Bob Boilen

In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.

Significant listener interest in the music being played on All Things Considered, along with his and NPR's vast music collections, gave Boilen the idea to start All Songs Considered. "It was obvious to me that listeners of NPR were also lovers of music, but what also became obvious by 1999 was that the web was going to be the place to discover new music and that we wanted to be the premiere site for music discovery." The show launched in 2000, with Boilen as its host.

Before coming to NPR, Boilen found many ways to share his passion for music. From 1982 to 1986 he worked for Baltimore's Impossible Theater, where he held many posts, including composer, technician, and recording engineer. Boilen became part of music history in 1983 with the Impossible Theater production Whiz Bang, a History of Sound. In it, Boilen became one of the first composers to use audio sampling — in this case, sounds from nature and the industrial revolution. He was interviewed about Whiz Bang by Susan Stamberg on All Things Considered.

In 1985, the Washington City Paper voted Boilen 'Performance Artist of the Year.' An electronic musician, he received a grant from the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to work on electronic music and performance.

After Impossible Theater, Boilen worked as a producer for a television station in Washington, D.C. He produced several projects, including a music video show. In 1997, he started producing an online show called Science Live for the Discovery Channel. He also put out two albums with his psychedelic band, Tiny Desk Unit, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Boilen still composes and performs music and posts it for free on his website BobBoilen.info. He performs contradance music and has a podcast of contradance music that he produces with his son Julian.

Longtime NPR fans may remember another contribution Boilen made to NPR. He composed the original theme music for NPR's Talk of the Nation.

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All Songs TV
11:51 am
Fri March 27, 2015

Lauren Shera, 'Light and Dust'

Alysse Gafkjen Courtesy of the Artist

Originally published on

Written as a farewell to her home in California, Lauren Shera's "Light and Dust" introduces the new direction she took on her third studio album, Gold and Rust.

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All Songs TV
8:11 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Genevieve, 'Colors'

Genevieve.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 8:51 am

What a killer song. In fact, of all the tunes the All Songs Considered crew inspected before we headed down to Austin for SXSW, "Colors," the debut single by Genevieve, was the team favorite.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon March 16, 2015

Punch Brothers: Tiny Desk Concert

Carlos Waters NPR

Spoiler alert: The Punch Brothers came to the Tiny Desk on Chris Thile's birthday. We made him a cake and gave him an NPR surprise! This wasn't the first time the brilliant mandolinist had brought a project to my desk, it was his fourth. The last time was with his longtime band Nickel Creek — and his new braces.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
9:03 am
Mon March 9, 2015

Fantastic Negrito: Tiny Desk Concert

Morgan McCloy NPR

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 10:21 am

It says a lot that, with almost 7,000 entries to choose from, we selected Fantastic Negrito as the winner of our Tiny Desk Concert Contest. For his winning submission, he performed "Lost In A Crowd" in a freight elevator in Oakland. It was his passion, his voice and his backing band that landed him an invitation to perform behind my desk. We're proud of our choice.

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All Songs TV
9:01 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Wasted Wine, 'The Strangest Of Eyes'

Courtesy of the Artist

If you're attracted to the strange, then you must watch "The Strangest Eyes." The music video for this song, by Wasted Wine, feels like a bastard child of David Lynch and Nick Cave. There's humor, but damn it's dark.

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All Songs Considered
9:22 am
Tue March 3, 2015

TV On The Radio, Stromae & Courtney Barnett To Play NPR Music's SXSW Showcase

Clockwise from upper left: Shamir, TV On The Radio, Boogie, Courtney Barnett, Stromae
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 2:32 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:40 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Phox: Tiny Desk Concert

Morgan McCloy NPR

I first saw Phox in an impromptu concert at a restaurant in Philadelphia. I thought the band was talented and charming, and I still do. Phox is six friends from Baraboo, Wis., who make pretty, catchy music. The group's not-so-secret weapon is Monica Martin, who sings with a smoky lilt in front of spare, tasteful instrumentation.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:48 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Dan Deacon: Tiny Desk Concert

Colin Marshall NPR

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 12:20 pm

Sometime years from now I may be asked: What was your favorite day at NPR? I am likely to say it's the day Dan Deacon got the NPR staff worked up into a giant dance party! It's also the day Deacon and staff wheeled in an upright piano and connected it to his computer — a magical mix of old player piano and electronic avant-garde.

