Robin Hilton

Robin Hilton is the producer and co-host for the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered.

In addition to his work on All Songs, Hilton curates NPR Music's First Listen series, a weekly showcase of select albums you can read about and hear in their entirety before they're officially released.

Prior to joining NPR in 2000, Hilton co-founded Small Good Thing Productions, a non-profit production company for independent film, radio and music in Athens, GA.

Hilton lived and worked in Japan as an interpreter for the government, and taught English as a second language to junior high school students.

From 1989 to 1996, Hilton worked for NPR member stations KANU and WUGA as a senior producer and assistant news director and was a long-time contributing reporter to NPR's daily news programs All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

Hilton is also a multi-instrumentalist and composer. His original scores have appeared in work from National Geographic, Center Stage and in films, including the documentary Open Secret. Hilton also arranged and performed the theme for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. You can hear more of his music here.

Along the way, Hilton worked as an emergency room orderly, a blackjack dealer and a fruitcake factory assembly lineman.

This week's Drum Fill Friday comes from Guest Quizmaster Hanna Brewer, drummer for the Texas party-rock group Purple. The group is known for its rowdy live shows and healthy sense of humor, and is currently on tour for its debut album, (409).

Brewer, who also sings for Purple, shared a range of her own influences for this week's puzzler, from hip-hop to reggae, rock and pop. I'd give it three drum sticks out of five for difficulty. As always, good luck, careful listeners!

While they're not splitting open a person's chest and massaging their heart back to life, musicians and the songs they make may actually be saving lives.

When Clap Your Hands Say Yeah released its self-titled debut record in 2005, it became one of the first albums to break big because of the Internet. The band recorded and released it on its own, without any label support, and shared it on the group's website, where fans picked it up and quickly spread the word.

On our show this week, bigger is better. We start with a pop anthem and feature a set of artists all leaning into or newly discovering their boldest, most attention-grabbing music yet. Some, as in the case of a frontman gone solo and a bilingual saxophone-heavy punk band, deliver precisely the momentous sounds we'd expect. Others used the pull of memory, a desperate four-month stretch of insomnia, or a single shared microphone and two minutes of trippy ambience to level up their sonic ambitions.

Sharon Van Etten could sing the instruction manual for a dishwasher and make it sound like lyrical poetry. Over the course of four full-lengths, her voice has only evolved and grown both bolder and more nuanced. Van Etten plays every word like an instrument, bending one note into the next with a woozy purr that's sometimes sensual, sometimes heartbreaking but always arresting.

Tuva Lodmark and Nella Daltrey, the pair of 22-year-old Swedes who together make up the minimalist-rock duo Pale Honey, have been making music together since elementary school. Their latest music is quite spare – they turn it up every now and then with some great distortion, but usually it's simple, propulsive synth lines paired with strummed guitar and an understated beat. They remind me of The xx with a slightly elevated pulse.

Singer Jeen O'Brien has been around for a while, making music with a number of artists. She and Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene are in a band together called Cookie Duster. Don't ask me what a cookie duster is — I have no idea.

This week on All Songs Considered, we grapple with the alchemy of creation — the myriad ways a musician gets from blank page and empty studio to a full sound and lyrics that ring true. We were inspired in part by a show Bob saw recently by Magnetic Fields front man Stephin Merritt, where he performed 26 songs, each based on a letter of the alphabet. (Merritt, whose projects are often governed by external limitations, claims that his best-known project, 1999's monumental triple album 69 Love Songs, took him only a year to write.)

Every Thursday 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 story about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email: allsongs@npr.org.

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