All Songs Considered

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the assortment of coloring books for grownups is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts for an engaged couple who can't decide on their first wedding dance.

This week's puzzler draws mostly on Top 40 hits and as such, should be pretty easy for some careful listeners. Then again, every time I say that people tank ... just like they get near-perfect scores whenever I think it's a particularly hard week. So what do I know?

I do know that Drum Fill Friday is going on a brief hiatus after this week for some technical maintenance work. But we hope to back in a few weeks.

A song titled "Nothing Without You" has a steep hill to climb toward independence. Before hearing a word, the artist has admitted to being hamstrung by addiction, and an inability to form a sense of self separate from the desideratum. It's a risky impression to make—especially if you're an up-and-coming, all-female band early in your career.

If there's a secret world inside the guitar, Tashi Dorji wants to find it. Raised in Bhutan and based in Asheville, N.C., for the last 15 years, Dorji plays solo guitar music that's at once frenetic and tranquil, as his fingers flick across and hammer down strings; tiny sparks ignite the next move.

Groove can be an ugly word in metal. But just because some bands haven't evolved beyond Pantera's (awesome) Cowboys From Hell, that doesn't mean the groove can't find nastier pastures. Twitching Tongues has been particularly adept at the moody mosh, where angst broods with Alice In Chains-inspired melodies, a sludgy Crowbar crunch and Colin Young's husky baritone.

Good luck getting these tunes out of your head.

I first became enchanted with Marian McLaughlin's music when she was searching for ways to mix her quirky classical guitar picking with her equally unusual voice. McLaughlin follows her muse for a sound that occasionally recalls Joanna Newsom or the psychedelic folk music of The Incredible String Band.

On paper, the musical Hamilton sounds like a joke. But as NPR Music's Timmhotep Aku tells us in this week's +1 podcast, "Maybe you shouldn't judge things on face value."

The harrowing noise-punk trio Bambara smears discontent with the gloom of the Birthday Party, the spit of Swans and the lysergic mystery of Red Temple Spirits, but understands those are only points of departure. Dreamviolence, from 2013, was a promising if limited debut, mainly because its Bushwick basement recordings were cloaked in a muddy atmosphere.

Joanna Newsom Enters The Realm Of Fantasy

Sep 24, 2015

When a legendary band returns after a long hiatus the results are often cringe-worthy—or mixed, at best. To be fair, it's nearly impossible to recapture the kind of magic that makes legends to begin with. But that's not the case with a surprise new album from the Electric Light Orchestra.

Welcome to the first day of fall — at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere. There's a noticeable chill in the air, the leaves are starting to shift color and perhaps you find yourself turning a little more inward in your mood and your musical tastes.

Composers and songwriters have plenty to say about the changing seasons. To mark the Autumnal Equinox, try this fall music quiz stocked with songs of wistful introspection. Score high and revel in autumn's golden glow. Score low and feel the sadness of earlier and earlier sunsets.

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Ian Chang is a gigantically talented drummer. You may have seen him recently in a Tiny Desk performance with the band Son Lux, but he's also known for his work with the bands Landlady and Body Language.

On this week's +1 podcast, we go to Nashville where host Bob Boilen has been making new discoveries at the Americana Music Festival, and attended the Americana Music Awards ceremony. Boilen chats with co-host Robin Hilton about this year's three biggest winners: Lucinda Williams, Sturgill Simpson and Shakey Graves.

We're all gonna die...someday. And if there's mass extinction, what's left of humanity will face nature's wrath, stored in centuries of environmental abuse and neglect. With its second album Litany, Dead to a Dying World plays the soothsayer of the agricultural apocalypse, reaped in a searing and gorgeous vision of crust-punk, doom- and black-metal, with a viola's sorrowful folk melodies stringing it all together.

You can be sad, but you don't have to be whiny. New Orleans' Woozy has a whole lot of feelings, but also a whole lot of not giving a damn. This appears to be the trio's M.O. on Blistered, its debut album after a few EPs and split releases. "Gilding The Lily" sounds like a Rainer Maria 45 spinning off-center; it's wobbly and weird, with a twin-guitar-and-vocal interplay that hesitates and jolts forward without missing a beat.

NPR Music is in Nashville all this week for the 16th annual AmericanaFest. So the newest episode of All Songs Considered offers a big bundle of music from some of the acts who are playing the festival that the team is most excited to see. Before leaving D.C., Bob called up NPR Music's Ann Powers and NPR Music contributor Jewly Hight in Music City to talk about what Americana means, and who its newest and most promising voices are.

What is "T.O.D.D.," anyway? Taft On Double Dare? Totally Ontological Dungeons & Dragons? Totebag Offer, Done Deal? Taylor O))) Drone-Doom? Thurston's On-Deck Disaster? Thanks, ODB Dropped a Deuce?

Singer Sharon Van Etten has turned Donovan's gently strummed acoustic song, "Teen Angel" into a powerful, electrified ballad, with some of the most potent vocals she's ever recorded. The cover, which appears on a new Donovan tribute album, is still relatively spare, yet Van Etten injects it with an extra jolt of heartache and longing as she belts out the chorus.

Watch: Glen Hansard, Live At The World Cafe

Sep 14, 2015

Join World Cafe host David Dye for a live session with singer-songwriter Glen Hansard on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 12:15 p.m. ET. The session will be recorded at WXPN in Philadelphia and webcast live on NPR Music via VuHaus.

Hansard and his band will perform songs from his new album, Didn't He Ramble.

Saying an artist's music is "gaining velocity" usually means it's exploding in popularity; finding a larger (and growing) audience. For the songs of Twin Cities musician Haley Bonar, though, it's literally true. Her musical projects, first solo and now with her band Gramma's Boyfriend, have been increasing in tempo and kick for the duration of her decade-long career.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside a new Wii U game that cost more than our gas bill is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts for parents who seek the mental energy to love music the way they used to.

Bakers know to cut their sweetest confections with salt, to give dimension to that sugary taste. Painters and photographers use shadow to give shape to light. And on her latest single, "Still Your Girl" (from her newest EP, Arrows), the Michigan-born, Nashville-bred singer-songwriter Fleurie (born Lauren Strahm) uses heavy, jarring electronica to turn an airy pop song into something dark and downright luscious.

Are you a musician looking to be heard? If so — or even if you're not — give a listen to the first segment of a new series we're calling The Martin Atkins Minute.

Obnox exists in the static bleedthrough of punk and soul music. It's a place where Cleveland's Lamont "Bim" Thomas has spent decades dialing in deep and ripping off the knob in bands like Bassholes and This Moment In Black History. But with Obnox, Thomas lays himself bare in mind-numbing fuzz that doesn't forget the hook's the thing.

The best part of being in a band, says singer/songwriter Jendayi Bonds, is watching a song come to life. The same can be said of watching her band, pop duo Charlie Belle, start on the steep ascent to stardom.

Heavy-metal album artwork can be transportive: You can depend on Paolo Girardi's mangled serpents and Kev Walker's mutant nightmares to guide you to metal mayhem that matches the cover.

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