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.

Longtime NPR fans may remember another contribution Boilen made to NPR. He composed the original theme music for NPR's Talk of the Nation.

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All Songs Considered
8:02 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Song Premiere: Best Coast, 'I Don't Know How'

Bobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast.
David Black Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 17, 2013 6:41 am

As summer winds down and cool breezes fill the evenings here on much of the east coast, summer never ends in the music of Best Coast. "I Don't Know How" is the new single from the L.A.-based duo, featuring Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno. The song is the last cut from their seven-song EP called Fade Away due out October 22.

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All Songs Considered
8:18 am
Sun September 8, 2013

All Aboard A Magical Mystery Train

One of the nine restored train cars that are part of the Station to Station public art project. This car is called Lambert's Point Executive Lounge
Bob Boilen NPR

Originally published on Sun September 8, 2013 10:24 am

What happens when you fill nine train cars with noisemaking musicians Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Japan's The Boredoms, LA's fuzzed-out Ariel Pink and more?

I'm about to find out.

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All Songs Considered
11:45 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Dancing Vegetables, Singing Ground Beef: TMBG's Old-School Video

Courtesy of the artist

They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh and John Linnell have just delivered an old-school video — think "early days of MTV" — and it's a pleasure to see. Over the course of 16 albums, the two Johns (first as a duo and later as bandleaders) have always kept humor at the core of their sound and general attitude. They continue the tradition with "You're On Fire," the first single from their 25-song, 45-minute album Nanobots.

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All Songs Considered
6:25 am
Thu August 29, 2013

First Watch: Zola Jesus, 'Fall Back'

Courtesy of the artist

I suppose it would be natural, if you grew up relatively isolated in a Wisconsin forest, to find yourself fascinated by cities. And so it is for the 24-year-old Russian-American singer Nika Roza Danilova, best known as Zola Jesus. In the video for her song "Fall Back," from the new album Versions, we see Nika in two settings: the vast coldness of urban concrete and the nature of the forest. "Shooting in the forest was very important," Nika writes. "The forest is raw and naked, which is in line for my intent for Versions.

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All Songs Considered
8:47 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Hear How A Song Takes Shape

Jordan Geiger of the band Hospital Ships.
Adam Smith Courtesy of the artist

Did you want to hear how a song evolves? How a single spark of inspiration transforms into words and then melody and finally a fully produced complex production?

Jordon Gieger, known by the moniker Hospital Ships, has unveiled his journey as a songwriter for us. "Desolation Waltz" is a song Geiger began writing in Columbus, Ohio after "listening to a very fiery preacher on the radio, who would break into little melodies in the middle of his sermons. I decided to write songs a capella, in my car."

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All Songs Considered
1:48 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

First Watch: The Orwells, 'Who Needs You'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 3:50 pm

"They look like the kids from Stand By Me or an old Norman Rockwell painting canted a few degrees," director Eddie O'Keefe says of the teenaged Chicago garage-rock group The Orwells. "I wanted to capture that aspect of the band in a video." The Orwells' new song, "Who Needs You," is the title track from an upcoming EP, out Sept. 10.

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All Songs Considered
1:38 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

The Old Tiny Desk Gets Demolished

The old NPR building at 635 Massachusetts Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., was torn down in stages. This photo shows what the building looked like in late June.
NPR

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All Songs Considered
6:01 am
Mon July 22, 2013

Song Premiere: The Civil Wars' 'Dust To Dust' Is An Ode To The End

John Paul White and Joy Williams are The Civil Wars
Allister Ann Courtesy of the Artist

Originally published on Mon July 22, 2013 7:38 am

Joy Williams and John Paul White are The Civil Wars, a duo of passionate performers. The first time I saw them perform there were such positive sparks flying between them, but these days they can barely speak to one another. The Civil Wars are about to release a new album — their second and probably their last for a while or perhaps forever ... we shall see.

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All Songs Considered
9:01 am
Wed July 17, 2013

First Watch: Kingsley Flood, 'Sigh A While'

Courtesy Of The Artist

It's one thing for an artist to talk about his failures — that's easy fodder for a good song — but art at its best incites positive change. "Sigh A While," this song from Boston's Kingsley Flood, is written to inspire. Kingsley Flood's Naseem Khuri says this tune is about the failures in all of us, and in particular about the patterns we can fall into. "I wrote the song about a friend who for years assured me he'd quit his job and change the world with his art," Khuri writes in an email. "We were driving around in his beat-up car one day and he was making the same promises.

