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 Considered
1:03 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Have An Oddly Jolly Christmas: A Quirky Holiday Playlist

Crate-digger and director Mitchell Kezin shows off one of his Christmas finds in a still from his documentary, Jingle Bell Rocks!
Elaine Littman Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 8:27 am

Searching for Christmas music you've never heard before? Well, Mitchell Kezin is a collector of what he calls "Christmas orphans," those Christmas songs hardly played and mostly unknown. After being a closet collector of Christmas music for years, now he's directed a documentary about obsessive crate-diggers who specialize in rare Christmas music.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Sat December 20, 2014

Lucinda Williams: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

She came to the Tiny Desk a little unsure, and left singing "West Memphis" with intensity and passion. Lucinda Williams has a voice like no other, and it shines in these intimate moments.

Williams is on a roll with a new double album, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, which is filled with fresh and beautiful songs — all this from a songwriter known for working at a deliberate pace. Hearing her perform these new songs with her brilliant band was a rare and exciting treat.

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All Songs TV
7:03 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Watch 'Road Dawgs,' A Mini-Documentary About Future Islands

Winners chronicles Future Islands' success following the band's performance of "Seasons (Waiting On You)" on Letterman.
Courtesy of the artist

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Yusuf/Cat Stevens: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 1:51 pm

In the summer of 1971, I was a camp counselor at a sleep-away camp for a bunch of 5- to 7-year-olds. For those eight weeks, I walked home with about $50. I bought a guitar and began to learn the songs I'd come to love from the recently released Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens.

"Father and Son" touched me most — it's a song about growing old, and about beliefs and conviction. More than 40 years later, that songwriter is performing at my desk with his son standing right behind me. You can never imagine the turns life will take.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Sat December 6, 2014

St. Paul And The Broken Bones: Tiny Desk Concert

James Clark NPR

Originally published on Sat December 6, 2014 4:07 pm

Close your eyes and listen, and you might imagine someone who looks a bit like Otis Redding. Open them, and you're likely to see someone who looks more like your neighborhood bank teller.

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All Songs Considered
9:30 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Introducing Our Tiny Desk Concert Contest

Introducing our Tiny Desk Concert Contest.
NPR

Want to play a Tiny Desk Concert? Now's your chance: NPR Music and Lagunitas are holding a contest, and the winner gets to perform at my desk here at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:41 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Sam Amidon & Bill Frisell: Tiny Desk Concert

Bill Frisell (left), Sam Amidon and Shahzad Ismaily perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 16, 2014.
Susan Hale Thomas NPR

Originally published on Sat December 6, 2014 4:08 pm

Sam Amidon takes traditional music and makes it his own. He might begin with a traditional murder ballad and then morph it into something of his own, fueled by Bill Frisell's languidly atmospheric guitar, Shahzad Ismaily's minimal but essential percussion and Amidon's own yearning voice. At other times, Amidon weaves his own new tunes into worn, weary, seemingly ageless sagas.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Sat November 22, 2014

J Mascis: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

The loudest guy in the world came to the Tiny Desk to perform some of his quietest music. Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis, for years a guy who's turned my ears red, showed up armed with just an acoustic guitar. I even had an amp for that guitar all lined up, but he decided to not plug in.

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All Songs Considered
12:00 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

New Mix: TV On The Radio, Caribou, More

Clockwise from upper left: A Winged Victory For The Sullen, TV On The Radio, Samaris, Caribou
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Tue November 18, 2014 1:22 pm

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All Songs Considered
9:56 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Hear A Stunning Bonus Track From Angel Olsen's 'Burn Your Fire For No Witness'

Kelly Giarrocco Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 11:23 am

When it came out in February, I told friends that the Angel Olsen album Burn Your Fire For No Witness was my favorite of the year so far. Now, here in late October, my love for that record has only grown deeper. The songs are sullen at times, on fire at others. All are memorable. It's one of those perfect records.

