NPR R&B/Soul

On this week's New Music Friday, All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers, Rodney Carmichael, and Stephen Thompson for a quick run through the best new releases for June 15. Highlights include Christina Aguilera's Liberation, a monument to self-empowerment with contributions from Kanye West and Anderson .Paak; the trippy, futuristic debut of pop producer SOPHIE; and a deeply emotional solo project from Lincoln Park co-founder Mike Shinoda.

Featured Albums

The image of a family tree is embedded in the country songwriting lexicon, serving as a sort of shorthand for core country values of lineage, rootedness and stabilizing familial bonds. Priscilla Renea is no doubt aware of this. Though only 29, she's already a savvy veteran of the music industry. After a fairly rural Florida upbringing, she's spent over a decade learning how to play by, and bend, the rules in the cosmopolitan capitals of pop, R&B, hip-hop and country music-making.

Happy hours with your crew that last until first light. Summer Fridays observed on Tuesdays. Staggered text threads with unsaved numbers. Fizzy, incessantly-sugared libations. Awkward tan lines in the name of an intricate beach slay. BYOB house parties (and sappy, inconsequential flirtations at said parties). Dance-offs at open-air bars. Egregious swipe-rights in the name of carpe diem. And wine. So much wine.

Tonight the World Cafe presents an evening of black gospel music, bringing together the classic gospel quartet singing of The Fairfield Four and The Campbell Brothers, who perform a rich variety of material from the African American Holiness-Pentecostal repertoire.

Described by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys as the "greatest soul singer alive," Robert Finley joined us for a live session. His story is a quintessential American one of perseverance. He's loved music and performing his whole life, and now finally released his first album in his early 60s.

All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers, Lyndsey McKenna, and Sidney Madden to talk about June 8's standout albums. Highlights include the candid, introspective rock of Snail Mail, the jazzy, laid-back R&B of British singer Jorja Smith, the sultry pop of Lykke Li, and more.

Featured Albums

  1. River Whyless: Kindness, A Rebel
    Featured Song: "The Feeling Of Freedom"
  2. Serpentwithfeet: Soil
    Featured Song: "Whisper"

R.LUM.R is all about 'framily.' That's the word — a mix of friends and family — that Reggie Williams, who records under the all-caps moniker, uses to describe the tight network he's created as he has established himself as a star on the streaming pop charts. This is how pop artists rise in the South beyond the nerve center of Atlanta: They work together across genres and become masters of the internet.

I learned a few things while watching Tom Misch perform at the Tiny Desk that should've been obvious to a longtime fan like me: He produces beats with a live audience in mind. As much as his drums slap, guitar is the foundation for most of his songs and he showcases a burgeoning talent on the instrument throughout his set.

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.


Kadhja Bonet's Childqueen opens with words that could have come from a lotus-positioned guru at a wellness retreat: "Every morning brings a chance to renew, a chance to renew." This she sings calmly, in carefully braided, elaborately evolving vocal harmony.

Trouble Funk: Tiny Desk Concert

May 30, 2018

Go-go — Washington D.C.'s regional twist on funk — reigned in the DMV during the 1980s, and one of the scene's signature acts was Trouble Funk. More than 30 years later, the collective, led by Big Tony Fisher, still fills sold-out venues with heavyweight percussion and call-and-response lyrics. Trouble Funk concerts are bona fide jam sessions, so I was determined to squeeze their unrelenting rhythms behind the Tiny Desk.

Soul Queen Irma Thomas Becomes A Doctor

May 29, 2018

Irma Thomas is known to R&B fans all over the world, but she's most beloved in her hometown of New Orleans. Everyone in New Orleans calls her Irma.

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.

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.

Imagine you're at a party with your most favorite music geek friends. The conversations range from favorite new albums, and favorite Smiths or Belle and Sebastian B-sides to best Neil Young guitar solos and Drake features. Then comes the big one: What was the greatest year in music? That's a question that we discuss and debate regularly in the World Cafe offices.

It's a cliché, but it's true: Adults are always complaining about the next generation. Chloe and Halle Bailey have something to say about that.

Updated 3:21 p.m., April 27 with more detailed information on Charles Neville's passing.

After quietly releasing one of the best R&B albums of 2017, Gabriel Garzón-Montano seems determined to ratchet up the noise levels this year.

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