Bob Boilen

Coming to America to record her first official music seems so appropriate when you first hear to 19-year-old British singer Jade Bird. Her phrasing and accent feel as if they'd be as at home in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York as they would on Nashville radio.

You'll want to listen to this week's show on a good pair of headphones, preferably in the dark and, if you take drummer Ian Chang's advice, while getting a massage. We open the program with a spine-tingling cut called "ASMR," from Chang's debut solo EP, an arresting instrumental piece inspired by the inexplicable chills that sometimes run down your back. It's just the first in a series of sonic delights on the show.

So many songs have taken on new meaning over the past nine months or so. Ask Van William about his song "Revolution" and he'll tell you that it "started as a song about the anxieties of being in a relationship, where both people want to fix its broken parts, but disagree on the means," but "became something else during and after the 2016 election."

It might be easy to dismiss Declan McKenna as a young kid who writes catchy pop songs, but he's so much more than that. The 18-year-old Brit's debut album, What Do You Think About The Car?, proves that this young man has a tall talent for mixing politics, poetry and melody.

When Josh Ritter began to write new songs, he felt an absolute impending storm. And this singer, songwriter, painter and author, with almost twenty years of songwriting behind him, began looking for a new way to approach his muse.

On this edition of All Songs Considered, hear Josh Ritter talk about the creative process for his soon-to-be-released album Gathering, along with a premiere of his new song "Showboat," or read his essay below. — Bob Boilen

For just 15 minutes on a glorious spring day in Washington, D.C. — the town that birthed "emocore" three decades ago — National Public Radio became National Puppet Radio. Rarely has a news organization had this much fun.

With a meandering, six-minute-plus sci-fi-sounding opening track, it was clear that Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner was out to make music that was beyond the three-minute-pop found on her solo debut, Pyschopomp. The more I dug into Soft Sounds From Another Planet, Zauner's follow-up album, the more I wanted to know.

Jay Som is the project of 23-year-old Melina Duterte, who has been creating music for the past 10 years or so on a multitude of instruments, from guitar to trumpet. Though she played every instrument on her newest record Everybody Works, her touring band here at the Tiny Desk gave a rougher edge to some of the more premeditated sounds on her wonderful album.

Of the three songs they chose to bring to the Tiny Desk, one was a personal favorite from Everybody Works: "The Bus Song," which is a perfect swirl of stream-of-consciousness:

Ethereal and catchy don't often make a perfect pair within pop music, but the combination is exactly what hooked me on VON GREY, an Atlanta trio formed by the siblings Kathryn, Annika and Fiona von Grey.

The trio has classical music training, on cello and violins, but go further afield, as well; a Moog bass pedal, a mandolin a banjo. VON GREY have been making music publicly for the past six years, releasing their self-titled debut EP in 2012, the Awakening EP in 2014 and the Panophobia EP in 2015.

The Norwegian songwriter and singer Siv Jakobsen seems to fill her tunes with a storm of lyrical tension, sung over a sea of instrumental calm — her new album, The Nordic Mellow, is not always as intense as the song we're premiering today, "Shallow Digger," would lead you to believe. (The high-powered arrangements here, in fact, remind me of Led Zeppelin's thunderous "Immigrant Song.")

Algiers new album The Underside Of Power is one of 2017's most ambitious and intense records. I love it — but sometimes I have to just have to hit pause. There's a fierceness both in subject and sound and source, including speeches from Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers, bold and dark lyrical imagery of death and rage, sounds of people weeping, drones, chimes and what at times feels like the entire history of rock, gospel and R&B wrapped into fifty-one minutes. There's a lot to unpack here.

If Jen Cloher's music has the driving, wandering feel of Courtney Barnett, it's because their lives are inextricably intertwined. The two poets and singers are a married couple; they're co-founders of Melbourne's Milk! Records; and, in this new song from Jen Cloher, you can hear Barnett's guitar along with her bassist, Bones Sloane.

The music of Penguin Cafe is like no other. Its origins date back to the early '70s, within fever dreams Simon Jeffes had that were brought on by food poisoning. In those dreams he imagined a dispassionate world "where everyone lived in big concrete blocks and spent their lives looking into screens. In one room, there was a couple making love lovelessly. In another there was a musician sat at a vast array of equipment, but with headphones on, so there was no actual music in the room." Eerily accurate.

There's a stunning project by a handful of music's current big-thinkers: composer Nico Muhly, songwriter and singer Sufjan Stevens and guitarist-composer Bryce Dessner of The National. The trio, along with percussionist James McAlister, have created Planetarium, an existential song cycle that confronts both the heavens and the human condition in a marriage of hypnotic sound and song.

Guest DJ: alt-J

Jun 6, 2017

The last time we saw singer Monica Martin at the Tiny Desk she was singing with Phox, her folky, poppy band based in Madison, Wisconsin. But, while that band is on hiatus, Martin took time to walk into the world of Violents, the project of pianist, string arranger and songwriter Jeremy Larson. Larson and Martin make a lovely pair and have created a subtle, soulful record — Awake And Pretty Much Sober — that benefits greatly from Laron's classical training.

alt-J's art-rock weaves dark, seductive and otherworldly tales that lean heavily on folk traditions — their version of "House of the Rising Sun," their inclusion of lines from the Irish tune "The Auld Triangle" in "Adeline" and the Shakespearean references in "3WW" come first to mind.

"Oh, these three worn words
Oh, that we whisper


Like the rubbing hands
Of tourists in Verona
I just want to love you in my own language"

Our 2017 Tiny Desk Contest has come to an end.

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.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band turns 50 next week — so what's been done to celebrate one of the greatest records ever? They've remixed the entire album! The word "remix," in fact, may not capture the scope of the project — it's more like someone rebuilt a pyramid with fresh bricks. But a question remains: Why would anyone do so? I traveled to New York to meet Giles Martin, who spearheaded the project, to find that out.

The contours of Pokey LaFarge's music have always evoked a time before he was born, but the here-and-now is center stage in the themes and messaging within.

On February 28, 1967, The Beatles were in Abbey Road Studios in London working on a new song, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Today we're premiering "take one," the first attempt The Beatles made at recording it.

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