All Songs Considered

Last year, as an April Fools' Day joke, the label Bloodshot Records announced that it had brought together 21 affiliated artists for a roughed-up roots take on the music of Prince, to be pressed as a "purple swirl colored double vinyl LP" set.

On this week's All Songs Considered, we look at one of life's immutable truths: Nothing's ever easy! Or, at least some things are way harder than they need to be. That's part of the message in the new kiss-off song that opens our show, "Hot Scary Summer," from the upcoming Villagers album Darling Arithmetic.

With just an electric guitar and bass, Girlpool inhabits an entire ecosystem in the space of a bedroom. The single-note melodies are simple and quiet; their instruments are cheap, yet full of character. "Ideal World" comes from the duo's debut album, Before The World Was Big.

Hardly anyone had heard of Bon Iver when we booked him to play our South By Southwest day party in March 2008. It was a magical time. Jagjaguwar had just released Bon Iver's breathlessly beautiful album For Emma, Forever Ago, the one Justin Vernon had famously recorded in a remote log cabin in the woods, where he'd holed up to exorcise some inner demons. He's adored now, but for many people in the audience, it was the first they'd heard of the record or of Bon Iver.

This week on All Songs Considered, we get heavy — heavy lyrics, heavy themes — as hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton explore the meaning of life, even breaking it down to the atomic level, with existential music from English folk singer Bill Fay, Björk and more.

In last week's Drum Fill Friday I included one of my favorite drummers, Steve Jordan. (I won't say which song he was on in case you haven't taken the quiz yet.) I was first introduced to Jordan through his work with The Blues Brothers in the late '70s and early '80s, but his list of album credits is much longer.

Bosse-de-Nage's III was one of 2012's most exhilarating black-metal albums, with movement that lunged from ponderous post-rock to searing screamo mania without inhibition, even if it paradoxically came from an anxious state of mind. The Bay Area band's fourth full-length album (and first that isn't self-titled), All Fours, continues on that path, but somehow sounds darker and more vicious in its attack. Listen to the explosive "A Subtle Change."

It may be freezing on the east coast, but on All Songs Considered this week, we've got the hottest tracks to keep you out of the cold.

At the top, North Dakota songwriter Tom Brosseau tells a heartbreaking story about a boy abandoned by his mother. Patrick Watson returns with a vast and beautiful sound that explores the distinction between humanity and technology.

I don't know what it's like where you live, but here in D.C. (as well as the rest of the eastern seaboard in general) we've had enough of winter. It's been downright arctic with subzero temperatures, record snowfall and no apparent end in sight. All of which is to say that this week's Drum Fill Friday comes to you from the confines of my super secret Robin Cave, where I've holed up with my stuffed animals and an iPod to play sweet drum fill jams and drown out the howling winter winds. Stay warm, and 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.

There was a time in '90s hardcore when slam-dancing riffs gave way to melody and tempos that swayed like a ship at sea, confusing pit rituals in the process. Quicksand's Manic Compression and Jawbox's For Your Own Special Sweetheart are just a couple examples of this evolution, and it's somewhere in that sound that we find the Bay Area band Never Young.

This week on All Songs Considered we reflect on age and time, how we make sense of the world as we all grow older, and how it all ties in to the artist who opens this week's show: Sufjan Stevens. Stevens has been busy with numerous projects since releasing his insane masterpiece, The Age Of Adz, in 2010. But he's back with his first official studio album since then, the lovely and intimate Carrie & Lowell. We've got the first single from the album, "No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross."

In the land grab that was the early '90s Seattle grunge scene, TAD was the hard rock band caught up in the groundswell. And how could you miss them? Bummer melodies cloaked in giant riffs, a juvenile sense of humor (see: God's Balls, 8-Way Santa) and the larger-than-life frontman Tad Doyle. More than most of their peers, the band made records that hold up even if major labels dropped them left and right. Six years in the making, Doyle returns triumphant with Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and one of the most satisfying and heaviest doom metal records in years.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the boxes of chocolate we bought ourselves to eat alone in the dark on Valentine's Day is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on the collision of concert etiquette and first-date etiquette.

This week's Drum Fill Friday was put together by drummer Cully Symington. He's currently with the band Cursive, though he's also played with The Afghan Whigs, Bishop Allen, Okkervil River and Shearwater. Cursive is currently on tour for their deluxe reissue of The Ugly Organ, originally released in 2003.

Today we're thrilled to announce that the winner of the Tiny Desk Concert Contest is Fantastic Negrito.

I'll be online at reddit.com/r/music on Wednesday, February 11, 1 to 2 p.m. EST, answering your questions on this post. I'm a little scared because you can actually ask me anything. It will be kind of like a Tiny Desk Concert (intimate, awkward) but I'm sure we'll have fun.

In case you need a little background information about me:

Chris Weisman's songs shouldn't work. Or, at the very least, the massive volume and musical limits the Battleboro, Vt., singer places on his songs shouldn't work.

Lord Huron's "Fool For Love" opens with a delicate wash of humming bells, a distant organ drone and a few carefully plucked strings. It's a beautiful, meditative mix that shimmers with the kind of hope and determination that only a new day can hold in its earliest hours, just after waking, before the inevitable letdown.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the pheromone-laced collars we ordered in the hopes that our cats will stop acting like jerks is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on how the heartsick can avoid songs about love, sex and desire.

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 personal memory about the show you'd like to share, drop us an email: allsongs@npr.org.

Is there a single song that sounds like romance to you? My mom might pick Sinatra singing "Fly Me To The Moon." For someone growing up in the '50s it might be "I Only Have Eyes For You" sung by The Flamingos.

This week on All Songs Considered, we start the show with new music Bob's been waiting for two years to hear: the great first single from Courtney Barnett's debut full-length album. Don't miss the video for "Pedestrian at Best" off her album Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.

Watch just about any video where Mylets' Henry Kohen is performing his guitar-looping one-man-band wizardry live, and it's like that one scene in Back To The Future III when Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen shoots at the floor, yells "dance!" and Marty McFly hops around until — much to the befuddlement of Tannen — he straight-up moonwalks.

Rock 'n' roll can be a lot of things — dangerous, sexy, stupid — but Pile's rock 'n' roll is deranged. The Boston band delights in riffs that pop wheelies off the side of cliffs, the careening croon and yelp of Rick Maguire, and a pummeling punk rhythm section that eggs it all on. On its fifth album, You're Better Than This, Pile gives its grinning bombast some room to build, as heard in the side-eyed waltz of "Mr. Fish."

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