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Music

"Stop asking musicians what they think." That is the opening line of the song "1933" on Frank Turner's new album Be More Kind, and a directive I was very happy to ignore when we sat down to talk about his music. Turner is clearly a deep thinker who values discussion and debate as fundamental parts of healthy society, in his words: "How do you have a conversation with someone you disagree with?"

Roy Montgomery's music is like swimming through phantoms, each entity a haunting, illuminating new spectral phase. It was Montgomery's guitar work and deep, warbling vocals that have disoriented far-out New Zealand rock bands like The Pin Group, Dadamah and Dissolve, along with his solo material, since the 1980s. But Montgomery has always been self-effacing about his own voice: "It's lazy," he told Perfect Sound Forever in 2003.

People who love the band Dawes really love the band Dawes. Songwriting and musicianship aside, I think one of the things fans latch on to is that this is a band that feels like a good hang. The band's current lineup includes Taylor Goldsmith, along with his brother Griffin on drums, Wylie Gelber on bass; and Lee Pardini on keys. Whether you listen to its records on long car rides or in college dorm rooms or in dive bars or at wedding receptions, Dawes feels like good company.

A couple years ago, The Record Company released its debut album and earned a a Grammy nomination, a few hits, sold-out headlining shows, late night TV appearances — you get the idea — all off the strength of that one record made in bass player Alex Stiff's living room in LA. This is a surprisingly sharp trajectory if you know anything about how the music business works. But it's not surprising if you know how the band itself works.

Elvis Costello has canceled his remaining European tour dates through July 16 to recover from surgery of an "aggressive cancerous malignancy," according to a statement on his website.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Over the years, some bands who've released recording debuts have launched their careers with a single from the album that, in many cases, was the first song on the first side of their record. In the business, these songs are called "lead-off tracks," denoting the first in a series of songs on an album.

Musicians visiting Austin are often asked to play in some pretty unusual places. Like, for instance, the unfinished hallway of a KUTX staff member's East Austin home. But for Brent Cowles, the spartan setting provided the perfect opportunity to strip his 2017 single "Cold Times" down to the bare essentials and let his powerful vocals take center stage.

The 7-inch sat in my college dorm room, unplayed but displayed — a bright pink foldover cover with red lettering and a crude drawing of two dashing men. There wasn't a way to hear the songs outside of a turntable (at the time, still sitting in my parents' living room), no digital copy available. When you mail-ordered a record, you listened to the record, not the MP3s from a download card.

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