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It's easy to read too much into a hit song. Popular music is made that way: Its surface meanings are broad and inclusive, while its idiosyncrasies are vehement, upheld within a startling rhythm or a novel sample or a highly relatable voice. It's this mix of the familiar and the seemingly unique that allow for pop hits to reach millions of often very different people in ways that feel direct and personal. The two best-selling albums of 2016 so far — Drake 's Views and Adele 's 25 ...

It's not easy to make sense of the latest song from Foxygen . One minute, "America" is lurching orchestral pop, complete with dramatic strings and woodwinds. The next, it's a melancholy piano piece, followed by a sudden shift to oddball jazz punctuated by bursts of noise and orchestrated chaos. It's an epic, head-spinning collision of sounds worthy of multiple listens. "If you're already there, then you're already dead," the Los Angeles duo sings. "If you're living in America." Sam France and...

Days after playing the Desert Trip festival in Indio, Calif., Roger Waters is announcing a new, multi-state tour. It's his first since the 2010-2013 tour of The Wall and starts in May of next year, with stops in more than 30 cities in the U.S. and Canada. Waters has named it the "Us And Them" tour after the song he wrote for Pink Floyd's 1973 album The Dark Side Of The Moon . He told NPR Music its themes about the haves and have-nots are more relevant and topical than ever....

Today, Amazon announced the debut of an on-demand music-streaming service called Amazon Music Unlimited. With a subscription model like Spotify and Apple Music, Amazon will charge standard subscribers $10 per month; for Amazon Prime subscribers, just $8 a month; and for users of its Echo devices, only $4 a month. Amazon has been a first-stop destination for serious music fans wanting to buy physical albums, especially as brick-and-mortar music retailers' fortunes turned — in part because of...

For 20 years, Robert Goldstein was NPR's music librarian. He went on to become a manager in our research and archives division, and shared his love of music with our audience in stories he wrote for broadcast and online. He was also an accomplished guitarist, whose work made an impression on a young Bob Boilen decades ago, sparking a friendship that continued when they began working together. We lost Robert on Friday night after a prolonged battle with cancer...

Dirty Projectors guitarist and singer Amber Coffman's long-anticipated solo album is finally about to see the light of day. It's called City Of No Reply , and the first single from it is a gorgeous, soulful — if slightly bent — ballad called "All To Myself." A video for the song shows Coffman strolling along the seaside, looking somewhat forlorn, while singing to herself. Later she's buried up to her neck in sand. "I've got to sing it out," Coffman sings. "Sing it all to myself,...

What does a new album from The Rolling Stones sound like in 2016? If "Just A Fool" is any indication, it's a lot like the band's earliest recordings from more than 50 years ago. This cover of a Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra tune is the kind of harmonica-honked, barroom piano-plonked, dirty blues that introduced the world to the Stones, when the British band made a name for itself by interpreting American blues songs. Mick Jagger is especially settling into his ragged older man voice like...

Rod Temperton has been called pop music's "Invisible Man" because few knew his name. But his songs were megahits in the 1970s and 80s. Along with big hair, wide lapels and bell bottoms, his music helped define the disco era. Temperton died of cancer last week in London, according to a statement from his publisher. He was 66. Temperton wrote such hits as "Thriller," "Rock with You," and "Boogie Nights." But even disco had songs that were layered with great harmonies and robust horn parts....

Grimes surprised fans today with seven new videos, including four songs from her most recent album, Art Angels , and three tracks from her friend and collaborator HANA's self-titled EP. In a series of Tweets , Grimes says she, HANA and Grimes' brother Mac Boucher shot the videos guerrilla-style over a two-week period while traveling through Europe. "There was no crew, makeup, cameras, lights," Grimes says. "Just us and a phone, so maybe don't expect anything too fancy." The videos...

