NPR Music

Early on a spring morning in Manhattan, Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and Nadia Sirota gathered at Reservoir Studios in Manhattan to play a song first performed five years ago and an ocean away.

"Mercury" is the closing track off Planetarium, a song cycle about the planets by Stevens, Dessner, Muhly and James McAlister. The work was originally composed on commission for the Dutch concert hall Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, and first performed there in 2012. Five turns around the sun later, Planetarium will arrive in recorded form on June 9 via 4AD.

There's a stunning project by a handful of music's current big-thinkers: composer Nico Muhly, songwriter and singer Sufjan Stevens and guitarist-composer Bryce Dessner of The National. The trio, along with percussionist James McAlister, have created Planetarium, an existential song cycle that confronts both the heavens and the human condition in a marriage of hypnotic sound and 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.

This story has been set to unpublished due to the NPR API updating this story earlier and now the NPR API is unavailable. If the NPR API has deleted or changed the access level of this story it will be deleted when the API becomes available. If the API has updated this story, the updated version will be made available when the NRP API becomes reachable again. There is no action required on your part. For more information contact Digital Services Client Support

Explore the songs of 17th-century "weaver poet" Robert Tannahill, who wrote verses in the style of Robert Burns. Tannahill's work is still widely sung and has been immortalized internationally in folk songs he influenced, including "Wild Mountain Thyme" and "Waltzing Matilda."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the site of the Woodstock music festival in 1969, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, according to an announcement on its website. The news was first reported by the Associated Press.

If you've ever listened to The Marked Men or Radioactivity, Jeff Burke is a songwriter who knows his way around a power-pop-punched punk hook. The same goes for Japanese musician Yusuke Okada, who makes rollicking garage-rock with Suspicious Beasts. The cross-continental duo make hazy, flowery '60s psych with a bit of '80s jangle as Lost Balloons, their second album Hey Summer arriving just in time for long bike rides, long sips of sweet tea and staring at clouds.

We're almost halfway through the year, so we here at World Cafe decided the time was ripe to look back on the best of 2017 so far. In case you haven't noticed, it's been a pretty stellar year for new music.

Guest DJ: alt-J

Jun 6, 2017

Our guest in this session is The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, whose new solo album is called Waiting On A Song. The record is a product of Auerbach's move to Nashville, where he met some of the heavy collaborators who appear on it — including John Prine, who co-wrote the title 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.


Chuck Berry's legacy didn't need another record, or any kind of postscript for that matter.

When he died this March, the obits hailed him as the chief architect and driving force behind rock and roll. He was described as the catalyst of a cultural revolution, a titan whose crisp songs and ringing guitar blazed a superhighway-sized trail for future generations.

After a few years spent regrouping from the trying experience of being dropped by their first record label, The Secret Sisters have returned with their third LP, You Don't Own Me Anymore, produced by Brandi Carlile. Folk Alley caught up with Laura and Lydia Rogers at this year's 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida for an exclusive session at our pop-up studio, not far from the beach.

When it comes to today's guests, mystery is the name of the game. The band's name is the symbol of a triangle. It's pronounced alt-J. You won't find pictures of the three stars of the band very many places — certainly not on the cover of its new record, which features a drawing of an anonymous red body on the side of a highway. And not in the music video for the album's first single, which stars a scurrying wood mouse.

Bill Orcutt's guitar playing scrambles conventional logic. Filled with unpredictable fits and starts, off-key tangents and buzzing half-notes, and sometimes enhanced by the haunting accompaniment of his own wordless moans, Orcutt's work continually challenges notions of musical rules — or whether there should even be any. His deconstructive approach is clearest when he covers other people's songs, dissecting and disemboweling them in ways that don't just change their skin, but alter their basic DNA.

Radiohead is sharing a previously unreleased track the band recorded during sessions for its monumental 1997 album OK Computer.

alt-J's art-rock weaves dark, seductive and otherworldly tales that lean heavily on folk traditions — their version of "House of the Rising Sun," their inclusion of lines from the Irish tune "The Auld Triangle" in "Adeline" and the Shakespearean references in "3WW" come first to mind.

"Oh, these three worn words
Oh, that we whisper


Like the rubbing hands
Of tourists in Verona
I just want to love you in my own language"

It's been 50 years since The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Perhaps the most influential rock album of all time, it was released in what many music lovers consider one of the greatest years in music.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Writing

Jun 1, 2017

From instrumental commissions to new works by singer-songwriters, hear a wealth of recently composed gems by Maggie MacInnes, Wendy Weatherby, Bill Whelan and more.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The War On Drugs will release A Deeper Understanding, its fourth full-length, late this summer, coming three years after the band's previous album, Lost In The Dream.

Pages