NPR Music

The Infamous Stringdusters' newest album, Laws Of Gravity, admirably demonstrates how these stellar bluegrass players are pushing the music forward.

Spoon's latest video is a surreal, black-and-white tale shrouded in mystery. Nearly everyone in this three-and-a-half minute, funk-inspired jam wears a creepy mask or some sort of ogre costume while riding bikes, dancing, chasing and intermittently accosting one another. It's anyone's guess what it's all about, but it's a curious and compelling watch.

Energetic and earnest, sweet and punchy — self-described "slop-pop" duo Diet Cig is nothing if not endearing. In "Tummy Ache," the first single from the band's upcoming debut Swear I'm Good At This, singer and guitarist Alex Luciano wields this undeniable charm while singing about the challenges of carving out her own space in a notoriously bro-heavy scene.

Note: The audio version of this interview touches on sensitive topics, including Steve Jones' experiences of drug addiction and sexual abuse.

A 1960s cult favorite is back: The Shaggs are going to be performing in June at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, Massachusetts.

"I don't want to be the kind / struck by fear, to run and hide / I'll do better next time."

The more I hear from Laura Marling's upcoming album, Semper Femina, the more I'm convinced, over a career of intimate and beautiful work, that it's the most inspired, beautiful and fully realized thing she's done. The latest cut she's sharing from the record is "Next Time," a perfectly rendered vignette that captures the moment when solitude can lead to enlightenment.

Timothy Showalter is a tough-looking guy with a beard, tattoos and a flat Midwestern accent, who's pretty open about taking drugs. He thinks a lot about where life is taking him.

"I read somewhere that the idea of joy, and to live a joyful life, is different than living a happy life," he tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is something that you're always going to reach for but you're never gonna quite get or be satisfied with."

Brooke Waggoner On Mountain Stage

Feb 16, 2017

Nashville singer-songwriter Brooke Waggoner returns to Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. A frequent collaborator for Jack White and Beck, Waggoner makes music that's "less rawk, more Rachmaninov," using her classical background to bend indie folk-pop conventions to her whim.

Nikki Lane On World Cafe

Feb 16, 2017

Nikki Lane's new album, Highway Queen, showcases her husky voice, soaring country twang and killer attitude. She grew up in South Carolina and now calls Nashville home. But it was by no means a direct trip to Music City; Lane's interest in fashion took her to Los Angeles and New York before her music career took over.

Jim James' second solo album, Eternally Even, is his most overtly political musical statement yet. The outspoken My Morning Jacket frontman turns the turmoil of our current times into a contemplative set of songs with his signature psychedelic soulfulness. He performed "Here In Spirit" live in our studio.

Set List

  • "Here In Spirit"

Photo: Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW.

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.


Someone once told me I should memorize more poems, so I'd have phrases to call upon in times of emotional need. She recommended I start with that William Ernest Henley poem, "Invictus," best known for its closing lines: "I am the master of my fate/ I am the captain of my soul."

The 'meaning' of music is an amorphous concept, as are the lessons of psychotropic experiences brought on by substances like lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. Recent scientific studies have attempted to tackle both of these topics and gauge whether ingesting the substance impacted peoples' experiences with and interpretations of music. By request, the poet August Kleinzahler considers two recent studies, through the lens of his own musical and psychedelic dabblings.

One of the oldest creation stories in history holds that God created mankind in his image. But what of woman? Is she not worthy of being conjured from a vision, a likeness, the stuff of greatness? King Woman, the mighty Bay Area-bred solo-project-turned-full-band helmed by vocalist and guitarist Kristina Esfandiari, grapples with this glaring omission on its forthcoming album, Created In The Image Of Suffering.

Think back to your college days and you can probably name at least one band that got together in its members' dorm rooms and played a couple of sweaty late nights at the local campus dive bar, but didn't make it past graduation. If that's the college-bar-band rule, Arkells is the exception. The band formed more than a decade ago in the dorms at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and last week it returned to that same city to headline its first sold-out arena show. It was a full-circle moment for a band that's earned its fans one bead of sweat at a time.

Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce are radiant beings who make every minute louder, more glamorous and deeply personal as PWR BTTM. The punk duo has announced Pageant, its follow-up to 2015's Ugly Cherries, with the outrageous "Big Beautiful Day."

Rubblebucket's new EP, If U C My Enemies, is especially significant for bandleaders Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver. The two have been a couple since meeting in the music program at the University of Vermont and forming the band, which released its first album as Rubblebucket Orchestra in 2008.

Relationships are hard work. Music is hard work. And somehow, these magical musical couples manage to make both work at the same time. It's beautiful, it's enviable and it deserves celebrating. So happy Valentine's Day from World Cafe to these 10 past guests: lovebirds who are also bandmates.

Hear the Valentine's Day special in the player above and stream the complete sessions from the World Cafe archives below.


Melbourne, Australia's The Outdoor Type is the project of songwriter Zack Buchanan. His music draws on his love of some '80s bands who just happen to be Australian as well — bands like The Church, The Go-Betweens and Australian icon Paul Kelly. Those influences are translated into something new on Buchanan's forthcoming album, The Outdoor Type, which follows a great EP released in 2016. Hear two tracks in this segment.

Chuck Prophet has lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle almost from conception. Originally from Southern California, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as a teenager and recorded eight revered albums with Green On Red before he was 20 years old. Since then he has recorded over a dozen solo albums that just keep getting better.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

Al Jarreau, a versatile vocalist who defied categorization for decades, died Sunday morning at the age of 76. Earlier this week, Jarreau had been hospitalized in Los Angeles "due to exhaustion," according to his official Facebook page.

Prince's music is a guide to this thing called life. Over the course of his impossibly fruitful career, the Minneapolis maestro fleshed out a philosophy grounded in the belief that humanity's purpose is to realize the unity of body and spirit, through pleasure, relationships and music itself. It's all laid out musically in his manifesto "D.M.S.R.," from 1999: "Take a deeper breath and sing along with me," Prince exhorts, "Dance music sex romance!"

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