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All Songs Considered

If you like a little dirt in your power-pop, Needles//Pins should already be on your radar. The Vancouver trio has been pumping out the punk-fueled pop jams since 2010, releasing albums and 7"s on labels that know a thing or two about scuzzy hooks (Portland's Dirt Cult, Germany's Erste Theke Tontraeger).

Can made music from an imaginary country, one with its own traditions and language — which means none at all. In its work, jazz, funk, electronic, psychedelic and minimalist music ran wild through impossible valleys and fantastic mountaintops. Some call it krautrock by virtue of the band's German home base in Cologne. Most just call it Can.

Debut albums aren't supposed to be this self-assured and sharp — but then again, H.Grimace did take its sweet time. The London-based, Anglo-Australian post-punk band formed in 2011 as a songwriting partnership between Hannah Gledhill (vocals/guitar) and Marcus Browne (guitar), along with Corin Johnson (bass) and Diago Gomes (drums). Self Architect — the culmination of a few promising EPs — explores identity and cultural power dynamics, led by Gledhill's gripping voice.

Since its inception, hip-hop has been grappling with the timeless question Marvin Gaye posed on his seminal 1971 album: What's Going On?

This weekend happens to mark the 33rd anniversary of Gaye's own untimely death (on April 1, 1984) resulting from a domestic dispute with his father that happened just one day before the singer/songwriter's birthday. Gaye would've turned 77 this year.

Actor and singer Jack Black interrupted a performance with his band Tenacious D to break into an a cappella version of Prince's "When Doves Cry."

The moment came while the band was playing the song "Double Team" during the German music festival Rock Am Ring.

It goes without saying that we're living in strange times. The primary metaphor for our era — a theater of the absurd — is constantly invoked across the cultural and geographic spectrum. Well... dystopian times call for absurd pleasures. Just don't let it be boring.

Calvin Harris has a habit of making ubiquitous summer jams.

Kendrick Lamar dropped the presumptive first single — titled "Humble" — from his highly anticipated forthcoming album on Thursday night, just a week after teasing new music with a cryptic Instagram post.

"Definitely cowboy poetry was something I got interested in." Well, that's one way to describe an ancient Greek epic.

When Tracy Chapman released her self-titled, debut album back in 1988, the 24-year old singer was widely praised for her acute observations on the struggles of working class Americans. The album was political and, for some, possessed the kind of anthems that could spark a revolution. Not long after releasing her album, Chapman sat down with NPR's Margot Adler to talk about both the singer's growing popularity and her battle against stereotypes as a black woman with a strong voice in the predominantly white world of modern folk.

Breaking news this morning: Dan Auerbach has been abducted by aliens to compete in intergalactic demolition derbies.

Timmhotep Aku is an NPR Music contributor and occasional guest host for our +1 podcasts. This week he talks with writer, comedian and hip-hop lover Neal Brennan.

Comedy and hip-hop have a lot in common: Both are balms for the sting of the everyday struggle and both hold up a mirror to society's excesses, absurdities and injustices. These two worlds come together in the work of writer and comedian Neal Brennan.

The Texas Panhandle is windy and flat and full of sky, material ripe for country songs and buried Cadillacs.

The lyrics to "Just A Gwen," from Atlanta pop band Art School Jocks, may ring familiar to women. As guitarist Dianna Settles sings, over slinky, surf-y guitars and a dead-steady beat:

Carry your keys
Between your knuckles
You never know who's trying to follow you home
Smile back and
Say you're sorry
You shouldn't be out this late alone

Two Inch Astronaut works quickly! Just about one year since the release of Personal Life, the suburban D.C. post-punk band already has album number four in the bag. Can You Please Not Help continues the pop-focused mind-meld of previous efforts with monster hooks and a musicianship that only comes with a boatload of experience.

There's new music from Lucius: The New York quartet's song "Million Dollar Secret" will be featured on HBO's Girls this Sunday.

Kendrick Lamar wasted no time following through on his mysterious "IV" Instagram post. Last night, the Compton MC released a new song, "The Heart Part 4," and it's a no-holds-barred lyrical onslaught.

Within the span of five minutes, over shifting beats produced by Syk Sense, The Alchemist, DJ Dahi and Axlfolie, Lamar waxes philosophical, adversarial and political while dropping heat on everyone from phony rappers to President Trump.

Nighttime is restless. Even in our sleep, we are moving in our dreams, or involuntarily flopping around the bed disturbing a loved one, be it a significant other, a dog. Lullabies are written to calm these restless minds, but maybe they should also recognize the motion of the day.

For more than a decade, the members of The Builders And The Butchers have specialized in a kind of white-knuckle Americana: Their acoustic folk-rock sound is shot through with nervy, hellfire-and-brimstone intensity.

With a reassuring voice that howled over an acoustic guitar, Jesy Fortino made records as Tiny Vipers about emptiness and absence that were severely intimate. She channeled both Neil Young and Stevie Nicks in "Landslide" — two songwriters who knew a thing or two about being bummed out, but would try to find something hopeful in the mess.

In early 2016, The Megaphonic Thrift won a Spelleman Award (Norway's Grammy equivalent) for the previous year's Sun Stare Sound. It's a noise-pop record that puts the emphasis on pop, bursting with earworm-y melodies sunk into lysergic effects, guitar and bass interlaced like latticework with dreamy, dueling vocals. The record will now be available stateside for those of us that had to hunt it down for the first time, but here's a track for those that maybe missed it, a tribute to the band's hometown, "Bergen Revels."

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