NPR Music

Sometimes, you just have to go for it — that dream, that hope, that wish. And, in 2015, that's exactly what Maya de Vitry, one-quarter of The Stray Birds, did.

Gregory Alan Isakov's three studio albums have been spare and intimate: His voice, his guitar, sometimes a banjo, a piano, a fiddle, some drums. With his latest LP, Isakov wanted to build his songs bigger — so he gave them to a symphony. The Colorado Symphony, to be exact.

What's In Your Tiny Desk?

Jun 4, 2016

Bob Boilen had never heard anything quite like The Beatles' "A Day In The Life" when it first came out. As Boilen relates in his book "Your Song Changed My Life," he listened to parts of that song every day for years, and it inspired him to seek a life in music. In the late 70s he worked at record stores and began writing music, ultimately forming a New Wave band called Tiny Desk Unit.

Paul Simon On World Cafe

Jun 3, 2016

Paul Simon releases his 13th solo album, Stranger To Stranger, today. In making the album, he did some things old-school — like luring his longtime engineer, Roy Halee, back behind the desk. But, as he always does, he worked hard to find new sounds. A wealth of percussive sound drives Simon's new material, which incorporates Harry Partch's avant-garde instrumentation, tracks from the Italian electronic artist Clap Clap and field recordings.

Sean Lennon's latest collaboration is with Primus bassist and lead singer Les Claypool. They're calling themselves the Claypool Lennon Delirium, and their new album is a collection of trippy, psychedelic space jams called The Monolith Of Phobos (a reference to a large rock discovered on Phobos, a moon orbiting Mars).

If one were to process the entirety of New York City mainstay Samara Lubelski's musical output, which has officially crossed the three-decade mark, the expectation of a record like The Gilded Raid would likely appear.

The Beach Boys' 1966 album Pet Sounds marked a change in music that was barely noticed at the time. It began a revolution in rock as it transformed from simple entertainment to art. That change was even more dramatic because this introspective music came from a band famous for singing about surf, girls and cars; suddenly, they were singing songs like "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times."

Car Seat Headrest On World Cafe

Jun 2, 2016

It's only June, but there are critics who have already named Car Seat Headrest's Teens Of Denial their top album of 2016. After recording 11 self-released albums in his bedroom and car (hence his band's name), songwriter Will Toledo has released his first studio album of new songs for Matador Records. It's a deep, personal, honest, sarcastic and relatable look at his post-college life — if Toledo doesn't watch out, he is going to be called the voice of a generation.

The Kills' Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince never fail to amaze with their live performances. The two play with musical tension in throbbing, riff-heavy rock songs — and this one, "Doing It To Death," is a perfect example.

SET LIST

  • "Doing It To Death"

Watch The Kills' full Morning Becomes Eclectic set at KCRW.com.

The first few seconds of Field Mouse's upcoming album, Episodic, might fool you. The opening track, "The Mirror," begins with gentle, atmospheric guitar strums and a building drumbeat; then, suddenly, it explodes into a melodic, scuzzy rock song with skittering guitars and a demanding rhythm. "What a way to say 'f*** off,'" sings Rachel Browne. What a way to kick off an album.

Parker Millsap On World Cafe

Jun 1, 2016

Parker Millsap grew up in the small town of Purcell, Okla., where he began singing in the Pentecostal church his parents attended. In 2014, he released his self-titled debut, which was full of songs and characters from his youth and earned him an Americana Emerging Artist of the Year nomination.

For some, summer means swimming pools and drinks with tiny umbrellas. For others, summer means tallboys and sweaty bodies engaged in what can only be called a crusty display of full-contact Bacchanalia. "Dispatch" is the meanest and bloodiest VHÖL track to date, from a metal band that normally liquefies thrash into T-1000 badassery.

It's been nearly five years since the charming Portland folk-pop band Blind Pilot released its second and most recent album, We Are The Tide, and that record's roiling title track has only recently begun popping up in beer commercials. Given that the band used to tour up and down the West Coast via bicycle, it should come as no surprise that Blind Pilot is accustomed to taking its time.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

I was 12 years old when my older brother came home from college with a couple of Luna CDs, and they became my first favorite band. Ever since, Luna's bittersweet tunes have become the soundtrack for all of our reunions. Recently, the band announced its own reunion — including performing shows again and releasing a box set of vinyl reissues. For most people, that won't mean too much; the '90s rock group has long been, as Rolling Stone magazine put it, "the best band you've never heard of." But for me, it felt like another homecoming.

While writing for Rolling Stone in the mid-'90s, Rich Cohen got an enviable assignment: basically, to embed himself with The Rolling Stones during their tour behind Voodoo Lounge. It was the start of a relationship that's given Cohen a unique vantage point to write his new Stones history, The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones. Cohen's perspective is also shaped — favorably — by the fact that he didn't grow up with The Rolling Stones' music in the '60s and '70s.

Beth Orton feels a certain amount of pressure when it comes to her music. The British singer songwriter had huge success with her first album, Trailer Park, back in 1999, and for a while she was on a roll: more album sales, more touring, more fame. It wasn't, she says, altogether comfortable for her.

Leyla McCalla has built her songwriting style around the cello, an instrument that's rarely central in folk and pop styles — and one she began her study of by accident. Growing up in New Jersey, she was required to participate in her school's music program, and in fourth grade she decided she'd play what she thought was a member of the woodwind family — something like the piccolo.

The Accidentals Come Home To Michigan

May 28, 2016

Savannah Buist and Katie Larson are two members of a band called The Accidentals. The band's most recent single is called "Michigan and Again," and — if you couldn't tell — it's a love song for their home state.

Carrie Rodriguez has been many things: a classically trained violinist turned American fiddler, a duet partner to veteran songwriter Chip Taylor, a successful and popular solo artist in her own right. On occasion, those roles have allowed her Mexican-American roots to bubble to the surface — perhaps in a line sung in Spanish, or through a reference to a classic mariachi song.

Charles Bradley On World Cafe

May 28, 2016

Charles Bradley isn't exactly reviving soul music — the rest of us are just catching up with how he has always sung. The soul singer, who's originally from Brooklyn, saw James Brown on stage at the Apollo in 1962 and was transfixed.

Dena DeRose On Piano Jazz

May 28, 2016

Singer and pianist Dena DeRose has performed at some of the most renowned venues in the world, from The Blue Note in New York to Swing Hall in Japan. She has shared the stage with artists including Clark Terry, Ray Brown and Ingrid Jensen. She teaches at the Jazz Institute of the University for Music and Performing Arts in Austria, and continues to perform worldwide.

DeRose was Marian McPartland's guest in this 2001 session. She opens the show with "If I Should Lose You," and McPartland joins for "I'm Old Fashioned."

Quilt On World Cafe

May 26, 2016

The Brooklyn-based band Quilt has really solidified its sound on its new album, Plaza. The band, which was often labeled "psychedelic" when it started in Boston, has written some more straightforward, hooky songs for Plaza.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify 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 playlist at the bottom of the page.

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