Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey

As with the best Van Morrison songs, "Transformation" billows out from its oft-repeated refrain. The lead single off Morrison's upcoming Roll With The Punches (out Sept. 22) consists largely of the 71-year-old Irish singer belting "gonna be a transformation" over a triumphant soul progression. But if there's been a transformation in Morrison over his long career, it isn't evident here. This is a soaring bit of classic Morrison roots-soul — and his best outing in recent years.

There's a trace of Charlie Chaplin's The Little Tramp in the way Courtney Marie Andrews struts her way through The Family Grocer in the new video for "Irene." Her character works for a small-minded manager at a local grocery store in rural Washington state. Playful at heart, she is a constant disappointment to her employer, whose managerial responsibility seems to be consumed entirely by containing Andrews' joie de vivre. Few characters could do justice to the irrepressible heart of this sweet, uplifting song — this one does.

By the end of the beautiful video for "I Would," Slow Dancer is cloaked in muddied white fur and dancing with ecstatic abandon on a frigid beach in Melbourne, Australia. If you don't know the romantic Australian singer-songwriter, you couldn't ask for a better introduction — it's a moment that captures the warmth, nostalgia and yearning that animates his work.

Everyone in the East Nashville band Cordovas is a lead vocalist. The country-rock group is committed to the sound of brotherhood — a few voices sharing a feeling. Nowhere is that clearer than on the tender ballad "I'm The One Who Needs You Tonight," off the band's upcoming record That Santa Fe Channel.

Early on a spring morning in Manhattan, Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and Nadia Sirota gathered at Reservoir Studios in Manhattan to play a song first performed five years ago and an ocean away.

"Mercury" is the closing track off Planetarium, a song cycle about the planets by Stevens, Dessner, Muhly and James McAlister. The work was originally composed on commission for the Dutch concert hall Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, and first performed there in 2012. Five turns around the sun later, Planetarium will arrive in recorded form on June 9 via 4AD.

On January 27, a New Orleans group called Tank And The Bangas uploaded a video to YouTube. It was a simple, one-shot clip of the R&B, spoken-word and hip-hop group performing their song "Quick": a danceable, NOLA revenge-fantasy of sorts.

Another grueling and glorious SXSW has finally come to a close. Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson, the last men on the All Songs Considered island, gathered at 2 a.m. to recap the sets they loved on the festival's closing day. On Stephen's recommendation (he's written about her before), Bob saw Los Angeles singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers in the Central Presbyterian Church.

Late yesterday evening, Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Katie Presley and Stephen Thompson wandered the streets of Austin recapping a day of music. For everyone, it was a day of political music that still made space for joy. Katie saw mostly rap yesterday, and she was especially struck by Moor Mother, whose fiery set had also inspired an excellent performance from New York-based rapper SAMMUS.

Amid truck horns and the distant sounds of Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It," the All Songs Considered team gathered outside of Stubb's BBQ to recount a day overflowing with new musical discoveries and old favorites. On Wednesday night, NPR Music hosted its annual showcase at Stubb's. That event at that place has become as ritual as tacos and crowded streets for this crowd, but the show still astonished them. Stephen Thompson fell for Sylvan Esso's new songs.

It was raining in New York on Nov. 9, 2016, and New Yorkers, tired as the rest of the country from a late night after a long election season, walked about in a fog of their own. The sky was still overcast when we met Angel Olsen at the Fordham University Church, an 1845 New York City landmark whose carillon is said to have inspired Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Bells." There, wearing a green raincoat and accompanying herself on electric guitar, she sang "Give It Up," from her excellent 2016 release My Woman.

In August 2016, Swedish singer-songwriter Daniel Norgren made his first U.S. appearance. His music, however, is indigenous to this soil: His rock-steady ragtime piano playing has a chooglin' ease, and his voice would be right at home echoing off the walls of Levon Helm's barn.

The four women of Warpaint may hail from Los Angeles, but their sound has always conveyed the windswept heft of a rainy Seattle scene. Their hypnotic grooves, ethereal harmonies and massive drums recall bits and pieces of the grunge, alt-rock and shoegaze scenes that mark the region. In a set recorded live in Washington, D.C., that spanned three records — from 2010's The Fool to this year's Heads Up — the band showcased the full power of its moody, grooving sound.

Eyes On The Lines is a striking title for Steve Gunn's latest record. A trucker phrase, it captures the chooglin', highway hypnosis of the songwriter's sound. But to the untrained ear, it might suggest purposefulness or direction. This is not Gunn's artistic project. As he sings in "Night Wander," "He likes to wander / Lose direction and go back home." Even if you know where home is, there's no clean route you follow to get there. The well-defined path is a myth.

