NPR Music

All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers, Lyndsey McKenna, and Sidney Madden to talk about June 8's standout albums. Highlights include the candid, introspective rock of Snail Mail, the jazzy, laid-back R&B of British singer Jorja Smith, the sultry pop of Lykke Li, and more.

Featured Albums

  1. River Whyless: Kindness, A Rebel
    Featured Song: "The Feeling Of Freedom"
  2. Serpentwithfeet: Soil
    Featured Song: "Whisper"

If you're a band in 2018, you can't just tell the world you're putting out an album. You have to hire skywriters, or etch your new cover art onto the side of a mountain, or fly journalists out to Wyoming for a live-stream or something. You have to make it an event!

There's more to quiet music than diminutive volume. It's an intent laid bare in arrangement and emotion with space for sound and feeling to grow outward to the listener. For the last five years or so, Katie Bennett has quickly — and quietly, of course — become one of indie pop's most thoughtful songwriters as Free Cake For Every Creature.

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.


The first recorded collaboration between singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur and guitarist Peter Buck of R.E.M. fame isn't a concept album in the strictest sense. But many of its songs do revolve around a central theme: The messy metaphysical process of getting "woke."

Hear music from the acclaimed National Theatre of Scotland production The Strange Undoing Of Prudencia Hart, that celebrates traditional poetry, storytelling and music woven through a supernatural tale. Fiona Ritchie gets to the heart of the tale and explores the music that moves it along, inspired by Border Ballads and Robert Burns.

The first time Tony Presley heard Sun June, it was through his apartment floor. The co-founder of up-and-coming Austin label Keeled Scales was living above Estuary Recording Facility, where the band was tracking its debut LP, Years. The album, which Keeled Scales will release June 15, retains the warmth of that initial encounter. Sun June's music is something that comes in snatches, wisps that captivate and escape the ear with all the airy weight of dust rising from an Austin floorboard on every beat of a muffled drum.

On her new album, Courtney Barnett does something I don't think many people could do — I know I couldn't do it. She takes an insult that was hurled at her and turns it into a powerful lyric in one of her songs. The insult-turned-lyric is this quote: "I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you."

Katie Herzig's trajectory probably doesn't much resemble what you'd expect a professional Nashville songwriter's career to look like, which seems to suit her just fine. She fell into what you might call commercial songwriting almost by accident, when she discovered that the sort of breathy, intimate folk pop tunes she was already writing for her own albums were an excellent fit for the soundtracks to prime-time dramas like Grey's Anatomy.

North Texas is steeped in music history. In the 1920s and '30s, Dallas' Deep Ellum neighborhood was renowned for its blues scene, with artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lead Belly, Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson treating the neighborhood as their musical playground.

Rolling Stone wrote that the voice of The Who's Roger Daltrey was one of the most powerful instruments in rock. But when first it started in the 1960s, Daltrey's band was covering American soul songs. At the age of 74, the British rocker is returning to that music for his new solo album, As Long as I Have You.

M. Ward On Mountain Stage

Jun 4, 2018

As a producer, collaborator and songwriter, Portland, Ore.'s M. Ward has a prolific output, to put it lightly: eight studio albums of his own; six She & Him albums with Zooey Deschanel; 2009's Monsters of Folk project; and Mavis Staples' 2016 album, Livin' on a High Note. He has recently carved out time to play his own live concerts, including his first-ever appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded in April 2018.

In celebration of her new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, Courtney Barnett performed an intimate set for KCRW. "Charity" is an album highlight and will surely be a live staple and crowd favorite in the months to come.

SET LIST

  • "Charity"

Anyone who says you should never meet your heroes because they will disappoint you has never met John Prine. He is everything you love about his songs. He's warm, funny and wise — although you get the sense he's not trying to be. He cares about people and their smallest details and, as his lyrics might suggest, he'll find a way to work pork chops into the conversation.

Meeting Charley Crockett through his music, you get the sense he's the kind of guy who, in person, would shake your hand, look you straight in the eye and remember your name. Charley was raised in South Texas by a single mom whose unshakable sense of ambition and perseverance rubbed off.

Whether it's your first or 50th time on the road, being on tour is a roller coaster. Phoebe Bridgers, a 2018 Slingshot artist, is not new to this wild ride — nor will she be hanging up her guitar any time soon. Her headlining tour, playfully named "The Farewell Tour" in support of her debut album Stranger In the Alps, has continued non-stop since its release in 2017.

All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton talks with NPR Music's Ann Powers and Stephen Thompson about the best new albums out on June 1, including the remarkable new Neko Case record Hell-On and an emotional and revealing new album from Father John Misty. Complete list below.

Featured Albums

  • Neko Case, Hell-On
    • Featured Track: "Last Lion of Albion"

  • Father John Misty, God's Favorite Customer

Rock's not dead. They say this every few years — or months, or days — but really, the state of rock is quite strong.

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.

Belly On World Cafe

May 30, 2018

In 1995, Bill Watterson, the author of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, decided to end it even though it seemed like the comic was in its prime. Since then, Bill has said, "It's better to leave the party early." Belly, our guest in this session did the very same thing. The band had explosive success with the debut album Star in 1993 and was all over MTV with the hit song "Feed the Tree." Belly released the follow-up King in 1995, grabbing the cover of Rolling Stone in the spring of that year.

The Thistle & Shamrock: More New Sounds

May 30, 2018

This week there are rising names to discover and exciting new sounds from Cathy Jordan's Americana trio The Unwanted and Welsh band Calan.

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

Love and loss often inspire creativity. Aisha Burns' second solo album Argonauta is about the places where grief meets hope. What makes this album distinct is that it was written in response to a great loss in Aisha Burns' life — her mother's death — which occurred alongside the beginning of a great romance.

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