January 5, 2010
Emerson Brown, NPR




January 5, 2010; Washington, D.C. – Beginning this week, NPR Music kicks off the new year with full advance streams of several highly anticipated albums weeks ahead of their release dates: Vampire Weekend's Contra, Spoon's Transference, Downtown Church from Patty Griffin, Master's Hand by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beach House's Teen Dream. All five will be available for free, on-demand listening in January at www.npr.org/music as part of the site's "Exclusive First Listen" series. The entire series – which includes full albums in all genres – is available at www.npr.org/firstlisten.

Two years after inescapable blog buzz trumpeted their arrival, Vampire Weekend returns with a sophomore record featuring more of the tuneful, concise pop songs they're know for – and then some. Contra maintains the trademark catchy sound that brought Vampire Weekend acclaim, with a few tweaks, including tempered enthusiasm, more synthetic beats and a broader palette. Now until January 12, the full album can be previewed here: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122213523

Spoon's sixth album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga landed in the Billboard top 10 and saw the band achieve mainstream success. Three years on, the band releases the follow-up Transference to high anticipation and expectations. Frontman Britt Daniel calls the new record "uglier" than the last and closer to the band’s demos. Fans can hear why NPR's Robin Hilton says Transference "may be Spoon's best record yet" during NPR Music's exclusive full advance preview from January 11-19. A song from the album, "Written in Reverse," is already available at All Songs Considered: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120830261

Singer-songwriter Patty Griffin explores gospel music on Downtown Church, her seventh album and first in three years. Presented in partnership with NPR Member WKSU Ohio's Folk Alley, the record will be available at NPR Music from January 15-26. Downtown Church offers Griffin's versions of 12 traditional gospel songs from artists like St. Francis of Assisi and Hank Williams, alongside two originals of her own. The album was recorded in Nashville's Downtown Presbyterian Church and features production from her friend and country-favorite Buddy Miller, along with guest contributions from Shawn Colvin, Emmylou Harris, Raul Malo and Regina McCray.

French actress and musician Charlotte Gainsbourg collaborates with Beck on her latest album, IRM. In fact, Beck wrote the music, co-wrote lyrics, and produced and mixed the album. The record is still clearly Gainsbourg's, though, as she maintains the same strong presence in its songs that she commands on screen. Gainsbourg found inspiration during the frequent MRIs she had after suffering a brain hemorrhage in 2007, saying "every time I was in that tube I was thinking it would make great music." Her artistic interpretation of the procedure can be heard January 18-26 at NPR Music.

Like Patty Griffin, the final band featured in this month's "Exclusive First Listens" chose to record their album in a place of worship. Baltimore-based duo Beach House worked on its third album at the church-converted-to-studio Dreamland with producer/engineer Chris Coady. The record, Teen Dream, finds Coady (who has worked with TV on the Radio and theYeah, Yeah, Yeahs) helping the band expand its sound through lush production and extra instrumentation. The full album preview at NPR Music January 18-26 reveals if the sun is finally rising on the once eternally bleak Beach House.

Complete track listings and album information are available at NPR Music, where there are also extensive archives of concerts, interviews and reviews with artists of all genres. NPR Music introduced its "Exclusive First Listen" series last year with Bob Dylan's 2-CD set Tell Tale Signs. The series is now one of the site's most popular features, and has offered pre-release streams of albums from artists such as Wilco, Bjork, Rosanne Cash and the Dead Weather. In addition to the streams detailed in this release, the series also currently includes Laura Viers' July Flame and is frequently updated with new material.

The "Exclusive First Listen" series is one feature of NPR Music, a free, multimedia music discovery Web site at www.npr.org/music. The site offers content from NPR and 12 NPR Member public radio stations, including live performances, studio sessions, first listens to new albums, interviews, reviews and blogs. The site's continuously expanding sections are dedicated to rock/pop/folk, classical, jazz/blues, world and urban music. NPR Music culls from NPR's and the stations' extensive music archives to present thousands of features; more than 250 new features are added to the site every month.