Tom Moon

Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die (Workman Publishing), and a contributor to other books including The Final Four of Everything.

A saxophonist whose professional credits include stints on cruise ships and several tours with the Maynard Ferguson orchestra, Moon served as music critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1988 until 2004. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, Blender, Spin, Vibe, Harp and other publications, and has won several awards, including two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Music Journalism awards. He has contributed to NPR's All Things Considered since 1996.

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Music Reviews
3:53 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

'Sound & Color' A Bold Leap Forward For Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes' new album, Sound & Color, is powered by more than just the vocals of Brittany Howard.
Brantley Gutierrez Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon April 20, 2015 5:23 pm

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Music Reviews
3:32 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Review: Becca Stevens Band, 'Perfect Animal'

Originally published on Thu April 9, 2015 9:16 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun April 5, 2015

Review: Calexico, 'Edge Of The Sun'

Calexico's new album, Edge Of The Sun, comes out April 14.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 10:53 am

Really, how much hoodoo can there be out in the desert?

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun March 8, 2015

Review: 'Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith'

Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith comes out March 17.
Crackerfarm Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 9:42 am

Working as a music journalist means that some days you get to tell people, in breathless prose, about an incredible new record you've discovered. On other days, you have to tell people that an artist you've followed and respected for years is no longer living. That part is never any fun. Listening to the hushed, elegantly spare Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, I found myself transported back to the period right after Smith died, of apparently self-inflicted stab wounds, in 2003.

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Music Reviews
3:10 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Music Review: 'Soyo' By Dom La Nena

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 5:25 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun February 15, 2015

First Listen: Dan Deacon, 'Gliss Riffer'

Dan Deacon's new album, Gliss Riffer, comes out Feb. 24.
Frank Hamilton Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 9:07 am

The glissando (gliss for short) is a musical term describing the sound of an instrument as it glides from one pitch to another. A favorite trick of jazz hornmen and slide guitarists, the gliss can be a woozy, gleeful sound or a mournful one. When executed by a virtuoso violinist, the notes between the start and the finish of the gliss blur together into a gorgeous, ribbonlike swoop of sound.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun February 8, 2015

First Listen: José González, 'Vestiges & Claws'

José González's new album, Vestiges & Claws, comes out Feb. 17.
Malin Johansson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 8:42 am

He asks a lot of questions, this José González.

He opened his last album, 2013's band project Junip, with a thought experiment Nietzsche could love: "What would you do if it all came back to you?" The song, "Line Of Fire," dwells in a mood of idle 3 a.m. musing; González tosses out existential/metaphysical conundrums like he's feeding bread to ducks — casually, without worrying much about concrete answers.

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Music Reviews
4:48 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

Dylan The Crooner

Detail from the cover art of Bob Dylan's new album-length Frank Sinatra tribute, Shadows in the Night.
Album cover

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 10:02 am

Bard. Voice of a generation. Bob Dylan has been called many things over the years. With his new album, Shadows in the Night, the 73-year-old aims for another title: crooner.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun February 1, 2015

First Listen: The Districts, 'A Flourish And A Spoil'

The Districts' new album, A Flourish And A Spoil, comes out Feb. 10.
Ryan Farber Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 1:16 pm

Countless bands perform a variation on the medium-uptempo edge-of-rage eruption perfected by the likes of the Pixies and Green Day. It's become so ubiquitous, you almost don't have to listen: It's possible to get a headline-news sense of the song without fully apprehending the words. The spike in the guitar attack and the rawness of the vocal help telegraph the outline of a narrative: Here we are in the aftermath of a relationship in turmoil. Trust is broken. Someone's been wronged. Wounds are fresh.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun January 18, 2015

First Listen: Jessica Pratt, 'On Your Own Love Again'

Jessica Pratt's new album, On Your Own Love Again, comes out Jan. 27.
Colby Droscher Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 11:09 am

"Night Faces," the opening track from Jessica Pratt's extraordinary 2012 debut, showcased a singular ability to transform a worn-out cliche into something stirring. Just through the choices she made as a singer.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun January 4, 2015

First Listen: Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, 'Club Meds'

The new Dan Mangan + Blacksmith album, Club Meds, comes out Jan. 13.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 9:39 am

You can tell a lot about a songwriter by what occurs in the space between verses. Many writers — hacks and gifted souls alike — will treat an instrumental expanse as a kind of please-stand-by strumming wallpaper, a palate cleanser for the ear. In this strategy, derived from folk music, the focus remains forever on the narrative; the "action" in a song directly depends on the voice.

