Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X dominated the headlines this year, but 2019 was much more than that. We look back at the music we'll remember most and the marks it left on our cultural landscape.
As we listened back to the past year in music we heard a lot of the cultural and political angst you'd expect in a turbulent (and relentless) news cycle. But the albums that seemed to resonate the most in 2019 were more personal and inward looking, overflowing with love and defiant optimism. Sharon Van Etten reflected on motherhood, Amanda Palmer shared stories of survival and David Bazan, back as Pedro the Lion for the first time in 15 years, returned to his childhood, making the personal universal. Brittany Howard wrote songs of healing on an album she named after and dedicated to her sister who died at the age of 13, while the members of the Rwandan group The Good Ones sang songs of forgiveness in the wake of unspeakable genocide.
For other artists, 2019 was a year of renewal. Angel Olsen, Michael Kiwanuka, Sleater-Kinney, Raphael Saadiq and more all reinvented their sound, pushing themselves in dramatic new directions as a testament to the resilience and restlessness of the creative spirit.
The soul musician behind one of the year's best albums, the heartwrenching Jimmy Lee, spoke with NPR music critic Rodney Carmichael as part of NPR's Tiny Desk Fest, a special four-night series of Tiny Desk concerts at NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Saadiq shared stories about his brothers' battle with addiction, the origins of D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," and what it's like to play two Tiny Desk concerts 10 years apart.
Sheryl Crow had a lot to say in this Tiny Desk Fest interview with NPR pop critic Ann Powers.
Every day, Sheryl Crow said at NPR's Tiny Desk Fest, she thinks about compassion. "In 2005, I got to hear the Dalai Lama speak — I was his opening act — and it was cool. It was the year he was talking about compassion, and he said if every person in every business in every walk of life made every decision based on compassion, the world would look like a completely different place." Crow and her band then led a rousing singalong of her 2008 song "Out of Our Heads," whose chorus sends an urgent plea to the online news junkies and social media warriors of today: "If we could only get out of our heads, out of our heads, and into our hearts...."
The longtime leader of ELO talks with All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen about his creative process, working with his heroes, like Roy Orbison, and his latest album, From Out of Nowhere.
Jeff Lynne has been crafting classic rock songs for more than 50 years. Many first heard him as part of The Move, a Beatle-esque British band in the late '60s. That creative outfit morphed into Electric Light Orchestra, taking their guitar, piano, and drum-based pop music and adding strings and synthesizers. ELO became a big band with a giant sound.
The first ELO record was released precisely 48 years ago, on December 3, 1971. Nowadays, Jeff Lynne is ELO. Except for a few helping hands, Jeff Lynne writes, records, sings, plays and arranges everything on his new album, From Out of Nowhere, on his own. And he loves doing it.
All Songs Considered hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton countdown NPR listeners' favorite songs of the 2010s.
The Top 25 Listener Picks:
1. Bon Iver: "Holocene" from Bon Iver
2. Robyn: "Dancing On My Own" from Body Talk Pt. 1
3. Sufjan Stevens: "Fourth of July" from Carrie & Lowell
4. Lorde: "Royals" from Pure Heroine
5. Kanye West: "Runaway" from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
6. Beyoncé: "Formation" from Lemonade
7. M83: "Midnight City" from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
8. LCD Soundsystem: "Dance Yrself Clean" from This is Happening
9. Kendrick Lamar: "Alright" from To Pimp a Butterfly
10. Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars: "Uptown Funk" from Uptown Special
11. Childish Gambino: "This is America" (Single)
12. Adele: "Rolling in the Deep" from 21
13. Taylor Swift: "All Too Well" from Red
14. Lucy Dacus: "Night Shift" from Historian
15. Carly Rae Jepsen: "Run Away with Me" from E.MO.TION
16. Mitski: "Your Best American Girl" from Puberty 2
17. Frank Ocean: "Self Control" from Blonde
18. Hozier: "Take Me to Church" from Hozier
19. Alabama Shakes: "Hold On" from Boys & Girls
20. Janelle Monáe: "Make Me Feel" from Dirty Computer
21. Lana Del Rey: "Video Games" from Born to Die
22. Brandi Carlile: "The Joke" from By the Way, I Forgive You
23. Radiohead: "Daydreaming" from A Moon Shaped Pool
24. Courtney Barnett: "Depreston" from Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
25. Fleet Foxes: "Helplessness Blues" from Helplessness Blues
Our review of the past decade in music continues with a look at the ways music production has changed and how technology has revolutionized sound both onstage and in the studio.
