NPR Music & Concerts

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  Find more music at WUNC's  Back Porch Music.

James Snyder writes songs as if he were in the room next door — hushed and vulnerable in his own space, but aware and perhaps even thrilled that someone might be listening. With Beach Slang, these uplifting confessionals become euphoric punk anthems about squeezing every second out of life. So it's telling and endearing that, when he played a solo acoustic set in the NPR Music offices, Snyder giggled with the nervous energy of a songwriter who's just been walked in on by a large group of strangers.

Valentina Lisitsa is a pianist whose worldwide reputation was built on social media. She is now experiencing a major backlash due to what she's been writing on Twitter.

It came to a head with the cancellation of Lisitsa's scheduled performances Wednesday night and Thursday night with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which announced earlier this week that she would not be appearing to play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the ensemble and Finnish conductor Juka-Pekka Saraste. Both TSO management and Lisitsa have said she will still receive her full fee.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Julie Fowlis

Apr 8, 2015

Raised in the Outer Hebrides, Julie Fowlis is reaching international audiences with her Gaelic songs, and is one of a small group of singers bringing the music into the cultural mainstream. On this episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, we explore her music and examine her role in the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning 2012 Pixar film Brave.

Baby-faced and rail-thin, Lee Bozeman didn't look like the kind of guy who would ram a microphone stand into the floor. But in the '90s, when Luxury got to "Flaming Youth Flames On" in its set list, the guitar came off and the sweetly gut-punching crooner flailed his body into the ultra-sassy punk song that teased, "Make you gasp / Make your heart skip a beat." It was an eye-opener to any teenager who witnessed it, especially since Luxury's spectacle was most often seen in church youth halls.

Pay a visit to New York City's Museum of the Moving Image to see its blockbuster show Matthew Weiner's Mad Men, and toward the end of the exhibit you will find a lonely kiosk.

Death Cab For Cutie came as a trio: Ben Gibbard sang, Nick Harmer played bass, and we wheeled in our piano for Zac Rae. This intimate set included two new songs — including "Black Sun," the first single from their new album Kintsugi.

Andrew Porter, a renowned music critic and scholar and translator of opera, died early today in London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. His twin sister, Sheila Porter, told NPR his death was the result of complications from pneumonia. He was 86.

On this week's episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, host Fiona Ritchie selects some of the best new sounds from artists both rising and well-established. Musicians featured on this week's show include Gerald Trimble, Mairi MacInnes, Altan and Le Vent du Nord.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Jay Z doesn't do anything small. His album drops feature entire new apps. His tours (with his wife, Beyonce, or collaborator Kanye West) gross hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. So of course the launch of his recently acquired streaming music service, Tidal, would have to be just as big.

It's hard to believe that it hasn't quite been a year since the first Sylvan Esso album came out. The odd yet perfect marriage of Nick Sanborn's electronics with Amelia Meath's voice feels like a familiar friend by now. And yet seeing these songs performed softly — and captured in the light of day — made them feel fresh and lovable in new ways.

It was December 1990 — more than a year before the first Anonymous 4 album was released — when NPR invited four slightly shy women into our studio to sing 13th-century Christmas music. Back then, we already knew the manifold beauty of their sound, its purity and accuracy, was something unique.

Now, some 25 years and 21 albums later, the a cappella vocal quartet is calling it quits at the end of 2015. But not before one final visit to NPR.

In South Africa, the major art of resistance during apartheid was jazz: a melting pot where folk songs and hymns defiantly mixed with influences from South Asia, America and West Africa. South African jazz's central formula — its equivalent to the 12-bar blues — is a buoyant, four-chord progression that even seems to evoke a blending motion.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Made In America

Mar 26, 2015

Travel from the 1920s, with legendary fiddlers Michael Coleman and James Morrison, to the thriving 1970s session scene and hear the evolving sound of Irish traditional music in the U.S.

This week's show includes music from Liz Carroll, The Flanagan Brothers, Laurence Nugent, The Green Fields Of America and more.

There's something mysterious, almost opaque, about the songs of Lower Dens. The ones on the band's new album, Escape From Evil, are lush but distant, beautiful things held just out of reach.

The eyes of the pop music world are on Austin, Texas this week. Thousands of bands and fans have descended upon the city for the South by Southwest music festival. Austin is also home to its own music scene year-round — and one of its more unusual groups is tapping into a sound that has nothing to do with indie rock or hip-hop. They're called Riyaaz Qawwali.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Live From Ireland

Mar 18, 2015

Relive some great sets of Irish music, including years of live performances presented by host Fiona Ritchie with the energy and innovation of Eileen Ivers, the joy and virtuosity of Cherish the Ladies, and the pioneering cross-over spirit of The Chieftains.

There's only one word to describe Aaron Watson's music: country. Watson, from Abilene, Texas, sings about rodeos, fence posts and family with a twang in his voice that would sound like a huge moneymaker if you're the kind of fan who stopped listening to country in the early 1990s, when George Strait and Garth Brooks were selling millions of albums and scoring hits on country radio.

Spoiler alert: The Punch Brothers came to the Tiny Desk on Chris Thile's birthday. We made him a cake and gave him an NPR surprise! This wasn't the first time the brilliant mandolinist had brought a project to my desk, it was his fourth. The last time was with his longtime band Nickel Creek — and his new braces.

Whether it's warranted or not, classical music wonks are perennially worried about the next generation of fans.

It seems there's less need to fret when you hear cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O'Riley. Some 15 years ago, they were already chipping away at the barriers — both real and perceived — between classical and pop.

Assassin: Rap's Best Kept Secret Weapon

Mar 12, 2015

The Thistle & Shamrock: Scent Of Spring

Mar 11, 2015

Spring is in the air — and in the jigs, reels and songs — as The Thistle & Shamrock puts out a musical welcome mat for the first signs of the season.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Pages