NPR Music

Shilpa Ray is nothing if not honest. Her new album, Door Girl, captures New York nightlife in all its sordid, sweaty chaos and supplies caustic commentary on life in the unfeeling city.

These days, David Crosby — one of the world's most recognizable rock stars — lives and works quietly in a ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif. with his three dogs—sometimes, he jokes, all named Fang.

Join host Fiona Ritchie and guests as they explore selections from the American Folklife Center's collection of about half a million sound recordings, including songs from Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Carrie Grover.

Portland, Ore.'s The Decemberists and British singer-songwriter Olivia Chaney have teamed up to cover traditional English (and Irish and Scottish) folk songs under the name Offa Rex.

First Listen: Loney Dear, 'Loney Dear'

Sep 21, 2017

When last the world heard a full-length from Emil Svanängen, who records under the name Loney Dear, it was 2011's Hall Music. It's a symphonic sprawl of a record that heaped instrument upon instrument atop the Swedish singer-songwriter's elfin voice and tender melodies. Since then, he's switched labels, from the celebrated indie Polyvinyl to no less than Peter Gabriel's pet imprint, Real World. In that time, Svanängen has also pulled back. Where Hall Music swelled and swirled, his new album, Loney Dear, whispers.

Like many singer-songwriters, Jessica Lea Mayfield depends on vocal demeanor to bring out the emotional nuances in her writing. She's got quite a range: She can sound spacey and serene, or distant and suspicious, or fiercely sure of herself. Her raw fourth album, Sorry Is Gone, has a series of songs about escape from damaging relationships, and each is conveyed through its own weather system. There are outbreaks of snarling bitterness followed by moments of calm, and times when inner turmoil is masked under a coating of honeyed pop exuberance.

"You know, I really wasn't kidding," laughs David Crosby, referencing our 2016 conversation about his then-new album, Lighthouse, during which he'd described experiencing an unprecedented, elongated bout of creativity. The imminent arrival of Lighthouse's follow-up, Sky Trails, less than a year later, lends Crosby's claim credibility. Crosby has released six solo albums since 1971, but three of them have arrived since 2014.

In this special episode, we're having a listening party inspired by Turning the Tables, NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women. It was spearheaded by Ann Powers, our Nashville correspondent. She joins us — along with Alisa Ali from WFUV in New York City, Andrea Swensson from The Current in Minneapolis, and me, Talia Schlanger — to focus on a couple important records from that list that came out in the '90s.

Watch Lo Moon Play 'This Is It' In 360 Degrees

Sep 20, 2017

Lo Moon's carefully crafted dream-pop songs have made them one of Los Angeles' most exciting bands to watch. Get inside KCRW's studios with a virtual reality performance of the group's shimmering single, "This Is It."

Over the past couple of years, Big Thief has quickly gained a passionate and devoted fan base with a rare, quiet force.

Appearing to come out of nowhere last year with its critically hailed, and aptly titled debut, Masterpiece, the band has already taken a quantum leap on its fast (and also aptly titled) follow-up, Capacity. Indeed, Adrianne Lenker's solo performance and conversation at WFUV gave us the rare opportunity to get an intimate glimpse of the vulnerability she wields in powerful ways.

The Barr Brothers — siblings Brad and Andrew Barr, along with harpist Sarah Pagé – are set to release a new album, Queens Of The Breakers, via Secret City Records on Oct. 13.

Some people float through change; others aggressively swim. Still others find themselves deeply challenged to find ways to follow a current that can carry them to a safe shore. The Lone Bellow, the Brooklyn-born trio of Zach Williams, Kanene Donehy Pipkin and Brian Elmquist, negotiated many changes while making its third album, Walk into a Storm. Babies were born; a close friend of the band committed suicide. One member sought and found a way to deal with alcohol addiction.

When Leon Russell died last November, the 74-year-old star was recuperating from heart surgery and itching to get back out on the road. So it's no surprise that Russell — whose music fused soul, rock, gospel and country — left behind an impressive batch of songs that hadn't yet seen release. On Friday, 10 months after his death, On a Distant Shore continues a recorded legacy that hasn't dimmed.

Each August for the last 10 years, World Cafe has recorded bands playing the opening concert of the renowned Philadelphia Folk Festival, which celebrated its 56th edition this year.

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.

Live from the Americana Music Festival and Conference, WMOT — in collaboration with World Cafe, VuHaus and NPR Music — brings you a live webcast of the WMOT Roots Radio 89.5 Birthday Bash at the Yee-Haw Tent in downtown Nashville. Watch the live video webcast starting at 11:00 a.m. CST/noon EST on Saturday, Sept. 16 via VuHaus, above.

There is a fine line between sensitivity and melodrama.

Petal, the musical project of Kiley Lotz, doesn't reveal specifics in "Comfort" to determine where she stands, but she makes her disquietude known. Her soft falsetto recognizes that the dissolution of a relationship, the space in which something intimate becomes ill-defined and romance starts to waver, is an idiosyncratic experience every time, for every stranger, friend and loved one. It also happens to be why "Comfort" is so heartbreaking.

When MTV launched on Aug. 1, 1981, the very first music video played was "Video Killed The Radio Star" by The Buggles. The song's lyrical message mixes nostalgic sentiments with concerns about how technological advancements will impact the future of music consumption and the musical stars these advancements would create.

Snail Mail's sleepy songs have a way of waking you up. They rumble at a steady pace like a scrappy rock band playing to a small room, but then Lindsey Jordan, who just graduated from high school this past spring, drops a line like, "So if you look death right in the face, don't thank him / Because there's nothing and there won't ever be." You can feel the room nod in solidarity, and you could feel the NPR Music office do the same when Snail Mail performed "Slug."

Live from the Americana Music Festival & Conference in Nashville, Tenn., WMOT — in collaboration with World Cafe, VuHaus and NPR Music — brings you some of the best musicians performing at the festival, including Tyler Childers, Lindi Ortega and Pony Bradshaw. The show will be broadcast live on WMOT 89.5, and video from the Yee-Haw Tent in downtown Nashville will be streaming online.

On the coattails of releasing his new album Bone on Bone, the Canadian troubadour Bruce Cockburn joins World Cafe for a performance and interview.

We were waiting anxiously for The War on Drugs' new album, A Deeper Understanding. Little did we know the band was hunkered down here in Los Angeles carefully crafting its return. When we finally got the band in studio, we were floored by the new material, including this incredible performance of "Holding On."

SET LIST

  • "Holding On"

Photo: Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW.

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