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All Songs Considered
11:33 am
Mon October 27, 2014

Bob Boilen's Top 10 Discoveries From The 2014 CMJ Music Marathon

Bob Boilen NPR Music

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 8:50 am

Every fall, hundreds of bands migrate to New York City for the annual CMJ Music Marathon. Many of these groups are playing their first shows in NYC and for a lot of the audience — music journalists, college dj's and fans alike — it's their first taste of these young upstarts. My previous CMJ discoveries include such favorites as Courtney Barnett, Public Service Broadcasting, Foxygen, The Blow, Zola Jesus, Caveman ... the list is long.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:41 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Anthony D'Amato: Tiny Desk Concert

Claire Eggers NPR

Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 4:44 pm

Anthony D'Amato sings and writes in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen or Josh Ritter: His songs sound friendly musically, but they also tackle the difficult and the twisted. Like those great songwriters, D'Amato's work is universal without devolving into moping. There's also a spirit to these songs, as it's easy to imagine a crowd spontaneously backing these his powerful choruses.

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First Listen
10:02 pm
Sun October 19, 2014

First Listen: Daniel Lanois, 'Flesh And Machine'

Daniel Lanois' new album, Flesh And Machine, comes out Oct. 28.
Margaret Marissen Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 11:45 am

Sometimes it helps to know where an artist is from. Geography can define a sound, but while Daniel Lanois is from Ontario, he might as well hail from Saturn. His new album, Flesh And Machine, defies categorization; it has no songs and no words, with voices used only to provide textures.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
5:34 am
Sat October 18, 2014

Ásgeir: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 4:04 pm

When he was 20, Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson released an album in Iceland, sung in Icelandic, with many of the words written by his father. Dýrð í dauðaþögn became the biggest-selling debut in Icelandic music history.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:37 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

The Bots: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

The Bots' members are brothers and bandmates whose playful, catchy songs rock hard. Singer-guitarist Mikaiah Lei is 21 and drummer Anaiah Lei is 17; they made their first album when they were 15 and 12, respectively. Pink Palms is their newest and best.

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All Songs TV
11:26 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Gregory Alan Isakov, 'Amsterdam'

Gregory Alan Isakov, 'Amsterdam'
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun October 26, 2014 4:22 pm

There's a climactic passage, near the end of Gregory Alan Isakov's "Amsterdam," that's punctuated by a moment in a glorious piece of stop-motion animation by Laura Goldhamer. I won't spoil it with description, but I understand how it took her a month and a half to create it. Here are Isakov's words:

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:29 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Jackson Browne: Tiny Desk Concert

James Clark NPR

Originally published on Tue October 7, 2014 8:47 am

My admiration for Jackson Browne began with his first album in 1971. I was wowed by the fact that the singer-songwriter had worked with Nico of Velvet Underground fame — his girlfriend at the time — on her first album, Chelsea Girl. He wrote one of my favorite songs on that record, "These Days."

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All Songs TV
12:13 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

tUnE-yArDs, 'Real Thing'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun October 26, 2014 4:25 pm

My favorite song from tUnE-yArDs 2014 release Nikki Nack has gotten a wacky, cartoony visual treatment.

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All Songs Considered
8:28 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Song Premiere: Asaf Avidan, 'Over My Head'

Singer, Asaf Avidan
Dudi Hasson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 11:06 am

Earlier this year I heard a voice like no other. In fact, when I heard the song "Different Pulses," I was sure it was a woman. I imagined someone like Janis Joplin. But the singer, the young Israeli Asaf Avidan, is the man in the photo above. He's well known back home and in Europe — an unauthorized remix of "One Day/Reckoning Song" has fifteen million views on YouTube. When he came to the U.S.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:57 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Tweedy: Tiny Desk Concert

Tiny Desk Concert with Tweedy on September 8, 2014.
Nick Michael NPR

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 8:08 pm

There's something heartwarming about a family making music together. I'm especially sentimental when I see a father with a son, because my son and I made music in contra dance bands and Irish sessions as he grew up.

