NPR Music

If you've ever listened to The Marked Men or Radioactivity, Jeff Burke is a songwriter who knows his way around a power-pop-punched punk hook. The same goes for Japanese musician Yusuke Okada, who makes rollicking garage-rock with Suspicious Beasts. The cross-continental duo make hazy, flowery '60s psych with a bit of '80s jangle as Lost Balloons, their second album Hey Summer arriving just in time for long bike rides, long sips of sweet tea and staring at clouds.

We're almost halfway through the year, so we here at World Cafe decided the time was ripe to look back on the best of 2017 so far. In case you haven't noticed, it's been a pretty stellar year for new music.

Guest DJ: alt-J

Jun 6, 2017

Our guest in this session is The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, whose new solo album is called Waiting On A Song. The record is a product of Auerbach's move to Nashville, where he met some of the heavy collaborators who appear on it — including John Prine, who co-wrote the title song.

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.


Chuck Berry's legacy didn't need another record, or any kind of postscript for that matter.

When he died this March, the obits hailed him as the chief architect and driving force behind rock and roll. He was described as the catalyst of a cultural revolution, a titan whose crisp songs and ringing guitar blazed a superhighway-sized trail for future generations.

After a few years spent regrouping from the trying experience of being dropped by their first record label, The Secret Sisters have returned with their third LP, You Don't Own Me Anymore, produced by Brandi Carlile. Folk Alley caught up with Laura and Lydia Rogers at this year's 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida for an exclusive session at our pop-up studio, not far from the beach.

When it comes to today's guests, mystery is the name of the game. The band's name is the symbol of a triangle. It's pronounced alt-J. You won't find pictures of the three stars of the band very many places — certainly not on the cover of its new record, which features a drawing of an anonymous red body on the side of a highway. And not in the music video for the album's first single, which stars a scurrying wood mouse.

Bill Orcutt's guitar playing scrambles conventional logic. Filled with unpredictable fits and starts, off-key tangents and buzzing half-notes, and sometimes enhanced by the haunting accompaniment of his own wordless moans, Orcutt's work continually challenges notions of musical rules — or whether there should even be any. His deconstructive approach is clearest when he covers other people's songs, dissecting and disemboweling them in ways that don't just change their skin, but alter their basic DNA.

Radiohead is sharing a previously unreleased track the band recorded during sessions for its monumental 1997 album OK Computer.

alt-J's art-rock weaves dark, seductive and otherworldly tales that lean heavily on folk traditions — their version of "House of the Rising Sun," their inclusion of lines from the Irish tune "The Auld Triangle" in "Adeline" and the Shakespearean references in "3WW" come first to mind.

"Oh, these three worn words
Oh, that we whisper


Like the rubbing hands
Of tourists in Verona
I just want to love you in my own language"

It's been 50 years since The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Perhaps the most influential rock album of all time, it was released in what many music lovers consider one of the greatest years in music.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Writing

Jun 1, 2017

From instrumental commissions to new works by singer-songwriters, hear a wealth of recently composed gems by Maggie MacInnes, Wendy Weatherby, Bill Whelan and more.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The War On Drugs will release A Deeper Understanding, its fourth full-length, late this summer, coming three years after the band's previous album, Lost In The Dream.

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.

A couple of weeks ago I snuck a Harry Styles cut on the show, to see if I could trick Bob Boilen into loving the One Direction singer's solo effort by not telling him who it was. (It didn't work).

Matt Pond PA has been churning out charming power-pop songs for nearly 20 years — a run that will extend to 12 full-length albums when the band releases Still Summer on August 11. Its arrival will mark a major milestone in a long and creatively fruitful career: Once tours for the new record have run their course, singer-songwriter Matt Pond is effectively breaking up the band, dropping the "PA" and carrying forward with new projects.

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