NPR Music & Concerts

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  For WUNC's music programs,  Back Porch Music.

The world's most popular music streaming service, Spotify, went public today. Shares were expected to start trading around $130 each, but ranges for the opening price went as high as $169, and at the time of this writing its stocks were trading at $155, making the company worth about $27.4 billion. (You could safely expect these figures to fluctuate widely over the coming hours, days, weeks and months.)

Since Meek Mill returned to prison last fall over violations of his probation stemming from a 2007 firearm and drug arrest, members of the Philadelphia rapper's legal team have repeatedly impugned the credibility of Meek's presiding judge, Philadelphia Judge Genece Brinkley.

"This is me coming back full circle in my life," Dee Dee Bridgewater told NPR right before this Tiny Desk performance. Ever since her teenage years, she's wanted to make her latest album, Memphis... Yes, I'm Ready. Now, a gorgeous 67 years young, Bridgewater is connecting openly with her roots, her birthplace and the town she's loved all her life.

Editor's note on April 2, 2018: You may have figured this out already — this story was an April Fools' joke. It's not real. We hope you enjoyed it.

"Not all pianists are created in equal temperament," Robin Olson told a small but enthusiastic audience behind NPR Music's storied Tiny Desk. The pianist, hailed as an "avant-garde gewandhaus" by Berlin's Staubzeitung, is as celebrated for his cryptic maxims as he is for his inscrutable music.

The Weeknd has (at least partially) returned to his dark side.

On My Dear Melancholy, the Toronto-hailing singer drudges up a heartbreak and attempts to drown it in modulated piano, muffled sirens and foggy synths. As its title implies — note that comma — the songs play out as maudlin 'memos to self' to keep track of all the things he'd wished he said before their downfall.

Masta Ace: Tiny Desk Concert

Mar 30, 2018

An early member of producer Marley Marl's iconic Juice Crew, the Brooklyn-bred Masta Ace emerged shoulder-to-shoulder in the late-'80s with a host of iconic emcees, including Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Craig G and more. When Ace showed up at the Tiny Desk, he brought with him stripped-down versions of the concrete-shaking classics that built his legacy, backed by the impressive Lee Hogans & Pursuance band.

In person, folk musician Haley Heynderickx is shy and soft-spoken. She gets what she calls "sweaty impostor syndrome" when asked to talk about her music. But in performance, the Portland-based artist has the confidence to lay herself bare. Two years ago, she released a promising four-song collection called Fish Eyes that was so unguarded, it was almost uncomfortable to listen to.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Harlaw

Mar 28, 2018

Fiona Ritchie invites you to travel back across six centuries with music historian John Purser. Fiddler Bonnie Rideout and her musical guests perform the ancient music commemorating the legendary events of the Battle of Harlaw in 1411.

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The three singers who perform together as I'm With Her sound like sisters. It's as if they've known each other all their lives and share common roots and musical memories.

As the #MeToo movement ricochets through Hollywood and into other industries, Nashville musicians and legislators alike appear to be coming to terms with the country music industry's role in dealing with sexual harassment.

Jenny and the Mexicats is a discovery from South by Southwest a few years ago that I haven't been able to get out of my mind, and with good reason: The band's high energy shows are unforgettable, as is its sound. Mixing flamenco, originally from southern Spain, with Jenny Ball's jazz trumpet background and a little bit of cumbia has created their one-of-a-kind musical identity.

Recently, I found myself flirting with the clerk at a clothing store. Discovering his interest in the outdoors, I remarked that I'd been reading about a great hike outside L.A., one that promised some spectacular vistas, including a waterfall. Without missing a beat, he responded "Oh, I don't go chasing waterfalls."

In the 1980s, as hip-hop was budding in the streets of New York City, a teenage girl from the Queens projects emerged as one of the genre's first female stars. At 14, Lolita Shanté Gooden, better known as Roxanne Shante, was a fierce, freestyling rap prodigy.

There's an abundance of jubilation and glee in the strums, trills, double stops and drones from the Swedish instrumental band Väsen. The trio came to the Tiny Desk with just three instruments, but all together it was a 30-string sonic blast of 12-string guitar, viola and nyckelharpa (a fiddle with keys — think 15th century keytar).

The Thistle & Shamrock: Singing The Land

Mar 21, 2018

In this program, Fiona Ritchie guides you to some very special landscapes. We feature music from Karine Polwart's award-winning theatrical event "Wind Resistance," originally presented in association with the Edinburgh International Festival. We'll also hear excerpts from fiddler Duncan Chisholm's "Sandwood," named for the finest and least accessible beach in Scotland.

Growing up in the late 1950s and early '60s, Betty Cantor developed an early talent for tinkering. "I used to take things like radios, other little electronic devices if they didn't work, open them up, mess with them, put them back together and they worked," she remembers during a recent phone call. "I could fix watches that wouldn't work for anybody else." Her fascination with how things worked helped her breeze through the available math and science classes at her Martinez, Calif.

As Cornelius, Keigo Oyamada has stretched his vision across frenzied indie rock, lush '60s-style pop, psychedelic funk and glitched electronics, all deconstructed and reassembled like a neon cubist-pop sculpture. After a little more than two decades, no one can really imitate his complex cool.

There is a wonderful irony in a career retrospective of a living artist that becomes so popular it outlives its subject. In 2010 — long before David Bowie Is travelled to ten other locations around the world, before it landed in Brooklyn earlier this month — London's Victoria & Albert Museum was approached by the rock icon's management to create an exhibit out of the singer's archives. At the time, the idea that such a show would be taken seriously, much less prove to be a success, were hardly foregone conclusions.

Raul Midón lives in a world of sound — blind since birth, Midón's interpretation of his surroundings is borderless. He sings with the passion of the best classic soul singers, and his instrumental chops stand along side the most accomplished jazz musicians.

Normally backed by a band that straddles styles just as well as he does, for his turn behind Bob Boilen's desk Midón stripped it down to just voice and guitar, the musical equivalent of tightrope walking without a net.

We mark the 10th anniversary of the Swannanoa Gathering's Traditional Song Week with more music and interview highlights from Julee Glaub Weems, David Holt, and Jean Ritchie.

On Sept. 28, 1963, The Ronettes performed on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. In the video, the curtain parts to reveal the three singers dressed in identical long-sleeved pencil dresses, their hair partially swept up in the same half-bouffant that would become part of their signature style. They sway their hips and arms awkwardly to the opening bars of "Be My Baby," and then Ronnie Spector, standing on the left, opens her mouth.

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including "Sam Stone," "Angel From Montgomery," "Hello In There" and countless others.

Every year for the past four years we've had a Tiny Desk Contest (there's one going on right now), and though only one band can officially win the competition, thousands enter. I inevitably end up discovering so much wonderful music while going through the submissions.

We mark the 10th anniversary of the Swannanoa Gathering's Traditional Song
Week with music and interview highlights from Cathie Ryan, Sheila Kay Adams
and Brian McNeill.

Long before he was the leader of rock octet Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Nathaniel Rateliff was a kid in rural Missouri sneaking around listening to rock and roll. Rateliff remembers finding a Led Zeppelin tape out in a country barn and secretly listening to it over and over in his headphones.

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