First Listen

NPR icon First Listen: Marissa Nadler, 'July'

by Logan Young
Courtney B. Hall
On her sixth album, the Bostonian singer-songwriter gets darker and more sinister than ever before. Its title must refer to a cold, polarizing kind of July, with the frigid climes that accompany an early-February release.

NPR icon First Listen: 'Sweetheart 2014'

by Stephen Thompson
The Sweetheart compilations adhere to a simple concept in which well-liked contemporary artists cover well-liked classic love songs just in time for Valentine's Day. This year's participants include Fiona Apple, Vampire Weekend, Sharon Jones, Ben Harper, Jim James, Beck, Valerie June and more.

NPR icon First Listen: Laura Cantrell, 'No Way There From Here'

by Ann Powers
Amy Dickerson
Cantrell, who was born in Tennessee, is one of the stylists who defined Americana music as we now know it when she first emerged in 2000. But she's an urbanite, too, interested in expressing how the simple life gets thornier when your country dreams must adapt to the possibilities and problems of life in a metropolis.

NPR icon First Listen: Hospitality, 'Trouble'

by Will Hermes
William Mebane
If the New York band's first album evoked a cardigan, its follow-up is more of a leather jacket. But along with a greater toughness in Amber Papini's singing, there's also a wider tonal palette at work.

NPR icon First Listen: Angélique Kidjo, 'Eve'

by Katie Presley
Pierre Marie Zimmerman
The power of Kidjo's unflappable voice, the range of her emotional expression, the stellar, genre-bending musicians who back her and the infectious, activist energy that courses through her songs all transcend any native tongue.