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All Songs Considered
1:56 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Jimmy Page Reflects On 40 Years Of Led Zeppelin's 'Physical Graffiti'

Jimmy Page is remastering and reissuing all of the Led Zeppelin albums, along with previously unreleased recordings.
Ross Halfin Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 3:32 pm

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All Songs Considered
12:12 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

New Mix: Lord Huron, Metz, Patrick Watson, More

Top row, left to right: Sóley, Patrick Watson; Middle row: Metz, Summer Cannibals; bottom: Lord Huron
Courtesy of the artists

It may be freezing on the east coast, but on All Songs Considered this week, we've got the hottest tracks to keep you out of the cold.

At the top, North Dakota songwriter Tom Brosseau tells a heartbreaking story about a boy abandoned by his mother. Patrick Watson returns with a vast and beautiful sound that explores the distinction between humanity and technology.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:39 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Zola Jesus: Tiny Desk Concert

Colin Marshall NPR

With her huge voice and an assist from talented trombonist Daniel Walter Eaton, Zola Jesus presented a curious combination at the Tiny Desk — a combination I hardly ever encounter. Having seen her mostly with a big and powerful band, I wondered if this configuration would work. But it was magic, with the trombone poignantly complementing her mellifluous voice and stark personal words.

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All Songs Considered
11:26 am
Mon February 23, 2015

10 Tiny Desk Contest Entries We Also Loved

DeQn Sue was one of the many, many Tiny Desk contestants who won our team over.
YouTube

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun February 22, 2015

First Listen: Tom Brosseau, 'Perfect Abandon'

Tom Brosseau's new album, Perfect Abandon, comes out March 3.
Carey Braswell Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 1:17 pm

"They call me the hard luck boy," Tom Brosseau says at the top of his enchanting new album, later adding, "It all happened a very long time ago, when I was just a boy. My mother took me on what she called 'a little shopping trip' four or five states away, to a city she'd never been to before." In just that one song, in just four minutes, the North Dakota singer and storyteller tells a heartbreaking tale that hasn't left me since I first heard it.

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All Songs TV
6:03 am
Thu February 19, 2015

A Song For Chinese New Year: Stop And Hear The Red Flowers

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn
Amanda Kowalski Courtesy of the artist

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:35 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

Until The Ribbon Breaks: Tiny Desk Concert

Colin Marshall NPR

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 11:36 am

The beauty of the Tiny Desk lies, at least partially, in the limitations of size and technology. We rarely amplify voices, for example, so for a band like Until The Ribbon Breaks, the challenge becomes how to take a loud electronic sound down to a volume where singer Pete Lawrie-Winfield can be heard. In this case, the solution involved a spaghetti strainer, a paint bucket and an acoustic guitar.

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All Songs TV
8:38 am
Thu February 12, 2015

SOAK, 'Sea Creatures'

SOAK
Joshua Hillard Courtesy of the Artist

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 6:06 am

SOAK is the music of eighteen-year-old Bridie Monds-Watson from Derry, Ireland. I love the simplicity in her music and puzzling out the images in this song, "Sea Creatures." At one moment I think it's a love song, with lines like:

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All Songs Considered
5:00 am
Thu February 12, 2015

The Tiny Desk Concert Contest Winner Is ...

Fantastic Negrito is the winner of the first-ever Tiny Desk Concert Contest.
Brian Gibel Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 10:22 am

Today we're thrilled to announce that the winner of the Tiny Desk Concert Contest is Fantastic Negrito.

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Wed February 11, 2015

Ask Me (Bob Boilen) Anything

Caller, you're on air ... uh, the Internet.
Morgan McCloy NPR

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 9:27 am

I'll be online at reddit.com/r/music on Wednesday, February 11, 1 to 2 p.m. EST, answering your questions on this post. I'm a little scared because you can actually ask me anything. It will be kind of like a Tiny Desk Concert (intimate, awkward) but I'm sure we'll have fun.

In case you need a little background information about me:

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Tue February 10, 2015

Mucca Pazza: Tiny Desk Concert

Colin Marshall NPR

When I first imagined Mucca Pazza at the Tiny Desk, I honestly had no idea how the Chicago band's 23 members would fit in — in the literal sense of the term. To load-test this performance, we actually gathered a gaggle of interns behind my desk and began to stack people on cabinets, step-stools and, of course, desks.

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All Songs Considered
11:26 am
Thu February 5, 2015

What Is Your Ideal Romantic Song?

