All Songs Considered

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the T-shirt we bought to express our love of goats is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on side projects.

This is the song Four Tet fans have been waiting for. Almost five months after he premiered it on his BBC Essential Mix, Kieran Hebden officially released "Digital Arpeggios" on Friday via his Percussions alias.

We've been a cat free zone for 15 years here on All Songs Considered, but today, for good reason, we break our rule. It's Friday. I'm in a silly mood, and have been since watching this cat video, which has apparently short-circuited my normal news filter.

Last weekend, thousands of uncommonly refined punks flooded the Estonian town of Rakvere to participate in the third Punk Song Festival (previous gatherings were held in 2008 and 2011).

Toronto singer Lowell makes bubblegum pop — if that bubblegum has been stuck irreverently under a desk, or spit defiantly onto the ground. Her music is sweet, but with an intentional, inseparable grit. Such is the case on her latest release, "Ride," a spiky, MIA-adjacent summer anthem featuring Swedish electropop stars Icona Pop. As with prior singles from both Lowell and Icona Pop, "Ride" is as much a mission statement as it is a pop song.

This fall is stacked with highly anticipated new albums from some of the brightest names in music. We're going to celebrate September's bounty with a pair of back-to-back First Listen Live concerts in NYC with the bands The Arcs and Beirut.

The dance music that moves us in these waning days of summer often does so in minuscule ways. Maybe it has something to do with the merciless mercury levels, but a good portion of our Recommended Dose mix for August doesn't require the flailing of arms and legs. Your brain, however, should be mightily entertained.

The tracklisting includes new music from underground star Joy Orbison, space disco from Japan, ambient beats from Paris, electro from England and a meditative warehouse juggernaut from Belgium.

In her autobiography, 14th century nun and Spanish mystic Teresa of Ávila wrote of her encounter with an angel that thrust a "long spear of gold" into her heart: "The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.

BOOTS is the most interesting new artist I've heard in 2015. You may have first encountered him writing and producing songs on Beyoncé's self-titled 2013 album. Earlier this year we premiered BOOTS' self-directed engaging short film/music video Motorcycle Jesus, complete with five brand new songs: his own songs.

Twenty years ago this week, Microsoft introduced its Windows 95 operating system on CD-ROM. One of the legacies of the operating system was its dreamy startup music, composed by legendary producer Brian Eno and titled "The Microsoft Sound." It lasts six seconds.

This week's episode of All Songs Considered is a journey of sound. Bob has a new favorite noise app, so he and Robin Hilton go on a sonic expedition that includes a spring walk, a gaggle of purring kittens, and a rolling rain storm (thunder optional). As if kittens weren't enough, Bob and Robin also have six new songs to share, including a British band, a Scandinavian band that sounds British, and an American band that sounds Scandinavian.

Bikini Kill, the feminist punk band at the forefront of the '90s riot grrrl movement, are about to reissue something few people have heard. The group's very first demo, Revolution Girl Style Now, is coming out not only in its original cassette format, but also on CD, vinyl, and digital formats.

This week's Drum Fill Friday comes courtesy of Shaun Fleming, drummer for Foxygen and frontman for the band Diane Coffee. Fleming has an unabashed love of late-'60s psychedelic rock and pop, and you can hear as much in the fills he picked here. But he also threw in a few surprises from the '70s and '80s. I'd give it three out of five stars for difficulty.

This week Atlanta band Deerhunter announced its forthcoming seventh album, Fading Frontier, and released its first single and video, the swaggering "Snakeskin." The new album is a polished, propulsive turn for the group, fronted by eccentric and charismatic lead singer Bradford Cox.

Opposites attract in songs by siblings Tyler and Maggie Heath, who perform as the folk duo The Oh Hellos. Their instrumentation and singing are exuberant, just this side of ecstatic, even though their lyrics deal with wandering, grief and regret.

