Stephen Thompson

It's only rolled out a few songs so far, but the Brooklyn band Frances Cone has already carved out a distinct sound — a sweet slow burn in which songs build gradually and carefully into something truly grand. The gorgeous "Unraveling," from a forthcoming album called Late Riser, really gets at what works about Frances Cone's music: Each cooed "ooooh" is in the exact right place, weaving together to form a warm and hypnotic tapestry.

The moment you get a look at ALA.NI behind the Tiny Desk, you'll notice it in the foreground: The singer asked us to record her set using her vintage RCA Ribbon microphone, which she carries around in a small briefcase between shows. It's a security blanket, a bit of visual branding, a statement of stylistic intent — and, not for nothing, a big reason ALA.NI's voice carries with such warmth and intimacy.

We thought this episode was going to be all about The Dark Tower, a new movie adaptation of Stephen King's ambitious series of novels. Then... we saw The Dark Tower, which attempts, at least in part, to condense 4,000-plus pages into a 95-minute movie. We didn't like it — and, more to the point, we didn't think it was interesting enough to warrant a whole segment of Pop Culture Happy Hour.

When Rainer Maria first surfaced in the punk-rock basements of Madison, Wisconsin, 20 years ago, its sound was a tense and jagged jumble of youthful feelings: of confinement, of frustration and of having too many words rushing through your brain to capture and convey everything you want the world to hear.

With host Linda Holmes still in Los Angeles, where she's attending the Televisions Critics Association press tour, Glen Weldon and I have assembled without her for a discussion of director Kathryn Bigelow's new film, Detroit. We're joined by our pals Gene Demby (from NPR's Code Switch) and Aisha Harris (who hosts Slate's Represent podcast).

Maggie Rogers became a viral star on the strength of a video in which Pharrell Williams raves about a demo of what's become her signature song, "Alaska." Since then, Rogers has signed a label deal, toured extensively and released a sweetly approachable, inventively arranged EP called Now That The Light Is Fading.

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.

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