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All Songs Considered

Earlier this week, while we were prepping our list of favorite songs and albums of 2013 (so far), we asked you to tell us your own No. 1 track for the first half of the year.

The latest video for the Canadian electro-pop band Young Galaxy is a study in stark, disturbing contrasts. "Here it comes again, the beautiful, warm weather," sings frontwoman Catherine McCandless, just as all hell breaks loose.

When singer-songwriter Grant Olney started working on his latest album, Hypnosis For Happiness, he never imagined it'd take six years to finish. But after laying down the first tracks in 2006, Olney left for the U.K. and the Netherlands to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics. After finishing a 300-page dissertation on something called "high dimensional geometry," Olney returned to music and found himself reflecting on identity, friendship and what it means to really know someone. It's a knotty mix of emotions and ideas he tackles in a touching new video for the song "Not From Body."

We're about to get deep into our "Best Of The Year (So Far)" coverage - and our annual summer music preview. But before we do, we've still got a lot of great music from the first half of 2013 to share. On this week's All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton play new releases from some beloved artists who made some amazing records in the '90s, then went on extended breaks.

Masaki Kobayashi's 1964 film Kwaidan drifts around your brain like a mist of evaporated blood.

If the wrath of heaven sounds anything like Locrian, then archangel Michael has been digging into the prog-rock bin lately. The loosely Chicago-based trio has always had grand ambition, dissolving and rebuilding the darker sounds of ambient, noise and metal on its own and in several collaborations (Mammifer, Christoph Heeman and Horseback among them). Return to Annihilation continues in that vein, but is far more rhythmic, hypnotic and Popol Vuh-lic.

Autopsy just wants to make nasty death metal, okay? No technical this, no frip-frappity-do that, and by the re-animated corpses of hellbound souls, ain't nothing going to change about it. From the late '80s to the mid-'90s, the Bay Area band was an anomaly among speed demons: a chaotic horde given to lurching rhythms, maniacal guitar solos and drummer Chris Reifert's escaped-mental-patient howls.

Last month the Scottish electronic duo Boards Of Canada released a series of mysterious recordings of a voice reading a set of numbers. Clever fans soon realized that the numbers were a code that, once entered, in order, online, revealed a video announcing Tomorrow's Harvest, the group's first new album in eight years. On this week's All Songs Considered we finally get a preview of the album with a brand new Boards Of Canada song "Reach For The Dead."

We got a lot of thoughtful comments and replies from readers this week when we asked whether they really listen to full albums from start to finish. Much of the discussion focused on the ways we listen and what constitutes actually engaging with an entire album in a full-on listening, as opposed to merely having it on.

Boards Of Canada Share New Video, Song

May 23, 2013

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the booklets of money-saving coupons we use to light kindling in the fireplace is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, tips for obsessive music fans in an age of instant online gratification.

Remember the slow-moving, ridiculously armed ED-209 in the first RoboCop movie? The poor thing couldn't walk down a stairwell, but boy, could that machine leave a bloody mess. Author & Punisher does much the same, for both the ears and whatever's left of the body.

This week on All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton offer up a musical sampler of many styles from around the world. There's an upbeat, atmospheric cut with amazing harmonies from the magnetic Laura Mvula, a voice you'll hear a lot more of this year; Firehorse's blazing combination of neo-soul, hip-hop and electronic beats; a heavy, hypnotic track from New York duo Small Multiples and some transfixing psych-pop from Jagwar Ma.

Carnal implications abound on "Sex Mission," a new techno track from the Brooklyn-based musician Laurel Halo. There's the not-exactly-subtle title, and the EP from whence it comes is called Behind the Green Door (out May 21), a nod to a ground-breaking porn flick from the 1970s. The music itself throbs like an accelerating heartbeat. A looped grainy sample — "be still" — conjures up an imaginary lover who's about to show you a really good time.

Vermont folksinger Sam Amidon says he intentionally borrowed lines from older songs for his new mountain ballad "As I Roved Out." The result is an erratic narrative, played out brilliantly in an absorbing (and comical) new video about a

Exitmusic's Passages was one of 2012's darkest and most arresting ambient rock albums. Now, the band returns with an equally transfixing new video for one of the album's standout tracks, "White Noise."

We kick this week's show off with a lot of noise from filmmaker (and past guest DJ on All Songs Considered) Jim Jarmusch and his gloriously gritty side project called SQÜRL. The band, with Carter Logan and producer/engineer Shane Stoneback, originally formed to score the 2009 Jarmusch film The Limits Of Control. SQÜRL has a new, self-titled EP coming out this month and we've got a preview cut called "Pink Dust."

First Watch: Jeri-Jeri With Baaba Maal, 'Gawlo'

May 10, 2013

One of my favorite songs last year was a collaboration between a Sengalese drum collective and a German techno producer. The producer, Mark Ernestus traveled to the West African country to work with Jeri-Jeri, a group that plays a popular dance music called mbalax.

Sometimes all you need for a banging dance track is an unstoppable rhythm and a nuanced hook. Tweak the hook every couple bars, don't mess with the beat too much, and you've got a potential stomper on your hands.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the ironic promotional cassingles is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how a regretful fan of vinyl records can re-create her discarded collection.

Kirsten Elbourne Mathieson writes: "I'm big-time regretting getting rid of all of my record albums years ago. Any advice for someone starting from scratch with vinyl after all these years? What albums must be heard on vinyl rather than CD/digital?"

In the latest video from Seattle-based pop masters Telekinesis, for the song "Empathetic People," frontman Michael Benjamin Lerner ambles into an abandoned record-pressing factory and gets it running again. It's a curious glimpse into one of the last gasps of industry keeping music tethered to the physical world.

In the seven months since Gary Clark, Jr. released his major label debut, Blak and Blu, he's played for the President at the White House with Mick Jagger and blues legend B.B.

This week, All Songs Considered goes big with massive, heart-thumping new music from the gloriously exuberant, sprawling pop group The Polyphonic Spree, and the brilliantly experimental folk-rock band Akron Family. We also check out a gritty album from a Swedish group known as Goat, whose music is part prog-rock, part Afro-pop and undeniably awesome.

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