All Songs Considered

When Amebix returned after two decades with 2011's Sonic Mass, it was an adventurous take on the crust-punk legacy the English band had left behind. Unfortunately, it was the only album to come out of the reunion, but that lush, brooding, melodic sound continues and evolves with Tau Cross, bassist/vocalist Rob Miller's new band featuring members of Voivod, Misery and War//Plague. Case in point, here's "Fire In The Sky" from Tau Cross' self-titled debut.

"Take it from somebody who knows." The opening words to Protomartyr's new single, "Blues Festival," are sung by frontman Joe Casey, but they could easily refer to the song's star guest vocalist, Kelley Deal of the Breeders. Deal has lived through a lot in the past 20-plus years, from opening for Nirvana in the early '90s to doing the whole "reunion" thing with her identical twin sister Kim, to releasing small-batch 7" singles by her most recent project, R. Ring.

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:

Baby-faced and rail-thin, Lee Bozeman didn't look like the kind of guy who would ram a microphone stand into the floor. But in the '90s, when Luxury got to "Flaming Youth Flames On" in its set list, the guitar came off and the sweetly gut-punching crooner flailed his body into the ultra-sassy punk song that teased, "Make you gasp / Make your heart skip a beat." It was an eye-opener to any teenager who witnessed it, especially since Luxury's spectacle was most often seen in church youth halls.

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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."

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside an assortment of expensive cat sedatives is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on whether all the great song ideas have been used up.

When you play punk rock with someone for 10 years, communication goes beyond words: The heart speaks through fingers and screams. Joey Doubek and Ashley Arnwine have a long history together in the D.C. punk bands Mass Movement Of The Moth and their own duo, Ingrid, but with Pinkwash (and a move to Philly), there's an ecstatic pulse that guides their frantic, id-exploding punk rock.

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!

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.

Real talk: Scäb's "Franz Kafka" is the greatest cartoon rock opera ever. Originally featured on the Home Movies episode "Director's Cut" in 2001, the ridiculous three-minute, four-movement song about The Metamorphosis is equal parts "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Tommy, and warns, "Be careful if you get him pissed / Franz! Franz Kafka! / He'll smite you with metaphor fists!" Metaphor fists!

For Heartless Bastards, rock 'n' roll entails a lot of heavy lifting, most often in the form of hundreds of club shows each year. It's a work ethic reflected on the Ohio-born, Austin-based band's albums, as singer/guitarist/powder-keg Erika Wennerstrom sets her rugged wail against the efforts of musicians churning out muscular blues-rock.

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).

Each April 1st, practical jokers get their kicks pulling the wool over people's eyes. There are little white lies, cunning schemes and elaborate hoaxes. Pranksters are alive and well in music, too. Test your wits with these musical smart alecks who run the gamut from clever clowns to serious scam artists. Score high and feel a surge of superiority. Score low and fancy yourself a true April fool.

One of the great underground bands from New Zealand's pop heyday is getting its due. The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, which broke up in 1994 after a nearly 10-year career on Flying Nun Records, will have its entire discography remastered and re-released this year by Fire Archives.

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.

After a week of 16-hour days and little-to-no sleep, the All Songs Considered gang is back from Austin with a slew of musical discoveries from the 2015 South by Southwest music festival.

On the final morning of SXSW, we woke up early for Austin's signature dish — breakfast tacos — with house and techno producer Avalon Emerson at Mi Madres Restaurant. "It nails Tex-Mex perfectly," she says, making everyone think about breakfast tacos right now.

There's something mysterious, almost opaque, about the songs of Lower Dens. The ones on the band's new album, Escape From Evil, are lush but distant, beautiful things held just out of reach.

Wish You Were There: 42 Photos From SXSW 2015

Mar 23, 2015

South by Southwest 2015 has wrapped up, and NPR Music's team in Austin has once again begun to scatter across the United States. For some of us, these five days were amazing and exhausting in equal measure — Stephen Thompson counted 76 bands he saw and sorely needs to rest his feet — while others — really just Bob Boilen — could keep going forever.

SXSW 2015 In 10 GIFs

Mar 23, 2015

While you catch up on our favorite discoveries from the SXSW Music Festival, watch

What you're about to hear is the final song of a band's career. Chicago indie-rock act Geronimo!

Maybe it goes without saying, but if you're a musician and have time to kill on the road, you're going to hit up a record store in town. In Austin, Texas, there are many, many options to throw down cash for vinyl, and for Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield, her favorite record store is End of an Ear.

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