All Songs Considered

Dirty Projectors' early career opened a virtual fire hydrant of ideas: albums overstuffed with sound and chaos, reined in by real artistry, released in rapid succession. But as bandleader David Longstreth honed his vision, the hydrant's flow has given way to a trickle. It's been more than four years since the last new Dirty Projectors album, Swing Lo Magellan, and Longstreth himself has stayed largely out of the public eye.

In the music of Alcest, beauty reigns above all. Even in the French band's early days playing gauzy black-metal, attention was paid to the curves of song and sound. From 2014, Shelter departed completely from Alcest's metallic roots for shoegaze, a conscious move on mastermind Neige's part that, while pretty, was airy in its noticeable lack of heft.

They came, they measured, they built and they plotted. But first, they had to borrow a few things from the NPR office.

Blue Man Group designed new instruments and a small-scale show solely for a one-time performance at the Tiny Desk. Celebrate the group's 25th anniversary with this musical and comical adventure, which you can watch this Monday, Sept. 26, at

For the past 25 years I've had this notion that on every successive Leonard Cohen record his voice would get deeper and deeper until one day he'd put out an album so subsonic that you'd just feel it, not hear it. Well, we're close. On this day, Leonard Cohen's 82nd birthday, he's given us a gift: It's dark, it's beautiful and it's deep. "You Want It Darker" is the title track to his soon-to-be-released album, his 14th studio album in his 49-year recording career. The album of nine songs, out Oct. 21, is produced by his son, musician Adam Cohen.

The Americana Music in Nashville is never quite what I think it will be. This week's All Songs starts with Yola Carter, a British singer of mixed race. Next is the white Australian C.W. Stoneking, sounding like blues legend Willie Dixon. The third song on the show is by Marlon Willams, a soulful young New Zealand singer. The common thread as we explore the newest and most promising voices at AmericanaFest is a love of folk, country, roots music, but how that gets interpreted varies, and that's where the fun is.

Classic Dose: Larry Heard

Sep 16, 2016

It's been 30 years since a handful of singles from the Southside of Chicago — handed out to and played by Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy, two local DJs then helping define the sound that came to be known as "house" — transformed dance music all around the world. The tracks came from Larry Heard, a twenty-something musician who worked at the Social Security Administration by day, and drummed in cover bands (art-rock, reggae, jazz fusion) by night; but it was only when Heard decided to invest in a synthesizer and drum machine that he unwittingly changed the nature of club music forever.

Advisory: This interview contains profanity.

On this week's All Songs +1 podcast, I'm taking the host chair usually occupied by Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton for a conversation with Danny Brown about the Detroit rapper's upcoming album, Atrocity Exhibition, his admiration for contemporaries like ScHoolBoy Q and what Brown calls his all-time favorite rap song, Nas' "The World Is Yours." In our talk, Brown also explains how he hooked up with South African singer/producer Petite Noir for the new song we're premiering in the podcast, "Rolling Stone."

Justin Trosper's creative arc is as jagged as it is long. Through the '90s, his band Unwound brought an extraordinary catalog of noisy, desperate music to life. When Trosper returned with Survival Knife in 2014, it was a thoughtful and loud exercise in "regular" rock 'n' roll that was anything but. His music is a study in unconventional rock that, at its edges, makes its own conventions.

There is a magical new film by Bill Morrison, who has has garnered love and accolades for his films that use archival footage to tell new stories.

His work has been shown around the world, recently as part of a mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Along with his use of found footage, Bill Morrison often teams up with modern composers. He's made films using music by Philip Glass, Harry Partch, Vijay Iyer and Bill Frisell which gives you an idea of his reach into both the world of classical, avant-garde and jazz.

The gang's finally back together! And by gang we mean hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, who find themselves in the studio together for the first time in a month. With the summer break finally over, the two return with this week's essential mix, from both veteran artists and new discoveries.

There's a new album from Phish coming on Oct. 7, the band's 13th, titled Big Boat, and this news is always met with some conflicted opinions from fans. Throughout an impressive career that now spans 30 years (including a couple hiatuses -> breakups -> reunions along the way), Phish is still known best for its epic live performances rather than its albums. For at least a portion of the diehard concert-collecting fanbase, new songs are more of a refined framework for the lengthy improvisations to come.

There's a new film about Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds directed by Andrew Dominik called One More Time With Feeling. The setting of the film is a recording studio for a performance of songs from Skeleton Tree, the band's 16th studio album. But the backdrop to the film is tragic. In the summer of 2015, Nick Cave's 15-year-old son Arthur fell from a cliff while hallucinating on LSD. The film was made about five months later. Cave has not spoken at any length about his son, and this film is, in a way, his statement and thoughts on Arthur's death.

Crying exists in the ridiculous. The band's first two EPs took bright-eyed pop-punk and Thin Lizzy hooks and amplified it with the 8-bit, in-the-red cuteness of chiptune music.

