Jenny Gathright

Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a teaching artist. That means she's an artist who happens to teach — at Carnegie Hall's Musical Connections program within the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, and at Rise2shine, an early childhood education nonprofit in Haiti. But it also means that her work as a teacher has become more and more inextricable from her work as a composer and artist. That connection, she says, is now the strongest it's ever been.

When NPR Music published its list of 150 Greatest Albums By Women two weeks ago, we who created it firmly intended that this be just the beginning of a conversation that puts women's musical artistry at the center. Immediately, others took up our call. Lists began proliferating, representing different taste affinities, time periods and genre focuses than what our list encompassed.

Music is doing its job when it makes you feel like you can actually sit with your angst. With her new single "Wicked Ways," the DMV R&B singer Saba Abraha crafts a rich aesthetic from the feeling of uncertainty. "Wicked Ways" describes the point — in life, in relationships — when things stop coming as easily as they used to.

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


Nick Hakim writes songs that honor his own complexity and the complexity of love (they are, in part, inextricable), delivered through brilliant, pillowy, jazz-inflected arrangements. But, perhaps above all, it's the voice — a striking vessel of emotion and an impressive technical force.

Witch Prophet's Ayo Leilani clearly had healing intentions when she wrote "Listen." It's the official song of the #AnchorCampaign, which Canadian musician (and guest vocalist) Lucas Silveira started to spur conversation about mental health, self-harm and suicide.

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


Someone once told me I should memorize more poems, so I'd have phrases to call upon in times of emotional need. She recommended I start with that William Ernest Henley poem, "Invictus," best known for its closing lines: "I am the master of my fate/ I am the captain of my soul."

If you want to move into 2017's second month with some fun, Chicago multi-instrumentalist Nnamdi Ogbonnaya offers a good place to start. "dOn't turn me Off," the latest single from his upcoming record DROOL, drips with positivity. It's the kind of song that makes you want to gather all your best friends and take on the world, and it might just be the soundtrack to your 2017 breakout moment.

In case you were wondering, the answer is yes: Mick Jenkins is still rapping about water.