By Craig Hubert | There are music fans, and then there are NPR music fans. The public radio institution has become a central source of exclusive new album streams, with an emphasis on artists that don’t necessarily fit into the mega-pop landscape. This week NPR offers four new streams: Richard Thompson’s classic-sounding “Electric,” Wayne Shorter’s soulful “Without a Net,” Thao & The Get Down Stay Down‘s adult-rocking “We the Common” and Jim James‘ eclectic “Regions of Light and Sound of God.” Are they worth your precious web-listening time? NPRatings lets you know.
The Story: The 21st solo album from the renowned singer-songwrirter is a heavier and louder album that thankfully doesn’t overshadow Mr. Thompson’s remarkable songwriting.
Worth a Listen? MAYBE If you’re a fan of Thompson through his work with Fairport Convention, with his wife Linda Thompson, or his many solo albums, then you won’t be turned off by “Electric.” If you’re not familiar with his work, this might not be the ideal place to start.
Listen to “Electric” here.
The Story: The great sideman for Miles Davis and Art Blakey (as well as countless solo albums under his own name) moves away from the electric instrumentation that has dominated much of his later career toward a more classic-sounding acoustic quartet.
Worth a Listen? YES. Shorter isn’t breaking a new ground here, but his interperations of classics are always welcoming, and the album also highlights one of his lesser known achievements, his songwriting.
Listen to “Without a Net” here.
The Story: The third album from singer Thao Nguyen and her group sees them band escape their country/folk-pop indie schtick for a more, well, general indie schtick.
Worth a Listen? NO. We already have one St. Vincent, and that’s enough.
Listen to “We the Common” here.
The Story: The first solo full-length from the My Morning Jacket singer sees him stripping down the bombast of that a band for a poppier and simpler sound.
Worth a Listen? MAYBE. Look, we’re conflicted about this one. But there are moments here that are as beautiful as anything the musician has ever done, and if the R&B-sounding tracks were released by an unknown, they would be racking up accolades on Pitchfork.
Listen to “Regions of Light and Sound of God” here.
Image: Jim James/Facebook