NPR Music

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

In the five years since her last music release, Sharon Van Etten has had her hands full: She became a mom, she took her first acting role in the Netflix series The OA, she wrote her first movie score, and she went back to school for psychology.

The title of her new album, Remind Me Tomorrow, is a nod to how busy she's been.

"There's a lot more of life pulling me in different directions," Van Etten says.

Welcome to a brand-new season of New Music Friday! After a few quiet weeks, the flood gates are opening and we've got a whole bunch of essential albums dropping on Jan. 18 to tell you about. This includes the smart, sparkling pop of singer Maggie Rogers, swooning love songs from James Blake, deep introspection from Pedro The Lion's first new album in 15 years, pure joy from Toro y Moi and much more. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Stephen Thompson for this quick sprint through the essential releases for Jan. 18, the first busy drop date for the new year.

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

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Year Sounds

Jan 16, 2019

Get the New Year off to a good musical start as Fiona Ritchie features some brilliant new sounds from Birichin, Kevin Burke and John McCutcheon.

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

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"It feels like everyone's in a pressure cooker in this country," says Leyla McCalla in her biography, about the themes

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Andrew Hozier-Byrne has a new album coming in March. His second album, called Wasteland, Baby!, is his first full-length record in four-and-a-half years.

So far, Maggie Rogers has spent a healthy dose of her professional career as an online sensation. That may not sound strange given the Internet age, but in Rogers' case, it was entirely accidental.

It's been a minute since we got together to share some all-new music – not since our Nov. 6 show of last year, in fact.

Aaron Lee Tasjan arrived at the Tiny Desk in his fashionable ascot and mustard-colored shirt, sporting reflective, red, rounded sunglasses and mutton chops. As he warmed up, the sound of the middle-and-late 1960s came through his seagreen, Gorsuch 12-string guitar while his voice felt both familiar and fresh. This buoyant, East Nashville-via-Ohio soul and his fabulous band have a knack for channeling Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and The Kinks.

It appears to be required by law that every indie-rock band of the '90s must reunite at some point. So we might as well see the return of a great one, right?

Artists often seclude themselves from the world or change their scenery in order to create. Georgia-based band Deerhunter went out to the small, artsy town of Marfa, Tx. to craft the band's latest album, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?

Hope you brought your volume knob. J Mascis co-founded Dinosaur Jr. and over the past decade, the band sounded just as vital as when it debuted in 1984. Mascis has also been just as prolific when it comes to his own solo albums. He's recorded three records in the last seven years as a place to showcase some of the quieter (yet still loud) songs.

Known for putting on raucous shows and turning Scottish traditional music on its head, Elephant Sessions won Live Act of the Year from The Scots Trad Music Awards and were shortlisted for Scottish Album of the Year in 2018. The band is a festival favorite that has earned accolades from Rolling Stone and its third album comes out later this year.

Joel Selvin remembers the San Francisco music scene of the late 1960s as an especially fertile time for experimentation. "There was tremendous hunger and openness for musical influences," the music journalist and author says. "World Music, Indian music, rhythm and blues, jazz ... and that was all new in the world of popular music."

The sun, moon, stars and planets have fueled artists' imaginations by day and night. Drift through this hour of music with Fiona Ritchie and you'll hear why the heavens provide solace for lonely hearts and fuel the dreams of romantics. Featured artists include Carlos Núñez Muñoz, Carreg Lafar and Talitha MacKenzie.

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There's a sense of voraciousness in Sasami Ashworth's musical resumé.

Tedeschi Trucks Band, the Grammy Award-winning 12-piece, led by husband and wife Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, is releasing its new album, Signs, on Feb. 15 via Fantasy/Concord Records. It's the band's first new album in just over two years, following 2016's Let Me Get By.

"Yeah, I guess it's been a minute," Tedeschi says about the release of Signs. "It's great to finally have it out, after recording it off and on over the last year and a half," Trucks says.

Sleater-Kinney has confirmed it's releasing a new album sometime this year, produced by St. Vincent. Guitarist Carrie Brownstein tells NPR, "We always planned on getting back in the studio — it was just a matter of when. If there is an overarching principle to this album, it's that the tools on which we were relying proved inadequate.

As productive as screaming into the void can be, sometimes the most effective way to air grievances is simply with a sigh. Meg Duffy, who was the longtime lead guitarist for Kevin Morby, switched their focus to Hand Habits in 2017. Duffy's second album, placeholder, leads off with the title track, a soft yet scathing lamentation of being secondary.

The band Lawrence is led by two siblings, Clyde and Gracie Lawrence. The New York City-raised pair started the band, now an eight-piece group, with a love of pop and soul music. They've had artistic talents for a while: Elder brother Clyde scored his first songwriting credit at the age of 6 for the movie Miss Congeniality and Gracie's pursuing an acting career.

Dom Flemons' latest album, Black Cowboys, is a collection of seldom-heard stories about the roles African-Americans played in settling the West after America's Civil War. The album's inspiration came during a road trip back home where the fifth generation Arizonan became enamored with an obscure collection of stories.

Jen Cloher came to the Harbor Stage at Newport with a fervor matched only by her volume. Her band gets some of that credit, with Jen's wife, Courtney Barnett, on electric guitar and Bones Sloane from Courtney's band on bass.

At the start of Day 2 at this year's Newport Folk Festival, Curtis Harding lit up the Fort stage with what he calls "slop 'n' soul," a soul-rock hybrid that woke up the crowd. Based in Atlanta, Harding has deep experience as a singer, songwriter and guitarist who uses the conventions of soul to look forward, not back. His powerful set included tracks from his two albums: the great Face Your Fear (one of NPR Music's 10 Best R&B Albums of 2017) and Soul Power, his 2014 debut.

Johnny Marr has a lot of accolades. From co-founding The Smiths to playing alongside folks like The Pretenders and Talking Heads, from invigorating Modest Mouse in the aughts to a successful solo career, Marr has earned himself a legion of devoted fans.

One day, you're touring in a rock band in your 20s, and then, all of a sudden, the checkout guy at Trader Joe's calls you "sir."

The Thistle & Shamrock: Here We Go 2019!

Dec 31, 2018

Celebrate the dawn of the New Year with host Fiona Ritchie and the music of Bachue, Altan, Cathie Ryan, and Eddi Reader.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Fifty years after recording "Do the Reggay" in 1968, Toots Hibbert performed the most exuberant set I saw at this year's Newport Folk Festival. Toots and the Maytals helped create reggae in the '60s with some of the most creative and exciting records to come out of Jamaica. The legend's Newport set was packed with songs from throughout his career. The oldest, "I'll Never Grow Old," was originally released in 1963 — when Hibbert was only 21 — and captured the spirit he brought to the show. Hibbert played with joy and energy, keeping his terrific band on its toes.

Austin singer-songwriter Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, began his Newport Folk Festival set by raising a little hell. Before beginning the incendiary "Word of Mouth," he explained: "I'm gonna kick this off with a waltz that I wrote years ago that has sadly become more and more relevant every year I play it. It's a song about not listening to people and listening to people at the same time."

I still prefer music recommendations from friends online or IRL, or stumbling across a punk band cooler than the one headlining the show, or buying a record simply because the artwork rules, or falling down the rabbit hole of random clicks on Bandcamp. Algorithms serve a function, but never satisfy the hunt, at least for me.

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