Sometimes it's just better from the war horse's mouth. Here's Hammercult's statement on "Rise Of The Hammer":

"Rise Of The Hammer" is really all about what Hammercult is about: Power, intensity and badassness! This is the first song on the Built For War album, which welcomes the listener to dive inside the unstoppable war-machine and join the ride as Heavy Metal conquers another milestone on its path! Chuck Norris ain't got s*** on Hammercult.

When you record on one of Scandinavia's largest pipe organs, the result damn well better be a thing of monstrous beauty and bombast. Anna von Hausswolff took her band and longtime producer Filip Leyman to the concert hall Acusticum in Piteå, Sweden, to work on her third album, The Miraculous. If the first single, "Come Wander With Me/Deliverance," is any indication, be prepared to meet thy blown-out, organ doom.

R&B singer Janelle Monáe released a blistering 6 1/2-minute protest song on Friday called "Hell You Talmbout." The song's premise is simple, and that simplicity is the source of its power. The lyrics are the chanted names of black Americans killed by police and vigilantes, followed by the phrase "say his name" or "say her name." The chorus is an anthemic, gospel-leaning repetition of the song's title.

Bob Boilen is back after several weeks for this week's episode of All Songs Considered, and at least part of this week's show is Robin coming to terms with Bob's new beard.

Deafheaven achieved a rare feat with 2013's Sunbather: The band became a legit metal crossover. Sunbather draws from black metal, but was also uplifting with its inventive guitar work and ecstatic sense of propulsion. The group has since moved from the Bay Area to L.A. and adopted a darker tone, as heard in "Brought To The Water," the lead track from New Bermuda.

Pop music is often overlooked as a genre capable of bearing significant thematic weight. So when Zac Little of folk-rock band Saintseneca wanted to make a record about the nature of consciousness, he packaged it in the form of what he calls "easy to swallow pop song pills."

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the mammoth box someone used to ship us a single bottle of beer is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on tall folks at concerts.

Columbia House (actually, the company that has owned Columbia House since 2012) filed for bankruptcy this week, which will mean a great deal to those who were music lovers in the 1980s and '90s, and probably close to nothing to listeners under the age of 30. Columbia House was a mail-order music warehouse, which used cheap (or free) LPs, then 8-tracks, then cassettes and CDs to rope customers into its full-price subscription service.

The inimitable harpist and singer/songwriter Joanna Newsom released new music this week, her first since 2010's Have One On Me. Every aspect of Newsom's work is precise and impeccable: her intricate harp work, her striking, delicate vocals and her sweeping lyrics. It's no wonder her records come out four to five years apart — a tapestry as rich as the one she weaves takes time.

David Wax and Suz Slezak, the married couple who form David Wax Museum, have put an extraordinary amount of research and work into their sound.

This week, the All Songs team picks songs that sound like revolutions. Bob Boilen is out, so co-host Robin Hilton is joined by Katie Presley in D.C. and Timmhotep Aku in New York. The trio shares big, smashy music that lets Robin engage in his once-yearly purge of emotion.

In 1998, Unwound was closing in on the height of its powers. Two years earlier, the Olympia band had released the career-defining Repetition, which dug into Unwound's weirder grooves with a muscle-constricting tension that, when released, made it feel as if the world was opening up. Challenge For A Civilized Society explored that mode with more studio experimentation, as the band added synths, saxophone and samples. The result was pulsing, ecstatic.

LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This song contains sexually explicit language.

Singer-songwriter Amy Bezunartea's latest single, "Oh The Things A Girl Must Do" is gently sung, but it's not an easy listen. Bezunartea's voice and her soft guitar play in stark contrast to her frank, razor-sharp lyrics about the pressures put on women. A shocking turn for the NSFW (not safe for work) reveals the simmering frustration undercutting this deceptively straightforward piece of acoustic folk rock.

I savor the moment of finding a band to love. I relish those first singles and EPs, and hearing their live sound take shape on record. And then they release their debut album.

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