Mike Katzif

There's a new album from Phish coming on Oct. 7, the band's 13th, titled Big Boat, and this news is always met with some conflicted opinions from fans. Throughout an impressive career that now spans 30 years (including a couple hiatuses -> breakups -> reunions along the way), Phish is still known best for its epic live performances rather than its albums. For at least a portion of the diehard concert-collecting fanbase, new songs are more of a refined framework for the lengthy improvisations to come.

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

Striking out on your own during your teens and early 20s is rarely a direct or easy path — it's a breadcrumb trail of false starts and missteps as you figure out who and what you want to be. Ellen Kempner, the Boston songwriter and guitarist behind Palehound, documents that fraught transition from childhood to adulthood as well as anyone around — in part because she's still living through the process.

In the fallout of a breakup, it's natural to spiral into self-analysis, pore over the past for evidence of where it all started to go wrong, and then try to recreate the story from selectively remembered details. This is where Night Beds' Ivywild begins.

For years, Ryan Lott, the innovative beat-making composer and sonic mastermind of Son Lux, has sat at the intersection of pop and classical, creating imaginative and complex music for every medium.

In the dissonant opening seconds of Speedy Ortiz's new album, Foil Deer, Sadie Dupuis lays out her mission statement concisely: "I've known you not so very long / but watch your back, because baby's so good with a blade." Throughout the record, the songwriter and guitarist repeatedly references that sort of vivid and violent imagery, as her forceful words match the band's scorching fury.

In 2015, it's easy to take for granted how important and far-reaching the space race was. But imagine yourself in 1957: News breaks that there's something in the sky — in space — and if you tune your shortwave radio to an especially high frequency, you can hear its signal chirping back to you as it circles the Earth. It's called Sputnik, the first man-made satellite launched into orbit. The Soviet Union's groundbreaking success ushered in a new era, and nothing has been the same since.