Erin McKeown's Manifestra comes out Jan. 15, 2013.
Merri Cyr/Courtesy of the artist
December 30, 2012 Manifestra often mutes the singer-songwriter's genre-shredding side in favor of pointed folk songs about foreign policy, the death penalty and income inequality. Still, there's a certain springiness to the arrangements, thanks to a crack band whose horns, keyboards and strings exude elasticity.
The Chipmunks, left to right: Simon, Theodore, Alvin.
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December 24, 2012 Like egg nog and advent calendars, Christmas songs pop up everywhere for a month and then disappear, only to be repackaged and resold 11 months later. Some of the biggest-selling and most frequently reissued holiday music of all time comes from three animated rodents.
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Virtually every genre of music yields enough new material to overwhelm even the most dedicated listener.
December 13, 2012 How do you become a fan on forbidding genres when you're coming in cold? Tips on approachable entry points, asking questions, joining communities and otherwise making yourself available to new music and new experiences.
Japandroids' music celebrates the joy of a life lived loudly.
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December 12, 2012 It was a tremendous year for upbeat music that reflected on aging and ennui in wise, wonderful ways. But 2012 also brought sweet summer anthems, infectious pop, ruminative ballads, vintage soul and a whole lot more.
Lyle Lovett performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Nov. 13, 2012.
December 10, 2012 Lovett gives a loose, engaging performance that feels like both an introduction and a victory lap. With a fresh-faced accompanist in fiddler and backup singer Luke Bulla, Lovett digs way back into his early archives here: All three of these songs are from his beginnings in the late '80s.
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Anais Mitchell performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 23, 2012.
December 6, 2012 Singing and playing alongside guitarist and longtime collaborator Michael Chorney, the Vermont singer-songwriter performs three of Young Man in America's most bracingly beautiful songs with clear-eyed directness that requires no adornment.
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Martha Wainwright performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 15, 2012.
Ryan Smith/Ryan Smith/NPR
November 26, 2012 Wainwright does the opposite of sugarcoating: She roughs up life's smooth spots, then digs her fingertips into the cracks that form. Watch her perform three songs from her new album, Come Home to Mama, in the NPR Music offices.
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Sufjan Stevens released Silver & Gold Nov. 13.
Denny Renshaw/Courtesy of the artist
November 25, 2012 Stevens views the holidays as a labor of love — worthy of creativity and care, hard work and an ocean of ideas. In Silver & Gold's nearly three hours of music, impeccable grace never strays far from playful ridiculousness.
Tracey Thorn's album Tinsel and Lights was released Oct. 30.
Edward Bishop/Courtesy of the artist
November 25, 2012 Not since Aimee Mann's One More Drifter in the Snow has a collection of seasonal music been so finely engineered to locate the holidays' melancholy side. But Tinsel and Lights is as warmly rendered as it is achingly bittersweet.
With so much new music, who has time to listen to this? And with all this old music, who has time to listen to the new stuff?
November 21, 2012 Answers to readers' questions on balancing old favorites with new discoveries, finding accessible entry points into forbidding catalogs, the etiquette of taste-making, and more.
Benjamin Gibbard performs a Tiny Desk Concert at the NPR Music offices on Nov. 8, 2012.
November 19, 2012 For this, the 250th Tiny Desk Concert, the Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service singer performs solo and unadorned, with just an acoustic guitar to back him up. Hear Gibbard perform a new song, a little-heard track from 2011, and "St. Peter's Cathedral" from Death Cab's Codes and Keys.
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Don't dare besmirch the good name of Carly Rae Jepsen.
Vanessa Heins/Courtesy of the artist
November 14, 2012 How do you maintain your dignity as a music snob without alienating others? We answer that question, along with queries about Taylor Swift, avoiding enemies and teaching your children about Phish.
Ra Ra Riot.
Shervin Lainez/Courtesy of the artist
November 12, 2012 Download the fizzily catchy title track from Ra Ra Riot's new album, which comes out Jan. 22, 2013. "Beta Love" is the sound of a band that's left a lot of its grandiosity behind, but the band's intellectual curiosity remains intact.
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November 8, 2012 Joy Williams and John Paul White have built a sound in which warmth seeps out of every note. The pair recently announced a hiatus, but before that, they performed this live version of "Kingdom Come."
Artwork for Every Breathe You Take: The Singles by The Police.
Courtesy of the artist
November 7, 2012 A reader asks for tips on making a mix tape that doesn't imply they're a potential stalker. One answer: Steer clear of The Police's "Every Breath You Take."
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