NPR Music & Concerts

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

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/.

George Michael: A Father Figure For Political Pop

Dec 27, 2016

Return To Daddy

Dec 22, 2016

If there was one moment in Houston on Saturday night that brought meaning and context to Aphex Twin's first U.S. performance in eight years, it was when the storm arrived, about 30 minutes in.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Midwinter Music

Dec 21, 2016

Travel into the magical traditions of midwinter through some spellbinding music of the season. This week, hear music from Phil Cunningham, California Revels and Cherish The Ladies.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Winter Gifts

Dec 15, 2016

Host Fiona Ritchie shares some new releases that may help you resolve your holiday shopping challenges.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Appetite For Dysfunction

Dec 13, 2016

America loves a hot mess. Added by Oxford Dictionaries in August 2014, that phrase connotes "a person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered, especially one that is a source of peculiar fascination." The roots of hot mess attraction in popular music go as far back as the blues. We love transmissions from and about our shadow sides — secret pains, forbidden longings, destructive urges kept barely in check. Consider classic rock cyclones like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, who combined exceptional talent and all-too-human emotion.

The Thistle & Shamrock: The Singing Kettle

Dec 7, 2016

As we enter the festive season, many parties, concerts and carol-singing events are geared toward children, for whom this time of year is especially magical. Host Fiona Ritchie reaches back into the archives to remember her visit with children's entertainers Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise, who performed for many years as "The Singing Kettle." Their shows often evoked the playful traditions of pantomime, which are so popular in the U.K. at this time of year.

In 1976, the American Folklife Center was created at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Charged with preserving and presenting American folk traditions, its collections and events also embrace cultures from every corner of the globe. In our second program marking the AFC's 40th anniversary, folklorists Nancy Groce and Steve Winick guide us through the life's work of some dedicated individuals who contributed their song collections to the Center's extraordinary archives.

In 1976, the American Folklife Center was created at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Charged with preserving and presenting American folk traditions, its collections and events also embrace cultures from every corner of the globe — and it houses about a half million sound recordings. We join in with the AFC's 40th anniversary celebrations as folklorists Nancy Groce and Steve Winick guide us through some of the Center's remarkable recordings of iconic songs. Hear Part 1 this week, and look out for Part 2 next week.

A Queen Among Kings

Nov 21, 2016

The first time I ever saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perform was circa 2002 at the Elbo Room, a tiny venue in San Francisco's Mission District. If you've ever been there, you know the Elbo Room doesn't need many bodies to pack the floor, and with the Dap-Kings crowding the diminutive stage, the full intensity of their act filled the space from practically the first note. I was already familiar with the group through its early records, but hadn't fully appreciated how much power Jones could pack into her stout, 5-foot frame as she sang, sweated, stamped, strutted, slayed.

Popular music, like every creative form, has produced iconoclasts and idols, whose charisma intersects with the historical moment to carry them into a singular space of greatness. Leonard Cohen was not that kind of star. He was the other kind, arguably more necessary: the companionable genius, compelled by the need to track the muse through the hallways of the everyday, to understand how profane existence can be shot through with profundity.

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Fall Sounds

Nov 9, 2016

Join host Fiona Ritchie as she uncovers the latest batch of releases, hearing what's new from established artists and emerging talent. This episode features songs from the new album The Lost Songs of St. Kilda, recorded by Trevor Morrison.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Do you believe in ghosts? The age-old question pops up this time of year when Halloween looms — the answer for opera composers seems to be a resounding "yes." Many of them, from Mozart to Corigliano, have given ghosts a few choice moments on stage. Operatic apparitions arrive suddenly in the middle of the night, crash dinner parties or do their ghostly duty simply by playing tricks on the minds of the living.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Sea Sound

Oct 26, 2016

Images and moods of the sea emerge this week from both traditional and new music, including the classical sounds of A Scottish Island, William Jackson's work for fiddles, pipes, woodwind and strings.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Lil Wayne's prison memoir, Gone Til November, is — like his two Sorry 4 The Wait mixtapes — framed as a stopgap offering to quell fan's appetites during an unexpectedly prolonged wait between official projects.

Few in the roots scene had heard of Yola Carter before she made her first appearance at Nashville's Americana Fest in September, which might've suggested that she was some sort of musical rookie. In fact, the 33-year-old black, British singer-songwriter is a seasoned studio and stage pro.

Sunday is the 10th anniversary of My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade, a defining album for both the band and a generation of pop-punk fans. A decade later, NPR's Daoud Tyler-Ameen is still processing what it means to love this record, and what its impact says about the culture around it.

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