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.

The video begins with Collins thanking the school and band and just about everyone for their hospitality. Skip ahead about 2:20 if you just want the music. But it's pretty awesome. The band has a smoke machine and light show! And kudos to the young drummer for braving the kit for "In The Air Tonight's" iconic fill, with the guy who wrote it standing right in front of him.

The warmer weather brings out the air-drummer in me, which means I'm remembering and rediscovering some of my favorite fills, including the ones in this week's puzzler. I think most of these will sound familiar to anyone who's had commercial FM rock blasting with the windows down. So turn it up, pay attention, and good luck!

As always, if you have a drummer or a fill you'd like to see featured in these weekly puzzlers, let us know in the comments section or via Twitter @allsongs, #drumfillfriday.

Everyone knows there are five immutable truths in life. No. 1 is "Nothing's ever easy." No. 2 is "Nobody does the right thing." No. 3 is, well, you get the idea.

The Portland, Ore., band Ages and Ages will likely make you rethink these immutable truths — particularly the whole idea about doing the right thing in life. Pay close attention to the second song the group performs in this uplifting Tiny Desk Concert, and you'll see what I mean.

This week's fills (and, yes, yes, one intro) come from a range of styles and periods, from jazz and heavy metal to classic rock and '80s synth pop. Can you match all five?

As always, if you have a drummer or a fill you'd like to see featured in these weekly puzzlers, let us know in the comments section or via Twitter @allsongs, #drumfillfriday.

In the video for the Canadian swamp-folk band Timber Timbre's "Curtains?!," a man released from prison embarks on a vengeful quest to find a mysterious woman who haunts his past.

The music of Canada's Timber Timbre is often strange and unsettling. The band, led by Taylor Kirk — a crooner with a deceptively sweet voice — makes spare, evenly paced songs that sound like late-night echoes from a swampy woods.

Jack White has announced plans to release a version of his upcoming Lazaretto album on vinyl, with a whole bunch of special features that'll make you rethink the possibilities of the enduring format.

This week's drum fills (and intros) were hand-selected, using only the finest ingredients, by Sean Carey. The Bon Iver drummer, who writes and records as S. Carey, just released his second solo album, Range Of Light. I thought some of his picks for this week's puzzler were pretty challenging, but I managed to get three of the five right. See how you do!

People often stop me on the street and ask, "Dude, what's with Drum Fill Friday? How are you picking that stuff?" Most of the fills come to me in peyote-induced fever dreams. Otherwise, I mostly just pick songs that have moments in them - fills and intros - that make me want to air-drum. They aren't all legendary or particularly defining moments — just awesome moments. As with all the stuff we do on All Songs Considered, they're songs I love.

This week, we asked you to think about the end of your life. If you could pick it, what would you like the last song you ever hear to be? For me, it was easy. Pink Floyd's "Great Gig in the Sky," from Dark Side of the Moon would send me off into the unknown with its perfect mix of sorrow, anguish, majestic awe and celestial wonder.

This week's batch of drum fills comes from a mix of classic rock and pop, and more recent cuts. As always, I was drawn to them simply because I love the songs themselves and was captivated at some point by the percussion. Pro tip: If you don't recognize a fill, try matching the timbre of it — the power behind it, the sound of the recording, etc. — to one of the album covers pictured (or to the period the album was recorded in).

You know what's awesome? Drum fills. A killer bass line is pretty great, too. And guitar solos. And melodies and chord progressions. But a really great drum fill is often the one thing that makes a song truly take off. Think of Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" and try not to get that song's classic fill stuck in your head immediately.

Don't let the precious name fool you. Mr Little Jeans, a.k.a. Norwegian singer Monica Birkenes, makes propulsive, sometimes epic pop music with gnarled synth lines and alluring textures. In this brand new Mr Little Jeans video, for the moody song "Good Mistake," a trucker hopped up on meds finds himself traversing the haunted backroads of his past.

