Lyndsey McKenna

Sleater-Kinney took a lot of chances on its latest album, The Center Won't Hold, upending its much beloved sound to experiment with strange sonics, dark textures and surprising forms. The result is one of the most adventurous, exciting – and best – albums the band has ever made. We open this week's New Music Friday with a look at how and why The Center Won't Hold works and what the recent departure of drummer Janet Weiss means for the band at this point in its quarter-century long career.

(NOTE: This week's episode was recorded before Bon Iver announced the digital release, three weeks ahead of schedule, of its lovely new album i,i.)

The dog days of summer are fully upon us, but new album releases are still coming in hot. Chance The Rapper finally released his sprawling, long-awaited "debut album" — though that technically happened last week, just hours after New Music Friday dropped — while Ty Segall dropped his umpteenth full-length effort and Clairo served up some breezily lo-fi Gen-Z irreverence.

To be clear, sad songs make up the majority of this week's All Songs Considered. So, if you have a love for the type of music you might hear from Julien Baker or Japanese Breakfast, we have five new artists to add to your playlist, including a 19-year-old singer from Belgium who goes by the name Asia; The artist known as Dolly Valentine asks, "Do you know where you want to go?" And there are more beautiful but crushing tunes brought to you by "the dream team" (NPR's Lyndsey McKenna and Marissa Lorusso).

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, have you picked your song of the summer?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESPACITO")

LUIS FONSI: (Singing in Spanish)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALIFORNIA GURLS")

KATY PERRY: (Singing) California girls, we're unforgettable...

The artists who attract me the most are those who are on the rise — artists whose popularity is mostly a small, dedicated circle of fans but growing. That's certainly true of the Shreveport band Seratones. They're putting out their second album later this summer and, from the sound of this potent new title track "Power," it's clear they'll find a bigger fanbase.

The days are getting longer, the temperatures are rising and you're willing to see yet another superhero movie just for the air conditioning. Maybe to you, this time of year signifies the start of music festival season. Maybe you're looking forward to your annual extended stay down the shore. Maybe you're preparing for a plethora of summer weddings — not always a bridesmaid, but always the life of the bachelorette party. Maybe you're looking forward to living your best life at your city's Pride parade. Or maybe you've finally concocted the perfect punch recipe for backyard barbecues.

Taylor Swift - "ME!" (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco)
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Updated April 26 at 4:25 p.m. ET

The world-weary characters of Craig Finn's latest solo release, I Need A New War, have every right to call it a day. They crash on couches after accidents that don't get talked about. They drive, battling traffic on congested streets, seeking escape on the open road. They live in less-than-ideal apartments; letting bills pile up, the power gets disconnected. The city breaks them after years spent trying.

Joining me on this edition of All Songs Considered is NPR Music's Lyndsey McKenna, Marissa Lorusso and Joshua Bote for some sips of Rosé, bites of cupcakes and sweet music. Today's sounds include the legendary dub master and reggae king Lee "Scratch" Perry. At 83-years of age, he's just made a brilliant new record with another legendary producer, Adrian Sherwood. Both artists are the reason that punk and reggae became so intertwined in the 1980s.

Thank the heavens for the return of Carly Rae Jepsen, explorer of all worlds romantic; soothsayer of feelers and people striving to be feelers. Her singular brand of heart-eyed, teen-dream-pop, defined by her 2015 album E•MO•TION, is something to behold.

On this week's All Songs Considered we premiere new music from Aldous Harding. The artist from New Zealand made my number two album from 2017 (Party) and her latest song, "The Barrel," indicates that she'll be another year-end favorite of mine in 2019.

On this sprint through the week's best new albums, host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Lyndsey McKenna and Stephen Thompson for a whole lot of guitar rock, with a little bit of melancholy, acoustic beauty on the side. This includes Spielbergs, a group from Oslo, Norway, that makes its US debut with a fantastic squeal of feedback on This is Not the End; the L.A. quartet Cherry Glazerr, which just dropped its most emotionally potent and fully formed album ever; Girlpool, Le Butcherettes, the beautifully transporting songs of Tiny Ruins and more.

Over his songwriting career, Craig Finn's developed a reliably literary style. The thematic throughlines of his catalog demand a close reading and lend themselves to annotations; you could make a map out of mentions from his discography (in fact, it's been done).

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple Music playlists at the bottom of the page.

Austin singer-songwriter Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, began his Newport Folk Festival set by raising a little hell. Before beginning the incendiary "Word of Mouth," he explained: "I'm gonna kick this off with a waltz that I wrote years ago that has sadly become more and more relevant every year I play it. It's a song about not listening to people and listening to people at the same time."

There's electricity in the atmosphere at Newport Folk Festival as evening begins, the summer sun sinking lower in the sky between cotton candy-colored clouds. As the penultimate performer on the main stage, Courtney Barnett's return to Newport — she also played the festival in 2015 — felt like a cause for celebration as daylight faded.

You've donned the gay apparel and trolled the ancient Christmas Carol from Accounting, but the snow has turned to gray slush and whenever a mulled beverage is served, your uncle can't help but channel his inner Rob Thomas: "Man, it's a hot wine!" (The pun is solid, but the impression sounds more like Bill Murray's caterwauling howl in Scrooged.) You want to get in the spirit, but you're hardly dashing through the snow. What to do?

There's a certain kind of comfort found in the familiar, but the path there isn't always straightforward.

Years before Taylor Swift's ascent, the Dixie Chicks were the turn of the century's country crossover success story.

It's not enough to make list after list. The Turning the Tables project seeks to suggest alternatives to the traditional popular music canon, and to do more than that, too: to stimulate conversation about how hierarchies emerge and endure. This year, Turning the Tables considers how women and non-binary artists are shaping music in our moment, from the pop mainstream to the sinecures of jazz and contemporary classical music. Our list of the 200 Greatest Songs By Women+ offers a soundtrack to a new century. This series of essays takes on another task.

A few songs into her sun-drenched Saturday Newport Folk set, Phoebe Bridgers paused and proclaimed, "I am a puddle of sweat." It was a one-liner that primed those huddled at the Harbor Stage for the 2018 Slingshot artist's catalog: details delivered with specificity and a subtle sense of humor.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

Illuminati Hotties, aka L.A.'s Sarah Tudzin, seems plagued by the past on "Cuff." But over a chorus of explosive guitars, backed by simple, steady drum programming, she settles on a solution: "I cuff my T-shirt sleeve / and grit my teeth / How else can I tell myself I can do most anything?"

Take out the trash and cut the crap: That's Margo Price's advice on "Leftovers," a new track from the East Nashville singer-songwriter. "Leftovers" is the first release from Amazon Music's new Produced By series aimed at shining a light on prominent producers.

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