WRUR 88.5 Different Radio

Megan Buerger

After a year of touring, New York City's Sunflower Bean are back with "I Was a Fool," a glistening and gloomy love song that makes you feel a little bit happy, a little bit sad, and a little bit like you want to dance. Singer and bassist Julia Cumming, who plays in the trio with guitarist Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Faber, tells NPR they wanted to capture the heart-sickening dizziness of all-consuming love. "It's confusing," she says, "that's the point."

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.

Nic Fanciulli knows writer's block. Already an established DJ when he began making music more than a decade ago, he used pseudonyms like Skylark and Buick Project (collaborations with engineer Andy Chatterley) out of fear that his own works weren't up to snuff. Not even a Grammy nomination for his 2007 remix of Tiefschwarz's "Damage" helped his confidence. "I was overthinking everything," he tells NPR.

The title of Tei Shi's debut album, Crawl Space, is an ode to the shadowy room she used as a child to overcome her fear of the dark. Recording her first album stirred up similar feelings of dread. "Suddenly, I was six again," she tells NPR. To summon some courage and reconnect with her inner-heroine, the Colombian-Canadian singer (born Valerie Teicher) dug up a stash of old home videos. Her song, "Say You Do," begins and ends with a crushingly earnest recording of her as a child, confessing her insecurities. "I'm a bad singer," she says. "Can't do anything well.

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.

The back-flipping, glowstick-flinging, twerk titans of the EDM main stage have been succeeded by an unlikely assembly of bedroom beatmakers. Cashmere Cat, Mura Masa and Zhu are, in many ways, the polar opposite of DJs who sparked the genre's recent commercial boom. Soft-spoken and enigmatic, they're homebodies-turned-headliners who are more interested in eccentricities and atmospheres than builds and drops.

Dance music producers are quick to applaud themselves for pushing boundaries, but few do it with the ingenuity or finesse of Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson, who together are the London-via-Belfast production duo Bicep. Known for exquisite live sets that revive forgotten strains of house, garage, ambient and disco without an ounce of predictability, they're leading a new wave of eclectic electronic music that prizes curatorial taste above all else.

In January, Alex Crossan — the Guernsey-born, London-based DJ and producer known as Mura Masa — exhaled for what felt like the first time in two years. He'd finally put the finishing touches on his self-titled debut album, which is packed with A-list guest stars like A$AP Rocky, Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) and Charli XCX.

Matthew Dear sometimes has a hard time quieting his mind. The dance-rock innovator dropped partying when his daughters were born and took up an interest in mindfulness and meditation to feel more present. But when you're a touring musician juggling several side projects (including his techno alias, Audion) and a constant case of jet lag, the crunchy stuff doesn't always cut it — you want chemicals. On a particularly grueling tour stop in Australia, a friend offered him Modafinil, a drug used to treat narcolepsy.

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