Bard Ylvisaker (L) and Vegard Ylvisaker of Ylvis perform "The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)" in September.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
December 23, 2013 At the end of a year in which pop songs were a constant, provocative part of the national conversation, NPR Music critic Ann Powers sifts through the 100 most popular songs of the year to highlight 10 pure pop pleasures worth remembering.
December 16, 2013 The year in music included so many outstanding songs and albums by women that it's easy to come up with an all-female top 10.
Lorde performs in Sydney, Australia, in October.
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
December 5, 2013 The story of 2013's wild-haired teenage pop phenomenon has more than a few parallels with the 1991 emergence of grunge kingpins Nirvana, but recast for the millennial age.
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Jake Bugg's new album, Shangri La, comes out Nov. 19.
Courtesy of the artist
November 14, 2013 The 19-year-old Bugg is both a rebel and a natural-born hitmaker, expressing anger, hope and the desire for change within melodies that sound totally right for the radio.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave.
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
November 13, 2013 Director Steve McQueen semi-submerged a narrative that roots out the way music has fed both racism and the fight against it, from the time in which his hero Solomon Northup lived to the present.
Ma Rainey Georgia Jazz Band posing for a studio group shot in the mid-1920s, with Thomas A. Dorsey at the piano.
JP Jazz Archive/Redferns
November 1, 2013 Listening to lost sounds, even in gorgeous new packages, isn't all that's needed when it comes to really understanding how popular music has shaped Americans' lives.
Luscious Jackson's new album, Magic Hour, comes out Nov. 5.
Doug Seymour/Courtesy of the artist
October 27, 2013 The group produced some of the most pleasurable alternative rock of the '90s, and is back with its first new album in fourteen years. The ten new songs on Magic Hour go down easy, with lessons in fun, loyalty and self-appreciation.
Lou Reed onstage in Amsterdam in 1975.
October 27, 2013 Reed made me realize that, for all of my self-stylings as a rebel in love with noise that stripped away the unnecessary, I didn't know the first thing about rock music inflicting the pain of clarity.
Brandy Clark's new album, 12 Stories, comes out Oct. 22.
Becky Fluke/Courtesy of the artist
October 13, 2013 Clark specializes in intimate observations that make country songs believable rather than cliched. Often compared to Loretta Lynn, Clark is just as indebted to countrypolitan-era legends like Harlan Howard and '80s greats like K.T. Oslin — songwriters skilled at exposing how the more things change, the more people stay the same.
October 10, 2013 Christopher Denny's high Southern warble and gift for singing was nearly lost to addiction and poverty. But he pulled himself out last year and is back with a daring cover of My Morning Jacket's "Bermuda Highway."
HAIM's new album, Days Are Gone, comes out Sept. 30.
Bella Howard/Courtesy of the artist
September 25, 2013 On their debut album, three sisters channel influences most listeners will recognize within a fresh, personal sound. In front of the microphone, Danielle, Alana and Este Haim retell pop's central stories in a language that's true to young women like themselves.
Drake performing in Paris last April.
David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images
September 18, 2013 In unstable times likes ours, and on both "Blurred Lines" and "Hold On, We're Going Home," the good girl's temptation or redemption resurfaces as a theme.
P.M. Dawn, sometime in the '90s.
September 13, 2013 We all know what's most often excavated: Nirvana's roar, Biggie's cool murmur, the futuristic sigh of Aaliyah. But there's more to the decade than those obvious landmarks.
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Elvis Costello and The Roots' new album, Wise Up Ghost, comes out Sept. 17.
Danny Clinch/Courtesy of the artist
September 8, 2013 Recorded in a year's worth of experimental sessions, Wise Up Ghost sounds like the best of Costello's stuff, and like nothing he's done before. Working with musicians who've figured out how to apply hip-hop principles to a band dynamic, Costello locates himself within that framework to produce some of the most focused and visionary work of his later career.
Eddie Stubbs (left), DJ at Nashville's WSM, and Alan Jackson onstage at The Station Inn last Tuesday.
Bill Thorup/Courtesy of Universal Nashville
September 5, 2013 Three Nashville shows remind me that country is a genre of music that's constantly changing, even if it's deceptively homespun.
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