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.

Boilen's first book, Your Song Changed My Life, was published in April 2016 by HarperCollins.

I'm all alone in the studio.

I had so many new songs to share; I didn't want to split the show with a co-host.

To be clear, sad songs make up the majority of this week's All Songs Considered. So, if you have a love for the type of music you might hear from Julien Baker or Japanese Breakfast, we have five new artists to add to your playlist, including a 19-year-old singer from Belgium who goes by the name Asia; The artist known as Dolly Valentine asks, "Do you know where you want to go?" And there are more beautiful but crushing tunes brought to you by "the dream team" (NPR's Lyndsey McKenna and Marissa Lorusso).

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In the NPR parking garage, Gemma Doherty pulled her 34-string lever harp from the band's vehicle; it seemed bigger than all of us. The other instruments were less exotic — a few small synthesizers, a sampler, electronic drum pads — but I was feeling thrilled by what was about to unfold.

For the past year, NPR has been taking a deep look at American anthems and all the forms they can take. These are the songs that unite us, inspire us or say something about what it means to be an American — songs as traditional as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," or as defiant as Public Enemy's "Fight the Power."

Lucy Dacus / YouTube

Lucy Dacus is conflicted about America.

Most cities tend to have a voice, but few quite as loud or interesting as Seattle's. This is a city that gave us Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and Pearl Jam but also the softer, more introspective sounds of Fleet Foxes, The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie.

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In the course of a few songs at the Tiny Desk, Imogen Heap took us through her many musical talents. The concert began with her old Frou Frou musical partner, Guy Sigsworth — and their first new song in 17 years — and ended with an extraordinary demonstration and performance of her high-tech musical gloves.

Your picks for the best new artists of 2019 (so far) include a lot of bands and musicians we've been following for a while – Maggie Rogers, Stella Donnelly, Nilüfer Yanya and Jade Bird have all been releasing music for several years – but they didn't drop an official full-length debut until this year.

It's the podcast... as a playlist! For nearly two decades, All Songs Considered has treated music discovery as a mission, to share in the joy of new artists and old favorites. Updated weekly with songs featured on the show.

Stream: Spotify, Apple Music.

Bob Boilen's Playlist

Jun 17, 2019

Bob Boilen is the creator of NPR Music's All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts. This is a running list of what he's listening to right now, updated weekly. Most of the songs are recent, but occasionally he will toss in a few older tunes that pop into his head or feel relevant.

The artists who attract me the most are those who are on the rise — artists whose popularity is mostly a small, dedicated circle of fans but growing. That's certainly true of the Shreveport band Seratones. They're putting out their second album later this summer and, from the sound of this potent new title track "Power," it's clear they'll find a bigger fanbase.

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This just in: The Muppets have arrived at NPR!

The news has stopped!

Count von Count and the NPR kids count us down: 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1!

Before I bring an artist to the Tiny Desk, I try to see them perform live. It helps me get a handle on what they'll be capable of doing at my desk, minus all the artful tinkering of a studio. But I never saw Tomberlin before she came to my desk.

Jessi Whitten of Colorado Public Radio's Open Air co-hosts this week's All Songs Considered and turns me on to the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, the funnest band name of the year, with music all the way from Perth, Australia to match. All of Jessi's picks are laced with fun, including French Vanilla's new-wave, early-'80s sound, reminiscent of the British punk band X-Ray Spex. She also brings us music from Colorado by Kiltro, a band with one foot in Colorado and another in Chile.

Rhye has built its reputation on crooning, soft-focus love ballads. But on the band's latest release, Spirit, singer Mike Milosh offers something unexpected: a set of downcast, solo piano instrumentals. On this week's All Songs Considered we hear the stark and beautifully gloomy cut "Malibu Nights."

by Richard Thompson / YouTube

Legendary guitarist Richard Thompson has composed a stunning score for a film honoring World War II fighter pilots and, to my surprise, there's not a lot of guita

Jeremy Dutcher came to the Tiny Desk with sparkling, purple streams of glitter draped around his shoulders. Then he set his iPad on our Yamaha upright piano, not to read his score as pianists do these days, but to play a centuries-old wax cylinder recording of a song sung in the incredibly rare language of Wolastoq. Jeremy Dutcher, along with cellist Blanche Israel and percussionist and electronics wizard Greg Harrison, wove that old recording into a remarkably passionate performance that was very 21st-century, with a deep nod to a century past.

On this edition of All Songs Considered, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood joins us to talk about two of his classical compositions we've just premiered on our Tiny Desk series.

This year, I was blown away by the Tiny Desk Contest entries I saw. We received over 6,000 entries from all across the country. We saw tiny desks up on rooftops and down on a subway platform; tucked into treetops, pickup trucks and laundromats. We heard songs about the situations that make life difficult and the people that make life worth living.

On this Guest DJ edition of All Songs Considered Joe Talbot, frontman for the British punk group IDLES, talks about the band's latest album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, how Van Morrison's Astral Weeks changed his life and his tips for how to make the long drive across Kansas while on tour.

IDLES is a band that's both fierce and compassionate. It's also one of the best live rock groups I've ever seen — the kind that creates mosh pits and community with noise and humanity.

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When Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart fired up their angular guitar sounds during soundcheck at the Tiny Desk, I was thrilled. The shrieking, rhythmic noise these two classically trained musicians make as Ohmme is what made their debut album, Parts, a musical highlight for me in 2018. But hearing them in the office, trading vocals with such ping-pong precision, sent me into euphoria. This is now one of my all-time favorite Tiny Desk concerts.

YouTube

Songwriter Bernie Dalton, who, with his musical partners, created one of our most powerful and memorable Tiny Desk concerts, has died at 49 from complications of bulbar-onset ALS, an a

This week's episode of All Songs Considered is a show of contrasts — cotton-candy pop one moment (from mxmtoon), raging punk sung in Farsi the next (from Khiis) — and then calming, instrumental, prog rock courtesy The Quiet Temple. For All Songs Considered's nearly 20 years, we've tried to live up to our namesake and on this show, we consider more drastic ends of the song spectrum than we have in recent memory.

Prepare to be calmed.

Have you ever had Persian cotton candy? It looks like Muppet hair and tastes like pistachio — well, at least the one we ate in the studio.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.

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