We begin with the role of computers in live performance. Laptops are often used to playback sounds that can't easily be created in a live setting. So, host Bob Boilen went to the 9:30 club before soundcheck to meet the artist known as King Princess. She grew up around recording gear. Her father, Oliver Strauss is a recording engineer at Mission Sound in Brooklyn, so technology and music-making are second nature to the 21-year old. King Princess sheds light on how musicians take complex sounds from the studio and make them possible in a live setting.
Later, we look at the role of computers in the creative process, both as an effects processor and a compositional tool. One artist who is already making music and stretching the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence is Holly Herndon, who has an AI voice assistant she calls Spawn.
Our final New Music Friday of 2019 ends with some heavy hitters, from Beck's moody-groovy Hyperspace and Coldplay's most ambitious album yet, to a batch of all-new songs from the late Leonard Cohen.
Featured Albums And Songs:
1. Beck — Hyperspace
Featured Song: "Dark Places"
2. Anne Müller — Heliopause
Featured Songs: "Solo? Repeat!" and "Drifting Circles"
3. 03 Greedo & Kenny Beats — Netflix and Deal
Featured Song: "Aye Twin"
4. Coldplay — Everyday Life
Featured Songs: "Orphans," "Trouble in Town," "BrokEn," "When I Need A Friend" and "WOTW/POTP"
5. Hannah Diamond — Reflections
Featured Song: "Make Believe"
6. Leonard Cohen — Thanks for the Dance
Featured Song: "Happens to the Heart"
Other Notable Releases For Nov. 22: Animal Collective — Ballet Slippers; Harry Nilsson — Losst and Founnd; Jason Aldean — 9; Luke Lalonde — The Perpetual Optimist; Pernice Brothers — Spread the Feelings; Omar Souleyman — Shlon; Twain — Adventure; William Patrick Corgan — Cotillions.
This week's essential mix of new songs includes a Brian Eno remix of a Lee "Scratch" Perry tune, Red Baraat percussionist Sunny Jain, singer Jesca Hoop and more.
Featured Artists And Songs:
1. Lee "Scratch" Perry: "Here Come the Warm Dreads" from 'Heavy Rain'
2. Sunny Jain: "Immigrant Warrior" from 'Wild Wild East'
3. Ethan Gruska: "Event Horizon" from 'EN GARDE'
4. Tadzio: "Defiance" from 'The Sick Room'
5. Madison Cunningham: "Something to Believe in" from 'Who Are You Now'
6. Wished Bone: "Hold Me" (Single)
7. Jesca Hoop: "Song for a Bygone Era" from 'Afterbirth'
8. Esmé Patterson: "Light in Your Window" (Single)
Our sprint through the best new albums out this week includes a posthumous release from rapper Lil Peep, gorgeous reflections from Bonnie "Prince" Billy, singer Mary Lambert and more.
Featured Albums And Songs:
1. Milky Chance - Mind the Moon
Featured Songs: "Oh Mama" and "Eden's House"
2. Brainstory - Buck
Featured Song: "Sorry"
3. Lady Antebellum - Ocean
Featured Song: "The Thing That Wrecks You"
4. Arthur Russell - Iowa Dream
Featured Song: "Everybody Everybody"
5. Lil Peep - Everybody's Everything
Featured Song: "Princess"
6. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - I Made A Place
Featured Song: "Dream A While"
7. Odessa - All Things
Featured Song: "All Things"
8. Mary Lambert - Grief Creature
Featured Songs: "Write You A Song" and "Me Museum"
9. Joe Henry - The Gospel According to Water
Featured Song: "Famine Walk"
10. Benoît Pioulard - Sylva
Featured Songs: "Raze II" and "Keep"
Other Notable Releases Out Nov. 15: Celine Dion — Courage; DJ Shadow — Our Pathetic Age; Fran — A Private Picture; Hammock — Silencia; Ice Cream — Fed Up; Jenny Owen Youngs — Night Shift; Juliana Hatfield — Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police; Maria Taylor — Maria Taylor; Molly Burch — The Molly Burch Christmas Album; Sam Amidon — Fatal Flower Garden; Tindersticks — No Treasure But Hope.
