Music

Amid truck horns and the distant sounds of Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It," the All Songs Considered team gathered outside of Stubb's BBQ to recount a day overflowing with new musical discoveries and old favorites. On Wednesday night, NPR Music hosted its annual showcase at Stubb's. That event at that place has become as ritual as tacos and crowded streets for this crowd, but the show still astonished them. Stephen Thompson fell for Sylvan Esso's new songs.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

After missing two chances to control the compositions he co-authored while in The Beatles — once in 1969 when he and John Lennon were outbid and again to Michael Jackson, in a duplicitous move by the King of Pop, in the '80s — Paul McCartney is not taking any chances.

It's not hyperbole to suggest that Wolfgang Voigt's album POP, under the pseudonym GAS, is one of the greatest — if not the best — ambient albums of the past 20 years. Released in 2000, POP is a masterpiece of symphonic bliss that set a new standard for beatless electronic music.

Public radio hosts from around the country, along with thousands of other music lovers, descended on Austin, Texas, this week to stand in long lines and eat breakfast tacos. And when they're not complaining about the former or posting Instagrams of the latter, they attend an ungodly number of concerts in the hopes of stumbling upon the next big band. Each day this week, All Songs Considered and hosts from our partner stations will report back on the best thing they saw the day prior.

But that's just the beginning of our SXSW coverage. Here's what else we have in store:

Culture Wars

Mar 15, 2017

In a new video for the slinky, jazz-rooted BADBADNOTGOOD song "Lavender," a character named "Ronald Klump," a satirical Donald Trump stand-in, is the victim of a Looney Tunes-ian "BANG," fired by Snoop Dogg. (The video is also heavy on Snoop's favorite subject, the continuous ingestion of pot.)

Sometimes the hard-working, completely badass punks win. Downtown Boys signed to Sub Pop recently, an open invitation for a wider world to hear the Rhode Island natives' wild, bilingual, no-filler, can-still-throw-down punk rock.

In music, a coda is a passage that brings a musical composition to an end. This is the coda to a musical saga — the story of the Stradivarius violin that was stolen 37 years ago from my late father, violinist Roman Totenberg, and recovered in 2015.

That violin, made by Antonio Stradivari in 1734, was my father's "musical partner" for 38 years as he toured the world.

Feist has been known to take her time between albums, but it has been a long stretch since 2011's Metals.

Merchandise is, colloquially anyways, the engine that drives the boat, the rocket fuel that propels careers toward the stars!

Actually, according to Martin Atkins, author of Welcome To The Music Business, You're F****d!, merchandise is more like "the small hand-cranked trolley that inches up the funicular railway, inch by rusted, mangled inch, up the hill." Merchandise, particularly t-shirts, are the subject of this fun-filled Martin Atkins Minute (actually six fun-filled minutes).

Review: Jacaszek, 'KWIATY'

Mar 9, 2017

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Polish composer Michał Jacaszek's new album KWIATY, which translates as "flowers," strives to locate beauty in desolation. These aren't the kaleidoscopic gardens of Victorian manors. They're the dried petals inside old acrylic paperweights, their life cycles frozen in time.

Dave Valentin became one of the pre-eminent flutists in Latin jazz. He was known for his creative combination of fusion, pop and R&B.

He won a Grammy in 2003 for best Latin jazz album for "The Gathering," by the Caribbean Jazz Project. Vibraphonist Dave Samuels was also featured on that record.

Manager Richie Bonilla told news agencies that Valentin, 64, who had suffered multiple strokes over the last several years, died Wednesday from stroke complications and Parkinson's disease.

An impresario and producer who helped launch the careers of many marquee-name musicians, comedians and actors — including Bob Dylan, Woody Allen and Bruce Lee — has died. Fred Weintraub was 88 years old.

His wife, Jackie, confirmed his death to NPR. He died at their home in Pacific Palisades, Calif. on March 5, due to complications related to Parkinson's disease.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUPER TRAPPER")

FUTURE: (Singing) The top come out the Lam' 'cause I'm a super trapper. My pockets on fat Albert. I'm a super trapper.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Last week, a fierce battle was pitched between the Austin, Texas-based music mega-festival South by Southwest (SXSW) and artists who took exception to a certain passage in the agreements which SXSW sends to its performers.

PWR BTTM is goofy as hell, like we could ever forget. The fab rock 'n' roll duo's "Answer My Text" is the latest single from their upcoming Pageant, a nervous flirtation wrought in emojis and a "funny joke from that TV show you said that you like."

It's been nearly six years since the Fleet Foxes released any new music. But Tuesday morning the group announced it's got a new album coming in the spring called Crack-Up. In making the announcement, frontman Robin Pecknold shared a lyric video for a nearly nine-minute song called "Third of May / Ōdaigahara."

Chance the Rapper is not leaving the future of Chicago school kids to chance. During a press conference Monday at Westcott Elementary School, on the city's South Side, the newly minted Grammy winner announced plans to donate $1 million to Chicago Public Schools.

"This check that I donated is a call to action," said Chance, calling for politicians and corporations to follow suit as the conference streamed live on Instagram. "I'm challenging major companies in Chicago and all across the U.S. to take action."

Symphony orchestras and opera companies across the country continually ask the same question: How do we attract a younger and more diverse audience?

Saturday night, I discovered something of an answer at the Washington National Opera's east coast premiere of Champion, a four-year-old opera by jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.

In 21 seasons of attending WNO performances, I've never witnessed a more diverse crowd.

Practice is a physical activity, of course, but it's also hard mental work — if you're doing it right. A new video published by TED Ed gets down to the scientific nitty-gritty of what good practice looks like, and what it does to your brain. (Think axons and myelin, not "muscle memory" — muscles don't have "memory.")

Future has made history: the Atlanta rapper's two albums, released back-to-back over two weeks, have each officially landed at the peak of the Billboard 200 albums chart. With the respective releases of FUTURE on Feb. 17 and HNDRXX on Feb. 24, Future is the first solo act in the 61-year history of the album chart to supplant himself at No. 1 with two successive releases, according to Billboard:

One week and a day before thousands will descend on downtown Austin for South By Southwest 2017, what seemed like a standard bit of legalese in contracts given to artists performing at this year's SXSW music festival has, amidst a markedly shifted political climate, erupted into controversy. Musicians have accused the festival of threatening foreign performers with deportation if they appear outside official festival venues.

Front Street Blues host Lan Nichols explores the newest release from one of North Carolina's most prolific blues artists of the new century, Randy McQuay. A three-time finalist of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN, Randy brought the IBC solo championship trophy back to Wilmington in 2015, leaving no question about his hard work and love of the  blues.

Even amongst East Coast traditionalists, talk of bringing back New York rap has become a tired cliché. But a blazing freestyle has a way of elevating the conversation.

Thursday would have been Lou Reed's 75th birthday. This morning, his widow, performance artist Laurie Anderson, marked the occasion by announcing that the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will house Reed's complete archives. The collection includes thousands of hours of video and audio recordings, Reed's personal record collection and more than 300 boxes of papers, photos and other items spanning his six-decade career.

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