So much of music is about longing, navigating life's unexpected moments with curiosity, searching for clarity and better understanding. All of this is pieced together beautifully on Ray Bonneville's new album, Easy Gone.
Ever since I moved to Mexico City, I've been overwhelmed by the amount of music at my fingertips. I'm not just talking about amazing concerts: So many artists from all over Latin America live here in Mexico, and I love being here to check in on their creative process.
We started the series Mi Casa Es Tu Casa with Fusion based on that concept; the idea of catching musicians in their most comfortable setting, and having them go beyond performances and into the DNA of their art.
Beck kept busy during his six-year hiatus between studio albums. Earlier this year, he returned with the gorgeously melancholy Morning Phase, a highlight of his already impressive catalog. With only a handful of live shows under his belt this year, the L.A. native recently played in his hometown for the first time since the new album's relelase. When he took to a small stage in Santa Monica for KCRW fans, he shared old songs and new favorites like this sweeping ballad, "Blue Moon."
Once you're able to see this three-song set by the band Johnnyswim, NPR Music will have published exactly 350 Tiny Desk Concerts — so we've developed a pretty good sense of when a set will stick in our memories for a while. We intuited, for example, that Adele was about to become a dominant force shortly after she breezed into our offices.
The boozy blues of obsession and regret have never sounded so good — at least not in the last 16 years, which is how long it's been since The Afghan Whigs released an album. But while other '90s bands have cashed in with 20- and 25-year anniversary reunions and reissues of past classics, Greg Dulli and his band have returned to form with a new album of tantalizingly dark, soul-infused rock.
It's right there in the band's name, but the music of Quilt is truly a tapestry. Its songs are made of small bits of verses and choruses that, heard individually, may not seem to fit. But in the hands and voices of this band, they stitch together beautifully. Interweaving harmonies and guitar lines from Anna Fox Rochinski and Shane Butler set the tone for these tunes — soft and benevolent, dreamy and quivering, with poetry that's thoughtful and playful. The opening song at this Tiny Desk Concert, "Arctic Shark," questions and enchants.
For her sixth album Food, R&B singer Kelis once again explores a new style with the help of a talented producer. This time, it's TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, who eased her transition from dance diva to a sound more rooted in funk, soul and gospel. On a recent night in Santa Monica, Kelis packed a 12-member soul band onto the small stage at Apogee Studio to showcase her new songs, including "Friday Fish Fry."
Pianist, composer, improviser and 2013 MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer has built a career of making musical connections. Increasingly recognized as one of the most inventive musicians working today, he received an interdisciplinary Ph.D.