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
1:45 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Dancing Vegetables, Singing Ground Beef: TMBG's Old-School Video

Courtesy of the artist

They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh and John Linnell have just delivered an old-school video — think "early days of MTV" — and it's a pleasure to see. Over the course of 16 albums, the two Johns (first as a duo and later as bandleaders) have always kept humor at the core of their sound and general attitude. They continue the tradition with "You're On Fire," the first single from their 25-song, 45-minute album Nanobots.

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Field Recordings
12:18 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Anna Von Hausswolff Finds A Pipe Organ In New York City

Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 1:21 pm

One of my most surprising discoveries of 2013 is an artfully poppy pipe-organ record called Ceremony, by Swedish singer Anna von Hausswolff. Though she doesn't consider herself an accomplished pipe organist, von Hausswolff quickly learned the instrument's power, as well as some of its subtleties.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:41 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Baths: Tiny Desk Concert

Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:12 pm

Baths, a.k.a. Will Wiesenfeld, plays mysterious and textured electronic music. When Wiesenfeld came to the Tiny Desk, I expected contemplative tones and a laid-back performance; he does, after all, call his project Baths. But what sets him apart from the vast majority of like-minded performers is that his music doesn't get buried behind the buttons or lost in a hypnotic glaze.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Thu August 29, 2013

First Watch: Zola Jesus, 'Fall Back'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 8:25 am

I suppose it would be natural, if you grew up relatively isolated in a Wisconsin forest, to find yourself fascinated by cities. And so it is for the 24-year-old Russian-American singer Nika Roza Danilova, best known as Zola Jesus. In the video for her song "Fall Back," from the new album Versions, we see Nika in two settings: the vast coldness of urban concrete and the nature of the forest. "Shooting in the forest was very important," Nika writes. "The forest is raw and naked, which is in line for my intent for Versions.

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All Songs Considered
10:32 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Hear How A Song Takes Shape

Jordan Geiger of the band Hospital Ships.
Adam Smith Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 10:47 am

Did you want to hear how a song evolves? How a single spark of inspiration transforms into words and then melody and finally a fully produced complex production?

Jordon Gieger, known by the moniker Hospital Ships, has unveiled his journey as a songwriter for us. "Desolation Waltz" is a song Geiger began writing in Columbus, Ohio after "listening to a very fiery preacher on the radio, who would break into little melodies in the middle of his sermons. I decided to write songs a capella, in my car."

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:36 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

The Front Bottoms: Tiny Desk Concert

The Front Bottoms performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in July 2013.
Chloe Coleman Chloe Coleman/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:14 pm

When I first saw The Front Bottoms, I was stunned to see 350-plus singing, shouting club-goers repeat verse after complicated verse back at singer Brian Sella. Then it happened again at a hot, sweaty club in Philadelphia, and later in D.C., and then again in Baltimore. The community that's formed around these songs — as total strangers purge deep emotions in a public space — is a beautiful phenomenon, a testament to the passion and compassion that this band radiates.

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First Listen
4:22 am
Tue August 6, 2013

First Listen: Typhoon, 'White Lighter'

Typhoon's new album, White Lighter, comes out August 20.
Jaclyn Campanaro Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 12:13 pm

Kyle Morton writes songs for Typhoon as if they were the last works he might ever create. His band is big by rock standards, with somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen members playing mighty, powerful songs whose instrumentation conveys big, bold joy. But underneath it all are the words of a young man living on what he feels is borrowed time.

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All Songs Considered
3:48 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

First Watch: The Orwells, 'Who Needs You'

Courtesy of the artist

"They look like the kids from Stand By Me or an old Norman Rockwell painting canted a few degrees," director Eddie O'Keefe says of the teenaged Chicago garage-rock group The Orwells. "I wanted to capture that aspect of the band in a video." The Orwells' new song, "Who Needs You," is the title track from an upcoming EP, out Sept. 10.

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All Songs Considered
3:38 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

The Old Tiny Desk Gets Demolished

The old NPR building at 635 Massachusetts Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., was torn down in stages. This photo shows what the building looked like in late June.
NPR

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:55 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Guards: Tiny Desk Concert

Guards performs a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Denise DeBelius NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:21 pm

Guards' music captures the pop sound of the late '50s and early '60s, but with more power and polish. It's hard not to hear a bit of Buddy Holly's melody and spirit — think 1958's "Rave On" — when you hear Guards play "Silver Lining," the first song in this Tiny Desk Concert.

