NPR Music

A Band Apart

Jun 19, 2017

For the past several years, Beth Ditto was known as the dynamic frontwoman of the dance-punk band Gossip. She established herself as a singer with a helluva voice who embraced being queer, feminist and fat.

"[Bob] Seger's absence from digital services, combined with the gradual disappearance of even physical copies of half his catalog, suggest a rare level of indifference to his legacy," Tim Quirk wrote for NPR Music in late March in his feature, "Where Have All The Bob Seger Albums Gone?"

You're in a New York apartment, alone on a warm night, hearing the sounds of the city drift up from the streets. Or you're in Paris and part of the noise, moving through the crowded streets and sidewalks, both feeling the weight of the world and a being a part of that weight. Or maybe you've never even seen a large city, and mistake the glowing lights from afar for a mysterious fire.

A Look Back At Monterey Pop, 50 Years Later

Jun 15, 2017

In the 21st century, destination music festivals seem like a dime a dozen. But just 50 years ago, there was only one: the Monterey International Pop Festival, which featured more than 30 artists and bands playing over the course of three days in the summer of 1967.

Monterey Pop set the template for all the huge rock festivals that would follow — Woodstock, Coachella, Bonnaroo and all the rest — and its influence would spread even further via a documentary, Monterey Pop, that was helmed by D.A. Pennebaker and would set a gold standard for concert films.

Around the NPR Music office we all swear like a twee version of Veep — but on-air and on-website we receive a tiny electric shock every time we try to spell out our favorite dirty words. (That's not true, but it's funny to think about.)

The critically-acclaimed duo (and married couple) of Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn returns to Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences in Charleston, W.Va. Although his name is synonymous with premier banjo music, Fleck has mastered a wide swath of music and genres, having been nominated in more music categories than any other musician in the Grammys' 59-year history.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New For Summer

Jun 14, 2017

Tune into the great new sounds that are kicking off this year's music-festival season on both sides of the Atlantic. In this show, you'll hear new music from Beoga, Galen Fraser, Moya Brennan and more.

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Brisbane, Australia is sometimes derided as "Brisvegas," a crack at the city's supposed lack of sophistication. But Australian musician Harriette Pilbeam might disagree that her home city lacks culture: She has spent the past few years honing her power-pop chops in the bands Babaganouj and Go Violets, part of Brisbane's not-insubstantial indie-rock scene.

There are very few artists who can bring the past into the present in a way that captures both the nuance of history and the immediacy of now. But Rhiannon Giddens has done it, beautifully, on her second solo album, Freedom Highway.

It's not often that re-releases from a band's back catalog prompt a public statement saying that it isn't "announcing s***."

It's hard to know what's real in the latest video from English musician and actor Johnny Flynn. The short film, for his song "In The Deepest," opens with Flynn casually strolling down the street on a sunny day while shooting a selfie. "The thing about Glasgow is you don't know what you're gonna get," he says, staring into the camera. Just then he notices a brilliant light streaking across the sky behind him. It seems a massive meteor is headed straight for earth.

We get right down to business this week with the fantastic, frenetic pop of Guerilla Toss. The New York band has a new album on the way and recently released "Betty Dreams Of Green Men," a cut inspired by alien abduction, addiction and the obsessions that can consume a person's life.

There's a word that follows Chris Forsyth's music around and makes the Philadelphia guitarist uncomfortable. "I have a complicated relationship with transcendence," he tells NPR. He understands why his guitar epics invite the comparison: Channeling Television, Pere Ubu and kosmische questers past, they race towards some receding target like a rocket aiming for Mars, or greyhounds hurtling hungrily towards a stuffed rabbit.

Before a month-and-change ago, Slowdive hadn't released an album in 22 years. So you'd be forgiven for watching the band perform "Sugar For The Pill" and struggling to pin down what era you're in — especially since NPR Music plopped the group in a playfully retro Brooklyn shuffleboard parlor for the occasion.

The Lone Bellow's earnest and magnetic folk-pop was built to shake the rafters: It's hooky and rousing and performed with absolute commitment. It has been since the beginning, from the band's charming, self-titled 2013 debut through the Aaron Dessner-produced Then Came The Morning two years later. And, if a new song called "Time's Always Leaving" is any indication, it'll carry on through the release of The Lone Bellow's third album, Walk Into A Storm.

To call Colin Stetson's new band "metal" isn't quite right. Ex Eye is heavy, maximalist music made compact — proggy, noisy, metallic particles sent through the Large Hadron Collider to make black holes of sound.

Sincerity plays a key role in powerful pop music — candor is the catalyst for connecting an artist with their listenership. For indie-pop purists The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, that's never been a problem. From the band's dreamiest shoegaze influences to its most lucid lyricism, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart has found strength in heart-on-your-sleeve songwriting.

Even if you've never heard of Memphis' Royal Studios, you probably know some of the records made there. Royal was the home studio of Hi Records and producer Willie Mitchell in the '70s; it's the birthplace of countless Al Green hits, including "Tired Of Being Alone" and "Let's Stay Together," as well as records by Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson and others.

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.

On Friday, the legendary singer-songwriter Glen Campbell bid a final farewell to his fans by releasing his last-ever album. Titled Adiós, it was recorded in 2012, when the "Rhinestone Cowboy" formally ended his music career after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease the year before.

If you caught Weekend Edition's live show from Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday, you might have heard John Paul White's guitar between stories. The Alabama singer-songwriter, known for his work as one-half of The Civil Wars, released his solo album Beulah in 2016.

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