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All Songs Considered
11:05 am
Mon July 15, 2013

Maps And Music: Explore Okkervil River's New Album

Click to see an interactive map of Meriden, N.H., with stories from Okkervil River's Will Sheff about his childhood there.
William Schaff

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 6:59 am

The next album from the Austin, Texas, band Okkervil River will tell the childhood tale of its lead singer and songwriter Will Sheff, a self-described awkward, nearsighted, asthmatic kid growing up the small town of Meriden, N.H. The music on The Silver Gymnasium, out on Sept. 3, is some of Okkervil River's best, and you can hear it all beginning Aug. 26 as part of our First Listen program. For now, here's a first taste: the premiere of the song "Down Down the Deep River."

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Wed July 10, 2013

First Watch: John Vanderslice, 'How The West Was Won'

John Vanderslice
Courtesy of the artist

"This is just an awesome, inspiring place to make music." Those are the words of Jake Wachtel, who directed this music video for John Vanderslice. And the place he's talking about, well, it's John's heart and soul really: It's a recording studio called Tiny Telephone located in San Francisco's Mission District.

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All Songs Considered
2:32 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

The Best Concert-Finding Mobile Apps

Courtesy of BandMate

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 8:37 am

A few months ago, I reviewed a handful of new apps that show you which bands or artists are playing in your area. Some of those apps were hit-or-miss, and some have made some improvements since my initial review. This week All Songs Considered co-host Robin Hilton and I have pared the list of apps down to our two favorites. (You can hear us talk about it on the weekly series All Tech Considered.)

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All Songs Considered
11:28 am
Mon July 8, 2013

Watch The Music Video For Franz Ferdinand's 'Right Action'

Courtesy of the artist

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NPR Story
1:48 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

First Watch: Whispertown Shows Stunning 'Parallel' Worlds

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat July 20, 2013 5:37 pm

Merriam-Webster defines parallel as, "extending in the same direction, everywhere equidistant, and not meeting." The luscious and expansive song, "Parallel," from Morgan Nagler's indie project Whispertown and the accompanying music video both explore the term in magnificent ways. The video, made from creative commons videos on YouTube edited together by Morgan Nagler's brother (he wishes to go by "Morgan's Brother") illustrates the concept of parallel by showing a myriad of different scenarios that mimic each other. It's a bit of magic, really.

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All Songs Considered
3:43 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Question Of The Week: Who Is The Most Intense Performer You've Ever Seen?

Deafheaven's George Clarke at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, DC
Bob Boilen Bob

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 5:53 am

Last night I witnessed an intense and commanding performance. The band was Deafheaven and lead singer George Clarke kept me riveted. Here's what it looked like captured by my phone:

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All Songs Considered
1:48 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Hear The Pixies' First Original Song In Nine Years

Courtesy of the artsit

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All Songs Considered
9:14 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Watch The David Lynch-Directed Nine Inch Nails Video

David Lynch.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 1:47 pm

Sixteen years after collaborating on the Lost Highway soundtrack, David Lynch and Trent Reznor are back together. The always eerie Lynch oversaw the video for Nine Inch Nails' first single in five years, "Came Back Haunted," which was posted early Friday morning.

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All Songs Considered
11:33 am
Fri June 21, 2013

First Watch: Lowland Hum, 'War Is Over'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat June 22, 2013 8:51 am

The power of music paired with imagery never ceases to amaze me. For this video by Lowland Hum, three unrelated sets of found footage connect in powerful ways to the song "War Is Over."

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All Songs Considered
2:04 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

First Watch: Sonny And The Sunsets, 'Green Blood'

Courtesy of the artist

I adore this song, and the video makes me love it all the more. "Green Blood" is from Sonny and the Sunsets' new album, Antenna to the Afterworld. It's a record filled with cinematic tales, told simply with guitars, bass and drums. And none of those tales are told as endearingly as they are in this song and video about love on a distant planet.

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All Songs Considered
3:06 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

What's your Favorite Concert of the Year (So Far)?

The Music Tapes turned the Rock And Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C. into a giant circus for this concert on Jan. 13, 2013. The performance was among Bob Boilen's top five favorite shows so far this year.
Bob Boilen

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 8:57 am

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All Songs Considered
11:51 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Do You Have A Favorite Record Label?

