IPR Music

IPR/Matthew Alvarez

Nearly a dozen people sat in a small room painted black and lit only by two theatre lamps, drawing attention to a DJ booth with its chrome and silver equipment glimmering.

DJ Patrick Blin stepped up to the booth, and the silence was broken by the sounds of record scratches as those watching pulled out their phones to begin filming. Smiles broke out across their faces.


A handful of us at IPR have spent entirely too much time obsessing over what we think the best albums of the decade are. After much deliberation, here are our picks. 

We also want to know what your favorite albums were! Tweet us @IowaPublicRadio #iprmusic. 

Madeleine King / IPR

2019 was another great year for Iowa music, with a wide variety of artists releasing new songs, EPs and albums.  Here are ten noteworthy full-length albums from the past year, listed in the order of their release.

30 Albums From 2019 You Should Hear

Dec 18, 2019
Madeleine King / IPR

There was a lot of good music that came out in 2019. If you're like us and anxiously awaiting the new Tame Impala album which is forthcoming in early 2020, here are the best records to listen to between now and then. 

Mission Creek is turning 15 this year. Festival organizer Andre Perry says he’s looking forward to bringing back some of the aspects of the festival that make it unique and has programmed this year's event with the intention of making it a more intense experience. 

Dates for this year’s fest are April 1-4. In the past, the event has spanned six days. This year, they’ve shortened it to four. 

Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

It's easy to grow tired of hearing the same holiday songs over and over again. Happily, there's a lot of seasonal music that's not heard as much and is just waiting to be discovered! 

Luther College

As you're reading this, it's likely that someone in Iowa is practicing, memorizing, warming up or rehearsing for a choral concert in December. Iowans have planned over 60 of them from river to river, and we hope to give you a complete listing on this page. 

Roan Lavery / Unsplash

Songwriter Frank Loesser wrote "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in 1944, essentially for the amusement of himself and his party guests.

Decades later, there's been fierce debate about what's implied in the back and forth conversation that comprises the lyrics. Ironically, the song was originally written as an invitation for someone to leave, not to stay. 

Janet Eckles

The Des Moines Music Coalition, the not-for-profit that curates 80/35, is trying to breathe new life into another event called Gross Domestic Product

GDP is happening this weekend, Nov. 23, featuring exclusively Iowa bands and musicians at Vaudeville Mews and the 4th Street Theatre. 

Tim Griffith / University of Iowa

Sarah Cahill has premiered over 60 new works by renowned composers like John Adams, Julia Wolfe and Terry Riley.

Today from 2 to 5 p.m., she’ll share another innovation at Voxman Music Building in Iowa City. She’ll play three hours of music written by women, ranging from 1707 to 2019. Admission is free, and you can come and go as you please, staying for as long or as short as you like.

Photo courtesy of Sara Routh

Kat Darling will never forget her first year as a coach at Girls Rock! DSM. She was walking down a hallway and heard screaming coming from inside a room where a practice session was taking place. She soon discovered it was coming from her then ten-year-old daughter, Abileen Darling.

Wikimedia Commons

On a stormy winter night in 1953, North Sea waters overwhelmed dykes and raged over the Dutch lowlands, drowning 1,836 people. Fifty years later, the flood remained vivid in Dutch memory, and composer Douwe Eisenga was commissioned to write a memorial piece.

He wanted to create a work that honored the occasion but also transcended it and spoke to audiences outside the Netherlands. He succeeded.

Phil Roeder

Week after week, choral singers across our state have been rehearsing diligently. Now, 'tis the season when we get to hear the results. Below is a round-up of Iowa choral concerts in November.

We'll be publishing a December "Big List," too, and we will update the November list as we learn about new concerts.

Cameron Wittig

Pieta Brown’s eighth full-length record “Freeway” is prime Pieta Brown music.

“If you’re listening to your own voice that’s about the best you can do right?" she says about her sound. "There’s a great quote from Miles Davis that I think of often:  ‘It takes a long time to sound like yourself.’  Maybe I don’t sound like myself yet, maybe I do.”      

Devin Ferguson

Life has a way of reminding us of our past at the unlikeliest of times. For members of the Iowa band The Teddy Boys, it happened at a friend’s wedding. After performing a reunion show at the reception, they were handed a download card for an album they recorded, but didn’t finish, 12 years ago.


Orchestras are a bit of a trend this fall on Studio One, popping up on new releases from The Flaming Lips and Jim James, and most dramatically on the new Angel Olsen record.  Olsen possesses a powerful voice that's just right for this kind of backing, harkening back to a time when singers and their orchestras were recorded in big cavernous studios.


