-town native has created a work in The Autobiography that's equal parts confessional and confrontational, gut-wrenching and uplifting. Steeped in a personal story arc that envelopes Mensa's hometown, it echoes with the pain of a generation.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And we're going to speak next with two new additions to the NPR family. Pioneering New York City hip-hop radio DJ Stretch Armstrong - hey there, Stretch.

ADRIAN BARTOS, BYLINE: Are we doing this right now?

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