Soul singer Charles Bradley is battling stomach cancer and has canceled several tour dates, according to a statement posted on his official Facebook page Tuesday. The 67-year-old singer issued a statement saying he's determined to come back stronger: "I'm getting the best medical care and we are all extremely optimistic. I will fight through this like I've fought through the many other obstacles in my life. My upcoming tour dates will be postponed so I can concentrate on healing. Thank you...

Fan fervor is one of the basic building blocks of rock and roll, but it's difficult to recall a rock star as tenderly beloved as is Bruce Springsteen in 2016. There are bigger legends who've evinced louder screams, like the baby boomer Boss's own early inspirations, Elvis and The Beatles . There are some who've earned stronger critical accolades, like Bob Dylan , whom Springsteen has called "the father of my country." There are those who own the current moment more dramatically, like Beyoncé ...

Fourteen hours ago, Jenny Hval was mashing watermelon and confetti into the compact stage at the Oslo club Vulkan. Now the Norwegian artist is struggling to transition into a more rarified mode. The 36-year-old is hiding from the sticky mid-September sun in her studio in gentrifying Grünerløkka, rehearsing — this weekend she'll form part of a choir backing homegrown superstar Susanne Sundfør at the 8,700-capacity Spektrum arena. "I'm bad at singing in choirs," Hval says, sitting on an old...

Neville Marriner, the conductor and violinist who was something of an entrepreneur as well as the guiding spirit behind one of the most successful classical recordings of all time — the soundtrack to the 1984 smash movie Amadeus — died overnight at age 92 at his home in London. His death was announced by the chamber orchestra he founded, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Marriner was made Commander of the British Empire in 1979, and was knighted in 1985. In 2015, Queen...

For weeks, Bon Iver fans have been tantalized by cryptic imagery, pop-up murals and a symbol-heavy track list that would make any copy editor shudder. Now, the band's long-awaited third album, 22, A Million -- its first in five years — is finally available. Bon Iver performed 22, A Million in full at bandleader Justin Vernon's Eaux Claires music festival in August, and teased the album with three singles: "22 (OVER S∞∞N)," "10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄" and "33 'God.'" The...

Solange announced her new album, A Seat At The Table , on Tuesday, calling it "a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing." Now the follow-up to 2012's excellent True EP is here, accompanied by a book , and featuring spots from Kelela, Q-Tip, Kelly Rowland, Lil Wayne, Dev Hynes, Sampha, Moses Sumney, The-Dream, BJ the Chicago Kid, Sean Nicholas Savage and Tweet. It's a floating melange of R&B, bold in its quiet and understated sounds, bolder in...

Kate Bush has toured only once in the last 35 years. Fortunately, that string of live performances, at the Hammersmith Apollo in London in 2014, was recorded and will soon be available for everyone to hear. Concord Records will release Before The Dawn , a three-disc set of the recordings, on Dec. 2. Bush produced the set herself, with no additional recording or overdubs. The 22-concert run, which sold out in less than 15 minutes , marked Bush's first live shows since 1979. The three...

Jean Shepard, one of the first women to find success in country music as a solo act, died Sunday at age 82. Shepard was a feisty, straight-shooting singer who created a career in an industry where she had few female role models. When Shepard was first driving from town to town playing honky-tonk bars, there were only a couple of other women in country music — Kitty Wells and Minnie Pearl among them — who were putting out music by themselves. More often, the women of country were performing...

A new David Bowie box set released late last week includes a complete (and remastered) version of his long-lost album, The Gouster . Bowie originally recorded the album in 1974, but eventually shelved the project. Reworked versions of "Somebody Up There Likes Me" and "Can You Hear Me" wound up on 1975's Young Americans . Other tracks, like "It's Gonna Be Me" and "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)," trickled out in various forms in the years that followed. But this is the first...

The founder of Rolling Stone is selling a minority share of the fabled magazine to a Singapore-based social media entrepreneur, the first time an outside investor has been allowed to buy into the property. Several media reports say Jann Wenner has decided to sell 49 percent of the magazine, as well as its digital assets, to BandLab Technologies, a social-networking site for musicians and fans. The sale will not involve Rolling Stone 's parent company, Wenner Media LLC, and...

