Bob Boilen

In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.

Significant listener interest in the music being played on All Things Considered, along with his and NPR's vast music collections, gave Boilen the idea to start All Songs Considered. "It was obvious to me that listeners of NPR were also lovers of music, but what also became obvious by 1999 was that the web was going to be the place to discover new music and that we wanted to be the premiere site for music discovery." The show launched in 2000, with Boilen as its host.

Before coming to NPR, Boilen found many ways to share his passion for music. From 1982 to 1986 he worked for Baltimore's Impossible Theater, where he held many posts, including composer, technician, and recording engineer. Boilen became part of music history in 1983 with the Impossible Theater production Whiz Bang, a History of Sound. In it, Boilen became one of the first composers to use audio sampling — in this case, sounds from nature and the industrial revolution. He was interviewed about Whiz Bang by Susan Stamberg on All Things Considered.

In 1985, the Washington City Paper voted Boilen 'Performance Artist of the Year.' An electronic musician, he received a grant from the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to work on electronic music and performance.

After Impossible Theater, Boilen worked as a producer for a television station in Washington, D.C. He produced several projects, including a music video show. In 1997, he started producing an online show called Science Live for the Discovery Channel. He also put out two albums with his psychedelic band, Tiny Desk Unit, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Boilen still composes and performs music and posts it for free on his website BobBoilen.info. He performs contradance music and has a podcast of contradance music that he produces with his son Julian.

Longtime NPR fans may remember another contribution Boilen made to NPR. He composed the original theme music for NPR's Talk of the Nation.

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All Songs Considered
1:06 pm
Sat March 8, 2014

Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

St. Vincent at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.
Bob Boilen NPR

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 4:19 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Lowland Hum: Tiny Desk Concert

Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

It's hard to convey the sound of two people in love, but Lowland Hum does that effortlessly. Daniel Levi Goans and Lauren Plank are now Daniel and Lauren Goans; they met a few years ago and spent much of their first married year on the road, singing together on small stages and at house concerts across the country. Daniel was a folksinger in North Carolina, while Lauren had aspirations to sing but mostly did it privately. She has a passion for making things with paper, and you'll see that in the little black book of lyrics she hands out at shows.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
10:15 am
Sun March 2, 2014

Asaf Avidan: Tiny Desk Concert

Asaf Avidan performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in February 2014.
Jim Tuttle NPR

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 9:36 am

So I'm driving down the road when I hear this incredible voice coming out of my car speakers — part Janis Joplin, part Nina Simone — and I wonder, "Who is she?"

That day, I'd ripped a number of CDs onto my phone and didn't remember which record this was. Upon a quick glance at my phone during a traffic light, I discover the name Asaf Avidan. Next traffic light, I look it up and I see a picture of a skinny, handsome white male. I figure that's a mistake — that I must have typed the wrong name — so I wait to get home.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:08 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Cate Le Bon: Tiny Desk Concert

Cate Le Bon performs a Tiny Desk Concert in January 2014.
Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 2:52 pm

The Beatles may be an odd place to begin a Cate Le Bon conversation, but I remember being struck by the way four guys from Liverpool could sing without their English accents. That's true of most pop singers, whose words often come out sounding more American than anything else. But that's not true with Cate Le Bon. Her phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh.

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All Songs Considered
9:03 am
Sat February 15, 2014

Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

San Fermin at Rock & Roll Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Bob Boilen NPR

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 12:37 pm

Every week I hear something amazing, see something inspiring and want to pass it on. These events are sometimes fleeting, sometimes iconic, but they stop me in my tracks. Bob's Rainbows is the place where I'll highlight the very best of my weekly music intake. [Editor's note: Why rainbows? They're the only naturally occurring phenomenon that can make Bob take his headphones off.]

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All Songs Considered
12:04 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

The Moth & The Flame, 'Winsome'

Watch 'Winsome' by The Moth
Courtesy of the band

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 1:27 pm

If you try to watch this video for its plot, good luck. There's a mermaid, a sandstorm, a dude, a chase, sea creatures, close-up lips ... I tried, but gave up and simply gave in to the flow of the song and the images.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun February 9, 2014

First Listen: Angel Olsen, 'Burn Your Fire For No Witness'

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 1:53 pm

Angel Olsen has made an unforgettable and entrancing record. Burn Your Fire for No Witness is the musical equivalent of a deep, questioning stare from a lover, and what draws me to her voice is its peaceful, subtle touch. It has me leaning in to listen. Leonard Cohen does that, too, and it's a fine line to walk between pale and enchanting. These are delicate songs, with lyrics stripped to their essence.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
11:14 am
Sat February 8, 2014

Fanfare Ciocarlia: Tiny Desk Concert

Fanfare Ciocarlia performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in January 2014.
Jim Tuttle Jim Tuttle/NPR

Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 10:13 am

Truth be told, I was scared. We've stuffed a lot of musicians behind the Tiny Desk, but when I saw Fanfare Ciocarlia (pronounced "fan-FAR-eh cho-car-LEE-ah") at Globalfest the week before the band arrived at NPR, I couldn't fathom how we'd corral these 12 musicians and their various assorted horns and drums into that truly tiny space.

