Stephen Thompson

Like a lot of creatively restless high-schoolers in the late '70s and early '80s, Ben Stiller was in a band — in this case, a weird and funky post-punk band called Capital Punishment. Now that Stiller is a movie and TV star, Capital Punishment's one and only album, 1982's Roadkill, is getting its first-ever major reissue on Sept. 14.

Luluc's Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett have now made three sweetly comforting albums together, filling each with frequently Nick Drake-ian folk music that's both disarmingly simple and, when called for, dreamily ornate. But Sculptor, the Australians' self-produced follow-up to 2014's wonderful Passerby, also broadens Luluc's palette and subject matter in rewarding ways.

The Milk Carton Kids' Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale have long drawn influence from the rich vocal harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel, the intricately twinned acoustic guitars of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and, in concert, the deadpan/goofy banter of

For Saintseneca, fatalistic gloom blends seamlessly with a kind of playful sprightliness: Zac Little's songs often simmer in a sad swirl of death and esoterica, but his deadpan ruminations are buoyed by the sounds of exotic instruments, candy-colored pop hooks and many points in between.

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.

If you're a band in 2018, you can't just tell the world you're putting out an album. You have to hire skywriters, or etch your new cover art onto the side of a mountain, or fly journalists out to Wyoming for a live-stream or something. You have to make it an event!

Bon Iver may take its time between albums, but bandleader Justin Vernon remains a geyser of ideas in his off hours. On Wednesday, he and a pair of fellow idea-geysers — The National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner — launched a new platform for listening, called PEOPLE, and populated it with a trove of music. That trove includes songs by the duo of Aaron Dessner and Vernon, recording under the name Big Red Machine.

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.

Ray LaMontagne's music ought to be easy to pin down: He is, after all, a prolifically bearded, reclusive type with an acoustic guitar and an approachable voice. His music even dredges up familiar roots-music signifiers, from The Band-style ramblers to softly rendered ballads that recall Iron and Wine's Sam Beam.

Most music-industry awards shows hand out armloads of trophies, but the Americana Music Association only gives out six. Besides a handful of lifetime achievement awards — which, for this year, have yet to be announced — the only categories are for best album, artist, duo/group, emerging artist, song and instrumentalist.

Odetta Hartman's songs have a way of spraying ideas in every direction. Sometimes, they don't even feel like songs so much as fragments, interludes or brief, fleeting brainstorms — blurted phrases set against chopped-up bits of violin, banjo, samples and effects.

Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison, whose bleak but often triumphantly arranged rock songs tackled depression, anxiety and self-doubt, was found dead at Port Edgar near South Queensberry, Scotland, around 8:30 p.m. local time on Thursday, Edinburgh Police confirmed in a statement provided to NPR. He was 36.

Back in 2016, Irish singer-songwriter Naomi Hamilton — a.k.a. Jealous of the Birds — was one of NPR Music's favorite SXSW discoveries. Her song "Goji Berry Sunset" demonstrated a remarkable gift for converting spare and common ingredients (voice, acoustic guitar, a bit of whistling) into a sound that's dense, gently hypnotic and utterly her own.

Australian singer-songwriter Gordi (a.k.a. Sophie Payten) has a dusky and evocative voice that usually gets enshrouded somehow: It often sounds like it's echoing down a stairwell, or else she's bathed it in vocal effects a la Imogen Heap or Gordi's occasional tourmate, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

It's springtime, and depending on where you live, you've likely either already begun the year's first May weekend or are getting ready to set out into the world. The air hangs thick with anticipation, with hope, with pollen — these are heady times, and you need a song to mirror the intensity and wonder of it all.

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.


So many 1990s alt-rock hit-makers have reunited over the years, it's hard to keep track of who's coming back, who's never left, and who's already returned to the shadows. Most have attempted a comeback at least once — Jesus Jones released an album just last week — so it's rarely a surprise to encounter a press announcement from a reconstituted Deep Blue Something or Crash Test Dummies.

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