NPR Music

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  For WUNC's music programs,  Back Porch Music.

Over the weekend we asked Ann Powers and Jason King to wrestle with Frank Ocean's long-awaited follow-up to 2012's Channel Orange. They did so across many time zones and man hours; what emerged is a conversation that stays fair-minded and grounded and ends in questioning both the artist and his audience.

There's brutal honesty in the songs of Margaret Glaspy that can make them feel cold, but they're also heartfelt. That's part of what makes Glaspy a top new artist of 2016 for many of the writers here at NPR Music.

When you stop to think about it, there really is no one like Barbra Streisand. There's Barbra the young Broadway legend, the movie star, the glass-ceiling-smashing movie director, the recording artist and now the venerated elder stateswoman of the showstopper.

Eddie Palmieri: Tiny Desk Concert

Aug 19, 2016

Different Tiny Desk performers pop up in NPR Music's workspace just about every week, and frequently more often than that. While every artist is special, it's rare to have a true legend come through.

Eddie Palmieri is that once-in-a-lifetime musician, bandleader, composer and arranger. An icon for both modern and Latin jazz, he continues to break tradition and innovate within many musical styles, including salsa, fusion, Latin funk and more.

Thursday night, singer Frank Ocean released a long-awaited new work: Endless, available exclusively — at least for now — as a 45-minute film on Apple Music.

This is Ocean's first studio project since his Channel Orange was released in 2012, the musician's breakout year as a solo artist after his days as a member of the Odd Future collective and, prior to that, as a songwriter for artists like Justin Bieber, John Legend and Brandy.

The Colorado River — better known for running through majestic National Parks and powering hydroelectric dams — forms an unlikely backdrop for the creation of a jazz song. But René Marie was answering phones at Denver's jazz radio station KUVO when she sat down across from a fellow volunteer fundraiser. He would soon invite her on a canoeing trip and, without yet having seen the eponymous river, she wrote the giddy "Colorado River Song" on the way there.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Combos

Aug 10, 2016

Revel in the joyous sounds of multi-instrument lineups that challenge conventional assumptions about "what goes with what." This week's show features music from We Banjo 3, Michael McGoldrick, Luka Bloom and more.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

She'd made a brief but memorable cameo in Kris Kristofferson's surprise set earlier in the afternoon, joining the veteran songwriter to perform "Me And Bobby McGee" in one of the Newport Folk Festival's many moments of serendipity. But now, it was Margo Price's turn in the spotlight.

This summer marks my 25th and final season as music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, Calif. What an amazing adventure this has been, working with living composers and being at the center of so many new creations.

There have always been many fronts on which the battle to crown the song of the summer is fought. The biggest song on pop radio isn't always the song that sells the most. The lyric that lends itself to the season can sometimes be overwhelmed by a hook that sounds best coming out of a car window.

The music of Johann Sebastian Bach is essential, like air and water, for many classical musicians. Pianist András Schiff starts every day with Bach — sometimes before breakfast. "It's like taking care of your inner hygiene. There's something very pure about it," he says.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Hot Picks

Aug 3, 2016

Some music is a perfect match for the hot days, warm evenings and cool sea breezes of summertime. Enjoy an eclectic hour of summer sounds, including music by Pierre Bensusan, Maddy Prior, Old Blind Dogs and more.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Julien Baker's music speaks to all of your nagging insecurities, the daily worries that nibble away at your well-being even as you try to suppress them. The title of her debut album, Sprained Ankle, hints at that sensibility: An ankle sprain might be a pretty mundane injury, but it's certainly going to keep you off your feet for a while — especially if, as she sings in the title song, you're a marathon runner.

If you were among those who ate up the fierce blues-rock track "Don't Hurt Yourself" from Beyoncé's Lemonade, then you know Ruby Amanfu's voice.

The music of Kevin Morby is fairly straightforward and acoustic for the most part, with traditional, folk-based rock at its core. The mystery and intensity lies in the lyrics. His biting song "I Have Been To The Mountain," performed here at the Tiny Desk and on his 2016 album Singing Saw, was inspired by the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York City police officer.

That man lived in this town

Till that pig took him down

And have you heard the sound

Elvis Costello might be best known for early-career songs like "Alison" and "Every Day I Write The Book" — literary pop masterpieces he wrote and recorded either solo or with his longtime band, The Attractions. But in more recent years, Costello has become a serial collaborator.

For Lucy Dacus, a 21-year-old with a warm and deep voice, singing comes as naturally as talking. As an adopted child in Richmond, Va., she was raised by a piano-playing mother; now, she writes songs that can be thoughtful, playful and powerful, with tremendous arrangements from guitarist Jacob Blizard.

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