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.

On this week's All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton share songs from a trio of bands on the verge of releasing breakthrough albums. Bob starts the show strong with a jaw-dropping new song from Car Seat Headrest called "Vincent," which we also featured as a First Watch.

Wilco: Tiny Desk Concert

Feb 23, 2016

Thousands of bands have made strong debuts, and many of those have made good second and third records — it's harder, but not unusual. It's truly rare to make your 10th album exciting and relevant more than 20 years on. For all that, I'd say Wilco is an American legend.

You're about to listen to a song from what is likely to be my No. 1 album of 2016. I haven't felt this way about a guitar-based rock record since I heard Courtney Barnett's debut last year.

Martin Atkins knows many of the secrets of life, especially band life. He's played in Public Image Ltd, Nine Inch Nails, Pigface, Killing Joke and more. These days, after a life of touring nightmares and general music business foolery, he writes and teaches about music in Chicago and he's distilled his knowledge of life into bits of wisdom.

There is new music from Quilt and that makes me happy. The band's third album, which is out next week on Feb. 26, is called Plaza, and its winsome, wandering electric folk thrills my late-1960s soul. The songs on Plaza, a combination of brand new material and newly invigorated older tunes, often revolve around place and family. We asked Anna Fox Rochinski (vocals/guitars), Shane Butler (vocals/guitars) and John Andrews (drums/vocals) to tell us how they were made.

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.

Watching Ben Folds perform his songs on piano at the Tiny Desk, there seems to be a direct line between thought and expression, except perhaps when he stumbles or forgets a line or two. Folds has a knack for plainspoken, smartly crafted words that sometimes sting and always seem to speak the truth — like these words from "Phone In A Pool":

Seems what's been good for the music

Hasn't always been so good for the life

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