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.

Boilen's first book, Your Song Changed My Life, will be published in April 2016 by HarperCollins.

Truth be told, when I saw the opening of this video, with Phaedra & Elsa Greene donning sunglasses and coordinated stars and stripes outfits, it felt trite: then the words kicked and the tone of the video along with my attitude, changed.

"America bleeds
The tears of a clown
Seeing stars
Behind bars."

Each year dozens of new artists become part of my life soundtrack. Last year Courtney Barnett, Soak, Ibeyi, Girlpool and many more all became a huge part of my listening for the year and some wound up on my final top ten list.

This year, Lucy Dacus, Big Thief, Margaret Glaspy, Mothers, Overcoats and Weaves are all part of my everyday listening, and are all artists making a debut either with their first album, EP or very first songs.

Is your life ticking by? Do you fear growing old, never fulfilling your dreams? Weaves, one of my very favorite new bands, has just released a video in which at least one man is inspired out of his rut. Singer Jasmyn Burke wrote and told me, "When I started writing 'Tick' I was thinking about life and time and how we operate as humans. It's a reaction to wasting time. Sleeping under your covers all day and not doing anything sucks. Get out there and do something!" And do something Weaves has done.

This video is a mix of horror, heavy metal and a dose of Pee Wee Herman humor. "The Life And Times Of A Teenage Rock God" is over-the-top — in the best of ways — bookended by the devil himself. Musician, film director and producer Rob Zombie emailed his description of his new music video to me. He wrote:

There's something nearly unhinged about Weaves' music. Some of that is in the frenetic guitar of Morgan Waters and the way it contrasts with the swaying-in-the-breeze feel of singer Jasmyn Burke. But then it can all turn upside-down in a hurry — the guitar becomes almost lyrical as Burke sings:

A portion of popcorn that's popping and shopping for fresh hands

Distortion is motion that's ridden forbidden

Don't you dare, don't you dare

You're so coo coo I'm so coo coo

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

It's been a joy to hear the music of Andrew Bird shift and change. Bird's early music, from the late '90s, was steeped in hot jazz and blues music from the early days of the phonograph, then later shifted to new technologies using loop pedals to layer voice, whistling and violin. His lyrics often have a calculated quality, filled with abundant wordplay and observations.

Paul Simon has a new album coming out and it's wonderful. Titled Stranger To Stranger, it's his thirteenth solo release and he told me he it could be his last, at least for a while. For this week's +1 podcast, I sat with Paul Simon at NPR's New York bureau to talk about the new record, but more specifically to talk about a single song on the album, the puzzling and quirky opening cut, "The Werewolf."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.


Big Thief is a band bound by great songs. Its first album opens with singer Adrianne Lenker on acoustic guitar, recorded on what sounds like an old cassette machine. By the second song, you hear the blossoming of an artist into a band, a community, a force.

There is new music from Gregory Alan Isakov, the South African-born, Philadelphia and Colorado troubadour. It's an album with the Colorado Symphony and his band. This song, "Liars" was written by Ron Scott and will be on Gregory's new album Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony.

When you hear Monika, life feels good: The singer's performances and presence are simply winning. Last fall, I saw her take a hands-in-pockets crowd in New York and turn it into a bunch of dancing, hand-waving fans. Here at the Tiny Desk, the office was singing along as the ebullient singer danced on my desk. She's a platinum-selling singer-songwriter back in Greece, and her most recent album, Secret In The Dark, is full of spunk and funk. The album was produced by the great Homer Steinweiss, whom you may know as the drummer for the soulful R&B band The Dap-Kings.

In Florist, Emily Sprague and fellow Catskills friends sing quiet, delicate songs filled with vivid memories. "Vacation" is about growing up and learning about love.

Like when I used to ride roller coasters with my dad

When a swimming pool in a hotel

Was a gift from God

Like, love, we're like a family

I don't know how to be

"Cool And Refreshing" finds Sprague singing about the childhood memories that we lose one by one.

