All Songs Considered

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."

Jazz percussionist Lionel Hampton once said that "drumming was the best way to get close to God." For me, it's putting together these Drum Fill Friday puzzlers. This week's batch of fills comes from a handful of (I think) instantly recognizable hits, so I'm expecting a lot of perfect scores. Good luck, careful listeners!

As always, if you have a drummer or a fill you'd like to see featured in these weekly puzzlers, let us know in the comments section or via Twitter @allsongs, #drumfillfriday.

Props to a metal band that fully acknowledges its lineage: Philadelphia's Crypt Sermon knows it couldn't exist without Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus and Dio-era Black Sabbath. On its debut album, Out Of The Garden, the band quickly gets into the business of making majestic doom metal that honors its forebears. Just listen to the hefty "Will Of The Ancient Call."

Nostalgia is a polar bear in the wild — warm and fuzzy from a distance, terrifying once the reality of its power confronts you. In her music as Ô Paon and in her graphic novels, the Anacortes, Wash.-based Geneviève Castrée often writes about the things that haunt her: violence, alienation, greed. With the loosely conceptual Fleuve, Castrée and her characters grapple with alienation from a place and time — specifically, coming of age in '90s suburban Montreal — that can't exist when you return to them.

I've basically stopped going to concerts. For me, this is kind of like I've stopped eating or sleeping. If you're looking for me these days, you can find me at my computer, watching musicians play their heart out for a chance to perform at NPR's Tiny Desk. After six busy weeks, the Tiny Desk Concert Contest eligibility period is now closed, and we've moved on to the next stage: judging.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the tiara we ordered as the grand prize at our upcoming eating contest is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on people who simply don't enjoy music.

This week's Drum Fill Friday features a selection of fills and beats handpicked by the liner-note legend, Bobbye Hall, who was recently featured on Morning Edition.

Every year around this time, many of us on the All Songs Considered team — including Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Ann Powers and me — each dredge through nearly 2,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. And every year, we wind up missing something. In pursuit of music by thousands of bands, hundreds slip past our radar altogether.

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.

Sometimes you don't know that you've missed something, like an old friend or a recipe tucked away in a cookbook, until it reappears just when it's needed. In August, I went to see Unwed Sailor's set in Washington, D.C., partly out of nostalgia. I came away not only fortified by the instrumental rock band's currency, but also reminded of primary songwriter Johnathon Ford's thoughtful, ardent bass playing; he also worked with the underrated Roadside Monument in the '90s. Without using words, Ford is a natural storyteller who doesn't force an emotional narrative.

The songs of Elliott Smith are widely revered — especially by those who came of age in the '90s — but a new generation of listeners is only beginning to discover him. Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith is likely to expose new fans to the great singer-songwriter. Smith released five albums in his lifetime and died in 2003 from two stab wounds to the chest; he'd left a suicide note. His songs, which often dealt with depression and desperation, were beautiful and frequently quiet.

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