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The Musical Universe

 

Cincinnati Opera has premiered a new opera that chronicles the stories of six people wrongfully convicted in Ohio and in the process, puts America's criminal justice system on trial.

We're in a hammock state of mind with CAAMP. The band was formed in Athens, Ohio by old friends Taylor Meier, who sings and plays guitar, and banjo player Evan Westfall. They later added bass player Matt Vinson.

Every summer, Alt.Latino hits the road to attend the three largest Latin music festivals and it gets harder and harder to catch it all.

Art Neville's life in music can be described as a straight line, connected directly to rock and roll's first notes. In the first half of the 1950s, musicians were recording R&B tracks — the foundations of rock and roll — at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studios, led of course by Fats Domino, who recorded his first record there in 1949. Art was never a Fats, but nonetheless was foundational to helping shape the contours of popular music.

In the spring of 2016, an A&R executive working for RCA Records named Tunji Balogun came across a song that had been uploaded onto SoundCloud a few months prior. It was called "Stuck On U," a wistful, folky but rap-aware two-and-a-half minutes written and performed — in one take, as its singer says at its opening — by a teenager already going by only his first name: Khalid.

This month marks 60 years since the very first Newport Folk Festival. NPR has been covering the event since its rebirth in 2008. Jay Sweet, now the executive producer, was mostly responsible for the festival's revival, booking unexpected bands and reinvigorating the spirit of the annual gathering. It's long been a place where musicians would collaborate and make music often steeped in social justice.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A lot of the songs by the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit are dark, like wince-when-you-listen-to-the-lyrics dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE TWIST")

One of New Orleans' iconic musicians has died. Art Neville — a founding member of both the Meters and the Neville Brothers, died Monday at age 81. His death was confirmed by his nephew Ivan Neville (the son of Art's brother, Aaron) and his manager of two decades, Kent Sorrell. According to Nola.com, he had been in declining health for years.

Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" rode right into its 16th week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 today, tying the record for longest consecutive time in the top spot.

Since Lukas Nelson's last World Cafe visit with his group, Promise of the Real, he's been busy, to say the least. First, he's been continuing his work as Neil Young's band.

Several years ago, NPR Music published a series of stories that measured up the aggressively nascent space of music streaming, which had finally — after either four, 15 or nearly 100 years, depending on where you mark the technology's beginnings — achieved an irreversible momentum, and which was rapidly and dramatically shifting people's relationships to music, and the arc of artists' careers. We titled it, appropriately, "Streaming At The Tipping Point."

It's tough to recall a time when listening to music — and making it — wasn't completely synonymous with streaming. The idea of filling an iPod up with carefully selected digital files almost feels like a distant memory, though it wasn't that long ago that these kinds of players, and the digital library of songs you built through them, embodied the future of music.

Opera is an art form well-suited to big emotions and tragic stories, often set in the past. But a new opera, Blue, grapples with a more contemporary tragedy — the killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of a police officer.

A Special Tune Marked Apollo 11

Jul 21, 2019

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And to close the show, here is a bit of forgotten moon landing history. Fifty years ago, as televisions around the world were tuning into the lunar landing, ABC News had a smart idea about how to fill some of that anticipation time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Over the past 16 years, the musician Tycho has emerged as a titan in the ambient electronic scene. Tycho, whose real name is Scott Hansen, is known for crafting dreamy, atmospheric instrumentals that are often described as "chill," "expansive" and even "transcendent."

But for his fifth full-length album, Weather, out now, Hansen did something no one ever thought he'd do — he added vocals. To be specific, he added the vocals of Hannah Cottrell, also known as Saint Sinner.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

And finally today, one of the definitive songs of the summer so far has been "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OLD TOWN ROAD")

LIL NAS X: (Singing) Riding on a horse - ha. You can whip your Porsche. I've been in the valley, you ain't been up off that porch. Now, can't nobody tell me nothing.

MCCAMMON: Is it rap? Is it country? That's the question that's been playing out for a while now, sparked by the song's removal from Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart back in March. And then along came a new song.

An NPR Listener Shares His Signature Song

Jul 20, 2019

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This summer, we're hearing about your signature song, a song that's become almost a part of you, like BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music. Today, we hear from one man about a song he calls the warmest blanket that exists.

In his vast catalog of music, Radiohead's Thom Yorke has trembled like a broken man on his knees. He has screamed in tormented six-part harmony; he has manic-whispered diaries worth of existential fear. Still, he just can't shake the techno-dread. Most recently, that dread has manifested in Yorke's third solo project, ANIMA, released on June 27.

When I spoke to Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney about their new album, Let's Rock!, as The Black Keys, they joked around about themselves a lot.

YouTube

After a year of build-up, King Princess has finally announced her debut album, Cheap Queen, and dropped its s

In 1985, a team of country-music legends formed The Highwaymen, a supergroup combining the talents of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

The Lion King: The Gift, Beyoncé's executive-produced album inspired by the 2019 motion picture, has been delivered.

I told this story on the 40th anniversary of the first moonwalk, but on this 50th anniversary, like grandpa, I'll tell it again.

It was July 20, 1969 and I had tickets to see the supergroup of supergroups: Blind Faith. I was psyched until I realized that it was to be the night of the very first manned moon landing — and the very first time a human would walk on the moon.

Ready for more Disney déjà vu? The Lion King is the latest software update to one of Disney's beloved animated movies, this time featuring photo-realistic graphics — and Beyoncé. The musical performances are all new, but it's the same classic songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, and composer Hans Zimmer also returned to Pride Rock with an upgraded version of his Oscar-winning score from 25 years ago.

We've been covering Priests, this fabulous, punk-infused art band, since 2013. I've seen them a lot (they're based here in D.C.). So the request of an upright piano was the last thing I expected when singer Katie Alice Greer and guitarist G.L. Jaguar talked about doing a Tiny Desk Concert. But we wheeled the Yamaha upright in place and they invited their accompanist Mary Voutsas to join bandmates Daniele Yandel and Alexandra Tyson. What we have is a kinder, gentler and starker version of this great band.

Nearly 40 years into their career, The Flaming Lips remain remarkably ageless and endlessly creative. They return this week with another heady, psychedelic pop record inspired by a surreal art installation by frontman Wayne Coyne. On this week's New Music Friday, we climb inside the band's kaleidoscopic new record, The King's Mouth.

From 1978 to 1984, Patrice Rushen recorded a series of hits for Elektra Records that helped define the sound of late-era disco and R&B.

Blink and you might miss a priceless bit of fly-by news footage in a new documentary about rocker David Crosby, he of the sixties bands The Byrds and endlessly self-dissolving combinations of Crosby, Still, Nash and Young. Emerging from a spell in prison for gun possession and drug abuse in the mid-'80s, Crosby — shorn of his signature walrus mustache, knitted cap, and cocksure charisma — might easily be mistaken for a low-level clerk in a button-down shirt and nondescript pants belted over an ample paunch.

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