I could walk by Peter Frampton on the street and not recognize him. His long blond hair, which shines like a halo on his album Frampton Comes Alive! may be gone, but as soon as he sat behind the Tiny Desk and began singing, 1976 came rushing back. I worked in a record store the year Frampton Comes Alive! came out, and it was one of those records that seemed to have universal appeal. We sold a ton of copies of that double live album and I can still remember the label and number (A&M 3703) from having written it on countless sales tickets.

Prince passed away today. Details are not clear as I write this. What is clear is how much he meant to so many. How will you remember Prince? Tell us in the comments below how he impacted your life, or just pick a song you love. Or find us on Twitter @allsongs.

Right near the top of this performance, Benjamin Clementine looks toward the camera with an intense stare and sings, "Where I'm from, you see the rain / Before the rain even starts to rain." At that point, when I'm already hanging on every word, I feel like I'm witnessing an almost otherworldly presence — a visitor with wisdom to impart.

Seratones singer-guitarist A.J. Haynes takes gospel into the garage, and what comes out is fiery rock 'n' roll. The Shreveport, La., band is a joy to see and hear, and this Tiny Desk concert provides a fiery peek at what you'll soon hear on the group's debut album, Get Gone.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

While Kristine Leschper was singing her songs behind my desk, in the crowd was a tiny baby in a stroller. As I watched the child and the band, I couldn't help but think about both the promise and innocence of youth and the struggles of adulthood, as Leschper sang:

We lived unloved in unmade beds

You wore me like a necklace

You closed me like a locket

While Kristine Leschper was singing her songs behind my desk, in the crowd was a tiny baby in a stroller. As I watched the child and the band, I couldn't help but think about both the promise and innocence of youth and the struggles of adulthood, as Leschper sang:

We lived unloved in unmade beds

You wore me like a necklace

You closed me like a locket

Is there a song that changed the way you think about life? A song that changed your path? I've been thinking a lot about this the past few years and I've posed that question to 35 musicians. Their answers are in a book I just wrote: Your Song Changed My Life: From Jimmy Page to St.

It took only a few power chords, a sprinkle of glitter and the occasional jokey line — "We can do our makeup in the parking lot / We can get so famous that I might get shot / But right now I'm in the shower" — to forever hook me on PWR BTTM. The queer, glammy, wildly dressed duo has a keen sense of mischief and a real gift for honest, punk-infused, tongue-in-cheek pop gems.

There's new music from Bob Mould. His latest album, Patch The Sky, comes out March 25. One of this legendary musician's biggest fans — from his punk days of Hüsker Dü to the land of Sugar and his prolific and exciting solo records — is musician Ryan Adams. And as a fan and friend, Ryan invited Bob to his PAX-AM Studio and pressed record.

At 1:00 a.m. on the final night of SXSW 2016, 17-year-old Declan McKenna was about to perform for one last time in Austin. Only hours later, the plane that would carry him on his first trip to New York City was schedule to take off. It's been a whirlwind year for Declan, one that began with a song he uploaded to his Bandcamp and Soundcloud page. Shortly after, he won the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition and was quickly signed to Columbia Records, one of dozens of labels with interest in his talents.

While I sat on the floor watching Graham Nash play The Hollies' 1966 hit "Bus Stop," I caught a glimpse of the same transistor radio I had as a kid when that song filled the AM radio airwaves. It was surreal and beautiful.

Gaelynn Lea, the winner of NPR's second annual Tiny Desk Contest, makes music like nobody else. Her sounds are steeped in the deep melodies of great Irish fiddle tunes, but her performance and singing style aren't traditional. More than 6,000 artists submitted videos in which they performed an original song behind a desk of their choosing with the hope of winning a chance to play a Tiny Desk concert at NPR. Gaelynn Lea was the overwhelming favorite of our six judges.

There's new music from Iggy Pop and it's pretty great.

I'd already been thinking a lot about George Martin. I've spent the last year writing a book about the songs that changed the lives of musicians, and in the introductory chapter I offer my own selection. "A Day in the Life," by The Beatles, changed the way I think about music. It's a song George Martin, who died on Tuesday at the age of 90, had a clear hand in.

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