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.

A week ago today we launched our new All Songs Considered 24/7 Music Channel as a way to celebrate the show's tenth anniversary. Since then, we've gotten a number of notes from listeners asking about all the different ways they can tune in. Of course, you can hear the stream online and see the songs that are playing, and a list of those that have recently played.

Watching Mitski perform at my desk, there are moments when I was worried for her. In her opening song, "Townie," the boys "are driving and they'll be drinking" — and a verse later, Mitski sings of love in ways that feel vengeful, not fruitful.

And I want a love that falls as fast

As a body from the balcony, and

I want a kiss like my heart is hitting the ground

I'm holding my breath with a baseball bat

Though I don't know what I'm waiting for

We've been a cat free zone for 15 years here on All Songs Considered, but today, for good reason, we break our rule. It's Friday. I'm in a silly mood, and have been since watching this cat video, which has apparently short-circuited my normal news filter.

Eskimeaux's OK is easily my most played album of the year, next to the Courtney Barnett record. There's lighthearted, almost childlike beauty in the way Gabrielle Smith puts words to song. Here are OK's first lines:

In my dreams you're a bathtub running

You are warm and tender

And bubbling

Oh, you are cold and bristling and struggling

BOOTS is the most interesting new artist I've heard in 2015. You may have first encountered him writing and producing songs on Beyoncé's self-titled 2013 album. Earlier this year we premiered BOOTS' self-directed engaging short film/music video Motorcycle Jesus, complete with five brand new songs: his own songs.

Caroline Rose plays music as if she's just met her new best friend: It's fresh, fun and performed with contagious enthusiasm. The title of the first song she played at the Tiny Desk — "Yip Yip Yow" — hints at the fun to come in this brief, blazing set.

"Ladies and gentlemen.
The DJ.
Just threw up.
On the dance floor.
Party is over.
It's time to go!"

Mackenzie Scott's quiet early music gave hints that she could get loud, but I still wasn't prepared for the ferocity of her new work. Recording as Torres, she spends her new album Sprinter unleashing as-yet-unheard intensity and power, all while performing with incredible prowess.

Sprinter is the album that taught me to love Torres' music: It channels clear influences like Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, while still hinting at further growth. (She's only 24.)

I savor the moment of finding a band to love. I relish those first singles and EPs, and hearing their live sound take shape on record. And then they release their debut album.

The opening line of SOAK's debut album — "A teenage heart is an unguided dart" — contains the first words I heard from 19-year-old singer-songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson. Now, she's bringing that fragile, pure, thickly Irish-accented voice to the Tiny Desk.

When I first saw Shamir at NPR Music's SXSW showcase, the 20-year-old singer popped on stage with a Yo Gabba Gabba T-shirt and proceeded to light up the night with his disco-infused funk and joyful energy.

Attention all music geeks: Can you identify the 35 album covers Canadian singer Kalle Mattson re-creates in this video?

"Avalanche" is the title track for his new EP, to be released on Aug. 21. It's a big, bold sound for Kalle and draws from the influences of many of the musical heroes he pays homage to in this video, as he told us via email:

There's a reason Paul Weller is so respected by his fans despite his shifts in musical styles over the years. Weller follows his heart and his tunes stay true to the times and his age. I first heard him in 1977, when I bought a British import of a 45 and later an album, each called In The City, by The Jam. Inspired by The Who, the music of The Jam was infused with urgency and melody. Then Weller wanted more from music and began The Style Council with a bit of R&B, ballads and even jazz.

Guest DJ: Leon Bridges

Jul 28, 2015

I'd never imagined a great song poet writing "Getting Ready to Get Down," but there we have it. It's a hard and humorous look at religion, sex and a "risky" teenager becoming herself despite Bible school intervention. I talked with Josh Ritter about this song, and you can hear that interview and the song here or subscribe to the All Songs Considered podcast.

Sufjan Stevens told the Newport Folk Festival crowd that this was his dream come true. What he never would have imagined in his wildest of dreams was that his performance was to follow a surprise performance from James Taylor. He was humbled to play after "Sweet Baby James," but honestly, his songs carry a power similar to that of Taylor's for a new generation of folk music fans.

The most puzzling musician on the lineup at the 2015 Newport Folk Festival was easily Pink Floyd's Roger Waters. For me, Pink Floyd represents the antithesis of folk music, with the band's psychedelic pulsating landscapes and big rock drums and guitars. Out there and psychedelic, yeah — down home and folky, nope.

We kick off this week's All Songs Considered with new music from Wilco. The band surprised fans by dropping a new album out of the blue late last week. It's called ... wait for it ... Star Wars, and Wilco is letting everyone download it for free from the group's website (for a month). But don't let the playful name fool you. Star Wars is one of Wilco's trippiest, most inventive and surprising releases in 20 years of making music.

Warning: Kate Tempest will connect you with your emotions and the cold, callous world around you. You may cry.

The music I feel most connected to beyond rock is from Mali. The melodies are so fluid, so elegant and most of all so trance-inducing. It often sits on one chord and notes played revolve around that chord. It can feel like a drone at times, and in the case of Songhoy Blues it rocks, lulls and the percussion grooves are not only trance-inducing but dance-inducing.

Guest DJ: SOAK

Jul 14, 2015

Girlpool's Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad perform in unison: They play their guitars that way — Tucker on lead, Tividad on bass — and they sing the same angsty, funny words simultaneously, or as if emulating a nursery-rhyme-style round, a la "Row Row Row Your Boat."

One of the most outstanding and challenging new bits of music I've heard this year comes from Makeunder, the project of Hamilton Ulmer, an Oakland-based musician with a penchant for exploration. "Great Headless Blank" was the inspired track we played on All Songs Considered back in April, now it's the title track to Makeunder's latest EP, which we are proudly premiering here, along with track-by-track thoughts from Hamilton Ulmer.

After spending time with Christopher Paul Stelling's third album, Labor Against Waste, I expected a certain intensity to his performance. But I didn't expect him to nearly implode behind my desk, as the fierceness of his heartfelt songs was set against deft fingerpicking on his beat-to-hell '64 Gibson gut-string classical guitar. That guitar, bought in Asheville, looks like a well-worn friend, with its dark bruised wood and his initials hand-carved into its body.

Earlier this week, All Songs Considered shared our favorite music from debut albums released in the first half of 2015. The NPR Music team also got together to make epic lists of albums and songs we already think might make our year-end lists in December.

Thursdays this year we're celebrating All Songs Considered's 15th birthday with personal memories and highlights from the show's decade and a half online and on the air. If you have a personal memory about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email: allsongs@npr.org.

There's a new album coming from Beach House, the dreamy Baltimore-based duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. That album, called Depression Cherry, comes out on Sub Pop on Aug. 28. Today we get to hear a first song from the album, called "Sparks," and I interviewed Beach House about it.

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