NPR Music & Concerts

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

Saturday is Record Store Day, when independent music retailers around the country host parking-lot concerts and sell limited-edition pressings of vinyl records, which have made a small but forceful comeback in an age dominated by digital listening habits. But if there's one problem with the vinyl resurgence, it might be this: The machines that press vinyl records are decades old, and no one's building new ones, so keeping up with increased demand is hard.

Rosa Díaz is nothing if not passionate: Her performance behind Bob Boilen's desk practically burst with the kind of passion that made it feel almost confessional. Her sophisticated lyrics reflect deeply felt emotions in this performance with cellist Daniel de Jesus.

This is the kind of performance best experienced for yourself rather than having me trying to explain it all. Believe me, you'll get it too.

Set List

  • "Beware Of Men Who Don't Remember Their Dreams"
  • "Lloronsito"
  • "Daddy Said"

The Thistle & Shamrock: Time To Dance

Apr 15, 2015

The rhythms of Celtic music will always reach your feet, and then you're dancing. Limber up and tune in for music by Alasdair Fraser, Trian and a pair of traditional dance bands from Ireland and Scotland.

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

On his most recent album, Vestiges & Claws, José González treads a familiar musical path, offering listeners the same subdued-but-powerful austerity of his unobtrusive tenor paired with minimal instrumentation that's come to define his remarkable sound since his full-length debut with 2003's Veneer. While those compositional tendencies have thankfully remained undisturbed, Vestiges & Claws is a divergence in theme for González.

His songs feel familiar; they're old friends before the first play is done. They'd fit nicely on a mix alongside Paul Simon or the McCartney side of The Beatles.

The Salón Los Angeles is the oldest dance hall in Mexico City. The classic 1930s ballroom is located in a working-class neighborhood near downtown, and every week, it sees dozens of well-dressed couples of all ages moving to an orchestra of saxophones, trumpets, trombones, clarinets and percussion instruments.

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.

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