NPR Music

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.

Drowse is not only apt for the hazy ambience that Kyle Bates makes with creative partner Maya Stoner, but the medicated state from which it was inspired. Following a mental breakdown, Bates was originally prescribed antipsychotic drugs, and several unmedicated years later, his anxiety returned in heavy doses. His relief came in the namesake of this song, he tells NPR:

Early in her career, Brandi Carlile bent and broke Americana and folk stereotypes as an openly gay woman with outspoken progressive politics. Leading up to the release of her latest album, she posted an open letter on Facebook to the Baptist pastor who refused to baptize her because of her sexuality when she was 15. She forgave him.

The band Shearwater is known for songs with picturesque lyrics and arrangements that range from the intimate to the epic. While on tour for the band's 2016 album, Jet Plane and Oxbow, frontman Jonathan Meiburg decided he wanted to try something new: writing songs for someone else's voice.

You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs? Not a chance. For Valentine's Day this year, we've modeled our love songs playlist after The Magnetic Fields' classic 69 Love Songs, a collection of, well, 69 songs about love songs written by Stephin Merritt.

Bambara's post-punk has always had a sleek sort of menace to it, a taut rhythm section wrapped in psychedelic noise. It's mesmerizing to listen to, and seeing the band live is an experience wrought from sharp curves and frontman Reid Bateh's rapturous baritone.

You know how some CDs come with a warning label reading "not for kids" or "explicit material"? Ann Powers' latest book Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music should come with its own warning label – "Warning: read this book and you will never hear music the same way again!"

As Valentine's Day approaches on the calendar, the topic of love has a knack for subsequently creeping into every passing thought. And while you might be able to drown out the ads for chocolate hearts, overpriced flower bouquets and forcibly romantic dining, love songs are as old as the art form itself and know no occasion.

Montreal's The Barr Brothers are an indie folk ensemble with a twist — a big twist! Brad Barr sings and plays guitar, his brother Andrew plays drums, and the twist? That's Sarah Pagé, who plays a harp taller than our 6'2" producer, John Myers. Sarah's instrument is rigged with pickups and effects pedals normally used for electric guitar.

The year is 3089. The world looks something like that scene from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure where society meditates on the most outstanding music of a singular artist. But instead of smoove Van Halen licks, it's The Body, the extreme doom-metal duo who, by this point, have downloaded their brains into cyborgs.

If your mom's favorite telenovela met The Love Witch, the resulting TV movie would be La Luz's video for "Cicada." After 2015's Charles Burns-inspired Weirdo Shrine, "Cicada" is the first single off the L.A. band's upcoming album Floating Features, and builds on its noir foundations with a sunny edge.

You can hear the hum of the speaker, buzzing from a quiet bass line. You move closer to the riff; it beckons with mysterious portent like a smoking cauldron... and then the pot spills, the riff wobbling in distorted frequencies, a heavy hand on the organ and a voice singing a spooky fairytale. It's too late, you've met the "Three Sisters."

Piers Faccini On Mountain Stage

Feb 8, 2018

To begin his first appearance on Mountain Stage, Piers Faccini takes us out of Appalachia through the sounds of the Middle East, West Africa and Europe, all of which are cradled throughout his music.

Born in England, raised in France and having an Italian father, Piers Faccini is trilingual and hones a multitude of skill sets. As a painter, poet, children's author and musician, Faccini shows his love of art and heritage in each of his works, no matter the medium.

Bursting with cheeky ferocity and razor-sharp rock 'n' roll chops, Thunderpussy burst onto the Seattle scene 18 months ago and quickly established themselves as one of the city's most exciting bands, based solely on their live show's reputation.

We do our best to turn our World Cafe studio into bluesman R.L. Boyce's porch at his house in Como, Mississippi. That's where Boyce sits and plays many days in the farming community south of Memphis in the Mississippi Hill country.

Over nearly 50 years of making albums, John Prine's been able to turn the sense that he's slightly underappreciated into a trademark. He's the secret favorite everybody can agree on, never quite in the middle of the conversation but always poking around in the corners for a modest truth that will linger after the noise dies down.

Romance isn't dead, it's just damn hard. We navigate gestures both small and grand like tributaries suddenly rushing into whitewater, and hope to hell that we come out the other side.

Angelina Torreano, the singer and guitarist for the Brooklyn-based Citris, had a particularly intense experience with one of the most old-fashioned romantic moves: a dude wrote her love poetry. And when the intensity wasn't reciprocated, things got weird, she writes an essay published with the 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.


Empowerment anthems have had a good run since the early aughts, during which time we grew accustomed to hearing powerhouse pop singers turn downtrodden verses into launching pads for triumphant hooks. That tried-and-true way of displaying feminine strength made the moment of overcoming tribulation feel almost inevitable.

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.

Feb. 7, 2018 marks the fifth anniversary of International Clash Day. What started off as a tribute to The Clash's catalog for a few hours in 2013 by KEXP's John Richards has grown into something of an international affair. San Francisco, Austin, Texas and Washington D.C.

The Los Angeles-via-Philadelphia rockers and NPR Slingshot artists Mt. Joy recently packed into the World Cafe Studios for an upcoming session. Formed by just-outside-of-Philly natives Matt Quinn and Sam Cooper, the band signed with Dualtone Music Group and are set to release their self-titled debut LP on March 2.

The Thistle & Shamrock: The Long View

Feb 7, 2018

If you've been listening to Thistle for some years, perhaps you'll remember two unforgettable extended medleys of tunes: one from Breton harper and multi-instrumentalist Alan Stivell and the other from Irish fiddler Kevin Burke. Make their re-acquaintance this week!

When people ask about the rock 'n' roll sound of Nashville, locals might direct them to the garage rock scene, to Jack White's Third Man Records, or to guitar-slinging country outlaws like Sturgill Simpson or Eric Church. But they'd be remiss to leave out Moon Taxi, a band that's grown a large and devoted fan base in Music City since forming at Belmont College 10 years ago.

Boston loves playing inside baseball, and not just the kind at Fenway Park. The city boasts its own code of thick-tongued slang words and generational reverence. When it comes to its music scene, those nods run deep, appearing both decades ago and in its current roster.

Haley Heynderickx's songs have a way of sneaking up on you: They start out spare, animated by a lone voice or a subtly snaky guitar line, only to billow out into something strange, beautiful, bracingly intense or some combination thereof.

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