NPR Music

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

There's a kind of little village of artisans on Manhattan's West 54th Street. In a couple of plain looking office towers, there are a bunch of rehearsal studios, violin makers' workshops and other music businesses. Behind one of those office doors on the 10th floor sits Frank Music Company — Frank's, as everybody calls it.

It was supposed to be a celebratory occasion, a high-profile performance of a piece given life by the orchestra that commissioned it — a young composer's music played by other young musicians.

Instead, the performance scheduled for Sunday of Jonas Tarm's music at Carnegie Hall by the highly regarded New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) has been canceled after it came to the attention of the ensemble's administration that the piece contains a quotation from the Nazi "Horst Wessel Lied."

Releasing music under multiple names is a standby in the world of electronic dance music, but nobody in the early 1990s made more of the tendency than Aphex Twin, born Richard D. James in Cornwall, England in 1971. In addition to his main moniker, James had perhaps the most perversely odd pseudonyms in a field heavy on dweebs, gearheads, sci-fi nuts and other language-as-alien-device types.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Welsh Roots

Mar 4, 2015

This week, The Thistle & Shamrock host Fiona Ritchie presents acoustic roots music from Wales with Cerys Matthews, Robin Huw Bowen, Julie Murphy, Rag Foundation, Ffynnon, Ember and Crasdant. Discover a world of Welsh contemporary folk and new roots sounds in the land of St. David.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

One of the best recently released music documentaries — The Last Song Before The War — wasn't originally supposed to be about music.

Phox: Tiny Desk Concert

Mar 2, 2015

I first saw Phox in an impromptu concert at a restaurant in Philadelphia. I thought the band was talented and charming, and I still do. Phox is six friends from Baraboo, Wis., who make pretty, catchy music. The group's not-so-secret weapon is Monica Martin, who sings with a smoky lilt in front of spare, tasteful instrumentation.

Sympathy For The Devils

Feb 28, 2015

It's been five years since Kanye West raised his glass to "the a--holes" in the song "Runaway," a poetic taxonomy of bad behavior that formed the emotional center of his masterwork My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It's a sad song about romantic failure, but also a strong statement connecting West to popular music's longstanding practice of being dangerously outrageous.

Sometime years from now I may be asked: What was your favorite day at NPR? I am likely to say it's the day Dan Deacon got the NPR staff worked up into a giant dance party! It's also the day Deacon and staff wheeled in an upright piano and connected it to his computer — a magical mix of old player piano and electronic avant-garde.

On this episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, host Fiona Ritchie handpicks more of the best new music from rising artists, as well as the latest from musicians whose work has shaped the sound of the show through the decades.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit