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All Songs Considered

SXSW 2013: Day Four In Photos

Mar 16, 2013

You can depend on Solange to be the best dressed anywhere — that pink suit! — but her commanding live presence at SXSW is a thing of wonder, even if her funky R&B can be quiet and unassuming. We also took in the crushing doom metal of Batillus, spazzed out to Metz, and got gloomy with Diamond Rings.

SXSW 2013: Day Four Highlights

Mar 16, 2013

"If you want to do something, just do it." Words of wisdom from Bob Boilen that sum up day four of South By Southwest for the All Songs Considered gang perfectly. Bob, along with Robin Hilton, Stephen Thompson and Ann Powers were joined by Mike Katzif and Will Butler, both former All Songs interns. Will's journey to Austin was inspired by Amanda Palmer's recent TED Talk.

SXSW 2013: Day Three In Photos

Mar 15, 2013

¡Viva! Alt.Latino presented a killer showcase from Auditorium Shores with Cafe Tacvba and Bajofondo on Thursday.

SXSW 2013: Day Three Highlights

Mar 15, 2013

The span of South by Southwest is so huge that sometimes the festival can be about the bands you miss as much as the ones you see. After the hectic Thursday on the streets, bars and venues of Austin, Texas, the All Songs Considered crew regrouped to recount the long walks, long lines, tough decisions, missed opportunities and happy accidents of day three.

SXSW 2013: Day Two In Photos

Mar 14, 2013

Before our eyes were glued to stellar performances by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at our official SXSW showcase on Tuesday — not too mention rapper Le1f's amazing dance moves — we roamed the streets of Austin.

SXSW 2013: Day Two Highlights

Mar 14, 2013

For the All Songs Considered gang, the second day of the South By Southwest music festival was packed with familiar favorites and new discoveries. On the heels of NPR Music's SXSW Showcase at Stubb's, Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Stephen Thompson and Ann Powers once again huddled in their favorite Austin churchyard to discuss the standouts and surprises from the day.

Listen to Stephen Thompson's conversation with Audie Cornish on All Things Considered by clicking the audio link.


The South by Southwest music festival kicked off Tuesday with the first of five straight nights of music overload: The clubs, makeshift music venues and front porches of Austin, Texas, were overrun with little-known discoveries-in-waiting and big names alike, as well as tens of thousands of fans who have flocked to the city in search of epiphanies.

SXSW 2013: Day One In Photos

Mar 13, 2013

What do Best Coast, Boba Fett, Beach Fossils and street yogis have in common? They were among the many artists and fans who came for the first day of South by Southwest. See a gallery of photos by Adam Kissick here and follow us on Flickr for much, much more.

SXSW 2013: Day One Highlights

Mar 13, 2013

The All Songs Considered gang has made their way to Austin, Texas for this year's South By Southwest music festival. The five day event, which showcases performances by over 1500 bands and artists, takes over the city, and this year officially starts one day earlier than in the past — Tuesday night.

SXSW 2013 Music Preview

Mar 11, 2013

It's that time of year again! All Songs Considered is headed on another musical trek to Austin for this year's South By Southwest festival. Before hitting the road we listened to songs from more than a thousand bands scheduled to play the festival, in search of some great new discoveries. On this edition of the show hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, NPR Music editor Stephen Thompson and NPR Music critic Ann Powers come together to share some of what they found, and talk about the bands they're most excited to see.

Time To Shake: Clutch's Earth-Rocking One-Two Punch

Mar 8, 2013

There's a statement of intent in the sequence of an album's opening one-two punch. There's Harvey Milk's The Pleaser, a title reversal of set 'em up ("Down") and knock 'em down ("Get It Up & Get It On").

In a way, singer Julianna Barwick's ethereal voice and seemingly shapeless songs are a form of abstract art: colorful and curious, with lines that drift and flow in unexpected but beautiful directions. For her latest video, and a new song called "Offing," Barwick finds commonality in architect Philip Johnson's Glass House and a strange sculpture from artist Ken Price. Barwick performs alongside the sculpture for a live audience, filling the Glass House with layers of her sublime voice.

For a party-friendly metal-punk band like Kvelertak, "Spring fra Livet" sure is a curveball. The stomping, AC/DC-style intro? That's a party-starter. But 20 seconds in, there's a twangy, melodic riff that sounds like an Allman Brothers-indebted '90s alt-rock band, like Better Than Ezra or Toad the Wet Sprocket or maybe just the Empire Records soundtrack — if the Empire Records soundtrack were about to lay into a blast-beaten chorus. Respectfully, Kvelertak, just what is going on here?

