All Songs Considered

On this week's episode of All Songs Considered, we've got an album announcement from a new band featuring Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and song premieres from Widowspeak and Joan Shelley.

There was a moment, listening to Gardens & Villa's new song "Fixations," that I was transported back to 1974 and hearing Brian Eno's "Third Uncle" from that brilliant album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). It's all in the way Chris Lynch and Adam Rasmussen blend buzzy synths, guitars and vocals to make one sonic signature.

For our +1 mini-podcast this week, Bob is joined in the studio by NPR Music's Jacob Ganz to talk about how we connect to songs we love in the age of streaming. The conversation highlights what we'll miss most about physical forms of music and what we hope the future takes into account.

Ben Folds music has taken another turn, firmly embracing strings and chamber music yet still maintaining a passion for his love of pop. So There, his next album, will consist of eight chamber pop songs with the very talented yMusic Ensemble and one piano concerto performed with the Nashville Symphony. Today we premiere a little pocket symphony of sorts, a bit of pop perfection called "Capable of Anything."

False makes bracing black metal that, just when it seems like the band won't release its claws from your throat, suddenly drops you into the void. That's the sensation felt halfway through "Entropy," a 15-minute torrent of terror that knows its Scandinavian forbears — complete with dramatic, Emperor-inspired keyboards — but chugs and spits like punk. It's here that the feral transforms into the graceful, as a piano accents two guitars noodling on a forlorn melody that desperately climbs its way out of the chasm.

Bert Jansch's approach to a traditional folk song is on full display in this recording of "Blackwaterside," made during a show at London's 12 Bar and originally released in 1995. It's an approach the Scottish singer-guitarist developed in the early 1960s; one that was more about evoking the mood and feel of a song than a slavish devotion to historical interpretation.

The amps on All Songs Considered this week never dip lower than 11. Bob is joined in the studio by a sleep-deprived Katie Presley, who just moved across the country in a packed truck and has the road trip anthem to prove it, along with NPR Music's Lars Gotrich, who brings us a brooding, multihyphenate premiere and a small explosion of rocket-fueled punk. Bob has the return of a beloved songwriter we've missed for several years, and a perfectly-named debut.

In just under three minutes, "Eclipses" will leave you breathless. It's as if the nine years since The Velvet Teen's last album, Cum Laude!, were packed into a single power-pop song that forgoes the formality of a chorus. Barely able to contain his heartbreak, Judah Nagler's verses bleed into one another as he sings "Your voice answers / But you are gone." "Eclipses" is layers of euphoric riffs upon sky-busting synth strings as Casey Dietz's drums expertly thunder and crash around it all.

Sharon Van Etten's 2014 album, Are We There, was one of the more focused, devastating recordings of the year, an unflinching set of songs that trace the contours of a doomed relationship. The album doesn't spare either party — Van Etten is as critical of her own decisions as she is damning of her lover's minor cruelties and missteps. It's an uncut catharsis machine, and listening to it can wring you out.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the weekly magazine that seems to show up at least four times per week is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on the playlists at amusement parks.

Each month, we listen to hundreds of new electronic music tracks, test the standouts at full volume and highlight the best of the best in a mix called Recommended Dose.

May's offerings highlight musicians from distant parts of the globe: Japan's Keita Sano, South Africa's Nozinja, England's John Heckle, Los Angeles' Seven Davis Jr, plus two producers living in the Netherlands: French-born Stellar OM Source and Korean-German DJ Hunee.

London DJ Maya Jane Coles records under many names, and seems to aim for accuracy in her aliases. Under her given name, she creates the house music that's made her famous (Nicki Minaj helped by sampling a 2010 Coles track in a recent single). With Lena Cullen, Coles makes dubtronica and calls their group She is Danger. And as Nocturnal Sunshine, Coles makes deep-house and dubstep beats that are simultaneously dark and bright.

Like a space opera built for two, The Receiver's "Transit" captures a universe of dreamy prog in keyboards and drums. On their third album, All Burn, brothers Casey and Jesse Cooper set complex, bright melodies and heartbeat-pulsing rhythms adrift. "Transit" sounds like a Pink Floyd ballad sung with a Peter Gabriel-like coo, as synths tug and move the track forward.

