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
7:24 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Song Premiere: Sharon Jones' Explosive 'Retreat'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun May 12, 2013 7:19 pm

If this song had just the tubular bells at the top and then that Motown guitar riff, I'd have been hooked and happy. But then, along comes Sharon Jones, the brilliant, powerful soul singer, and the song explodes. "Retreat!" is the perfect marriage of singer, song and band. A lot has happened to Sharon Jones and Bushwick's brilliant professors of soul, the Dap-Kings, in the three years since they last recorded. They played the Apollo, the Hollywood Bowl, Sydney Opera House and SXSW. And they've just gotten stronger and stronger.

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All Songs Considered
5:59 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

First Watch: Alpine's Mind-And-Body-Bending 'Gasoline'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 3:05 pm

A is for Alpine and it's also the name of Alpine's debut album. Alpine is a six-piece ensemble from Australia with an airy sound led by singers Phoebe Baker and Lou James. The group's album, A is for Alpine, has been out in their home since 2012, but it arrives in the U.S. on May 21.

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All Songs Considered
12:03 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

First Watch: The Handsome Family, 'Woodpecker'

Jason Creps, 2013 Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 2:24 pm

The Handsome Family, the wife and husband duo of Rennie Sparks (vocals, bass and banjo) and Brett Sparks (vocals, guitar and keyboards), love telling stories, and they've been doing it in song for 20 years. A new album, Wilderness, is out May 14, and "Woodpecker," a song from the album, tells a fascinating tale about Mary Sweeney, who, in the 1890's, was known as the Wisconsin Window Smasher.

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All Songs Considered
4:11 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

First Watch: Femi Kuti, 'The World Is Changing'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 2:24 pm

"'The World Is Changing' is groove with a message." That quote, a pretty good summary of the music of Femi Kuti in just nine words, comes from Juan Gélas, the creative director of a new video for Kuti's new song. Femi Kuti is a saxophonist, trumpeter, keyboard player and singer and songwriter. The son of legendary afrobeat musician Fela Kuti, he carries on the tradition of mixing Nigerian beats along with jazz and a healthy dose of politics. Juan Gélas says, "Femi Kuti continues to be a leading protest artist out of modern Africa and his voice talks to us all."

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All Songs Considered
4:40 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Meet Until The Ribbon Breaks: Stark Music Paired With Enigmatic Images

Until The Ribbon Breaks.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 2:25 pm

Pete Lawrie Winfield makes music as Until The Ribbon Breaks, stark music with a good deep vibe; Massive Attack or James Blake would be good touchstones. Until The Ribbon Breaks doesn't have much music out yet, but "Pressure," a new song, has urgency. "'Pressure' was written at a time of upheaval and transition for me," Winfield writes. "I was sleeping at my studio and had no idea what I was going to do next.

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All Songs Considered
3:25 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Vampire Weekend On New York, Souls Of Mischief And The Secrets Of Its New Album

Vampire Weekend in New York City: (from left) Chris Tomson, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij and Ezra Koenig.
Alex John Beck Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 3:22 pm

  • Listen: Bob Boilen Interviews Vampire Weekend

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

Father Figures: Tiny Desk Concert

Father Figure performs a Tiny Desk Concert on February 6, 2013.
Lizzie Chen NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:34 pm

In a small, packed Washington, D.C., living room late one December night, I heard a cacophony of horns, keys, drums and guitars that simply floored me. It was brash, zany, brainy, scary and danceable. At the end of a long year of amazing live music, this would turn out to be one of the most memorable concerts I'd seen.

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All Songs Considered
7:03 am
Thu April 25, 2013

Video: Music Meets Random Imagery In Yellowbirds' 'Young Men Of Promise'

Bernie DeChant

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 2:25 pm

Music videos are like funny math, where 1+1=3. That is, images have a meaning on their own, music has a meaning when you listen to it alone, but put images and music together and something new is born. 1+1=3. Try it randomly: put on a piece of music and watch a cartoon or an old movie ... people did it famously with The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.

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All Songs Considered
12:18 pm
Sat April 20, 2013

Interview: The Zombies Remember Their Odyssey

Bob Boilen, host of NPR Music's All Songs Considered, interviews Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone of The Zombies at SXSW.
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 1:29 pm

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All Songs Considered
6:34 pm
Thu April 18, 2013

First Watch: People Get Ready, 'Middle Name'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri April 19, 2013 9:10 am

It was probably the best performance piece I've seen in more than a decade. Specific Ocean, a piece by the dance troupe/rock band People Get Ready, which I saw at the New York Live Arts theater in the fall, was a model for the ways musicians can break from the standard, sometimes boring, format of playing on a stage. Some of the songs from Specific Ocean ended up on the group's 2012 self-titled album. Now there's a video, a documentation of that amazing New York performance, featuring the song "Middle Name."

