All Songs Considered

All Songs +1: The Best Opening Tracks

Jul 10, 2015

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This song couldn't have been released as anything other than a single. A full-length album would collapse under the plaintive, heartbreaking weight of Sara Rachele's "Rebecca," and picking songs to cushion it in a track list would be nearly impossible.

One of the most outstanding and challenging new bits of music I've heard this year comes from Makeunder, the project of Hamilton Ulmer, an Oakland-based musician with a penchant for exploration. "Great Headless Blank" was the inspired track we played on All Songs Considered back in April, now it's the title track to Makeunder's latest EP, which we are proudly premiering here, along with track-by-track thoughts from Hamilton Ulmer.

For the sake of argument and reduction, let's say there are three ways to approach the architecture of extreme metal as it mutates and cross-pollinates genres: those who build blocks, those who construct M.C. Escher-like puzzles, and those who throw spaghetti against the wall. All are valid in their deconstructions, none are set in stone, and the resulting innovations eventually become their own signifiers for younger bands. The members of Chicago's Immortal Bird, for their part, are metallic mutant builders who hint at staggering puzzles.

Thursdays 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

Sometimes an excellent song makes its writer work for it, and sometimes it pours out almost too fast to catch. The latter was the case for Spokane, Wash. singer Cami Bradley and Huntsville, Ala. singer/songwriter Whitney Dean, who met on a whim and, less than a year later, are making music that seems to contain decades of intimacy.

Punk has always been hospitable to filth. Blood, sweat, spit, vomit, beer and hair gel from a melting fauxhawk — all are crucial to the movement. Punk embraces the taboo, the base and the precious, forcing all three into conversation. But that's not to say individual punks are inherently interested in being disgusting. Then again, sometimes they are, and write a whole song about it.

**Language advisory: This track contains language that may be offensive to some**

King Los' long-awaited major-label debut, God Money War, dropped on June 23 while our collective attention was — and is — turned to American terrorists, burning churches, music streaming services, and much more widely hyped album releases from other hip-hop artists. From a publicity standpoint, it's an inopportune time to release an album, but in a way it's perfect timing for a record like Los' debut.

Earlier this week, All Songs Considered shared our favorite music from debut albums released in the first half of 2015. The NPR Music team also got together to make epic lists of albums and songs we already think might make our year-end lists in December.

Kashikura Takashi is a hell of a drummer. Fifteen years into the existence of toe, he's often been the focus of the instrumental Japanese post-rock band, and for good reason. Takashi is aerobic and musical all at once, capable of Questlove-level precision and soul one moment, and a cyclone of controlled chaos the next. But the thing that's always set toe apart from its technically minded peers is its ability to tell short, concise stories — ecstatic, noodly, complex pop songs that unfold in less than five minutes.

Thursdays 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 personal memory about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email:

There's a new album coming from Beach House, the dreamy Baltimore-based duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. That album, called Depression Cherry, comes out on Sub Pop on Aug. 28. Today we get to hear a first song from the album, called "Sparks," and I interviewed Beach House about it.

This week marks the mid-point of 2015, and the All Songs Considered team is ready to take stock. On this week's show, we share our favorite music from debut albums released in the first half of this year. It's only June, but we picked the music we're already eyeing for our year-end lists in December.

Your first impulse on hearing "Fight Song," the latest single from Minneapolis trio Bad Bad Hats, might be to lean in. Lead singer Kerry Alexander's bright, lively lines swim over catchy acoustic guitar and velvety keyboard. Impeccable production by Brett Bullion (Bon Iver, Poliça) is programmed to fire all neural pathways associated with carefree indie rock fun. But beware: These lyrics will bite.

The collective excitement surrounding a major album release is infectious, but the satisfaction of turning friends on to a great new album by an unknown artist is true joy. That's why, for next week's All Songs Considered, we will play songs from our favorite debut albums of 2015 (so far).

We also want to give you a chance to share your own discoveries.

Using the form below, tell us your favorite song by an artist you've discovered this year. We'll compile and share a playlist of your picks in the coming weeks.

Thursdays 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:

Donnie Fritts knows what it's like to be held in the silver shimmer of celluloid, and he's had years of experience playing wingman to a heartthrob. That's why "Errol Flynn," a song written by the cabaret raconteur Amanda McBroom for her actor father, David Bruce, works perfectly as the lead single from Oh My Goodness, Fritts' new album. Contemplating the tattered poster she's tacked to her wall of her dad standing with the song's titular leading man, McBroom ponders fame and mortality and cautions listeners to treasure personal connections over Hollywood fantasies.

In the middle of a bunch of stage-dive-provoking hardcore acts at Damaged City Festival in May, one punk band set up in a straight line at the edge of the stage. It wasn't meant to keep the leaping kids at bay, so much as an equalizer that seemed to say, "Take 20 minutes and watch." Nervosas had a commanding presence, but also complex, melodic musicality. It was the kind of performance that sent several people — myself included — running to buy 2013's self-titled debut.

Adult Mom's Steph Knipe says "Told Ya So" is a "happy queer" song, as "it's a song that acts as a space of self-validation." Adult Mom's music deals deeply and thoughtfully with queerness and identity, a directive made even more impressive by the upbeat, electronic-tinged folk pop the band — which is Knipe solo on recordings and a quartet live — uses to achieve it.

There's something particularly delicious about fightin' words sung sugar sweet. Fairground Saints, a newly formed Los Angeles trio, strikes the balance delectably on their latest song, "Turn This Car Around," an argument between lovers sung in call-and-response, then meeting in high folk-pop harmony.

Los Angeles trio Superhumanoids have only been together since 2010, but their latest single, "Anxious In Venice," sounds like they've matured 20 years since their last release, 2013's Exhibitionists. Playful, '80s-referencing synth lines have given way to darker, seething electronics built from the band's realization that their sound hadn't been reaching audiences as they wanted.

**NOTE: This song contains profanity**

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the mail-order grapefruits that have us pondering the nature of the mail-order-grapefruit business is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on pop music's staying power.

Steven F. writes via Facebook: "Which current music stars will be remembered 20 or 50 years from now, which will be forgotten, and why?"

There are so many quick-twitch responses to this question — and virtually all of them are, at least on some level, wrong.