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The Musical Universe

 

Hometown: Newtown, Connecticut

Genre: Indie Rock

Why We're Excited: Writing and playing strange, twisty, lo-fi rock under the name Stove, Ovlov's Steve Hartlett has spent the past few years churning out a loose assortment of shambling bedroom recordings. Like Sebadoh before it, Stove has a gift for letting disarming beauty slip through the tape hiss; for proof, try "dumb phone," a scuffed-up, sweetly strummed gem highlighted by lovely vocal harmonies.

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Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Thunderpussy's chugging, blustery, feel-good stomp would really liven up the playlist at your old classic-rock station — that is, if its music had been made many years ago, by a band that wasn't called "Thunderpussy." As it is, it's an enormously appealing, sweat-flinging throwback that still finds a way to sound fresh.

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Hometown: London, England

Genre: Jazz

Why We're Excited: Tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia exudes a kind of breezy, sultry, downtown cool — no surprise, given her history as a club DJ. On her debut, Nubya's 5ive, she and her band strike an engrossing balance between long stretches of dreamy exploration and surges of vital, virtuosic intensity.

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Hometown: London, England

Genre: Jazz

Why We're Excited: Ezra Collective keeps one foot planted in traditional jazz but lets the other wander far and wide, bringing back rhythmic traces of hip-hop and Afrobeat. On the new Juan Pablo: The Philosopher EP, Ezra Collective sounds alternately taut and spacey in tunes that don't stay in one place long, let alone recede into the background.

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Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Folk / Funk / R&B

Why We're Excited: When singer and violinist Sudan Archives discovered the way the violin is played in Northeast Africa, she overhauled her sound to accommodate it. Now, her slippery pop and soul music incorporates sharp and hypnotic violin lines like the ones that animate the irrepressibly clattering "Come Meh Way."

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Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: "Syml" is the Welsh word for "simple," which should provide a sense of the aesthetic at work in SYML's "Where's My Love." Brian Fennell writes straightforwardly heartwarming, sweetly engaging folk-pop songs, softening each with a voice that embodies comfort and kindness.

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Hometown: Montreal, Canada (born/raised in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)

Genre: Funk / Pop

Why We're Excited: Congolese Canadian Pierre Kwenders sings in five languages — and incorporates at least that many genres into his sultry, swaying, busy, funky pop music. Named for a Henry Miller trilogy, "Sexus Plexus Nexus" brings sex talk and saxophones together, where they've always belonged.

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Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Genre: Americana

Why We're Excited: Buck Meek is best known as the lead guitarist and cofounder of Big Thief, but he's also got a nice, low-key side gig going as a solo artist. On his own, he rambles and twangs through conversational, countrified, vividly detailed stories of wanderers, lost souls and dreamers.

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Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii

Genre: Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Genre: Metal

Why We're Excited: Nate Garrett launched Spirit Adrift as a doom-metal solo project during some major transitions in his life, including sobriety and a cross-country move. Now that he's surrounded himself with a full band, Garrett spends his second album (Curse of Conception) drawing some of his inspiration — not to mention raw, thundering power — from more traditional metal bands like Metallica and Judas Priest.

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Hometown: New York, New York

Genre: Rock

Hometown: Düsseldorf, Germany

Genre: Dance

Why We're Excited: Gato Preto's sound is insistent to the point of relentlessness: The globetrotting band piles on layer upon layer of percussion — traditional and electronic — while brandishing earworms like bazookas. Between the feast of rhythm and the wild Afro-futuristic garb, Gato Preto doesn't just put on a show; it makes a scene.

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Hometown: Henderson, Nevada

Genre: Bedroom Pop

Why We're Excited: Nick Rattigan sings and plays drums in the surf-rock band Surf Curse, but he's been doing more and more with the solo bedroom pop songs he writes under the name Current Joys. Propelled by sinewy guitar lines and sweeping synths, songs like "Fear" — from a new, self-directed "visual album" titled A Different Age — reflect on the underbelly of modern life without resorting to self-pity.

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Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Genre: Afropop

Why We're Excited: Born in Sudan and based in Brooklyn, with other stops along the way, Alsarah is used to fusing the sounds and styles of disparate cultures. As leader of Alsarah & The Nubatones, she accurately describes her approach as "East African Retro-Pop" — a lavish, joyful, era-spanning sound full of Arabic-language reflections on identity and survival. It's modern and nostalgic, timeless and new.