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Music Reviews
2:47 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Worth The Wait: The Transcendent Groove Of D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah'

Talk about a long-awaited holiday gift: D'Angelo's Black Messiah was released Monday, nearly 15 years after its predecessor.
Greg Harris Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 6:25 pm

There's usually reason to be apprehensive when an artist spends years in the workshop on a single set of songs. The results can seem joyless; think Chinese Democracy, which took Guns N' Roses 14 tortured years to finish. D'Angelo spent nearly as much time crafting his new record. He took his time and loaded up some of the tracks with everything from the audio candy store. Incredibly, the music rarely sounds cluttered or overwrought.

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Remembrances
3:18 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rolling Stones Saxophonist Bobby Keys Dies

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 5:24 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Saxophonist Bobby Keys was still a teenager when he started playing with his fellow Texan Buddy Holly and pop star Bobby Vee. Later, he joined up with the Rolling Stones. And for more than 40 years, Bobby Keys' powerful sax was a key part of their sound.

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Music Reviews
1:16 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Bryan Ferry Slinks Home

Bryan Ferry's new album, Avonmore, revisits his Roxy Music heyday.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue November 18, 2014 5:32 pm

The opening groove in "Loop De Li," the first song on Bryan Ferry's new album, Avonmore, might as well be a "Welcome Home" sign.

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Music Reviews
3:31 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Inside The Wall: Pink Floyd's 'Final' Album Is Process On Display

Pink Floyd's new album is titled The Endless River.
Albert Watson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 11:38 am

In typically grandiose fashion, Pink Floyd has created its own requiem.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun October 26, 2014

First Listen: Bob Dylan, 'The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11'

The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11, a compilation of unearthed recordings by Bob Dylan, comes out Nov. 4.
Elliott Landy Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 8:43 am

The dog's name was Hamlet.

He lived at the house known as Big Pink, in the woods near Woodstock, and during the summer of 1967, responsibility for his care was shared by Bob Dylan and members of The Band. Hamlet was on the scene during the fruitful recording of The Basement Tapes, part of the storied atmosphere that led to one of the most vivid chapters in American music.

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First Listen
10:02 pm
Sun October 19, 2014

First Listen: Yusuf/Cat Stevens, 'Tell 'Em I'm Gone'

Yusuf's (formerly known as Cat Stevens) new album, Tell 'Em I'm Gone, comes out Oct. 27.
Danny Clinch Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 11:47 am

The Sunday-school singalong "You Are My Sunshine" is the rare evergreen that seems to withstand all manner of musical abuse.

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Music Reviews
4:06 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Two Princes: The Purple One Returns In Stereo

Prince has two new albums out, Art Official Age under his own name and Plectrumelectrum with 3RDEYEGIRL (pictured).
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 30, 2014 5:46 pm

In the last 20 years, Prince has gotten more attention for his acrimonious spat with Warner Brothers — and the shenanigans surrounding his name — than for the music he's continued to make. And yet, as a performer, Prince is still undeniable, one of the living best.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun September 28, 2014

First Listen: Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, 'Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn'

Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn's new self-titled album comes out Oct. 7.
Jim McGuire Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 8:28 am

This is not Dueling Banjos: The Married Couple Edition. You won't find the careening energy of the mano-a-mano from the Deliverance soundtrack, or of the Flatt and Scruggs classic "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Outbreaks of dazzling, speed-demon technique are few.

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Music Reviews
3:24 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

A Call From The Weird Fringes: Aphex Twin's 'Syro'

Richard D. James, known as Aphex Twin since his distinctive three-armed logo began showing up in record bins two decades ago, released Syro this week after a prolonged break from recording.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 4:20 pm

In music these days, the fastest-moving genre is electronic dance music, or EDM. It's the sound most people associate with rave culture and artists like Skrillex. But 20 years ago, Richard D. James — better known as Aphex Twin — was making a very different kind of electronic music, as heard on landmark releases like 1994's Selected Ambient Works Vol. II.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

First Listen: Lucinda Williams, 'Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone'

Lucinda Williams' new album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, comes out Sept. 30.
Michael Wilson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 9:30 am

There's something wonderfully contrarian about Lucinda Williams ending one of her multi-year silences with a double album. In 2014, no one is supposed to have time to appreciate three straight songs from one artist, much less an entire album.

