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.

ALA.NI's voice is as much a vibe as a conveyer of ideas, of words and thought. For me, it's evocative of love and heart. This video and the song ALA.NI sings illustrates my point. But I'll let ALA.NI tell more in the magnificent note she wrote to me. She has a lot to get out and is obviously passionate about it:

"The message that I wished to convey in the making of this video is...

"LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE.

"Take it where you can get it, cause lord knows we need as much of it right now in this mad, mad world.

Guest DJ: Weaves

Nov 1, 2017

We have, nearly five years after the debut release of Woman, new music from Rhye and word of a new album, due next year on Loma Vista. (Given the recent tour announcement that has them hitting the road in February, it's probably safe to say that the album will come not too long after the new year.)

Gaelynn Lea is a violinist, a public speaker and an advocate for people with disabilities. She was born with brittle bone disease and that shapes the way she plays the violin, holding it upright, more like a cello than the traditional method under the chin.

Sego's music is frenetic, agitated and immediate. In a new video for the song, "Whatever Forever," the band speaks to the anesthetized frenzy of the-day-to-day.

The heart of "Capable" from The Wild Reeds is spelled out in these lyrics by Sharon Silva: "You're capable of so much more/Than these people give you credit for/And you just need to show it."

MGMT, the psych-pop duo behind one of the decade's best earworms, is back with its first new music in four years. "Little Dark Age" is the title track to their 2018 album, a pulsing, synthesized meditation on the age of anxiety over a world coming apart.

I think Randy Newman is a national treasure. If he was just a funny guy making music, I'd be OK with that, but his wit is sardonic, satirical and politically on point. Mixing politics and humor with music is usually about the punchline, and his punchlines even make the singer smile.

Randy Newman paints lasting portraits of places and people, all the while poking fun and highlighting injustice, stupidity, power and humanity and he's been doing it for half a century. Here are the opening lines to his recently released song "Putin":

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

When I listened blindly to nearly a thousand songs while attempting to make my schedule of bands to see at this year's SXSW music festival, one of the few tracks that leapt to the top was "Arizona" by Frances Cone. I wasn't alone. NPR Music's Stephen Thompson also singled out this now Brooklyn-based band for the way it wraps its storytelling in a catchy, pop parcel.

Guest DJ Week: Björk

Aug 16, 2017

Note: Our week of Guest DJs continues with Björk. The Icelandic singer recently announced she'll be releasing a new album, possibly before the end of the year.

NOTE: Each day this week we'll be rolling out a series of videos from Sylvan Esso that comprise the duo's upcoming visual EP, Echo Mountain Sessions.

You'll want to listen to this week's show on a good pair of headphones, preferably in the dark and, if you take drummer Ian Chang's advice, while getting a massage. We open the program with a spine-tingling cut called "ASMR," from Chang's debut solo EP, an arresting instrumental piece inspired by the inexplicable chills that sometimes run down your back. It's just the first in a series of sonic delights on the show.

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


It might be easy to dismiss Declan McKenna as a young kid who writes catchy pop songs, but he's so much more than that. The 18-year-old Brit's debut album, What Do You Think About The Car?, proves that this young man has a tall talent for mixing politics, poetry and melody.

With a meandering, six-minute-plus sci-fi-sounding opening track, it was clear that Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner was out to make music that was beyond the three-minute-pop found on her solo debut, Pyschopomp. The more I dug into Soft Sounds From Another Planet, Zauner's follow-up album, the more I wanted to know.

Algiers new album The Underside Of Power is one of 2017's most ambitious and intense records. I love it — but sometimes I have to just have to hit pause. There's a fierceness both in subject and sound and source, including speeches from Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers, bold and dark lyrical imagery of death and rage, sounds of people weeping, drones, chimes and what at times feels like the entire history of rock, gospel and R&B wrapped into fifty-one minutes. There's a lot to unpack here.

There's a stunning project by a handful of music's current big-thinkers: composer Nico Muhly, songwriter and singer Sufjan Stevens and guitarist-composer Bryce Dessner of The National. The trio, along with percussionist James McAlister, have created Planetarium, an existential song cycle that confronts both the heavens and the human condition in a marriage of hypnotic sound and song.

Guest DJ: alt-J

Jun 6, 2017

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