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.

Every week I hear something amazing, see something inspiring and want to pass it on. These events are sometimes fleeting, sometimes iconic, but they stop me in my tracks. Bob's Rainbows is the place where I'll highlight the very best of my weekly music intake. [Editor's note: Why rainbows? They're the only naturally occurring phenomenon that can make Bob take his headphones off.]

Neil Young wants you to truly hear the music you listen to. Over the years, the trend in audio has prioritized convenience over quality. Last week at SXSW, I had a conversation with Neil Young about an idea he has to change that trend. In this interview, he talks about Pono, the new audio player he's been helping develop. Just before the interview, I spent time listening to Pono. It's impressive.

Neil Young wants to start a revolution against the MP3, against the CD, poorly made vinyl and poor audio quality in general. He wants people to hear the music the way it was made.

Every week I hear something amazing, see something inspiring and want to pass it on. These events are sometimes fleeting, sometimes iconic, but they stop me in my tracks. Bob's Rainbows is the place where I'll highlight the very best of my weekly music intake. [Editor's note: Why rainbows? They're the only naturally occurring phenomenon that can make Bob take his headphones off.]

If you try to watch this video for its plot, good luck. There's a mermaid, a sandstorm, a dude, a chase, sea creatures, close-up lips ... I tried, but gave up and simply gave in to the flow of the song and the images.

If you remembered that John Paul White and Joy Williams had announced they were taking a hiatus last year, the news of a new digital EP from The Civil Wars might make you scratch your head. But this cover of Elliott Smith's "Between the Bars," which lends its name to the EP, was actually recorded a while back with producers Rick Rubin and Charlie Peacock.

The sound of Deleted Scenes, a D.C.-based quartet formed in 2005, is potent, angular and distinct. The lyrics of Dan Scheuerman, who sings and plays guitar, can be simultaneously poetic and direct. The best part of Deleted Scenes is the unexpected, the unpredictable, and "Stutter" is a perfect example of their hard-to-label style. It mixes grating vocals with sporadic bursts of guitar, those abrasive sounds morphing into a likable, memorable track.

I've just spent the weekend at Winter Jazzfest and GlobalFEST in New York City. These are two of the biggest annual festivals of their kind, featuring several thrilling, packed days of music, with live performances that run late into the night.

I didn't watch any TV shows in 2013. I only saw one movie that I can remember. But I saw over 662 shows in 2013, 549 bands in 139 clubs in 21 cities. It was a perfect year.

I'm a lyrics guy. Great words drive me to a song. Bad lyrics drive me away. As a lyrics guy, I find that my favorite songs often also have my favorite words. I love a good melody and a beat, but I love it more when those elements support a good story, an insight, an emotional outpouring, something I can connect to.

Our goal for this special holiday Tiny Desk Concert is simple: to bring you joy. Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a hot and historic outfit from New Orleans, and its members brought us a tuba-wielding Santa and some original holiday cheer and praise — what they call a Cajun Christmas from the French Quarter.

Pixies, 'What Goes Boom'

Nov 19, 2013

It's been several months since longtime Pixies bassist Kim Deal left the band, and the remaining members are still figuring out how to play together. But the group's new sound seems to coalesce on its latest single and video, "What Goes Boom."

"Since the reunion, there are sounds that I've been coming up with," guitarist Joey Santiago tells us via email. "And a lot of them just got condensed into this one song, with me going sh*thouse on guitar."

Nicholas Murphy chose his moniker to honor Chet Baker, the American jazz musician known both as a trumpeter and a fragile, intimate singer. The Australian electronic musician, producer and rising soul singer — a.k.a. Chet Faker — has teamed up with his countryman Flume, the 22-year-old electronic producer. Together, they're releasing this fabulous track, "Drop the Game." This isn't their first collaboration: Flume and Chet Faker worked on Flume's self-titled record, and that record is up for an Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) award.

I've never seen anyone play guitar quite the way Marian McLaughlin does, or sing the patterns she sings. After catching her live a few years ago, I thought this could either be someone naively noodling or deliberately taking an adventure. I've come to the conclusion it's a bit of both. You can see and hear how McLaughlin pulls this off in a new video for her song "Before You Leave."

There's a new song from Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, and a new album coming Jan. 7, 2014. The record will be called Wig Out At Jagbags, and the new song is called "Lariat."

The former Pavement singer and guitar player says the album was influenced by a move to Germany and an odd assortment of other things, from the NBA to laziness.

Earlier this week we asked you to submit photos of the setlists you've collected over the years. We got a lot of amazing pics. Some, such as the Elliott Smith setlist from 1999, felt like rare treasures. We've added some of our favorites to the gallery below. Click the info icon or mouse over the images for captions and explanations for each one.

"I really wanted to stay away from anything too literal in favor of something bigger, more fantastical and ethereal." And with that concept, director Olivier Agostini completely drew me into a sweet story while turning me on to Butch Walker's new video for the song "Coming Home."

Butch Walker was a guitarist in a glam metal band (SouthGang), a singer and guitarist with Marvelous 3, and later-turned-producer for Avril Lavigne, Fall Out Boy, and Pink. Go figure. He's also been making his own songs, and his latest is "Coming Home" from the EP Peachtree Battle.

Late last month I witnessed the most creative music festival I know, and I'm back with some astonishing new music discoveries. The first annual Mountain Oasis festival took place in a number of venues in Asheville, N.C. the weekend before Halloween. Asheville's a city that, much like Austin, Texas or Portland, Ore., lives up to that often-used slogan "Keep (insert city name here) Weird." As music pours into the streets, you'll see people dressed up as gnomes in illuminated hats, traveling in packs along with jellyfish, various monsters or even giant butterflies.

There's soon to be a new album from Broken Bells — the duo of James Mercer (The Shins) and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) — and you're about to find out how it all came together.

Earlier this week we posted a poll asking whether you think concerts have gotten too loud, and whether you've started wearing earplugs at shows. After a week of voting, the results are in, and respondents have what seems to be a pretty clear message to clubs and concert venues: Turn it down!

After five decades of singing, Linda Thompson is still one of the best voices in folk music. Her tone is alluring, sometimes mournful, and always passionate. Her story is unlike anyone else's, beginning in England during the 1960s, and continuing with her marriage to Richard Thompson, when she recorded my favorite British folk albums ever, including 1975's Pour Down Like Silver.

Volcano Choir got its start in 2005 when Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and members of the band Collections Of Colonies Of Bees decided to make mysterious, multi-layered, adventurous music together. Their first album, 2009's Unmap, was dreamy, frequently abstract, and simply gorgeous.

There's a moment in this rousing tune by the Brooklyn-based band Rubblebucket I think we can all connect with: singer Kalmia Traver screams "15 missed calls / can you blame me? / Charlie tell me, do you love me?" It's that exasperation, that moment in a relationship when one person finds themselves caring a whole lot more than the other, that makes this a fabulous pop song. I also love how much life this lyric video has; the color and style feel fresh and so perfect for the blasting horns and funk of the music.

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