"Despacito" was more than a popular song. It was the culmination of a decade-long rise of sociological and musical forces that eventually birthed and cemented a style now called "Latin Urban."
The song went on to practically break the Internet, with a record number of YouTube views from around the globe (currently hovering around six billion streams).
But, as we discuss in this week's All Songs Considered/Alt.Latino collaboration, "Despacito" was more than a very popular it song. It was the culmination of a decade-long rise of sociological and musical forces that eventually birthed and cemented a style now called "Latin Urban." Spanish-language artists from just about every corner of Latin America and Spain took reggaeton and ran with it, adding elements of hip-hop, R&B and soul.
Alt.Latino host Felix Contreras joins Bob Boilen to look back at the decade and play some music samples from a period of profound transition in Latinx music.
In this All Songs Considered guest DJ session, Joan Shelley talks about her latest album, Like the River Loves the Sea and shares songs by some of the other artists who've inspired her over the years.
This week's best new albums include a solo release from Leslie Odom Jr., aka Aaron Burr from Hamilton, the woozy world of FKA Twigs, country singer Luke Combs and more.
1. Leslie Odom Jr. — Mr.
2. Bishop Briggs — Champion
3. FKA Twigs — Magdalene
4. Dessa & The Minnesota Orchestra — Sound the Bells: Recorded Live at Orchestra Hall
5. The Good Ones — Rwanda, You Should be Loved
6. Kate Davis — Trophy
7. Luke Combs — What You See Is What You Get
8. Mount Eerie & Julie Doiron — Lost Wisdom Pt. 2
9. SebastiAn — Thirst
10. Terri Lyne Carrington & Social Scene — Waiting Game
Other Notable Albums Out Nov. 8: Allen Stone — Building Balance; Josienne Clarke — In All Weather; Kele Okereke — 2042; Lucy Dacus — EP; Moor Mother — Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes; Philip B Price — Bone Almanac; Simply Red — Blue Eyed Soul; Sin Fang — Sad Party; Suss — High Line; Xylouris White — The Sisypheans;
Angel Olsen has reimagined her sound. On this edition of All Songs Considered, she and her co-producer, John Congleton reveal how they did it, with the help of a 14-piece string section.
"What making this record was about," says Angel Olsen, "is erasing my own thoughts about where the song should be, letting go and being more open to other ideas."
"I have this weird theory," adds John Congleton, "that the only thing a good producer really can do is know when a mistake is right."
This process began with Angel Olsen first recording all the songs as a solo album. Then, through these collaborations, the music organically morphed and strengthened into this extraordinary record.
You can hear the full interview with the play button at the top of the page and her the full album, All Mirrors below.
Pianist and producer Robert Glasper is on a mission to reconnect jazz with black music. In the past decade he's helped transform the work of artists like Kendrick Lamar, Brittany Howard and more.
Glasper ended the the 2000s with an album called Double Booked, which made a selling point out of his straddling of two worlds — acoustic jazz piano on one side, R&B/hip-hop groove on the other. The second of those involved a group called The Robert Glasper Experiment, and he felt it had a statement to make.
It arrived in the form of an album called Black Radio, which Blue Note released in 2012. Studded with notable guest artists (like rappers Lupe Fiasco and Yasiin Bey, and singers Lalah Hathaway and Erykah Badu), it heralded a renewed spirit of collaboration between jazz and what had previously been known as neo-soul. When Black Radio won a Grammy in 2013 — not in a jazz category but for Best R&B Album — it felt like the opening of a new chapter.
On this episode of All Songs Considered, host Robin Hilton is joined by Nate Chinen, from WBGO and Jazz Night in America, and Rodney Carmichael, from NPR Music, to discuss the influence of Glasper's approach — not only in jazz circles but also on hip-hop touchstones like Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, and beyond-soul masterworks released this year, like Flying Lotus' Flamagra and Brittany Howard's Jaime.
Our picks for the best albums out this week include Gang Starr's first new release in 16 years, humor and heart from country singer Miranda Lambert, the latest in Bob Dylan's Bootleg series and more.