Years ago, while interviewing Jeff Tweedy before a Wilco concert, I asked him if he'd made music with his kids. He told me about going to his son Spencer's preschool class and writing a tune with all the kids; "Monkey Mess" was their final creation.

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All Songs TV
11:56 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Kevin Morby, 'All Of My Life'

Kevin Morby, 'All Of My Life'
Woodsist

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 1:12 pm

Here's a sweet song filmed on a faux '60s TV show set. Kevin Morby, who recently moved from New York to Los Angeles, played in Woods as a bassist and The Babies (now on hiatus) as a guitarist and singer. I saw Morby on a recent solo tour for his new record Still Life and enjoyed the simplicity of his songs.

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First Listen
10:38 pm
Sun September 14, 2014

First Listen: GOAT, 'Commune'

GOAT's new album, Commune, comes out Sept. 23 on Sub Pop and Rocket Recordings.
Tammy Karlsson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 9:36 am

If someone said that the band GOAT took its name from the initials for "Get Out A Tambourine," it'd be easy to believe. The Swedish collective makes irresistible trance/dance music that doubles as hypnotic hippie hoodoo. GOAT captures the spirit of the '60s in its guitar meanderings and acid tones; its rhythms feel inspired by rave culture and electronic music, but are made with hands instead of machines. Oh, and the band members wear masks, hit cowbells, and sing in unison a lot.

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All Songs TV
9:44 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Holly Williams, 'Waiting On June'

Holly Williams
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon September 15, 2014 11:09 am

Holly Williams is a powerful singer and a songwriter. She writes songs from the heart and I've witnessed this song bring more than a few people to tears (I'm included). You may know Holly Williams as the daughter of Hank Williams Jr., and the granddaughter of Hank Williams, though the elder Hank died long before she was born.

But this song, "Waiting on June," is a story of her maternal grandparents, the other side of the family. Holly Williams wrote to us to tell us about the grandfather and grandmother this tear-jerker is about.

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All Songs TV
12:08 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Mirah, 'No Direction Home'

Mirah
Shervin Lainez

Originally published on Sun October 26, 2014 4:26 pm

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Front Row
11:01 am
Thu September 11, 2014

The New Pornographers, Live In Concert At The Brill Building

The New Pornographers celebrated the release of their new album, Brill Bruisers, with a special show inside the Brill Building in New York.
Ebru Yildiz for NPR

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 2:20 pm

Last week in New York City, on the fringe of Times Square, a band of busy artists gathered in a building brimming with songwriting history. The Brill Building's golden age, when songs like "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "Be My Baby" were written in its offices, are in the past, but The New Pornographers' pop music would fit into the mold of that era. You can easily imagine the group's members writing songs in small, secluded rooms to be played on tiny transistors and monophonic record players.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Wed September 10, 2014

George Harrison, 'This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 11:11 am

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:21 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Justin Townes Earle: Tiny Desk Concert

Justin Townes Earle performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Colin Marshall NPR

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 3:09 pm

We threw a curve ball at Justin Townes Earle. Despite his five albums full of well-loved songs, we asked him to play new material for this Tiny Desk Concert; songs we hadn't yet heard. Earle's new album Single Mothers comes out this week, and here he performs two tracks from that record: "White Gardenias," his nod to Billie Holiday, and "Burning Pictures."

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All Songs Considered
10:36 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Song Premiere: Barbra Streisand And John Legend Together

Barbra Streisand during a recording session in Burbank, Calif.
Jason Merritt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 11:11 am

Barbra Streisand, one of the most loved singers of all time and the best-selling female recording artist ever (according to RIAA statistics) has teamed up with the ever soulful, gospel-inspired singer John Legend on a song she originally recorded with Bee Gees singer and songwriter Barry Gibb in 1980.

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