Ann Powers

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.

One of the nation's most notable music critics, Powers has been writing for The Record, NPR's blog about finding, making, buying, sharing and talking about music, since April 2011.

Powers served as chief pop music critic at the Los Angeles Times from 2006 until she joined NPR. Prior to the Los Angeles Times, she was senior critic at Blender and senior curator at Experience Music Project. From 1997 to 2001 Powers was a pop critic at The New York Times and before that worked as a senior editor at the Village Voice. Powers began her career working as an editor and columnist at San Francisco Weekly.

Her writing extends beyond blogs, magazines and newspapers. Powers co-wrote Tori Amos: Piece By Piece, with Amos, which was published in 2005. In 1999, Power's book Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America was published. She was the editor, with Evelyn McDonnell, of the 1995 book Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Rap, and Pop and the editor of Best Music Writing 2010.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University, Powers went on to receive a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of California.

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The Record
2:46 pm
Wed July 22, 2015

Watch Jenny Hval's Dreamlike, Experimental Video For 'Sabbath'

Jenny Hval.
Courtesy of the artist

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The Record
4:47 pm
Wed July 15, 2015

The Cruel Truth About Rock And Roll

The Runaways (from left, Jackie Fox, Joan Jett, Sandy West, Cherie Currie and Lita Ford) in January 1976.
Michael Ochs Archives Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 16, 2015 3:01 pm

Last week, a story about The Runaways' Jackie Fuchs, centered around her account of being raped by the late music entrepreneur Kim Fowley in a motel room full of people on New Year's Eve in 1975, challenged the very idea that rock and roll is something worth loving.

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Songs We Love
3:11 pm
Tue July 14, 2015

Songs We Love: Promised Land Sound, 'She Takes Me There'

Promised Land Sound's song "She Takes Me There" is on their new album, For Use and Delight, coming out in October.
Courtesy of the artist

Not every reverie is a happy one. A title like "She Takes Me There" suggests the floating bliss of a new love, but in this new taste of what the rising Nashville band Promised Land Sound is up to on its second album, the dream is a haunting.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Wed July 8, 2015

Review: Alan Jackson, 'Angels And Alcohol'

Alan Jackson's new album, Angels And Alcohol, comes out July 17.
Kristy Belcher Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu July 16, 2015 10:57 am

A word for artists striving to make something timeless: Stop. People live within history. It provides particular tools, collaborators and ideas that even the most blinkered hermit can't really avoid.

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The Record
1:56 pm
Tue July 7, 2015

Why Films About Musicians Leave So Much Music Off Screen

Amy Winehouse, in an image taken from the documentary Amy, by director Asif Kapadia.
Courtesy of A24

For anyone more interested in Amy Winehouse's music than in her martyrdom, the most shocking images in Asif Kapadia's new documentary Amy may not be the ones showing her strung out and terrifyingly thin at the end of her short life, nor those capturing her turn into serious addiction in filthy, paraphernalia-strewn rooms she shared with her enabler and eventual husband, Blake Fielder-Civil.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Review: Anderson East, 'Delilah'

Anderson East's new album, Delilah, comes out July 10.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri July 10, 2015 7:48 am

If they're lucky, talented and charismatic, young musical men in Nashville can find themselves playing a game of musical Let's Make A Deal. Behind Door No. 1 is a truck, a beer cooler and a lady in snug jeans; the challenge is to make anything out of these party-anthem ingredients that feels fresh and isn't insipid. Door No. 2 conceals the tools of traditionalism — a cowboy (or, currently, trucker) hat, an acoustic guitar and a solid but burdensome set of assumptions about what authentic storytelling can be. Behind Door No. 3? That's the hot spot for people who like to dance.

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All Songs TV
11:40 am
Thu June 25, 2015

Striking Matches, 'Nothing But The Silence'

Sarah Zimmermann of Striking Matches appears in a scene from the band's new video for "Nothing But The Silence."
Courtesy of the artist

The romance of artistic collaboration is as potent and mysterious as the draw of sex. But pop music tends to obsess on the latter while keeping the former process in the background. "Nothing But The Silence," the title track from the T-Bone Burnett-produced debut album by the Nashville duo Striking Matches, reads as the love song of a dented heart at first, but multiple listens open up its meanings.

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All Songs TV
1:35 pm
Wed June 24, 2015

First Watch: Shovels & Rope, 'Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan'

YouTube

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 4:27 pm

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All Songs Considered
10:51 am
Wed June 24, 2015

Songs We Love: Donnie Fritts, 'Errol Flynn'

Donnie Fritts.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 5:53 pm

Donnie Fritts knows what it's like to be held in the silver shimmer of celluloid, and he's had years of experience playing wingman to a heartthrob. That's why "Errol Flynn," a song written by the cabaret raconteur Amanda McBroom for her actor father, David Bruce, works perfectly as the lead single from Oh My Goodness, Fritts' new album. Contemplating the tattered poster she's tacked to her wall of her dad standing with the song's titular leading man, McBroom ponders fame and mortality and cautions listeners to treasure personal connections over Hollywood fantasies.

