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.

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.

Syracuse-based rock group Ra Ra Riot's latest album, Beta Love, is steeped heavily in science fiction and futurist theories, with tales of robots, lives stranded in space and, on the song "Binary Mind," the merging of computers and human brains. In a new video for the track, the band members' disembodied heads playfully float and bob in a kaleidoscopic, digital landscape.

We've had bands from all over the world visit the Tiny Desk. Most recently, we published a set by Keaton Henson, who was in from London. Back in May, we had singer M.R. Shajarian from Iran.

The latest in a series of videos for David Bowie's album The Next Day isn't a big budget spectacle, but it is thrilling and intense. The video, for the song "Valentine's Day," places Bowie in some sort of industrial, concrete warehouse with just his guitar. But Bowie's penetrating gaze and gritty delivery turns an otherwise benign performance into a chilling scene.

"Plastic Cup," the moody opening cut to Low's latest album, The Invisible Way, recalls a friend's substance abuse, a lifetime of dependence on others and a soul-crushing future of pointless drug tests. But in a strange new video for the song, director Ryley Fogg takes those themes in a dark and curious direction. Creepy, hooded figures intercut with black-and-white images of the band performing in period costumes.

The latest video for the Canadian electro-pop band Young Galaxy is a study in stark, disturbing contrasts. "Here it comes again, the beautiful, warm weather," sings frontwoman Catherine McCandless, just as all hell breaks loose.

Exitmusic's Passages was one of 2012's darkest and most arresting ambient rock albums. Now, the band returns with an equally transfixing new video for one of the album's standout tracks, "White Noise."

The songs of Yellow Red Sparks, a folk-pop trio based in California, are twisted tales told through cinematic, often epic orchestrations. In the group's spectacular and creepy new video, for the song "A Play To End All Plays," a couple's failed relationship is acted out like an old circus sideshow before a finger-wagging audience. Frontman Joshua Hanson, who appears as the play's host, indicts the lovers with a surprisingly infectious melody and old-timey instrumentation.

This past week we lost one of the greatest album cover art designers of all time. Britain's Storm Thorgerson, who died last Thursday, was just 69 years old. He'd spent more than 40 years designing and orchestrating some of the most iconic album covers of all time. Even if you don't know the name Storm Thorgerson, you know his work. That prism on the cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon? That was his.

The new video for STRFKR's song "Beach Monster" is an absolute horror show disguised as a breezy day at the sea. The band members, decked out in matching Buddy Holly suits and glasses, play against an blank blue background while staring blankly into the camera. The scene is intercut with a smiling couple at the beach with two children who draw in the sand and uncover something deadly.

I love the crazy surprises you get when two or more artists get together and turn their creative ideas over to one another. When the band Junip wrote the song "Your Life, Your Call," frontman José González says, it was meant to be an unambiguous meditation on growing up, moving on and taking responsibility for your life. But in the hands of video director Mikel Cee Karlsson, the song, from Junip's new self-titled album, takes on a whole new (and disturbing) meaning.

The Keaton Henson who appears on the new album Birthdays is an avowed hermit with a profoundly broken heart. He also has one of the most beautiful voices I've heard. The 24 year-old singer from London, who says he rarely leaves his bedroom, bares his wrecked emotional remains in an arresting new video for the song "You."

I've been buying headphones for 30 years now, have owned more they I can possibly remember and still haven't found the perfect pair. I must chew through one or two sets a year in a never-ending, desperate (and futile) search to find the right acoustics, feel and functionality. I've tried in-ear buds, over-the-ear hooks, full-sized cans and wireless. Some sound great but fit horribly. Or the fit is perfect but the sound too tinny, or the controls don't quite work. The truth is, I hate headphones, especially because I hate being tethered to my stereo. It's like wearing a leash.

In "Escape Artist," the new video from Canadian pop duo The Zolas, the band plays around with audience expectations about race, culture and sexuality. As frontman Zach Gray sings about his mysterious alter ego, a group of kids kick around their neighborhood, playing basketball, chatting up girls and passing the hours. One of them clearly feels like an outsider.

The psych-rock trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra doused a sold-out Washington, D.C., crowd in an epic wash of guitar noise during an hour-long performance at the Rock and Roll Hotel, recorded and webcast live on Feb. 27.

Winston Yellen didn't start singing until he was 18 — he's 23 now — but he's already got one of 2013's most arresting new voices. As the singer for the country-rock group Night Beds, Yellen often performs a cappella, with tremendous soul and nuance.

The English rock group Depeche Mode owned a chunk of the '80s and '90s with glossy electro-rock hits like "People Are People" and "Personal Jesus." These days the band doesn't have much to prove, and its members, who appear in this new video for the song "Heaven," seem to find themselves at peace, bathed in the radiant glow of light and love.

We're thrilled to announce that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been added to the bill for our official South by Southwest showcase on March 13. The band joins Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds for the concert, which will be broadcast on NPR stations across the country and streamed live as a video webcast here from Stubb's in Austin, Texas. The concert will also appear in the NPR Music apps.

The deeply disturbed character who appears in the latest Maps & Atlases video, for the song "Fever," may not live to see tomorrow. As the Chicago-based band sings about holding on in our darkest hours, "The Man" slowly wastes away, addicted to a mysterious drug.

The members of How To Destroy Angels, a collective featuring Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, his wife and singer Mariqueen Maandig, art director Rob Sheridan and the brilliant composer Atticus Ross, have an unambiguously grim view of where civilization is headed. In a new video for the song "How Long," from the band's upcoming album Welcome Oblivion, man hunts man in (surprise) a terrifying, dystopian future.

The music of Mystical Weapons, a duo formed by Sean Lennon and Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier, is entirely improvised — made up on the fly without any agenda or deeper meaning in mind. But in the hands of video director and animator Martha Colburn, the group's latest single, "Colony Collapse Disorder," takes on apocalyptic themes with swirling religious symbolism.

I'm not very good at keeping New Year's resolutions. One year I resolved to "get into yoga." I even wrote that down on a note card and kept it on the refrigerator. Two months later, after doing nothing, I crossed it out and wrote, "be AWARE of yoga."

This year I didn't bother making a list about health and fitness resolutions. But I do have a mental list of some personal improvements I'd like to make when it comes to music.

I played trumpet in my high school band and wasn't very good. I held the thing down, sort of like a clarinet, and played out of the corner of my mouth. It sounded like I had a kazoo wedged in the tubing. But nobody else in my school was very good either, so I still managed to spend a lot of time at first chair.