NPR Music & Concerts

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

On Monday night, a bombing timed to coincide with the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester killed 22 people, many children, and injured dozens more. Today, Grande responded at length to the tragedy in a letter to her fans that she posted on social media.

In the letter, Grande says she will return to Manchester "to spend time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honor of and to raise money for the victims and their families." No date was given for the concert, which the singer writes is still being finalized.

I was, admittedly, thrown for a loop when Gabriel Garzón-Montano told me that he wanted to perform unaccompanied, just him and a piano. The meticulousness of his work is clear on his debut album, Jardin, a three-year creative process in which Gabriel plays most of the instruments, tracking them to two-inch tape, layering its overall sound. Jardin takes its title as an umbrella; fruits, bugs and other plants are the driving metaphors tying together this dense work, which blooms over successive listens.

One of the more baffling cultural intersections to take place during President Trump's first overseas trip was a concert that took place Saturday night in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It featured American country music star Toby Keith, who performed for an all-male audience.

When you stream a song on Spotify, it's delivered in an audio format — imagine these formats to be containers as literal as a phonograph record — cheekily named "Ogg Vorbis." YouTube, one of the most popular music streaming "services" in the world by volume, prefers something called AAC, or "Advanced Audio Coding." Radio stations, whenever possible, tend to prefer

Julia Jacklin doesn't need much accompaniment: If you were to hear the Australian singer-songwriter's unadorned voice, say, echoing at the top of a stairwell, you'd most likely climb to where it leads without a second thought. Jacklin's full-length debut, last year's Don't Let The Kids Win, knows just when and how to lean in to this simplicity, surrounding her with spare instrumentation that keeps that voice in the center of the frame.

The music of the late Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, the wife of the jazz giant John Coltrane, has always rested somewhat in the shadows. It didn't help that she gave her career up — to become a spiritual leader.

When Vince Staples releases his sophomore album Big Fish Theory next month, he won't be the only lanky rapper from Long Beach, Calif. with new music in the marketplace. Big Uncle Snoop Dogg, whose solo debut Doggystyle dropped the same year Staples was born, released his 15th studio album this week. And like the title Neva Left not-so-subtly suggests, his ubiquitous industry presence over the last quarter century is unprecedented in hip-hop.

Mexico City is not known as one of the international jazz capitals of the world. New York, Tokyo — even Havana. But not CDMX (the new abbreviation of Ciudad de Mexico).

Of course it's a story about death and Seattle music.

I woke up this morning after bad dreams last night, only to find the real nightmare — that Chris Cornell of Soundgarden was dead. As with all these losses it seems surreal, untrue, unimaginable. But there it is.

A video of Russian President Vladimir Putin taking a turn at the ivories in Beijing is currently making the Internet rounds.

Tim Darcy has a gifted voice, with a delivery that triggers the Lou Reed and Roy Orbison pleasure centers of my brain. The words he delivers are mysterious and mellifluous, playing in my mind's ear long after his newest album, Saturday Night — so named because it was mostly recorded on the weekends in the midst of making his other band's second album — comes to its close.

In 2014, when the band Hundred Waters programmed the first installment of its FORM festival in the eco-friendly desert village known as Arcosanti, it was an entirely DIY affair.

After four chords, the notes start to fly — Danilo Brito and his four collaborators, three Brazilians and one American, are off like jackrabbits in front of a hound, having hustled their instruments to the Tiny Desk at the end of a North American tour.

Brito a 32-year-old mandolin player, made his first record when he was a teenager, plays a type of music called choro (pronounced "shore-oo").

Rhiannon Giddens' new solo album, Freedom Highway, is an exploration of African-American experiences, accompanied by an instrument with its own uniquely African-American story: the banjo.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Bridges

May 10, 2017

Music commemorates the landmarks that span our landscapes — and is its own bridge across time and place. Cross all forms of bridges this week with music from Altan, Kim Robertson, Eileen Ivers and more.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

On Monday, the Internet radio pioneer Pandora, one of the oldest music tech companies still humming, announced its first-quarter financial results. Like most of its brethren, the company both makes and loses a lot of money — it reported $132 million in net losses this quarter alone, but also announced a new $150 million round of financing and a shakeup of its board. Oh, and that financing requires the company explore all feasible avenues to sell itself off before receiving the cash.

"This song is called 'You Never Loved Me' — it's another cheery, optimistic number," says Aimee Mann, introducing the second of four songs in this Tiny Desk Concert. She has been writing songs on the human condition — more often than not with a strong sense of humor to underpin the inevitable melancholy — as far back as the '80s, when she was the singer and bassist in Boston's The Young Snakes. Mann's newest solo record, the first in five years, is baldly called Mental Illness — clearly, there's a deep honesty within these songs.

This is likely the quietest Tiny Desk Concert ever.

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel — one of the most famous Venezuelans in the world today and one of the world's most prominent classical musicians — issued an open letter today to the president and government in his native country.

Long reticent to address politics directly, he has published his comments in a letter titled "Levanto Mi Voz / I Raise My Voice," in both Spanish and English. (The full text is below, in both languages.)

One week ago around this time, thousands of people seeking a luxurious island reprieve were preparing for a trip to Exuma Island in the Bahamas to attend the Fyre Festival.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Singer-Songwriters

May 3, 2017

The talented songwriters featured in this week's show take us on a tour around the landscapes that inspire their music. Hear music by Battlefield Band, Bert Jansch, Áine Furey and more.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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