Music

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the monthly bale of sunflower seeds we've decided to order from Amazon Prime via subscription is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for advice on when and where it's courteous to wear headphones in public.

Brian Bowen writes via Facebook: "When is it OK to wear headphones in public — in transit, at work, during events large or small, standing in line at the post office, etc.?"

KCRW Presents: The National

Aug 22, 2013

When The National came through the Morning Becomes Eclectic studios, the band was in the midst of a sizable tour, including two sold-out shows in Los Angeles. Drummer Bryan Devendorf opted out of the morning session to nurse a bad back, so we ended up with a pared-down and intimate performance, with Matt Berninger's emotive voice guiding the way. The result was a chance to hear songs like "I Should Live In Salt" through different angles — a must for any fan.

Stephen Kellogg On Mountain Stage

Aug 21, 2013

Singer-songwriter Stephen Kellogg is one of the nicest guys ever to play Mountain Stage. Mere seconds before his performance began, a heavy writing desk that was anchored to the backstage wall came lose, and Stephen was there to catch it – and hold it, with his guitar in the other hand – until a pair of stagehands relieved him.

Viking's Choice: Windhand, 'Orchard'

Aug 20, 2013

Windhand is one of those body-rattling bands whose decibels clobber the smoke-filled air. This is especially true in a live setting, in which masses of people are drawn to the riffs like moths. The Richmond stoner-metal band gets close to that desperately heavy live vibe on its second album, Soma, especially in "Orchard."

Did you want to hear how a song evolves? How a single spark of inspiration transforms into words and then melody and finally a fully produced complex production?

Jordon Gieger, known by the moniker Hospital Ships, has unveiled his journey as a songwriter for us. "Desolation Waltz" is a song Geiger began writing in Columbus, Ohio after "listening to a very fiery preacher on the radio, who would break into little melodies in the middle of his sermons. I decided to write songs a capella, in my car."

All Songs Considered co-host Robin Hilton has been feeling a little dazed and confused lately, so host Bob Boilen gives him a "sonic hug" with a new song from the Austin, Texas rock band The Octopus Project. Robin follows with a surprising cut from the first new Nine Inch Nails album in five years. NPR's Sami Yenigun brings a healthy dose of dance beats from Seven Davis Jr.

When I first saw The Front Bottoms, I was stunned to see 350-plus singing, shouting club-goers repeat verse after complicated verse back at singer Brian Sella. Then it happened again at a hot, sweaty club in Philadelphia, and later in D.C., and then again in Baltimore. The community that's formed around these songs — as total strangers purge deep emotions in a public space — is a beautiful phenomenon, a testament to the passion and compassion that this band radiates.

Almost 10 years after "Take Me Out" helped the band break through commercially, win a Mercury Prize and craft a zeitgeist-defining sound — and two years after a rumored breakup — Franz Ferdinand returns with its first new album since 2009. It's the Glaswegian dance-rock ambassadors' best work since their 2004 arrival: Confident and freshly energized, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action captures the ease of pressure that comes with knowing that a decade-old band can't be co-opted as a cool new thing.

Camera Obscura On World Cafe

Aug 16, 2013

Heartbreak has long resided at the center of Tracyanne Campbell's songs for Camera Obscura. Remember, she's the one who wrote a song responding to Lloyd Cole's "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" — naturally, it's titled "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken."

August is shaping up to be American music month in Shanghai. Metallica, the legendary heavy metal band, has just wrapped up its long-awaited China debut with two packed shows at the city's Mercedes-Benz Arena. This weekend, Limp Bizkit headlines a two-day festival. Next week, Aerosmith plays a Shanghai soccer stadium followed by a concert by Pitbull, the Cuban-American rapper from Miami.

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