All Songs Considered

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.

This week on All Songs Considered: Our favorite electronic artist, Dan Deacon, is back with another playfully infectious dance party, one he recorded both in the studio and in bathrooms and greenrooms during his most recent tour. Also, NPR Music contributor Katie Presley joins us with a hypnotic groove from the Seattle-based duo THEESatisfaction and a slow-burning jam from New Orleans singer-songwriter Kristin Diable.

Monotonic chants, 8-bit four-on-the-floor, MIDI strings... Get your keyboards at the ready, Metal Internet: It's "Quetzalcoatl" from Liturgy's third album, The Ark Work.

When I was a college radio music director in the early 2000s, there were few more important bands in my life than The Sea And Cake. I repped them hard back in the day, and that's because these Chicago renaissance men fit my (admittedly reductive) two criteria for greatness: a) sound like no one else, and b) keep it catchy. They nailed it on both accounts over the course of four albums for Thrill Jockey during the '90s, and are still doing their indie-jazz-kraut-pop thing to this day.

Trying to predict a musical future is impossible. I have proof: Bob Dylan is recording songs Frank Sinatra made popular! No one saw this coming and nothing could prepare us for it. It's weird and kind of wonderful. Here's a man clearly in love with the Great American Songbook and despite his restricted vocal he's brave enough to tackle it.

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.

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