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.

Think of Lord Huron as an imaginary world as much as a rock band. Bandleader Ben Schneider has created characters and stories that fit together within an entire narrative filled with mystique. It's a bit dreamlike. To get an idea of how many layers there are in Schneider's invention, look at this website for author George Ranger Johnson. According to the site, George Ranger Johnson lives in Tuscon, Ariz. and writes adventure novels whose titles are identical to the song titles of the band Lord Huron.

I love live music. But figuring out who's coming to town and when and where isn't so easy. I could go to every club's website to compile a list of upcoming shows, but that'd be cumbersome. Newspaper listing are often incomplete, don't look ahead and certainly don't filter or highlight who's in town based on my musical tastes.

"The video has a puzzle structure: the whole story progressively makes sense to the viewer as minutes go by."

This is the most exciting new Sigur Rós song I've heard in a long time, and I love the band's music. "Brennisteinn" (sulfur) is a remarkably aggressive piece of music for musicians who can sound so ethereal: Dreamy elements remain, but they provide an underpinning rather than driving the pulse of the song.

You don't often see drums set up right near the lip of a stage, but not every band has a drummer as its focal point. Michael Benjamin Lerner formed Telekinesis by himself, and he plays most of the instruments on his records. But live at The Parish during South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, Lerner had a talented band that included Rebecca Cole from Wild Flag on keyboards, Erik Walters from The Globes on guitar and Eric Elbogen from Say Hi on bass.

The musicians in Paperhaus live in my hometown of Washington, D.C., so I've seen this dynamic band more than a few times. In fact, they put on some of the best house concerts in the city, over a hundred of them at their own venue, also called the Paperhaus, so I've seen them both in clubs and their intimate living room.

Unlike any other festival, South by Southwest is unique to everyone who attends. And I love that about this festival. With over 2,200 bands spread out over 100 venues and five days of music, everyone sees something different and walks away with different joys and discoveries. You could go to a Brooklyn Vegan showcase and spend the whole day in one place. You could search out only Latino bands, or metal bands, hip hop or blues. In fact, when the All Songs crew gathers to record our late night dispatches on the streets of Austin, Texas, we all share completely different joys.

There's another new song from David Bowie and it's called "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)." This is the second Bowie song in the past few months after a dry spell that lasted ten years. You can hear the song and watch the video, which contains some nudity.

I first saw Cat Martino at the best concert of my life. It was the summer of 2011 and Sufjan Stevens was performing at Celebrate Brooklyn. But within the spectacle -– a troupe of maybe a dozen performers on stage — was a singer and dancer named Cat Martino. I know that because a number of my friends at the show knew Cat and were screaming her name at the top of their lungs.

NPR Music will present and webcast a "First Listen Live" concert from Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band on Monday, March 4, beginning at 8 p.m. ET in the intimate New York City venue (Le) Poisson Rouge. Josh Ritter and his band will play most of his new album, The Beast in Its Tracks.

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At a show one night in Washington, D.C., Brendan Canty — a legendary and active local drummer, Fugazi alumnus, filmmaker and music fan — handed me a home-burned CD. The disc was just silver, with no writing or markings on it and music by his new band Deathfix, in which he performs with his friend and former Bob Mould bandmate and producer, Rich Morel.

I love a deadline and every February I get one. Thanks to The Wire, a small New Hampshire magazine that started the tradition in 2006, I make an album every year. They call it the RPM Challenge, and the challenge is this: write and record an album in the time between the first and last days of February. To qualify as an album, it just needs to be 10 songs or 35 minutes of music.

The Besnard Lakes have a new album coming out in April, and after hearing the song "People Of The Sticks," it's safe to say we're in for another soaringly gorgeous record from the Canadian rock group.

Last year's collaboration between St. Vincent (Annie Clarke) and David Bryne was surprising on many levels. The album they wrote and recorded together, Love This Giant, is inspired and artful, if not as immediately accessible as some of the solo work each of them has made in the past. On stage, performed live at the Strathmore music hall in Bethesda, MD, the songs found their heart and soul.