Every Thursday this year we're celebrating All Songs Considered's 15th birthday with personal memories and highlights from the show's decade and a half online and on the air. If you have a story about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email:

On this week's All Songs Considered, Bob is joined in the studio by NPR Music's Katie Presley and Jacob Ganz and the crew sets its sights on discovery. None of the musicians featured in this episode have ever been played on All Songs before — we set out to find artists aiming for different musical targets than we're used to. We found a piercing look at anxiety in the face of romantic revelation, an R&B/dance hybrid that spans more genres than it does minutes, an unflappable retort to unforgivable behavior and a song that sounds like the soundtrack to an '80s prom ...

It was 95 degrees in unforgiving heat, with teenagers and twentysomethings packed under a festival tent that did little more than cover our heads. Inexplicably, the musicians onstage were dressed in full suits and turtlenecks as they hurled themselves into every beat, the vocalist punctuating every word with tossed carnations and knee-busting drops to the floor.

Songs We Love: Anna B Savage, '1'

May 26, 2015

Listening to Anna B Savage's music is like being told a secret. Very little information has been released about the London singer-songwriter, which adds to the mystique wrought by her husky, confessional voice. Every aspect of Savage's aesthetic is spare, from the title of her first single, "1," to the title of her debut EP, EP, to her lyrics, which offer piercingly honest insight into the scourge of insecurities faced by a pair of lovers revealing themselves to each other for the first time.

May is international drum month! To celebrate, we bring you a discussion in percussion with a group of guys who will bang on almost anything (including a cactus). The members of Sō Percussion are the guest quizmasters for this week's Drum Fill Friday.

Even if you don't know anything about jazz, it's quite possible you've heard the music of saxophonist Kamasi Washington: That's him on the latest albums by Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus. But that's only the very tip of his iceberg.

Karen Dalton's career was built on covering the songs of others. Patty Griffin writes songs that others famously cover. Both artists are considered masters of their respective crafts by their peers, but neither is a household name. Each has a voice that sounds like it couldn't possibly be made by the person making it.

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Cate Le Bon wrote some of my favorite words of 2013 on her album Mug Museum. White Fence is the swirly psych-like music of Tim Presley. Cate and Tim are friends — Cate played guitar on a tour with White Fence — and so now there's this: DRINKS.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the package shipped Next Day Air but addressed to the guy who moved out of our house eight years ago is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: deep thoughts on beach balls at concerts.

Margaret H.W. writes via email: "Why do music festivals seem to hand out beach balls to drunk, high 19-year-olds? If I would like to listen to music WITHOUT beach balls, what are my anti-beach-ball options? CAN I DEFLATE THE BEACH BALLS?

This week's Drum Fill Friday comes from Guest Quizmaster Hanna Brewer, drummer for the Texas party-rock group Purple. The group is known for its rowdy live shows and healthy sense of humor, and is currently on tour for its debut album, (409).

Brewer, who also sings for Purple, shared a range of her own influences for this week's puzzler, from hip-hop to reggae, rock and pop. I'd give it three drum sticks out of five for difficulty. As always, good luck, careful listeners!

While they're not splitting open a person's chest and massaging their heart back to life, musicians and the songs they make may actually be saving lives.

When Clap Your Hands Say Yeah released its self-titled debut record in 2005, it became one of the first albums to break big because of the Internet. The band recorded and released it on its own, without any label support, and shared it on the group's website, where fans picked it up and quickly spread the word.

I've been a fan of Laura Burhenn since we met at NPR's studios with her band Georgie James eight years ago. Her pop wisdom and desire to push her limits have produced some great music, especially the past two Mynabirds records.

On our show this week, bigger is better. We start with a pop anthem and feature a set of artists all leaning into or newly discovering their boldest, most attention-grabbing music yet. Some, as in the case of a frontman gone solo and a bilingual saxophone-heavy punk band, deliver precisely the momentous sounds we'd expect. Others used the pull of memory, a desperate four-month stretch of insomnia, or a single shared microphone and two minutes of trippy ambience to level up their sonic ambitions.