NPR Music

We stayed up late, damaged our ear sockets and gave into the ecstasy of live music at SXSW: Diet Cig, Lizzo, Moor Mother, Sleigh Bells, S U R V I V E, Anna Meredith, Weezer, The Revolution's Prince tribute — even Garth Brooks. Here are 50 photos from the festival shot by Adam Kissick, with a few by our own Bob Boilen.

Nina Diaz and Y La Bamba's Luz Elena Mendoza have never played together, but after NPR Music paired them in the courtyard of St. David's Episcopal Church for a late evening performance, we're beginning to wonder why not.

Over nearly two decades, Ireland's Bell X1 has mastered melodic indie pop that is bright, thoughtful and gracefully rough around the edges. It's one of the most played bands on Irish radio, it's sold out shows at home and abroad and its members have established families with kids. But to make their latest record, the members of Bell X1 had to pretend they were scrappy teenagers again.

The members of U2 are preparing a new tour to play some old songs — 30 years old, to be exact. Paul Hewson and David Evans, known to the world as Bono and The Edge, will be the first to tell you their band isn't normally fond of looking back.

The 1970s was an incredibly diverse decade for recorded music: from hippie folk at the start to disco, punk, the rise of reggae and the very first stirrings of hip-hop. At the beginning of the decade, Frank Sinatra had a song on the charts for 122 weeks. There was soft rock, metal and country. Album sales and progressive radio were huge.

All this is true. That's why it is so fascinating to look at the songs that ended up at the very top of Billboard's pop chart for each year of the decade — they certainly don't always represent all the change that was going on.

L.A. Salami sings and fingerpicks his acoustic guitar like an old truck winding through windswept blue highways. The British artist's debut album Dancing With Bad Grammar was one of Bob Boilen's top 10 albums of last year, saying it was a "hidden gem in 2016."

When PWR BTTM takes the stage, it doesn't take long to figure out what you're going to get. From the first glitter-smeared seconds of the set-opening "Silly," the band came to shred and swagger with infectious joy, complete with backbends and solos and spangly outfits — at least one of which wouldn't survive the band's set at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Texas, recorded live for NPR Music Wednesday night.

On Tuesday, Feist's new album, Pleasure, was announced with a release date of April 28 — amusingly, to the surprise of Leslie Feist herself. Now we have the title track, her first new original song in six years.

NPR's Scott Simon spoke to James Cotton in 2013. Hear an encore of their conversation at the audio link.

The Shins visited our studio for one of the first full-band performances behind the new album Heartworms. Frontman James Mercer produced this album on his own — something he hasn't done since The Shins' 2001 debut album, Oh, Inverted World. "The Fear" sounds incredible live with a string section.

Set List

  • "The Fear"

Photo: Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW.

The resistance is real in the world of Amazon Video's original series The Man in The High Castle, based on the award-winning book by Philip K. Dick. Set in 1962, the show imagines a history where Germany and Japan actually won World War II and, 17 years after the loss, the United States is split between Nazi Germany (the East Coast) and Imperial Japan (the West Coast). In the midst of it all, a resistance movement has been formed in a neutral zone to fight for freedom.

For more than a decade, singer-songwriter Sera Cahoone has specialized in a shy, introverted kind of folk music: She started her career at the back of the stage, playing drums for Carissa's Wierd and Band Of Horses, and the solo songs that followed reflected the gently unassuming nature of a singer who couldn't showboat in the spotlight if she tried.

Kelly Lee Owens' self-titled debut is a folk-pop album – kind of like how Arthur Russell, a longtime hero of the singer/songwriter/producer for whom she names the collection's wonderful second track, is a folk-pop artist. That is, completely and not all. Its melodies are effortless, romantic and repetitive; its atmosphere replete with pastoral open spaces and the kind of spiritual longing at the heart of human intimacy.

At the end of 2014, Geneviève Castrée and I were writing back and forth to each other about domestic life, baking bread, and the forthcoming records by both her own Ô Paon project (Fleuve) and and that of her husband Phil Elverum: Mount Eerie's Sauna.

Valerie June's "Astral Plane" was already made to be a lullaby, a softly swaying, country-tinged soul song that scrapes the stratosphere. On the studio version from The Order Of Time, it's dipped in gauzy guitar and keys.

After missing two chances to control the compositions he co-authored while in The Beatles — once in 1969 when he and John Lennon were outbid and again to Michael Jackson, in a duplicitous move by the King of Pop, in the '80s — Paul McCartney is not taking any chances.

What's the best way to become the unchallenged expert on a particular genre of music? Invent it. Enter JD Ryznar, Hunter Stair, David B. Lyons and Steve Huey: coiners of the description "yacht rock," creators of a hilarious web series of the same name and now de facto captains of the genre.

Public radio hosts from around the country, along with thousands of other music lovers, descended on Austin, Texas, this week to stand in long lines and eat breakfast tacos. And when they're not complaining about the former or posting Instagrams of the latter, they attend an ungodly number of concerts in the hopes of stumbling upon the next big band. Each day this week, All Songs Considered and hosts from our partner stations will report back on the best thing they saw the day prior.

But that's just the beginning of our SXSW coverage. Here's what else we have in store:

The Thistle & Shamrock: ThistleRadio New

Mar 15, 2017

Hear some of the recently added tracks that have grown our playlist to more than 1,000 tracks on ThistleRadio, The Thistle & Shamrock's popular round-the-clock music channel. The list includes music by Goitse, Gerda Stevenson, Sharlene Wallace and Lilt, among others.

Frank Turner On Mountain Stage

Mar 15, 2017

Hardcore troubadour Frank Turner makes his debut on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va. Crowned "the people's prince of punk poetry," Turner began as a member of post-hardcore bands Kneejerk and Million Dead before going solo and creating roaring anti-folk.

Sometimes the hard-working, completely badass punks win. Downtown Boys signed to Sub Pop recently, an open invitation for a wider world to hear the Rhode Island natives' wild, bilingual, no-filler, can-still-throw-down punk rock.

"How does the scar forgive the knife?" So begins the heart-wrenching lament of Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Tift Merritt. This is just one of many beautiful, Americana-drenched, self-penned sighs from her sixth studio release, Stitch Of The World, recorded over the course of four days in Los Angeles and co-produced by Iron & Wine's Sam Beam.

Feist has been known to take her time between albums, but it has been a long stretch since 2011's Metals.

Singer Alynda Segarra has tried on a lot of identities. She grew up in the Bronx in a Puerto Rican family, and her aunt and uncle raised her in what almost sounds like a time capsule.

The Aussie trio Middle Kids came seemingly out of nowhere to release some of the catchiest pop songs we've heard recently. The band visited KCRW for a live session on the day it released its self-titled EP and performed the standout "Never Start."

SET LIST

  • "Never Start"

Photo: Michael Verdin/KCRW.

The combination of an acoustic guitar and the human voice can trigger powerful emotions in countless ways, but it's pretty remarkable when they come together in ways that sound novel. "Goji Berry Sunset" — the first single by Naomi Hamilton, a singer from Northern Ireland who goes by the name Jealous Of The Birds — is made from some of the sparest ingredients imaginable; it's just a gently plucked acoustic guitar, a whistled hook and Hamilton's layered vocals. But those simple sounds dig deep.

Pages