Saturday, August 24, 2019

Introducing: Heat Check; Turning The Tables Honors Billie Holiday

Plus, new music from Ivo Pogorelich, Sturgill Simpson and Kim Gordon.
Angela Hsieh/NPR
NPR Music has always been about championing what’s next. One of the new ways we’re looking ahead is a weekly playlist called Heat Check

Heat Check is for realigning chakras as much as it is for perfecting twerks. It’s a R&B and hip-hop-leaning, guilt-free form of sonic escapism that puts quality first and doesn’t worry about adhering to one singular “vibe.” 

This playlist loves the newcomers (Santi, Baby Rose, Mariah the Scientist) just as much as the established hitmakers (Kendrick Lamar, Migos, Nicki Minaj). I update this cross-genre concoction each Monday with new music. So click and follow if you want to beat your friends to the “I put you on” punch or, more importantly, enjoy the type of curation that comes from actually listening.

Here’s to you finding your new favorite song,
Sidney Madden

Featuring

  • Ending a summer of speculation, Taylor Swift confirmed this week that she's planning to record new versions of her self-titled album, Fearless, Speak Now, Red and 1989 in order to regain artistic and financial control of her material. (Swift’s latest album, Lover, came out Friday.)
  • With a brooding pout, movie star looks and a high-powered record deal, Ivo Pogorelich was an instant celebrity at 22. Now the polarizing classical pianist is back with his first album in 21 years. We asked a trio of critics to discuss the mercurial musician’s personal take on Beethoven and Rachmaninoff and what it means to color outside the lines in classical music.
  • This week, Turning the Tables honored Billie Holiday. We have a deep dive into her stint at a Catholic convent, original work from a collective of young Nashville poets inspired by Holiday, an episode of NPR’s history podcast Throughline about Lady Day’s performances of “Strange Fruit,” a playlist of some of her greatest songs and more.
  • Recently, Jay-Z announced a partnership between his Roc Nation entertainment company and the NFL. But, as our hip-hop critic Rodney Carmichael writes, the deal feels like the NFL attempting to invalidate Colin Kaepernick's sacrifice, without extending him the courtesy of a seat at the table.

New Music

  • It’s been a while since Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton were together in the studio, co-hosting All Songs Considered. (We blame summer vacations.) This week, they’re back, with new music from Brittany Howard, Big Thief and more.
  • Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon announced No Home Record, her first album under her own name. Its first single, “Sketch Artist,” reinforces Gordon as a malleable artist who, nonetheless, sounds only like Kim Gordon.
  • In September, Sturgill Simpson will simultaneously release a new album and an anime film on Netflix, both titled Sound & Fury. Each promises to showcase the Kentuckian's louder, looser side. “Sing Along,” the first single, is a dizzying and compact rock-and-roll jam.
  • Now that the '90s country revival has gone mainstream, Midland's new album, Let It Roll, showcases the subtle arts that distinguish the band.

Tiny Desk

Bob Boilen/NPR
  • We like to think that the Tiny Desk is a place that brings families together, but Houston rapper Tobe Nwigwe took it to a new level: His Tiny Desk debut was a true family affair with an entourage that included his 7-week-old daughter.
  • At the Tiny Desk, Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz ⁠— who perform as Mandolin Orange ⁠— made everything seem so easy, with just a few acoustic instruments and a single microphone, performing songs full of joy and thoughtfulness.

One More Thing

Need a laugh?
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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Turning The Tables Celebrates Maybelle Carter; A Lost Album From John Coltrane Is Found

Plus, the allegations against Plácido Domingo.
NPR Music
GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images
This year, Turning the Tables — NPR Music’s series that challenges and rethinks the popular music canon — is focused on celebrating eight women who shaped, defined and invented American popular music. 

This week, we highlighted the music of Maybelle Carter, the Mother of Country Music. A matriarch and mentor who never stopped working, Carter transcended boundaries — both musical and geographic — and continues to inspire musicians today. Tift Merritt calls Carter a “quiet revolutionary” and “the kind of woman I have always wanted to be.” And as Courtney Marie Andrews puts it, she’s perhaps the most emulated guitar player of all time. 

Andrews even demonstrated for us how to play the “Carter scratch,” a way of playing the guitar that forever changed the genre. We’ve also got a rich annotated playlist to introduce you to Carter’s music — and that of her peers, influences and inheritors. 

Hello stranger,
Marissa Lorusso and Lyndsey McKenna

New Music

  • In reimagining The Highwaymen's outlaw track “Highwayman,” The Highwomen — the supergroup of Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby — become empathetic revolutionaries, complete with assists from Sheryl Crow and ascending British singer Yola.
  • Go beyond Music Row and explore the Nashville music scene beyond the bright lights and busy bars of Broadway: In our latest Slingshot City Scenes report, WMOT Roots Radio introduces you to 10 rising acts you need to know.
  • For the first time in two decades, Sleater-Kinney's lineup has changed, and the band's new sound has sparked intense reaction from listeners. For writer Hanif Abdurraquib, assessing The Center Won't Hold meant moving past nostalgia and expectation.
  • In 1964, John Coltrane recorded an album that you haven’t heard — yet. Blue World was used to score a docufictional film, Le chat dans le sac, but then went unreleased for 55 years. The world will finally get a chance to hear it on Sept. 27.
  • After a long vacation, Robin Hilton’s back at the helm of All Songs Considered’s New Music Friday! On this week’s sprint through the week’s best albums, we’re featuring Boston rapper Cousin Stizz, R&B singer Snoh Aalegra, country singer Lillie Mae and the literary, celebratory music of The Hold Steady.

