NPR Music

Brooke Waggoner On Mountain Stage

Feb 16, 2017

Nashville singer-songwriter Brooke Waggoner returns to Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. A frequent collaborator for Jack White and Beck, Waggoner makes music that's "less rawk, more Rachmaninov," using her classical background to bend indie folk-pop conventions to her whim.

Nikki Lane On World Cafe

Feb 16, 2017

Nikki Lane's new album, Highway Queen, showcases her husky voice, soaring country twang and killer attitude. She grew up in South Carolina and now calls Nashville home. But it was by no means a direct trip to Music City; Lane's interest in fashion took her to Los Angeles and New York before her music career took over.

Jim James' second solo album, Eternally Even, is his most overtly political musical statement yet. The outspoken My Morning Jacket frontman turns the turmoil of our current times into a contemplative set of songs with his signature psychedelic soulfulness. He performed "Here In Spirit" live in our studio.

Set List

  • "Here In Spirit"

Photo: Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW.

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.


Someone once told me I should memorize more poems, so I'd have phrases to call upon in times of emotional need. She recommended I start with that William Ernest Henley poem, "Invictus," best known for its closing lines: "I am the master of my fate/ I am the captain of my soul."

The 'meaning' of music is an amorphous concept, as are the lessons of psychotropic experiences brought on by substances like lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. Recent scientific studies have attempted to tackle both of these topics and gauge whether ingesting the substance impacted peoples' experiences with and interpretations of music. By request, the poet August Kleinzahler considers two recent studies, through the lens of his own musical and psychedelic dabblings.

One of the oldest creation stories in history holds that God created mankind in his image. But what of woman? Is she not worthy of being conjured from a vision, a likeness, the stuff of greatness? King Woman, the mighty Bay Area-bred solo-project-turned-full-band helmed by vocalist and guitarist Kristina Esfandiari, grapples with this glaring omission on its forthcoming album, Created In The Image Of Suffering.

Think back to your college days and you can probably name at least one band that got together in its members' dorm rooms and played a couple of sweaty late nights at the local campus dive bar, but didn't make it past graduation. If that's the college-bar-band rule, Arkells is the exception. The band formed more than a decade ago in the dorms at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and last week it returned to that same city to headline its first sold-out arena show. It was a full-circle moment for a band that's earned its fans one bead of sweat at a time.

Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce are radiant beings who make every minute louder, more glamorous and deeply personal as PWR BTTM. The punk duo has announced Pageant, its follow-up to 2015's Ugly Cherries, with the outrageous "Big Beautiful Day."

Rubblebucket's new EP, If U C My Enemies, is especially significant for bandleaders Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver. The two have been a couple since meeting in the music program at the University of Vermont and forming the band, which released its first album as Rubblebucket Orchestra in 2008.

Relationships are hard work. Music is hard work. And somehow, these magical musical couples manage to make both work at the same time. It's beautiful, it's enviable and it deserves celebrating. So happy Valentine's Day from World Cafe to these 10 past guests: lovebirds who are also bandmates.

Hear the Valentine's Day special in the player above and stream the complete sessions from the World Cafe archives below.


Melbourne, Australia's The Outdoor Type is the project of songwriter Zack Buchanan. His music draws on his love of some '80s bands who just happen to be Australian as well — bands like The Church, The Go-Betweens and Australian icon Paul Kelly. Those influences are translated into something new on Buchanan's forthcoming album, The Outdoor Type, which follows a great EP released in 2016. Hear two tracks in this segment.

Chuck Prophet has lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle almost from conception. Originally from Southern California, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as a teenager and recorded eight revered albums with Green On Red before he was 20 years old. Since then he has recorded over a dozen solo albums that just keep getting better.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

Al Jarreau, a versatile vocalist who defied categorization for decades, died Sunday morning at the age of 76. Earlier this week, Jarreau had been hospitalized in Los Angeles "due to exhaustion," according to his official Facebook page.

Prince's music is a guide to this thing called life. Over the course of his impossibly fruitful career, the Minneapolis maestro fleshed out a philosophy grounded in the belief that humanity's purpose is to realize the unity of body and spirit, through pleasure, relationships and music itself. It's all laid out musically in his manifesto "D.M.S.R.," from 1999: "Take a deeper breath and sing along with me," Prince exhorts, "Dance music sex romance!"

There's a vibrance to the current music of Esmé Patterson that I wasn't expecting, having listened to her previous band Paper Bird. Gone are the banjos and remnants of folk music, and in their place are electric guitars — sometimes fierce and, here at the Tiny Desk, somewhat understated. She's a relative newcomer to the guitar, making it part of her songwriting only since leaving Paper Bird. But all of this instrumentation is meant to be supportive, not center-stage. At the heart of these songs, from her album We Were Wild, is a reach for independence:

This year, "music's biggest night" will be missing more than a few of its biggest stars. Despite multiple nominations, Kanye West, Drake and Justin Bieber are reportedly skipping tomorrow evening's Grammy Awards.

Mickey Melchiondo, a.k.a. Dean Ween, met Aaron Freeman, a.k.a. Gene Ween, in junior high. Together they created the band Ween, earning a reputation for musical eclecticism — and more than a little silliness — as well as a rabid cult following. Freeman left the group in 2012, and Melchiondo has since created the Dean Ween Group. The band's debut album, The Deaner Album, is out now.

Sean Rowe's voice, a room-rattling baritone, demands attention. The stories he tells with it are portraits that feel simple on the surface... they never are. Within "Gas Station Rose," Sean Rowe is on the road with a partner, they have each other, not much else. Even this little scene is filled with tension:

Sincerity, community and beauty is how I think of Lowland Hum; the sounds of Lauren and Daniel Goans. Thin is the husband and wife duo's third album since their 2013 debut, further refining their hushed harmonies and aural paintings. It's a sound that makes them a quiet Sunday-morning favorite. Some of the imagery comes from the beauty they see in the landscapes and locales they traverse and visit all over this country; art centers, cafes, nightclubs, house shows, racking up something like 45,000 miles in a Toyota Sienna between 2014 and 2015.

It's basically three chords banged out on a piano for 4 minutes. No drums, no guitars, no samples. But then: there's her voice. Haunting.

"Here is your princess / here is your horizon" — Aldous Harding repeats the line as a mantra, as a truth, as a reality. It's as if the gift of life is right here, with all its beauty and its limitations. At least that's how I see it.

When the Los Angeles-based rock group Giant Drag released it's debut full-length, Hearts And Unicorns, in 2005, fans were immediately taken by frontwoman Annie Hardy's playful and fearless crush of the innocent into the profane. She intentionally subverted her image - pigtails with large, bashful eyes and an almost childlike voice - with brawny guitar noise and provocative songs like "You're Full of S*** (Check Out My Sweet Riffs)" and "YFLMD." (I'll let you look up that second one).

Guster On Mountain Stage

Feb 8, 2017

Over the last 20 years, the Boston band Guster has grown from its bongos-and-acoustic-guitars, college-radio roots into a word-of-mouth sensation backed by infectious melodies and eclectic gusto. (That much is evident when the band's drummer exuberantly plays the trombone during this live performance of "Never Coming Down.")

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