1. Jeff Lynne's ELO — From Out of Nowhere
2. Bob Dylan — Travelin' Thru, 1967-1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 15
3. Miranda Lambert — Wildcard
4. Gang Starr — One of the Best Yet
5. Michael Kiwanuka — KIWANUKA
6. Vetiver — Up on High
7. A Winged Victory for the Sullen — The Undivided Five
8. R.LUM.R — Surfacing
Other Notable Releases For Nov. 1: Cate Le Bon & Bradford Cox — Myths 004 (EP); Cold War Kids — New Age Norms 1; CUP (Nels Cline & Yuka Honda) — Spinning Creature; Highly Suspect — MCID; Hootie & The Blowfish — Imperfect Circle; Jeff Goldblum — I Shouldn't Be Telling You This; Josh Rouse — The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse; Leif Vollebekk — New Ways; R.E.M. — Monster 25th Anniversary Expanded Edition; Sudan Archives — Athena; Turnover — Altogether; Ty Segall — Pig Man Lives Volume 1.
Our look back at the past decade in music continues as we examine the ways musical borders have fallen and why global sounds are more prevalent and popular than ever.
Over the past decade, the borders between different musical worlds have fallen. Producers, singers, songwriters and other artists from around the globe are collaborating in new ways, while genres have blended together so completely and seamlessly it's almost impossible to label a lot of popular music as any one thing. These cross-cultural, and cross-border alliances – along with streaming and social media – have also been a pipeline for delivering global artists to new audiences on a scale never seen before. Think of the juggernaut K-pop band BTS and how thoroughly the group has dominated pop charts, or the rise of Latinx artists like Bad Bunny and J Balvin or Spanish singer Rosalía.
On this episode of All Songs Considered, host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Anastasia Tsioulcas and Stephen Thompson, and Elise Hu, host of NPR's Future You and founding bureau chief for NPR's office in Seoul. They discuss the ways we're hearing globalization in music, why it's happening and some of the complications and questions around this evolution.
After her Tiny Desk performance, the rapper joined NPR's Sidney Madden for a live conversation on playing with a band for the first time, hanging onto her Texas roots and plans for her debut album.
This week's mix from All Songs Considered somehow took on a dog theme, beginning with a board game from the band PUP, where every move leads to failure and disappointment. But the music's still good!
Artists and Songs on This Episode:
1. Illuminati Hotties: "ppl plz"
2. Frances Quinlan: "Rare Thing"
3. Lucy Dacus: "In the Air Tonight"
4. Julien Baker: "Tokyo"
5. Torres: "Good Scare"
6. Squirrel Flower: "Red Shoulder"
7. Trupa Trupa: "Dream About"
In the past decade, LGBTQ issues hit the mainstream in unprecedented ways, and music played a big part, with songs about queer love on the radio and anthems of allyship coming from all major genres.
On this episode of All Songs Considered, we look back on the way queer issues moved towards the center of the conversation during the 2010s. We talk about how decades of activism led up to this moment and how social media has helped foster safe spaces and access to information for young people across spectrums of gender and sexuality. We also discuss how LGBTQ musicians are helping reimagine pop sounds — from openly expressing queer desire to cyborgian shapeshifting — and question what the future of "mainstreaming" might hold for queer communities.
The fourth-quarter deluge continues this week with new releases from Rex Orange County, King Princess, Gallant and more, including the first new album in seven years from Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
1. Mikal Cronin — Seeker
2. King Princess — Cheap Queen
3. Great Grandpa — Four of Arrows
4. Neil Young & Crazy Horse — Colorado
5. Rex Orange County — Pony
6. Anamanaguchi - [USA]
7. Gallant — Sweet Insomnia
8. Sunn O))) — Pyroclasts
Other Notable Albums For Oct. 25: Alcest — Spiritual Instinct; Anna Meredith — Fibs; Anthony Ramos — The Good & The Bad; The Bad Plus — Activate Infinity; Brooke Candy — Sexorcism; Cigarettes After Sex — Cry; Dry Cleaning — Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks; Grace Potter — Daylight; Juana Molina — For Fun; Lankum — The Livelong Day; Little Scream — Speed Queen; Old Dominion — Old Dominion; Ringo Starr — What's My Name; Sarah Jaffe — SMUT; Van Morrison — Three Chords and the Truth; Verite — New Skin; Walk off the Earth — Here We Go!