NPR Music

Ever since he released his 2009 solo debut Pink Strat, I've always thought of Afie Jurvanen, better known as Bahamas, as a captain of cool breeze sound — easy, inviting and a little sideways. But this time around, Bahamas recruited the rhythm section featured on the album Black Messiah by D'Angelo and the results on his latest album, Earthtones, rest firmly in a funky pocket of groove.

What if your goal was to just write some good songs? What if you and your longtime friend did that and then went back to your day jobs at a law firm and in the music industry? Then what if everything changed? Your song gets 10 millions plays on Spotify, you are spotlighted by NPR Music, you perform live on Conan and you sign a major label deal — and all before your debut album's release!

Blind Pilot On Mountain Stage

Feb 22, 2018

Singer and guitarist Israel Nebeker and drummer Ryan Dubrowski began making music together in Portland, Ore. almost a decade ago. Since then, they've grown their band, Blind Pilot, by adding four additional talents to fill out their folk-pop melodies. Since 2008, the band has released three records and made several high-profile television appearances, as well as taken the stage at various large-scale music festivals throughout the country.

When Joan Baez was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, she jettisoned much of the inside-baseball career reflection usually seen in acceptance speeches. Instead, Baez connected the dots between the folk scene from which she emerged, her life-long dedication to the nonviolence movement and political activism, and how vital it is to repair today's divisive society.

"49 Hairflips," one of the breakup songs on Jonathan Wilson's arrestingly ambitious third solo album, is set late at night, in the reflecting hour. The tune is a waltz with a "Mr. Bojangles" gait, and Wilson darkens it by singing listlessly, with almost chemical detachment. Near the end, just after the Hollywood strings clear out, he makes a declaration: "I'm not leaving these walls without the prettiest song I can find."

The music of Soccer Mommy — aka 20-year-old Nashville songwriter Sophie Allison — often focuses on uneasy desire, sometimes peered at in retrospect and always with a kind of world-weary wisdom. "I want to be the one you miss when you're alone / I want to be the one you're kissing when you're stoned ... I'm clawing at your skin / trying to see your bones," Allison sings on the dreamy "Skin" from her new album, Clean.

Recent headlines out of Australia make burgeoning rock trio Camp Cope look like die-hard activists. At the end of 2017, bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich wrote an essay on music industry discrimination for Australian publication The Music.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Clear Sounds

Feb 21, 2018

This week, Fiona Ritchie presents some great solo performances from both sides of the Atlantic. This includes the pure, clear acoustic sounds of Jean Redpath, Julee Glaub, and Maura O'Connell.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

I gotta say I had a bit of a hard time holding it together during this session. Sitting in a room two feet away from Glen Hansard as he plays an acoustic guitar is transcendent. When we were talking, he was this warm, gregarious storyteller, but as soon as he started to sing, Glen summoned so much force and conviction and blood, that I forgot there was anything else in the entire world. And you'll hear that in my reactions.

Amid a ceaseless stream of horrors recounted via push notification, inner turmoil takes a backseat to personal survival. And sometimes, survival requires not caring about anything, at least for a little while. But there's a cost.

There is a lot that's disarming about Sunny War. She has that kind of raw, rare talent of a guitarist that stops you in your tracks.

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.

Nashville rock is fun, loud and often trashy, but the best bands push themselves beyond mere noise into visionary territory. Idle Bloom is a band that's grown from its roots in the all-ages punk scene to become one of the city's most musically compelling and lyrically insightful ensembles.

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.

St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, stopped by for a short acoustic set of songs from her acclaimed album Masseduction, as well as some old favorites. The stripped-down versions of these songs spotlighted her exceptional voice and were truly stunning.

SET LIST

  • "New York"

At once amiable and soaring, Mt. Joy's songs unfold like good political speeches: They amble and converse and pulsate fervently until it's time to get the crowd chanting along. Take "Silver Lining," which plays like a pretty straightforward rock and roll ramble — complete with a chorus in which singer Matt Quinn shouts out the phrase, "The drugs, the women, the wine, the weed" — until it gets to a more profound call to action: "Tell all the ones you love you love them."

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.

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.

Drowse is not only apt for the hazy ambience that Kyle Bates makes with creative partner Maya Stoner, but the medicated state from which it was inspired. Following a mental breakdown, Bates was originally prescribed antipsychotic drugs, and several unmedicated years later, his anxiety returned in heavy doses. His relief came in the namesake of this song, he tells NPR:

Pages