Stephen Thompson http://wuis.org en The Good Listener: When Is It OK To Hold Seats At A Festival? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-when-it-ok-hold-seats-festival We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the flyers from reputable debt-consolidation companies is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a vexing piece of concert-going etiquette.<p><strong><em>Dorise Gruber writes: "What is good festival etiquette for seat-holding? I just returned from [2013's] Solid Sound Festival (the <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15164119/wilco">Wilco</a>-curated festival in Western Massachusetts), and the shows were fantastic. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:41:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 29924 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: When Is It OK To Hold Seats At A Festival? Ryan Adams, Live In Concert: Newport Folk Festival 2014 http://wuis.org/post/ryan-adams-live-concert-newport-folk-festival-2014 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:48:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 29770 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 'Hypnotic Eye' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-tom-petty-heartbreakers-hypnotic-eye Even when he was in his late 20s, <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15300677/tom-petty">Tom Petty</a> had a curmudgeonly edge to him, so it's no surprise that he's sneering about threats to the American dream in the opening moments of his new album, <em>Hypnotic Eye</em>. At 63, Petty is well into his transition to full-blown misanthropy, at times splitting the difference between <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/14982343/randy-newman">Randy Newman</a> and <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15193203/bob-dylan">Bob Dylan</a>. Mon, 21 Jul 2014 03:01:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 29670 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 'Hypnotic Eye' At 2014's Newport Folk Festival, 5 Discoveries To Stretch Folk's Limits http://wuis.org/post/2014s-newport-folk-festival-5-discoveries-stretch-folks-limits From its legendary beachfront locale to its celebrations of folk music's past, the Newport Folk Festival draws on more than half a century of celebrated traditions. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:16:49 +0000 Stephen Thompson 29525 at http://wuis.org At 2014's Newport Folk Festival, 5 Discoveries To Stretch Folk's Limits NPR Music Returns For 2014's Newport Folk Festival http://wuis.org/post/npr-music-returns-2014s-newport-folk-festival The Newport Folk Festival has been around for more than half a century now — this is its 55th year, to be exact — and the event now routinely sells out months before its lineup is even announced. And why shouldn't it? Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 29523 at http://wuis.org NPR Music Returns For 2014's Newport Folk Festival The Good Listener: Has The Term 'Indie Rock' Lost All Meaning? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-has-term-indie-rock-lost-all-meaning We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the flyers that either wildly underestimate or wildly overestimate our credit-worthiness is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what constitutes "indie rock" in 2014.<p><strong><em>Antfitgodd writes via Facebook: "The term 'indie' has been subsumed by major labels, whose acts often try to mimic indie-rock sensibilities — which changes what it means to play music that is not bland Top 40 drivel. Sat, 12 Jul 2014 16:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 29155 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: Has The Term 'Indie Rock' Lost All Meaning? First Listen: Luluc, 'Passerby' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-luluc-passerby Luluc writes songs for late-night drives and uneventful mornings — stuff to slow the blood and the world outside. Bred in Australia but partly based in Brooklyn, Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett traffic in gentle, disarming simplicity, rarely allowing their music to speed up past a gentle lope. But for all their consistency of tone — and quality — <em>Passerby</em>'s 10 songs never congeal into a blur or feel like a slog. Mon, 07 Jul 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 28720 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Luluc, 'Passerby' First Listen: Trampled By Turtles, 'Wild Animals' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-trampled-turtles-wild-animals The bluegrass-based Minnesota folk-rock band <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/search/index.php?searchinput=trampled+by+turtles">Trampled By Turtles</a> knows how to play at extreme speeds, to the point where its careening compositions can seem downright unhinged. But its last two records, 2012's <em>Stars and Satellites</em> and the new <em>Wild Animals</em>, mostly move at a deliberate, even graceful pace. Mon, 07 Jul 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 28721 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Trampled By Turtles, 'Wild Animals' The Good Listener: On Recommending Songs With Profanity http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-recommending-songs-profanity We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside our neighbors' mis-delivered subscription copies of unnerving magazines is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on sharing music that might inadvertently expose someone else's kids to foul language.<p><em><strong>Ken writes via Facebook: "I make an annual sampler of my favorite songs each year and give the playlist to my friends, in the hope that everyone will find at least one new artist they like. Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 28609 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: On Recommending Songs With Profanity Lydia Loveless: Tiny Desk Concert http://wuis.org/post/lydia-loveless-tiny-desk-concert For 23-year-old singer-guitarist <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/search/index.php?searchinput=lydia+loveless">Lydia Loveless</a>, gritty, countrified blues-rock is a palette broad enough to include literary drama — complete with fatalistic references to the doomed French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud — and a plainspoken plea for oral sex. Tue, 01 Jul 2014 18:40:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 28400 at http://wuis.org Lydia Loveless: Tiny Desk Concert The Good Listener: When Should A 'Washed-Up' Band Pack It In? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-when-should-washed-band-pack-it We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Copycat-Litter-Other-David-Yow/dp/1617752703">a $23.95 book of cat cartoons</a> by The Jesus Lizard's David Yow is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when and whether once-successful musicians should give up.