NPR Music

Gothenburg, Sweden's Agent Blå ("Agent Blue" in English) hasn't been a band for very long, but its unique hybrid — a goth genre combination of indie-pop and post-punk that it calls "death pop" — evokes a certain youthful immediacy that feels far removed from infancy. The composite makes sense, considering the band's members range in age from 17 to 20 years old.

This is the story of a hoax that almost was. Its motivating force was a hunger for fame, or infamy, or whispered legend in a particularly American sort of way. It begins on a beach somewhere in south Florida.

It's been about 10 years since Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan made his U.S. debut with The End Of History, a Mercury Prize-nominated collection of soft-spoken acoustic folk-pop songs in the tradition of Damien Rice and Nick Drake.

Two years ago, René Pérez Joglar took a chance.

For over a decade, the 39-year-old had been the voice of Calle 13, a Puerto Rican hip-hop crew that had grown to massive visibility. The two core members — producer Eduardo Cabra, known as Visitante, and Joglar, who rapped as Residente — had earned the group three Grammys and two dozen Latin Grammys, and were considered one of the biggest Latin acts in the world. And then, Joglar decided he was done.

Why Azul, one of the finest cello concertos so far this century, had to wait more than 10 years to appear on an album is confounding. It was written in 2006 for one of classical music's most beloved performers, Yo-Yo Ma, by one of today's most popular composers, Osvaldo Golijov. Such are the perennial mysteries of the classical music recording industry.

The great Beethoven specialist András Schiff says, "Whatever we do on the piano is a collection of illusions." If that's true, then Volker Bertelmann, the German pianist who goes by the single name Hauschka, is a master illusionist.

As a musician, Aimee Mann has long indulged her bleaker side, dating all the way back to her mid-'80s debut as the lead singer of 'Til Tuesday. In the quarter-century since she launched her solo career, Mann has released nine solo albums — not counting her classic film work in 1999's Magnolia — and formed a duo called The Both with Ted Leo.

You can only hear something for the first time once.

I don't mean to sound so obvious, but my first listen to ÌFÉ's debut album, IIII+IIII (pronounced Eji-Ogbe), was such an incredibly special moment that I wish I could repeat it over and over.

First Listen: Rodney Crowell, 'Close Ties'

Mar 22, 2017

Americana has had a banner few years, to put it mildly, and the roots of its current incarnation can be traced back to Rodney Crowell. The Texas-born songwriter has collaborated with everyone from Emmylou Harris to Waylon Jennings, all while maintaining a solo career that's netted him two Grammys and an induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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