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Music Reviews
3:19 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Music Review: 'All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller'

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 4:33 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When filmmakers want to evoke the romance of American nightlife in the roaring 1920s, they often turn to the hot ripping music of Fats Waller.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE JOINT IS JUMPING")

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun September 14, 2014

First Listen: Tweedy, 'Sukierae'

Tweedy's new album, Sukierae, comes out Sept. 23.
Piper Ferguson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 9:39 am

A clue about the scruffy aesthetic of Sukierae arrives at the 2:27 mark of "World Away," one of 20 (!) songs on the first family-band album from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Until this point, the tune — a variation on the Bo Diddley beat strummed on acoustic guitar, with Tweedy's sleepy voice distantly implying a blues cadence — has been fairly straightforward.

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Music Reviews
3:20 pm
Mon September 1, 2014

On Final Recording, Joe Beck Exposes Possibilities Of The Guitar

Originally published on Mon September 1, 2014 3:36 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun August 24, 2014

First Listen: Sinkane, 'Mean Love'

Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, comes out Sept. 2.
Martine Carlson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 9:10 am

"You know I love you, but you're mean."

Here's one of those eternal refrains. Nobody owns it; it's been in the air since forever. Maybe it was initially uttered by a songwriter toiling deep in the Brill Building, or first sung by a girl group.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun August 10, 2014

First Listen: Kimbra, 'The Golden Echo'

Kimbra's new album, The Golden Echo, comes out Aug. 19.
Thom Kerr Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 11:14 am

As it comes back around, an echo distorts the qualities of a sound just enough to encourage you to hear it differently. Maybe it's just distance changing the plain into the transcendent, but there's a trace of magic in an echo. It's like Narcissus' reflection, only better — inexact, an impression with new fuzz and new dimension to it. No choice but to appreciate it differently.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun July 27, 2014

First Listen: Adult Jazz, 'Gist Is'

Adult Jazz's new album, Gist Is, comes out Aug. 4.
James Pearson Howes Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 9:46 am

To music obsessives of a certain age, the current generation of listeners sometimes appears as lightweight grazers at the Internet smorgasbord who seem unwilling (possibly unable) to focus attention at depth on a single piece of music. The summary dismissal: The kids today, they can't handle all of what somebody like a Frank Zappa (or a band like King Crimson) throws at them.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun July 20, 2014

First Listen: Bear In Heaven, 'Time Is Over One Day Old'

Bear In Heaven's new album, Time Is Over One Day Old, comes out Aug. 5.
Dusdin Condren Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 1:19 pm

Two minutes and 11 seconds into "They Dream," from Bear in Heaven's fourth album Time Is Over One Day Old, the music takes a strange turn. The band has been shuttling along at a riveting adventure-movie clip, with Jon Philpot's reverb-swaddled voice functioning as the primary distinct element in a sleek blur. Then, abruptly, the tempo stops. A wash of Space Mountain synths dissolves slowly — the set has been struck. When Philpot begins to sing again, he's the sole occupant of the spotlight.

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Music Reviews
3:58 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

A Sax Trio Taps Tradition While Thriving In The Present

Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio released its self-titled debut album in June.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 6:23 pm

Melissa Aldana, who became the first female instrumentalist and first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition last fall, is not the average talent-contest winner.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun June 29, 2014

First Listen: Cloud Boat, 'Model Of You'

Cloud Boat's new album, Model of You, comes out July 8.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 10:31 am

"The madness runs in cycles," Tom Clarke sings forebodingly in "The Glow," one of the highlights of the U.K. duo Cloud Boat's second album. The music rushes along, propelled by the high-efficiency tick of a drum loop, but there's no trace of madness or even anxiety in his voice. Instead, Clarke radiates priestly calm as he gives listeners a set of vague, odd instructions: "Take some of these candles," he intones darkly, as if calling from some Middle Ages theater. "The glow will guide you."

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