Get some earplugs and a case of your favorite caffeinated beverage ready: The annual sensory-overload-joy-fest known as South by Southwest is almost here. Bob Boilen, Ann Powers, Stephen Thompson and I, along with a small army of other NPR Music peeps, will be there next week for the whole thing. Whether you'll be in Austin for the festival, or watching and listening on our website, we hope you'll join us for these events:


WEDNESDAY, March 13

This week on All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton are joined by some familiar friends from the NPR Music team, who share their latest musical finds.

Bob starts things off with a brand-new track from the Floridian indie-rock band Surfer Blood. Its new album Pythons isn't out until June, but you can hear "Demon Dance" before anyone else right here.

Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side,' 40 Years Later

Mar 2, 2013

It begins with a heartbeat. Released in 1973, The Dark Side of the Moon was Pink Floyd's eighth studio album. It would become one of the best-selling albums of all time, and its iconic cover image still hangs in college dormitories everywhere.

After 10 years of gleefully dismantling genres and challenging audiences to submit to its avant-prog-jazz-drone-noise-whatever hypnosis, the New York City band Zs promptly dismantled itself last summer. Only founding member and saxophonist Sam Hillmer remains, joined now by guitarist Patrick Higgins and drummer Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, ex-Liturgy). So it's only fitting that Grain, the first taste of new Zs material, features unreleased leftovers of previous line-ups completely dismantled.

In "Escape Artist," the new video from Canadian pop duo The Zolas, the band plays around with audience expectations about race, culture and sexuality. As frontman Zach Gray sings about his mysterious alter ego, a group of kids kick around their neighborhood, playing basketball, chatting up girls and passing the hours. One of them clearly feels like an outsider.

On this edition of All Songs Considered, we've got a brand new song from David Bowie, from his first album of new songs in a decade.

There's another new song from David Bowie and it's called "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)." This is the second Bowie song in the past few months after a dry spell that lasted ten years. You can hear the song and watch the video, which contains some nudity.

I knew I had a rare gem of a song when even Bob Boilen couldn't place it, especially since it was by The Kinks, one of his favorite bands. The cut was "Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl" and I'd discovered it in the soundtrack to one of my favorite movies, Rushmore.

At some point, a long string of colorful adjectives doesn't accomplish much for any band. "Hypnogogic math-pop," "blackened uber-popadelica," "avant seapunk-rap" — it all gets a little silly. Metal, or at least the folks who describe it, often falls into this trap, present company included. Exhibit A: the second album from Richmond's Inter Arma. Sky Burial ingests several forms of metal, but the goal is demonstrable heft. Maybe you should just listen to its opening track first; it's called "The Survival Fires."

[This story originally ran on Feb. 22, 2013, but still applies today.]

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Valentine's Day cards that got returned with no forwarding address is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how music fans could and should approach SXSW, the gigantic music festival held every March in Austin, Texas.

I first saw Cat Martino at the best concert of my life. It was the summer of 2011 and Sufjan Stevens was performing at Celebrate Brooklyn. But within the spectacle -– a troupe of maybe a dozen performers on stage — was a singer and dancer named Cat Martino. I know that because a number of my friends at the show knew Cat and were screaming her name at the top of their lungs.

Every year around this time, all four members of the All Songs Considered roundtable gang (Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Ann Powers and me) each dredge through more than 1,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. We base our coverage and festival schedules on the music we've researched in advance — and have found some of our favorite artists, like Kishi Bashi in 2012, as part of these blind pre-fest taste tests — and this year, we want to be sure we're considering yours.

Guitarist and singer Chris Porterfield has done a lot of soul searching since his previous band, DeYarmond Edison, broke up in 2006. Other guys in the group went on to start their own projects — Justin Vernon formed Bon Iver, while some of the other members formed Megafaun. Porterfield, meanwhile, hung back in his native Milwaukee and took a job as a student union administrator at Marquette Univeristy.

NPR Music will present and webcast a "First Listen Live" concert from Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band on Monday, March 4, beginning at 8 p.m. ET in the intimate New York City venue (Le) Poisson Rouge. Josh Ritter and his band will play most of his new album, The Beast in Its Tracks.

Kishi Bashi (who's real name is K Ishibashi) is known for his thrilling live performances, looping and layering his violin and voice to create a symphony of sound. But when he decided to cover "A Sunday Smile," one of his favorite songs by the band Beirut, K went for "real" musicians, captured in this live-in-studio video.

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