NPR Music & Concerts

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

The Thistle & Shamrock: ThistleRadio New

Mar 15, 2017

Hear some of the recently added tracks that have grown our playlist to more than 1,000 tracks on ThistleRadio, The Thistle & Shamrock's popular round-the-clock music channel. The list includes music by Goitse, Gerda Stevenson, Sharlene Wallace and Lilt, among others.

Culture Wars

Mar 15, 2017

Last week, a fierce battle was pitched between the Austin, Texas-based music mega-festival South by Southwest (SXSW) and artists who took exception to a certain passage in the agreements which SXSW sends to its performers.

Symphony orchestras and opera companies across the country continually ask the same question: How do we attract a younger and more diverse audience?

Saturday night, I discovered something of an answer at the Washington National Opera's east coast premiere of Champion, a four-year-old opera by jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.

In 21 seasons of attending WNO performances, I've never witnessed a more diverse crowd.

Practice is a physical activity, of course, but it's also hard mental work — if you're doing it right. A new video published by TED Ed gets down to the scientific nitty-gritty of what good practice looks like, and what it does to your brain. (Think axons and myelin, not "muscle memory" — muscles don't have "memory.")

Life has its rules: You choose some; others choose you. This Stephin Merritt knows all too well. Child of a beatnik mom and folk-singing dad he never met until well into adulthood, the singer-songwriter and principal musician of indie pop's Magnetic Fields is both blessed and cursed by circumstance, like all living creatures, although perhaps more so, as his 50 Song Memoir suggests.

Don't Bother Big Sean — He's Working

Feb 28, 2017

Real life will tell you different, but to let rap lists tell it an artist peaks in his late teens or early 20s. Most MC's debut albums are praised as their classics, even retroactively, while fans spend the rest of their careers pleading for them to return to their glory days. Nas has had a phenomenal career, but he still hasn't topped Illmatic. Jay Z wasn't popular until 1998, but his 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt is seen as his undisputed best. And no matter how much he pushes the boundaries of hip-hop, many fans want "the old Kanye."

Hip-hop took off its cool over the weekend — and lit itself ablaze in the process.

Two seemingly unrelated threads this past weekend served as raucous, yin-and-yang reminders that hip-hop is not just a genre measured by charts, award show accolades and platinum plaques, but an organic culture unbound by industry rules.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame, with some assistance from Nile Rodgers and CBS This Morning, has announced its 2017 inductees, which include a first for the 38-year-old organization: rap.

Jay Z will be the first rapper inducted into the Hall and will be joined this year by one-man Swedish hit factory Max Martin; Motown founder Berry Gordy (who deferred his induction last year); Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis of The Time; Robert Lamm, James Pankow and Peter Cetera of Chicago; and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

The 'meaning' of music is an amorphous concept, as are the lessons of psychotropic experiences brought on by substances like lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. Recent scientific studies have attempted to tackle both of these topics and gauge whether ingesting the substance impacted peoples' experiences with and interpretations of music. By request, the poet August Kleinzahler considers two recent studies, through the lens of his own musical and psychedelic dabblings.

Adele broke her Grammy award in half Sunday night. It might have seemed like the careless act of someone with plenty to spare; the 28-year-old powerhouse vocalist has 15 of the music industry's most coveted statues, including the five just presented for her latest album, 25. She did so charmingly, with a characteristic big laugh, and apparently by accident, severing the statue's gramophone horn from its base as she nervously handled it.

Our relationships with and access to music lie between rocks and hard places; the rocks that own it, the hard places that distribute it to us. Those relationships are constantly evolving, and to figure out what might come next, we've combed through the recent earnings statements of some of the largest record labels and tech companies to reveal how they're preparing for 2017 and beyond.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Debuts

Feb 8, 2017

Listen to the sounds of musicians making their first appearances on Thistle & Shamrock. Artists featured on the show come from both sides of the Atlantic and include The Katie McNally Trio, Connla, Liza Mulholland and more.

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

Drake has topped the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's (IFPI) annual list of best-selling artists worldwide, earning the umbrella group's "Global Recording Artist of the Year" award, buoyed in large part by the success of his 2016 album Views.

David Bowie, who died on January 10, 2016 just two days after the release of Blackstar, came in second on the IFPI's list. Prince, the list's other "legacy" artist, was ninth. The list tabulates all forms of sales, physical and digital, as well as sales from the entire catalog of the artists named.

The band is back together. This Is Spinal Tap's three stars and director have united to sue the movie's owner for $400 million.

"Waiting 4 it," one Lady Gaga fan wrote on her Facebook wall before the Super Bowl halftime show last night. "Gaga, say some s***." The multiplatinum pop rabble-rouser's reputation as an advocate for LGBTQ rights, feminism and general freakery left her with a certain burden of proof as she took on America's biggest annual slice of family entertainment. Would she speak out about the need to preserve civil rights as a new administration already establishing a spotty record on that front reshapes the presidency?

The music website Bandcamp will donate the money it earns from music sales that occur this Friday, Feb. 3, to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The move, which amounts to 15 percent of all dollars spent on bandcamp.com, was announced in a blog post Tuesday afternoon.

Ethan Diamond, Bandcamp's founder, writes:

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Year Sounds

Jan 25, 2017

Prepare your way for the year ahead with a fresh musical start and a chance to discover artists whose careers are destined to gather momentum in the coming months. In this week's episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, hear music from Eileen Ivers, Battlefield Band, John McSherry, Invisible Stars and more.

From the pubs and clubs of home to international festival stages, some great live performances electrify this hour as we turn the page on yet another music-filled year.

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

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