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All Songs Considered

Discoveries From globalFEST 2013

Jan 16, 2013

Every January for the past decade a dozen or more bands from around the world have gathered in New York City for globalFEST - one long, frenzied night of live music showcasing the diverse cultures, histories and numerous sonic branches of "World Music." This year's lineup included Zimbabwe legend Oliver Mtukudzi and his band The Black Spirits, Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara, Chicago's wildly exuberant marching band Mucca Pazza, and much, much more.

The music of Mystical Weapons, a duo formed by Sean Lennon and Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier, is entirely improvised — made up on the fly without any agenda or deeper meaning in mind. But in the hands of video director and animator Martha Colburn, the group's latest single, "Colony Collapse Disorder," takes on apocalyptic themes with swirling religious symbolism.

The Besnard Lakes have a new album coming out in April, and after hearing the song "People Of The Sticks," it's safe to say we're in for another soaringly gorgeous record from the Canadian rock group.

On this edition of All Songs Considered we've got a bunch of new-year premieres for you, including a special collaboration between Tom Waits and Keith Richards. The two veteran musicians recorded a song together for a new compilation album called Son Of Rogue's Gallery, and we guarantee it's not at all what you'd expect. Do the word's "sea chantey" mean anything to you?

I'm not very good at keeping New Year's resolutions. One year I resolved to "get into yoga." I even wrote that down on a note card and kept it on the refrigerator. Two months later, after doing nothing, I crossed it out and wrote, "be AWARE of yoga."

This year I didn't bother making a list about health and fitness resolutions. But I do have a mental list of some personal improvements I'd like to make when it comes to music.

"A transatlantic collaboration between four friends. Two songs were written and recorded in Chicago and then sent to Vienna. There they were translated into a film score."

2013 Winter Music Preview

Dec 26, 2012

On this edition of the program, All Songs Considered hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton invite a gaggle of other NPR Music peeps on the show to share some of the records they're most looking forward to in 2013.

The world of acoustic music is about to get a new household name. The music of The Lone Bellow is born from tragedy and told with heart and simplicity. Zach Williams, a singer and songwriter for this Brooklyn-based group, is originally from Georgia, and his words began to flow following his wife's catastrophic horse riding accident that nearly left her paralyzed. Listen to The Lone Bellows' song "Two Sides of Lonely," from the band's forthcoming self-titled album.

We decided to go all out for this year's All Songs Considered holiday party. The guest list for this (trust us!) unforgettable night of music and tall tales included Kishi Bashi, Dan Deacon, Carrie Brownstein and Nellie McKay. We hosted the festivities at a secluded cabin we rented one weekend in a snowy woods.

I played trumpet in my high school band and wasn't very good. I held the thing down, sort of like a clarinet, and played out of the corner of my mouth. It sounded like I had a kazoo wedged in the tubing. But nobody else in my school was very good either, so I still managed to spend a lot of time at first chair.

Not every pioneer is a swashbuckler. Dido Armstrong, the hit-making British singer-songwriter, has a gentle voice that recalls backyard birdsong and a Jane Austen-like grasp of everyday heartache and perseverance.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the piles of new CDs and holiday cards from local merchants are many smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, ways to delve into unfamiliar genres.

Villagers is the music of Conor O'Brien, a 2010 Mercury Prize finalist for his debut album, Becoming a Jackal. Now there's new music from Villagers, from a record called {Awayland}. That music comes out first in Europe on Jan. 14 — here in the U.S., we'll have to wait until April 9. We have this new song and video from Villagers, for the song "Nothing Arrived."

Conor O'Brien writes:

After seeing The Rolling Stones in concert over the weekend, I can confidently say the short answer is "no."

We need to be thinking about age and rock music in a different way. When I was in my 20s, my generation thought 30 was too old for a rocker. Now, in 2012, the brilliant futurist Ray Kurzweil is wondering who the first person to be 150 will be. He told a crowd at the 6th and I Synagogue in Washington, D.C., that he thinks that person is alive today.

Discussion: The Year In Music, 2012

Dec 5, 2012

Every year for the past decade, The Polyphonic Spree has celebrated the holidays with a special "extravaganza" in Dallas, featuring dancing, DJs and, of course, the band performing seasonal songs. This year, The Polyphonic Spree celebrates the 10th anniversary of that extravaganza with a live tour of the show, as well as a new CD called Holidaydream. The group also has this beautiful new video for one of the album's standout tracks: John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."

Kishi Bashi, my favorite new artist of the year, now has a holiday song. It's such a great way to bring us back around to a musician I first discovered while sifting through 1,300 songs for the South by Southwest music festival back at the beginning of the year. We all ended up falling in love with his music.

Hold on to your seat. You're about to be hit with a bounty of year-end lists: NPR Music's favorite songs, artists, albums, discoveries and more of 2012.

The Cleveland-based experimental rock duo Mr. Gnome was one of our favorite discoveries from South by Southwest earlier this year, and now the band is back on our radar with an amazing new video. "House of Circles," from Mr. Gnome's recent album Madness in Miniature, is an epic, wildly imaginative story about a band of rebel fighters who attempt to save the world from the evil Queen Machine.

The Albums We Missed This Year

Nov 27, 2012

Old Music Tuesday: Le Tigre

Nov 27, 2012

Twelve years ago this month, I was handed a sensitive document and charged with making sure it found its way into the right hands.

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