The East River Ferry is one of the more whimsical ways for New Yorkers to commute, but it retains its claim to practicality with one key characteristic: It is a very fast boat. So it was that Local Natives came hurtling toward our crew up the river one overcast evening this summer, shouting three-part harmonies over roaring engines for a surprised clutch of fans. When the ferry docked, three of the band's members hurried over to our pier off WNYC Transmitter Park to play this Field Recording.

When All Songs Considered's Bob Boilen heard Car Seat Headrest's new album Teens of Denial, he immediately dubbed it "what is likely to be my No. 1 album of 2016." Twenty-three-year-old bandleader Will Toledo has brought his project from DIY Bandcamp releases onto the big stage. The group performed live at Black Cat in Washington, D.C., on Monday, May 23.

If Explosions In The Sky's records are watershed moments for its fans, then the band's live shows are a Biblical flood. The group recently released its sixth studio album, The Wilderness. On Thursday, Explosions In The Sky brought its epic, searching sound to a sold-out show at Washington, D.C.'s famed 9:30 Club.

"I don't really know how this song goes yet," Miya Folick said of her song "Anyway." "Nobody's heard it." With a heavy orange light reflected off the creek behind her, Folick was silhouetted as she sang her ramshackle love song with characteristic grace.

Anderson .Paak, drenched in sweat at the end of his set, reached into his catalogue and pulled out "Suede." He released the song on an EP with producer Knxwledge as the duo NxWorries in early 2015. The beat grinds at the back of the pocket as .Paak — "an old soul, twice removed" — flows smooth as the song's title across the top. "That's my time, ladies and gentlemen," he says as the song winds down, as if his days in the limelight aren't just getting started.

Set List

"I'm not concerned by what the latest do," Anderson .Paak sings towards the end of "The Bird." "I choose to follow what the greatest do." It's a line that isn't on the recorded song, but it pins down what makes .Paak so unique. Since his appearance on Dr. Dre's 2015 release, Compton, he's been an emergent force in popular music. He's a magpie across the timeline of greatness, picking the bits that suit his voice with little heed to current trends.

Before his eighth song at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Anderson .Paak remembered where he was in years prior. "We came here a couple times and we've actually drove a couple times. And we ran out of gas. And we slept on floors, and whatnot," he said. "A couple years ago, nobody gave a f--- about us, and this year we're getting to play in front of great big crowds ... I feel really blessed to be here in front of you guys at this historic event." He then proceeded to demonstrate exactly why things have changed for him and his band.

"You're all sexy," Anderson .Paak assures the audience, "so don't be afraid to groove." He and The Free Nationals certainly aren't. Halfway through "Miss Right," .Paak once again takes the drums for a lengthy instrumental breakdown. For minutes — from guitar solo to drum solo and back again — the group loses themselves in the groove without once losing their way.

Set List

At midnight on Friday night, Mt. Wolf brought us a legitimate lullaby for our South X Lullaby series. Singing its single "Hex" while sprawled across the bed in Bob Boilen's hotel room, the British band made the otherwise anonymous space intimately personal. Sebastian Fox's delicate falsetto rests on a lush and light arrangement of chiming 12-string guitar, harmonies and brushwork. It's emotionally intense — but, as with any lullaby, never past the threshold where the neighbors come knocking.

On a flight of mottled concrete steps by Waller Creek in Austin, Maren Morris flipped the break-up song on its head. Born in Texas, she moved to Nashville to be a songwriter, and her southern roots and songwriter's sensibility shone brightly, even in the dimming Austin night. "I Wish I Was" holds within it a pop songwriting trifecta — a powerful, identity-based thematic hook, a catchy chorus and an easy, soulful voice to deliver it all. Morris sings as the heartbreaker, letting her lover down as easily as she can and feeling regret not of a missing love but of missed expectations.

On Sunday, Holly Macve played her first show in the United States. Two nights later, behind the bustling Austin event space Palm Door on Sabine, the 20-year-old songwriter from County Galway in Ireland sang us a lullaby. Her song "Sycamore Tree" ponders the future while longing for the past: "One day when I'm old with my past behind me / I want to lay down in the shade of the same old sycamore tree," she sings. With the sound of a restaurant fan wheeling in the background, she drove us gently through the humid night toward whatever big things may await her.

At 10:00 p.m. on a wooden bridge over Waller Creek in Austin, Texas, two shocks of orange hair lit up the night. The musicians in Lucius gathered to perform our first South X Lullaby. Clad in matching blue onesies and jackets, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig sang "Dusty Trails," the closing song off their brand new record Good Grief, backed by Dan Molad, Andrew Burri and Peter Lalish. It's a song about finding your way in life, and growing older without losing hope. It is reassuring in its fortitude, and ceaseless in its hope.