July 15, 2008 "Cath..." contains enough fodder for a feature-length think piece on the state of Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard's mind. A look at a young star whose fleeting fame can't mask her gnawing sadness, the song practically begs to be picked apart, its narrator psychoanalyzed for good measure.
July 14, 2008 By the time Lou Barlow opens his mouth to sing, Sebadoh's 1993 single "Soul and Fire" has already conveyed a knotty bundle of conflicting emotions: They're all there in the aching, deliberately paced opening notes. From there, Barlow catalogs a relationship's combustible ingredients before announcing, "I think our love is coming to an end."
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/92513808/92512764" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
July 10, 2008 Sera Cahoone got her start playing drums for a few widely adored bands in the Pacific Northwest. But her self-titled, self-released 2006 album marked her as a fully formed talent.
July 1, 2008 Unabashedly cheerful, Bulat's "In the Night" is a perfect slab of shimmering girl-group pop, but it's no mere throwback gimmick. A young singer-songwriter from Toronto, Bulat invests the track with graceful effervescence and an innate understanding of momentum.
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/90398609/90386752" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
June 18, 2008 Throughout "In the Evening," which Dalton would later record for her studio debut, she infuses a Leroy Carr song with bluesy, woozy weariness, drawing the sorrow out of every note. It's hard not to view the track through the prism of Dalton's haunted life.
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/91632808/91629853" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
June 16, 2008 Where Yo La Tengo's "Tears Are in Your Eyes" possesses the heavy-lidded feel of shared sorrow (with a reassuring hint of optimism), Adem's cover opts for a tone of comparative comfort. His version also functions as a sort of Cliffs Notes to what Adem is all about: a figurative glass of warm milk for a world of nervous stomachs.
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/91546576/91546202" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
June 5, 2008 When driving long distances, the crushing exhaustion and faceless landscapes can fade from memory in a nanosecond when accompanied by the perfect piece of adrenaline-infused music. These five tracks serve that purpose beautifully, so be sure to put them on for those moments when the landmarks are starting to whiz by in a joyously indistinct blur.
May 30, 2008 Minus the Bear's mystifyingly titled "I'm Totally Not Down with Rob's Alien," from the newly remastered and reissued 2004 EP They Make Beer Commercials Like This, houses a gorgeous, warmly rendered reflection on alienation and the bliss of youthful solitude.
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/90987926/90988167" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
May 28, 2008 As dark as it gets, "Skinny Love," with its unforgettable steel-guitar hook, is too gorgeous to function as a true downer. Shout-along fodder for melancholy late-night drives, it announces Bon Iver as a budding powerhouse, not so much promising as fully formed.
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/18331318/18164282" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
May 23, 2008 The band's new album is dark and graceful, intermittently rocking, and uniformly excellent, making it an ideal showpiece for a band five albums into its career, yet still largely unknown on a grand scale. Best of all is the sort-of title track "Rooks."
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/90740088/90742250" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
May 22, 2008 Nada Surf singer Matthew Caws has one of the kindest voices in rock, but "See These Bones" finds the band opting to dispense its feel-goodery through a heart-swelling arrangement that builds power as it progresses through five glorious minutes.
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/17988379/17973892" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
April 22, 2008 Walsh finds the loveliest possible melodies in "Your Song" ("I'm stuck on a boy who fills me with joy"), strolling right up to the line between innocent and cloying without winding up on the wrong side of it. Throughout the song, Walsh's vocal aches with the weight of the highest possible stakes.
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/89834846/89834595" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
March 17, 2008 Last week, 1,700 bands converged on Austin, Texas, for the annual South by Southwest music festival. From a Chinese woman who sings AC/DC covers to a singer whose songs are like foot rubs at the end of a long night out, the music brought out power and beauty in unexpected places.
<iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/88362941/88382438" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
March 16, 2008 My mischievous old laptop picked SXSW as the time to commence its long-anticipated death rattle. And, as if faced with the imminent passing of a wealthy relative, I'm both crestfallen over the looming loss and hoping against hope that it leaves me...
March 16, 2008 From now on, if I want to see a understated and under-promoted singer-songwriter perform at SXSW, I'm going to record that person playing in an alley and post it to the site. I just saw two of my favorite young singer-songwriters in separate conce...
NPR thanks our sponsors
Become an NPR sponsor