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The Musical Universe

 

In 2014, Cohen surprised the Manhattan audience of a closed listening session of Popular Problems, his newest album at the time, by popping in not to sing, but simply say hello and look at everyone like they were aliens. At the time, I remember thinking that everything seemed to be a Very Serious Lark to Leonard.

Two years later, Cohen died. But just before that, he had put the finishing touches on a final book, The Flame, which was released on Oct. 2. It comes with an audio version of the works inside it, read by stars of film and literature.

I recently hosted a "pitch session" at the DIY Music Conference hosted by CD Baby in Nashville. It was an opportunity for independent artists to have their music heard and critiqued by a panel of music industry folks including a record producer, a music supervisor and music journalist.

Our list of the best new albums out this week includes the comical and moving synth pop of John Grant, enchanting harmonies from The Watson Twins, an audacious jazz album from trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, the first new music from Elvis Costello & The Imposers in a decade and more. Host Robin Hilton returns to breakdown this week's essential releases with NPR Music's Ann Powers and Stephen Thompson, and Nate Chinen from WBGO.

Featured Albums

  1. Elvis Costello & The Imposters: Look Now
    Featured Song: "Under Lime"

It's appropriate that the pioneering Mexican band Café Tacvba (Tacuba) start its set with "Olita del Altamar" ("Waves from the High Seas") from the group's 2012 album El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco. It's essentially an incantation of the magic that transpired during their performance behind Bob Boilen's desk. The lyrics sing of the comings and goings of waves, symbolic of the passage of time and fueled by the Mexican folk rhythm son jarocho, a favorite of the band's since their start almost 30 years ago.

For those that don't know their Latin music history as well as they should, it's easy to write off José Feliciano as just the guy who wrote and sang that Christmas song "Feliz Navidad." Maybe they'd be aware that he also wrote and performed the theme song to 1970's NBC sitcom Chico and the Man.

What makes a first-tier jazz legacy? A signature instrumental style, recognizable within a phrase or two. A body of exceptional recordings, in the studio and in concert. A legion of imitators, great and small. A sense of broad cultural relevance. Maybe even a hit song or two.

Kathy Mattea On Mountain Stage

Oct 11, 2018

In front of a home state crowd gathered for the Augusta Heritage Festival and Workshops in Elkins, W.V., Kathy Mattea unveils songs from her latest release, Pretty Bird.

Billy McFarland, a co-founder of the schadenfreude-rich, hospitality-poor debacle known as the Fyre Festival, has been sentenced to six years in prison and three years on probation; he also will have to pay restitution of just more than $26 million. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald presided over McFarland's sentencing in the U.S. Southern District Court in Manhattan on Thursday.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

It was surreal moment even for a White House accustomed to surreal moments.

During a meeting with President Trump, Kanye West delivered animated and wide-ranging remarks on issues from the 13th Amendment to U.S. manufacturing.

Some anniversaries are hard to celebrate. How should we greet the arrival of October, a year after the stories broke initiating the reckoning that soon became known as #MeToo? Since The New York Times and The New Yorker published their exposés — on Oct. 5 and Oct. 10 of last year, respectively — of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's long career as an alleged serial rapist, a new nationwide discussion has formed about sexual assault, abuse and harassment. Often, this ongoing reckoning feels like not a dialogue, but a war.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

KCRW welcomed Cat Power for her first live radio session behind her latest album, Wanderer. "In Your Face" features Power's vocals front and center as she strips things back for a hushed performance.

Years before Taylor Swift's ascent, the Dixie Chicks were the turn of the century's country crossover success story.

Rosanne Cash is a highly distinguished singer and songwriter. Since she released her debut in 1978, she's built a fantastic body of work. She's released thirteen studio albums with highlights including Seven Year Ache (1981), The Wheel (1993), and 2009's The List, a collection of 12 essential country songs she recorded from a list of 100 country songs that her father, Johnny Cash, gave her.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's remember this morning how Havana sounded back in the 1950s and 1960s.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Phony Ppl has grown a lot. Three years removed from the band's last album, Yesterday's Tomorrow, the five piece has undergone a lineup change, inked a deal with 300 Entertainment and refined its genre-jumping sound. Now, the Brooklyn-based group of friends returns with mō'zā-ik.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Before she was on the BBC's list of "100 inspirational and innovative women for 2017"...

Before she was given the "Diamond Ball Honors Award" by the charitable Clara Lionel Foundation started by the singing star Rihanna ...

She was Angeline Murimirwa, a little girl in Zimbabwe who loved school but was afraid she wouldn't get to continue her education.

Look: Big, dumb riffs are harder than you think. Palm-muted chugs and sidewinder pull-offs can rate on a scale of Honda Accord (safe, reliable, standard) to El Camino (muscular, mean, wild) depending on the driver who's stomping on the sonic gas pedal. Hair Puller was founded on this premise, and its 101 MPH sludge will pulverize your headbanging skull.

The past two years have been a whirlwind for Maggie Rogers.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Live From Ireland

Oct 10, 2018

Host Fiona Ritchie is feeling a little nostalgic and a lot Irish this week, delving into her radio archive to relive some of the great sets of Irish music she's aired on Thistle through the years.

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