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Hometown: Manchester, England

Genre: Dream Pop

Why We're Excited: Songwriters Heather Baron-Gracie and Ciara Doran love to mix elements of '80s pop into their dreamy, sparkling sound, but Pale Waves' songs feel remarkably fresh — in part because great hooks are great hooks, regardless of the era that inspired them. "Heavenly" is as gorgeous as it is infectious, which is saying something.

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Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Genre: Hip-Hop

Why We're Excited: Rapper WebsterX has already become a widely beloved figure in his hometown — a debt he repays by shouting out the Milwaukee Bucks in "Intuition" — and he's got the enormous, stage-stealing charisma to break big outside the Midwest. A strong introduction to his sound, WebsterX's debut album Daymares nicely encapsulates his ability to explore the way an unquiet mind needn't be devoid of hope or uplift.

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Hometown: San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago

Genre: Soca

Hometown: Harlem, New York

Genre: Hip-Hop

Why We're Excited: Under the name Princess Nokia, Destiny Frasqueri represents. She represents Latinx culture and queer culture and skater culture and nerd culture and a dense web of communities, both literal and figurative. She also, with "G.O.A.T.," asserts herself boldly and gloriously in one of last year's most quotable and provocative songs.

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Hometown: Melbourne, Australia

Genre: Synth Pop

Why We're Excited: Georgia Flipo, who records under the name G Flip and has spent time as a drummer and backup singer with other acts, has yet to amass much of a solo discography — in fact, she's got exactly one single to her credit. Fortunately, that one single is "About You," a spry and springy hookfest that burrows into your subconscious in a matter of seconds.

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Hometown: Bronx, New York

Genre: Hip-Hop

Why We're Excited: Kemba's 2016 album Negus offers up a deep and scathingly provocative examination of race relations in America. But the Bronx rapper bares his plaintive side — and his vulnerable, expressive singing voice — in "LoveGoes," which crackles with romantic tension.

Dessa is kind of a science geek. She doesn't use those words to describe herself, but it's clear from the musician's recent projects that she is fascinated with how the brain works.

Roy Ayers: Tiny Desk Concert

Mar 1, 2018

Roy Ayers arrived at his Tiny Desk performance beaming with positivity. The 77-year-old jazz-funk icon and vibraphonist sauntered through the office with a Cheshire grin on his face, sharing jokes with anyone within earshot. Accompanying him was a trio of brilliantly seasoned musicians — keyboardist Mark Adams, bassist Trevor Allen and drummer Christopher De Carmine. Later during the performance, pride washed across Ayers' face as his bandmates took the spotlight. (Be sure to watch as Adams woos not just the room but brightens Ayers' face during his solo.)

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.

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.

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.

After touring the globe a few times over behind their 2013 debut, Rhye frontman Mike Milosh wanted all live instrumentation for the band's sophomore album. Blood is filled with seductive soul pop songs. Watch a performance of "Taste."

SET LIST

  • "Taste"

See SPOT list.

Spotify, the world's most-used on-demand music streaming service, has pulled the curtain back on its New York Stock Exchange debut, expected in late March or early April, when it will trade under the symbol SPOT, according to its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.

From The Vault: Jade Bird On FUV Live

Feb 28, 2018

"We're all reaching for something American," Jade Bird sings on the title track off her 2017 EP, Something American. WFUV's Rita Houston sat down with the British singer-songwriter to talk about her debut and musical influences.

"The literal meaning of that is a young girl across the pond looking over?," Houston asks.

As a Sim, Kelela is just as striking as the real deal, rocking her signature bubble-beaded locks, shedding a single tear over her break-up in the beginning of the clip. While the human representation has been taken out of the equation in favor of digital love, betrayal and neglect sting just the same.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Songs Of The Times

Feb 28, 2018

Join Fiona Ritchie to hear what today's songwriters with Celtic roots have to contribute to our understanding of current concerns, locally and globally. This episodes features music from Karan Casey, Solas, Dick Gaughan, and Karine Polwart.

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