All Songs Considered

I'm not a drummer. And it's a lot harder for me to articulate why one fill works over another than it is for people who've been hitting the toms since they were kids. So when our guest Quizmasters have the week off and I put together one of these puzzlers myself, I just reach for the songs that always get me air drumming. Driving in the car, waiting for the Metro, walking down the street — the fills in this week's Drum Fill Friday are all ones that get my arms flailing. I wonder if it's strange for drummers to know they've created beats and patterns that idiots like me try to pantomime.

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.

Some noise freaks will have you believe that if the music doesn't kill you, it's not extreme enough. Since 2000, the Brooklyn band Zs and its rotating cast could sometimes be accused of that mentality, as they've looked to the caustic examples of '60s free jazz, '80s No Wave and minimalism. Zs' members take grand leaps into music with no place to land, which is what makes the approachable (but no less challenging) Xe, especially its title track, the group's most radical statement.

At the center of Mind Over Mirrors' sound lies the Indian pedal harmonium, an instrument that elicits a piercing tone; it's at once devotional and alarming in its presence and volume. Jaime Fennelly typically surrounds these song-driven drones with tape loops and synthesizers, and on The Voice Calling, he's joined by Circuit Des Yeux's Haley Fohr, whose deep baritone voice could also be described as devotional and alarming. She's an incantatory force in "Calling Your Name."

Discoveries From globalFEST 2015

Jan 13, 2015

The news headlines weren't always easy to read last week, between the mass shootings in Paris and the relentless violence in Nigeria. But over the weekend, in New York City, some of the most remarkable global music groups in the world converged for a moment of musical solidarity.

It's been six years since Blacklisted's No One Deserves To Be Here More Than Me, a gritty hardcore record that outwardly plays with melody, noise and lunging tempos that felt truer to Soundgarden or Nirvana's Bleach than anything else. Now comes When People Grow, People Go, a record that leans more on the band's straight-ahead hardcore fury, but with experimentation lurking beneath the surface. Here's one of the album's major ragers, "Burnt Palms."

If wizards, battles and crunchy riffs roll your 20-sided die a critical hit, heed Visigoth's call. On its debut album, the Salt Lake City power-metal band looks to Manowar, Judas Priest and Manilla Road ("Necropolis" gets covered here) for that classic '80s sound, but the production is decidedly heavier, with mammoth choruses led by Jake Rogers' regal voice. Take a listen to the title track from The Revenant King and try not to raise your fists in triumph.

I go to so many shows, and for years I've been taking photos with my phone and posting them on my Instagram account @tinydesk. But a few months into 2014 I bought one of those tiny little mirrorless cameras by Sony. Then I caught the photo bug pretty bad (or good).

I hope you had a good, long, refreshing break over the holidays. Or should I say... drum break? Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Sigh.

I missed another year of TV shows. I missed every single Netflix and HBO series. I did, however, see four times as many movies in 2014 as I did in 2013: four, instead of just one. What I did see once again was a whole lot of live music, 662 performances to be exact. (I count each band as a show or performance.) In a year packed full of concerts, I saw 555 different bands in 144 venues across 16 cities. It turns out I saw exactly the same amount of shows this year as last, which made me laugh ... guess I've hit my ceiling.

Fifteen years ago this month, All Songs Considered posted its very first episode. When you listen to that debut (with the link above) and hear host Bob Boilen say it's "a music show for your computer!" it feels very quaint by today's standards. But when ASC first launched, it was considered groundbreaking.

If you haven't been following along, know that between making gorgeously seething albums, Thou has a thing for cover songs: Soundgarden, several from

In case you missed it, we took a rocket ride to outer space for the holidays. But this week we re-dock at the mother ship Earth to ring in the new year toting a new mix that includes premieres from The Go!

"I thought I'd kick you in the pants."

Searching for Christmas music you've never heard before? Well, Mitchell Kezin is a collector of what he calls "Christmas orphans," those Christmas songs hardly played and mostly unknown. After being a closet collector of Christmas music for years, now he's directed a documentary about obsessive crate-diggers who specialize in rare Christmas music.

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We woke up to a world with a new D'Angelo album, his first in almost 15 years. For lovers of R&B and soul — hell, for lovers of music that transcends — this is unreal.

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San Fermin's self-titled 2013 debut is an intricately composed set of impeccable chamber-folk songs, written in solitude by Ellis Ludwig-Leone and performed by a small army of highly trained ringers. By the time the album came out, Ludwig-Leone had already written a sequel in a similar spirit.

For the past few weeks, the NPR Music team has been huddled together, trying to agree on a list of our 50 favorite albums. We'll post our final list on Dec. 8, followed by hundreds of our favorite songs on Dec. 9 and much more to follow. But we want you to get in on the act by telling us your favorite albums from 2014.

Want to play a Tiny Desk Concert? Now's your chance: NPR Music and Lagunitas are holding a contest, and the winner gets to perform at my desk here at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Each month, we listen to hundreds of new electronic music tracks, test the standouts on loud speakers and highlight the best of the best in a 30-minute mix.

November's selections include our favorite track from Theo Parrish's upcoming American Intelligence album, a solo cut from Hercules And Love Affair's Kim Ann Foxman, and four more exceptional tunes worthy of your time.

In the new, comprehensive boxed set Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, to be released in Feb. 24, 2015, the Smithsonian archivist Jeff Place reminds readers of the huge historical chunk of American music that the legendary singer and songwriter carried forward via his 12-string Stella guitar. "Lead Belly is often spoken of as the 'discovery' of folklorists, but in many ways he was a walking and singing collector of American folk songs in his own right," Place writes.

You might want to sit down for this one. The song is "Bored In The USA" and it's the first single from Father John Misty's upcoming album I Love You, Honeybear.

A biting spin on Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The U.S.A.," "Bored In The USA" is a scathing takedown of the mindless materialism and overmedicated emptiness that has come to define the lives of far too many Americans.

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the Pokemon products whose arrival signals our kids' descent into video-game-induced catatonia is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on whether superior technique can detract from music's quality.

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