Every year Bob Boilen, NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and I prepare for South by Southwest by listening to songs from roughly 1,500 artists. And when you go through that many bands you start to see trends in the names. The two most commonly occurring words are always — always — "black" and "DJ." In addition to those two, this year we noticed that "white" appears an awful lot, too, as does the name John. Michael, Paul and Jesse are also pretty popular. Go figure.

It wasn't an easy road to the Tiny Desk for the four guys from Louisiana who make up Brass Bed. Their tour, for the band's debut album The Secret Will Keep You, was plagued from the start: Singer Christiaan Mader had the flu, there was a death in the family and multiple dates had to be canceled. Their van was broken into and their instruments stolen. So when they heard that a big snowstorm was headed for D.C. at the same time they were to play the Tiny Desk, it felt like yet another bad omen.

The story of how singer and guitarist Domenic Palermo came to form the noise-rock band Nothing sounds like a Behind the Music episode gone bad. Growing up in the crime-infested neighborhood of Kensington in Philadelphia, Palermo hung with a tough crowd that, in his own words, drove around with large amounts of cocaine and guns while listening to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless.

When bassist and singer Lou Barlow first formed Sebadoh in 1986, he was an early-twentysomething who wrote sublime, brooding songs about youthful angst and heartache. Now in his late 40s, Barlow writes songs under the Sebadoh moniker that are no less introspective. But he's more agitated and inspired by the trappings of adulthood, from the pressures he feels to make money to life lessons he should have learned by now, to how best to care for his children.

Sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz aren't the youngest musicians ever to play the Tiny Desk, but they come pretty close. Their music — a restrained, homespun mix of folk and pop with undeniably sweet harmonies — certainly ranks among the loveliest we've heard.

I began last year with some ambitious goals as far as music goes. I vowed to go to more live shows, to pay more attention to lyrics and to spend more time in general with the albums I hear. This was in addition to losing weight, writing a novel and quitting World Of Warcraft. (Ha ha, just kidding! Why would anyone quit World Of Warcraft?).

The Minneapolis-based noise-rock band Marijuana Deathsquads has a name that implies mind-altering chaos. And that's largely what you get in the group's live performances - a thrilling, relentless bombardment of sight and sound. For this concert, originally webcast live on Nov. 6, 2013, the group's members were lost in a flickering shower of lights while blasting their way through highlights from its latest album, Oh My Sexy Lord.

Set List:

  • HAL
  • Untitled
  • Wave
  • Untitled

Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy is back with another covers project. This time its for music by The Kinks. Meloy began releasing Colin Meloy Sings cover EPs in 2005 to coincide with his various solo tours.

The Flaming Lips have always had a fondness for science fiction and fantasy, with a vast catalog of songs about robots, spontaneous human combustion, telepathy, wizards, and UFOs. The band's latest source of inspiration is the sci-fi novel (and new movie) Ender's Game, which tells the story of Earth's futuristic battle with insect-like aliens called "Buggers." A new EP from The Flaming Lips, The Peace Sword includes six songs inspired by the story, including this dark, strange, synth-heavy jam "If They Move, Shoot 'Em."

Musicians have a long history of turning tragedy into art. From Neil Young's stirring indictment against the shooting of Kent State students in the 1970 song "Ohio," to the countless tributes and musical memorials to 9-11, artists often feel a need to make sense of the senseless and offer comfort through song.

On her latest album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, singer Neko Case lays her heart — and her healthy sense of humor — bare. It's a deeply personal record that, among other things, offers intimate, sometimes wry meditations on the recent loss of both of her parents and a grandmother. NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and I spoke with Neko Case about the music, and shared questions from listeners, in this interview that we originally webcast live on Aug. 29.

I grew up in a town of about 6,000 people in rural Kansas back in the '70s and '80s. I've never romanticized it much, though it was certainly a simpler time and, for better or worse, it's where I learned to make some sense of my life. The world you inhabit when you come of age in your teen years has a way of digging its claws in you. As the years pass, no matter how far you try to get away from it, it stays with you. The people, the places, the sounds and even the smells become a part of your DNA.