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

Carla Morrison's music exists in a private emotional space where she can address joys, heartbreaks and secret desires. But her words also speak to larger pursuits in life: family, career, child-rearing, friendship, lifelong relationships. There are lessons in her delicate voice if you listen for the deeper meanings.

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

First Watch: Des Ark, 'Snake Stuff'

Oct 28, 2015

Aimee Argote's voice has the power to bring music to life. The Des Ark singer, guitarist and founder can invigorate a song with her soft, compelling vocals. In the band's new video, her simple routine brings to life a wooden figurine, which dances wildly, snakes in hand, around a fire — a contrast to the gentle music and sentimental words.

Ezra Furman On World Cafe

Oct 28, 2015

For years, Chicago singer-songwriter Ezra Furman had been operating under the idea that meeting the audience's expectations was more important than being true to himself — and it was not working. Nine and a half years into his career, he hit bottom and decided that his 2013 album, Day Of The Dog, would be his last. But then, Furman began to openly embrace and discuss his own gender fluidity, and his career broke open in the U.K. and spread from there.

It was a moment of television magic. I heard a brand new song from my favorite band and saw them on film, walking around and riding horses. If the expression "my mind was blown" had been created, I'd have phoned up my friends and told them that. All I can remember saying to my friends after seeing The Beatles' "Penny Lane" film is, "That was boss!" And now that film is back and more beautiful than ever.

Verses are overrated. If your song has a chorus with a walloping right hook, why risk the wind-up? The New York noise-punk trio Cold Sweats spends very little time with a throbbing, Pixies-indebted bass line in "Hater Failure" before lunging into the festering cherry on top.

The anarchist pop-punk band Martha took us by surprise last year with Courting Strong, a debut full-length of high-energy, three-chord sing-alongs that bucked the odds to land a spot on NPR Music's 50 Favorite Albums Of 2014 list.

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Alberta Cross On World Cafe

Oct 27, 2015

Given roots-rock band Alberta Cross' apparent influences, like The Band and Neil Young, you might assume that the group is American. In reality, it formed in the U.K., and bandleader Petter Ericson Stakee is originally from Uppsala, Sweden.

Le Volume Courbe is the music of Charlotte Marionneau and her friends. On her second album those friends include names you'll know, like Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine, and names you'll want to know, like Melanie Draisey, Chris Mackin, Lascelle Gordon and more.