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All Songs Considered

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.

I remember feeling absolutely free. I recall the sensation of joy.

I first saw Glenn Branca at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. in 1982. I came away from that concert wondering how it was that I, having spent so much of my life listening to music, had simply never thought about music simply as noise, perhaps somewhat organized, to varying degrees, but noise nonetheless. Branca, who died this past Sunday, gave me what may have been the loudest noise I'd ever heard that night, give or take a jackhammer or a jet engine, familiar sounds from growing up in Queens, N.Y.

Last week, we asked listeners to tell us about the songs that got them through school. As the stories poured in, we began to see some clear and common themes. For starters, school, while being an exciting time of profound change, is really hard. Many told us stories of battling depression, anxiety and issues of sexual identity, all while navigating a churning sea of uncertainty.

"I think this is one of my vaguest songs," Mitski says in this conversation about her new song, "Geyser." "Usually my songs have a narrative of some sort. But this song is all feeling."

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.

Mother's Day 2018 just got real. After years of creative reclusion — intermittently broken by a steady string of dynamic guest vocal appearances on other artists' projects — André 3000 has released nearly 22 minutes of new music in homage to his deceased parents.

All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton takes a quick run through May 11's essential album releases with NPR Music's Felix Contreras, Jewly Hight, Tom Huizenga, Lyndsey McKenna and Stephen Thompson. Featured albums include the irresistible pop of Charlie Puth, classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein, early folk recordings from The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, infectious guitar rock from Illuminati Hotties and more.

Some relationships in our lives are so vital, constant and ordinary that it seems nearly impossible for any expression of affection to do them justice. Thankfully, immortalizing everyday intimacy is a specialty of Lori McKenna.

Graduation season is upon us, which means a lot of young people are about to make one of the biggest transitions of their lives. We'd like to mark this transformative season by playing and talking about the songs that got you through high school or college.

Artist Christina Eve has synesthesia, a rare neurological condition that entwines the senses. In Christina Eve's case, she sees sounds. Last year she sent me a handful of her colorful paintings she made based on music she heard and the visions she had when she listened. I was so fascinated by the way she interprets songs with imagery that I asked her to document the process. You can watch her paint the music of Moses Sumney and Bleachers in the videos below and read her describe what her brain is like on music. – All Songs Considered's Bob Boilen

Liminal space can be both a beginning and a transition — it's the threshold that floats between worlds. When you just need to drift into nothingness from the aches of daily life, that unending quality makes for good ambient music, no?

The band's name — The Dreebs — sounds like urban-dwelling forest trolls, slipping in and out of sewers and city-sanctioned parks in packs.

Violinist and vocalist Adam Markiewicz, guitarist Jordan Bernstein and drummer Shannon Sigley have all played in the equally twisted PC Worship, and were all, at some point, part of a commune-like space called Le Wallet that's fostered many musicians in the New York scene. After a few records and digital releases, Forest of a Crew mutates The Dreebs into a strange and beautiful creature.

New phases are the unseen forces of life. In persons, in movements, they are the quietly unfolding moments and soul detritus that build momentum over time, only revealed as a crescent of new being. That's the poetry of a new moon, a solar body that exists, but is invisible to the unaided eye, and only rarely illuminated by an eclipse.

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.

Do yourself a favor: don't Google "Wand" and "Pure Romance" while at work, unless your place of business happens to be an adult toy store. Your browser history will thank you either way.

Lucky for you, you don't need to search for the Los Angeles psych-rock band's video for "Pure Romance." We're premiering it right here.

Two recurring themes run throughout the albums we're featuring on this week's New Music Friday: artists who are pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, and lots of songs that reflect on the need to be better, do better and make the world a better place. This includes the buoyant, joyful pop of English singer Frank Turner, the inspired rock of Shakey Graves, soul singer Leon Bridges, the incredibly ambitious narratives of Damien Jurado and much more.

Featured Albums:

  1. Frank Turner: Be More Kind

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