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All Songs Considered

When Leon Russell died last November, the 74-year-old star was recuperating from heart surgery and itching to get back out on the road. So it's no surprise that Russell — whose music fused soul, rock, gospel and country — left behind an impressive batch of songs that hadn't yet seen release. On Friday, 10 months after his death, On a Distant Shore continues a recorded legacy that hasn't dimmed.

Whether fronting the blazing punk band Vexx or the synth-pop duo CC Dust, Mary Jane Dunphe inhabits her projects with a knurly otherworldliness — her voice contorts and screams like an alien sent to reset the planet with rock 'n' roll. Bedridden by an ankle injury in the winter of 2016, she teamed up with friend Chris McDonnell (Trans FX) to write a batch of country-rock songs that buck like an old pickup.

Björk's latest song, like much of the Icelandic singer's work, is strangely seductive. "The Gate" heaves and sighs with spare arrangements of strings and woodwinds before expanding magnificently in a bloom of warped electronics that sound a lot like the work of dubstep artist Burial.

"I care for you" Björk trills, over and over. "Split into many parts / Splattered light beams into prisms that will reunite if you care for me."

Half-Light, the debut solo release from former Vampire Weekend producer and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, is one of the year's most arresting albums. Its breathtaking choral and string arrangements, idiosyncratic beats and intricate wordplay make it practically impossible to hear without giving it your undivided attention.

Sometimes there's nothing better than dancing away your heartbreak. Novelty Daughter — or Brooklyn-based jazz-electronic-pop musician Faith Harding — knows as much. "U Want What I Want," the first single from her forthcoming, self-released album Inertia, is a plaintive piece of forlorn dance-pop.

Okovi, the latest full-length from Zola Jesus, is a monstrously tortured album, built with densely layered grief and pain. Nika Roza Danilova, who's been writing and recording as Zola Jesus since releasing her debut in 2009, bares her most vulnerable thoughts and feelings as she sings about serial killers, suicide, crushing depression and fear. At times, even Danilova admits the songs are hard to hear.

If you haven't heard "Namesake," one of the many wildly joyous highlights of Tunde Olaniran's 2015 debut Transgressor, take a few minutes to listen before proceeding with... well, anything in your life. A boundlessly inventive ode to individuality, it sounds, appropriately enough, like nothing else.

Last week, All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen and I took note of an article from The Guardian examining something within music that's uniquely byzantine: the practice of giving guest artists credits in song titles. You've no doubt seen some variation of it — "Song Title (feat. An Artist)." It's something that should be fairly straightforward, no? Well, no.

Singer Dave Matthews, who formed his band in Charlottesville, Va. in 1991, will host a benefit concert for the city following last month's violent protests there. Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Pharrell, Chris Stapleton, The Roots and Brittany Howard of The Alabama Shakes are slated to perform, along with other not-yet-named special guests.

Recording under the name Silver Torches, Seattle singer-songwriter Erik Walters specializes in smart and melancholy Americana — the sort of stuff that ought to be catnip to fans of, say, Ryan Adams or late-period Paul Westerberg.

Gun Outfit has, finally, figured out a way to describe the cactus-chewing, smoke-signaled rock music that it perpetually rolls towards sundown: "Western expanse music." Henry Barnes (of Amps For Christ, Man Is The Bastard) coined the phrase while on a recent European tour with the band, boiling down the out-of-time essence of Gun Outfit to a cowboy poetry swirled in honky-tonk postmodernism.

Update: This limited-run stream is over, but you can still clink glasses to the roséwave playlist.

Robert Plant has no wasted no time in his 60s, releasing Raising Sand, Band Of Joy and lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar all in the span of a decade. Carry Fire will be out next month, and has already proven to be a fruitful mix of blues-licked rock 'n' roll and rhythms churned from all over the world, heard in "The May Queen."

After the unfortunate Songs of Innocence roll-out, many people questioned whether there was still a place for U2 in 2014 and beyond. U2 seems to have asked themselves the same question. As other, more grippingly consequential upheavals occurred over the ensuing years, the band found themselves touring their newly relevant 1987 classic, The Joshua Tree.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor makes wordless music that nevertheless shouts like a street-corner prophet. We use images — politically-charged ones, in particular — to describe GY!BE because its bleak drones, string-sawed dirges and guitar noise convey long-gestating dread, apocalyptic nightmares and a rare light of hope between the cracks.

We map our meaning onto GY!BE because, for the past two decades and counting, the Montreal-based collective has reflected and refracted dire circumstances in music that is at once beautiful and confrontational. For that, we call GY!BE political.

The National is about to release its seventh studio album, Sleep Well Beast, on September 8. But days before it comes out, on September 5, the band is going to play that record in its entirety live for NPR.

After three years of trickling out singles, Beck has finally announced Colors, a new full-length due out this fall. His latest track, "Dear Life," channels Beach Boys harmonies and the barrel-house piano of classic Beatles songs like "Martha My Dear" or "Lady Madonna."

If the producer and DJ Matthew Dear soundtracked our comedown earlier this summer with the goth-pop jewel "Modafinil Blues," he now returns to make sense of the season's revelry.

Grizzly Bear's new album, Painted Ruins, isn't overtly political — it isn't built on any easily identifiable observations of a troubled world. Still, at times it seems to speak directly to events that have unfolded in recent weeks, from the saddening violence in Charlottesville, Va. to political tensions with Russia and North Korea, thriving as it does on examinations of paranoia and fear of the unknown, of loneliness and isolation.

In the 15-plus years since Sam Beam released his debut album as Iron & Wine, the singer-songwriter has added layer upon layer to his soft-spoken sound.