All Songs Considered

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.

NPR Music At SXSW: Friday

Mar 21, 2015

The rain arrived in Austin on Friday, but it didn't wash away the weirdness. One-legged kung-fu dance moves, fog machines that sent off fire alarms that blow out electronic instruments and all sorts of other challenges couldn't stop the music, though, and our team at SXSW has sent back proof: photos, recommendations and a video of Laura Marling playing a song from her new album, Short Movie, at 2 a.m. outside a church.

Here are some of the best things we heard at SXSW on Friday.


Day 4 Picks

Laura Marling

"I've been coming here for so long," Jack Antonoff says of SXSW while waiting for a breakfast table at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin. "The first time I came, in 2003, I had one show at a sushi place that like nine friends came to. Which I thought was the coolest thing because I was like, 'I'm at South by Southwest!'"

NPR Music At SXSW 2015: Thursday

Mar 20, 2015

Some days at South by Southwest, everything goes right. You see the bands you want to see, every one of them puts on an amazing show and the heavens open and angels give you shoulder rubs. NPR Music's Robin Hilton had a day like that on Thursday, with epiphany after epiphany. Things went well on Day 3 for the rest of NPR Music's team in Austin, too.

NPR Music At SXSW 2015: Wednesday

Mar 19, 2015

Within the first minute, "War is a Romance" gives you everything you need to know if you're going to be onboard with Wild Throne: a deranged hardcore twang a la Converge, a galloping Motörhead riff, fusion-y Mars Volta-style guitar acrobatics — oh, and a whistle. And then there's Josh Holland's voice yelping and squealing and scaling burning buildings with insane octave jumps.

NPR Music At SXSW 2015: Tuesday

Mar 18, 2015

If you love music as much as we do (we really love music), there's a good chance that this is one of your favorite weeks of the year. This is when the massive South by Southwest music festival and conference bubbles up and spills over into the streets of Austin, Texas. For five days, live music pours out of every alley, doorway, club, restaurant and street corner. Whether it's sensory overload or total nirvana, March 17-21 is all about discovering some new band or sound that sets your ears on end.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside laminates containing SXSW's most coveted VIP party passes, all of which are set to arrive the day after we leave for Austin, is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on SXSW envy.

I don't have any special tricks or themes to this week's Drum Fill Friday. (Well, I may have slipped one little trick in here. See if you can catch it.) But there should be a little bit in here for everybody, from funk and soul to vintage Top 40 pop and rock. If I star-rated these for difficulty, I'd give this one a two out of five. So see how you do, 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.

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.

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