NPR Music & Concerts

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  Find more music at WUNC's  Back Porch Music.

It's often true that the songs we wind up loving most are the ones that surprise us. I'm not a pop music lover, not a lover of songs with obvious hooks, so when I heard the big fat chorus that starts off Genevieve's "Colors," I thought, "uh-oh." What wound up drawing me in first was her voice — powerful with a tiny bit of rasp and a sweet smile in her phrasing. And then that perfectly positive message, worded in a way that gave me chills:

Maria Yanez might be the present-day music industry's ideal customer. The 36-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., owns roughly 1,000 vinyl records. Though she has sold "a lot" of her CDs and stopped buying digital music about three years ago, she's mostly content with her paid Spotify subscription.

There was a moment in the mid-2000s when it seemed like we might be collecting songs, one-by-one, into eternity. Internet connections were getting faster, hard drives stored more data in tinier spaces, songs were easier than ever to find and available for little or no money. Every year, the new version of Apple's iPod, first introduced in 2001 with a now-adorable 5GB of storage space, held thousands upon thousands more songs.

A Band Of Their Own

May 30, 2015

Jeanette Baker got to know John Dolphin when she was an aspiring teenage singer in the 1950s.

"I can see him now walking around with that cigar," Baker says. "When he walked around, you knew he was somebody, OK, because he had that air ... which was kind of unusual in those days because being a black man with all that competence that he had, he was like a role model to us."

They came to the Tiny Desk a bit groggy, having been up late playing music in the hotel the night before. It's what Frank Fairfield and his friends Tom Marion and Zac Sokolow do when they're together. And the music they make is casual and mostly hand-me-down songs from well before Fairfield was born nearly 30 years ago.

FRANNIE KELLEY: This is Microphone Check, hip-hop from NPR Music. I'm Frannie Kelley.

ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: I'm Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

KELLEY: And Ali is our guest for today.

MUHAMMAD: I was gonna say, "Who's our special guest?"

KELLEY: It's you, bro.

MUHAMMAD: What up, world?

Updated below at 6:40 p.m. ET with defendants' response.

Was it a laudable snapshot of cross-generational jamming, or taking advantage of a jazz titan?

The Thistle & Shamrock: Debuts

May 27, 2015

Look to the next era of Celtic music with sounds from artists making their first appearances on The Thistle & Shamrock. You'll hear from musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, including Calum Stewart & Lauren MacColl, Alex Caton & Pat Egan, and Carolyn Holyoke.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

There's sweetness to Madisen Ward And The Mama Bear's music that makes me smile, and then there's so much more. I first saw the Kansas City mother-and-son duo perform last fall in Nashville's Blue Room, a small, perfect-sounding stage at Third Man Records. The bluesy roots of the music suited the space, and the sound — with young Madisen Ward's powerful, quivering voice backed by his mother Ruth — had a homespun feel.

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