Robin Hilton

Few singers can command an audience's attention quite like Albin Lee Meldau. When I first saw him perform, at a church in Austin, Texas during South By Southwest last March, it felt like the entire audience was on the edge of its seat, hanging on every twisted word. His voice is breathtaking, soulful, thunderous and impossible to ignore.

Back in 1992, singer k.d. lang released a record unlike any other. Ingénue slithered against the popular music grain with songs that drew slow, deep breaths and sighed seductively. It had an alluringly divergent sound that landed somewhere in a blurry nexus of pop, country and global folk, with accordions, clarinets and Eastern European flourishes.

Composer Michael Andrews started writing music for movies back in 2001, when he scored the now-cult-classic film Donnie Darko (which included Andrews' haunting arrangement of the Tears For Fears song "Mad World"). His simple, brilliantly rendered songs perfectly reflected the movie's surreal narrative with moments that were both comical and creepy.

Haim's sophomore full-length, Something To Tell You, is a straight-up relationship record at its core, with all the angst, heartache and defiance that can erupt when lives coalesce and collide — with the added complication of being in a full-time, touring and very successful band. It's an exploration through the various stages of grief, from the denial in "Nothing's Wrong" to the bargaining of "Ready For You," or the anger of "Found In Silence."

Chance The Rapper knew he wanted to try a different approach for his Tiny Desk performance, so he decided to do something he said he hadn't done in a long time. He wrote a poem. More specifically, he wrote a poem in the short time it took him to ride from his hotel in Washington, D.C. to the NPR Music offices. Calling it "The Other Side," Chance debuted it in the middle of his remarkable set, reading from his notes written out in black marker on sheets of typing paper.

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