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All Songs Considered
8:01 am
Mon July 22, 2013

Song Premiere: The Civil Wars' 'Dust To Dust' Is An Ode To The End

John Paul White and Joy Williams are The Civil Wars
Allister Ann Courtesy of the Artist

Originally published on Mon July 22, 2013 9:38 am

Joy Williams and John Paul White are The Civil Wars, a duo of passionate performers. The first time I saw them perform there were such positive sparks flying between them, but these days they can barely speak to one another. The Civil Wars are about to release a new album — their second and probably their last for a while or perhaps forever ... we shall see.

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All Songs Considered
11:01 am
Wed July 17, 2013

First Watch: Kingsley Flood, 'Sigh A While'

Courtesy Of The Artist

It's one thing for an artist to talk about his failures — that's easy fodder for a good song — but art at its best incites positive change. "Sigh A While," this song from Boston's Kingsley Flood, is written to inspire. Kingsley Flood's Naseem Khuri says this tune is about the failures in all of us, and in particular about the patterns we can fall into. "I wrote the song about a friend who for years assured me he'd quit his job and change the world with his art," Khuri writes in an email. "We were driving around in his beat-up car one day and he was making the same promises.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:28 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Alice Russell: Tiny Desk Concert

Alice Russell performs a Tiny Desk Concert on April 9, 2013.
Marie McGrory NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:22 pm

There's nothing restrained about an Alice Russell performance: It's emotionally fiery from the start and just gets hotter and grittier — especially when she's singing "To Dust," the title track from her first new solo album in almost five years.

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All Songs Considered
12:49 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Maps And Music: Explore Okkervil River's New Album

Click to see an interactive map of Meriden, N.H., with stories from Okkervil River's Will Sheff about his childhood there.
William Schaff

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 8:59 am

The next album from the Austin, Texas, band Okkervil River will tell the childhood tale of its lead singer and songwriter Will Sheff, a self-described awkward, nearsighted, asthmatic kid growing up the small town of Meriden, N.H. The music on The Silver Gymnasium, out on Sept. 3, is some of Okkervil River's best, and you can hear it all beginning Aug. 26 as part of our First Listen program. For now, here's a first taste: the premiere of the song "Down Down the Deep River."

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Wed July 10, 2013

First Watch: John Vanderslice, 'How The West Was Won'

John Vanderslice
Courtesy of the artist

"This is just an awesome, inspiring place to make music." Those are the words of Jake Wachtel, who directed this music video for John Vanderslice. And the place he's talking about, well, it's John's heart and soul really: It's a recording studio called Tiny Telephone located in San Francisco's Mission District.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:07 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Skinny Lister: Tiny Desk Concert

Skinny Lister performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Lizzie Chen NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:23 pm

I wish I could say I first found Skinny Lister in a pub some late evening while folks were dancing on the tables. I trust that that happens, but my unforgettable experience with this kick-ass English folk-punk band was at a hotel lobby in midday, in the midst of a sober crowd in Austin, Texas.

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All Songs Considered
1:28 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Watch The Music Video For Franz Ferdinand's 'Right Action'

Courtesy of the artist

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Tiny Desk Concerts
4:22 am
Sat July 6, 2013

Cheick Hamala Diabate: Tiny Desk Concert

Cheick Hamala Diabate performs a Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR Music offices.
NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:23 pm

There was an awful lot of dancing going on the first time I stumbled upon the music of Cheick Hamala Diabate. On the dance floor at U Street's Tropicalia that night was a rich cross-section of D.C. life, all entranced by the music of Mali.

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NPR Story
3:48 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

First Watch: Whispertown Shows Stunning 'Parallel' Worlds

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat July 20, 2013 7:37 pm

Merriam-Webster defines parallel as, "extending in the same direction, everywhere equidistant, and not meeting." The luscious and expansive song, "Parallel," from Morgan Nagler's indie project Whispertown and the accompanying music video both explore the term in magnificent ways. The video, made from creative commons videos on YouTube edited together by Morgan Nagler's brother (he wishes to go by "Morgan's Brother") illustrates the concept of parallel by showing a myriad of different scenarios that mimic each other. It's a bit of magic, really.

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All Songs Considered
5:43 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Question Of The Week: Who Is The Most Intense Performer You've Ever Seen?

Deafheaven's George Clarke at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, DC
Bob Boilen Bob

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 7:53 am

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