In the interest of safety, NPR's Ari Shapiro doesn't wear headphones while riding his bicycle; instead, Shapiro prefers to tuck his iPhone into a jacket pocket and crank up the volume on the phone's external speaker. As he prepares to depart from his position as White House Correspondent to cover London for NPR, he's picked five songs that still shine despite the undeniably tinny speakers mounted on most smartphones.
John Fahey pioneered a musical style called American Primitivism (or American Primitive Guitar) in the 1950's, a sort of amalgamation of the various flavors of American guitar. Head over to All Songs Considered to check out Lars Gotrich's picks of five contemporary records keeping Fahey's tradition alive.
For those familiar with the work of Tyler, The Creator—the divisive rapper whose Odd Future crew rose to prominence at the close of the 00's with a slew of jarring mixtapes centered around murder, mutilation and mayhem—the new video for "Glowing" might be a bit of a surprise.
From his counter-culture anthem "Walk On The Wild Side" to a questionable but undeniably bold collaboration with Metallica, Lou Reed was always pushing: pushing himself, his listeners, and often the entire landscape of American popular music in electrifying new directions. It wasn't always a successful strategy—take that record with Metallica, for instance—but when Reed's restless creative drive was in top form, it really was something to behold.
Johan Sebastian Bach's music has enjoyed considerable longevity as a cornerstone of the musical zeitgeist, but his personal life is, for the most part, the stuff of speculation. The composer's little known personality—his emotions, flaws, and triumphs—may be about to become significantly clearer, however, with the publication of Bach: Music in The Castle of Heaven. Written by John Eliot Gardiner—himself a renowned composer—the book attempts to unravel a man "filled with contradictions".
The fine folks over at NPR Music headquarters have rolled out a fresh batch of First Listen streams; head here to hear new music from indie dance mainstays Cut Copy, experimental string outfit Kronos Quartet and more.
Katy Perry has a unique perspective with regards to pop music. You most likely know her as the sultry star responsible for hits like "I Kissed A Girl", but chances are you might not be aware that Perry is currently in phase two of her career. Her first stab at the music game was under the name Katy Hudson, singing sterilized Christian pop; it was a move that failed to garner the audiences Perry was hoping for, and she has since moved to greener, more secular pastures.
What's the value of hype? As part of NPR's The Record, Eric Ducker examines the pros and cons of the spontaneous album release, on the heels of records like Four Tet's Beautiful Rewind and Kanye West's polarizing Yeezus.
With their new video for "Save Charlie", Brooklyn indie pop outfit Rubblebucket serves up a technicolor slice of languid funk, complete with neon outlines and shimmering on-screen lyrics. For more info, head over to All Songs Considered.
24-year-old Melissa Aldana, the winner of last month's Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, has been gaining quite a bit of buzz as a result of her talents. Citing artists like Sonny Rollins as key inspirations, Aldana talks with A Blog Supreme about her experiences as a globe-trotting jazz afficionado.
Thirteen years after the release of the much-celebrated concept album Deltron 3030, rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien has returned with producer Dan The Automator and turntablist Kid Koala for Event II, another dystopian sci-fi epic packed with nimble wordplay and head-nodding beats. Listen now at NPR music.
It's the number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 with a raunchy video to match, but is Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" a genuine hit? After the flash-in-the-pan popularity of songs like Bauuer's "Harlem Shake", NPR's Chris Molanphy wonders about the lasting impact of Cyrus' sound.
More 90's nostalgia! Evan Auerbach delivers this piece for NPR's The Record, celebrating a number of dates from the 1990's that marked the release of classic hip-hop records. A random highlight: April 17, 1990, which offered the release of A Tribe Called Quest's seminal People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.
83-year-old saxophonist/clarinetist Gabe Baltazar was recently profiled as part of NPR's Weekend Edition series, offering an in-depth look at one of the foremost Asian-Americans in jazz music. The piece examines a career that spanned the U.S., and boasted appearances alongside the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderly and Wes Montgomery.
Rap superstar Drake, fresh on the heels of his third studio album, Nothing Was The Same, has been garnering quite a bit of attention recently. NPR's Jason King takes a look at what makes the Toronto sensation so engaging, from his uniquely emotional appeal to an evident talent for verbal calisthenics.
The latest in NPR's Tiny Desk concert series comes from jazz musician Arturo O'Farrill, who performs three songs with a stripped-down, eight-man version of his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. A multi-talented performer born of a musical family, the sounds O'Farrill offers are "as fluent in Afro-Cuban rhythms as they are in the deep grooves and advanced harmonics of bebop."
Nirvana's seminal grunge record In Utero marks 20 years of existence this year; in celebration of the album's memory and the memory of lead singer Kurt Cobain, Nirvana founders Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic talk with All Songs Considered about the making of the album. Hit the link for an in-depth look at the history behind the definitive grunge album, and listen to some unreleased out-takes from In Utero.
Having been born at the decade's inception, I harbor a soft spot for the music of the 1990's. So does NPR's Ann Powers, apparently, as she picks six pre-millenial artists worthy of nostalgia. From Janet Jackson to Elastica, the piece should stir some memories of neon-clad mid-90's vibes for anyone fortunate enough to have experienced the decade.
Reporting for NPR's All Songs Considered, Joel Rose examines the turbulent history of Lipps, Inc.'s disco hit "Funkytown", an iconic track that has spawned a decades-long legal battle over the ownership of the piece. Rose delves into the complicated waters of copyright law, highlighting the age-old conflict of band versus major label.
Billed as part of Doug Aitken's "art project-journey-collaboration" series Station To Station, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore plays with Ariel Pink and drummer John Moloney on a moving train, offering a meandering jam session whilst winding through the Great Allegheny Passage. Learn more about the project over at All Songs Considered.
The Bad Plus—with their careening piano rhythms and rollicking covers of pop songs like "Tom Sawyer"—have long been a bastion for the weirder side of jazz. Drummer Dave King talks job history with A Blog Supreme, describing his experiences as a paper boy, janitor, delivery driver, and ultimately as drummer for one of jazz's boldest outfits.
It seems to be a landmark year for music genres; hip-hop recently celebrated 40 years of existence, and now Britpop has reached 20 years of age. NPR's Otis Hart explores the history of the 90's-born UK Britpop scene, a "nebulous black hole of a genre".
Writing for NPR Music's Deceptive Cadence blog, composer/clarinetist Derek Bermel examines a puzzling phenomenon in classical music: why does no one seem to be composing new symphonies? Bermel talks to a handful of modern artists about why the label of "symphony" has become anathema to contemporary composers, and examines the complicated standing of the time-tested musical form that is the symphony.
The technicolor electronics of Baths' music can fit many molds, as evidenced by an excellent new session for NPR's Tiny Desk concert series. Baths—created and helmed by Will Wiesenfeld—performs three tracks from Obsidian, his latest album for Anticon records.
On the heels of Hesitation Marks, the latest album from Nine Inch Nails, front-man Trent Reznor talks with NPR Music, discussing the personal trials and decades of experience that fed into the creation of the new record.
Multi-talented saxophonist/composer John Zorn makes music that can be pretty hard to define, running the gamut from jagged noise rock to unhinged experimental jazz. Zorn recently spoke with NPR's Fresh Air; you can find the interview here.