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.

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I've experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It's all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

Vagabon: Tiny Desk

Feb 23, 2018

Laetitia Tamko, the artist known as Vagabon, is a 25-year-old, Cameroon-born musician with a big, tenor voice just bursting with new musical ideas. I've seen her as a solo artist, with a band and, here at the Tiny Desk, both solo and with a bassist.

River Whyless is a band whose members push themselves toward perfection while holding each other up and allowing for some risk-taking. This is a band not only of strong players and singers but something a lot of bands rarely have: multiple, talented songwriters.

The music of Nick Hakim occupies a space and time that is faintly out of this world. The guitars and machinery that make up his music feel slightly askew, as though someone slowed down the tape machine every once in a while. His raspy voice feels drenched in a cavernous space. In fact, the first time I met Nick Hakim, he was literally draped in fiber optics, as if stars were surrounding him.

Marlon Williams is a handsome devil with a heart-stopping voice, who writes songs about vampires and horror films. This 27-year old, New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based singer is also a teller of tales.

Alynda Segarra's unamplifed voice in this Tiny Desk performance had no problem rising above the drums, congas, cello, violin, bass, keyboards, and an electric guitar. The passion for her Puerto Rican roots feels boundless. As Soul Captain for Hurray for the Riff Raff, she and her band weave tales of man's inhumanity to fellow humans, often from bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

Whenever I imagined a St. Vincent Tiny Desk Concert, it was always going to be loud and electric. But I didn't see this coming – the brilliant guitarist arrived at NPR with one steel string acoustic guitar and without a warm-up or soundcheck. Annie Clark stood at my desk, in front of a few hundred-plus NPR employees and close friends, and hit us hard with her un-amplified voice, unplugged guitar, her checkered wardrobe and most importantly, her songs.

The title and subject of Amadou & Mariam's latest album, La Confusion, would lead you to believe that the music this married, Malian couple make might be sad and troubled. But Amadou & Mariam, on the contrary, bring some of the most lyrical melodies and joyful sounds we've ever had at the Tiny Desk, and their performance comes while their country endures great turmoil, including a coup and insurgencies.

It's as if brothers Brian and Michael D'Addario fell from the sky, victims of a transporter beam gone awry in 1971, and landed here at my desk with guitars in hand, right next to a perfectly tuned Yamaha upright piano.

AHI: Tiny Desk Concert

Jan 16, 2018

The first time I heard the music of AHI (pronounced "eye") was in the midst of listening to 120 other song submissions for the DIY Musicians Conference panel I was hosting in Nashville back in August. It simply rose above everything else I heard.

"Take Me To The River" is a 1974 song from the legendary Al Green and guitarist "Teenie" Hodges.

In March of 2016, just a handful of months after her debut album Sprained Ankle was released, Julien Baker came and played a quiet, thoughtful Tiny Desk concert that went on to become one of our most popular and certainly one of the most-talked-about Tiny Desk Concerts of the year. (It's now approaching two million views on YouTube alone.)

The Weather Station's fourth (and self-titled) album was a constant companion for me in 2017, in no small part for the song that opens the band's Tiny Desk performance. It's called "Thirty" and in less than four minutes and nearly 400 words, singer Tamara Lindeman paints images of joy intertwined with the awaking jolt of turning thirty.

Effortless storytelling is at the heart of This Is The Kit. And the stories the band's only permanent member, Kate Stables, weaves are profound but sweet with a tone that quietly reels you in.

This comes close to the quietest Tiny Desk Concert we've ever had. The music Greg Gonzalez makes with his longtime bandmate Phillip Tubbs as Cigarettes After Sex is hushed. The common thread in these songs is minimalism, heard in both Greg's guitar and Philip's synth, that lay just under Greg Gonzalez's barely audible, somewhat spoken singing. Yet, somehow, this sound that barely exists holds together because of the strong melodies in these songs. I find I sing them to myself over and over again.

Put your love of perfection outside the office door and come in for some office fun. This collaboration between Philadelphia's Kurt Vile and Melbourne's Courtney Barnett is more about newfound friends poking jabs, goofing around and having fun with words than reaching any new musical heights.

The Ooz, the title to King Krule's latest album, is the perfect name for his music. It conjures, in my mind, a word mashup of "cool" and "jazz." The music is eerily evocative with lyrics that talk about the sorts of depression singer and guitarist Archy Marshall has dealt with in his young life. And, at 23, he has a lot to say on the subject.

Moses Sumney puts a great deal of thought into the heartfelt music he creates. On his debut album, Aromanticism, he was inspired by everything from the works of Plato and Aristophanes' account of the origin of humanity to the Bible, particularly Genesis and the story of creation. It's all in an attempt to understand human relationships and the sorts of couplings we tend to be drawn to. But despite the working and reworking it took to put these ideas to song, and to then make his brilliant debut, there's a spontaneous side that you'll see in this Tiny Desk Concert.

Benjamin Booker has a deeply tender voice that, at times, can feel like a whisper But it always cuts to the heart. "Believe," his opening number at the Tiny Desk has a yearning for something to hold on to, something to understand. It's a timeless desire which can be about the personal or the political.

For Laura Burhenn, 2016 was a tough year and she wasn't alone. We lost David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince (and so many more beloved artists).

On first hearing the Gracie And Rachel song "Only a Child," I was struck by the tension and the mystery, both musically and lyrically: "I'm moving my mouth but I don't say a word/My ears are open but nothing is heard/I'm only a child, only a child."

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":

Landlady's music is more than sonic exploration, it's an adventure. The Brooklyn-based band's songs are the initial creation of leader Adam Schatz, who observes the world with fresh, almost alien eyes. The songs can feel a bit drugged-out – a bit high and full of curiosity – but never overly intoxicated or out-of-touch.

A man in a black cape holds a sitar like a guitar all while singing a dreamy tale about wanting to be a dog. Well actually a "dawg."

Welcome the world of Dawg Yawp, the musical concoction of Rob Keenan and Tyler Randall, where drones and toy pianos are likely to collide with heavy metal electronics and a well-placed melody.

One look at (and listen to) the cross-dressing, Asian rock band SsingSsing and you would hardly think they're singing music inspired by traditional Korean folk. But SsingSsing isn't like any other band I've ever seen or heard.

Lookman Adekunle Salami, who writes and records as L.A. Salami, is a storyteller and a poet. His songs are deliberate meanderings on the mundane and the poignancy in everyday life. And in the way Bob Dylan took his guitar and harmonica to accompany his rarely repeating ramblings, L.A Salami embraces a similar aesthetic, albeit as a black Englishman instead of a white Minnesotan.

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.

The high-energy blast that musicians often reserve for their finale is the starting point for Diet Cig.

Intensity in songs often expresses itself as volume – a loud guitar, a scream, a piercing synth line. But in the case of Aldous Harding it's in the spaces, the pauses, and her unique delivery. Watch her Tiny Desk Concert and you can see this in her facial expressions and body posture.

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