<p><strong><em>Dan writes via email: "I read somewhere that there's a '<a href="http://www.metalsludge.tv/?p=42068">Bang Your Head Tour</a>' with Quiet Riot and a bunch of other hair-metal bands from the '80s. Fri, 27 Jun 2014 16:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 28163 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: When Should A 'Washed-Up' Band Pack It In? First Listen: Old Crow Medicine Show, 'Remedy' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-old-crow-medicine-show-remedy <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15397697/old-crow-medicine-show">Old Crow Medicine Show</a> knows how to attract attention: The Virginia band's big, brash shows are carried off with rollicking energy and a carnival barker's showmanship. Mon, 23 Jun 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 27796 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Old Crow Medicine Show, 'Remedy' The Good Listener: What Makes A Summer Song? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-what-makes-summer-song We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside that one CD which appears to have been pulverized by a steamroller is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what transforms a mere hit single into the agreed-upon song of the summer.<p><strong><em>Kemper writes via Facebook: "When do we know what the song of summer will be? Have we already heard this year's song? If not, when do we typically start to hear it? Why do the other seasons lack their own song?"</em></strong><p>To answer your last question first, summer is a season of simplicity. Sat, 21 Jun 2014 09:20:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 27716 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: What Makes A Summer Song? Song Premiere: Sinead O'Connor, 'Take Me To Church' http://wuis.org/post/song-premiere-sinead-oconnor-take-me-church <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15773342/sinead-o-connor">Sinead O'Connor</a>'s nearly 30-year career forms a portrait of an artist in conflict; a brilliant singer who remains musically, politically and personally uncompromising after forays into folk, pop, standards, reggae and points beyond. By definition, her catalog is erratic, but it's consistently bold and surprising.<p>On August 12, O'Connor will release a new album of original material titled <em>I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss</em>. Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 27336 at http://wuis.org Song Premiere: Sinead O'Connor, 'Take Me To Church' First Listen: Phox, 'Phox' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-phox-phox The word "charisma" is often used to imply a certain kind of attention-grabbing showiness, or even neediness. Mon, 16 Jun 2014 03:45:50 +0000 Stephen Thompson 27317 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Phox, 'Phox' The Good Listener: When We Call Songs 'Filler,' What Does That Mean? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-when-we-call-songs-filler-what-does-mean We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the large wooden crates housing our new summer interns is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what makes some albums seem padded and inconsistent.<p><strong><em>Miggy Pascual writes via email: "On a recent </em>Pop Culture Happy Hour<em> podcast, you described Daft Punk's </em>Random Access Memories<em> as having 'a ton of filler.' I cringed at that moment, mostly because of the word 'filler.' ... What defines or constitutes filler? Fri, 13 Jun 2014 16:09:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 27172 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: When We Call Songs 'Filler,' What Does That Mean? The Good Listener: What Makes A Hit Song Overplayed? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-what-makes-hit-song-overplayed We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside Bob Boilen's 64-ounce tub of Kirkland-brand gong polish is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what separates a mere hit from an invasive irritant.<p><strong><em>Chris Kiraly writes via Facebook: "When (if ever) does a song earn the distinction of being 'overplayed'?"</em></strong><p>Chris posed this question a few months ago, before Pharrell's "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM">Happy</a>" crossed this invisible but obvious line (for me, it happened sometime around the 7 Fri, 06 Jun 2014 17:39:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 26740 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: What Makes A Hit Song Overplayed? First Listen: First Aid Kit, 'Stay Gold' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-first-aid-kit-stay-gold Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg first made their names with feather-light chamber-folk confections that echoed the soaring sweetness of Fleet Foxes. A cover of that band's "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" even helped launch the then-teenagers to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMrqBldlqzA">YouTube fame</a> back in 2008. Mon, 02 Jun 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 26393 at http://wuis.org First Listen: First Aid Kit, 'Stay Gold' Pop Culture Happy Hour: Recycling Franchises And Judging Books By Their Covers http://wuis.org/post/pop-culture-happy-hour-recycling-franchises-and-judging-books-their-covers With Glen Weldon tweeting from the various paradises of Barcelona, this week's <em>Pop Culture Happy Hour</em> calls on the services of two familiar <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/">Code Switch</a> pals — Kat Chow and Gene Demby — to discuss the eternal recycling of unlikely pop-culture franchises. Fri, 30 May 2014 15:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 26246 at http://wuis.org Pop Culture Happy Hour: Recycling Franchises And Judging Books By Their Covers First Listen: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, 'Only Run' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-clap-your-hands-say-yeah-only-run Early in its career, <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15189626/clap-your-hands-say-yeah">Clap Your Hands Say Yeah</a> seemed unlikely to last a decade: One of the first major bands to rise to prominence on the strength of support from music blogs, it followed a successful 2005 debut with the oddly produced and underwhelmingly received <em>Some Loud Thunder</em>. Mon, 26 May 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 25896 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, 'Only Run' The Good Listener: When's The Right Time To Delete Your Music? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-whens-right-time-delete-your-music We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the six-pack of <a href="http://www.mmmhops.com/">Hanson-branded beer</a> that cost $25 to ship is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on disposing of music in a digital age.<p><strong><em>Tami Anderson writes via Facebook: "How long do you keep songs in your collection when you rarely/never seem to listen to them?"</em></strong><p>First of all, I can more than relate to the problem you're touching on here: I haven't been able to part with literally thousands of CDs that I will <em>never</em> Fri, 23 May 2014 17:19:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 25772 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: When's The Right Time To Delete Your Music? First Listen: Hamilton Leithauser, 'Black Hours' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-hamilton-leithauser-black-hours Hamilton Leithauser sounds worn-out and weary on <em>Black Hours</em>, his first solo record since his long-running band <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15291595/the-walkmen">The Walkmen</a> went on indefinite hiatus late last year. Fri, 23 May 2014 12:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 25748 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Hamilton Leithauser, 'Black Hours' The Good Listener: When Should I Keep Criticism To Myself? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-when-should-i-keep-criticism-myself 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.<p><strong><em>William F. writes via Facebook: "What do you do if you're a diehard fan of a musician and his new release turns out to be... not very good? How do you deal with the other fans who are falling all over themselves to outdo one another in praising the artist? Fri, 16 May 2014 15:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 25258 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: When Should I Keep Criticism To Myself? First Listen: Jolie Holland, 'Wine Dark Sea' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-jolie-holland-wine-dark-sea When she sings, <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15148262/jolie-holland">Jolie Holland</a>'s words come out warped and slurred, the notes bent sideways and raw at the edges. When she first emerged as a solo artist a decade ago, Holland set that eccentric delivery against dustily barren old-time arrangements that often made her sound as if she were echoing out of a transistor radio many decades ago. Mon, 12 May 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 24903 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Jolie Holland, 'Wine Dark Sea' First Listen: Haley Bonar, 'Last War' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-haley-bonar-last-war <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2012/10/31/163568947/song-premiere-haley-bonar-bad-reputation">Haley Bonar</a> first reached a national audience as a teenager, when fellow Minnesotan Alan Sparhawk heard her perform and offered her a spot on tour, opening for his band <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/16700848/low">Low</a>. At the time, the pairing made sense: Her recordings were sweet and lovely, but also frequently dour. Mon, 12 May 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 24904 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Haley Bonar, 'Last War' The Good Listener: Can I Ruin My Wedding By Playing The Wrong Song? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-can-i-ruin-my-wedding-playing-wrong-song <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRP6egIEABk</p> Fri, 09 May 2014 13:19:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 24741 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: Can I Ruin My Wedding By Playing The Wrong Song? First Listen: Mirah, 'Changing Light' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-mirah-changing-light <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/16149134/mirah">Mirah</a> wrote <em>Changing Light</em>, her fifth full-length solo album, in the years-long aftermath of a punishing breakup. Maybe it's the amount of time it took for the material to gestate, or maybe it's the thoughtfulness and patience gleaned from a nearly 20-year career, but <em>Changing Light</em> keeps looking at her ache from wise angles. Mon, 05 May 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 24413 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Mirah, 'Changing Light' First Listen: Sylvan Esso, 'Sylvan Esso' http://wuis.org/post/first-listen-sylvan-esso-sylvan-esso The product of an unlikely pairing of musicians, <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/298363663/sylvan-esso">Sylvan Esso</a> works in equally unlikely ways: Singer Amelia Meath first surfaced as a singer in the largely a cappella Vermont folk group <a href="http://www.npr.org/event/music/146171495/mountain-man-a-choir-of-angels">Mountain Man</a>, while Nick Sanborn plays bass in the versatile North Carolina psych-rock band <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/search/index.php?searchinput=megafaun&dateId=0&programId=0">Megafaun</a>.<p>The two met, however, when each was in solo mode, Meath as a Mon, 05 May 2014 03:03:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 24415 at http://wuis.org First Listen: Sylvan Esso, 'Sylvan Esso' The Good Listener: Is It Fair To Call A Band A Sellout? http://wuis.org/post/good-listener-it-fair-call-band-sellout We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the Pokemon games we purchased for our kids even though they're entirely indistinguishable from the other Pokemon games we've purchased for our kids is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what it means (and whether it's even possible) to sell out as a musician.<p><strong><em>Kendra Williams writes via Facebook: Are we as music listeners too harsh when we refer to bands/artists as "sellouts"? Fri, 02 May 2014 14:48:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 24273 at http://wuis.org The Good Listener: Is It Fair To Call A Band A Sellout? Song Premiere: Banks, 'Goddess' http://wuis.org/post/song-premiere-banks-goddess At SXSW this year, I found myself wondering whether Banks was even a real person: Every time I tried to catch one of her shows, the venue was filled to capacity, with no hope of ingress. My curiosity had been piqued by a string of intriguing singles and remixes, each of which showcased a nifty juxtaposition of coolly expressive vocals and forbidding but beautiful electronics. But I left empty-handed, forced to file her name away for later exploration.<p>On Sept. Mon, 28 Apr 2014 19:28:00 +0000 Stephen Thompson 23982 at http://wuis.org Song Premiere: Banks, 'Goddess'