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.

This week Bob Boilen and I and a handful of other people from NPR Music got to see Sufjan Stevens in concert. It was a life-changing performance — one we'll all remember for many years.

Mother's Day is back again (it's this coming Sunday) to remind you to do something nice for your mom. But maybe you don't need a commercial holiday to think about your mother and all she's done (or hasn't done) for you. Maybe all it takes is a song. If so, we want to know what it is. What song reminds you of your mother every time you hear it? Tell us in the form below. We'll talk more about it and make a playlist of some of the picks in this week's Plus One podcast.

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.)

It's hard to get your head around the amount of work it must have taken to make the new video for Son Lux's "Change Is Everything." Conceived and produced by The Made Shop, the whole thing was painstakingly pieced together entirely with a foam white board, a whole bunch of map pins and old-school stop motion animation.

Last week's Drum Fill Friday was a tough one: I'd give it four out of five stars for difficulty. One thing that's nice about the tougher games is that they can turn you on to some great songs and bands you've never heard before. That said, I tamed this week's puzzler a bit — more like two out of five stars — so hopefully you'll be a little more familiar with the fills, while still feeling challenged. As always, good luck, careful listeners!

This past week we held a listening party in Denver, and one of the songs we played for the crowd was Stephin Merrit's "Book Of Love," from his album 69 Love Songs, by The Magnetic Fields. Our panelist, Amelia Mason, writer for WBUR's The ARTery, called it a perfect song, and many of us in the room agreed.

All Songs is a music podcast, and we like to have fun. But music can speak to significant political, cultural and social events that can be challenging to process on their own. Songs can spark a protest or offer peace of mind, or just be close companions.

This week's guest Quizmaster is Kelly Olsen, drummer for the Philadelphia-based rock trio Cayetana. This is one of our favorite new bands of the past year. We featured Cayetana in a live concert webcast from New York during last fall's CMJ music festival, and most recently for their video for the song "Scott Get The Van, I'm Moving."

What goes on in your brain when you hear a new song? Is there a formula for what makes a perfect pop song? What's better, something brand new, or something familiar? It's nearly impossible to completely explain or understand why we like the music we like. But Susan Rogers, a music cognition expert and associate professor of music production and engineering at the Berklee College of Music, gets closer to making sense of it than we've heard before.

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.

This week's guest Quizmaster is Jess Gowrie, drummer with the San Francisco-based band Happy Fangs. Earlier this year the group released its debut full-length, Capricorn, a collection of lean, raw and noisy guitar rock cuts anchored by Gowrie's bone-breaking beats. Given her love of power-hitters, some of the fills she selected for this week's Drum Fill Friday should come as no surprise. But there are at least a couple of unexpected picks here. As always, good luck, careful listeners!

The North London rock group Wolf Alice has been picking up steam this year with a potent mix of vintage '90s rock, electronics and moody atmospherics. It's a sound that both shimmers and glowers — part The Sundays, part Smashing Pumpkins.

Wolf Alice dances along this line memorably on "Bros," the latest cut from the band's upcoming full length debut My Love Is Cool. Propelled by lead singer Ellie Rowsell's stirring voice, the song is a celebratory but wistful reflection on the waning years of youth.

This week's guest Quizmaster is Pete Robertson, drummer for the English rock group The Vaccines. The band recently announced a new full-length, English Graffiti, due out May 26. It's their first ever recorded in the U.S.

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.

This week's Throwback Thursday is offered without comment, and just enough context to help us make our point:

This week's survey has closed. Thanks and follow us on Twitter (or check back later) for more!

On any given week there's usually a new (or fairly recent) song I can't stop listening to. And sometimes, if it's a really, really good cut, I'm still listening to it, nonstop, weeks later. We assume you're in the same boat, whether it's the latest Rihanna ear worm or some heartbreaking acoustic ballad by a singer hardly anyone has heard of.

On this week's All Songs Considered we talk about the secrets to being happy and how they relate to a euphoric new track from the electro-pop group Passion Pit. We'll hear the first song from Franz Ferdinand's collaboration with one of Bob Boilen's favorite bands from the early '70s — the wild, strange and playful duo Sparks. Together, as FFS, they cordially invite everyone to "piss off!"

The electro-pop group's latest cut is a euphoric anthem to youthful dreams and the inertia that keeps us from reaching them. Frenetic, propulsive and bristling with life, "Until We Can't (Let's Go)" finds Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos pleading for escape from the tedium of an ordinary life. "We'​r​e here in this godforsaken place," he sings. "I can hear what you are saying, I can see it on your face so, let'​s​ go."

It's been a couple of weeks since we last had a Drum Fill Friday (South by Southwest and the weeklong flu I always get after the festival set me back a bit). So I thought I'd return with some low-hanging fruit to help get everyone back into the swing. You'll find a collection of recurring, classic rock mainstays in this week's puzzler, with one exception. But I still expect a lot of perfect scores. Good luck, careful listeners!

On All Songs Considered this week, we hear two songs by familiar musicians, one stripped down to his essence and one in a brand new context. Ryan Adams is at his best live, playing solo acoustic hits, with lots of comical chatter. The prolific singer and songwriter has a massive live album coming out with 42 songs recorded at Carnegie Hall. From that collection, we've got Adams' rock anthem "New York, New York," slowed waaaay down for solo piano (along with his seemingly random oratory on the film Terminator 2).

Son Lux, the brain child of beat wizard Ryan Lott, is back as an official trio, with a new album and a new song. The album is called Bones and was co-written and recorded by Lott with drummer Ian Chang and guitarist Rafiq Bhatia.

The first single from the album, "Change Is Everything," is vintage Son Lux, with a startling mix of chopped up rhythms and sonic curiosities set against lyrics that are both grand and minimal.

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