NPR Music

On more than one occasion, I've passed along James Toth's songwriting tips and tricks to help musician friends out of a rut. These are just a few of his actionable suggestions for a creative in crisis: "Put a capo on a random fret," "Write a song that sounds like what you imagine the unheard band/record sounds like, based solely on the description in the review," "Borrow an instrument from someone who plays the same one that you do."

John Wetton, a former singer, bassist and songwriter for King Crimson and Asia, has died at the age of 67. The news was announced Tuesday in a message from his former Asia bandmate Carl Palmer, also of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

In a very short amount of time, 21-year-old singer-songwriter Tash Sultana has gone from busking in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia, to selling out concert venues worldwide. But the bigger challenge has been extracting herself from addiction and drug-induced psychosis, which threatened her mental well-being and her life. She credits doing only what made her happy for her recovery. That meant it was out of school and onto Melbourne's sidewalks, where she used a looping pedal to construct her own backing for her powerful songs.

By the time he was a teenager, Chris Thile was already a bluegrass prodigy on mandolin; he's since evolved into a MacArthur Grant-winning, genre-defying musical genius. Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau is equally revered, as his inventive playing has both the critical establishment and packed concert halls singing his praises.

Ty Segall is never predictable. He's a rock 'n' roll shape-shifter who has dabbled in experimental garage, British-influenced space rock, fuzzed-out acoustic folk and psych-pop. He has performed entire shows wearing a rubber baby mask, he's dressed as a mad scientist while explaining a concept he calls "emotional mugging" and, just for kicks, he's filmed himself smashing a toilet with producer Steve Albini.

Public radio is a proven and powerful force for music discovery across genres. That's why, every month, we turn to a panel of 10 public-radio DJs and bloggers to see what they've had on repeat recently.

Courtney Barnett has been one of our most beloved recent musical imports from Australia. Both 2013's double EP A Sea Of Split Peas and 2015's Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit were remarkable works of lyrical dexterity. (The latter earned her a Best New Artist Grammy nomination.)

Cloud Nothings began when leader Dylan Baldi was a freshman in college back in 2009, and the Cleveland band's early recordings capture the bratty scrappiness of seemingly directionless kids.

The music business is infamously — or maybe just famously — litigious. Lawsuits are filed with striking regularity by artists who claim, with often teeth-skin-thin justification, that they had penned a phrasing or spun a melody that was later stolen by one monumentally successful artist or the other.

American composer Philip Glass turns 80 years old on January 31. To mark the occasion, we asked several of Glass' colleagues and collaborators to pick a piece of his music and write about it.

Melbourne singer-songwriter Jen Cloher has pursued a wide-ranging and flexible career. She originally planned to study acting, but her passion quickly became music. Cloher released her first EP in 2005, formed a band called The Endless Sea and started garnering nominations for awards ranging from the ARIAs to the Australian Music Prize.

Ty Segall's scorching live set has made him a music-festival favorite. The prolific garage rocker brought his explosive sound to KCRW's studio to premiere songs from his new, self-titled album — including this one, "Break A Guitar."

Set List

  • "Break A Guitar"

Photo: Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW.

Noah Gundersen On Mountain Stage

Jan 26, 2017

Seattle singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen returns to Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. A wizened folk soul in a young indie rocker's body, the 27-year-old Pacific Northwester has spent the last decade using his introspective songwriting as a means of navigating life and wrestling self-doubt (a process that, according to Larry Groce, you can never start too young).

There they were, Greenpeace activists hanging from cranes in the sky. The banner, reading "RESIST," unfurled within sight of the White House after President Trump froze EPA grants and ordered the environmental agency to remove climate-change research from its website. It was a potent image Wednesday, perhaps setting a tone for years to come.

Courtney Barnett's record label, Milk! Records, is home to a wide group of Melbourne talent, including the very fun three-piece Loose Tooth. Friends Etta Curry and Nellie Jackson have known each other since the cradle; they added bassist Luc Dawson to complete the band. The trio released Saturn Returns early in 2016. Hear songs from that EP and a conversation above, and get a look at the band's performance as part of World Cafe's Milk!

If you thought that a band named King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard just had to make psychedelic music, you got that right. Out of the mind of leader Stu Mackenzie and the town of Geelong comes this incredibly prolific band that has put out eight albums in the six years it's been together. (That said, Mackenzie vows to never repeat himself.)

Butch Trucks, a drummer who was one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band, died Tuesday night, according to his publicist. He was 69.

The group became iconic for its sprawling mix of Southern rock and jam-band improvisation — and Trucks was one of its rhythmic lynchpins. The Allman Brothers featured two drummers, Jaimoe Johansen and Butch Trucks. Their interlocking rhythms propelled the sound of the band in songs like "Ramblin' Man," "Whipping Post" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed."

Geneviève Castrée died in July. She made deeply searching music as Ô Paon and Woelv, and illustrated comic books with the same emotional intensity. She was also the wife of Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum and the mother of their child. A Crow Looked At Me, written and recorded last fall, is an album-length response to Elverum's past year, and today brings its first song, "Real Death."

When Bob Boilen and I sat down to record this week's podcast, the Presidential inauguration and weekend marches were still fresh on our minds and the songs we ended up playing this week seem connected.

After realizing in music school how simpatico their interests were, Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs combined forces as Oh Pep!. The duo's humorous lyrics and off-beat instrumentation make for some very catchy tunes on its debut full-length, Stadium Cake.

He released Iceland's largest selling debut album ever in 2012, and now Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, best known simply as Ásgeir, is back. Today we're debuting "Unbound," the new song from Afterglow, the 24-year-old singer's follow-up to In The Silence.

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