NPR Music

Our shortlist of the best albums out on May 3 includes Vampire Weekend's first new album in six years, life-affirming "pep talks" from Judah & The Lion, the interdimensional sounds of Big Thief's latest album U.F.O.F., the profound lyricism of Nashville singer-songwriter Caroline Spence, former Civil Wars singer Joy Williams and more. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Lars Gotrich and Stephen Thompson as they share their picks for the week's best new albums.

Featured Albums:

The Lone Bellow On Mountain Stage

May 2, 2019

After hearing this set from Americana trio The Lone Bellow, Mountain Stage host Larry Groce enthusiastically noted some similarities between the band's set-up and that of folk performers from five decades ago. "Three people with acoustic instruments, standing around one microphone, singing great songs and putting it out on vinyl. I think I'm 15 again," Groce said.

What could be better than a new project built on the mutual fandom and friendship of two of our World Cafe favorites? Phoebe Bridgers grew up as a fan of Conor Oberst's band Bright Eyes, while Oberst became an instant fan of Bridgers when they played a show together a few years ago in LA.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

Though Pete Seeger, the heralded folk singer, songwriter and social activist died in 2014, his voice has left a lasting impression on American music. May 3, 2019 would have been Seeger's 100th birthday and to mark the centennial, Smithsonian Folkways is set to release a six-CD collection titled Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection.

Patty Griffin had written only one song for a new album when her breast cancer diagnosis changed everything. The drugs and radiation she took in were so physically depleting that she lost her voice. And although Patty's had a long career in music that includes winning a Grammy, she was left wondering whether she should continue making music at all.

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In preparation of The National's upcoming album, I Am Easy To Find — due out May 17 on 4AD — the band has issue

Heather Woods Broderick needed a change. After more than seven years of living on the road, backing up artists like Sharon Van Etten, Broderick moved from Brooklyn to a spot on the Oregon coast, near where she'd spent summers as a child. Broderick's latest album, Invitation, out now, is a musical portrait of that upheaval.

Imagine being a young touring band playing a house party when the host approaches you, sits you down on his gold-encrusted fireplace and reads you his manifesto. Yes, that's one of the many interesting things that happened to BAILEN while on the road.

The music of Mountain Man revolves around three gorgeous voices that combine and harmonize in wonderful ways.

The members of Snow Patrol are celebrating 25 years together. From providing the unofficial theme song to Grey's Anatomy to its 2006 album Eyes Open being certified eight-times platinum according to BPI, the Northern Ireland rock band has found success many times over. Now, after a seven-year hiatus, the bond between band members has never been stronger.

Festival season is upon us. In the past week, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival hosted its 19th year of memorable performances, which also resulted in memorable releases.

Two years after winning the Grammy for best rock album, Cage the Elephant is back with its fifth studio album, Social Cues, out now. But since the band's last album, 2015's Tell Me I'm Pretty, there hasn't been much celebration. The band's members have experienced plenty of loss — from friends dying from overdoses to divorce. Those changes made it into the music of this latest album.

The Cranberries were one of the most successful groups to emerge from Ireland. The members, Dolores O'Riordan as lead vocalist, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan and drummer Fergal Lawler, were in the studio working on what is now their final studio album when volcalist, O'Riordan died suddenly in January 2018.

Our shortlist of must-hear albums this week includes the incredible sonic adventures of Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker), acoustic, instrumental rock from Rodrigo y Gabriela, a byzantine concept album from The Mountain Goats and more. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Felix Contreras and Stephen Thompson as they run through their picks for the best new releases out on April 26.

Featured Albums:

  1. Nick Murphy: Run Fast, Sleep Naked
    Featured Songs: "Sanity," "Sunlight," "Novocaine and Coca Cola"

May 14 is my "Deadiversary." It's the first time I saw the legendary group Grateful Dead. It was on that date in 1970 at what was then-called Meramec Community College, outside of St Louis. It wasn't until years later that I went back and found that show in the extensive Grateful Dead archive and checked out the set list.

On her wonderful new album The Question, Anna Tivel zooms in on the kinds of people who don't usually get the red carpet treatment and makes them the stars of her songs. From the janitor sweeping up garbage at the theater late at night to a mother experiencing homelessness, Tivel's characters are so vivid and nuanced that each song could sustain its own feature film.

The Boss is back with his first new studio album in five years. Western Stars is due out June 14 on Columbia Records and, according to a press release announcing the record, will be largely influenced by the Southern California pop sounds of the late '60s and early '70s.

"This record is a return to my solo recordings," Springsteen says in a statement, "featuring character-driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements. It's a jewel box of a record."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp 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 Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.


Blooming storms permeate The Felice Brothers' first album in three years. With Undress, the Felice Brothers' folk-rock sound and vision has matured and focused, and the band does its best at making sense of our modern times.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Atlantic Bridge

Apr 24, 2019

Fiona Ritchie presents an hour of music to ferry you across the Atlantic bridge from Old World to new, with fiddle melodies and Gaelic airs from artists including Alasdair Fraser of Scotland, Ireland's Maeve Donnelly and Dougie MacDonald of Cape Breton Island.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

We welcome back an influential and iconic musician to the punk and hardcore scene, Bob Mould. After blazing trails in the '80s with Hüsker Dü, and in the '90s with Sugar, Mould has had a successful solo career for the last 25 years. His latest album, Sunshine Rock, is an intentional look away from the politics of now and instead a look back to the albums he loved as a youth.

Rock fans fell in love with The Cranberries in the early '90s, thanks, in large part, to the haunting, Celtic-inspired voice of the Irish rock band's lead singer, Dolores O'Riordan. The Cranberries, made up of O'Riordan on lead vocal, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan and Fergal Lawler on drums, created an intoxicating juxtaposition of grunge and alternative pop, with O'Riordan's lilting lyrics searing through right in.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Kevin Morby's new album is unlike anything he's done before. Gone is the guitar (for the most part) from his earlier recordings. In its place are more droning instruments — sounds more suited for church than the concert hall, including a recurring, small choir. The subject for the album is God and our culture's relationship with God, from deep introspection to the trivial, everyday use of that ever-present expression "oh my God."

When Mikaela Straus, who records as King Princess, says "I've never been subtle. I don't think now is the time," she means it. Straus is a producer, multi-instrumentalist, writer and emerging gay icon with incredible confidence charisma and the musical chops to back it up.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists 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 Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

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