NPR Music & Concerts

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

As the primary booker of the Tiny Desk Concerts, I have this self-imposed rule: No artist can come back for a second visit unless there's something wholly different about what they're doing. The first time alt-J played the Tiny Desk, in 2012, they came as a four-piece; electric guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. They were a pretty new band, their album had been out a few months and they were playing in clubs for a couple hundred people, not much more.

Record Store Day, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is a consumer ploy in the guise of a cultural event. Or, depending on your vantage, maybe it's the other way around. Whatever the case, record stores across the country and around the world are happily (or gamely) bracing for impact: Record Store Day 2017 falls this Saturday, April 22, with a wave of exclusive releases, in-store appearances and other retail enticements.

Prince Without Permission

Apr 21, 2017

It is important — and always devastating — to remember that Prince died alone. He had probably also been in great pain that evening. But there was, as far as we know, nobody around to help him.

A 23-year-old, Russian-born violinist named Artem Kolesov is capturing international attention after posting a YouTube video in which he comes out as gay.

Allan Holdsworth, Revered Fusion Guitarist, Dies At 70

Apr 17, 2017

Allan Holdsworth, a spellbinding guitarist who influenced generations of jazz and rock musicians with his innovative sound, has died unexpectedly at age 70.

These guys had me at their name.

Ever since I heard the first EP back in 2009 I've watched Chicano Batman grow, with a sound that perfectly captures dark lounges, quinceañera dances, car shows and backyard parties.

Lots of other folks have heard something in this music — since that debut the band has played some of the biggest outdoor music festivals for diverse crowds around the country.

The period of anticipation preceding the release of Kendrick Lamar's fourth album, DAMN., was intense, brief but methodically built.

The D.C. brewery Right Proper was like a cultural mullet during a recent visit: a posh baby shower in the front (complete with chocolate petit fours), a bunch of metal heads making beer in the back. Right Proper's head brewer, Nathan Zeender, was dumping a heaping spoonful of hop extract into a tank.

A massive fire at a Fruitvale district live work space has reportedly left an unconfirmed number of people dead died at an East Oakland work space, authorities said.

The fire apparently broke out about 11:30 p.m. in the 1300 block of 31st Avenue.

No other information was immediately available.

Check back for updates.

Sinkane opened its Tiny Desk Concert with a song that has been a bit of an anthem for me lately. "U'Huh" contains the Arabic phrase "kulu shi tamaam," which translates to "everything's great — it's all going to be all right."

Last May, Tash Sultana posted a self-made video, just her in her living room with guitar, laptop and a great song called "Jungle." Within five days it had drawn a million views.

"Our theory was simple," wrote Daniel Ek, co-founder and CEO of Spotify, in 2014, "offer a terrific free tier, supported by advertising, as a starting point to attract fans and get them in the door."

So what happens after everybody's crossed the threshold?

Sometimes, highly anticipated live concerts knock other priorities right off the calendar — in the case of Britney Spears and Israel, even an election.

According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published today, Britney Spears' July 3 concert in Tel Aviv's HaYarkon Park is delaying the Labor Party's leadership vote by a day. The election was originally scheduled to take place on the same day at the Convention Center for Labor, which is adjacent to the park.

Hear music from and inspired by the National Theatre of Scotland show that has won acclaim over the past five years, including during its recent run in the U.S. The non-traditional production, which plays in bars, pubs and civic spaces, celebrates Scottish traditional poetry, storytelling and music woven through a supernatural tale.

Growing up, punk rocker Laura Jane Grace always felt conflicted about gender. She tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that she felt like two "twin souls" were warring inside of her, fighting for control. "I thought that I was quite possibly schizophrenic," she says.

It wasn't until Grace was 19 that she heard the term "transgender" and had a context for what she was feeling. In 2012, at the age of 31, she transitioned from male to female.

Here's a fun fact about Noname's Tiny Desk Concert: It almost didn't happen. Around the time of their D.C. stop, she (born Fatimah Warner) and her bandmates got their first dose of tour sickness. Thanks to rest, medicine and our mutual excitement, she made her way into the NPR offices the following day. If there ever was a 'Noname' way of doing things, this is definitely her signature method. It's in the way she's able to muster a smile while performing a heartbreaking tale of abortion. It's those sometimes bleak, melancholy lyrics over brilliant, colorful production.

On March 18, Drake released More Life, 22 songs packaged as what he's calling a playlist and what everyone else (including the streaming svengalis at Apple Music and Spotify) have categorized as an album. Whatever you call it, on Monday, Billboard announced that More Life had arrived at the top of the Billboard 200, which tracks the performance of the world's most popular albums, mostly through fans streaming it on Spotify and Apple Music.

Overcoats' music has been undeniable for me from the first time I saw the duo perform. The deep friendship between Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell comes across in their vibrant harmonies and the bountiful dance parties that pop up as they go.

You need only watch Steve Marion's face. This fierce and lyrical guitar player, who performs as Delicate Steve, writes playful instrumental music led by hooky vocals — but there is no voice. His electric guitar is often played with a glass slide, mimicking a human being and bringing a palpable personality to his songs. The music swings from gospel to cartoon, melancholy to funny.

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