Tom Moon

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.

The last time most of us saw Beck, he was onstage at the Grammy awards accepting the Album of the Year honor for his 2014 work Morning Phase and almost being interrupted by Kanye West.

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.


When they set out to make new music, rock icons who have visited – or resided – at the pinnacle of success face unexpected challenges of scale.

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.


Pop culture sells the idea that the human aptitude for art is instant, a birthright. Those who toil in this realm know better: It's a journey. Making art involves understanding the nature of inspiration, managing influences, building skills, locating kernels of truth within oceans of static. It takes time.

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.

Don't look for Walter Becker on those endless (ridiculous) listicles ranking the "Guitar Gods of the 1970s." He's rarely mentioned in the same breath as major dudes like Eric Clapton, or Jimmy Page, or Duane Allman, or Carlos Santana, or Billy Gibbons, or Frank Zappa.

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.


Recording is a little bit like fishing. Sometimes you make elaborate preparations, get the best gear and set up in advantageous surroundings ... only to wind up with zilch.

Sometimes you grab whatever is close at hand and just get busy. The hours go by like minutes, and the next thing you know, the bucket is full.

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Veteran jazz guitarist Peter Bernstein created one of his best pieces of work more than 20 years ago. It's called "Signs Of Life." Now music reviewer Tom Moon says Bernstein has released a riveting update, "Signs LIVE!"

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.

From a casual distance, Gregg Allman's "My Only True Friend" might register as just another road song, the latest in a long line of slightly wistful, decidedly restless odes to the nomadic life.

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.


Think of this three-disc set as The Rise of Elvis Presley: The Granular Detail Version.

Since its premiere in 1918, Gustav Holst's symphonic cycle The Planets has effectively defined the informal genre of "music about space." But more recently, four prominent artists from different musical realms collaborated on a cosmic exploration of their own. It culminated in Planetarium, which was released earlier this month.

Ah, the feelgood aura of The Beach Boys. We know it so well we just sorta melt into it – drifting into the idyllic reveries of "In My Room" and "God Only Knows," hardly focusing when one of those hot-wired surfing songs erupts from the radio. It's like a direct circuit to the brain: Hear those harmonies and in 3-2-1, there comes the little dopamine squirt affirming all is right with the world.

In 1959, the peak of his playing years, Thelonious Monk did something he'd never done before: record music for a film. Released in the U.S. as Dangerous Liaisons, the French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses featured nearly 30 minutes of Monk's music, none of which ever made it to a record. But the master tapes resurfaced last year, and were first released as a vinyl exclusive on Record Store Day this April.

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.


Chuck Berry's legacy didn't need another record, or any kind of postscript for that matter.

When he died this March, the obits hailed him as the chief architect and driving force behind rock and roll. He was described as the catalyst of a cultural revolution, a titan whose crisp songs and ringing guitar blazed a superhighway-sized trail for future generations.

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After a six-year hiatus, Canadian singer Feist is back. She's out with her fifth album. It's called "Pleasure," but that's a bit of a misdirection. Reviewer Tom Moon says the album explores the quest for inner-strength in the painful aftermath of romance.

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.


How long has it been since you heard something that was unmistakably the blues, and at the same time undeniably new?

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.


Bob Dylan is evidently not finished with his (grand, now exhaustive) inquiry into the Great American Songbook.

Stephen Bruner is a bass player, singer and songwriter who's as well known for his own music as for his collaborations. But when he released his latest solo single as Thundercat few weeks ago, those who know his work with Kendrick Lamar were scratching their heads. Here was a fiery visionary collaborating with two icons of easygoing '70s pop: Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.

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.


Chuck Prophet's whip-smart new collection, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins, begins with a celebration of the enigmatic one-hit rock curiosity who sang "I Fought The Law" in 1964 and then, shortly after the song took off, was found dead in his car at age 23.

Over the years, music fans have slowly filled in details about a hard-working, mostly anonymous collective of Detroit studio musicians known as The Funk Brothers, who were the backing band for many of Motown's hit songs. Less documented is what these musicians did when they were not in the studio.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.


Before he began the tour that's documented on the 36-disc set The 1966 Live Recordings, Bob Dylan was on record as being ambivalent about the road.

In 1963, Duke Ellington and his orchestra participated in a State Department "jazz diplomacy" tour of the Middle East. Inspired by the experience, Ellington and composer Billy Strayhorn wrote a collection of songs called The Far East Suite.

The first sound Leonard Cohen makes on his new album is a nanosecond's rush of labored air. It's not a wheeze, exactly, or a hiccup. But it's not a singer's note, either. The singing (such as it is) soon follows, and the 82-year-old's somber tone signals that matters of grave import are about to be discussed. He's making an inquiry into the peculiar strain of creeping soul distress, both personal and universal, that he's been diagnosing since at least 1992's The Future.

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There's a panel of volunteer doctors whose decisions affect nearly everyone who has health insurance. They review scientific literature and pass judgment on preventive medical services. The panel is called the Preventive Services Task Force.

Every so often, you run across a collection that opens up an entirely new way to think about an artist. Jack White's new, 26-track retrospective, which focuses on his unplugged, less raucous songs, does just that. The unreleased songs, album tracks and B-sides that make up Jack White Acoustic Recordings, 1998-2016 offer a fresh window onto the work of the creative, prolific rock musician.

You're rushing to send a text, but the words don't quite fit the message. So you flip over to the emoji menu, and within seconds you find a tiny character that encapsulates your thought. Hitting "send" brings a momentary sense of accomplishment, and perhaps along with it, a twinge of vague disquiet: That shorthand cartoon face was somehow more precise, more communicative, than your words.

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