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All Songs TV
11:59 am
Mon June 22, 2015

The Making Of Jason Isbell's '24 Frames'

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit work with producer Dave Cobb in a scene from the making-of video for the song "24 Frames."
Courtesy of the artist

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun June 21, 2015

Review: Joy Williams, 'VENUS'

Joy Williams' new album, Venus, comes out June 29.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 9:19 am

"I'm gonna stand here in the ache," Joy Williams wails in "Until The Levee," a song that comes just past the middle of the arc her new solo album, VENUS, creates. She seems to nearly strain her warm, urgent voice, which many came to love in Williams' early Christian-music recordings — and many more adored as one half of the sound of the now-defunct Civil Wars.

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Songs We Love
2:18 pm
Fri June 19, 2015

Songs We Love: Delta Rae, 'All Good People'

Delta Rae, seen here performing live at WXPN in Philadelphia, wrote a song in reaction to Wednesday's mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
Kelsey Stanger WXPN

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 5:53 pm

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Songs We Love
2:25 pm
Mon June 15, 2015

Songs We Love: Lucero, 'Went Looking For Warren Zevon's Los Angeles'

Lucero's new album, All A Man Should Do, comes out Sept. 18.
Jamie Holdom Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 5:54 pm

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First Listen
10:56 pm
Sun June 14, 2015

Review: Leon Bridges, 'Coming Home'

Leon Bridges's new album, Coming Home, comes out June 23.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 23, 2015 10:05 pm

When Leon Bridges sings, he often raises his arms in a chest-opening gesture that might resolve in a benediction or a finger snap. Like the music the 25-year-old Fort Worth soul sensation has carefully crafted for his debut, his signature move seems simple, but hold many meanings.

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All Songs TV
7:03 am
Thu June 4, 2015

Gill Landry, 'Funeral In My Heart'

Gill Landry in a scene from "Funeral In My Heart"
Youtube/Courtesy of the artist

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The Record
3:29 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

12 Essential Archives For Internet-Era Music Historians

Photo illustration: Claire O'Neill/NPR. Photos via NASA and iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 3:52 pm

Where do music historians go to find the sounds that shape the stories they tell? There are some obvious places, like the Library of Congress, whose National Jukebox offers more than ten thousand songs from the dawn of the modern age, or the Internet Archive, which overwhelms with its vast array of material and is especially rich for live recordings.

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The Record
1:32 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

Digital Underground

The Internet can be a wonderland of musical discovery and discourse, but it's not built to be a permanent archive.
Photo illustration: Claire O'Neill/NPR. Photos via iStockphoto and Flickr Creative Commons

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 3:53 pm

The music sharing platform imeem thrived from 2004 until its shuttering in 2009 as a safe haven in the wilds of the semi-legal Internet. It was Napster without the piracy, a legal space for music makers and fans to share bedroom composition, videos of their latest dance moves, and the latest streamed — not downloaded — hits.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun May 24, 2015

Review: Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, 'Django And Jimmie'

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard's new album, Django And Jimmie, comes out June 2.
Danny Clinch Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 23, 2015 10:29 pm

Love your old uncles while you have them. Mine used to hang around near the drinks table at family gatherings, comparing the weird bumps growing on their ears, sharing jokes they'd learned in the Army, and blowing the kids away with stories culled from decades' worth of interesting exploits. Most have gone to the next beyond by now, but I hold my uncles' devil-may-care spirit close to my heart. People have a lot to learn from those among them who've lived long enough to not worry about any particular outcome.

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The Record
1:29 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Rickie Lee Jones Embraces 'The Big Invisible'

Rickie Lee Jones' new album, The Other Side of Desire, will be out on June 23.
David McClister Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 4:46 pm

Rickie Lee Jones needs no introduction. Seriously. The singer-songwriter is so elementally articulate, so gifted at grasping both the rawest and the most complicatedly cooked emotions in her compositions, that critical framing best comes after the experience of listening to her.

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Songs We Love
12:06 pm
Tue May 19, 2015

Songs We Love: Rayland Baxter, 'Yellow Eyes'

Rayland Baxter's new album, Imaginary Man, comes out August 14.
Eric Ryan Anderson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 10:11 am

Many musicians can craft about one-third of an excellent pop song. Some write beautiful bare melodies that drip into your head like honey into cake. Others are masters of tone, using genius arrangements and technical wizardry to craft a sound that transports, no matter the shape of the tune. Still others employ wit to craft characters that feel like friends. Rarely, a musician manages to do all three. On the new "Yellow Eyes," Rayland Baxter comes pretty darn close to such perfection.

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