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All Songs Considered
4:03 pm
Wed April 10, 2013

First Watch: Thao And The Get Down Stay Down, 'We The Common'

This American Life's Ira Glass and John Hodgman in a video for Thao Nguyen's song "We The Common."

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 1:14 pm

I first met Thao Nguyen in 2008, in the earliest days of the Tiny Desk Concert series. I was a big fan of her witty, catchy songs. After she finished playing the Tiny Desk, Thao said something that has endeared me to her forever. Walking toward the elevators on her way out of NPR, she said, "That was intimate and awkward ... a lot like my last boyfriend!"

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NPR Front Row
8:03 am
Wed April 10, 2013

Brainstorm: NPR Front Row

NPR

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 3:11 pm

There was a "fire in the belly" feel when Brainstorm took the stage at TenOak in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest music festival this past March. In its best moments, the trio from Portland, Ore., has an edge that embodies both African highlife guitar and the sounds of late-'70s post-punk a la Gang of Four.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:49 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Efterklang: Tiny Desk Concert

Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:36 pm

Bands with big ideas work well at the Tiny Desk. Efterklang is a Danish group whose recent album Piramida took its members to an abandoned mining town between the North Pole and Norway. There, they recorded sounds of empty oil tanks, old pianos and pretty much anything they could strike or record.

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All Songs Considered
12:03 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Special Delivery: The Postal Service Story

Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard discuss the unexpected success of The Postal Service.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 12:41 pm

The Postal Service was a band for a generation — the soundtrack to romance, tears and friendship. More than a million people bought its first album, 2003's Give Up, then waited anxiously for a follow-up that never arrived.

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NPR Front Row
1:09 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Ivan & Alyosha: NPR Front Row

Ivan & Alyosha win over new fans during a spirited performance at TenOak in Austin.
NPR

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 4:59 pm

Playing a free concert comes with risks. Sure, more people will show up, but they may care less about who's on stage than they do about catching up with friends; ironically, it often means the band has to work harder to win over the crowd. Seattle's Ivan & Alyosha did just that on the final night of the 2013 South by Southwest music festival, at a club called TenOak in Austin, Texas.

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All Songs Considered
5:22 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

First Watch: Lord Huron, 'Lonesome Dreams'

Courtesy of the Artist

Originally published on Sat April 6, 2013 6:44 pm

Think of Lord Huron as an imaginary world as much as a rock band. Bandleader Ben Schneider has created characters and stories that fit together within an entire narrative filled with mystique. It's a bit dreamlike. To get an idea of how many layers there are in Schneider's invention, look at this website for author George Ranger Johnson. According to the site, George Ranger Johnson lives in Tuscon, Ariz. and writes adventure novels whose titles are identical to the song titles of the band Lord Huron.

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NPR Front Row
2:49 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

Blaudzun: NPR Front Row

NPR Music

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 3:33 pm

The Dutch band Blaudzun had its work cut out for it at the SXSW Music Festival, as it somehow wound up opening for a March 15 showcase of Turkish music. But Blaudzun's songs are so undeniably infectious that, by the time the band played "Elephants" — the song featured in this Front Row video — the folks at Austin, Texas' Cedar Street Courtyard were singing and dancing to music they'd never heard before.

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All Songs Considered
1:57 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

How To Never Miss Another Concert

Don't miss Merchandise in your town ever again.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Mon July 8, 2013 1:11 pm

I love live music. But figuring out who's coming to town and when and where isn't so easy. I could go to every club's website to compile a list of upcoming shows, but that'd be cumbersome. Newspaper listing are often incomplete, don't look ahead and certainly don't filter or highlight who's in town based on my musical tastes.

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All Songs Considered
1:47 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

First Watch: Efterklang, "The Ghost"

Courtesy of Efterklang

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 2:13 pm

"The video has a puzzle structure: the whole story progressively makes sense to the viewer as minutes go by."

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All Songs Considered
12:13 pm
Fri March 22, 2013

New Sigur Rós, New Direction? Watch The Video For 'Brennisteinn'

Lygia Clark's cover art for Sigur Rós' forthcoming album, Kveikur.
Lygia Clark Courtesy of the artist

This is the most exciting new Sigur Rós song I've heard in a long time, and I love the band's music. "Brennisteinn" (sulfur) is a remarkably aggressive piece of music for musicians who can sound so ethereal: Dreamy elements remain, but they provide an underpinning rather than driving the pulse of the song.

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