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Illinois Rock'n'Soul.

 

In July 2015, the music industry moved its formal release day for new records from Tuesdays to Fridays. These days, though, it seems like almost every day is New Music Day. Keeping track of all this new music can be a challenge, but that's why we love being music fans.

Valerie June started performing in the Memphis club scene when she was still a teenager. She's a New Yorker now, with a vocal style that takes traditional blues, country and soul and pushes them into another realm.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Unexpected releases, surprise announcements, the loss of giants - this week the music news kept coming. And here with the latest, NPR music editors Jacob Ganz. Hey there, Jacob.

JACOB GANZ, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

We first met Becca Stevens when she sang a show-stopping solo vocal line on a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" during a World Cafe session with David Crosby. She was part of Crosby's young, Brooklynite backing band, and we were thrilled to learn that they also write songs together.

There's new music from Lucius: The New York quartet's song "Million Dollar Secret" will be featured on HBO's Girls this Sunday.

Kendrick Lamar wasted no time following through on his mysterious "IV" Instagram post. Last night, the Compton MC released a new song, "The Heart Part 4," and it's a no-holds-barred lyrical onslaught.

Within the span of five minutes, over shifting beats produced by Syk Sense, The Alchemist, DJ Dahi and Axlfolie, Lamar waxes philosophical, adversarial and political while dropping heat on everyone from phony rappers to President Trump.

Peace. It's a powerful word and a powerful idea. When you find it — if you're lucky enough to find it — you, understandably, never want to let it go.

In her quietly hopeful love song, "All The Beds I've Made," Nashville-based songwriter Caroline Spence sings about feeling a little bewildered, a little wary and very grateful to have, quite unexpectedly, discovered total peace in a romantic relationship.

Nighttime is restless. Even in our sleep, we are moving in our dreams, or involuntarily flopping around the bed disturbing a loved one, be it a significant other, a dog. Lullabies are written to calm these restless minds, but maybe they should also recognize the motion of the day.

Nick Hakim begins with a bit of a fake-out — languorous strings like something out of a Stars Of The Lid record rumble from a sampler, somber and hesitant. But as he begins to sing in a heartbroken falsetto, surrounded by optical fibers hanging from the ceiling of SXSW's Optic Obscura installation by Raum Industries, the ambient intro morphs into a quiet, psychedelic croon.

Thanks to La La Land, Hollywood is getting shine for its magical skyline and hamster-wheel hustle. But if the film's characters had been more into house music than old-school jazz, Phantoms could've provided the perfect soundtrack. The production duo — Kyle Kaplan and Vinnie Pergola, two former teen actors who traded the red carpet for the recording studio — makes escapist, vocal-heavy dance music inspired by the city's surreal nightlife, an amusement park of gritty warehouses and glitzy nightclubs in which everyone's trying to make it.

For more than a decade, the members of The Builders And The Butchers have specialized in a kind of white-knuckle Americana: Their acoustic folk-rock sound is shot through with nervy, hellfire-and-brimstone intensity.

With a reassuring voice that howled over an acoustic guitar, Jesy Fortino made records as Tiny Vipers about emptiness and absence that were severely intimate. She channeled both Neil Young and Stevie Nicks in "Landslide" — two songwriters who knew a thing or two about being bummed out, but would try to find something hopeful in the mess.

You need only watch Steve Marion's face. This fierce and lyrical guitar player, who performs as Delicate Steve, writes playful instrumental music led by hooky vocals — but there is no voice. His electric guitar is often played with a glass slide, mimicking a human being and bringing a palpable personality to his songs. The music swings from gospel to cartoon, melancholy to funny.

Bob Dylan is evidently not finished with his (grand, now exhaustive) inquiry into the Great American Songbook.

The 2016 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, who was hailed by the Swedish Academy for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition," is releasing a three-disc mega-dose from the pre-rock era of that tradition on March 31.

There's no shortage of poignant moments in I Called Him Morgan, Kasper Collin's mesmerizing new documentary about the life and death of jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan. One moment, about half an hour into the film, has stuck with me since I first saw it, lingering like an afterimage or the hook from a song.

If you're out in the clubs in Nashville in 2017, you have a good chance of discovering the powerful, lyrical voice of Kyshona. The South Carolina native came to Nashville after a long stint in Athens, Ga.'s singer-songwriter circles. She soon found her place in the city as part of both the soul and rock scenes and has released two independent albums since then: 2014's Go and 2016's Ride.

Lydia Ainsworth doesn't so much subvert pop music, but skates around its edges. You can hear that all over Darling Of The Afterglow, a surreal album that blurs melodies and rote formats with a sense of mystery.

The Puerto Rican-born, Brooklyn-based duo Buscabulla plays sensual, salsa-inspired music that members Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle call "the Caribbean music of the future." We at KCRW have been big fans since the duo's debut EP and were thrilled to host its live West Coast debut.

Set List

  • "Tártaro"

Photo: Cascade Wilhelm/KCRW.

Muldrow Meets Mingus

Mar 23, 2017

At a glance, Georgia Anne Muldrow isn't the obvious pick to create an interpretive tribute to the bassist and composer Charles Mingus. She was born in 1983, four years after Mingus died at 56. Her music stands well outside the jazz perimeter, aligning more with the Afrocentric current that flows through underground hip-hop, avant-R&B and psychedelic soul.

Kendrick Lamar, deservedly hailed as the god MC of his generation, made a peculiar pronouncement from on high (i.e., high-speed Internet) today that has fans genuflecting in collective anticipation.

The rapper's Instagram account was wiped clean Thursday morning, replaced with one cryptic post added around sunrise. The simple white-on-black image of the Roman numeral "IV," with no caption provided, has led to a near-universal interpretation: Prepare ye the way for the impending release of Lamar's fourth studio album.

In early 2016, The Megaphonic Thrift won a Spelleman Award (Norway's Grammy equivalent) for the previous year's Sun Stare Sound. It's a noise-pop record that puts the emphasis on pop, bursting with earworm-y melodies sunk into lysergic effects, guitar and bass interlaced like latticework with dreamy, dueling vocals. The record will now be available stateside for those of us that had to hunt it down for the first time, but here's a track for those that maybe missed it, a tribute to the band's hometown, "Bergen Revels."

Gothenburg, Sweden's Agent Blå ("Agent Blue" in English) hasn't been a band for very long, but its unique hybrid — a goth genre combination of indie-pop and post-punk that it calls "death pop" — evokes a certain youthful immediacy that feels far removed from infancy. The composite makes sense, considering the band's members range in age from 17 to 20 years old.

It's been about 10 years since Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan made his U.S. debut with The End Of History, a Mercury Prize-nominated collection of soft-spoken acoustic folk-pop songs in the tradition of Damien Rice and Nick Drake.

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