NPR Music

Sarah Louise must have a sick sense of humor, or just perfectly inappropriate timing: The second day of spring has been welcomed with heavy snow on the East Coast, and I am grumpy about it. But dangit, her new song helping keep the soul toasty.

In the midst of all the chaos that is Austin, Texas during the SXSW Music Festival, we seek moments of calm. And so one night, as the week was nearing its end, we made our way to the courtyard of St. David's Episcopal Church, just a few blocks from the thousands of festival participants and onlookers.

Our bleary-eyed, ear-ringing week of seemingly non-stop live music in Austin, Texas has ended and we're back one last time to reflect on the 2018 South by Southwest festival and play some of our favorite discoveries.

Liz Brasher Storms Stubb's Stage With 'Outcast'

Mar 20, 2018

Last Wednesday night, Liz Brasher lit up the room with engaging guitar riffs, vocals bursting with otherworldly power and excitement that bubbled off the stage. Each song in this short set further highlighted her arsenal of talents — take the example this throw-down, titled "Outcast."

SET LIST

  • "Outcast"

CREDITS

Aisha Burns' heart was like a glass emptying and filling itself. Her mother had died, but she had also found love in a new relationship, all at once. The conflicting emotions would be enough for any heart to spill over with grief and joy, but Burns channeled it all into her new project.

Stella Donnelly has only one EP to her name, but that's been enough to make her sharp wit come through in sweet, quiet songs that rage loudly. The Australian singer-songwriter's Thrush Metal EP was recently reissued in the U.S. with a bonus track, "Talking," which she performs here surrounded by video of wires, a weaving machine and woolen yarns.

As Cornelius, Keigo Oyamada has stretched his vision across frenzied indie rock, lush '60s-style pop, psychedelic funk and glitched electronics, all deconstructed and reassembled like a neon cubist-pop sculpture. After a little more than two decades, no one can really imitate his complex cool.

The Arabic word habibi means "my love," an apt descriptor for Rahill Jamalifard's feelings about her Iranian upbringing and the music she creates. Jamalifard is the frontwoman for Habibi, the Brooklyn-based band that mixes Detroit garage rock with girl group harmonies and surf guitar. The band's newest EP, Cardamom Garden, houses lyrics that move seamlessly between English and Farsi.

Tyminski On Mountain Stage

Mar 15, 2018

Southern Gothic is the first release by Tyminski, a new modern roots music project led by renowned vocalist, instrumentalist and songwriter Dan Tyminski. The sound combines subtle electronic elements with roots instruments to create appropriate atmospherics that match the darker undertones of the lyrics.

One of the best parts of our "jobs" here at the World Cafe is when we discover inspiring new music. Whether it's a singer-songwriter, an indie rock band or an underground rapper, there's so much creativity swirling around in the music ecosystem.

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.

Marlon Williams has a timeless vocal style and effortless confidence. His latest album, Make Way For Love, was birthed from the ashes of his breakup with fellow singer Aldous Harding.

This excellent live performance of "What's Chasing You" is a perfect example of what makes this New Zealand artist stand out from the crowd.

SET LIST

  • "What's Chasing You"

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.


Building anything, whether it's a home, a life, or an album, is tireless work. A blueprint helps, but having one hardly means things will go according to plan. Learning to build around the plans when they fall through is a necessary skill — and, often, one that you don't know you possess until you're in the middle of the process.

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 members of Wax Chattels introduce "In My Mouth" as "our homage to Auckland's best dive bar." If that's the case, this dive bar has been shattered, battered and fried into a post-punk surrender. No survivors, just a fluorescent strip dangling from the ceiling, flickering the remnants of a crazed brawl.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has that quintessential rock and roll swagger. The band is celebrating its 20th anniversary, but to say that the members celebrate things seems inaccurate. They're fighters. They're defiant, even a bit skeptical. All the pomp and circumstance of a 20th anniversary would be overly indulgent.

When I told Mal Blum about the Future of Secrets art installation in which they'd be performing a South X Lullaby, Blum immediately had the perfect song.

Soul music savant Leon Bridges has announced a new album, Good Thing, and with it, two new tracks.

On the 2017 debut Jump Ship, No Thank You frontwoman Kaytee Della Monica offered the kind of millennial snark heard from the edge of a cigarette with lyrics like "Still listen to Nimrod when I'm getting high / I'm twenty something, I'm doing just fine."

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.


Every band needs to refresh and reconsider its sound sooner or later, no matter how sharp it's gotten over the course of a long career. Creative stagnation comes for us all — even The Decemberists, a band whose records have always come bursting with verve and verbosity.

It's the most wonderful time of the year! At least it is for avid music fans like us and anyone else attending the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The annual endurance challenge gets underway this week, with thousands of bands from around the world — and many more fans — converging on the city for a seemingly endless bender of live performances — shows both big and small that last all day, every day, into the wee hours of the morning, with music pouring out of every club, restaurant, street corner and alleyway for miles.

Sampling the thousands of bands playing South By Southwest each year is like trying to take a sip from a tidal wave: It's hard to find an entry point, and you're more than likely going to wind up flattened.

Next week, the annual music festival kicks off in Austin, Texas, so All Things Considered weekend host Michel Martin requested a digestible primer — five songs by artists worth hearing this year.

All Nerve is an apt title from a band that's survived as much as the members of The Breeders have. Addiction and infighting broke up the four musicians responsible for the 1993's alternative staple Last Splash. Though the group has returned in various incarnations since then, it would be 25 years before the classic lineup — twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson — would record together again.

Producer and engineer Eddie Kramer still remembers the first time he heard Jimi Hendrix play. It was 1967 and he was assigned to work with a young guitarist that everyone in London was talking about.

"Jimi got up and plugged into the Marshall stack," Kramer remembers. "I had never heard anything like it. It just completely blew me away."

We toil with what's ahead, but know what's possible, what's futile and how it can distort — even control — our everyday. It is exhausting and forgets those who just need need to be in the present.

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