Stephen Thompson

Patty Griffin has always had a gift for locating a song's nerve endings; for surveying her subject matter and identifying the most efficient possible pathways to listeners' emotions. Her warm, wise voice is comforting, inviting and relatable, even — perhaps especially — as she tackles weighty subjects like middle age and the death of a parent.

The first thing you might notice about this video is the change in surroundings: NPR recently moved to a new building, and though we worked to make the Tiny Desk as visually similar as possible to the old space — a process we recently documented with the help of OK Go — the ceilings are higher, the square footage more generous and the surfaces lavishly unsullied.

Blues music is supposed to be cathartic — a way to process and package pain in ways that make it palatable; to take our hurt and ache, set it outside ourselves, give it a tune and rhythm that makes it tangible and real yet somehow less terrifying.

Listen to Stephen Thompson's conversation with Audie Cornish on All Things Considered by clicking the audio link.


The South by Southwest music festival kicked off Tuesday with the first of five straight nights of music overload: The clubs, makeshift music venues and front porches of Austin, Texas, were overrun with little-known discoveries-in-waiting and big names alike, as well as tens of thousands of fans who have flocked to the city in search of epiphanies.

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Say what you will about some of the biggest songs of the 1980s — go ahead and badmouth electric pianos, and by all means bemoan the prevailing production quality — but the decade continues to cast a long shadow over popular music. Given its enduring popularity on dance floors and on radios, not to mention the rise of '80s-emulating singers like Gotye, you could do far worse than look to that decade for tips on connecting with audiences.

It's easy to think of The xx as a fashionable band: Its members have a sleek all-in-black look, its typography and cover art is coolly and distinctively styled, and the group itself has been showered with validation, including Britain's 2010 Mercury Prize. But beneath all that tightly controlled image-making lays music that's raw and vulnerable; shy, worried tentativeness is wired into a sound that shimmers powerfully, but remains as fragile and delicate as a soap bubble.

With the conclusion of Sunday night's ceremony, Linda Holmes and I have now live-blogged fully one-eleventh of the Grammy Awards' 55 annual incarnations. Below is our original post and an archived live blog of the telecast:

About halfway into Of Montreal's Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR Music offices, I showed a friend a Post-It note on which I'd just scribbled, "Was I wrong to expect more of a decadent, pan-sexual carnival?" I'd thought we were going to need to throw plastic sheeting over our desks, like at a GWAR concert, and there we were, watching a miniaturized Of Montreal — just Kevin Barnes solo, albeit with the assistance of singer Rebecca Cash and guitarist Bryan Poole for "Feminine Effects" — as it strummed its way through three stripped-dow

Pages