Mike Katzif NPR

Is there a single song that sounds like romance to you? My mom might pick Sinatra singing "Fly Me To The Moon." For someone growing up in the '50s it might be "I Only Have Eyes For You" sung by The Flamingos.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:41 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

John Reilly & Friends: Tiny Desk Concert

Colin Marshall NPR

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 12:04 pm

It might be easy to dismiss a music project from actor John Reilly, but that would be a huge mistake: Reilly is a fine singer, especially when he gets a hold of old-time material, and his guitar work provides a perfect foundation for these church and porch tunes from America's past.

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All Songs Considered
1:03 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

New Mix: Toro Y Moi, Courtney Barnett, Pops Staples, More

Clockwise from upper left: Courtney Barnett, Pops Staples, Toro Y Moi, Other Lives
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 6:51 am

This week on All Songs Considered, we start the show with new music Bob's been waiting for two years to hear: the great first single from Courtney Barnett's debut full-length album. Don't miss the video for "Pedestrian at Best" off her album Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun February 1, 2015

First Listen: Paperhaus, 'Paperhaus'

Paperhaus' new album, Paperhaus, comes out Feb. 10.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 1:19 pm

Paperhaus is my kind of guitar band, with power in the lyricism instead of just the chords. Its music can be jarring and jagged, but Paperhaus can also sound dreamy the way groups like Television could, with lilt and grit. These are long songs that take twists and turns of the variety you might find in a prog-rock band. But Paperhaus is more pop than prog, with excursions that serve the music rather than the musicians themselves.

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All Songs TV
9:17 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Courtney Barnett, 'Pedestrian At Best'

Leslie Kirchhoff Courtesy of the Artist

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 12:40 pm

The visual: A clown past her prime. The words: "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you."

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:00 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Bobby Bare Jr.: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

I was in Nashville, standing in line at a food/music festival, when this guy behind me hears my voice, recognizes me and says, "Hey, Bob Boilen! Bobby Bare Jr. here. I've been hoping to play your desk." Truth be told, I'd been hoping to make that happen, too. And so the deal was sealed over a pork bun. Thirty minutes later, at the same festival, Bare was on stage with his dad, the country legend Bobby Bare Sr., and Kings Of Leon. That's Nashville for you.

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All Songs Considered
10:43 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Tiny Desk Concert Contest Phase 2: Judging Begins

This is all I do anymore.
Morgan McCloy NPR

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 1:37 pm

I've basically stopped going to concerts. For me, this is kind of like I've stopped eating or sleeping. If you're looking for me these days, you can find me at my computer, watching musicians play their heart out for a chance to perform at NPR's Tiny Desk. After six busy weeks, the Tiny Desk Concert Contest eligibility period is now closed, and we've moved on to the next stage: judging.

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First Listen
10:02 pm
Sun January 25, 2015

First Listen: Asaf Avidan, 'Gold Shadow'

Asaf Avidan's new album, Gold Shadow, comes out Feb. 3.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 3, 2015 1:47 pm

It's easy to listen to Asaf Avidan and not know if you're listening to a female singer from long ago or a guy singing 21st-century pop songs. Avidan is a bestselling 34-year-old singer from Israel who is little known in the U.S. This record, Gold Shadow, is likely to change that. On his first official release in North America, Avidan has written a batch of killer songs that make use of one of the most compelling and unusual voices I've ever heard.

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All Songs Considered
10:58 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield, 'Somebody That I Used To Know'

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield.
Crackerfarm

The songs of Elliott Smith are widely revered — especially by those who came of age in the '90s — but a new generation of listeners is only beginning to discover him. Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith is likely to expose new fans to the great singer-songwriter. Smith released five albums in his lifetime and died in 2003 from two stab wounds to the chest; he'd left a suicide note. His songs, which often dealt with depression and desperation, were beautiful and frequently quiet.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:18 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Rubblebucket: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 12:03 pm

Before Rubblebucket played its Tiny Desk Concert, its members asked if they could bring a confetti cannon. And, though I said no — dear coworkers, I really do care about you — the band still brought a fun mix of brass and brash to the Tiny Desk.

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All Songs Considered
11:49 am
Tue January 20, 2015

New Mix: Dan Deacon, THEESatisfaction, Jackson Scott, More

Clockwise from upper left: Dan Deacon, Tanya Tagaq, THEESatisfaction, Jackson Scott
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 9:15 am

This week on All Songs Considered: Our favorite electronic artist, Dan Deacon, is back with another playfully infectious dance party, one he recorded both in the studio and in bathrooms and greenrooms during his most recent tour. Also, NPR Music contributor Katie Presley joins us with a hypnotic groove from the Seattle-based duo THEESatisfaction and a slow-burning jam from New Orleans singer-songwriter Kristin Diable.

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