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
2:44 am
Thu July 2, 2015

The Key To Kacey Musgraves' Hard-Won Country: Funny Women

On Kacey Musgraves' second album, Pageant Material, she follows in the footsteps of several artists who expanded the sometimes binding roles of women in country music.
Kelly Christine Sutton Courtesy of Mercury Nashville

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 10:57 am

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First Listen
9:03 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

First Listen: Anderson East, 'Delilah'

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

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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First Listen
9:03 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 7:19 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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First Listen
8:56 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 8:05 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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The Record
1:26 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 1:52 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
11:32 am
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 1:53 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
9:03 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 8:29 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
11:23 am
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 2:46 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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The Record
12:36 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Shakey Graves, Lucinda Williams And Sturgill Simpson Lead Americana Awards Nominees

Shakey Graves performs at the Americana Music Association Showcase at Gatsby's during SXSW 2014 in Austin, TX.
Erika Goldring Courtesy of the artist

The nominees for the 2015 Americana Honors and Awards were announced today at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. This year's slate shows how the definition of Americana is gently expanding to include more generationally, racially and stylistically diverse stars, while remaining grounded in its country-leaning, singer-songwriter-dominated definition of roots music.

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First Listen
9:04 pm
Sun May 3, 2015

Review: Buffy Sainte-Marie, 'Power In The Blood'

Buffy Sainte-Marie's new album, Power In The Blood, comes out May 12.
Matt Barnes Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 2:18 pm

It's tempting to mythologize Buffy Sainte-Marie — to call her a folk-music mother of dragons, or at least a shaman calling up lost spirits in her music. It's easy, after all, to exoticize individualistic women, especially women of color; doing so can even feel like offering a compliment. But on Power In The Blood, her first studio album since 2008, the 74-year-old firebrand defies categorization, as she has throughout a half-century of recording.

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