For such a good-natured duo, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent can sound darker and more dangerous than you might imagine. As Shovels & Rope, they play gritty, boot-stomping roots-rock that spans rousing sing-alongs, heartwarming ballads and harrowing tales of vengeance.
This week's World Cafe: Next artist is 31-year-old Minnesotan Haley Bonar. She was discovered at 19 by Alan Sparhawk of Low at an open mic in Duluth, Minn., and is about to release her fifth album, Last War. Here, we play two of its tracks, which you can download at the audio link.
Macklemore posted an apology on his website late Monday. He said he picked out items that he could use to disguise himself so he could move freely around an event. "I wasn't attempting to mimic any culture, nor resemble one. A 'Jewish stereotype' never crossed my mind," his post reads.
Press play on any of the songs from Lee Fields' new album, Emma Jean. It'll take just a few moments for you to connect his sound to that of decades past — but in all fairness, he's lived through it. Now 63 years old, Fields has been pumping out soul, funk and Southern blues since he was a teenager.
Here's the starting point for the story of Seun Kuti: He's the youngest son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. He began playing with his father's band Egypt 80 at age 8 — and took it over upon his father's death just six years later.
In north central Alabama, punk rockers often know as much about football as they do mosh pits. A guy with an arm-sleeve tattoo will open the door for a woman and call her "ma'am." Self-identifying as a blue dot in a red state doesn't preclude Sunday brunch with relatives whose own cars boast confederate-flag stickers. Such differences can arise anywhere, but they can feel more pressing in the Deep South, where history is sticky, like a 90-degree rainy day, and intimate, like Grandma's questionable advice.
It's counter-intuitive, but making deeply emotional music often comes across as a matter of restraint and timing, calculation and manipulation, rather than as an indulgence or purging. All over its darkly shimmering second album, Hundred Waters shows a new ability to pull listeners' strings. Think of musical intensity as an instrument to be mastered — twisted and pulled in different directions, not just dialed up or back.
The free-form duo Protect-U is part of a small electronic-music community in the nation's capital. It sprouts from unlikely but fertile ground: punk and hardcore, which inform the darker tendencies that turn up on Protect-U's recent debut album, Free USA.
This weekend on All Things Considered, NPR Music's critic Ann Powers spoke with guest host Tess Vigeland about Xscape: the posthumous Michael Jackson album released Tuesday, on which contemporary producers flesh out unfinished demos from throughout Jackson's career. (Read our review for details.)
Those are the opening notes of an album released this week that has a dark and atmospheric sound and a human voice that seems otherworldly.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LLIWIAU")
SIMON: That's Lisa Jen, singing in her native Welsh language with her band 9Bach. Their new album is called "Tincian." That's the Welsh word, not the English one, for where you can store baked beans. Lisa Jen joins us from the studios of the BBC Wales in Bangor. Thanks very much for being with us.
Long before summer blockbuster films dazzled us with CGI-enhanced superheroes and villains, audiences got their dose of spectacle at the local opera house, where lavishly costumed singers have walked through monumental sets for centuries.
The Stradivarius violin gets its name from master craftsman Antonio Stradivari. When he died in 1737, his secrets died with him: No one has ever been able to duplicate the sound of the violins or violas he made.
His instruments have taken on a mythical quality. Today they fetch millions of dollars at auctions; Sotheby's will soon auction off a viola that it expects to sell for $45 million.
With a big, soulful voice rooted in American blues and gospel, Hozier has spent 2014 on a clear path to stardom. His breakthrough song, "Take Me to Church," has racked up millions of views online, and his U.S. tour is sold out. He's been favorably compared to Lorde and Adele. But to the 24-year-old from Ireland, big stages and big crowds are still a bit intimidating.
Blessed with perfect pitch and a resonant voice, vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur received her training at the Washington State School for the Blind. Today, Schuur is a two-time Grammy winner who has performed at Carnegie Hall and the White House.
We're only five years away from Ridley Scott's 1982 vision of a retro-futuristic Los Angeles, when all that stands between human and biorobotic android is the Voight-Kampff machine. But the dark tones and moral ambiguity of Blade Runner never left the film's cult fans — particularly those beguiled by Vangelis' synth-driven soundtrack.
Clint Eastwood is best known for his work in Hollywood, but he's also a composer and jazz aficionado. Combining his love of both art forms, he's included classic jazz recordings in his films — including Play Misty for Me, which features the famous Errol Garner ballad.
Since his time as lead singer of the British pop band Culture Club, Boy George has had his ups and downs, including failed projects, a battle with addiction and jail time. Now sober, he's just released his first solo album in 19 years, This Is What I Do.
In this World Cafe session, Boy George has a thoughtful conversation with host David Dye and performs a few songs from This Is What I Do.
In June 1970, Miles Davis played four nights at New York's rock palace Fillmore East, following earlier appearances there and at San Francisco's Fillmore West. A complete recording of all four of those June sets are now available for the first time.
Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says the jazz trumpeter had gone to the Fillmore in search of a new audience.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Good evening. With great pleasure, Mr. Miles Davis.
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the bag of caramel-filled chocolates we're neglecting to share with our colleagues is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when hardcore fans hate their favorite artist's new project.