Bob Boilen

Your Favorite New Artists Of 2018 (So Far)

18 hours ago

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.

Parquet Courts' fifth album, Wide Awake! is a turning point for the band. The four guys based in New York made conscious attempts to push their music out of their habitual tendencies toward aggressive rock and wound up with their most interesting record to date, with the help of producer Brian Burton (Danger Mouse).

A very pregnant Abigail Washburn points to Bela Fleck at the Tiny Desk and says "and just so you know, this is his fault." I won't spoil the video by telling you his response.

Even though the world will eventually come to an end, there's still beauty and hope in all of us and in song. That about sums up the wistful mystery that is the music of Darlingside. The quartet brought dystopian storytelling wrapped in choral harmony with this performance at the Tiny Desk. Their singing is layered on a bed of percussive and melodic tones, made with guitars both acoustic and electric, violin, cello, mandolin and a tiny synthesizer.

From the sounds of blues guitarist and singer Lead Belly to recordings of Southwestern Woodhouse Toads, Smithsonian Folkways has been capturing the sounds of global history for the past 70 years. These recordings are among 60,000 treasured tracks the label has in its library — and it promises they'll never go out of print — from the labor songs of Woody Guthrie and children's songs of Ella Jenkins to New Orleans hot jazz, songs of the civil rights movement, the Honk Horn music of Ghana and so much more.

Ten years ago today — on April 22, 2008 — NPR Music published our first Tiny Desk concert. Laura Gibson was the inspiration, and the event that sparked the idea of concerts at my desk came from NPR Music's Stephen Thompson. He and I were at the SXSW Music Festival, at one of those lousy shows where the audience chatter was louder than the performer.

When you hear John Moreland's sweet voice, it's hard to believe he spent years singing in punk, metal-core and hardcore bands. You can still hear that passion in his music, only now it's punctuated by his acoustic guitar.

With My Morning Jacket on hiatus, frontman Jim James has moved away from his bedroom solo albums and assembled something more reminiscent of a great, '70s rock band. Uniform Distortion is his latest solo adventure and "Just a Fool" is the cowbell-rocking song we have for you today.

If this 10-minute-plus song is any indication, The Milk Carton Kids are about to release a truly epic album. The song we're premiering today, "One More For the Road," is a delicate tale of two lovers parting ways and the hope for one last embrace. It'll be one of twelve songs on the duo's fourth album, titled All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn't Do.

We have some new music from Big Thief in the form of live concert footage. The band is performing at Point Ephémère in France this week and this beautiful video was captured by La Blogothèque and published on ARTE, the public Franco-German TV channel.

One of the best spots for new, independent music at SXSW — and year around in Austin, Texas — is Cheer Up Charlie's. During the festival you can see an artist like the British folk singer Jade Bird in the dark, unassuming indoor space, and walk out into the bright sunlight for Andrew W.K. or Hop Along.

Our South X Lullaby with Soccer Mommy took us away from the frenetic world of the South by Southwest music festival and into the past. We ventured to my favorite store in all of Austin, Texas: Uncommon Objects, a self-described "one-of-a-kind emporium of transcendent junk" or "your eccentric uncle's attic on steroids."

The idea behind our South X Lullaby series was to offer intimate moments with musicians as an antidote to the commotion and deluge that is the SXSW music festival. When we met Lucy Dacus for her Lullaby and found out she'd perform "Historians," a most somber song from her deeply personal and triumphant album Historian, it felt just right. It's a song of reflection, the story of two intertwined partners and the way they document one another's lives and preserve each other's memories.

In the midst of all the chaos that is Austin, Texas during the SXSW Music Festival, we seek moments of calm. And so one night, as the week was nearing its end, we made our way to the courtyard of St. David's Episcopal Church, just a few blocks from the thousands of festival participants and onlookers.

Our bleary-eyed, ear-ringing week of seemingly non-stop live music in Austin, Texas has ended and we're back one last time to reflect on the 2018 South by Southwest festival and play some of our favorite discoveries.

When I told Mal Blum about the Future of Secrets art installation in which they'd be performing a South X Lullaby, Blum immediately had the perfect song.

It's the most wonderful time of the year! At least it is for avid music fans like us and anyone else attending the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The annual endurance challenge gets underway this week, with thousands of bands from around the world — and many more fans — converging on the city for a seemingly endless bender of live performances — shows both big and small that last all day, every day, into the wee hours of the morning, with music pouring out of every club, restaurant, street corner and alleyway for miles.

This is a complex and fascinating conversation with Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine about the latest version of the band's legendary 1991 album, Loveless. It's also about the group's future.

Riddles, the third album by Ed Schrader's Music Beat, is a fascinating piece of work that is both ugly and beautiful, often at the same time. The beauty of this music is in the trance-inducing pulse that drives it; a chaos of pulsing, incessant rhythms.The sound is reminiscent of two bands that captured my musical world around 1978 — the aggressively minimalist electronics-and-poetry duo Suicide and the dark, futuristic sounds of Pere Ubu's Dub Housing.

River Whyless is a band whose members push themselves toward perfection while holding each other up and allowing for some risk-taking. This is a band not only of strong players and singers but something a lot of bands rarely have: multiple, talented songwriters.

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