Stories on the music scene from KUNC and NPR.

Courtesy of The Flobots

Jamie Laurie, better known as Jonny 5, of the Flobots, and Isaac Slade of the Fray both use their music for social activism. The two visited with Platform Americas host Elaine Appleton Grant backstage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

For much of the post-Dylan age, and particularly in such self-consciously cerebral genres as indie rock, contemporary folk and Americana, artists have been more likely to command critical respect for cultivating their songwriting voices than for interpreting songs from others' pens. But John Prine, who was once pegged as a new Dylan, seems to be having a fine time toying with that modern musical hierarchy.

Maxwell does things on his own schedule. The 43-year-old R&B singer just celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, which helped inaugurate the neo-soul movement. Now, he's releasing his fifth studio album, blackSUMMERS'night.

This Week's Playlist

  • Andy Shauf, "To You [Moments Edit]" (Anti-)
  • Galimatias & Alina Baraz, "Pretty Thoughts" (Ultra)
  • DJ Shadow, "Ashes To Oceans [feat. Matthew Halsall]" (Mass Appeal)
  • Bat For Lashes, "Sunday Love" (Astralwerks)
  • M83, "Do It, Try It [The Blaze Remix]" (Mute)
  • Kaytranada, "You're The One" (XL)
  • Kungs, "This Girl" (Republic)
  • Classixx, "Grecian Summer" (Innovative Leisure)

When Xenia Rubinos' father was suffering from Parkinson's disease, she flew to Florida every month to visit, pick up groceries, take him to appointments, and check in with his caregivers. It was an emotional time that inspired the song "Black Stars" from her album Black Terry Cat, in which she sings, "He's a million black stars / And he's gonna live a million years."

"It was very cryptic, and quite mysterious. I received a phone call and I was told that Kanye was an enormous fan of my work, and he would like to meet me."

That's how it started for painter Vincent Desiderio. The next day, he flew from New York to Los Angeles to meet Kanye West. When he arrived, he says, "It was as if I'd entered into a surprise party for me."

Born in Sao Paolo and now living in Los Angeles, singer Carla Hassett finds musical inspiration in each place she's called home. Hassett, who toured with Sergio Mendes and Billy Idol and lent her voice to the soundtracks of the Rio movies, has a new solo album called +Blue (pronounced "more blue"). It's American and Brazilian with a modern twist, Hassett says: For instance, she sets Carmen Miranda's "South American Way" in a minor key and swaps the original's pep for a sultry summer swing.