All Songs Considered

Every year around this time we like to take a break from our usual musical discoveries and get together with old friends for what we call the All Songs Considered Holiday Spectacular, a seasonal special done in the tradition of old-time radio.

At the entrance of the endless abyss, a whale-serpent imprints the complete discography of Aluk Todolo's instrumental occult rock into your being. It's true! (It's not.) The process is terrifying at first, but as the squeals of cosmic guitar feedback and sinister rhythm section course through your veins and brain, you become one with the depths of vibration.

When I was first offered the job of producing All Songs Considered not long after it started in 2000, NPR couldn't guarantee me the show would be around for more than a year. After all, it was an experiment: an Internet-only, streaming music show in an era when most people were still on dial-up connections that couldn't handle much more on a page than text and photos.

When the grindcore band Agoraphobic Nosebleed officially hit the stage for the first time in its 20-year history, expectations were extremely high. "We want people's minds to be blown," vocalist Richard Johnson told me a few weeks before Maryland Deathfest in May, leaving fans to speculate about just how the hell they were going to pull this off. After all, ANb's extremely complex and chaotic noise was always designed for the studio.

Have you ever watched a Tiny Desk Concert and thought, "Hey, I want to do that!?" Well, now's your chance to play behind my desk here at NPR. That's right: We're bringing NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest back for a second year.

Here's what you do.

On paper, Damien Jurado seems like just another sad guy with a guitar, but his discography is incredibly varied: Sure, he's cut his share of sad-guy acoustic ballads, but he's also wandered down an exciting assortment of detours, and his sound has only grown more expansive and searching with time.

Glenn Jones' music is remarkably intimate: It feels so close, you'd swear you could reach out and touch the airwaves vibrating between strings. After a decade in which Jones has flown solo on the guitar, his sixth album Fleeting illuminates textures in his thoughtful and complex compositions, which leap from the speakers more than ever before.

By his own admission, Cian Nugent is a restless guitarist: His instrumental compositions, both solo and with a band, sprawl and seek with a pastoral atmosphere. He's a storyteller who likes the room to let it all hang out. But on his third album, Night Fiction, Nugent embraces the singer-songwriter mode he teased with his Tiny Desk concert in 2014.

By the time Spoon released Gimme Fiction in 2005, the Austin, Texas rock group was already a decade into its career with more than a half-dozen releases. But none of the band's previous work felt as polished or as remarkably inspired. Gimme Fiction is at times brooding and cryptic. There's apocalyptic imagery, evangelical Christians, a pre-social media commentary on people who hide behind cameras, and at least one song inspired by Prince.

This essay first appeared in the 2010 book This Is NPR: The First Forty Years, a collection of writing by NPR staff and contributors.


I should have cared more, but I didn't. I should have cried, but I didn't.

He meant so much to me.

But the day John Lennon died, my life and his music were never more distant.

In this installment of The Martin Atkins Minute, the professor, producer and former Public Image Ltd. drummer wonders what it means to be a rock star in a world flipped on its head. It's a world where Dunkin' Donuts is selling chicken sandwiches, Burger King is peddling glazed donuts, friendship is measured by numbers on a Facebook page and the only thing you can count on is change.

As it stands right now, the current D.C. hardcore/punk scene doesn't dwell too much on its past. It's there, it exists, but few seek out the sonic lineage left by Dischord Records in the '80s and '90s, which has proved crucial to the area's revitalization. Two Inch Astronaut, however, has never been shy about picking up the torch. The D.C. post-hardcore band's youthful enthusiasm has become more steadied over the years, and with its forthcoming third album Personal Life — produced by none other than J.

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Note: Our poll has closed. Please check back on Tuesday, Dec. 15 for the results.


In the form below, write in the five new albums you loved the most in 2015, in order from one (your number one favorite) to five. We'll tally all the results and share the results in an All Songs podcast on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

We know it's tough to pick — the NPR Music gang has been hammering out our lists of albums and songs for the last few weeks — but hopefully we'll all discover a few new great albums when it's done.

In the early 2000s, Glassjaw was a square peg in a round hole — a dynamic post-hardcore band pitched to a mainstream audience caught somewhere between spiky-haired aggro-metal and swoop-haired screamo. Still, Glassjaw's New York hardcore bona fides were hard to dispute, Daryl Palumbo's nerve-wracking voice could shred and salve on a dime, and the band's melodic subversion and occasional Latin rhythms flew Faith No More's freak flag while also throwing down some grooves.

Our final monthly Recommended Dose mix of 2015 includes Afrobeat from Amsterdam, techno by a retired ballerina, disco by a soft-rock progeny, remixes by two American club masters, and vibey electro in the vein of Hieroglyphic Being.

10 Reasons To Visit Your Local Record Store On Friday

Nov 26, 2015

Record Store Day has become its own holiday for longtime music collectors. Nothing brings cheer to a connoisseur quite like unwrapping a rare find from an independent record store. It's fitting, then, that the people behind the institution are kicking off the holiday season with a special Black Friday event just for the vinyl lover in your life, full of exclusive releases and limited editions from some of music's most collectible artists, new and old.

In 2009, The Dry Spells released Too Soon For Flowers, a folky rock album that became an instant best friend. Then, as far as I could tell, they vanished. But now there's new music from this Bay Area ensemble, a song called "Heliotrope," and I feel like an old buddy came to town for the holidays.

I asked about the long absence and guitarist Adria Ott wrote this back:

Macklemore's latest effort with producer Ryan Lewis is "Kevin," a funk-flavored tirade against the ravages of addiction, with a particularly scathing indictment against overprescription of medication. The Seattle duo is joined by soul singer Leon Bridges for the hook. "Doctor please give me a dose of the American dream," Bridges implores. "Put down the pen and look in my eyes. We're in the waiting room and something ain't right."

Adele's 25 is finally here. The singer's long-awaited third album arrived today, but all week, anticipation has surged. We learned that 25 won't be available to stream on services like Spotify.

InTechnicolour works in that strain of stoner-metal that's less atmospheric and weed-fueled and more progressive — you know, for the kids who banged heads to Kyuss and nerded out on Rush. It's well-trod territory, with more than a decade of records looking to ISIS' Panopticon, Mastodon's Leviathan and Baroness' Red Album. On its debut EP, InTechnicolour's members don't so much reinvent the wheel as rebuild it.

In the wake of tragedy, grief guides us on an unknown path: Its corridors are dim and shallow, its destination uncertain. Even as the path widens with time, grief makes way for bittersweet memory, though it all still hurts something awful.

Bob Boilen Wrote A Book

Nov 18, 2015

I've spent the past few years talking with musicians about a song that altered the course of their life. Now those conversations are making up my first book, called Your Song Changed My Life: From Jimmy Page to St. Vincent, Smokey Robinson to Hozier, Thirty-Five Beloved Artists on Their Journey and the Music That Inspired It.

Music For Healing

Nov 17, 2015

Music can provide a space for healing, feeling and thought. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, including at a show in that city's Bataclan concert hall, we were compelled to play music with a meditative tone, songs that allow space and time for reflection. A tune Bob Boilen found himself playing all weekend was by Hiya Wal Âalam, a band featuring members from Tunisia, Palestine and Sweden. It's culture-blending music and perfectly pensive.

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