NPR Music & Concerts

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

Understanding the recorded work of most popular musicians — from rock to hip-hop, jazz to country — typically means perusing their albums and singles. There are exceptions, such as rappers' guest appearances: You don't really understand Busta Rhymes' importance if you don't take into account his verse on A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario," for example.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Claudine Langille

Jul 1, 2015

Join host Fiona Ritchie at the Swannanoa Gathering in the mountains of North Carolina for a conversational, musical encounter with singer (and banjo and mandolin player) Claudine Langille. Hear the way songs and tunes from the Canadian Maritimes, Ireland and Appalachia flow through Langille's music.

The fun, colorful Massachusetts trio And The Kids plays music that's full of life, with singalong songs and sometimes dissonant sounds. You'll get a sense of the band in this Tiny Desk Concert, as Hannah Mohan, Rebecca Lasaponaro and Taliana Katz perform songs from their effervescent 2015 debut, Turn To Each Other — including my own favorite, "All Day All Night."

Mohan and Lasaponaro have been making music since they were in seventh grade, a long friendship that helps make the mix of happy and sad songs all the more poignant.

Set List

We'll call it in the air: 2015 is going to end up being a great year for music. The albums that have impressed us the most over the year's first six months are a varied lot. There's enormous ambition on display here, epic works crafted to bust boundaries or reshape at will (check out that three-hour debut album), but also intensity in small gestures: a pair of devastating albums about loss, two more anchored in the sounds of sisterly harmonies. As we reach the year's mid-point, take a moment to listen with us, ears wide open to a great six months of music.

Canada produces a lot of top-flight jazz, but if you're not in the country, you'll probably have to head north to hear it. U.S. travel restrictions keep many of the nation's best musicians at home, where they've developed their own sound and scene.

Fortunately, Canada has wonderful jazz festivals. The granddaddy of them all is the Festival International du Jazz de Montreal (FIJM), a 10-day extravaganza which kicked off Thursday. Now in its 36th year, FIJM attracts more than six million visitors from around the world.

Oddisee: Tiny Desk Concert

Jun 26, 2015

Amir Elkhalifa, a.k.a. Oddisee, is an emergent standout in hip-hop. The Prince Georges County, Md., native says he made his new album, The Good Fight, as a reminder that music comes before hip-hop; that music can trigger indescribable feelings; that music is a meditation on our capacity to love; and, finally, that our ambition and greed are in constant conflict with our sense of propriety.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Scent Of Summer

Jun 24, 2015

Ease into the sound of summer with a warm, Celtic-infused mix of music by Alan Stivell & Youssou N'Dour, Nightnoise, Shooglenifty and more.

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