Marie McGrory NPR

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 8:13 pm

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Wed May 8, 2013

First Watch: Gary Clark Jr., 'Numb'

Gary Clark Jr.
Frank Maddocks Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 12:02 pm

In the seven months since Gary Clark, Jr. released his major label debut, Blak and Blu, he's played for the President at the White House with Mick Jagger and blues legend B.B.

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All Songs Considered
5:24 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Song Premiere: Sharon Jones' Explosive 'Retreat'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun May 12, 2013 5:19 pm

If this song had just the tubular bells at the top and then that Motown guitar riff, I'd have been hooked and happy. But then, along comes Sharon Jones, the brilliant, powerful soul singer, and the song explodes. "Retreat!" is the perfect marriage of singer, song and band. A lot has happened to Sharon Jones and Bushwick's brilliant professors of soul, the Dap-Kings, in the three years since they last recorded. They played the Apollo, the Hollywood Bowl, Sydney Opera House and SXSW. And they've just gotten stronger and stronger.

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All Songs Considered
3:59 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

First Watch: Alpine's Mind-And-Body-Bending 'Gasoline'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 1:05 pm

A is for Alpine and it's also the name of Alpine's debut album. Alpine is a six-piece ensemble from Australia with an airy sound led by singers Phoebe Baker and Lou James. The group's album, A is for Alpine, has been out in their home since 2012, but it arrives in the U.S. on May 21.

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All Songs Considered
10:03 am
Mon May 6, 2013

First Watch: The Handsome Family, 'Woodpecker'

Jason Creps, 2013 Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 12:24 pm

The Handsome Family, the wife and husband duo of Rennie Sparks (vocals, bass and banjo) and Brett Sparks (vocals, guitar and keyboards), love telling stories, and they've been doing it in song for 20 years. A new album, Wilderness, is out May 14, and "Woodpecker," a song from the album, tells a fascinating tale about Mary Sweeney, who, in the 1890's, was known as the Wisconsin Window Smasher.

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All Songs Considered
2:11 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

First Watch: Femi Kuti, 'The World Is Changing'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 12:24 pm

"'The World Is Changing' is groove with a message." That quote, a pretty good summary of the music of Femi Kuti in just nine words, comes from Juan Gélas, the creative director of a new video for Kuti's new song. Femi Kuti is a saxophonist, trumpeter, keyboard player and singer and songwriter. The son of legendary afrobeat musician Fela Kuti, he carries on the tradition of mixing Nigerian beats along with jazz and a healthy dose of politics. Juan Gélas says, "Femi Kuti continues to be a leading protest artist out of modern Africa and his voice talks to us all."

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All Songs Considered
2:40 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Meet Until The Ribbon Breaks: Stark Music Paired With Enigmatic Images

Until The Ribbon Breaks.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 12:25 pm

Pete Lawrie Winfield makes music as Until The Ribbon Breaks, stark music with a good deep vibe; Massive Attack or James Blake would be good touchstones. Until The Ribbon Breaks doesn't have much music out yet, but "Pressure," a new song, has urgency. "'Pressure' was written at a time of upheaval and transition for me," Winfield writes. "I was sleeping at my studio and had no idea what I was going to do next.

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All Songs Considered
1:25 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Vampire Weekend On New York, Souls Of Mischief And The Secrets Of Its New Album

Vampire Weekend in New York City: (from left) Chris Tomson, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij and Ezra Koenig.
Alex John Beck Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 1:22 pm

  • Listen: Bob Boilen Interviews Vampire Weekend

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Tiny Desk Concerts
12:03 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

Father Figures: Tiny Desk Concert

Father Figure performs a Tiny Desk Concert on February 6, 2013.
Lizzie Chen NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:34 pm

In a small, packed Washington, D.C., living room late one December night, I heard a cacophony of horns, keys, drums and guitars that simply floored me. It was brash, zany, brainy, scary and danceable. At the end of a long year of amazing live music, this would turn out to be one of the most memorable concerts I'd seen.

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All Songs Considered
5:03 am
Thu April 25, 2013

Video: Music Meets Random Imagery In Yellowbirds' 'Young Men Of Promise'

Bernie DeChant

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 12:25 pm

Music videos are like funny math, where 1+1=3. That is, images have a meaning on their own, music has a meaning when you listen to it alone, but put images and music together and something new is born. 1+1=3. Try it randomly: put on a piece of music and watch a cartoon or an old movie ... people did it famously with The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.

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