What a brilliant year for live music 2012 was. And I saw an awful lot of it: 462 performances, by my count. I know that sounds insane — more concerts than days in a year. Many of those were full concerts, but sometimes at music festivals I'd run from club to club or stage to stage just to catch a song or two. It's all part of a quest to find new music and hear new talent. Even a short taste helps me know whether I need to pay attention to a burgeoning band or whether a classic act seems to give a damn anymore.

Alt-J: Tiny Desk Concert

Dec 17, 2012

There's mystery in the music of Alt-J: The band's songs are wrapped in enigmatic textures, with swift shifts in arrangements inside every song and an oddness to the drums. Mere glimpses of lyrics are discernible, even after listening over and over — and if you can decipher the words, the meanings don't necessarily follow immediately. Still, those words reside at the core of Alt-J, and they're cinematic and stunning and sometimes brutal.

Villagers is the music of Conor O'Brien, a 2010 Mercury Prize finalist for his debut album, Becoming a Jackal. Now there's new music from Villagers, from a record called {Awayland}. That music comes out first in Europe on Jan. 14 — here in the U.S., we'll have to wait until April 9. We have this new song and video from Villagers, for the song "Nothing Arrived."

Conor O'Brien writes:

After seeing The Rolling Stones in concert over the weekend, I can confidently say the short answer is "no."

We need to be thinking about age and rock music in a different way. When I was in my 20s, my generation thought 30 was too old for a rocker. Now, in 2012, the brilliant futurist Ray Kurzweil is wondering who the first person to be 150 will be. He told a crowd at the 6th and I Synagogue in Washington, D.C., that he thinks that person is alive today.

If you're back in your old neighborhood this weekend or just need an excuse to get out of the house, Record Store Day is a pretty good option. The twice-annual event when independent record stores around the country offer brand new, reissued and limited-edition vinyl has become an opportunity for artists to find a home for that extra song that didn't fit anywhere or to put out that remix that was just plain odd.

I first saw this guitar and drums duo last month, in their home town of Asheville, N.C. during Moogfest. The festival is often thought of as just an electronic music festival and it does skew in that direction, but it primarily celebrates the creative souls in music and in doing so honors the spirit of electronic music pioneer Robert Moog. The sonic palette of guitarist Shane Perlowin and drummer Ryan Oslance certainly fits that description.

Got a question you'd like the All Songs gang to consider? Leave it in the comments below or drop us an email: allsongs@npr.org.

Is music part of your Thanksgiving holiday? Will you be battling dad for control of the family speakers? Or is it a war between the siblings?

I've seen thousands of concerts over the years but none of them, since 1978, have been in an arena. I never had that eureka moment, I just stopped going. That means for 34 years, I've passed on major, monster acts. No McCartney, no Springsteen, no U2 and no Led Zeppelin (that one hurts the most).

From the opening chugging guitar sound, this song could only be The Rolling Stones. For the first time in seven years, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood got together to record two new songs, and you can hear "One More Shot," which was recorded in Paris with Don Was producing, right here.

I saw forty shows during the CMJ Music Marathon this year, and the one by the Brooklyn-based band People Get Ready was by far the most creative. Part of what I love about the band is the way its members think outside the box ... way outside the box. For brevity, I'll describe People Get Ready, led by guitarist, dancer and choreographer Steven Reker, as an indie-rock-performing-art-dance troupe. This is magical musical theater.

Alt-J is a quirky band that, over the past few months, has found its way to the top of my listening pile and is now my favorite album of the year. I'm not alone. Yesterday alt-J's album, An Awesome Wave, won the Mercury Prize. This choice prize for bands in Great Britain is selected by music journalists and other music business folks and often goes to underdogs. This year is no exception.

Pere Ubu made some of the darkest and most creative music of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Thirty five years after its release, The Modern Dance would easily make my top 10 of all time. We hear the word "industrial" bandied about to describe music — The Modern Dance exemplified that genre.

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