First Listen: Chris Walla, 'Tape Loops'

12 hours ago

Chris Walla spent 17 years as a songwriter, guitarist and producer for Death Cab For Cutie, and Tape Loops is his first solo album since leaving the band in 2014. But if you're inclined to resist a solo record by "the other guy" from Death Cab, know that Tape Loops couldn't be farther from the sound of his old band.

Son Little's self-titled debut album is nu-soul, not neo-soul, and the distinction is drastic. Little doesn't strive to reproduce his influences; he recombines them into something new. The record opens with "I'm Gone," on which an overdubbed choir of multiple Son Littles delivers an existential message from what sounds like the bottom of a well, with backwards guitar lines snaking around the electronically processed voices.

First Listen: Small Black, 'Best Blues'

12 hours ago

Josh Kolenik isn't trying to blow anyone away. If anything, the soft-spoken frontman of Small Black sings as if he barely wants to be noticed at all. Across the synth-pop band's previous releases, including 2013's Limits Of Desire, Kolenik exhales his words more than he belts them out, letting his gentle melodies and fragments of poetic imagery form a ghostly, echoing apparition. That hasn't changed on Best Blues, the Brooklyn group's third and latest full-length. But one thing has evolved: Kolenik's ability to use understatement as an emotional weapon.

On Josh Ritter's most recent album, 2013's The Beast In Its Tracks, the singer-songwriter dredged through the battered ruins of his own post-divorce psyche. As such, the record looked relentlessly inward — to forgiveness and spite, to recovery and despair — as Ritter labored to examine his failed relationship from every angle. The result was as acerbic ("New Lover") as it was generous of spirit ("Joy To You Baby"), but most of all, it felt personal, even diaristic.

When comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick got the opportunity to reimagine Captain Marvel as a blond, blue-eyed fighter pilot named Carol, she made changes to the character that some fans didn't like.

Carol now wears a flight suit — not the sexy dominatrix outfit she used to wear back when she was Ms. Marvel. For that, DeConnick was accused of having a feminist agenda.

The death penalty reared its head again at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. It was the first time the court publicly considered a death case since last term, when a constitutional challenge to lethal injection procedures erupted into a rare, nasty and vituperative debate among the justices. This time, the issues were far more technical but still a matter of life and death.

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A lot of politicians are being asked what to do about gun violence after a gunman killed nine people in Oregon last week. And the answers from the large field of Republican candidates for president are varied. NPR's Sam Sanders reports.

The death-with-dignity movement took a giant step forward this week, with 38 million people coming under its umbrella in a single swoop when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act on Monday.

The rain has stopped in South Carolina, but for people living along the coast, the worst of the flooding could still be ahead.

The floodwaters have not receded and as the water in the swollen rivers flow toward the ocean, more damaging high waters are expected.

As Laura Hunsberger reports for NPR, Gov. Nikki Haley says the state is ready:

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Republicans in the U.S. House will take an initial vote Thursday on who they think should replace John Boehner as speaker of the House.

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz recently announced his candidacy for speaker, but the front-runner for the job is current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield, Calif.

And McCarthy's roots in California's Central Valley provide some clues about how McCarthy might run the House, if he's elected speaker.

After months of not committing to a position on President Obama's proposed Asia trade deal, Hillary Clinton came out against it Wednesday.

Six days after communication was lost with the El Faro cargo ship as it drifted into the path of Hurricane Joaquin, the U.S. Coast Guard ended the search for survivors.

Of the 33 people aboard the ship, rescuers found one body on Monday:

"Several 'survival suits' were spotted floating in the water, one of which contained the body. In addition, an empty, heavily damaged lifeboat was found."

Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 63rd birthday Wednesday, amid a controversial bombing campaign in Syria, a weakening economy and tensions with the U.S. and its Western allies. The Russian leader made a point of taking it all in stride — including adulation from his fans.

He occupied an even more prominent place than usual on Russian state television on Wednesday. Putin was shown receiving a briefing on the Russian military operation in Syria, including the news that Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired more than two dozen rockets at targets in Syria.

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Updated 3:57 p.m. ET

The turmoil surrounding beleaguered FIFA President Sepp Blatter continues to churn.

On Wednesday, Blatter reportedy was told he is facing a provisional 90-day suspension, with a final decision from the FIFA ethics committee expected later this week.

The BBC quotes Blatter's adviser Klauss Stohlker as saying, "The news was communicated to the president this afternoon. He is calm. Remember he is the father of the ethics committee."

Republican presidential candidates have remained firmly opposed to more gun control measures in the wake of last week's tragic shooting at an Oregon community college.

Instead, most are urging a renewed focus on mental health with a caution not to react too quickly before all the facts are known — but some of them have reacted inartfully at best.

During the past half-century, 59 million immigrants have moved to the United States, making it the No. 1 immigrant destination on the planet.

Paper or plastic? If you're at a restaurant in the coastal city of Fort Bragg, Calif., that's what your food is likely to be served on these days.

The drought-stricken city, located about 170 miles north of San Francisco, recently declared a "stage 3" water emergency, which makes it mandatory for businesses and residents to reduce water usage.

Life has not quite returned to normal yet for Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas teenager who was arrested after bringing a homemade clock to school. The 14-year-old is now touring parts of the Middle East, along with his father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed.

Updated at 11:20 a.m., October, 7, 2015:

In a reversal, U.S. Steel said it is again considering temporarily idling its Granite City plant as it examines a consolidation of its workforce. The company said in May that it would not shutter the operation, after previously announcing it would.

If we're agreed that there's too much good television, then Hulu increasing its presence in scripted originals might seem like just another drop in an already overflowing bucket. But with its new comedy-drama/dramatic-comedy Casual, the first two episodes of which are now available with a Hulu subscription, it makes a pretty good argument for itself.

For the first time, primitive human kidneys have been created in a laboratory dish, by using stem cells.

Although the kidneys cannot perform the functions of a fully formed adult kidney, the researchers hope the achievement will someday lead to new ways to treat people suffering from kidney failure.

Grapes, including raisins, are the third largest crop in California grossing almost $6 billion in 2014. Harvesting the labor-intensive crop takes thousands of workers. But a new raisin grape variety bred in Central California could severely decrease that need for workers.

It takes a lot of hand labor to harvest raisins, three or more rounds of pruning, quality control and picking. And to pay those workers costs a lot of money. That's why the raisin industry is desperately searching for a way to spend less on labor creating a larger profit margin.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan lowered the flag and boxed up their gear at the end of last year as President Obama declared the formal end to 13 years of U.S. combat operations.