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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.

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.

Every year for the past decade, The Polyphonic Spree has celebrated the holidays with a special "extravaganza" in Dallas, featuring dancing, DJs and, of course, the band performing seasonal songs. This year, The Polyphonic Spree celebrates the 10th anniversary of that extravaganza with a live tour of the show, as well as a new CD called Holidaydream. The group also has this beautiful new video for one of the album's standout tracks: John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."

Hold on to your seat. You're about to be hit with a bounty of year-end lists: NPR Music's favorite songs, artists, albums, discoveries and more of 2012.

The Cleveland-based experimental rock duo Mr. Gnome was one of our favorite discoveries from South by Southwest earlier this year, and now the band is back on our radar with an amazing new video. "House of Circles," from Mr. Gnome's recent album Madness in Miniature, is an epic, wildly imaginative story about a band of rebel fighters who attempt to save the world from the evil Queen Machine.

Stop motion with live actors is nothing new in music videos. The Beatles did it nearly 50 years ago for the film A Hard Days Night. Peter Gabriel's 1986 "Sledgehammer" video is still mind-blowing. But few have done it as elegantly as Canadian rock duo The Zolas do for the band's mesmerizing, and amazing new video, "Knot In My Heart."

Bob Boilen has had a ban on seeing arena rock shows for more than 30 years, but it may ending. He recently saw The Who at a mega-dome concert, performing one of Bob's favorite albums in its entirety. On this edition of All Songs Considered, hear a cut from that record and why Bob loves it so much.

I first found the music of Gashcat buried among 2,000 other songs in a playlist NPR Music editor Stephen Thompson put together to help us prepare for South By Southwest earlier this year. I assumed I wouldn't like them and only listened because I thought the name was ridiculous. Gashcat. What does that even mean?

Ask Swedish singer Sarah Assbring, sole member of the moody pop group El Perro del Mar, and she'll tell you these are grim times, but not without a flicker of hope. "In this world, you think you have no reason to believe in love or in anything much," she says. "Then one day, when you least expect it, a light appears on the far horizon. It's a flickering light, begging you to come, telling you to stay away."

According to legend, once in each millennium, the Music Gods come together and, after much debate, agree to bestow a single magical gift upon the world — a song or album or project so breathtaking, it leaves throngs of people weeping in the streets at its splendor and forever changes the way we hear music. That time is now, as Jason Lytle and Sea of Bees have opted to cover each other's songs.

Okay, fine: Maybe it's not that special. But it's still cool when a couple of your favorite artists dig each other's music and want to work together.

This week's drum-fill quiz comes from Murph, longtime drummer for the band Dinosaur Jr. A couple of these are pretty easy, but this was otherwise one of the harder ones I've done. See what you think. Just drag the drum fill or intro to the album it's from. If you get it right, the song names will appear.

Previous drum-fill quizzes.

Here's what Murph has to say about the fills and intros he picked:

If it were the late 1960s, Lawrence Arabia might be one of the biggest bands in the world. The group, which is essentially the sole work of New Zealand artist James Milne, makes trippy, perfectly composed, melodic pop, similar to classic works by The Zombies or The Beatles.

The latest tease from this fall's upcoming collection of remixed Philip Glass tunes comes from Beck. The 20-minute song, "NYC: 73-78," includes snippets from more than 20 Glass songs, which Beck cut together and re-imagined.

After raising more than $125,000 on Kickstarter, the synth-psych-rock group Black Moth Super Rainbow is set to self-release its fifth full-length record. The gritty, beat-heavy Cobra Juicy is due out on Oct. 23, but the band is giving fans an early taste now with the thick and dirty "Gangs in the Garden."

This will be the last in our summer-long series of polls in search of the albums everyone can love. We've featured a few hundred records since we started back in May, and have found a lot of surprises.

My favorite new artist seems to change week to week, or sometimes even day to day. It turns out there's a lot of great music being made. But for now, my new favorite is Dana Falconberry. She's been putting out records for a few years, but only popped up on my radar this week. She's got a fantastic new record coming out soon called Leelanau, which includes this meticulously crafted little gem, "Crooked River."

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