It was way below freezing outside, a couple weeks before the holidays — the kind of cold that requires layers of long sleeves and flannel beneath your jacket. But in the basement of Songbyrd Music House in Washington, D.C., a swirling mass of hardcore kids leapt through the air, sweat flopping off heavy cotton since they had nowhere to stash their Bane and Judge hoodies. Heads narrowly avoided metal poles in a underworld dance of thrown elbows and knee-pumping swarm. Welcome to the gleeful insanity of a Turnstile show.

Taylor Ross knows his way around a melody. More specifically, he knows how to peep into melody's third eye, hug the fruit-striped void and send it sideways down the yellow brick road.

Regina Spektor is back with another preview of her upcoming album, Remember Us To Life. Her latest song is a gorgeous, soaring ode to love and heartache called "Black And White."

After a ten-year break, Grandaddy is back. The Modesto, Calif. band has signed with Danger Mouse's 30th Century Records and released two new songs, "Way We Won't" and "Clear Your History." The group has also officially announced a new full-length album coming sometime next year. It's the first new music from Grandaddy since 2006's Just Like The Fambly Cat. From the sound of the new songs, the band has lost nothing in the years since.

Ever since he left Rage Against The Machine in 2000, there have been rumors, false starts and complete scraps of Zack de la Rocha's debut solo album.

The Pretenders are back with the band's first new album in eight years, this time collaborating with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach as producer. The album is called Alone, and the first single is a jangly pop cut with arpeggiated synths and quirky guitar riffs called "Holy Commotion!"

American Football's return to the studio was not just a surprise to those of us locked into the wistful, youthful feels of its 17-year-old debut album. It's also cause for reflection on what those feels mean now — for the band members about to enter their 40s, as well as for the fans who've grown in and out of them.

When we settled into the studio for this week's All Songs Considered, a clear theme quickly emerged: We had a whole lot of music by artists we already adore! This includes a rare acoustic demo by R.E.M., a glorious new electro-pop cut from Sylvan Esso, a heartbreaking tribute song from Sharon Van Etten and more.

The latest single from Kishi Bashi is a synth-heavy, pulsing pop song full of both drive and heartache. "Can't Let Go, Juno," like many of the songs on Kishi Bashi's upcoming album Sonderlust, documents a difficult period the violinist and looper went through — both with his music and in his personal life. "Every time my phone lights up," Kishi Bashi sings, "My heart keeps skipping enough to give up / You know the better days still remain / Cannot be insane forever."

Back in March, both President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spoke at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. Now, inspired by the trip, the Obama administration is collaborating with SXSW to host a miniature version of the festival at the White House.

"Timeless" first appeared as an icy, synth-powered soul ballad on James Blake's The Colour In Anything, released back in May. In its new incarnation, featuring rapper Vince Staples, the song is moodier, more propulsive and bristling with tension.

Jack White has shared another cut from his upcoming collection of acoustic recordings. The track is a version of The Raconteurs' "Carolina Drama," from the band's 2008 album Consolers Of The Lonely.

The original version of "Carolina Drama" is an electrified blues slow-burner. Here, the song sounds more like an old-time murder ballad, with banjo, fiddle and lap slide guitar.

In tragedy, some of us turn to God, some of us spurn God, and a few of us find solace in nothingness. But it's possible to take all three paths simultaneously when caught in a maelstrom of desperation. Nick Cave has always existed in this realm, it's what makes his work so powerful, that in-between existence that seeps into our own.

As Sylvan Esso, singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn craft danceable pop songs that exude an ambivalent, searching quality. Sure, they're catchy as anything, and Meath — a veteran of the a cappella folk group Mountain Man — knows how to command a spotlight. But Sylvan Esso's songs also bear the weight of melancholy, even as Sanborn's springy arrangements send them soaring.

If the band's debut EP (Treasure Pains) is any indication, Chicago's Slow Mass exists somewhere between Hoover's post-hardcore heft and Braid's weird hooks. Featuring members of Into It. Over It's live band (drummer Josh Sparks and guitarist Josh Parks), plus guitarist/vocalist Dave Collis (My Dad) and bassist/vocalist Mercedes Webb, Slow Mass isn't so much the sum of its parts, but rather part high-speed collision, part mutation.

The new video and song from the Brooklyn noise duo Sleigh Bells throb with rage and fiery defiance. Words flash on screen over Derek Miller's jagged guitars as the video opens: "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to build a fire."

Note: With hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton away this week, we've got an encore presentation of The Worst Songs Of All Time, from May. 2011.

This week: the moment it all went wrong, relived in vivid detail. Members of the All Songs Considered crew share stories of hope and heartache as they remember some of the bands they've broken up with over the years and why. NPR Music's Daoud Tyler-Ameen joins hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton for the discussion.