NPR Music

I recently hosted a "pitch session" at the DIY Music Conference hosted by CD Baby in Nashville. It was an opportunity for independent artists to have their music heard and critiqued by a panel of music industry folks including a record producer, a music supervisor and music journalist.

Our list of the best new albums out this week includes the comical and moving synth pop of John Grant, enchanting harmonies from The Watson Twins, an audacious jazz album from trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, the first new music from Elvis Costello & The Imposers in a decade and more. Host Robin Hilton returns to breakdown this week's essential releases with NPR Music's Ann Powers and Stephen Thompson, and Nate Chinen from WBGO.

Featured Albums

  1. Elvis Costello & The Imposters: Look Now
    Featured Song: "Under Lime"

Some anniversaries are hard to celebrate. How should we greet the arrival of October, a year after the stories broke initiating the reckoning that soon became known as #MeToo? Since The New York Times and The New Yorker published their exposés — on Oct. 5 and Oct. 10 of last year, respectively — of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's long career as an alleged serial rapist, a new nationwide discussion has formed about sexual assault, abuse and harassment. Often, this ongoing reckoning feels like not a dialogue, but a war.

KCRW welcomed Cat Power for her first live radio session behind her latest album, Wanderer. "In Your Face" features Power's vocals front and center as she strips things back for a hushed performance.

Years before Taylor Swift's ascent, the Dixie Chicks were the turn of the century's country crossover success story.

Rosanne Cash is a highly distinguished singer and songwriter. Since she released her debut in 1978, she's built a fantastic body of work. She's released thirteen studio albums with highlights including Seven Year Ache (1981), The Wheel (1993), and 2009's The List, a collection of 12 essential country songs she recorded from a list of 100 country songs that her father, Johnny Cash, gave her.

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.

Look: Big, dumb riffs are harder than you think. Palm-muted chugs and sidewinder pull-offs can rate on a scale of Honda Accord (safe, reliable, standard) to El Camino (muscular, mean, wild) depending on the driver who's stomping on the sonic gas pedal. Hair Puller was founded on this premise, and its 101 MPH sludge will pulverize your headbanging skull.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Live From Ireland

Oct 10, 2018

Host Fiona Ritchie is feeling a little nostalgic and a lot Irish this week, delving into her radio archive to relive some of the great sets of Irish music she's aired on Thistle through the years.

Four years ago, Jocie Adams of The Low Anthem, stepped aside from the Rhode Island band she was a member of to begin the next evolution in her musical career as lead singer for Arc Iris. This Friday, Arc Iris will release its third album, Icon Of Ego, via Ba Da Bing Records.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2019 nominees on Tuesday, and in what has become an annual tradition, the list came with the Hall's usual heap of opacity and a dash of acrimony.

One nominee has already been inducted, two are receiving their fifth nominations, and one previously said it would decline the honor before changing its, ahem, tune on Tuesday morning.

My No. 1 album for 2017 was Big Thief's Capacity. In 2016 their album Masterpiece was in my top five. So when I heard that Adrianne Lenker, Big Thief's singer and songwriter, had a new solo record, I was all ears.

The word "first" comes up a lot when talking about the latest album from Cat Power. It's the singer's first in six years, her first since giving birth to a son (notice his forehead peeking out on the album cover) and her first since leaving Matador, her longtime record label. But one thing is not new: As is often the case with Cat Power's music, this collection is spare and emotional.

More often than not, when you hear songs that ring out with the urgency and complexity of being in a relationship at a difficult time, you're hearing just one side of the story; what passion and loss and doubt and loneliness and lust feels like from just the side of the person making the music.

We all have distractions in our lives that keep us from working, studying, concentrating or otherwise attempting to unlock something in our own brains. It could be roommates, or coworkers, or the 24/7 rage-spigot of the Internet, or something else entirely, but we all have outside forces we need to drown out without merely adding more chaos to the mix. This two-hour playlist is engineered to help.

With Robin Hilton out for one more week, NPR Music's Ann Powers and Lars Gotrich join me for a whirlwind tour of a busy release day. We've got the first album in five years by the spiky pop-rock band Swearin' (featuring the great and good Allison Crutchfield); the gorgeous first album in six years by Chan Marshall, a.k.a.

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.

Editor's note: The following story contains some frank discussion of suicide.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Cathy Jordan

Oct 4, 2018

Join Fiona Ritchie as she chats to singer-songwriter Cathy Jordan about her musical life globetrotting with the popular band Dervish. Cathy performs some well-loved songs with an intimate audience at The Swannanoa Gathering's Traditional Song Week.

Croz is back, again. Singer-songwriter David Crosby releases his seventh solo album, Here If You Listen later this month on Oct. 26. It's his fourth solo album in five years and continues an active, prolific creative streak for the legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Famer.

Geoff Emerick, an audio engineer best known for his work with The Beatles, died Tuesday at his home near Laurel Canyon, Calif., due to complications related to his pacemaker. Emerick's manager, William Zabaleta, confirmed his death to NPR. He was 72.

Emerick had been in the hospital two weeks prior after experiencing trouble walking, but was ruled to have been dehydrated.

One Song Considered: Julia Jacklin's 'Body'

Oct 3, 2018

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