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, was published in April 2016 by HarperCollins.

There's a vibrance to the current music of Esmé Patterson that I wasn't expecting, having listened to her previous band Paper Bird. Gone are the banjos and remnants of folk music, and in their place are electric guitars — sometimes fierce and, here at the Tiny Desk, somewhat understated. She's a relative newcomer to the guitar, making it part of her songwriting only since leaving Paper Bird. But all of this instrumentation is meant to be supportive, not center-stage. At the heart of these songs, from her album We Were Wild, is a reach for independence:

Sincerity, community and beauty is how I think of Lowland Hum; the sounds of Lauren and Daniel Goans. Thin is the husband and wife duo's third album since their 2013 debut, further refining their hushed harmonies and aural paintings. It's a sound that makes them a quiet Sunday-morning favorite. Some of the imagery comes from the beauty they see in the landscapes and locales they traverse and visit all over this country; art centers, cafes, nightclubs, house shows, racking up something like 45,000 miles in a Toyota Sienna between 2014 and 2015.

It's basically three chords banged out on a piano for 4 minutes. No drums, no guitars, no samples. But then: there's her voice. Haunting.

"Here is your princess / here is your horizon" — Aldous Harding repeats the line as a mantra, as a truth, as a reality. It's as if the gift of life is right here, with all its beauty and its limitations. At least that's how I see it.

Sean Rowe's voice, a room-rattling baritone, demands attention. The stories he tells with it are portraits that feel simple on the surface... they never are. Within "Gas Station Rose," Sean Rowe is on the road with a partner, they have each other, not much else. Even this little scene is filled with tension:

When Jens Lekman sings a song, it often seems to me like we're friends chatting on the couch, its twists and turns like the stream of a consciousness.

At Babak's school there is a 3D printer,

and he prints out a model of the tumor,

that was surgically removed from his back this winter,

in it's rugged grey plastic it looks lunar.

He puts the tumor in his breastpocket,

as we head out for a beer.

There's been some changes for Real Estate — most notably, the departure of guitarist Matt Mondanile. Yet the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. And that's just fine.

Bob Dylan is about to release a triple album of classic songs. These are not his classics — Triplicate continues Bob Dylan's passion for making new recordings of the Great American Songbook.

I've heard the same story from both our previous Tiny Desk Contest winners: They weren't going to enter the Contest until someone encouraged them to do it. Well, the entry period closes at 11:59 p.m. ET this Sunday, Jan. 29.

"Now we gotta work on what you're going to do between the songs."

He released Iceland's largest selling debut album ever in 2012, and now Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, best known simply as Ásgeir, is back. Today we're debuting "Unbound," the new song from Afterglow, the 24-year-old singer's follow-up to In The Silence.

Wire made three of my favorite albums of the late 1970s: Pink Flag (1977), Chairs Missing (1978) and 154 (1979). Now, 40 years later, this brash, sonically adventurous British band is back with "Short Elevated Period," a song from a brand new album called Silver/Lead, coming March 31, and they didn't let me down.

For more than 50 years, the recently knighted Sir Raymond Douglas Davies, CBE, has been fascinated with American music and American culture. In the early 1960s, he and his brother Dave formed The Kinks to play Little Richard songs and original tunes steeped in rock 'n' roll.

We've officially closed the books on 2016 (finally), and we're ready to fall in love with some new music, from the big and hopeful to the crushingly sad.

The 2017 Tiny Desk Contest is now open! Starting today, I'll be watching your videos in search of the next great undiscovered artist to play at the Tiny Desk. And I won't be doing it alone. Our team of judges includes these fantastic musicians:

The three women in The Wild Reeds love a good crescendo. They have three powerful upfront voices in Sharon Silva, Kinsey Lee and Mackenzie Howe and they all write songs to honor and embrace their soaring voices. Since their Tiny Desk Concert a little more than a year ago, over a half of a million people have seen it on our YouTube Channel.

David Bowie had long wanted to make a record with a jazz band, and on Jan. 8 of last year, he realized his dream with the release of Blackstar. Two days later, he was gone. Donny McCaslin's band helped him make that record, and now, a year later, we pay tribute to Bowie and Blackstar by bringing McCaslin's band to the Tiny Desk.

Julien Baker never imagined her sad songs would be loved beyond a small circle of friends.

It'd be easy to look and listen to this young English singer and think he's just another sensitive songwriter with a guitar, singing about his troubles. But Declan McKenna writes about a much bigger world than you or I might expect from a singer who only recently turned 18. He came to NPR this past summer, a bit nervous but passionate. He stripped down three of his songs to their musical essence, and the power of their words eclipsed the hooks for which they're equally known.

We had some memorable conversations with a lot of our favorite musicians in 2016.

I could call this list "The Songs I Love To Drive Around With." More often than not, these 2016 songs set you up for a brilliant climax, often an unforgettable chorus. And I found a wide variety of artists that made songs with that memorable character, artists ranging from barely 20 years old to a reflective 82, from Niger to Nashville, from British hip-hop to yearning falsetto. I'd be thrilled to turn on a radio and hear this broad world of sound represent the Top 40.

Bob Boilen's Top 40 Songs Of 2016

On Dec. 4, just before Bon Iver took the stage at Pioneer Works, an old ironworks warehouse turned nonprofit arts and culture space, these prophetic words from Union Army officer Sullivan Ballou echoed off the Civil War-era brick walls:

"Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield."

So the other day Martin Atkins sent me an audio file that made me smile. It's called Bad Day, and it's sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

Martin, a funny guy driven by a kind heart, used to be the drummer for Public Image Ltd. This is the story of how he quit that band — even though they had a big hit with "This Is Not A Love Song" — and wound up digging ditches for Bon Jovi's drummer in New Jersey.

It seemed only fitting for us to have a nine-piece, family-centered band come back to the Tiny Desk to help us celebrate the holidays in 2016. Maggie and Tyler Heath head up The Oh Hellos vocally, but this band — which played a non-holiday show at the desk just a year ago — feels very much like an extended family, in terms of both camaraderie and harmonies.

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