Brittany Howard's appeal as an artist is due in large part to her outstanding vocal presence.  Along with that, everyone can see that Howard is authentic and true to herself.  For her first solo album, Howard wants to share more of her life, and that includes memorializing her late sister, Jamie.

Beth Teutschmann / Unsplash

Think October is the best month of the year? You're not alone. 

As you breathe in the smell of the falling leaves and wrap your hands around a cup of apple cider wearing your favorite flannel, take heart knowing there's a camp of Iowa based musicians who have written and recorded you the perfect soundtrack. 

Elly Hofmaier

At the age of 21, Lily DeTaeye may not come across as a veteran of the music business, but she’s been writing and performing music for more than a decade.

This Friday, the Des Moines singer-songwriter will release her first full-length album, “BiTe Back,” along with a music video for the first single, “Peppermint.” 


Each new studio record from the Canadian indie pop band The New Pornographers is greeted with high expectations.  It's a status they've earned, and that they maintain with their eighth album, "In the Morse Code of Brake Lights."  That title, plus car and driving references throughout the record, contribute to the sense of a headlong rush through a lush and sophisticated set of songs.

PersianDutchNetwork / Creative Commons

How can today's artists say something new and helpful about the Holocaust? For Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus and poet Michael Dennis Brown, the key was to focus on children.

In their multimedia oratorio “To Be Certain Of The Dawn,” the pair took inspiration from Roman Vishniac's photographs of Jewish children in pre-Shoah Europe. Brown, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, says the “children’s faces are the sun, moon and stars of this work.”


One might assume that the quiet religious current in the music of Hiss Golden Messenger is due to the Durham, North Carolina based band being from the southern United States.  Actually, songwriter and frontman M.C. Taylor is originally from Irvine, California.  Of course, they also have religion in Irvine, along with hardcore punk bands like Ex-Ignota.  Taylor was a member of that group.

Pixies' Mythic Mystique

Sep 30, 2019

Pixies are truly a foundational band in the world of alternative and indie rock.  The band formed in Boston in 1986, early enough to be an influence on groups like Nirvana and Radiohead.  David Bowie was a fan, and proved it by recording a cover of "Cactus."  Pixies called it quits in 1993, allowing their myth to grow in their absence.  And they've had to live up to that myth since the group reunited in 2004.


The term "bedroom pop" is a way of describing lo-fi music recorded at home with a laptop and a microphone.  It's a DIY aesthetic embraced by many these days.  Greta Kline (daughter of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates) released DIY music as a teenager under a variety of names, including Ingrid Superstar and Frankie Cosmos.  The first studio album came out in 2014, and in time Frankie Cosmos became a full-fledged band.

Drake University Choirs

For her farewell concert, Drake University choral director Aimee Beckmann-Collier commissioned five new works - and we've got a first listen to one of them. It's a setting of a Rabindranath Tagore poem by the renowned Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds.


Justin Vernon is putting forth the proposition that each of his four Bon Iver records have been connected to a different season.  The Eau Claire, Wisconsin native and proprietor of April Base recording studio just outside of Eau Claire, considers the new album "i,i" to be his autumn record.


Sleater-Kinney returned from an eight year hiatus in 2014.  The band released the highly acclaimed "No Cities To Love" the following year, and that record rocked like there was no tomorrow.  Trusting that tomorrow would come, Sleater-Kinney took their time for an album to follow that one.  "The Center Won't Hold" is the band's response to our fragmented, divisive times.


The Hold Steady formed in 2003, and from their first album right up to their latest, "Thrashing Thru The Passion," the band has remained true to a certain musical approach.  You could say that they've held steady with a sound that bridges indie rock and classic rock.

Nirmal Majumdar / Special to IPR

School has begun, and fall is in the air. But we’re not done with music festival season. Maximum Ames is happening September 5-8.  It lists dozens of sets, some of whom will make even the most Serious of Music People stop and say “wait, what?”

For starters, Des Moines based blues artist Matt Woods is playing a show at the United Church of Christ.  


Robert Randolph's career as a musician began by playing gospel music at the House of God church in Orange, New Jersey.  He plays pedal steel guitar, and many African-American Pentecostal churches refer to the instrument as "sacred steel."  In time, Randolph took his joyous music (inspired by bands like Earth, Wind & Fire and Sly & The Family Stone) out to clubs.  Robert Randolph and the Family Band includes members of his family that share the same background.