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First Listen: Laurie Anderson, 'Homeland'

For those who've never heard Laurie Anderson's music, it's best to approach it like film: Listen to the words as dialogue; hear the music as a soundtrack or score. The music guides the stories, helps the characters unfold and sets the tone. You won't find any hits or hear a whole lot of catchy numbers, but there's a lot to take in and remember. This is all foreground music -- it doesn't recede into the background easily, if at all. Anderson makes art with sound, infused with politics that are personal. Hers aren't abstract statements; her politics have arms, legs and heart, without sloganeering or simple answers.

On her new album, Homeland, Anderson gets help from a lot of similarly provocative innovators: vocals by Antony Hegarty, Four Tet's Kieran Hebden on keyboards, Lou Reed on guitar, John Zorn on saxophone and vocal assistance from Tuvan throat singers. And, through application of an effect she calls "audio drag," Anderson even turns to her male alter ego, Fenway Bergamot.

Anderson's performance pieces can be mind-altering; when they work, they can change the way you see the everyday. The pieces on Homeland come out of performances she's given on tour in recent years, dealing with foreign policy, freedom and cynicism with surprising and disarming humor. It's not an everyday record, but Homeland does draw on the everyday, in new and inventive ways.

Homeland will stream here in its entirety until its release on June 22. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.

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In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.
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