All Songs Considered

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.

This week's Drum Fill Friday has something from the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and today! (I hope you read that in the deepest, most resonate radio voice possible).

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. Good luck, careful listeners!

How's this for an opening line? "Gross. They say I ate you in the womb, that Mom had no room." After eight years of other projects, members joining Repulsion on tour, and vocalist/guitarist Marissa Martinez-Hoadley's sex-reassignment process, Cretin has crawled back out of its delightfully gore-obsessed grindcore hole for Stranger and the pit-baiting song "Ghost Of Teeth And Hair."

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the Kung Fu Panda DVD to replace the one we wore out is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on a playlist for the whole family.

Joe writes via email: "Thanksgiving will be at my family's place this year, and I'm having fun with the meal-planning. All the stress, though, is built around how my relatives and I get along. We love each other, but ... you know how families are with politics and different tastes and all that.

This week's guest Quizmaster is Brandon Barnes, drummer for the Chicago-based punk band Rise Against. Known for packing a punch at the kit, Barnes actually got his start in jazz and was influenced early on by drummers such as Elvin Jones and Tony Williams. So some of Barnes' picks for Drum Fill Friday are from drummers who often weave elements of jazz into their otherwise heavy rock beats. Give a listen and see what you think. And as always, good luck, careful listeners.

Guest DJ Dave Grohl

Nov 11, 2014

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the pulverized shards of an Eli "Paperboy" Reed LP is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on how aging might affect your concert attendance.

Michaela writes via email: "I'm growing increasingly conscious of being among the oldest attendees at concerts lately. Is there a specific age at which I should stop going to indie-rock shows and just stay at home in my rocker?"

No special theme to this week's Drum Fill Friday, unless you count "awesome" as a theme. I've got a little bit of metal, a little bit of R&B, some disco and '90s rock and roll wrapped up in this baby.

In the noise-improv trio Borbetomagus, Jim Sauter hooks bells with Don Dietrich to obliterate any notion you have of the saxophone (sorry, birthday boy Adolphe Sax). In Oneida and Man Forever, Kid Millions is a psychedelic shaman of the drums. In "Game Jump," Sauter issues a brief warning that sounds something like a zombie-infested cruise ship bellowing its final notes before it plummets into a blood-freezing ocean. Then it's on.

In November 1814, Col. Andrew Jackson marched on Pensacola, taking the Florida city away from Britain and Spain, while the Congress of Vienna was busy drawing new boundaries after the Napoleonic Wars. And 200 years ago today, in a little 10th-century town south of Brussels, Adolphe Sax was born.

Sax learned instrument-building from his father and soon was inventing new instruments of his own, including the one that bears his name. He patented the saxophone in 1846.

It's been more than a decade, now, since José González first burrowed into our hearts with his inspired and deeply moving cover of The Knife song "Heartbeats." (Remember that bouncing ball video?) That track appeared on the Swedish singer-songwriter's 2003 debut album Veneer, a collection of sometimes moody acoustic songs that swelled and swooned with surprising momentum.

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