WCBE

Bob Boilen

Effortless storytelling is at the heart of This Is The Kit. And the stories the band's only permanent member, Kate Stables, weaves are profound but sweet with a tone that quietly reels you in.

Put your love of perfection outside the office door and come in for some office fun. This collaboration between Philadelphia's Kurt Vile and Melbourne's Courtney Barnett is more about newfound friends poking jabs, goofing around and having fun with words than reaching any new musical heights.

There's a brilliant new instrumental project from violinist Andrew Bird. Echolocations: River takes its musical inspiration from landscapes and environments with distinctive acoustics.

Today we have a film of Andrew Bird performing under the Hyperion bridge in Los Angeles's Atwater Village. An earlier Echolocations project was recorded at the Coyote Gulch canyons of Utah in 2015. Andrew wrote us to explain how these compositions take shape.

Moses Sumney puts a great deal of thought into the heartfelt music he creates. On his debut album, Aromanticism, he was inspired by everything from the works of Plato and Aristophanes' account of the origin of humanity to the Bible, particularly Genesis and the story of creation. It's all in an attempt to understand human relationships and the sorts of couplings we tend to be drawn to. But despite the working and reworking it took to put these ideas to song, and to then make his brilliant debut, there's a spontaneous side that you'll see in this Tiny Desk Concert.

This is not your regular music video – it's a six-minute, miniature epic inspired by "Pleader," the closing cut on alt-J's album Relaxer.

For Laura Burhenn, 2016 was a tough year and she wasn't alone. We lost David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince (and so many more beloved artists).

Have you ever watched a Tiny Desk Concert and thought, "Hey, I want to do that!?" Well, now's your chance to play behind my desk here at NPR. That's right: We're bringing NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest back for a second year.

Here's what you do.

Today we're thrilled to announce that the winner of the Tiny Desk Concert Contest is Fantastic Negrito.

The songs of Elliott Smith are widely revered — especially by those who came of age in the '90s — but a new generation of listeners is only beginning to discover him. Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith is likely to expose new fans to the great singer-songwriter. Smith released five albums in his lifetime and died in 2003 from two stab wounds to the chest; he'd left a suicide note. His songs, which often dealt with depression and desperation, were beautiful and frequently quiet.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Banjo, baglama, bulbul, balalaika, bowed banjo, baritone ukulele, banjo, bass, bouzouki... Saintseneca might pick up any of these instruments at any given moment, and those are just the ones that start with the letter B. The band has its origins and heart in a small Appalachian town in Ohio, as well as a passion for sounds and textures with acoustic instruments at their core. Saintseneca's members eventually settled in Columbus, and they like their acoustic music a bit punkish, with stomping feet as a heartbeat to accompany mind-altering words and music.

Unlike any other festival, South by Southwest is unique to everyone who attends. And I love that about this festival. With over 2,200 bands spread out over 100 venues and five days of music, everyone sees something different and walks away with different joys and discoveries. You could go to a Brooklyn Vegan showcase and spend the whole day in one place. You could search out only Latino bands, or metal bands, hip hop or blues. In fact, when the All Songs crew gathers to record our late night dispatches on the streets of Austin, Texas, we all share completely different joys.

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This is just about the most surprising album in recent memory, and a complete joy. The singer for Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry has also enjoyed a long solo career, both as an interpreter of songs by others — Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, Cole Porter, Lou Reed and many more — and as an extraordinary songwriter who's released 13 solo albums, each with its own strengths.

Villagers is the music of Conor O'Brien, a 2010 Mercury Prize finalist for his debut album, Becoming a Jackal. Now there's new music from Villagers, from a record called {Awayland}. That music comes out first in Europe on Jan. 14 — here in the U.S., we'll have to wait until April 9. We have this new song and video from Villagers, for the song "Nothing Arrived."

Conor O'Brien writes:

After seeing The Rolling Stones in concert over the weekend, I can confidently say the short answer is "no."

We need to be thinking about age and rock music in a different way. When I was in my 20s, my generation thought 30 was too old for a rocker. Now, in 2012, the brilliant futurist Ray Kurzweil is wondering who the first person to be 150 will be. He told a crowd at the 6th and I Synagogue in Washington, D.C., that he thinks that person is alive today.

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Film director and screenwriter Jim Jarmusch makes music an integral part of his films: He often casts musicians in key roles and frequently incorporates music into his plots. Think about his film Down by Law, with saxophonist John Lurie and singer Tom Waits, or Stranger Than Paradise, in which "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins is a key character.

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Aimee Mann's eighth studio record, Charmer, comes out in a month. Charmer is also the title — and subject — of the album's first video, which features a robot double of Mann played by three-time Academy Award-nominated actress Laura Linney of The Truman Show, The Squid and the Whale and The Big C.

The video, directed by Tom Scharpling, deals lightheartedly with the idea of fame and persona with Mann playing herself and Linney playing her robot double.

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America is an album packed with melody and noise, minimalism and excess, harshness and beauty — sometimes all the same time. Dan Deacon's music is steeped in pop, electronics and classical music, making this record an absolute adventure.

Attention fans of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Mumford & Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show: You are bound for glory! Big Easy Express is a new film featuring all three bands and their whistle-stop journey from Oakland to New Orleans aboard a vintage train.

You've never heard "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain" quite like this. For their first album together in nine years, Neil Young and Crazy Horse have taken classic American folk music and reinvigorated these songs with muscle, radiance and a whole lot of electric guitar. Some songs from the 19th century include "Oh Susanna" (no banjo here) and "Tom Dula" (you may know it better as "Tom Dooley").