NPR Music

As Soccer Mommy, Sophie Allison makes sweet bedroom-pop songs built from deep introspection. Allison, a Nashville native and current NYU student, tends to write straight into the heart of the confusing space between adolescence and adulthood. As a result, Soccer Mommy's songs are deeply affecting snapshots of being young in a looming city and trying to find your footing.

"Glass Walls," from The Terminals' new album Antiseptic, revels in an antiquity that's earned through experience. There may not be any better way to gain perspective on the history of this Christchurch, New Zealand, band than to start at the beginning of that journey. For that, we'd have to look all the way back to when guitarist and vocalist Stephen Cogle and drummer Peter Stapleton cut their teeth in Vacuum — a late '70s outfit that, in sound and membership, forms a Rosetta stone for Kiwi underground music.

Canadian singer-songwriter Simone Schmidt, who performs under the name Fiver, undertook an ambitious project with her latest album. Audible Songs From Rockwood is Schmidt's way of telling the stories of real people committed to Rockwood Asylum, a 19th-century institution near what's now Kingston, Ontario.

As the old adage goes, "you never get a second chance to make a first impression." Fifty years ago — May 12, 1967 — the Jimi Hendrix Experience made about as tremendous a first impression as it gets. The band's first full-length record, Are You Experienced?, is widely considered one of the greatest debuts in rock and roll. It introduced audiences to pyrotechnic psychedelia, amps that were at once incendiary and melodic and an artist that would define the dreams of nearly anyone who picked up a guitar for years to come.

In 2014, when the band Hundred Waters programmed the first installment of its FORM festival in the eco-friendly desert village known as Arcosanti, it was an entirely DIY affair.

You might have seen Maggie Rogers wowing Pharrell Williams in a viral video that captures the time she played him her song "Alaska" during a master class at NYU. In the video, as "Alaska" plays, you can see Pharrell is feeling it — and when the song ends, he gives Rogers his feedback: "Wow. I have zero, zero, zero notes for that. And I'll tell you why.

Rolling Stone magazine turns 50 this year, and co-founder Jann Wenner has written the foreword to a new book celebrating the anniversary. Wenner started Rolling Stone in San Francisco in 1967 with $7,500 of borrowed money, donated office space and some used typewriters. He was a 21-year-old Berkeley dropout who was into all the great music coming out in the year of the "Summer of Love" — and he wanted to create a magazine that took rock and roll seriously.

Rhiannon Giddens' new solo album, Freedom Highway, is an exploration of African-American experiences, accompanied by an instrument with its own uniquely African-American story: the banjo.

Laura Marling's latest album, Semper Femina, is a simply stunning meditation on femininity. With the help of producer Blake Mills, she's expanded her sound, which you can hear in the gorgeous track "Soothing."

SET LIST

  • "Soothing"

Photo: Rachel Reynolds/KCRW.

Now, Now is back ... now. Five years ago, the Minneapolis band released Threads -- not only one of our 50 favorite albums of 2012, but the kind of record that left us wanting more.

Jesse Hale Moore is based in Philadelphia, where he got a leg up on his debut solo record from two members of local favorite sons The War on Drugs — bass player Dave Hartley did some producing early on, and drummer Charlie Hall plays in this session.

Pop music is an ideal vehicle for emotional catharsis — for the confessional plunge into anguish, the gathering of strength and the phoenix-like rise to empowered new heights. But while such songs can feel like potent, highly individualized expression, their impact can also be interpreted in vastly different ways.

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 nominations are in for the 16th annual Americana Awards, to be held Sept. 13 in Nashville as the signature event of AmericanaFest — and in at least one category, they tell a tale of how this progressive yet traditionalist community is rising to the political challenges of a complicated historical moment. Four of the five releases in the Album of the Year category have protest at their core, demonstrating how the genre is stretching itself even as it builds on long-established artistic family ties.

The starting point for "Moonshine Freeze," the lead single from Bristol-Paris folk band This Is The Kit's forthcoming Rough Trade debut of the same name, was a children's clapping game that got stuck in lead songwriter Kate Stables' head. The rules are simple; repeat the word "moonshine" three times, then freeze.

"Sounded." That's a rough translation of Lød from Danish and one way to think about the ominous, electric shadows cast by this new post-punk band. Formed in Copenhagen by classmates, Lød first took its cues from Iceage and the surrounding scene before ditching the noise and locking into a motorik groove. The band's self-titled EP comes out mid-summer, and will send you into a trance.

At this moment in the music industry, the regular model for releasing a record has been pretty much blown apart. Artists can release singles or EPs online at any time, in whatever format. That can have some pretty interesting results, as it did for Hanni El Khatib.

The archetype of the wanderer, that alluringly elusive figure who chases whims and sidesteps attachments, is an implicitly masculine one in the '60s and '70s bohemian folk, country and pop singer-songwriter fare that informs Azniv Korkejian's music. But she performs as Bedouine, a name that signals she's staked her own claim on the spirit of wanderlust.

Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, the sweetly synchronized guitarist and bassist for Girlpool, aren't really feeling it in a new video for their song, "Powerplant." The singers, along with newly added drummer Miles Vintner, half-heartedly perform the track on a tiny stage at the worst possible location: a bowling alley.

A rock star makes it big, gets hooked on substances and lands in rehab. The rest of the artist's career is viewed as a comeback. Recognize this pattern? Well, Mike Hadreas, the heart of the band Perfume Genius, is a rock star in reverse — because his career started in rehab.

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