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All Songs Considered
12:53 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

The Civil Wars Cover Elliott Smith

John Paul White (left) and Joy Williams of The Civil Wars.
Allister Ann Courtesy of the artist

If you remembered that John Paul White and Joy Williams had announced they were taking a hiatus last year, the news of a new digital EP from The Civil Wars might make you scratch your head. But this cover of Elliott Smith's "Between the Bars," which lends its name to the EP, was actually recorded a while back with producers Rick Rubin and Charlie Peacock.

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All Songs Considered
11:12 am
Wed February 5, 2014

First Watch: Deleted Scenes, 'Stutter'

Dustin Diamond plays a struggling actor in the new video for the Deleted Scenes song, "Stutter."
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 2:28 pm

The sound of Deleted Scenes, a D.C.-based quartet formed in 2005, is potent, angular and distinct. The lyrics of Dan Scheuerman, who sings and plays guitar, can be simultaneously poetic and direct. The best part of Deleted Scenes is the unexpected, the unpredictable, and "Stutter" is a perfect example of their hard-to-label style. It mixes grating vocals with sporadic bursts of guitar, those abrasive sounds morphing into a likable, memorable track.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:02 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Pixies: Tiny Desk Concert

John W. Poole John W. Poole

Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 2:48 pm

The windowsills were lined with people standing, as every nook between every office desk filled to capacity with NPR employees and their assorted guests. Pixies, after getting misplaced for a time in our parking garage during a moment worthy of This Is Spinal Tap, showed up in time to encounter the largest crowd we've ever assembled for a Tiny Desk Concert. (Our new office space allows for more guests than the old one did, but it's still a mark of this band's significance for so many youthful grownups.)

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:02 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Angel Olsen: Tiny Desk Concert

NPR

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 9:40 am

Angel Olsen came to the Tiny Desk on an odd autumn day, as an impending storm loomed outside our office windows. It all seemed just right for occasion: Watch her and you'll see calm in her eyes; listen to her and you'll sense torment in her heart. Olsen gave us a preview of her third record on that October day; she wouldn't tell us the title, but she did say the word "Burn" with a hint of the title in the words to a song she'd sing.

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First Listen
11:02 pm
Sun January 19, 2014

First Listen: Quilt, 'Held In Splendor'

Quilt's second album, Held In Splendor, comes out Jan. 28.
Allison Pharmakis Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 10:02 pm

Quilt is the perfect name for this band, whose every song seems to seamlessly knit together at least three distinct tunes. There's a sense of adventure, shifting perspectives and surprise in these pop treasures, each of which feels like a long jam distilled to its essence.

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All Songs Considered
5:31 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Question Of The Week: Can You Imagine A World Without Music Genres?

Bombay Royale, performing at GlobalFEST 2014.
Ebru Yildiz/NPR

I've just spent the weekend at Winter Jazzfest and GlobalFEST in New York City. These are two of the biggest annual festivals of their kind, featuring several thrilling, packed days of music, with live performances that run late into the night.

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First Listen
10:59 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

First Listen: Gem Club, 'In Roses'

Gem Club's In Roses comes out Jan. 28.
Tonje Thilesen Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 10:00 pm

Roses are beautiful and alluring, but they're often seen in the saddest of settings: hospitals, funerals. The music of Gem Club is a bit like that, mixing beauty and melancholy. One makes you appreciate the other, so it's a dynamic that works perfectly on the band's second album, appropriately titled In Roses.

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All Songs Considered
5:05 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Bob Boilen's 116 Favorite Concerts Of 2013

Ally Newbold Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 9:07 am

I didn't watch any TV shows in 2013. I only saw one movie that I can remember. But I saw over 662 shows in 2013, 549 bands in 139 clubs in 21 cities. It was a perfect year.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Bob Boilen's Favorite Lyrics Of 2013

Piper Ferguson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 12:32 pm

I'm a lyrics guy. Great words drive me to a song. Bad lyrics drive me away. As a lyrics guy, I find that my favorite songs often also have my favorite words. I love a good melody and a beat, but I love it more when those elements support a good story, an insight, an emotional outpouring, something I can connect to.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sat December 21, 2013

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tiny Desk Concert

Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs at the Tiny Desk on Dec. 3, 2013.
John W. Poole John W. Poole

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 5:14 pm

Our goal for this special holiday Tiny Desk Concert is simple: to bring you joy. Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a hot and historic outfit from New Orleans, and its members brought us a tuba-wielding Santa and some original holiday cheer and praise — what they call a Cajun Christmas from the French Quarter.

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All Songs Considered
12:13 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Pixies, 'What Goes Boom'

World premiere video for a brand new Pixies song, "What Goes Boom."
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 1:28 pm

It's been several months since longtime Pixies bassist Kim Deal left the band, and the remaining members are still figuring out how to play together. But the group's new sound seems to coalesce on its latest single and video, "What Goes Boom."

"Since the reunion, there are sounds that I've been coming up with," guitarist Joey Santiago tells us via email. "And a lot of them just got condensed into this one song, with me going sh*thouse on guitar."

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All Songs Considered
9:03 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Flume And Chet Faker, 'Drop The Game'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 1:28 pm

Nicholas Murphy chose his moniker to honor Chet Baker, the American jazz musician known both as a trumpeter and a fragile, intimate singer. The Australian electronic musician, producer and rising soul singer — a.k.a. Chet Faker — has teamed up with his countryman Flume, the 22-year-old electronic producer. Together, they're releasing this fabulous track, "Drop the Game." This isn't their first collaboration: Flume and Chet Faker worked on Flume's self-titled record, and that record is up for an Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) award.

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