NPR Music

You know how the old adage goes: "What Would Lou Reed Do?" OK, so nobody really says that — except for Kevin Morby, who says that mantra gave him the confidence to experiment more as he worked on his fourth album, City Music.

Sean Rowe On Mountain Stage

16 hours ago

Acclaimed acoustic rocker Sean Rowe returns to Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va.

Guitarist Dave Rosser, best known as a later-stage guitarist for both The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, died yesterday in New Orleans from cancer complications at 50 years old, his manager confirmed to NPR.

Rosser was also a busy sideman and studio presence in recent years, contributing to Tim Heidecker's semi-comedic 2016 album In Glendale, recent work from Mark Lanegan, including "Ode to Sad Disco," and The Internet's 2015 album Ego Death, including the song "Go With It."

Flesh World's story reads like something out of a cult comic book: two San Francisco musicians from seemingly different worlds bond over The Velvet Underground and The Jesus And Mary Chain, and start a cool band in the process.

For years the duo She Keeps Bees — songwriter, singer and guitarist Jessica Larrabee and drummer Andy LaPlant — has carved songs simultaneously asperous and velveted, pieces of minimalist rock 'n' roll driven by Larrabee's sensibility of volume and restraint, and bedrocked by a gifted, cashmere voice.

We open on a beater driving across a washed-out Nevada, with an intro ripped right out of 1985. Echoing drums snap under a chugging bass line as Alex Cameron, dressed in all white, starts to sing about a wound deeper than the layers of synth that ramp up to the chorus — a relationship that you both cannot sustain and cannot leave.

Ani DiFranco's new album, her 20th, is called Binary. And, as is always the case with this artist, the music and the message are intertwined. The music on Binary is textured and ambitious — you can hear DiFranco's adopted home of New Orleans seeping through the floorboards. There are surprising guests, including Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

The World's Ugliest Dog competition is a lie, or at least misleadingly named. Foldover skin, permanently protruding tongues, untameable wiry hair — those dogs are adorable and anyone who says otherwise has no heart. Noise-rock, on the other hand, thrives on ugly. It is the parasitic, shape-shifting monster of music, and Couch Slut is here to explosively mutate into a creature from The Thing.

Big Hush's first two cassettes are full of quiet songs played loud. With members from Pygmy Lush and Flasher, the D.C.-based band features (appropriately) hushed vocals from all four members, cooing over a messy, punk-sick shoegaze. It can, from songs that read as intimately as notes passed between friends, make for quite the harmony-riddled racket.

"I'm terrified as usual. Absolutely terrified," Radiohead leader Thom Yorke told the BBC ahead of the band's headlining performance at Glastonbury on Friday night.

Yorke's nervousness translated into a typically transcendent concert with a recording that actually does it justice, too. (Live recordings always tend to be a little light on the low end, but let us abandon nitpicks).

Head here and start at 28:25 to hear the beginning of the band's set.

Let's Eat Grandma: Defying Commas And Expectations

Jun 26, 2017

There are sections of Highway 1 where the heart can leap out of your throat and into the Pacific Ocean, the California coastline so steep, the water so far and so blue, the beauty savage and mysterious. Walk long enough from the winding asphalt, into the woods, and this mystery endures, but thick and sky high, surrounded and enclosed. Seven years ago Fletcher Tucker moved here, to Big Sur, to make music as Bird By Snow and run his label Gnome Life Records. As Tucker fell more deeply into this environment — an "inhabitation," he calls it — he found songs instead of writing them.

Phoenix's sixth and latest album is called Ti Amo; in case you're rusty on your Italian, that means "I love you." And the record is filled with love. It also evokes Italian discos in the summertime — a surprisingly fun and lighthearted tone, given the tense times in which it emerged.

Rev. Sekou is a preacher, pastor and social activist with music in his blood. In this session Sekou is joined by the North Mississippi Allstars — whose members Luther and Cody Dickinson produced his new album, In Times Like These — for a performance recorded onstage at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

Ah, the feelgood aura of The Beach Boys. We know it so well we just sorta melt into it – drifting into the idyllic reveries of "In My Room" and "God Only Knows," hardly focusing when one of those hot-wired surfing songs erupts from the radio. It's like a direct circuit to the brain: Hear those harmonies and in 3-2-1, there comes the little dopamine squirt affirming all is right with the world.

Algiers new album The Underside Of Power is one of 2017's most ambitious and intense records. I love it — but sometimes I have to just have to hit pause. There's a fierceness both in subject and sound and source, including speeches from Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers, bold and dark lyrical imagery of death and rage, sounds of people weeping, drones, chimes and what at times feels like the entire history of rock, gospel and R&B wrapped into fifty-one minutes. There's a lot to unpack here.

Kansas City native Kevin Morby relocated to Los Angeles a few years ago, but his latest album, City Music, is a dedication to another former home: New York City. Morby has a voice and perspective well beyond his 29 years, and we thoroughly enjoyed his live session.

SET LIST

  • "Crybaby"

Photo: Davis Bell/Winter LaMaster Photography.

Lo Tom's debut is a serious rock 'n' roll record that doesn't take itself too seriously. "Nobody is in charge," the band claims. "The album is pink..." and features a chihuahua with sunglasses.

Back in 2001, not long after All Songs Considered started, Bob Boilen and I made what was one of the show's first-ever musical discoveries, a then-new band called The Be Good Tanyas. The trio of young women from Vancouver made incredibly infectious folk with the sweetest harmonies and a swoon-inducing surplus of innocent charm.

There are as many ways to celebrate summer as there are cover versions of George Gershwin's "Summertime." Maybe you're looking forward to hot fun in the summertime or slathering on sunscreen so you can soak up the sun.

Girlpool was formed by musicians Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker a few years ago after they met at a DIY space in Los Angeles. In 2015 Tividad and Tucker released their debut record, Before The World Was Big, as a duo — just two voices, two instruments (bass and guitar) and a whole lot of radical honesty.

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