Featuring

  • Fifty years after the Woodstock Music and Art Fair took place there, the little town of Bethel, N.Y. is on the National Register of Historic Places. For some who were there, it's a place of pilgrimage and memories.
  • This week, The Associated Press published multiple allegations of sexual harassment over the course of some 30 years against Plácido Domingo, one of the world's most powerful and recognizable opera stars. One of the accusers, Patricia Wulf, spoke to All Things Considered about her encounters with Domingo and the allegations raised against him.
  • In April 2018, Los Tigres del Norte performed inside California's Folsom Prison, both as a tribute to Johnny Cash's historic 1968 concert and an attempt at raising awareness of its shifting population. Next month, a Netflix documentary and a live album recorded in the prison will be released in time for Hispanic Heritage Month.
  • Fifty years ago, Miles Davis turned the jazz world upside down with the recording of  Bitches Brew. This week, Jazz Night in America takes you behind the furious mystique of that album, illuminating the musical and cultural forces Miles was metabolizing at the time.

Tiny Desk

Amr Alfiky/NPR
It's not every day someone walks into our NPR Music offices and unpacks an instrument made in 1680. And yet Kian Soltani, the 27-year-old cellist who plays with the authority and poetry of someone twice his age, didn’t exactly seem fazed by the rare Giovanni Grancino cello he played during his Tiny Desk concert.

One More Thing

Maybe the real magic was the friends we made along the way.

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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Lizzo’s Tiny Desk Concert; Unheard Recordings From Woodstock

Plus, our favorite new songs and albums from July.
NPR Music
Claire Harbage/NPR
We can usually get a pretty good sense of how the Internet will respond to a Tiny Desk concert by looking around the room when the session is taped. Big crowd of eager interns? A sea of smartphone screens snapping pictures for social media bragging rights? Applause heard around the building when the artist is introduced?

We saw all that (and more, including plenty of smiles and dance moves) when Lizzo came to NPR HQ earlier this year. There were as many people as we've ever seen at the Tiny Desk as Lizzo treated us to a truly astounding set featuring a live band and the singer’s outrageous flute skills.

Word spread that Lizzo had visited the desk, and anticipation has been high: A particularly savvy Twitter user even made an account that counted the number of days it had been since the session was recorded. But it takes time to make Tiny Desk magic, and on the 70th day, the Lizzo Tiny Desk appeared, and all rejoiced. If you were already a fan, it was a welcome sight. If you weren’t, prepare to be.

Truth Hurts, 
Marissa Lorusso and Lyndsey McKenna

Featuring

  • ICYMI: Turning the Tables is our series that aims to shift the narrative of music history and reshape the way we think about popular music. This week, we launched our third season, which celebrates eight women who invented American popular music and whose legacies still resonate today. And there’s more to come over the next two months!
  • Ahead of the release of a massive Woodstock box set, producer Andy Zax joined Bob Boilen on All Songs Considered to share previously unheard recordings from the festival and the remarkable stories behind them.
  • For our American Anthem series, NPR's Eric Deggans examined "We're a Winner” — written by Curtis Mayfield for The Impressions — which ditched the broadly inspirational tone of the group’s previous hits and addressed black listeners directly, urging them to be proud of themselves.
  • This week, Lil Nas X officially broke the record for the longest-running No. 1 single on Billboard's Hot 100 list with his breakout hit "Old Town Road," a feat he achieved by consistently dominating sales, streaming and airplay.

New Music

  • Welcome to the dog days of summer. It’s officially August, which means we’re pausing to recommend the best music of last month. On our July songs list, we highlight our new favorite supergroup The Highwomen, who offered a mission statement singalong, and Rosalía, who reminded us why she’s summer's MVP. As for albums, we couldn’t stop spinning Cuco's Para Mi, Burna Boy's African Giant and J. Cole's collaborative crew project Revenge of the Dreamers III.
  • Singer-songwriter Angel Olsen's new album All Mirrors, out Oct. 4, features a 14-piece orchestra. Hear the title track, a sweeping, far-reaching journey of a song, now.
  • L.A. sister trio HAIM's easygoing blend of pop-rock bohemia always pairs best with an oversized pair of designer sunglasses and a glass of rosé. On “Summer Girl,” the band turns to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” for inspiration.
  • This week's Alt.Latino playlist is a continent-spanning trip, starting in the Great White North with rock en español from a Winnipeg band and stopping in the U.S. and the Caribbean for dreamy sounds from Cuco and insurgent reggaeton from Residente.

Tiny Desk

Shuran Huang/NPR
In 2005, Calexico and Iron & Wine teamed up for a collaborative album called In the Reins. Earlier this year, the Western band and Sam Beam reunited for a new album, Years to Burn. Though we’ve hosted Iron & Wine before, this collective appearance, including songs old and new, was Calexico’s Tiny Desk debut. 

One More Thing

Embrace your inner theater kid.

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