Tomorrow, two final works from composer James Horner will reach American ears: a concert piece being released on CD, and his score for the remake of the Western adventure The Magnificent Seven . The composer died a little more than a year ago in a plane crash, after creating more than 100 film scores over nearly 40 years. Horner's score for Titanic is one of the best-selling orchestral soundtracks of all time. He won an Oscar for that score and another for the film's theme...

American composer Julia Wolfe has won one of the biggest windfalls in the arts world. She is one of this year's MacArthur Fellows , recipients of the so-called "genius grants" given to a wide range of talented figures from the arts, humanities, sciences and social services. The 2016 class of fellows was announced early Thursday morning. Each fellow receives a $625,000 grant, which is paid out in equal installments over five years and is unrestricted — to be used however the individual winner...

In 2009, musician and historian Elijah Wald published an overview of American pop from the 1890s to the 1960s he called How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll . The title was a bomb-throwing feint — as Wald told me in an interview , he knew that title would get much more attention than a drier one such as "American Pop From Sousa to Soul" — and as if on cue, one reviewer after another lined up to wave away its thesis. "[I]s rock dead because of [the Beatles]?" harrumphed the Los...

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 npr.org/tinydesk . Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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...

Don Buchla believed in the humanity of wires. The modular synth pioneer created an instrument like none other, one that relied on intuition, learning and, most importantly, human touch. He died September 14 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 79. Commissioned by San Francisco Tape Center in the early 1960s, the Buchla 100 was an attempt to make music accessible to everyone, allowing participants to pick and choose parts of the instrument ("modular") to create sound. Morton Subotnick...

"Everything's cyclical" has become a common refrain in the country music industry of late, a way of acknowledging that country radio's domination by R&B-juiced, summery jams this decade is neither the format's first swing toward popular sounds and sensibilities nor a permanent state. What would follow, some predicted, was a race to the opposite extreme: a hardcore country resurgence. That's beginning to look more and more likely now that a crop of millennial neotraditionalists are working...

Just this afternoon, it looked like David Bowie was a shoo-in for this year's Mercury Prize. Even though the prestigious U.K. award had never before been given to an artist posthumously, Blackstar was the final and widely adored album from a British rock god. Even bookies were betting on Bowie as a 4/7 favorite. Things didn't work out that way, though. Instead, the Mercury went to the stunned 33-year-old independent grime artist Skepta, a.k.a. Joseph Junior Adenuga, for his fourth...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: Here's a sentence we don't usually get to say on NPR. Nelly's 2002 hit "Hot In Here" is back in the news. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOT IN HERRE") NELLY: (Singing) Hot in - so hot in here - in here. So hot in - hot in - hot in... MCEVERS: By the way, that is spelled with two Rs. NELLY: (Singing) Oh. MCEVERS: TMZ reported Sunday that Nelly had been hit with a $2.4 million federal tax lien. When Spin magazine writer...

The On-The-Road Education Of Lucy Dacus

Sep 13, 2016

Lucy Dacus needs another suitcase. For the majority of the last 18 months, Dacus and her bandmates have been getting acquainted with the efficacy of their tour van's brakes in bumper-to-bumper city traffic, racking up the miles in between tour stops and their homes in Richmond, Va. Re-packing the van after each show is a game of 3D Tetris, where gig cases, amps and bags are shoved into a haphazard formation that somehow always fits just so. The luggage she needs is for the stuff she shouldn't...

On Sept. 13, 1996, Tupac Shakur died, six days after he was targeted in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Twenty years later, Tupac has become a celebrated figure around the world. He's not only a lodestar of hip-hop, but a global cultural phenomenon. Recent attempts have even been made to resurrect him: He performed in CGI form with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre in 2012 and conversed, through some studio wizardry, with Kendrick Lamar on the last track of To Pimp A Butterfly . Writer Kevin...

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