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Music

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2019 nominees on Tuesday, and in what has become an annual tradition, the list came with the Hall's usual heap of opacity and a dash of acrimony.

One nominee has already been inducted, two are receiving their fifth nominations, and one previously said it would decline the honor before changing its, ahem, tune on Tuesday morning.

The word "first" comes up a lot when talking about the latest album from Cat Power. It's the singer's first in six years, her first since giving birth to a son (notice his forehead peeking out on the album cover) and her first since leaving Matador, her longtime record label. But one thing is not new: As is often the case with Cat Power's music, this collection is spare and emotional.

More often than not, when you hear songs that ring out with the urgency and complexity of being in a relationship at a difficult time, you're hearing just one side of the story; what passion and loss and doubt and loneliness and lust feels like from just the side of the person making the music.

We all have distractions in our lives that keep us from working, studying, concentrating or otherwise attempting to unlock something in our own brains. It could be roommates, or coworkers, or the 24/7 rage-spigot of the Internet, or something else entirely, but we all have outside forces we need to drown out without merely adding more chaos to the mix. This two-hour playlist is engineered to help.

With Robin Hilton out for one more week, NPR Music's Ann Powers and Lars Gotrich join me for a whirlwind tour of a busy release day. We've got the first album in five years by the spiky pop-rock band Swearin' (featuring the great and good Allison Crutchfield); the gorgeous first album in six years by Chan Marshall, a.k.a.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Editor's note: The following story contains some frank discussion of suicide.

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